Rice Prepares for Middle East, Europe Trip

Secertary of State Condoleezza Rice leaves Washington Friday on a week-long trip to the Middle East and Europe. She'll try to help assure a peaceful Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, and promote Middle Eastern democracy in a policy speech next Monday in Cairo.

Ms. Rice has been dispatched to the Middle East by President Bush to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the Gaza withdrawal, which the administration hopes will be a catalyst for renewed progress on the international road map to Middle East peace.

But she also plans stops in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where in Cairo next Monday she delivers the keynote speech of the trip renewing the administration's campaign for Middle East political reform.

Ms. Rice called off a stop in Egypt earlier this year in what was seen as a protest of the Hosni Mubarak government's crackdown on an opposition leader.

But Mr. Mubarak has since cleared the way for multi-party presidential elections, a departure from a system that was essentially one-party rule.

The Mubarak reforms have been faulted by critics who say the rules are too restrictive. But at a news conference here on the eve of her departure, Ms. Rice said they do represent progress. "Contested presidential elections is an important step for a country that has not had them before. It is also important that the Egyptian government recognizes that a lot of people are going to be watching what happens in these elections. A lot of people are going to be watching whether or not there is access to the government-controlled press for people who run for office. There will be, hopefully, international observers there to watch the electoral process. And an atmosphere should be created in which those who are running for office feel that they can freely contest for the presidency," he said.

Ms. Rice said under questioning the revamped election in September in which Mr. Mubarak is expected to win a fifth term in office, is not in itself enough, but she said democratization is not a single event.

The Secretary's trip, which will include an international conference to support Iraq next Wednesday in Brussels, comes amid opinion polls indicating sagging U.S. public support for American military involvement in Iraq.

Ms. Rice insisted that strides is being made in democracy-building in Iraq and in creating effective Iraqi security forces, and while declining to give a time-line, she said that in the long-term the process will be an Iraqi, not an American undertaking. "It is a very different Middle east with Saddam Hussein gone, and now we're in the process of trying to help the Iraqis to put in place a viable and democratic state on the ruins of that old tyranny. Now I do think that we owe it to the American people to say again and again that this is not going to be an American enterprise for the long-term. This is going to be an Iraqi enterprise, whether you talk about who's going to provide security, or who's going to be involved in the politics, it will be Iraqi," he said.

On other Middle East issues, Secretary Rice said the United States had not changed its view of the radical Palestinian group Hamas, which is listed by the State Department as a terrorist group, and has no political contacts with it.

Reports that European diplomats have had meetings with Hamas, which has political and armed elements, have drawn sharp Israeli protests.

Ms. Rice said she preferred to let the democratically-elected Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas deal with what she termed contradictions in Palestinian politics, and endorsed his stand that the Palestinian Authority should have the only armed forces in the areas it controls.

Under questioning, the Secretary also said the United States has had very difficult discussions with Israel over its military dealings with China. She said Israel has a responsibility to be sensitive to American concerns that weapons sales to China might affect the regional military balance.

During the Clinton administration, U.S pressure prompted Israel to call off a planned sale of an airborne command-and-control system to China. The United States is most recently said to be concerned about Israeli sales to China of spare parts for advanced drone aircraft capable of attacking ground anti-aircraft systems.

Without being specific about the weapons at issue, Ms. Rice said she thinks Israel now understands the seriousness with which the United States views the matter and that talks will continue.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs