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US Renewing Efforts for Middle East Changes


The U.S. is renewing its efforts for changes in the Middle East. On Monday, the eve of European Union talks with Iranian officials on nuclear issues, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the world must not tolerate any attempt by Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Meanwhile, The U.S. continued to push for democracy across the Middle East Monday, with First Lady Laura Bush endorsing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's political reform plans.

Addressing the pro-Israel lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice again took a hard line against any attempts by Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

"The United States has focused the world's attention on Iran's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. And, along with our allies, we are working to gain full disclosure of Iran's efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. The world must not tolerate any Iranian attempt to develop a nuclear weapon. Nor can it tolerate Iran's efforts to subvert democratic governments through terrorism," says Dr. Rice.

Secretary Rice also said the un-elected leaders in Iran need to recognize that reform is taking hold all over the Middle East, which will inspire Iranians to demand their liberty and their rights. Meanwhile, U.S. First Lady Laura Bush was in the Middle East Monday, sounding a similar theme, while visiting Egypt. Mrs. Bush praised Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for taking what she called "a very bold step" in moving to contested presidential elections, from a referendum on the sitting President.

"I'm very, very happy with the idea of an election here, a presidential election. I think he has been very bold and wise to take the first step," says Laura Bush.

Speaking near the Pyramids, Mrs. Bush added political reforms happen slowly. On Wednesday, Egyptians vote on changing their constitution to allow more than one candidate to run in the country's first presidential elections. Critics say the measure does not go far enough.