Rice faces setback in Egypt, failing to win support for US stand on Hamas, Iran
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reportedly faced setbacks on Tuesday on her mission to garner support from Egyptian leaders regarding the US stand on Hamas and Iran.
Rice arrived in Cairo as part of a four-day visit to several Middle Eastern nations, hoping to persuade Arab leaders to withhold financial aid to the Hamas party, and support action against Iran's nuclear program.
Meeting with Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Rice was told that Egypt did not favor a plan to withhold money from Hamas, reported the New York Times.
According to Gheit, Egypt planned to continue funding the new Hamas-led Palestinian government for an indefinite period, so as to give Hamas "time to develop their own ideas."
The US was reportedly highly disappointed with the decision, as it considers Egyptian funding to Hamas significant symbolically despite the relatively small sum it gives Palestinians annually.
"The Egyptians carry significant weight with the Palestinians and are watched by the rest of the Arab world," explained a senior US administration official.
Egypt's refusal to withhold funds from the Palestinians is expected to complicate Rice's mission to the Middle East, also set to include a bid to garner support against Iran from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Rice was met with a similarly disappointing stand regarding Iran's nuclear program, which the US believes to be for military purposes.
Gheit reportedly told Rice that the same standards should be sought regarding nuclear power for all nations in the Middle East, referring to Israel's nuclear weapons program.
As Egypt is the only nation with diplomatic ties to Israel that Rice will be visiting on her trip, similar sentiment will likely be expressed by other Arab leaders as well.
On her part, Rice pledged to a group of democracy activists on Wednesday that Washington will continue to exert pressure on Egypt's government to meet its promises of reform. "One good thing about having the president stand for election and ask for the consent of the governed is that there is a program,'' Rice said, according to the AP.
Later, Rice had a breakfast with President Hosni Mubarak, who promised to implement various reforms.
© 2006 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)