U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, saying the Hamas government cannot govern anymore. Rice was to meet Wednesday with Abbas as part of her visit to the Middle East. She is seeking to boost Abbas in his standoff with Hamas. On Tuesday, Rice heard in Saudi Arabia and Egypt that the Middle East's many volatile conflicts are hinged to Israel's long conflict with the Palestinians. "The issue is how to make peace, and in order to make peace you have to identify the problem," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abu el Gheit said during a news conference with Rice. "We think and we claim and we keep telling everybody that it is the Palestinian problem, and the lack of a settlement for the Palestinians. The Palestinian problem is the scourge of this region," Abu el Gheit said. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said the nearly 60-year-old conflict was creating a "breeding ground for extremism." "There is a very short step from extremism to terrorism," Saud said with Rice by his side in Jeddah. "And ever since the problem arose of Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the region has been destabilized." Rice wants Saudi Arabia and Egypt to put greater diplomatic muscle behind the secular Palestinian president in his standoff with Hamas and to bolster secular governments in Lebanon and Iraq. Rice met in Cairo with diplomats from Egypt and seven other Arab allies in hopes of reviving the Arab-Israeli peace process and making headway on other regional issues. During that session the ministers of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council and Egypt and Jordan gave broad support to Abbas, Rice said.
On his part, Palestinian Premier, Isma'il Haniyeh, a senior Hamas leader, called on Arab states not to cooperate with Rice's efforts. "It looks like Mrs. Rice is adopting the old practice of divide and conquer," Haniyeh told reporters in Gaza. "She wants to weaken the states and the nations of the region."
"We call on all of the Arab countries not to follow the American plans and not to adopt this policy that aims to divide the region," Haniyeh said.