Shaath told a security conference in Germany on Sunday it would be a "disaster" if Washington was too preoccupied with the November poll to keep pushing its "road map" for peace and that other members of the so-called Middle East Quartet should fill in. 

"If the United States is too busy... maybe it could allow its partners, the EU, Russia and the United Nations to continue the work," Shaath said. "Staying inactive until November is disastrous for Palestinians and Israelis."

The quartet is attempting to implement a US road map, leading towards a peace settlement that includes the creation of an independent Palestinian state, but progress has stalled.

"The quartet should re-meet and should really refuse the idea that the United States must stay inactive until the end of elections," Shaath said.

US Senator Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, responded to Shaath's comments saying: "I see no desire on the part of the president to wait it out. This is not going to be a vacation year." 
 
The king's call

Speaking at the same conference, Jordan's King Abd Allah called for a broad international alliance for peace to help end the Middle East conflict after a new US push and German proposals to bring stability to the region. 

"Neither the parties, nor their neighbours, nor the region can do it alone," the king told a gathering of defence luminaries in Munich, southern Germany, on Sunday. "It requires a collective international alliance for peace." 

His call came after Germany urged the US and the EU to pool their resources to rescue the Middle East from a "crisis of modernisation" that was fostering "terrorism" and instability. 

The US, through Richard Lugar, urged NATO to become involved in the "greater Middle East" to fight "terrorist networks" and control the spread of weapons of mass destruction. 

Economic development

King Abd Allah has called for an
international alliance for peace

King Abd Allah said a key regional challenge was to bring economic development and an end to poverty, which he said was the major destabilising factor. 

"When young people lose hope, they can turn to apathy and violence," he said on the final day of the Munich security conference. "When the international community supports those of us engaged in reform ... it creates hope." 

While he acknowledged the destabilising effects of the war in Iraq, he said the world should focus on the Middle East conflict. 

"No matter how successful you are in Iraq ... the core issue in everybody's mind is still the Israeli-Palestinian problem," he
said. 

"It is the number one battleground for international extremism," he went on. "Unless we solve this problem it will be used as an excuse for other countries not to reform." 

Joint process

"When young people lose hope they can turn to apathy and violence. When the international community supports those of us engaged in reform... it creates hope." 

King Abd Allah,
Jordan Monarch

In a speech to the same audience on Saturday, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer proposed that the European Union, NATO and Mediterranean countries begin a joint process on a common future for the entire Middle East. 

"It is in our interests that the people of the Middle East are able to share in the benefits of globalisation," Fischer said. "If we fail, we will have a high price to pay and we will also have to pay it collectively." 

He said fundamentalists were trying to provoke the West in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere and wear down their people, but warned that security had to go beyond the use of force. 

"In order to be successful, the EU and the US and Canada must pool their resources to produce a new perspective for the Middle East," he went on, saying stability and a long-term perspective was needed to succeed.