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Middle East
Rice gets backing for Iraq plan
Saudi Arabia says its supports the US plan but only Iraqis can ensure it succeeds.
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2007 12:53 GMT
Rice and Abul Gheit, Egypt's foreign minister,
during a press conference in Luxor [AFP]

Saudi Arabian leaders have told Condoleeza Rice, the US secretary of state, that Arab countries are ready to back the new US strategy to stabilise Iraq.

Rice is expected to meet several of her Middle Eastern counterparts on Tuesday to discuss the plan which involves sending thousands more US soldiers to the country.
"We agree fully with the goals set by the new strategy, which in our view are the goals that - if implemented - would solve the problems that face Iraq," Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi Arabian foreign minister, said at a joint news conference with Rice in Riyadh.
But he also insisted that only the Iraqis could ensure that the plan succeeded.

"Implementation also requires a [positive] response by the Iraqis themselves to these goals ... Other countries can help but the main responsibility in taking decisions rests on the Iraqis," al-Faisal added.

Rice thanked the Saudis for their help in gathering support for the controversial plan.
   
"I want to underscore that the Saudis were very helpful in helping us to think through some of the elements of Iraq. We have the same goal, which is an Iraq unified with its integrity and territory intact which doesn't face outside interference," Rice said.

Kuwait meeting

In addition to meeting Kuwaiti leaders, Rice is also due to meet foreign ministers of the six Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) member states plus Egypt and Jordan, later on Tuesday.
 
The GCC includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
 
The plan, revealed last week, has come under fire in some Arab capitals, even among staunch allies in the Gulf, with critics saying it provides a recipe for more sectarian violence in Iraq that could spread elsewhere in the region.
 
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But Rice on Monday picked up support from Egypt after meeting with Hosni Mubarak, the president, in the southern city of Luxor.
 
"We are supportive of the plan ... We are hopeful that plan will lead to the stabilisation of, unity and cohesion of the Iraqi government," said Ahmed Abul Gheit, the Egyptian foreign minister.
 
While Rice began her trip stressing that she had no "plan" for reviving Middle East talks, she announced a three-way summit with Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmud Abbas, the Palestinian president.
 
The summit, expected to take place in three or four weeks, will be the first meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in two years. Stressing the meeting would only be a prelude to the resumption of final settlement negotiations.
 
Rice said: "There are a number of issues, some old, some new, that will have to be resolved if there is to be a Palestinian state. "I am very clear about one thing we do not want to do, which is to rush the formal negotiations before things are fully prepared, before people are fully prepared."
 
Olmert welcomed the summit but stressed that any Palestinian government involved in peace talks should recognise Israel's right to exist.
 
'Temporary solutions'
 
In the West Bank town of Ramallah on Sunday, Abbas said he rejects: "Any temporary or transitional solutions, including a state with temporary borders, because we do not believe it to be a realistic choice that can be built upon."
 
Al-Faisal, right, said Saudi Arabia agreed "fully with the goals set by the new strategy" [AFP]

Abul Gheit said the Palestinian political crisis needed to be contained and contacts resumed between Israel and the Palestinians, in what he described as "a stabilisation phase".
 
He said: "Then you will start the second phase whereby everything is discussed in relation to the establishment of this Palestinian state."
 
During Rice's brief visit to Jordan late on Sunday, King Abdullah II told her that concrete progress needed to be made on the peace blueprint if the region was to be spared fresh bloodshed.
 
"Without tangible, specific steps to activate the implementation of the roadmap in the near future, the cycle of violence will widen," he said.
 
But Rice's diplomatic offensive suffered a blow earlier on Monday when Israel invited bids for new Jewish settlement homes in the West Bank even as she was exploring solutions for the region in a meeting with Olmert in Israel.
 
Settlements on occupied Palestinian territories are illegal under both Israeli and international law.
Source:
Agencies
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