Letter from the co-chairmen of the panel calls for bipartisan approach towards Iraq.
It is one of a number of reports set to inform a change of direction on Iraq after Bush admitted on Thursday that “a new approach” was required.
“The people of America want to apologise to The Iraqis for the mistakes of our elected officials”
Al Hajji Yusef, Mobile, USA
Baker said that he hoped Syria could convince the Palestinian group Hamas to recognise Israel’s right to exist.
Condeleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, while defending her handling of Middle East policy on Friday, rejected criticism in the just released Iraq Study Group report of her refusal to bring Syria and Iran into talks on ending the chaos in Iraq.
Rice did echo the report’s recommendation for a renewed push to break the stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, though she declined to accept the panel’s argument that such an initiative was linked to efforts to resolve the Iraq crisis.
Speaking publicly for the first time since the high-level policy panel released its scathing report on Tuesday on the situation in Iraq, Rice said: “None of us see the situation in Iraq as favorable, we all see it as extremely difficult”.
But the top US diplomat put the blame for the ongoing turmoil not on administration missteps but on Al-Qaeda and other extremists stoking sectarian violence to “undermine the democratic developments” in the country.
She rebuffed the bipartisan panel’s strong recommendation to open direct talks with both Iran and Syria, who are widely accused of backing anti-US insurgents and rival Sunni and Shia extremists involved in bloodletting.
“As to Iran and Syria, let’s remember that the issue here is behavior,” said Rice during a joint press conference with Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister
“In both Syria and Iran, you have states that have chosen to be on the side of th
“In both Syria and Iran, you have states that have chosen to be on the side of the divide that is fueling extremism, not moderation, and that is the essential problem”
e divide that is fueling extremism, not moderation, and that is the essential problem,” she said.
“The fact is that if they want to help stabilize Iraq, they will,” without needing compensation or prompting from the United States, she said.
Rice reiterated that Washington was willing to break a 27-year rupture in direct formal contacts with Iran, but only if Tehran complies with UN demands that it freeze nuclear enrichment and reprocessing the US and others say are aimed at producing nuclear weapons.
“I will repeat what I’ve said many times: I will meet my Iranian counterpart under those conditions any place, any time, anywhere.
“That’s the offer. It’s still on the table.”
On the Israeli-Palestinian front, Rice said she saw a possible “opening to move that process forward” following implementation of a ceasefire between the two sides late last month in the Gaza Strip.
“My own commitment, and that of the President (George W. Bush), to trying to resolve this conflict is very deep and very strong,” she said.
Describing the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel as the “centerpiece” of Bush administration policy, Rice said: “I think we can begin to deliver on that promise, and my own commitment to doing so is very, very strong.”