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Rice says Arab nations should reach out to Israel to nudge Mideast peace accord
Bush Mideast SAUM11 5196192
U.S. President George W. Bush, left, with Saudi King Abdullah, right, as they watch the King's personal thoroughbreds march by at Al Janadriyah Farm, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2008. The horse farm is the King's personal country and weekend retreat and maintains 150 thoroughbred Arabian stallions. - photo by Associated Press
    RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday that the United States wants Arab nations to do more to reach out to Israelis, as a way to do their part to nudge a Mideast peace accord into being.
    Rice spoke from Saudi Arabia, at the side of its foreign minister, Prince Saud, giving her words and the U.S. position more weight.
    ‘‘We have believed that it will be important for the regional states, the Arab states to do everything possible to encourage the process and that, yes, there should be efforts to reach out to the Israelis as this process goes forward,’’ she said.
    She stepped gingerly around the question of whether this outreach should include establishing diplomatic relations between Arab countries and Israel, the historical enemy. The only Arab nations that now have relations with Israel are Jordan and Egypt.
    ‘‘Diplomatic relations of course is another matter and undoubtedly down the road,’’ Rice said. ‘‘But there are things that can be done. ... We hope that as progress is made between Israelis and Palestinians that there will be more efforts, that there will be more opportunity for outreach. But this will move at different speeds for different countries, we understand that.’’
    Rice is a senior member of President Bush’s delegation as he travels through the Mideast, with one of his primary objectives to build support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The president wants Arab states to support Palestinian leaders as they negotiate with Israel over a final peace agreement, which Bush wants done by the end of the year. The support of Arab neighbors is considered crucial to Palestinians’ ability to both strike and sustain a deal. But Washington also sees their acknowledgment of Israel’s place in the region as vital to the process.
    Arab allies, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have urged Bush to get more directly involved in Mideast peacemaking, saying the Palestinian plight seeded other conflicts and poisoned public opinion throughout the region.
    But Rice’s request, which echoed similar ones made by Bush, seemed a tall order. At her side, Saud said that Israel’s continued Jewish settlement activity in the Palestinian territories ‘‘cast doubt on the seriousness of the negotiations.’’

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