Rice: Setbacks Will Not Deter Mid-East Democracy

French President Nicolas Sarkozy with officials of the International Contact Group on Sudan/Darfur.

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy with officials of the International Contact Group on Sudan/Darfur at the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris on June 25, 2007. Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged problems in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, but insisted Monday that despite setbacks, democracy would come to the Middle East.

Rice, in Paris on Monday for talks on the Darfur crisis in southern Sudan, also met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and was scheduled to meet Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

"Democracy is hard, and I see it as especially hard when there are determined enemies who try and strangle it," Rice said during a news conference with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

Kouchner organized Monday's conference to speed deployment of about 20,000 new peacekeeping troops to Darfur, the vast, arid region where an estimated 200,000 have died in fighting between African rebels and militias backed by the Arab-led Sudanese government. The conflict has driven about 2.5 million from their homes.

The Darfur session includes major powers with ties or influence in the eastern African country, but no representative of the Sudanese government. Kouchner said the meeting is supposed to "shake things up a bit," and is not a peacemaking summit.

"I have seen firsthand the devastation and the difficult circumstances in which people live in Darfur, and I will be very frank," Rice said Sunday. "I do not think that the international community has really lived up to its responsibilities there."

Rice visited Darfur in 2005, spending an afternoon in a refugee camp. Kouchner, a Socialist doctor who co-founded the Nobel Prize-winning aid group Doctors Without Borders, has been to Darfur more frequently and more recently.

Rice welcomed a summit Monday between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Egypt, calling Arab support for embattled Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas more important than his Western backing. She acknowledged the difficulties Abbas has faced since his Islamic rivals Hamas won Palestinian elections last year.

From The Associated Press

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