Israeli-Palestinian Talks Could Be Delayed

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is holding discussions aimed at getting the Israelis and Palestinians to agree to meet. Now the State Department says the conference may have to be pushed back.

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ALISON STEWART, host:

You think you've got a rough weekend? You've got nothing on Condoleezza Rice.

LUKE BURBANK, host:

Yeah. It was a tough sledding for the secretary of state, who arrived in Moscow to a chilly reception from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

STEWART: First, Putin made Secretary Rice and secretary of defense Robert Gates wait 40 minutes to see him.

BURBANK: Rude.

STEWART: Then, before they got a word in, Putin basically lectured them. He strongly cautioned against the U.S. pursuing missile-defense system in Eastern Europe without an agreement on the issue with the Kremlin.

BURBANK: That's called pulling an Ahmadinejad on them. You invite them there, and then you upbraid them. Putin appeared to mock U.S. plans saying, quote, "We may decide someday to put missile-defense systems on the moon. But before we get to that, we could lose a chance for agreement because of you implementing your plans."

STEWART: End quote. After that meeting, Secretary Rice said, the U.S. still wants to be friends.

Secretary CONDOLEEZZA RICE (U.S. Department of State): The president promised -and we are here to act on that promise - that we would try and find ways to cooperate to the common good. And that even when there were differences, we would try to overcome them because that which unites us in trying to deal with the threats of terrorism, of proliferation, are much greater than the issues that divide us.

BURBANK: And things didn't get any cozier on Saturday, when Secretary Rice expressed concerns that Putin is growing too powerful and is preventing the spread of democracy and silencing dissent.

STEWART: She met with Russian human rights leaders and listed the freedoms that she sees them advocating.

Sec. RICE: And also individual liberty and freedom, the right to worship as you please, the right to not have to deal with the arbitrary power of the state.

BURBANK: Well, after that meeting, she stated her concerns pretty plainly. Here's what she said, quote, "In any country, if you don't have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development. I think there is too much concentration of power in the Kremlin. I have told the Russians that," end quote.

STEWART: Reporters who phoned the Kremlin for a response did not get their calls returned.

BURBANK: So after getting the cold shoulder, you might think Rice would be ready for an easier assignment. Instead, on Sunday, she headed to the Middle East, where she began a round of talks aimed at getting the Israelis and the Palestinians to agree to have a meeting to discuss their disagreements.

STEWART: Secretary Rice is trying to gather enough consensus for a peace conference tentatively planned for November. But after yesterday's meetings, a State Department official said the conference may have to be pushed back. You can see why it wasn't a good weekend for her.

BURBANK: She will be in the region for three more days, earning that cheddar.

STEWART: And that is today's BPP Big Story. Now, here's Rachel Martin with the news.

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