Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in the Middle East, trying to drum up support for President Bush's Iraq plan. Rice says she's trying to empower moderates to counter rising extremism not only in Iraq, but throughout the Middle East.
She met one of those moderates today, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian authority. After the meeting, she tried to assure Palestinians that the United States has heard their demands for assistance in guiding peace efforts with Israel.
"I have heard loud and clear the call for deeper American engagement in these processes," Rice said at the heavily guarded presidential compound in Ramallah. "The U.S. is absolutely committed to helping to find a solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live in security and can live in peace."
She said she would try to build on Abbas' recent meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert — though Palestinians complain that Israel hasn't followed through on any of the confidence-building measures announced at the time.
Abbas was clearly hoping for something more tangible to help him in his power struggle with Hamas and show Palestinians that he can deliver on the peace process. Speaking through an interpreter, he repeated the need for a credible peace process that would end Israel's occupation.
"We have assured Rice of our refusal of any temporary or transitional solutions, including a state with temporary borders," Abbas said. "Because we do not believe it to be a realistic choice that can be build upon."
One issue that came up in Ramallah is the issue of U.S. aid. The Bush administration has been consulting Congress, hoping to reprogram $86 million dollars to help bolster Abbas' security forces. Some analysts fear this could simply fuel the violence between Abbas' Fatah movement and Hamas.
But Rice says that the United States isn't just sending arms, but establishing a train and equip program to established by General Keith Dayton to help the troubled security service loyal to Abbas.