Condoleezza Rice opens her incompetency tour in Egypt.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday began a four-day visit to the Middle East, where she hoped to persuade Arab leaders to cut off financial aid to Hamas. But she ran into trouble on her very first stop.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Egypt’s foreign minister, told her that Egypt believed funds to the Palestinian government should continue for an indefinite period, to give Hamas “time to develop their own ideas.” Egypt gives little if any money to the Palestinians. Still, Washington considers Cairo’s view to be influential, one reason Ms. Rice stopped here first.
“The Egyptians,” a senior administration official said, “carry significant weight with the Palestinians and are watched by the rest of the Arab world.” Administration officials said they had hoped that Egypt would back the American position.
Egypt’s refusal to endorse the aid cutoff follows European misgivings and statements of concern late last week about cutting off funds and could significantly complicate Ms. Rice’s mission.
Another of Ms. Rice’s major goals for this trip — to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — is to lock down commitments from the Arab leaders to stand firm against Iran’s nuclear program. But once again, Egypt disappointed her.
Standing next to Ms. Rice at a news conference, Mr. Gheit reiterated a view Egypt offered during talks at the United Nations nuclear agency early this month over reporting Iran to the Security Council. Mr. Gheit said Egypt supported applying the same standard to all Middle East nations, not just Iran. That was a well-understood reference to Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program.