AFP: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticised Arab states for dragging their feet on the Middle East peace process and not contributing enough to the Palestinian cause ahead of talks on Friday with key counterparts in London. Rice also said she was not prepared to sweeten an offer of incentives to Iran to give up its controversial nuclear programme, which will be the subject of separate talks in the British capital on Friday.
LONDON (AFP) — US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticised Arab states for dragging their feet on the Middle East peace process and not contributing enough to the Palestinian cause ahead of talks on Friday with key counterparts in London.
Rice also said she was not prepared to sweeten an offer of incentives to Iran to give up its controversial nuclear programme, which will be the subject of separate talks in the British capital on Friday.
The talks on the peace process come after US President George W. Bush said this week that he remains hopeful of a Middle East peace deal before he leaves office in January, while warning that the Islamist Hamas group could "undermine" the effort.
Foreign ministers of the Mideast Quartet — the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union — will meet in the morning, followed by talks on aid to the Palestinian territories.
In the afternoon Rice will meet her counterparts from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China to discuss Iran.
Addressing reporters en route to London, Rice said Arab "states that have resources ought to be looking not for how little they can do but how much they can do," with a senior US State Department official who declined to be identified saying she was referring to Kuwait, Qatar and Libya.
"Countries that have resources and that have an interest in the establishment of a Palestinian state need to put those resources at use now in order to lay the groundwork for the establishment of that state," she said.
Bush, who formally restarted Mideast peace negotiations in November last year after a seven-year freeze, said Tuesday that he was "still hopeful we will get an agreement by the end of my presidency."
The US president will visit Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt from May 13 to 18.
On Iran, the six-power grouping — comprising the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — will discuss the next steps in seeking to persuade Tehran to rein in its disputed nuclear programme.
Specifically the ministers are working on a joint proposal aimed at bringing Tehran back to the negotiating table and in line with UN resolutions. Talks in Shanghai in mid-April failed to reach agreement.
"We will take a look again at what we have offered the Iranians," Rice told reporters.
"But I just want to say I don't see any evidence that the Iranians appear to be interested in that track," she said, adding that she did not expect any notable results from Friday's meeting.
She continued: "I don't think the problem is the package. I think the problem is Iranian will."
The West fears Iran wants to use its nuclear programme to make an atomic weapon but Iran insists the drive is peaceful and solely aimed at providing energy for a growing population.
Tehran has been hit by three sets of UN Security Council sanctions, while the United States has also pressured European firms and banks to reduce their dealings with Iran.
On the eve of the talks, a US government report said Iran remained the world's "most active" state sponsor of terrorism as it tries to build regional influence and drive the United States from the Middle East.
"A critically important element of Iranian national security strategy is its ability to conduct terrorist operations abroad," said the US State Department annual report released Wednesday.