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Arab nations yesterday rebuffed US calls for speedy democratic reforms
Arab nations yesterday rebuffed US calls for speedy democratic reforms, insisting that steps the US deems essential to stem terrorism be tied to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. While agreeing that political, social and economic liberalisation is desirable, senior Arab diplomats disagreed with outgoing US Secretary of State Colin Powell's argument that reforms could not be delayed for any reason. Speaker after speaker at the "Forum for the Future" conference here said progress would be difficult, if not impossible, without a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and lambasted the perceived US bias toward Israel, informs Daily News. "For too long, the Arabs have witnessed the Western bias toward Israel," Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, told a U.S.-sponsored conference on political and economic reform. The Bush administration contended countries could modernize and fight terrorism independently of whether there was progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. But the issue came up in speech after speech. Secretary of State Colin Powell said afterward that the United States was using the "opportunity" created by the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to re-energize the moribund peace process, reports Indianapolis Star. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Powell's visit to Morocco was supposed to be about the future -- he co- chaired the opening session of the Forum for the Future, an event bringing together the predominately Muslim nations of North Africa and the Middle East with the leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized countries. In his opening statement, Powell accentuated the positive, congratulating the participants for "coming together in common cause ... addressing the challenges and opportunities of building a future full of hope. "Already, Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Yemen and so many others are moving forward on political, educational and economic reform initiatives," he said
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