Monday, December 13, 2004

Israeli Conflict No Obstacle to Middle East Reforms, Powell Says

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the countries of the Middle East and North Africa realize they have to move ahead with political and economic reforms regardless of the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Powell made the remarks to reporters December 10 while en route to the Forum for the Future meetings in Rabat, Morocco, on building political and economic reforms in the region.

'We can't keep pointing to the Middle East Peace Process as the reason we don't undertake reform efforts that are needed by these nations and as these nations have identified for themselves,' Powell said.

'The very fact that they are coming tomorrow to talk about these issues and so many nations are moving down a correct path suggests to me that they understand that, as much as we would all like to see progress in the Middle East Peace Plan, they also know that they can't wait for that solution to occur and not move forward,' he said.

Organized in part by the G8 industrialized countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States), the forum will look also at civil society and education as part of democratic and economic reforms.

Neither Israel nor Sudan was invited to participate in the forum. Powell said he hoped future meetings of the forum 'will become more and more inclusive of the entire region.'

Powell indicated that the G8 countries would be announcing some sort of spending initiatives, including for entrepreneurship training facilities in Bahrain and Morocco.