Obama decries America's absence at Mideast summit

Wednesday, June 27, 2007 |  by Staff Writer

US Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama on Monday slammed the Bush Administration over its absence at a top-level Middle East peace summit in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Barack called the gathering - which was attended by the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority - a real opportunity for peace in the region, but noted in a statement released to the press that a “senior US presence at this summit could have been helpful.”

Obama went on to commend the decision of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Egyptian and Jordanian counterparts to strengthen Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas against his Hamas rivals.

“Mahmoud Abbas and [newly appointed PA] Prime Minister Salam Fayyad [are] two Palestinian leaders who have demonstrated their commitment to non-violence and achieving peace with Israel. These leaders seek peace and deserve the support of the international community,” said the senator.

Many Israelis remain unconvinced.

“It has already been proven that giving weapons and money to [Abbas and his Fatah movement] will go towards strengthening terror and not towards fighting it,” Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Army Radio last week after learning of Olmert's intention to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars to the Palestinian leader.

Analysts noted that just this past January, Abbas gave a fiery public speech in Arabic in which he declared that “our rifles, all our rifles are aimed at 'The Occupation'” - a clear indication that the so-called “moderate” ultimately supports violence over negotiations as the best way to resolve the conflict.

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