Rice Pushes For Mideast Democracy

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks during a press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Monday June 20, 2005.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a forceful case for democracy in the Muslim world Monday, telling Egypt's conservative government leaders "the fear of free choices can no longer justify the denial of liberty."

Rice's remarks were to some 700 invited government officials, academics and other guests at the American University in Cairo. The setting is notable, both because Egypt plans multiparty elections in the fall and because the administration of President Bush has made no secret of its dissatisfaction with political progress and the treatment of opposition figures by the government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

"For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither," Rice said. "Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people."

In other Mideast developments:

  • Palestinian gunmen ambushed an Israeli minivan driving through the northern West Bank early Monday, riddling the vehicle with bullets, killing one passenger and wounding a second. The attack — along with the fatal shooting of a Palestinian man by the army and an alleged suicide bombing attempt Monday — was part of a recent spike in violence that has weakened an already shaky truce.
  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Tuesday afternoon at the Israeli leader's residence in Jerusalem, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.
  • Israel and the Palestinians have agreed that the 1,200 homes in 21 Gaza settlements will be destroyed, after Israel evacuates more than 8,000 settlers. The agreement is in the interest of both sides, reports CBS News Correspondent Robert Berger. Israel can avoid the spectacle of Palestinians celebrating in abandoned Jewish homes. And the Palestinians can build high-rise apartments to ease the housing shortage in overpopulated Gaza.