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Rice: Sharon’s settler ties were an issue

Condoleezza Rice said Ariel Sharon’s ties to the settlement movement discouraged her from promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace.

In an interview Tuesday with the BBC, the U.S. secretary of state was asked why the Bush administration waited seven years to push hard for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“I’ve always believed that there is a very important role for diplomatic multilateral engagement, but it comes at the right time,” she said. “So for instance, on the Middle East peace process, I don’t think in 2001, with the intifada having just been launched and frankly, Ariel Sharon, the father of the settlement movement, having just been elected prime minister of Israel, that there was much prospect for a final-status negotiation. And so we’ve worked progressively over the years to help build a new foundation, new circumstances and we’ve now gotten to a place where we can do that.”

Rice was national security adviser to President Bush from 2001-2005 before assuming her current role. In that post, she strongly discouraged Colin Powell, Bush’s first secretary of state, from brokering Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Sharon, Israel’s prime minister during that time, resisted dealing with then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, accusing him of facilitating terrorism.

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