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A renowned atheist cited the “Jewish lobby” as a model for his campaign to promote atheism in the United States.

Richard Dawkins said he wanted to gain the same kind of influence as the Jewish lobby, saying it “monopolizes” U.S. foreign policy. “When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous I am told — religious Jews anyway — than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolize American foreign policy as far as many people can see,” Dawkins, a British evolutionary biologist who advocates atheism, told the Guardian newspaper. “So if atheists could achieve a small fraction of that influence, the world would be a better place.” Dawkins, an Oxford professor who wrote the best-seller “The God Delusion,” told the Guardian that he wants to organize American atheists to counter the influence of religious groups.

“I think some sort of political organization is what they need,” he said.

Five former senior U.S. government officials released a blueprint for a successful Mideast peace parley.

The group, with close ties to several recent U.S. administrations, produced a six-page, nine-point plan for the Bush administration’s planned Middle East peace conference likely to be held next month in Washington.

Among the plan’s many recommendations are clear goals for dealing with the role of Hamas in the talks, a plan for future talks, not allowing the meeting’s success to be determined by which Arab nations participate and a call for former British Prime Minister and now Quartet envoy Tony Blair to work full-time to draft a Declaration of Principles for the talks, which would be endorsed by the U.N. Security Council.

The document was drafted by Thomas Pickering, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under the first President Bush; Samuel Lewis, the U.S. ambassador to Israel under Presidents Carter and Reagan; Edward Walker, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates under President Clinton and in the current administration; Robert Pelletreau, the Clinton-appointed U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain; and Frederic Hof, a director for Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestinian affairs in the Secretary of Defense’s office. Steven Spiegel, a scholar representing the dovish pro-Israel group Israel Policy Forum, also worked with the group, which met in early September.

In their paper, the group is critical of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s frequent trips to the Middle East, suggesting that an outside party, preferably Blair, work with the Palestinians and the Israelis full-time to draft statements of understanding before the talks begin. Those statements would include agreed-upon borders, a solution for refugees and an agreement to two capitals in Jerusalem.

The plan also outlines a possible role for Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and has the capacity to undermine the peace talks with potentially violent consequences. The ambassadors urge that Hamas be asked to sign on to the statements of understanding.

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