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Rice Calls for Democratic Reforms in Middle East

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has issued a forceful call for democratic reforms in the Middle East, declaring that "the fear of free choices can no longer justify the denial of liberty."

In an address today (Monday) at the American University in Cairo, Ms. Rice said it is time for Middle Eastern governments "to abandon the excuses that are made to avoid the hard work of democracy." At the same time, Ms. Rice said "the democratic system cannot function if certain groups have one foot in the realm of politics and one foot in the camp of terror."

Her remarks appear to be aimed at militant groups such as Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Ms. Rice also called on the Iranian and Syrian rulers to pay attention to their people who, she said, are yearning for liberty.

Earlier today, Ms. Rice held talks with President Hosni Mubarak and other Egyptian officials (in Sharm el Sheikh). She urged Mr. Mubarak to make sure Egypt's September presidential elections are free and fair.