WASHINGTON – The newly named U.S. ambassador to Israel promised Wednesday to speak out against terrorist attacks and praised Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (search) as moving against violent groups in a low-key but productive way.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding his nomination, veteran diplomat Richard H. Jones said the Bush administration did not approve of Abbas' strategy of "trying to co-opt" violent groups and bring them over to his side instead of challenging them head-on.
"But what really matters is that there be an end to the violence," Jones said.
Hesaid of the group that for years has attacked Israel from sanctuaries in Lebanon.
Jones also reaffirmed that Abbas was obliged to dismantle Palestinian terror groups in the first stage of a three-step U.S.-backed road map for peacemaking between Israel and the Palestinians.
"He is going about it his own way," Jones said.
"Abbas has shown he is willing to take on Hamas (search) with his courageous leadership. And that is what we have to see more of," the diplomat said.
Touting the Bush administration's strong support for Israel, Jones said the "special relationship between the United States and Israel is strong, perhaps stronger now than at any time in the past."
With Israel due to relinquish Gaza and part of the West Bank beginning in three weeks, Jones said "the administration's commitment to this effort is steadfast."
Sen. George Allen, R-Va., offering lukewarm praise of Abbas at the hearing, said Abbas was "clearly better than Yasser Arafat (search), that corrupt, reptilian terrorist."
Ricciardone, meanwhile, said the United States would offer Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (search) "appropriate support" to help the Egyptian people realize their democratic aspirations.
In what clearly was a message to Mubarak, who has taken steps toward reform but is under U.S. pressure to do more, the former U.S. ambassador to the Philippines said, "Egyptians now are insisting that world standards of democratic governance must be Egyptian standards, too."
These include, he said, freedom for all law-abiding parties and candidates to campaign, with access to the media and the right to assemble free from violence and intimidation.
"We also hope that Egypt will not only encourage domestic monitors, but also invite international observers to bear witness to exemplary exercises in democracy," Ricciardone said.
Mubarak, who has been president for nearly a quarter-century, is expected to announce his intention to run in the Sept. 7 presidential election.