MANAMA, Bahrain – A U.S.-backed summit meant to promote political freedom and economic change in the Middle East ended Saturday without agreement, a blow to President George W. Bush’s goals for the troubled region. A draft declaration on democratic and economic principle was shelved after Egypt insisted on language that would have given Arab governments greater control over which democracy groups receive money from a new fund. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also used the conference to send a message to Syrians chafing under authoritarian rule, saying Washington backs their “aspirations for liberty, democracy and justice under the rule of law.” Bush hosted a coming-out party for the Forum for the Future last year at Sea Island, Ga., and the U.S. is putting up half of the $100 million in a venture capital fund for economic development launched at this year’s gathering. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week The White House had hoped the conference would showcase political progress in a part of the world long dominated by monarchies and single-party rule, and spread goodwill for the U.S. American officials seemed startled that an ally, Egypt, threw up a roadblock. Egypt receives nearly $2 billion annually in U.S. aid, second only to Israel. The country held its first multiparty elections this year, but remains under the firm control of President Hosni Mubarak. Rice chose Egypt as the site for a widely noted June speech promoting democracy. An earlier visit was postponed in a dispute over the jailing of a democracy activist, who was later released. The disappointing outcome at the conference followed a rocky summit a week ago in Argentina, when Bush got a cold shoulder from some Latin American leaders, failed to win consensus on a free trading bloc for the Western Hemisphere and endured biting criticism from anti-U.S. protesters and Venezuela’s leftist president, Hugo Chavez. In Bahrain, tense negotiations in private over the language of a final statement could not persuade the Egyptians. Egypt’s foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, left the session before a closing press conference. “We didn’t withdraw” from the conference, he said later. “What happened is that the meeting took so long, more than it was scheduled.” Bahrain’s foreign minister, Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, told reporters the declaration will come up again, perhaps at a gathering scheduled for Jordan next year. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
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