About 300 Muslim women demonstrated for greater rights outside the conference in Manama (AFP)
12 November 2005 -- Foreign ministers from industrialized countries and Arab states today opened a U.S.-sponsored democracy forum with calls for peace in the Middle East in order to speed up reforms in the region.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told her counterparts at the second annual "Forum for the Future" in Bahrain's capital Manama that "democracy will only achieve lasting success when the rule of law is sanctified, when the media is free, when government is transparent and accountable to its people, when independent courts ensure justice in society, when civilians control the military, and when all citizens have equal opportunities to succeed."
But some Arab foreign ministers insisted that progress would be difficult -- if not impossible -- without a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa said "peace and stability in the Middle East region will be a catalyst for the success of reform efforts."
Moroccan Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Issa said a "cycle of violence and counterviolence is feeding the feeling of injustice and frustration" in the region.