Rice taps Clinton, Carter for West Asia advice

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WASHINGTON, Oct 26 (Reuters) Anxious not to repeat mistakes of past West Asia peace-making, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has turned to former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter for tips ahead of her own conference this year.

Rice invited Carter, a vocal critic of Bush administration policies, to the State Department on Wednesday where the two discussed his Arab-Israeli peacemaking efforts in the 1970s, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said today.

Their talks were ''good and cordial,'' he said. They focused on the Middle East and not Carter's recent criticism of President George W Bush's policies in Iraq and elsewhere.

A Soviet specialist, Rice also telephoned another former Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who tried, and ultimately failed, in his eight years in office to bring the Israelis and Palestinians together.

''She's trying to draw on the historical record and the experiences of others to see -- see what she can glean and how that may be applicable to the current day,'' McCormack said.

''She is a student of history and has a keen appreciation for how we can apply the lessons of history, what we can learn from those who have gone before us,'' he said.

Other sources of advice have been former US negotiator Dennis Ross and ex-secretaries of state James Baker, Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright. Rice meets frequently for lunch with Albright, whose father taught Rice at Denver University.

Rice has made clear she will devote all her energy in the Bush administration's final 14 months to get what others have failed to attain in the past -- a viable, independent Palestinian state living side by side with a secure Israel.

The top US diplomat, who has been to Israel and the Palestinian Territories seven times this year and returns next week, is preparing the ground for a Palestinian statehood conference expected to be held in late November or early December, in Annapolis, Maryland.

Clinton hosted many Middle East peace summits at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, even in his final month in office in January 2001, but never managed to get an Israeli-Palestinian deal.

Carter held secret negotiations at Camp David that led to a 1978 deal between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.

Rice also has been scouring historical records for pointers.

During her summer break in August, she checked out volumes of historical background from the State Department's library on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, a department official said.

REUTERS SZ PM0255

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