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Clinton's push for Arab democracy overshadowed by Israel stance

Hillary Clinton announced new aid programs at a two-day forum with Arab leaders in Morocco, which she held up as a model for democratic reform in the region.

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"What Hilary Clinton may not know is that we are a country of reforms, but we are doing little to implement them," says Mr. Houdaifa. "It was good to hear 'change comes from within,'" he said, adding that the "bad legacy" of the Bush administration's foreign policy had caused some Moroccan NGOs to refuse to accept American money.

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Joseph Nye, dean of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Ma., says that the Obama administration shares Bush's commitment to democracy but is less "dogmatic" in its approach. "[Bush's] approach not only opened the administration to charges of hypocrisy, but led to mistrust that undercut American soft power."

Clinton headed to Cairo next

In Morocco on Tuesday, Clinton announced new aid programs designed to support development efforts in the Middle East. They included $76 million to stimulate economic growth in Yemen, one of the region's poorest countries and a focus of increasing concern as a potential haven for militants including Al Qaeda. She also offered $30 million for young Jordanians. In September, a Jordanian immigrant described by many back home as a troubled teen, was arrested by the FBI in Dallas and charged with attempting to bomb a Dallas skyscraper.

The initiatives were relatively modest, however, compared with the more than $3 trillion in US grants that Israel has enjoyed since 1985, according to a Congressional Research Service report (pdf). Egypt, with its strong limits on political opposition and the press, is also a major US aid recipient, with Congress budgeting $1.5 billion for the country in the 2008-09 fiscal year that ended last month.

US officials must tread cautiously in urging Arab allies like Morocco and Egypt to improve their human rights record, said Marina Ottaway, Middle East Program Director at the Carnegie Endowment For International Peace. Human rights transgressions on the one hand ought to be pointed out, she said, but "without necessarily condemning these countries, because realistically, we need their cooperation, particularly Egypt's, on Israel and on negotiations between Hamas and Fatah."

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley announced Monday night that Clinton would extend her Middle East tour, originally scheduled to end Tuesday, to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday in Cairo. Exactly five months before their planned visit, President Obama gave an historic speech to the Arab world in which he sought "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world." He promised that "America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own."

r Material from Reuters was used in this report.

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