Republicans criticize Rice over Iraq, Iran, Hamas

Republican senators criticized the Bush administration Wednesday over its policies in Iraq, Iran and the Palestinian territories, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's first testimony to Congress in months exposed her to a tough grilling from some members of her own party. "I don't see, Madame Secretary, how things are getting better. I think they're getting worse in Iraq, they're getting worse in Iran," Sen. Chuck Hagel told Rice as she appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Rice also had a tense exchange with moderate Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee over the pace of progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace and the implications of the Hamas victory in Palestinian legislative elections last month. "We will continue to insist that the leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism and work for lasting peace," Rice said. Though the moderate Chafee and Hagel, a frequent Republican maverick and potential presidential candidate in 2008, are less conservative than many of their Republican colleagues, their criticism underscored a widespread frustration in Congress with the difficult problems the United States is facing across the Middle East.