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BY HOSNI MUBARAK,
2 April 2001
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak sounded off to the new US administration on issues including the Middle East conflict, as he prepared Sunday for talks with President George W Bush, hoping to persuade him to move toward US resumption of active regional diplomacy.
"The United States cannot just take its hands off. It has to work to narrow the gap (between the Palestinians) and the Israelis," Mubarak stressed in a lengthy interview with Newsweek magazine.
The comments presaged difficult negotiations between the Egyptian leader, whose country was the first Arab nation to normalise relations with Israel and remains one of the closest US allies in the Middle East, and Bush, who has displayed a reluctance to plunge headlong into regional politics.
Bush has repeatedly stated that his administration will not "force peace" in the region, signalling a departure from the aggressive pursuit of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians undertaken by his predecessor, Bill Clinton.
"It requires two willing parties to come to the table to enact a peace treaty that will last," Bush said on Thursday.
But as Mubarak's plane touched down at Andrews Air Force Base here on Saturday, Newsweek released the interview in which the Egyptian leader chose not to hide his unhappiness with the US administration's new course.
"The new administration may not have a picture of what's going on," said Mubarak, describing the situation in the Middle East as "very very tense."
The Egyptian president went on to complain that he was ignored by the United States this past week when he had pleaded with the State Department not to veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for deployment of UN observers in the West Bank and Gaza during an Arab summit in Amman.
"I sent the United States a message: 'Please don't veto now,'" Mubarak said. "They did, and the (Arab delegations) changed resolutions. We couldn't prevent it."
The Egyptian leader also took the Bush administration to task for its Iraq policy, which involves strikes against Iraqi antiaircraft batteries that US military officials say threaten US and British planes patrolling the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq.
The latest such attack occurred on Friday, when a US warplane bombed what the Pentagon said was an antiaircraft artillery site near the town of As Samawah in southern Iraq.
"The more you bomb him, the stronger he gets," said Mubarak, speaking of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, an avowed foe of the United States.
Egypt's president also dismissed as hopeless US attempts to bring about a change of government in Iraq through active support of Iraqi exile groups.
The idea is being actively promoted by newly appointed Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz, who said just last Monday that "the United States continues to look for new leadership in Iraq."
To that, Mubarak issued a blunt piece of advice: "Forget about it."
"The Iraqi opposition you have in the United States ... they cannot deliver -- now or after Saddam," he explained. "Any opposition group from outside the country that is known as working with the Americans is seen as traitors to the people."
Mubarak is expected at the White House Monday -- followed a week later by King Abdullah of Jordan.
"Egypt and Jordan are two of our most important partners in the region, and their role is crucial," said Bush.
However, Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb said in March he was "astonished" by Bush's plan to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
As of August 2006, Iraq Watch is no longer being updated. Click here for more information.
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