|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
12 - 18 November 1998
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
In search of diplomatic solutions
"To my knowledge, no Arab country supports a military strike against Iraq," Mubarak added. He said he had sent Iraqi President Saddam Hussein a message over the weekend advising him to avoid military confrontation with the US.
Saudi Arabia is among the countries that oppose the use of its territories to launch attacks against Iraq. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal discussed ways to resolve the US-Iraq standoff with Mubarak in Cairo on Sunday. The talks were part of ongoing consultations between Cairo and Riyadh, and a continuation of talks between Mubarak and Saudi Defence Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdel-Aziz last week.
Prince Saud Al-Faisal said Saudi Arabia and Egypt "see eye to eye" on the Iraqi problem. "We both seek diplomatic solutions," he noted, adding that full responsibility for the crisis falls squarely on the shoulders of the Iraqi leadership "which takes decisions it cannot be accountable for". He called on Saddam Hussein to rescind his refusal to cooperate with UNSCOM, the UN committee charged with dismantling Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The foreign minister said US Secretary of Defence William Cohen, who was touring the region last week in an attempt to glean Arab opinions about a possible US strike against Iraq, "did not make any particular demands on us". This was clearly an allusion to the possible use of Saudi territory to launch attacks.
Meeting with NDP members in his capacity as chairman of the party, Mubarak told the parliamentarians that Egypt was not officially involved in the US-sponsored Wye River talks between the Palestinians and Israelis. He described the Wye River summit as "direct negotiations" between the two, headed by Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, receptively.
Mubarak reiterated the importance of the implementation of signed agreements, saying that terrorist activities should not dissuade either party from closing a peace deal. "There are forces in both the Palestinian and Israeli camps which do not want peace," Mubarak said, "and they carry out terrorist operations at any sign of an agreement between the two sides."
Speaking to African journalists on Saturday, Mubarak said Arab leaders were "waiting to see the outcome of the latest agreement". Referring to the bomb in Jerusalem last weekend, which caused the Israeli cabinet to postpone a vote on the Wye agreement, Mubarak said the blast took place because there had been a semblance of progress in the peace process. He added that the Palestinian leadership should not be blamed for lax security since the explosion occurred "within the security boundaries of Israel". The president warned that failure to implement the agreement only "opens the door to more violence." He said the only way to stop the bloodshed was to forge ahead with implementation of the agreement.
During a meeting with German journalists on Sunday, Mubarak said terrorist operations will continue until the Palestinians are given their rights. He said he hoped the Wye agreement "would not be written off as another lost opportunity in the history of the Palestinian cause".
Mubarak told the journalists that Europe should support the US role to ensure Israel adhered to what was signed in Washington. "The climate of the past two years [since Netanyahu came to power in May 1996] does not induce trust. Bridges of confidence between Israel and her neighbours will not be built unless agreements are respected and implemented," he added.
He added that the Palestinian authorities should not have to shoulder all the responsibility for Israel's security, noting that its security demands "weaken Arafat in front of his people". Mubarak said it is impossible for the leadership of any state to promise to eradicate terrorism, noting that the Palestinian people include various groups, some of which are extremist.
Mubarak's remark drew sharp criticism from the Israeli leadership. On Monday, Netanyahu's office issued a statement accusing Mubarak of seeking to discourage the Palestinian leadership from assuming its responsibility to combat terrorism.
In press statements a few days earlier, Mubarak had his own piece of advice for Netanyahu: "I tell Netanyahu that almost no one trusts you to implement the agreement signed in Washington. If you want to change that image, you must initiate procedures to implement the agreement."
Speaking hours after the Friday Jerusalem bomb, Mubarak noted that freezing negotiations with the Palestinians would not be in the best interests of peace. "There must be continuity and a brave confrontation of the challenges facing the peace process," he said. "The many enemies of peace must not be given a chance [to destroy it]." The president said that if the Wye agreement is not implemented, "no one can guarantee that violence will not recur", adding that the Palestinians would be "plunged back into frustration if there is no glimpse of hope ahead for them".
Talking to NDP parliamentarians on Tuesday, Mubarak said there would be no Arab summit until the Palestinians said they needed it, because the peace process had reached a dead end. "The gathering will have to be well-prepared, with clear ideas," he said, adding that the wounds of the Arab nation still have not healed since the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. He added however, that Egypt, along with other Arab countries, is trying "to clear the air because divisions weaken the Arab nation".
During his two-hour session with the NDP members, Mubarak discussed recent criticisms of Egypt. Responding to offensive broadcasts on the Qatari Al-Jazira channel, Mubarak said Egypt "was too big a country to be bothered by these silly matters". He said he regretted that some Egyptians take part in the talk shows which criticise the country, but added, "We should not waste our time on the matter."
Mubarak also denied accusations of discrimination against Christians in Egypt, saying that Cairo will not succumb to pressures from "the very few elements" which claim Copts are persecuted. "We are all Egyptians under one flag, regardless of religious orientation," he said. "The issue of discrimination against Copts was used in the past and failed. It will meet the same fate again."