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Bush Urges Mubarak to Hold Free Elections


President Bush is personally urging Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to follow through on a pledge to hold free and fair presidential elections. The two men discussed the matter by telephone Wednesday.

President Bush says Hosni Mubarak can lead the way for other nations in the region, and assure his place in history, by making good on his pledge.

"I urged him once again to have as free and fair an election as possible as it will be a great legacy for his country," he said.

Speaking to reporters following talks with South African President Thabo Mbeki, Mr. Bush said President Mubarak assured him that the promise will be kept.

"He's publicly stated he is for free and fair elections, and now is the time for him to show the world his great country can set an example for others," Mr. Bush said.

President Bush then laid out a list of international election standards which he believes must be met in order for the process to be deemed credible and democratic.

"People ought to be allowed to vote without being intimidated, people ought to be allowed to be on TV, and if the government owns the TV, they need to allow the opposition on TV, people ought to be allowed to carry signs and express their displeasure or pleasure. People ought to have very vote count," Mr. Bush said.

Egypt is scheduled to hold elections in September under new rules which the Mubarak government says will enable multiple candidates to seek the presidency. But the political opposition in Cairo maintains the government has no interest in free and fair elections and says the new system does not allow for open equitable campaigning.

The two sides literally came to blows last week when opposition members gathered to protest a referendum on the rule change, and they were beaten by Mubarak supporters. Some witnesses said plainclothes government agents were involved.

Mr. Bush said he discussed the incident with President Mubarak, who said there would be a complete investigation. The two also talked about Israel's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip in August, and reviewed the recent visit to Washington by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

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