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US Envoy George Mitchell in Cairo for Talks


The Egyptian capital, Cairo, is buzzing with diplomatic activity as U.S. Middle East Peace Envoy George Mitchell is in town for talks with President Hosni Mubarak. European foreign policy chief Javier Solana was also in Cairo meeting with top Egyptian officials.

Wednesday George Mitchell travels to Israel for talks with Israeli leaders on reviving peace process. Mitchell is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and then will travel to the West Bank to see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but he has no plans for talks with Hamas officials.

Mitchell to meet with Egyptian president amid high expectations

It was another day of intensive diplomatic negotiations in the Egyptian capital, as efforts to prolong and stabilize the cease-fire in Gaza topped the agenda of visiting foreign emissaries, including newly-appointed special envoy George Mitchell.

He arrived in Cairo on the first leg of a trip that will take him to Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and possibly Turkey. He is to meet Wednesday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, amid high expectations in the Arab press.

Meanwhile, European foreign policy chief Javier Solana conferred with President Mubarak and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, reiterating Europe's intention to continue "to help the Palestinian people ... despite Palestinian political divisions."

Egypt optimistic about long-term truce between Israel, Hamas

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit argued that he is optimistic about achieving a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza, after several rounds of talks between Egyptian mediators and Palestinian factions, including Hamas.

He says that the Palestinian factions came to Egypt to try to agree to a long-term truce, and that he sees cause to be optimistic. He also believes that a permanent and durable cease-fire can be achieved by the first week of February, leading to the reopening of border crossings into Gaza.

Although Senator Mitchell is not planning to visit Damascus, Syrian President Bashar al Assad told Hezbollah's Al Manar TV that he was "hoping for an unconditional dialogue" with the new Obama administration.

Obama reaches out to Arab world

In his own effort to reach out to the Arab world, U.S. President Barak Obama told popular satellite channel al-Arabiya that he believes "the moment is ripe for both sides to realize that the path that they are on is one that is not going to result in prosperity and security for their people," concluding that it is "time to return to the negotiating table."

Mr. Obama called for a new partnership with the Muslim world "based on mutual respect and mutual interest."

Veteran Lebanese journalist Hisham Melhem, who conducted the interview with President Obama for al-Arabiya TV, explained that he thinks the new U.S. president is making a concerted effort to change U.S. policy and extend a hand to the Arab and Islamic world.

He says that President Obama is addressing the Arab and Islamic world after taking symbolic steps like closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center, sending U.S. envoy George Mitchell to the region, and starting the U.S. pullout from Iraq, in a bid to say that he is opening a new page in relations between the U.S. and the Arab and Islamic world.

Al-Arabiya TV stressed that the new U.S. president was making a concerted effort to tell Arabs and Muslims that he does not equate Islam with terrorism.

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