Egypt, one of Washington's closest Arab allies, is expressing support for the U.S. war against terrorism but believes the problem will not be resolved until there is a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. U.S. and Egyptian officials met Wednesday as the Bush administration continues to build an international coalition against terrorism.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has cautioned against U.S. retaliation in response to this month's terrorist attacks. In Berlin Wednesday, he told reporters any comprehensive approach toward rooting out terrorism needs to address the half century-old Arab-Israeli dispute which he believes is driving it.
There appeared to be at least a glimmer of hope Wednesday on that front, after what had been an on-again, off-again meeting between Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat, finally took place.
Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters this initial session produced progress that could cement a cease-fire and move both sides toward the kind of substantive issues that a year of fighting has put on hold. "This is a hopeful sign and I hope that we can move rapidly through this process so that we can begin to see confidence building activities in the region, we can see a cease-fire that really takes hold," he said.
In Washington, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher emerged from meetings at the State Department pledging to help both sides take steps to build on this progress. But on terrorism, he again cautioned the United States against any military response that could kill innocent people. "We believe that the United States, as the government of a country that believes in law and justice, will act on the basis of a good case and I'm sure they have a good case against the culprits who committed this horrible crime," he said.
Instead of a U.S. military response that he says will only create a new generation of Islamic militants, Egyptian President Mubarak is calling for an international convention to deal with terrorism.