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Cairo New Hub of Political Activity - 2001-10-02


Ever since the September 11 attacks on the United States, Cairo has become a center of political activity.

In the past week alone, the foreign ministers of Syria, Iran, Sudan, Kuwait and Lebanon, along with the King of Jordan and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, have traveled to Cairo to consult with Egypt's top politicians, including President Hosni Mubarak.

As one political analyst said, "Cairo has become the Middle East agenda center." When there is trouble in the region, Egypt is where the heads of state seek solutions.

Abdel Moneim Said is the head of the al-Ahram Strategic Center for Political Studies. He says the reach of Cairo extends well beyond its borders. "It has high Islamic credentials in Islam history," he said. "It has the weight of the population [and] 200 years of building modern institutions in which many of the Arab world has been educated in Egypt, particularly the generation of the 1950s and '60s who are now, in many of the Arab countries, acting as ministers, heads of corporations and elite."

Egypt's moderate political policies are another reason why Cairo's advice and support is routinely sought throughout the Arab world. It has a peace agreement with Israel and enjoys strong ties with the United States.

Sabry el Shabrawi is a professor of business administration at American University in Cairo. He says Egypt's leaders have been laying the political and economic groundwork necessary for Cairo to assume a leadership role. "What did Kuwait get from Mubarak during the crisis? It got stability and recognition and got all sorts of support," he said. "What did Saudi Arabia get during the crisis of terrorism in Saudi Arabia? Support. Algeria, during the war of liberation, support from Nasser. Egypt is always fighting for the Arab cause, fighting for the Palestinian problem and we are fighting for the Arab identity, Arab pride. So, Egypt should be recognized as the leader without any challenges."

Over the past several weeks, few, if any, have challenged the importance of Cairo. Leaders from the Middle East are fully aware it was President Mubarak who, in 1991, warned leaders throughout the world of the growing potential for global terrorism.

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