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US Envoy Meets with Mubarak - 2002-02-06

U.S. Mideast envoy William Burns met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in a growing effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Cairo.

After meeting with President Mubarak at the presidential palace, William Burns said his stop in Cairo is only one example of the diplomatic effort to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"We have been very active over the course of the last week or so, as has Egypt, in consulting not just with parties from the region, but Prime Minister Sharon is going to be visiting Washington to meet with President Bush Thursday," he said. "We have also had contacts with the senior Palestinian delegation. King Abdullah of Jordan was in Washington. We met with envoys from Russia, the European Union, as well as the U.N. Secretary General, so we are working very actively, as is Egypt, to try to find a formula for making use of those plans, that are already in existence, to move ahead."

During the past week Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met with Israel's defense minister and twice appealed to Mr. Arafat to work harder to stop the violence with Israel. The Egyptian president also called for the Palestinian leader to mend his relations with Washington and resume negotiations.

American University in Cairo Political Science Professor Walid Kazziha describes the diplomatic activity as being "very serious". He says most of it is geared toward gaining concessions from Yasser Arafat, not Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"All efforts are converging to try and bring Arafat to accept a cease-fire, perhaps a unilateral cease fire, because there is no such effort converging on Sharon, for example, but there is a tremendous effort exerted on Arafat and pressure to which Arafat may have to succumb at the end," he said.

Mr. Burns, one of two Mideast envoys appointed by President Bush, made it clear that while the United States still views Mr. Arafat as a legitimate negotiating partner, it is less than satisfied with the Palestinian leader's efforts to stop violence.

"Our position is very clear and that is that President Arafat is the elected leader of the Palestinian people, that we continue to work with the Palestinian authority, and that our hope is to work with both Palestinians and Israelis to move back in the direction of a political process and move away from violence," he said. "That does require some very difficult decisions and some real actions on the part of the Palestinian authority, and we have been frustrated by a failure to make the kind of maximum effort that we have called upon before. But, we also recognize, there are obligations that the Israeli government has as well."

Following his talks, Mr. Burns left Cairo to return to Washington.