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Powell Visits Egypt - 2002-04-09

Skepticism and anger are the emotions Secretary of State Colin Powell will likely face when he arrives in Egypt Tuesday for a meeting with President Mubarak.

The secretary's visit comes as Israeli troops have withdrawn from two West Bank towns while Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has offered to meet with leaders of the Middle East anywhere, without preconditions from either side, to talk about peace.

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud describes the Israeli offer as a maneuver to deceive the international community, as Secretary Powell arrives in the region.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said Mr. Sharon's offer has no credibility behind it.

Arab leaders are demanding the United States do more to reign in Israel. Otherwise, they warn of devastating consequences for both moderate Arab regimes and the United States.

Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abul-Rageb says only the United States can bring peace to the region.

"I think the most important issue now is the American role in this area," he said. "They have sponsored all the agreements. They have been the most active partner to the peace process. I think they should take their responsibility to put things in order and bring a cease fire and peaceful solution."

Secretary Powell has said, under the right conditions, he would be willing to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. However, there are no announced plans for such a meeting to take place.

Walid Kazziha teaches political science at American University in Cairo. He says, if Mr. Powell is attempting to bypass Mr. Arafat in the peace process, it would be a mistake.

"He is undermining the position of Arafat, who today is considered by most Palestinians as a Palestinian Mandela," he said. "So to try and marginalize Arafat, once you go down that road, then no one is safe. If he is coming to find a way to get rid of Arafat I think he will find a lot of resistance and a lot of disappointment."

The Secretary's visit comes following more than a week of angry, sometimes violent anti-Israel protests in Egypt. Much of the anger has also been directed at the United States.

The Egyptian government has ended direct government to government contact with Israel leaving only diplomatic channels open aimed at achieving peace in the region.

While Mr. Powell has said he is not sure he can secure a cease-fire during his trip to the region, many political analysts have said anything less would be considered a failure.

Mr. Powell's visit to Egypt follows meetings in Morocco with King Mohammed and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. The Secretary will spend about four hours in Egypt before heading to Madrid to meet with European ministers. Thursday he travels to Jordan before arriving in Israel Friday.