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Powell Trip Deemed 'a Failure' by Egyptian Analysts - 2002-04-17

Secretary of State Colin Powell ended his visit to the Middle East with a stop in Cairo and a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher and their Jordanian counterpart Marwan al-Muasher. The secretary's just completed trip has produced a harsh reaction from political analysts in Egypt.

Without an immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian-controlled territories or a cease-fire, political analysts in Egypt are calling Secretary of State Colin Powell's mission to the Middle East a failure.

Hassan Nafae is the head of the political science department at Cairo University. He says Mr. Powell's only accomplishment was to further alienate an already angry Arab world from the United States. "I think you will not find any single citizen in the whole Arab and Muslim world that has any respect now for the American government," he said. "And we all have the impression that Israel will lead the United States to a tremendous and very regrettable confrontation between the United States and the Arab world."

Mr. Nafae says moderate Arab governments that continue to support U.S. policy in the region will face increasing pressure from their own citizens.

Mohammad Kamal, who teaches political science at Cairo University, agrees. "Arab moderate governments, like Egypt, I think did not want to take tougher action against Israel, like expelling the Israeli ambassador from Cairo, despite public-opinion pressure," he said. "Because they were hoping that the United States will mediate the conflict and might achieve some results they can sell to their public opinion. Now, nothing came out of this visit so I think the pressure will intensify on Arab leaders to take tougher action on Israel."

Mr. Kamal says Arab citizens will have a difficult time understanding how the United States "can pressure other governments like Iraq, but seem so powerless over Israel when it comes to achieving an Israeli withdrawal".

Abdullah el Ashaal is an expert on Arab affairs who lectures at several universities in Cairo. He says the public's image of the United States as a power broker in the region, has been dealt a blow. "I think the United States image has become in a very bad situation now in the Arab world, and on the diplomatic level, because for the first time in recent history the United States was not able to do something tangible in the area. "It is incapable," he said.

Secretary Powell said in Jerusalem that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat must work to end terrorism. He added that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had given him a timeline to end an Israeli offensive in the West Bank.

Mr. Powell said Israel would withdraw, "in the next few days or a week or so".

Mr. Powell said Israel's offensive must end before a cease-fire could be achieved.

The Israeli government says it launched its offensive in response to a series of suicide bombings in Israel.