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Mubarak Gets Mixed Reviews for US Trip

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has gotten mixed reviews on his just-concluded trip to Washington to discuss the Middle East peace process with President Bush. Egyptian media have hailed the trip as significant, but some analysts say only time will tell if Mr. Mubarak has gained influence with the United States.

He says the success of President Mubarak's trip can only be measured against President Bush's meeting Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said Abdullah el Ashaal, an expert on Arab affairs who lectures at several universities in Cairo.

Mr. el Ashaal said there is "fear in the Middle East" that Mr. Sharon will convince the United States to side with Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians. "We are very afraid that the United States is going to jump over all of the faithful steps President Mubarak had made now with the White House, and come in line or have some sort of assimilation between the American attitudes and the Israeli attitudes," he said.

Mr. Mubarak's trip to Washington solidified Egypt's role as a peace broker in the region, according to Mohammad Kamal, who teaches political science at Cairo University.

Mr. Kamal says Egypt can influence other Arab countries and the Palestinians to attend a proposed peace conference in the next few months. But "all bets are off" if the White House fails to adopt any of the Egyptian peace proposals in favor of an Israeli plan. "Most of the Arab countries, including Egypt, will reject that and they will argue that we have pressure from the public opinion," he said. "This will lead to instability if we accept this position. This will lead to instability, and the instability threatens American interests in the region."

President Bush declined to endorse Mr. Mubarak's call to support the declaration of Palestinian statehood early next year or to commit to any timetable for peace.

But the head of the al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo says President Mubarak's trip "was not vain." Abdel Moneim Sa'id says, if anything, it helped improve Egyptian-American relations. "I think the rapport with Mr. Bush is much stronger than it was in the last year," he said. "Being in Camp David was essential. In Middle East politics, personal relations matter. Number two, I think it is in the American calculations and decisions. What Egypt thinks about how the peace process should go? We are not sure that, at the end, the American decisions will match the Egyptian vision, but at least we are sure that the Americans know what Egyptians can do, second, what they want to do, and I think this is important."

President Mubarak met Monday in Cairo with U.S. trade representative Robert Zoellick and said he is prepared to "support any ideas" proposed by the United States to enhance chances for peace in the region.