U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns began a two-week Middle East tour Saturday by meeting with Egypt's president in Cairo. The talks dealt with the Iraq issue as well as the Israeli - Palestinian conflict.
In his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Mr. Burns assured him that Washington is not so obsessed with pressing for the disarmament of Iraq that it has forgotten its efforts to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
Mr. Mubarak said early this week that if the Middle East issue was ignored it would only aggravate the conflict and increase opposition in the region to a possible U.S.-led attack on Iraq.
After the talks, Mr. Burns told reporters that on the Israeli-Palestinian issue the United States is committed to doing everything it can to develop what he called a tangible, concrete set of ideas that can make a reality of the vision of President Bush to create two states. He said Washington relies on the critical role that Egypt can play in any renewed peace talks.
Mr. Burns arrived in Cairo from Paris where he met with representatives from Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. The so-called Quartet Group went over plans to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and develop a Palestinian state in the next few years.
Mr. Burns also said he assured Mr. Mubarak that Washington wanted to work with the United Nations in getting Iraq to disclose and destroy any weapons of mass destruction it might have. Egypt and most Arab nations have rejected unilateral U.S. military action against Iraq.
As part of his 12-stage tour Mr. Burns will be stopping in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Israel, the West Bank, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait.