Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has begun the new year with a call to end Israeli-Palestinian violence in 2003 so that peace talks can resume. The Arab leader also urged Iraq to do everything it can to avoid war.
In a New Year statement to the official Al-Ahram daily, Mr. Mubarak said immediate negotiations are the only way to reach a peace settlement that will satisfy Israelis and Palestinians. But he warned that the violence must first end.
The Egyptian leader said Israelis should ask themselves whether "two years of repression and destruction have brought them security." He also called for the Palestinians to institute calm so the process of reform can continue.
Analysts say that Egypt is working intensely behind the scenes to get mainstream and hard-line Palestinians to resolve their differences.
They say Mr. Mubarak is concerned that a victory by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's right-wing Likud Party in Israel's upcoming elections, combined with the looming possibility of a war against Iraq, could trigger a wave of regional instability.
The analysts say it is this urgency that has led Egypt to redouble its efforts to promote peace by hosting talks even with extremist groups, groups it has avoided meeting with in the past.
Mr. Mubarak also devoted some of his New Year message to Iraq. He urged Baghdad to cooperate fully with U.N. inspectors in order to avoid war.
The Egyptian president also advised Saddam Hussein to stop seeking to incite Arabs against their governments. Such efforts, Mr. Mubarak said, are doomed to fail.