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Russian President Putin Visits Egypt

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives in Egypt Tuesday for talks with President Mubarak regarding the complex peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. The two men will also discuss Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, as well as efforts to reform the United Nations. The trip marks the first visit by a Russian or Soviet leader to Egypt in 40 years.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says his visit to Egypt is part of an effort to bolster ties in the Middle East where the former Soviet Union once yielded enormous influence.

The Russian president said he plans to hold direct talks with Arab countries, starting with Egypt, as part of an effort to better understand the views and interests of people in the region.

According to the editor-in-chief of the Egyptian political magazine Ahram Quarterly, Hala Mustafa, Russia and Egypt may also be interested in countering growing American influence throughout the Middle East.

"I think the common element here between both sides is minimizing or attempting to decrease the influence of the United States in the region, especially when it comes to the Israeli-Arab conflict and, in particular, on the Israeli-Palestinian track," he said.

Egypt has long been a staunch ally of the United States, while Russia has developed stronger ties with Israel, where there is a large Russian-speaking population. Following his talks with President Mubarak, Mr. Putin Wednesday will travel to Israel.

The last Kremlin chief to make an official state visit to Egypt was Nikita Krushchev in 1964. At that time, Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser was leading a socialist movement in Egypt and developed strong ties with Moscow. But that relationship began to change in 1971, when Anwar Sadat became president. Mr. Sadat decided to put Egypt on a new pro-American course that has since been strengthened by President Mubarak.

Mr. Mubarak has twice visited Russia, including in May of last year.

The Egyptian president has applauded the effort by Russia to implement the internationally-backed road map peace plan accepted by both the Israelis and Palestinians. Russia is one of the four international sponsors of the plan along with the United States, the European Union and the United Nations.