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President Bush Urges More Political Freedom In Egypt

United States President George Bush has urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s government to allow more freedom in the country’s young democracy. Bush’s remarks came at the end of his Middle East tour with a visit to Egypt’s resort town of Sharm EL-Sheikh. He praised the work of Egyptian judges, journalists, and civil society and encouraged them to continue to further entrench democracy in the country. But critics of the United State dismissed President Bush’s comments as unwelcome.

Challis McDonough is VOA correspondent in Egypt. She tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Cairo that President Bush’s visit attracted pockets of protests and condemnation across the country.

“It’s very interesting, he (President Bush) is not a very popular man here and so there were protests here in Cairo. There were fairly small protests and they were extremely very critical, they were holding up signs saying all kinds of rude and funny things… there were a couple of signs saying the Egyptian government should have refused him entry into the country. People were accusing him of being a murderer, they were talking a lot about Iraq and the chaos there which they put squarely at his doorstep,” McDonough noted.

She said President Bush’s visit also attracted resentment among a cross section of people.

“A pretty hostile reaction from the people of Egypt. And you had similar responses from newspaper columnists all being very, very critical. There were Members of Parliament saying that he should have been denied entry into the country,” she said.

McDonough said the U. S. president was diplomatic in his pronouncements.

“This is really interesting to me the remarks that he made. I thought they were very, very carefully worded. He did manage to avoid direct criticism of Egypt or the Egyptian government and so he wouldn’t have put his host in the position of being embarrassed. And not very important as far as face saving for the Egyptian government that would have been really unacceptable to them to have him directly criticize the Egyptian president or the Egyptian government while he is a guest in the country,” McDonough said.

She said the opposition parties in the country have yet to respond to President Bush’s remarks.

“I haven’t heard response to it (message) yet and my sense is that people are still kind of processing it and trying to figure out how they can respond to it,” she pointed out.

Some political analysts believe Bush's remarks strongly reinforce his administration's vigorous campaign in 2005 to bring about political change in Egypt, where Mubarak has been in power for 26 years and where his son is expected to succeed him.