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Mubarak: Regional Peace Depends on Israel - 2002-03-03

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is in Washington for annual talks with American officials. Topping the agenda is the worsening Israeli-Palestinian issue and the latest Saudi Arabian proposal for peace.

The agenda for the Egyptian leader's six-day visit to the United States includes discussing how to reactivate the Middle East peace process in the face of deteriorating Israeli-Palestinian relations, combating international terrorism, and bolstering relations between Egypt and Washington.

Egyptian officials say the major focus of the Mubarak visit will be the latest Saudi proposal for peace. Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah has recommended that Arab states normalize relations with Israel in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territories.

In interviews before leaving for Washington, Mr. Mubarak said he held no hope for a Middle East peace as long as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "continues to besiege the Palestinian people and their president and to destroy Palestinian security force positions."

Although similar proposals have been put forward as long ago as 1996, Israel's response to the Saudi proposal was that it would like to discuss it further. Mr. Mubarak said there was no room for discussion or compromise. He said peace is the objective of all Arab countries and they are willing to establish full relations with Israel if Israel withdraws from the occupied territories.

In an interview in one Egyptian newspaper, Mr. Mubarak said it was "astonishing" that some people in Israel could speak of negotiations with Saudi Arabia. "Things are clear," he was quoted as saying, "total withdrawal against total peace."

Mr. Mubarak said he hoped that in the U.S. he could explain the Saudi proposal and the position of the Arab world in a "sincere and detailed manner" in order to balance the information that Washington receives from Israel.

Mr. Mubarak meets President George W. Bush on Tuesday. While in Washington he will also attend meetings at the Pentagon and the CIA, and will meet with a delegation of Jewish organizations.