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Egyptian Analysts Agree with Bush on Many Principles About Iraq - 2004-04-14

Arab analysts say they agree with many principles voiced by President Bush in his news conference Tuesday, and many hope that the president's promises will translate to a smooth transition to Iraqi sovereignty and an end to the violence that has rocked central and southern Iraq in recent weeks

President Bush said Tuesday most Iraqis reject violence, and said the recent uprisings by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's militia and the violence in Fallujah are the work of a minority extremist element in Iraq.

Mr. Bush vowed to send more troops to Iraq if necessary. But the spokesman of the Arab League, Hossam Zaki, says Arab leaders don't believe a stronger coalition presence is necessary.

?It doesn't sound like what Iraq needs right now is more troops; it look to us like what is needed is a political vision, a clear vision of a political solution not more troops so that's why I think we should focus more on the political track than the military track,? Mr. Zaki said.

President Bush also said a free Iraq will stand as an example to reformers across the Middle East. While many Arab governments have resisted U.S. calls for democracy and reform in the region, Mr. Zaki says Arab leaders agree that Iraq should be a free and democratic society.

?If people think the Arab countries are somehow afraid or inhibited by a democratic Iraq, this is completely false and this is not at all our view,? Mr. Zaki said. ?Our view is in order to get to a democratic Iraq we have to also get to a free and independent Iraq, an Iraq where people are secure, and have the ability to decide on their future without either inhibition or tyranny, and if we consider that the second is gone then the first has to go also. So this is what we want for the Iraqi people.?

Former Arab League secretary general Esmat Abdel Meguid said President Bush has yet to convince the world that developments in Iraq are under control.

?The facts are different and I think this matter is becoming more and more complicated every day, which is something sad,? he said.

Some analysts said Mr. Bush's assertion that the preemptive war on Iraq was necessary because, prior to September 11, 2001 "we were not on war footing," could set a dangerous precedent, or even encourage other countries to disregard international law in conflict situations.

But analyst Hala Mustafa, from Cairo's Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said despite the challenges the U.S. president has faced, she believes the Bush administration has made a positive impact on the region. ?Encouraging reform in the Middle East and modernization and pushing further the modernization process I think this is for the good of the whole region not just for the good of America. So if there are more years or more chances to build on this, I think that would be great for the whole region,? she said.

The U.S. president also vowed to stick to the planned June 30 date for the handover of power, and promised that a permanent government will be elected by the Iraqi people by December 2005.