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EGYPT: A duel between Bush and Mubarak

May 19, 2008 | 10:31 pm

Mubarak_3 “A duel with discourses.” “A war of words in Sharm el Sheik.” Today's local press chose those headlines to describe the dichotomous contents of the speeches delivered Sunday by U.S. President Bush and his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak at the World Economic Forum.

Mubarak started off by saying: “We are proceeding with the tenets of democracy to instate pluralism and promote our political life. ...[Reforms] emanate from inside and take into consideration the conditions and the peculiarities of our society.”

Soon afterward, Bush gave a rebuttal. “Too often in the Middle East, politics has consisted of one leader in power and the opposition in jail. ... America is deeply concerned about the plight of political prisoners in this region, as well as democratic activists who are intimidated or repressed, newspapers and civil society organizations that are shut down and dissidents whose voices are stifled."

The duel was not restricted to the issue of democratization. Other regional ordeals were underscored. While Bush talked about the need to eradicate terrorist groups, Mubarak indirectly put the blame on the Americans by stressing that the perpetuation of occupation breeds terror and violence.

Although the local press highlighted Bush’s criticism of Arab dictatorial regimes, political analysts contended that the outgoing president’s notes should not be taken seriously. Bush has no real intention and never instated any mechanism to pressure those governments to democratize, many analysts said.

— Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo

Photo:  Mubarak speaking at the World Economic Forum on Sunday. Credit: The World Economic Forum photogallery

P.S. The Los Angeles Times issues a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, the war in Iraq and the frictions between the West and Islam. You can subscribe by registering at the website here, logging in here and clicking on the World: Mideast newsletter box here.

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