Mubarak discuss views on host of issues; reform takes priority
Egypt, Politics, 1/21/2004
President Hosni Mubarak said the political reform takes priority, noting that Egypt took long strides towards the road of political reform.
An official report said: President Mubarak during his meeting yesterday with the intellectuals and writers said there is no hesitation in taking any steps to achieve reforms in favor of the Egyptian people.
Minister of Information Safwat Al- Sherif said following the meeting held on Tuesday between President Hosni Mubarak and the intellectuals and men of letters that the meeting was part of the activities held every year on the sidelines of Cairo Book Fair.
Al-Sherif said that the meeting, which was attended by Prime Minister Dr. Atef Ebeid, along with a number of ministers and the head of the presidential cabinet, coincided this year with many activities President Mubarak had with a host of Arab leaders.
He said that the President's dialogue with the intellectuals was also characterized by transparency and provided a chance to discuss all issues that concern the public opinion.
The minister said that President Mubarak started the dialogue by dealing with the peace process and steps taken for making political reforms.
The President stressed the importance of taking more political and economic steps to achieve reforms in Egypt in various domains, said Al-Sherif.
President Mubarak pointed out that Egypt made great progress on the way of reforms and said he would not be hesitant towards taking more steps for fulfiling the aspirations of the Egyptian people, added the Minister of Information.
Mubarak said that the Egyptians must be aware of what is happening in the region, pointing out that some parties have been trying to destabilize Egypt, said Al-Sherif.
The stability of Egypt was considered the cornerstone of achieving progress on all domains, the Minister of Information quoted Mubarak as saying.
The President said this stability had been a key to attract more investments and tourism into the country, added Al-Sherif.
Al-Sherif quoted the President as saying that he could not explain in detail all challenges because he had outspoken broad lines that he could not divulge with the aim of maintaining the interests of the homeland.
As for human rights, Egypt decided to establish two higher councils for human rights and also decided to abolish the state security courts and hard labor penalty, Al-Sherif quoted Mubarak as saying.
President Mubarak pointed out to his decision to cancel seven important military orders issued under the emergency law, said Al-Sherif, adding that some orders were not annulled with the aim of protecting the homeland against terrorism.
The President expressed keenness on spreading the culture of human rights and activating the higher councils of human rights along with empowering them to realize their objectives.
The President dealt with the political practice and the freedom of the press in Egypt, either national, partisan or independent newspapers, said Al-Sherif.
Mubarak pointed to the freedom of information which became a reality for discussing all issues of the society without hesitation, said the Minister of Information.
Egypt's policy has been characterized by transparency and clearness. We resort to the Supreme Constitutional Court when there is controversy in any case, with the aim of honoring the rule of law, Al-Sherif quoted Mubarak as saying.
On Egyptian-Libyan relations, Mubarak said relations between the two countries have been good and that Libya is a sister Arab country, even if there were some disagreements in viewpoints, they, he said, did not affect relations and the interests of the two countries, according to Al-Sherif.
On relations with Sudan, Al-Sherif quoted Mubarak as saying that Egyptian-Sudanese relations have always been special, due to the strategic deep-rooted ties.
Mubarak said the meeting he held on Sunday with Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, and the meetings held by Egyptian and Sudanese officials, have contributed to activating horizons of integration and cooperation between the two countries.
The President said that the two joint investment companies will be established in the fields of industry and agriculture to qualify Egyptian and Sudanese cadres.
Mubarak pointed out to Egypt's role in bringing viewpoints of the Sudanese factions closer, said Al-Sherif.
President Mubarak stressed the importance of the four rights agreement signed with Sudan to activate economic integration between the two countries, i.e. the right to move, the right to have citizenship, the right to own property and the right to stay, said Al-Sherif.
Egypt has been hosting more than three million Sudanese citizens, he said, adding that Egyptians would be allowed to move and work in the agriculture and investment domains in Sudan.
President Mubarak said that the project of Gongly Canal would be reconsidered, along with the agreements concluded to set up joint ventures, added Al-Sherif.
On the Palestinian issue, the President said that the dialogue held among the Palestinian factions in Cairo aimed at creating a joint political vision compatible with clear broad lines in dealing with the basic issues, said the Minister of Information.
Mubarak dismissed reports on imposing an opinion on the Palestinians or asking them to declare a 6-month truce, said Al-Sherif.
He said that Egypt expected efforts to unify the Palestinians’ vision in favor of their cause, with the aim of reaching a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
Al-Sherif quoted the President as saying that the dialogue would not succeed unless Israel provided guarantees for halting assassinations and allowing the Palestinian Authority to take steps to achieve security.
Mubarak said that the continuation of the Israeli aggressive practices would further fuel despair and frustration among the Palestinians and prompt more violence in the region.
He cited recent anti-Israeli operations by a graduate of the American University and a mother of two children who blew themselves up at Israelis. Egypt has been keen on exerting efforts with the Palestinian side and with all parties, Al-Sherif quoted Mubarak as saying.
Mubarak pointed out to his meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom in Geneva and the meetings held by Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher with Israeli officials and the visits made to Israel by a number of Egyptian officials.
Mubarak also pointed out to meetings held by Egyptian officials with Palestinian figures in Ramallah and his meetings with US Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, whose country is the current President of the European Union, and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Geneva, with the aim of rendering peace efforts a success.
According to Al-Sherif, Mubarak stressed the importance of holding a meeting between Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qurie and his Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon to discuss means to eliminate obstacles hindering progress on the way of peace.
Mubarak said he sent an important message days ago to Sharon asking him to start meetings with Palestinian officials to discuss means to calm down the situation.
Mubarak said his message to Sharon tackled the Syrian track and the importance that peace negotiations between Israel and Syria should start because this was in favor of both sides, adding that Syria was ready to start negotiations on restoring all its lands from the point they had left off, said Al-Sherif.
The President noted that Egypt has retrieved its lands by war, peace and negotiations and restored Taba by international arbitration.
He underlined the importance of keeping Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and that the issue was all about interests and stability.
He said the Palestinian people accept numerous solutions from Arafat and alternatives nobody could offer.
He referred to his contacts and dialogues with the U.S President on the importance of achieving stability, pointing to the effective US role in the bids to reach a solution and effectuate the roadmap plan.
Mubarak also dwelt on his meetings and talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and said he affirmed the region was at a very critical and serious situation and that public opinion could not stand another "elections year" on the part of either Israel or the United States, as efforts should be channelled towards global peace.
On the freedom of press, Al-Sherif quoted the President as saying the press in Egypt is free with no interference in accordance with the Constitution and law, which is part of the democratic practice and the freedoms of opinion and expression.
The President said "we have to agree on and deepen some principles, we should avoid insults and the use of improper vocabulary because slandering peoples or leaders would not bring about an understanding of opinions, but rather further complications".
Mubarak welcomed any criticism that used no indecorous words, noting "this is just a hope and not dictations because the age of dictations to the press or the media is over, and because we are experiencing genuine freedom.”
On reports that Israeli Premier Sharon would meet with him, Mubarak said "any meeting should have outcome and gains for the issue and the good of peace and stability in the area, otherwise the meeting would backfire on the status quo."
"I have to put into consideration the Egyptian public opinion because no ruler who practices democracy could oppose the public opinion in his country," said the President.
He pinpointed that a solution and an understanding have to be reached to the Palestinian problem, and if intentions are clear and all the parties sat at the negotiating table without any preconditions, then the Arab public opinion would demand the Palestinians in their turn to adopt a serious stance towards the peace process.
He said the request to dissolve all organizations and strip them of arms is a tough and impossible precondition to start the negotiations.
"I hope there will be progress and the "elections year" will not impinge on the peace process and the endeavors to reach solutions between the Israelis and Palestinians," he said.
Mubarak said reaching a settlement on the Syrian track would help reach another on the Palestinian track and solve the outstanding issues on the Lebanese one too.
On Iraq, the President said violence in Iraq was expected because as long as occupation remained, there would be security problems in light of the deteriorating economy and absence of basic services.
"We’re not in favor of any separatist disputes on ethnic or religious basis in Iraq, and its territorial integrity has to be preserved.
It is important to transfer power to a government and a legislative council that win popular support so as to be able to control, "Mubarak said.
He stressed the importance of a UK role in war-stricken Iraq, referring to Monday's meeting in New York to discuss a role for the international organization.
We are giving the best we can to the Iraqi people in various fields and we will cooperate with the European Union on providing some other elements of infrastructure, he added.
Asked about the Arab Summit, President Mubarak said the next few months will see two summits; the first is an African scheduled in Sirte, Libya, and the second is an Arab scheduled for Tunis.
The Arab Summit is of paramount importance, particularly at this stage, as it will consider several issues of multiple dimensions.
It will review developments in the Palestinian and Iraqi issues, he said, elaborating that a legal experts panel was set up to activate the Arab League's role and would meet to discuss the numerous initiatives offered.
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