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Last Updated: Monday, 12 April, 2004, 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK
Analysis: Egypt and US tackle divisions
By Jon Leyne
BBC correspondent in Crawford, Texas

Of the three foreign leaders visiting the US this week, it is President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt who was granted the honour of a trip to the presidential ranch at Crawford, Texas.

But, however cordial their talks, there is a growing list of issues which threaten to divide Egypt and the US.

President Bush (R) leans over to talk to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (L)
The Iraqi crisis is just one of the issues concerning the two men
The focus of these discussions was the planned Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

Egypt wants to hear that this is not a dead end - an attempt by Israel to dump Gaza and abandon the peace plan known as the roadmap.

President Mubarak also fears another source of instability on his doorstep if Gaza descends into chaos.

"Withdrawing from Gaza alone, without connecting it with the roadmap, we will never know [if] it will be Gaza alone," the Egyptian leader said after the meeting.

"It will be very difficult. It will not be accepted by public opinion in the area. So the withdrawal from Gaza, if it is a part [of] the roadmap, I think it will be very highly appreciated."

Tough talking

President Mubarak offered to provide training to the Palestinian police, and other help for the Palestinians taking over in Gaza.

While the Bush administration talks about spreading democracy, no-one in Washington has explained what it means for America's many undemocratic friends in the Middle East
That, though, will depend on Israel negotiating the withdrawal with the Palestinians rather than pulling out unilaterally - and there is no sign Mr Bush will persuade Mr Sharon to do that when they meet later this week.

All Mr Bush could offer today was a renewed commitment to the roadmap, together with a cautious endorsement of the withdrawal.

Another issue that sounds to have produced some tough talking behind the scenes is the Bush administration's call for the spread of democracy in the Middle East.

"Just as Egypt has shown the way toward peace in the Middle East, it will set the standard in the region for democracy by strengthening democratic institutions and political participation," Mr Bush said.

President Mubarak responded with comments about Egypt's "political reform programme", but no-one is expecting free elections in Egypt any time soon.

So while the Bush administration talks about its commitment to spreading democracy across the region, no-one in Washington has explained what it means for America's many undemocratic friends in the Middle East.

Threats of failure

Overshadowing these discussions was the ongoing crisis in Iraq.

It is obviously bad news for President Bush and the US. But President Mubarak also has much to fear.

Success will produce the first fully democratic government in the Arab world.

Failure could threaten every government in the region.


SEE ALSO:
Texas summit welcomes Gaza plan
12 Apr 04  |  Middle East
Israel still mulling Gaza pullout
01 Mar 04  |  Middle East
Profile: Egypt's great survivor
24 Nov 03  |  Africa


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