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Page last updated at 21:22 GMT, Tuesday, 18 August 2009 22:22 UK

Mubarak holds White House talks

President Obama: 'There is an extraordinary opportunity to make real progress'

Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak has held talks at the White House with President Barack Obama during his first US visit for more than five years.

After the talks, Mr Mubarak praised Mr Obama for a key speech in Cairo, saying it had "removed all doubts" about the US and the Muslim world.

Both leaders said they saw movement in the right direction in Middle East peace efforts.

But they also stressed the complications in reaching any solution.

The Egyptian leader told Mr Obama his government would not act unless Israel took "concrete steps", a spokesman for Mr Mubarak told AFP news agency.

In Tuesday's closed-door meeting, Mr Mubarak had been expected to press for a freeze in settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.

Israel has so far refused to take that step, despite repeated US calls.

On Monday, Mr Mubarak restated his position that Arab states should normalise relations with Israel, but only once a comprehensive peace was achieved.

'Hoops'

Mr Obama said that as well as the Arab Israeli situation, the two leaders had discussed Iran, which both nations fear is building nuclear weapons.

Mr Mubarak said they had also talked about the situation within Egypt.

He said he had told Mr Obama that his platform included reforms, and that "we have started to implement some of it and we still have two more years to implement it".

We would like to see Egypt embark on a path to expand political dialogue
State spokesman Philip Crowley

He also said that "despite some of the hoops that we had with previous administrations", the US and Egypt enjoyed "very good relations and strategic relations".

BBC Diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says the Obama administration has sought to press the reset button with Egypt.

During the Bush years, the two close allies fell out over Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Egypt's human rights record.

Our correspondent says that in private the US may also express its concerns about the lack of democracy in Egypt and at the uncertainty surrounding the political succession process there - not least because it is thought that Mr Mubarak's health is not good.

Rights concerns

Before the Obama-Mubarak meeting, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, said it should be seen as "continuing our outreach in the Middle East".

"Each country in the region on either side of this issue has certain responsibilities to uphold as we make progress toward a lasting peace in the Middle East," he said.

Talks between Mr Mubarak and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took place on Monday night.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Ms Clinton also raised Egypt's human rights record, which has been strongly criticised by campaigning groups.

"It is something that we raise in every high-level meeting that we have," Mr Crowley told reporters.

"We would like to see Egypt embark on a path to expand political dialogue."

Mr Obama's speech in Cairo in June was intended to set a new tone in US relations with the Arab and Muslim worlds, by stressing greater mutual understanding, but some critics said the rhetoric hid an absence of concrete policy.



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