- Title: EGYPT: UN Secretary General meets Egyptian president during Mideast tour
- Date: 24th March 2007
- Summary: (BN08) CAIRO, EGYPT (MARCH 24, 2007) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF EGYPTIAN PRESIDENTIAL PALACE
- Embargoed: 8th April 2007 13:00
- Location: Egypt
- Country: Egypt
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVAE6KRVN0G39M6MHOSM2WSSXPWA
- Story Text: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon meets Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak while on a tour of the Middle East to lend UN support efforts to deal with several regional crises. At a news conference with the UN chief, the Egyptian Foreign Minister dismisses U.S. criticism of an upcoming referendum. United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday (March 24) while on a tour of the Middle East aimed at aiding efforts to restart the Arab-Israeli peace process.
After the meeting the Egyptian Foreign Minister pointedly rejected U.S. criticism of a referendum on Monday in Egypt on constitutional changes, saying only Egyptians had the right to state their opinion on the subject.
Ki-moon's visit comes on the same day that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice travels to Egypt to meet with the Foreign Ministers of pro-U.S. Arab states Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to discuss a 2002 Saudi peace initiative that is set to be reaffirmed at an Arab summit at the end of the month.
The UN Secretary General said that he would meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, but not representatives of Hamas, which won democratic Palestinian elections in January 2006.
"We discussed also about situation, recent situation after the formation of the national unity government. We agreed that it is necessary for international community to encourage this ongoing peace process and as Secretary General of the United Nations I am looking forward to meeting with President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert," he said.
On Friday Rice said that she was concerned and disappointed by the recent constitutional changes adopted by the Egyptian Parliament, which human rights and Egyptian opposition groups have called a step away from freedom and democracy.
At Saturday's news conference, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the coming referendum was an internal Egyptian matter.
"That Egypt and the United States are friends and we maintain the best of good relations between both. However, internal Egyptian affairs are an Egyptian affair and nobody else has the right to say anything in relation to that development inside Egypt. There would be a referendum - only the Egyptian people have the right to say their views on that referendum," he said.
The constitutional changes make it harder for Egypt's largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, to compete with the ruling party by enshrining in the constitution a ban on parties based on religion. They also enhance the powers of the president and give the authorities wide powers of arrest and surveillance.
Ki-moon arrived in Egypt after a short trip to Baghdad, where he survived a bombing scare during a press conference, and is set to travel on to Israel and the Palestinian territories and then to Jordan and the Arab summit in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, before visiting Lebanon.
Addressing the situation in Iraq today, Ki-moon said the UN may increase its presence in the country, though he did not provide specifics.
"Though the presence of United Nations recently has been limited because of the situation on the ground, we are now considering how differently and what the United Nations can do, including the increased presence of United Nations in Iraq and also further assisting the political facilitation and economic and social reconstruction," he said.
A bloody civil war in Iraq and the US-led occupation have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis in the last year alone.
Also on Satruday the Egyptian Foreign Minster addressed the situation in Darfur, where a war between government backed militias and anti-government rebels has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Sudanese.
Aboul Gheit said that international pressure on Egypt and Arab states to in turn pressure Khartoum to make peace was an oversimplification of the problem.
"The issue is not pressure. The issue is discussions with the Sudan government and with the rebels. Without bringing both the rebels and the Sudan government into an agreement then whatever that we are discussing on peacekeeping operations would not materialize," he said.
U.S. officials have said that Secretary Rice intends to try and persuade the representatives of pro-U.S. Arab states she is meeting with in Aswan to change the Saudi Peace plan in line with Israeli and American reservations.
Rice is set to meet with Mubarak on Sunday in advance of the Arab Summit that begins on March 29.
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