"On Iraq, I conveyed to the president our serious concerns about the current state of affairs, particularly in the security and the humanitarian areas," Mubarak said after talks at the US president's ranch in Texas.

"I further stressed the importance of restoring Iraq's sovereignty as soon as possible within a context that preserves its territorial integrity and unites all Iraqis toward a common future," Mubarak said on Monday.

The Egyptian leader, who skipped what was traditionally an annual trip to the United States last year to protest against the war in Iraq, said efforts to expand the UN role in Iraq "is an important step that should be further encouraged". 

Bush insisted that the US-led occupation "will transfer
sovereignty", though he did not mention the 30 June target date for that handover, and said that a top UN official was working with Iraqis in Baghdad "to help devise the system through which we transfer sovereignty". 

Downplay

He also downplayed the impact of recent deadly violence in Iraq on efforts to shift the country to self-rule, saying the insurgents were a tiny minority in a population largely eager for the US-backed power-transfer plan to come through. 

"The situation in Iraq has improved," he said. "But you're right, it was a tough week because there was lawlessness and gangs that were trying to take the law in their own hands." 

"I strongly believe that by far the vast majority of Iraqis want
there to be a peaceful country and a free country," he said. 

"We just can't let a few people and I say a few - listen,
there was enough to cause harm, but a few relative to the rest of the people. You just can't let a small percentage of the Iraqi people decide the fate of everybody and that's what you're seeing."