In an interview published by The Washington Post on Thursday, the Egyptian minister also turned a deaf ear to the US president's call on Egypt to keep pace with democratic reforms in the region.

 

"What model are we talking about in Iraq? Bombs are exploding everywhere, and Iraqis are killed every day in the streets," Abu al-Ghait said. "Palestinian elections? There were elections seven years prior."

 

No imported democracy

 

In the "so-called democratic endeavour, the pace will be set by Egypt and the Egyptian people and only the Egyptian people", he said. "The Egyptian people will not accept what we call trusteeship.

 

"I think Egypt is a lighthouse for the Middle East. The need for Egypt to be a friend of the United States is something I'm sure people in Washington value very much. We are not subject to any kind of pressure."

 

The foreign minister was reacting to Bush's speech at the US National Defence University in Washington on Tuesday in which he spoke of a "thaw" melting authoritarian regimes in the Middle East.

 

Bush cited the recent Iraqi and Palestinian elections and anti-Syrian demonstrations in Lebanon as examples that democracy was on the march in the region and urged Egypt to join in the democratic reforms.

 

Referring to Syria, Abu al-Ghait countered Bush's comments by

noting Tuesday's pro-Syrian demonstration mounted by Hizb Allah.

 

The rally, he said, showed that "there are other trends in society" and warned that US pressure could lead to chaos in Lebanon.