Tour brings Bush to Egypt

US president holds talks with Egyptian counterpart on last leg of Middle East visit.

     Bush is in the Red Sea resort of
    Sharm el-Sheikh[AFP]

    Relations with Egypt have taken a downturn over Washington's criticism of Cairo's perceived failure to secure its border with the Gaza Strip, now run by Hamas movement regarded as a terror group by Israel and the West.

     

    Bush flew in from Saudi Arabia after having breakfast with members of the royal family at close ally King Abdullah's ranch outside Riyadh.

      

    The US president used his two-day visit to the world's biggest oil producer to press for increased output to help ease recession fears at home, saying the "very high" prices were tough on the US economy.

     

    OPEC is due to meet in Vienna on February 1 under pressure to  calm prices which hit $100 a barrel at the start of the  year.

     

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    But Bush faced difficulty in convincing his Saudi hosts to  wholeheartedly support the twin pillars of his tour -- greater  backing for the Middle East peace process and a willingness to  confront the "threat" of Iran.

      

    Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, gave a cool response to Bush's call for Arab countries "reach out" to Israel, which only has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.

      

    "I don't know what more outreach we can give to the Israelis," he told a press conference with Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state.

      

    On Iran, al-Faisal said: "Iran is a neighbouring country, an important country in the region. Naturally we have nothing bad against Iran."

      

    Saudi Arabia, like other Gulf states, is determined to avoid further conflict after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, which served to strengthen the regime in the Islamic republic.

      

    Bush reiterated his warning that "all options are on the table" over Iran, and said he had asked King Abdullah and other Gulf  leaders to do more to pressure the Islamic republic over its contested nuclear programme.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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