Rice's visit evokes mixed reactions

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's just-concluded visit to Cairo has evoked mixed reactions from Egyptian politicians.

    The US secretary of state called for democratic changes

    Mustafa Al Fiky, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Egyptian parliament, told Aljazeera.net that the US enjoys a strategic partnership with Egypt and is interested in promoting democracy in the Middle East region.
    On the other hand, George Isaac, a prominent leader of the Kifaya (Enough) reformist movement, lambasted both Rice and the Egyptian government.

    On a visit to the Middle East, Rice told a gathering of journalists and students at the American University in Cairo (AUC) on Monday, that "the whole world is watching Egypt" and that the country needs to embrace democratic change.
    "People will watch what happens in Egypt, because this is an important country in the region, a region that is changing very much," she said.

    Kifaya dismayed
    "I am dismayed by Rice's recent comments that the proposed constitutional amendments stifle any real contest in the upcoming elections," Isaac said in reference to criticism the secretary of state voiced before arriving in Egypt. 

    Rice met several prominent
    Egyptian politicians

    Isaac criticised Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for what he termed "seeking validation from abroad".
    "The government should listen to the needs of its own people," he said, "and not outsiders".
    When asked whether the Kifaya movement had been invited to meet Rice, Isaac said his pro-reform organisation had opted to boycott any consultation with the top US diplomat.

    "Our concern is not foreign connections, but the simple Egyptian citizen."

    Several prominent Egyptian politicians, comprising the pro-reform opposition, met Rice.
    They included Ayman Nour, head of al-Ghad (Tomorrow) Party, Hisham Qassem, independent human rights activist and deputy of al-Ghad Party, and Usama Ghazali Harb, member of the policy committee headed by Mubarak's son, Gamal, and the secretary-general of Egyptian council of foreign affairs.
    Meetings held

    Rice also met Bahi El Dein Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights, Ikbal Barakah, editor of Hawa - a woman's magazine, Mousa Thu El Fakara, lawyer and women's rights campaigner, and independent politicians Tayseer Mandour and Mahmoud Abaza.

    Following a speech at the AUC,
    Rice took questions

    "We presented to her our ideas about reform in the country and suggested to Dr Rice ways in which the US could gain credibility with Egyptians," Nour told Aljazeera.net.
    He said the US track record concerning resolution of the Palestinian issue and the occupation of Iraq had hurt US efforts for democracy in the region.
    But Nour doubted whether the US could press the Egyptian government to take concrete measures towards reform.
    "I believe the Egyptian regime is very smart in manoeuvring and dodging every domestic or international demand," he said.

    "In my belief, the reform package introduced by the government is not genuine," he told Aljazeera.net.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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