3/10/2005

Egyptian diplomat rebuts Bush's views on Mideast democracy

From the WaPo:
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Wednesday offered a point-by-point rebuttal of President Bush's argument that the Middle East is opening to an era of democracy stimulated by the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
"What model are we talking about in Iraq? Bombs are exploding everywhere, and Iraqis are killed every day in the streets," Aboul Gheit said. "Palestinian elections? There were elections seven years prior." As for Lebanon, Aboul Gheit noted something that Bush did not: Tuesday's huge pro-Syrian demonstration mounted by Hezbollah, the Lebanese group that the State Department labels a terrorist organization. The rally showed that "there are other trends in society," Aboul Gheit said, warning that U.S. pressure might lead ethnically and religiously divided Lebanon into chaos.
Aboul Gheit also criticized Bush for suggesting that for Egypt to keep pace with the shift toward democracy, it ought to carry out specific reforms to ensure competitive presidential elections in September. Hosni Mubarak has been the uncontested president of Egypt for 24 years. Bush made his own suggestions on Tuesday: "Like all free elections, these require freedom of assembly, multiple candidates, free access by those candidates to the media and the right to form political parties." Aboul Gheit responded that in the "so-called democratic endeavor, the pace will be set by Egypt and the Egyptian people and only the Egyptian people. The Egyptian people will not accept what we call trusteeship.
Aboul Gheit expressed irritation at reports that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice canceled a trip to Egypt because of its slow pace of reform.

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