Bush to discuss Palestinian issue, Iran with Egyptian president

By Xinhua

Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt : U.S. President George W. Bush flies into this Egyptian resort Wednesday for a brief visit to discuss the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Iran and bilateral ties with his Egyptian counterpart.

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Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said the Palestinian problem would top the agenda of his talks with Bush, while other issues to be discussed include Iran, the Gulf, regional security and Egyptian-U.S. ties. The Egyptian leader said ties with the United States have no problems.

Security was heightened in the Red Sea resort, particularly around the hotel where Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will host Bush, who will only spend four hours in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Hossam Labib, director of the press center for foreign journalists, told Xinhua there will be no joint press conference after the talks.

Some Egyptian experts also highlighted the importance of Bush’s visit.

Sayed Amin Shalaby, executive director of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, told Xinhua Monday that Bush’s visit “is to follow up the outcome of the Annapolis conference to further strengthen the American role in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations and meet the expectations of the region.”

“One of the major tasks is to improve and strengthen relations between the United States and Egypt among other Arab countries and improve the U.S. image in the region, which suffered a setback due to its support for Israel,” Shalaby said.

Others, however, sounded a different note. Amr Hashim, an analyst at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said Bush’s visit would not add anything new to Egyptian-U.S. relations because it comes at the end of Bush’s term.

The Egyptian Gazette newspaper reported Tuesday that some journalists and lawmakers protested Bush’s visit and his policy toward the Palestinians, Afghanistan and Iraq before the Press Syndicate in central Cairo as anti-U.S. sentiments have hit an all-time high over recent years.

Egypt is the last leg of Bush’s Middle East tour, which included stops in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The trip is seen as aiming to affirm U.S. commitment to its allies to achieving security and stability in the region.