Egypt Backs US Pursuit of Attackers, but Wants Proof of Bin Laden’s Involvement
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said on Wednesday that his country could back an American effort to punish those behind the attacks on New York and Washington, but said Egypt still would like to see proof of Osama bin Laden's role.
Maher arrived in Washington on Wednesday and held talks with President George Bush and his counterpart, Colin Powell.
The Cairo-based Al Ahram daily reported that Maher delivered a message from President Hosni Mubarak to Bush on developments following the attacks and a US-led coalition to combat terrorism.
According to the Washington Post, Maher sought to dispel concerns raised by earlier Egyptian statements that Cairo might object to a military campaign against bin Laden before a global conference on terrorism had been convened.
But Maher said Egypt was still waiting for hard evidence from the Bush administration of bin Laden's involvement in the terrorist attacks, it said.
"We believe in any move to punish those who are responsible, any move will be based on a solid case," Maher said following talks with Powell.
"I believe it is the intention of the United States government at the right moment to share whatever information they have with their close friends," he said.
Egyptian officials said they continued to share intelligence with the United States about Islamic militants, who were locked in brutal battle with Egypt's security forces for much of the 1990s.
For his part, Powell expressed his “appreciation for the commitment that Egypt has made...working with us as we move forward to deal with the scourge of terrorism."
He said at the US State Department that Washington would be looking to Cairo for advice in the struggle, spawned by the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, because Egypt has long had to deal with extremist groups, AFP quoted him as saying.
"Egypt ... is really ahead of us on this issue," Powell said. "We have much to learn from them, and there is much we can do together."
Mubarak has been reluctant to commit his country to the US anti-terror coalition being forged by Bush and Powell, fearing that it might result in a backlash from Muslims who could see it as anti-Islamic or anti-Arab.
Mubarak has also said he has yet to see proof of bin Laden's involvement in the attack and warned that acting against the Taliban without evidence would create a furor in the Muslim world.
Instead of the campaign being mounted by Bush that is first aimed at bin Laden, his Al Qaeda network and their hosts, Afghanistan's Taliban militia, Mubarak has proposed an international anti-terrorism conference under UN auspices – Albawaba.com
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