Egypt delays US-backed Mid-East reform conference
Egypt said Saturday it was putting off a US-backed conference originally scheduled next month to discuss plans for political reforms in the Middle East, apparently over a dispute over the detention of a prominent opposition leader.
Foreign Minister Ahmed Abould Gheit said the conference scheduled for March 3 will be postponed indefinitely. "The conference is postponed and a new date will be set after consultations with the countries invited," Aboul Gheit said in a statement.
He said the move was made after some Arab countries urged a postponement until after an Arab leadership summit due in Algeria next month. He did not name the Arab countries that called for the delay.
Diplomats, requesting anonymity, told <i>The Associated Press</i> that the Egyptian move was linked to tension in US-Egyptian relations over the detention of Ayman Nour, leader of the al-Ghad Party.
Nour, who heads the newly formed party, was arrested January 29 after parliament voted to withdraw his immunity. He was subsequently detained for 45 days on allegations of forging nearly 2,000 signatures to secure a license for the party last year. He has denied the accusations.