Sharon Denies he Asked Bush Administration to Stop Aid to Egypt
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Friday that he did not ask US President George W. Bush's administration to stop Washington's aid to Egypt, after reports of remarks he made in Washington were condemned in Cairo.
"The prime minister did not raise the Egypt issue in his meetings with the American administration" during his four-day visit to Washington this past week, said a statement from Sharon's office.
However, the statement did not say whether Sharon had made the suggestion to members of Congress.
Israeli army radio reported Wednesday that Sharon told congressional leaders that Washington should deny aid to Egypt, accusing Cairo of having a negative influence on the Middle East peace process.
In response to the report, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said that "if Sharon really said that, I will consider it to be an aggressive stance. ... We will have another attitude toward Sharon."
But in his statement, Sharon said he "considers Egypt a leader in the Arab world and attaches to it great importance in advancing the peace process and maintaining regional stability."
"It must not be forgotten that peace has reigned between (Israel and Egypt) for many years," Sharon said.
Egypt became the second largest recipient of US aid, after Israel, following its 1979 peace treaty with the Jewish state, the first by an Arab country.
Mubarak, in an interview with the government daily Al-Ahram published Friday, said the United States had never demanded anything in return for the aid.
"Sometime back, they (the Americans) said that wanted to set up a (military) base here, but that issue was resolved from the outset. There was no secret request" from Washington, he said.
US military aid to Egypt in the current fiscal year amounts to 1.3 billion dollars, compared with 1.92 billion to Israel. Economic aid totals 735 million and 960 million dollars respectively.
The army radio report said Sharon was the first Israeli prime minister to call on the United States to cut aid to Egypt -- JERUSALEM (AFP)
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