Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who arrives in Paris Wednesday for talks on the Middle East, said in an interview that the peace process would not advance without Yasser Arafat as the Palestinian Authority leader. He said Arafat is "the only Palestinian capable of making concessions." "Whether we like it or not, Arafat remains the democratically elected president by his people," Mubarak was quoted as saying.
"The day that negotiations resume, he will be the only one who will dare to make the necessary concessions (...) the only one who will be able to get the concessions accepted by the Palestinians," Mubarak said in an interview with the daily Le Figaro published Wednesday.
"Arafat will have to be made to move but, without him, the peace process will not advance," said the Egyptian leader, adding: "We need Arafat to boost the peace process. So he must stay on until the end of the process ... to get rid of Arafat today would be to unleash chaos."
However, "If Arafat is the only one to make concessions, the Palestinians will not forgive him. He needs Israeli concessions."
The Egyptian president added that making Arafat a figurehead like the British Queen is not a valid option. "A president with no authority is something that does not go with the political culture in the Middle East, (where) there is a close personal connection between the people and the president," Mubarak told the French newspaper.
The Americans, Mubarak said, "must stop the injustice that consists of loudly condemning the faults of the Palestinians while closing their eyes to those of the Israelis."
The Egyptian president said an international peace conference, backed by France, could be "the last chance solution" if all else failed, but he warned that such a conference would take lengthy preparation.
Stressing that opening a "second front" with strikes against Iraq would only "aggravate the destabilization" of the region, Mubarak said: "If (US President George W.) Bush insists on eliminating the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, he must eliminate them everywhere else (...) doesn't Israel also have a particularly sophisticated arsenal, a particularly dangerous panoply?"
Mubarak was due to arrive Wednesday in Paris, and to meet Thursday with French President Jacques Chirac. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )