Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has denied US intelligence reports that his country aims to produce intermediate-range missiles, reported Middle East Newslink (MENL) on Friday.
In the first public reference by the president, Mubarak said his regime is not interested in what he termed long-range missiles. Mubarak told the Al Mussawar magazine that Egypt has no use for such a program because Cairo does not harbor hostile intentions toward any country.
At the same time, Mubarak said Egypt's military will continue to be modernized. He said Egypt's armed forces are at what he termed its highest levels and capable of defending the country.
The interview was conducted on Wednesday and reported by the official Egyptian news agency. The full interview is due to be published on Friday.
Western diplomatic sources were quoted by MENL as saying Mubarak relayed a similar message during his visit to Washington in March. At the time, Mubarak met President George Bush, senior administration officials and congressional leaders.
The news service reported Thursday that Mubarak "appears relieved" over initial congressional approval to continue US military aid to Egypt.
Egyptian officials said that so far, Congress has not acted on threats to cut at least $100 million in US military aid to Cairo, said the report.
The issue is being pressed by several Republican leaders in the House and Senate dismayed by Egypt's “human rights violations” as well as efforts to develop an intermediate-range missile.
Cairo is said to have accelerated efforts to complete a No-Dong missile variant.
Egypt has allegedly sought 50 engines from North Korea to power the missile.
On Tuesday, US officials reported that North Korea tested an engine used in the long-range Taepo Dong-1 missile program. Last week's test was said to have been the most significant development in North Korea's missile development program since 1998, said MENL.
Last week, a House Appropriations subcommittee approved the current level of US civilian and military aid to Egypt.
Egypt receives $1.3 billion in military aid and about $630 million in civilian aid.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher was quoted as saying that the House vote last week appears to mark a defeat for opponents of Egypt.
Maher said he was assured by the Bush administration of continued support for Egypt.
"I have felt a loud minority in the US Congress," Maher told the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs on Sunday. "But they do not represent overall opinion even though they are capable of launching a campaign to collect signatures against Egypt. When it comes to voting on Egyptian issues, they [Congress] are usually in our favor." - Albawaba.com
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