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Egypt Seeking to Enlist France to Renew Western Diplomatic Initiative in the Middle East

Pierre Butros Ghali, the Egyptian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, is seeking to enlist French leadership to renew the Western European diplomatic initiative in the Middle East, French sources said here today.

Ghali arrived in Paris last week and met with France’s new Foreign Minister, Alexander Dumas, and with the Deputy Minister in charge of European Affairs, Catherine Lalumiere. The sources said Egypt has called on France to intensify its actions within a Western European framework to relaunch a diplomatic initiative in the Middle East. Ghali told reporters, “We want to make sure that Europe does not forget the whole issue (of the Middle East) but bears it in mind at all times.”

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The Egyptian diplomat is scheduled to meet this week with the Presidents of three African states — Ivory Coast, Senegal and Mali – to whom he will deliver personal messages from President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

Mubarak is believed to be calling on the African leaders to intensify their efforts for a negotiated solution in the Middle East with the active participation of Jordan and the Palestinians.

Franco-Egyptian relations are very close at this time. Cairo is negotiating a major arms contract with the French, amounting to several hundred million dollars for combat aircraft and electronic equipment, while it seeks a diplomatic initiative.

A French official spokesman said, however, that President Francois Mitterrand does not plan to launch new diplomatic moves in the Middle East without prior, in-depth consultations with Israel. Mitterrand gave that assurance to Israeli Premier Shimon Peres during his four-day official visit to Paris last month.

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