WASHINGTON (Feb. 10)
Sen. Arlen Specter (R. Pa.) has put Egypt on notice that as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Foreign Operations Subcommittee he will urge his colleagues not to approve any “substantial aid” for Egypt until it sends its Ambassador back to Israel.
Specter made this warning directly to Egyptian Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel Meguid when Meguid met with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last Thursday. He was the only Senator who was not a committee member present.
In an interview later with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Specter said he told Meguid directly: “As far as this Senator is concerned, I would not support substantial foreign aid for Egypt if you don’t send the Ambassador back.”
EGYPT MUST RETURN ITS ENVOY TO ISRAEL
The return of the Egyptian envoy, who left Israel after Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, would be the most “symbolic and substantive” step Egypt could take to advance the Mideast peace process, Specter said.
He said he stressed to Meguid that “we need leadership in the Mideast” and he was “convinced” it would not come from either King Hussein of Jordan or Saudi Arabia. It was thus up to Egypt to provide it.
When Meguid replied that the United States was not doing Egypt a “favor” by providing aid, Specter said he told him he agreed and said the U.S. acted in its national interest as did Egypt.
Egypt is receiving $2.1 billion in economic and military aid this year and the Reagan Administration is proposing that it get $2.3 billion 1986. Like Israel, all of the aid to Egypt is in the form of a grant. When Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak comes to Washington in March he is expected to ask for an even larger increase.
Meguid told the Senators that Egypt has lost revenue because of decreases in oil prices, Suez Canal revenues, money sent home by Egyptians working abroad, and tourism. Specter said he told Meguid the U.S. has economic problems, too. “I am a Senator from Pennsylvania with enormous unemployment,” he said. “Wherever I go in Pennsylvania I get asked the question — ‘Why do you vote for foreign aid when unemployment compensation has run out’?”
Specter stressed that the U.S. has to decide how to use its limited resources. “We are looking for leadership from Egypt,” he told Meguid.
HAS BLUNT MESSAGE FOR MUBARAK
The Pennsylvania Senator plans to give the same blunt message to Mubarak, who he has met several times in Washington and Cairo, when the Egyptian President comes to Washington.
Specter has been in the forefront in pressing Egypt on returning its Ambassador to Israel. When he met with Mubarak in Cairo in June, 1983, he was told the envoy would be back in two or three weeks. In return, he wrote M. Peter McPherson, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, asking him to loosen restrictions on the aid given Egypt. He raised the issue again with Mubarak during a visit to the Mideast last August.
Mubarak then gave conditions which were repeated last Thursday by Meguid. He called for complete Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, “movement on the Palestinian issue,” and the return of Taba. He said it is not enough that Israel returned 99.9 percent of the Sinai, “We must have 100 percent,” Meguid declared.