LONDON (Sep. 27)
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is on a dual purpose mission to Western European capitals.
He is trying to re-establish Egypt as an influential factor in Middle East and inter-Arab politics, after years of diplomatic isolation from the Arab world because of Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.
Mubarak also wants international relief for his country’s foreign debt, estimated to be between $40 billion and $45 billion. He is seeking the support of Western leaders for his request to the International Monetary Fund for new standby credits.
Mubarak met with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher here Monday and on Tuesday with French President Francois Mitterrand in Paris. He was to leave for Bonn on Wednesday for talks with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
The official statement that followed Mubarak’s hour-long meeting with Thatcher indicated they had reached “broad agreement on the way ahead in the Arab-Israel conflict.”
The two leaders are believed to have differed, however, on the ability of the Palestine Liberation Organization to fill the political vacuum left by King Hussein of Jordan, who this summer relinquished responsibility for the Palestinians in the West Bank.
MEETS WITH HUSSEIN
Before meeting Thatcher, Mubarak spent the weekend with Hussein, who has an estate in southern England. In Cairo last week, Mubarak had cordial talks with PLO leader Yasir Arafat.
In view of the upcoming elections in Israel and the United States this November, Mubarak reportedly cautioned Arafat not to declare his government in exile too soon.
But Egyptian efforts to rehabilitate themselves in the Arab world would be advanced if the PLO set up its provisional government in Cairo. It was the traditional capital of Pan-Arabism until the Arab League transferred its headquarters to Tunis to punish Egypt for its pact with Israel.
In Paris, Mubarak and Mitterrand expressed their mutual hope for a peaceful settlement of the Middle East conflict.
Both leaders back an international conference as the best way to reach a lasting peace agreement.
(JTA Paris Bureau Chief Edwin Eytan contributed to this report.)