Mubarak Backs Israeli Initiative, Says He’s Not Offering Alternative

Adopting a conciliatory stance, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Monday backed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s peace initiative and said his own 10-point plan should be seen as an attempt to persuade Palestinians to accept the Israeli proposal.

“My 10 points are not an initiative, the initiative is Mr. Shamir’s initiative,” Mubarak told reporters after an hour-long meeting with President Bush at the White House.

“We agree to the Shamir initiative, but would like some clarification about the points,” he said.

Shamir’s plan calls for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to elect representatives to negotiate with Israel on self-rule and eventually the final status of the territories.

Israel has been reluctant to discuss how the elections should be conducted until the Palestinians accept the proposal in principle.

Mubarak said his 10 points were an attempt to clarify these issues and could be used by the Palestinians as their opening position in negotiations with Israel on the mechanics of the elections.

But they are not preconditions for such talks, he stressed.

Mubarak’s meeting with Bush and a meeting later Monday with Secretary of State James Baker followed the talks the Egyptian leader had last week in New York with Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Moshe Arens.

NEXT STEP UP TO ISRAEL

Both Baker and Mubarak have indicated the next step is up to Israel, whose Inner Cabinet is scheduled to meet on the Mubarak proposals Thursday.

“We would like to see the Israeli Cabinet on Thursday conclude that they would like to go forward with the discussions,” Baker said in briefing reporters on the Bush-Mubarak meeting.

Israel’s Labor Party accepts the Mubarak proposals as a legitimate opening position for Palestinians participating in negotiations with Israel, according to Peres, who heads the party.

Shamir and his Likud bloc have rejected the 10-point plan, because it calls for negotiations based on “land for peace,” would allow Palestinians in East Jerusalem to vote in the elections and calls for the Palestinian delegation to include some representatives from outside the territories.

On Monday, however, a top aide to Shamir indicated that Likud might be prepared to support Israeli-Palestinian talks in Cairo, if they are unencumbered by the Mubarak plan.

Mubarak indicated Monday that he did not want to make any statement that would jeopardize a positive outcome from the Israeli Inner Cabinet. “I am helping both sides to come to a conclusion,” he said.

But, he added, “I would like to have Palestinians from inside and outside (the territories), because that is the only guarantee for a dialogue to go on.”

Mubarak ignored a question on whether the Palestine Liberation Organization has agreed to his proposals. Baker told reporters that Mubarak did not tell Bush that the PLO has “expressly” accepted his 10 points.

The Egyptian president also indicated he has no immediate plans to meet with Shamir, despite reports that he expressed willingness to do so in his telephone conversation with the Israeli premier.

Such a meeting would require “thorough preparations” and must achieve positive results. Otherwise, “it would have negative reaction for the peoples of both sides,” Mubarak said. “I don’t want complications between the peoples.”

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