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Egyptian Says Cairo is Waiting for a Positive Sign from Israel

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The United States and Egypt promised Tuesday to continue trying to move the Middle East peace process forward, but indicated that the next step is up to Israel.

“We are certainly ready to respond to any positive sign from the Israeli government,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel Meguid said after a half-hour meeting with President Bush.

“We are dealing with a democratic government, so we are waiting for them to show those positive signs. And as far as Egypt is concerned, I’m sure we shall try to encourage these signs.”

White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said Bush assured Meguid that “the United States is committed to continuing the peace process. We want to work as best we can to get a dialogue going” between Israel and the Palestinians, he said.

Meguid was sent to Washington on Sunday after Bush and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak spoke by telephone that weekend. After his White House meeting, the foreign minister met separately with Secretary of State James Baker.

Meguid brought a letter to Bush from Mubarak, which he described as “a message of peace.”

“Egypt is trying to play a role in the area as an element of moderation and stability, and we will keep on with that role,” the foreign minister said.

“We are trying to promote peace and understanding in the Middle East between all the parties, and this is the role of Egypt. We are aware of the difficulties, but we are not afraid of them.”

SUSPENSION OF PLO TALKS DISCUSSED

Meguid’s unscheduled visit was seen as an effort by the Bush administration to shore up Egypt’s position as the main Middle East partner of the United States in trying to bringing about an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, in the wake of Arab anger over Bush’s suspension of the U.S. dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Bush told Meguid that “that we continue to look to the PLO to make those actions and statements that would allow us to resume a dialogue at some point in the future,” Fitzwater said.

The president wants the PLO to condemn the thwarted attack on Tel Aviv beaches May 30 by one of its member groups, the Palestine Liberation Front, and to take disciplinary action against the group’s leader, Mohammed (Abul) Abbas.

Meguid said he was encouraged by his discussions with Bush. He did not elaborate on his White House statements after meeting with Baker.

There is some Israeli pique that Meguid got to see Bush, while the United States has still not invited Israel’s new foreign minister, David Levy, to Washington.

Asked if he would meet with Levy, Meguid replied, “Inshallah,” a common Arabic saying meaning “if God is willing.”

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