Egyptian Leader Firm but Upbeat in Meeting with Jewish Officials

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told Jewish officials here this week that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs to take concrete steps “on the ground” to foster Arab confidence in the peace process.

Mubarak suggested the redeployment of troops from most of Hebron as one such gesture, and he urged Israel to do so before Arab leaders gather at an economic conference this fall in Cairo, an official who attended the meeting said.

The meeting came on the first day of a three-day visit to Washington by the Egyptian leader. Mubarak also met Monday with U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Warren Christopher, National Security Adviser Tony Lake and CIA Director John Deutch, with whom he discussed terrorism issues.

He was scheduled to meet with President Clinton on Tuesday.

Jewish officials characterized their meeting with Mubarak as an upbeat gathering in which the Egyptian leader made assurances that Egypt remains firmly committed to the peace process.

“He clearly wanted us to understand that he hasn’t been disillusioned with Netanyahu, he’s prepared to be reasonably patient and he understands that Netanyahu has only been in office a month,” said Robert Rifkind, president of the American Jewish Committee, which convened the meeting.

“I didn’t hear any big note of impatience or criticism,” Rifkind added.

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