Obama and Mubarak talk peace, Iran


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Talks between the presidents of Egypt and the United States focused on reviving Middle East peace talks and confronting Iran.

"We had an extensive conversation about how we could help to jump-start an effective process on all sides to move away from a status quo that is not working for the Israeli people, the Palestinian people or, I think, the region as a whole," President Obama said after meeting Tuesday with Hosni Mubarak at the White House. "We discussed our common concerns about the potential proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region, including the development of nuclear weapons by Iran, and how we could work together on those fronts."

Obama praised Israel and the Palestinians for making progress recently.

"We’ve been seeing reports in the West Bank in particular that checkpoints have been removed in some situations," he said. "The security forces of the Palestinian Authority have greatly improved and have been able to deal with the security situation on the West Bank in a way that has inspired not just confidence among the Israeli people but also among the Palestinian people."

Obama made clear he wants Egypt to persuade other Arab nations to make conciliatory gestures toward Israel.

"Egypt will be as important as any other party in helping to move the process forward because Egypt is uniquely positioned in some ways having very strong relationships with Israel, with the Palestinians and with other Arab states, and President Mubarak has as much experience in the region as anybody," Obama said.

Mubarak appeared to chide the Palestinians for insisting on a full freeze in settlement building before returning to the table.

"The two parties need to sit together, and this then will give hope that there is a possibility of finding a solution to the Palestinian issue because it has been ongoing since 60 years," he said.

Mubarak also is meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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