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Archive for Saturday, August 18, 2001

Egypt tells U.S. it won’t push for U.N. observers in Israel

August 18, 2001

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— Egypt agreed Friday to resist an Arab attempt to have international observers sent to the Middle East over Israel's objections.

The United States, Israel's closest and sometimes only ally at the United Nations, is preparing to oppose the Arab move next week at the United Nations.

Osama el-Baz, who is President Hosni Mubarak's national security adviser, said Friday after a 40-minute meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell, "We are not thinking of getting the U.N. to impose anything."

Only moves coordinated with Israel and the Palestinians "could lead to a real change on the ground," the Egyptian official said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will not consider international observers and his views must be taken into account, a senior U.S. official told The Associated Press after el-Baz's meeting with Powell.

In four days of talks, the Bush administration stressed three points, the official said, speaking only on condition of anonymity.

The first, he said, is that Yasser Arafat, president of the Palestinian Authority, has to do more to control the violence in the Mideast and the Egyptians agreed.

The second is that the formula for getting back to the peace table is the report of the Mitchell Commission, headed by former Senate Democratic leader George Mitchell. On this, the Egyptians also agreed, the official said.

The third point stressed by administration officials was that Israel cannot be forced to accept international observers.

On another front, the official said, Egypt was asked to help eliminate anti-Israeli provisions in a statement being prepared for a conference on racism to be at the end of the month in South Africa.

The provisions have been eased but are still highly objectionable, the official said. A decision on whether the administration will boycott the conference is due next week.

Powell and Sharon have not closed the door on dispatching U.S. observers to try to bolster the cease-fire agreement Israel and the Palestinian Authority approved in June.

El-Baz asked Powell to consider the idea as a means of deterring attacks.

Powell took the proposal under consideration.

El-Baz said Thursday U.S. monitors could deter attacks and also catch assailants "red-handed."

On the U.S. role in the region, el-Baz said, "We have the assurance that the U.S. is going to be active, to be engaged. They will not be just watching."

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