Bush speech sparks US-Egypt tension

According to Al-Quds, neither Mubarak nor Bush heard each others speeches at the World Economic Forum.

Bush MIDDLE EAST 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Bush MIDDLE EAST 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
US President George W. Bush's speech in Sharm e-Sheikh on Sunday has aggravated tension between Washington and Cairo. According to a report in the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi, neither Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak nor Bush heard each others speeches at the World Economic Forum. In his speech, Bush praised the strides that Egypt and other countries in the region have made in development of professional women and economic growth, but said this should go hand in hand with political reform. He subtly criticized the state of human rights in the Arab world, their state of democracy and the lack of engagement of women in key positions. "Too often in the Mideast, politics has consisted of one leader in power and the opposition in jail," Bush said. "America is deeply concerned about the plight of political prisoners in this region, as well as democratic activists who are intimidated or repressed, newspapers and civil society organization that are shut down and dissidents whose voices are stifled." The comments were in part an allusion to Egypt, after hundreds of members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood were arrested ahead of Egypt's local elections in April. At the time, the White House expressed concern over the wave of arrests and said Egyptians should be allowed to choose freely among competing candidates. Egypt has an interest in falling in line with the US's wishes, since it is a recipient of an annual $1.4 billion in aid from Washington. Mubarak responded ahead of time to Bush's speech by saying that political reform was under way in Egypt in accord with internal conditions, and that he rejected any foreign interference in this matter, Al-Quds Al-Arabi said. Bush's speech at the Knesset last week drew criticism in the Arab media. Bush's supportive comments of Israel are indicative that the US under the current administration is biased in favor of Israel and cannot be an honest broker, they said.