US seeks release of Egyptian opposition leader

During her visit to Egypt last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked President Hosni Mubarak to release opposition leader Ayman Nour because of health reasons, a State Department official said Wednesday. Rice met with Mubarak on Jan. 15 in Luxor. The official said the United States continues to follow Nour's case closely and engages the Egyptian government at the highest levels to advocate for his release and for appropriate medical care, the official said. New charges brought against Nour again raise serious concerns about the path of political reform and democracy in Egypt, and are incongruous with the Egyptian government's professed commitment to increased openness and dialogue within society, the official said. Nour challenged President Hosni Mubarak for the presidency in 2005, finishing a distant second in Egypt's first contested presidential elections. Later he went to prison after being convicted of forging signatures on petitions in 2004 to register his political party.