Mubarak: Help Arafat Out

Egypt's President Is Interviewed By Ed Bradley

Egypt's Hosni Mubarak thinks PLO leader Yasser Arafat deserves at least one more chance to prove he has the wherewithal and the desire for peace.

To that end, Mubarak met with the President Bush this weekend at Camp David to see if he couldn't get him to agree to a timetable for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

"If he (Arafat) is going to deliver, I think everybody would support him. If he is not going to deliver, his people will tell him that," Mubarak tells 60 Minutes Correspondent Ed Bradley in a June 8 interview.

Mubarak has no illusions about Arafat's weakened position: "He has no tools now. He has no police, no intelligence, no contacts. He cannot move from one place to another. He cannot send a message from here to there. So we should make it easy for him to give him the chance. Without giving him the chance and make it easy for him, we cannot judge him."

He says Arafat lost whatever tools he had when Israel launched a series of attacks on Palestinian strongholds after a wave of suicide bombings left scores of Israelis dead. Tanks and soldiers besieged Arafat's headquarters for weeks until international pressure forced a withdrawal.

Mubarak says Egypt and other PLO allies are pushing Arafat to make reforms in the PL "for the sake of the people." Egypt also has begun a diplomatic offensive to restart a dialogue between the Palestinians and the Israelis, something which both Arafat and Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon have been unable to do.

Mubarak favors creation of a Palestinian state as soon as possible. "Look, a Palestinian state beside an Israeli state is the best guarantee, the best guarantee for the security of the people on both sides," he says.

As for the 200,000 Israeli settlers who now live in some 200 settlements on the West Bank, Mubarak seems to hope they will move out. That seems unlikely since settlements have increased by 40 percent since Sharon became prime minister.

"They should stop building more settlements because I consider it to be a time bomb," says Mubarajk. "Because the people - the Palestinian people - will never accept to see that their land is occupied and built on by - by foreigners coming from outside the area."

He says the Palestinian people could accept in their state the presence of Israeli citizens, but protected by Palestinian soldiers. Israeli soldiers would have to go.

Arabs believe the Bush administration gave Sharon the "green light" to assassinate Palestinian leaders accused of terrorism and has turned a blind eye while Israel has used American-made weapons to pound Palestinian cities and towns.

"I know the United States has very good relations with Israel, but at the same time ,they have friends in the Arab world: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and others," Mubarak says. "So this was the main reason why the people are - have some hate toward the United States."

Mubarak told Bradley he sees no end to the suicide bombings that have killed more than 500 Israelis in the last 18 months and he says there's little Arafat can do about it.

"I don't think that he is capable to control anybody because he's weakened," Mubarak says. "That's why we have to strengthen him. Hamas, sometimes they accept the ceasefire which Arafat says. Other times, they refuse to respond to Arafat."

Mubarak says the world must do something for Arafat to make the Palestinian "people feel that they are human beings." He says the suicide bombings will stop only when the Palestinian people have hope.

As for Iraq, Mubarak warns against using force against Saddam Hussein. "I think to use force against him will not be convenient in this period in time because they have a public opinion in the Arab world," he says. "If force is used, it may cause hell of problems in all the Arab world, especially the friends of the United States."

Mubarak says Saddam must "comply with the U.N. resolutions and to accept the inspectors to go there so as to bring an end to this problem." He says he sees this happening without the use of force.
  • Mary-Jayne McKay

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