• Reports
  • October 1, 2005
  • 4 minutes read

Egypt urged to advance democracy

Egypt urged to advance democracy
State Department official Cheney meets politicians


CAIRO, Egypt — A top State Department official said Thursday the Bush administration’s commitment to expanding democracy in the Arab world is “absolute and very firm” because U.S. national security is at stake.

Elizabeth Cheney, deputy assistant secretary of state for the Near East, said this month’s multicandidate election won overwhelmingly by President Hosni Mubarak amid low turnout was “a step forward” and historic.

The Arab world’s most populous nation has “a lot more work to be done on a number of issues,” she said.

“We hope the Egyptian government will make continued progress toward meeting them in upcoming parliamentary elections” in November, Cheney said.

“There’s nothing that’s more important to us, because at the end of the day, our national security is at stake,” said Cheney, the daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, in an interview with The Associated Press.

She met with Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and senior members of the ruling National Democratic Party, including Mubarak’s son, Gamal, widely viewed as the president’s political heir. On Thursday, Gamal Mubarak promised that his father’s ruling party would speed up reforms as he launched a ruling party conference.

During her visit, Cheney also met with opposition parties, talking about the upcoming parliamentary elections and the idea of inviting international observers to monitor them, the U.S. Embassy said.

The United States pushed for international observers during the presidential election, but Egypt rebuffed that.

In the interview, Cheney said the difference in American foreign policy now is that before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, U.S. administrations were “supporting the status quo, because we thought the status quo would bring us security and would bring us stability. Sept. 11 just changed that in a way that’s irreversible for us.”

Now, she said: “For the first time, America’s foreign policy interests and the interests of people in the Arab world who are working for freedom have converged.”

And nothing will change the administration’s commitment, she said, not even the violence in Iraq.

Some critics have accused the Bush administration of being more vocal in its condemnation of the arrests of secular figures such as Egyptian American human rights activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim and opposition party leader Ayman Nour than of mass arrests of Islamic figures.

Egypt has banned the country’s largest and most popular Islamic group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and kept it from running candidates in elections.

Cheney said the United States has spoken against crackdowns, “no matter who the crackdown has been against,” and said all people enjoy fundamental rights.

But she added of Islamic fundamentalist groups: “I think there are some serious questions about the extent to which some of those parties would defend those rights, if they were in power,” especially the rights of women and religious freedom.

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