Mubarak’s Son Met Secretly With Bush and Cheney

The son of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who is widely seen as his father’s heir-apparent, met secretly last week with top White House officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Al-Jazeera reported Monday.

The talks came amid increasing criticism from the Bush administration of the Mubarak government for its crackdown on the political opposition, and Mubarak’s comments that he does not take orders from Washington.

Egypt did not report Gamal Mubarak’s trip to Washington, and its disclosure by the Arab satellite channel came as Cairo’s state-owned newspapers criticized the Bush administration for interfering in Egypt’s internal affairs.

Neither Egyptian authorities nor the White House responded to requests for comment.

A reporter for the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera said she saw Gamal Mubarak entering into the White House on Friday with Nabil Fahmi, Egypt’s ambassador. She said both men refused to respond to her questions.

A day earlier, the State Department said it was deeply concerned about reports that Egyptian authorities arrested and repressed demonstrators protesting alleged election fraud.

The Bush administration has said reform in the Mideast is a top policy concern and has focused on Egypt, a key ally. But many in the region have speculated Washington is backing off pressure on Cairo and other government, after the big election gain by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the overwhelming Hamas victory in the Palestinian territories.

On Monday the state-owned Rose El Youssef newspaper quoted Mubarak as saying that his government is being criticized because he does not accept direction from Washington.

That is “because we don’t listen (to them) and do not bow to anything which does not match with our interests” he said.

Since he assumed power in 1981, Mubarak had made annual trips to Washington in the spring for talks with government and congressional leaders, but he has not done so for the past two years.

Al-Jazeera said Gamal Mubarak also met during his visit to Washington last week with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Gamal Mubarak’s last visit to the White House was shortly before the United States launched its 2003 war on Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein. Arab media suggested at the time that Cheney convinced him to persuade his father to mute his opposition to the war.

Many believe Mubarak has been grooming his 42-year-old son as his heir, a prospect sharply denounced by opposition parties. Both Mubarak and Gamal have denied such intentions.

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