WASHINGTON: President Hosni Mubarak s son and presumed political heir talked briefly last week with President George W. Bush while at the White House for meetings with top officials.
Gamal Mubarak, the Egyptian president s youngest son and a favorite in the United States, was granted a meeting Friday with Bush s national security adviser while in Washington on private business, Frederick Jones, a National Security Council spokesman, said Monday.
In addition to sitting down with Stephen Hadley at the White House, the younger Mubarak also met with Vice President Dick Cheney, the vice president s office said.
Bush saw Mubarak while he spoke with Hadley, dropping by to meet him and convey his best regards to his father, Jones said. Egypt is one of the United States closest friends and the most populous nation in the Arab world.
Neither Jones nor Cheney s office would further discuss the substance of the meetings. Gamal Mubarak is spearheading democratic reform within his father s ruling party, but many in Egypt question whether the changes aim to ensure his father s hold on power.
The talks came amid increasing criticism from the Bush administration of the Mubarak government for its crackdown on the political opposition, and Mubarak comments that he does not take orders from Washington.
Egypt did not report Gamal Muabark s trip to Washington and its disclosure by Al-Jazeera came as Cairo s state-owned newspapers blasted the Bush administration for interfering in Egypt s internal affairs. Egyptian authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did the White House.
President Mubarak allowed the country s first multi-candidate presidential elections last year. He easily won re-election, and promised further changes in a country he has ruled unchallenged for more than a quarter century.
But parliamentary elections in November and December were marred by violence that killed 14 people, and security forces in many cases barricaded polling sites to prevent opposition supporters from voting.
Since he assumed power in 1981, Mubarak had made annual trips to Washington in the spring for talks with government and congressional leaders. He did not make the journey in the past two years. When asked last week why he did not visit Washington this year, Mubarak answered, It is not a pilgrimage.
Still, the Muslim Brotherhood, the country s largest and most popular Islamic group, was able to increase its presence in parliament six-fold to 88 seats and making it the country s strongest opposition movement. Since then, the government has put off local elections for two years.
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 pursue his father to mute his opposition to the war.
Last month, the government renewed the Emergency Law that it had promised to lift. In recent weeks, scores of activists have been arrested during demonstrations to support two Egyptian judges facing disciplinary action after they blew the whistle on election fraud. Agencies