WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday raised human rights concerns with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose ties with the previous US administration were soured by the issue, a spokesman said.
Clinton talked for an hour with Mubarak on the eve of his meeting with President Barack Obama, the veteran Egyptian leader’s first White House summit in five years.
Clinton spoke with Mubarak about the Middle East peace process, Iran and other regional issues and also brought up human rights, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
“It is something that we raise in every high-level meeting that we have, Crowley told reporters.
“We would like to see Egypt embark on a path to expand political dialogue in the country, expand political participation in the Egyptian political process. And we will continue to raise these issues with Egypt, he said.
Mubarak had tense relations with previous US president George W. Bush, who pushed him to release dissidents and hold free elections.
Well-known Egyptian dissident Ayman Nour, who was imprisoned for three years, earlier told AFP in Cairo he was concerned that Obama was setting back the promotion of human rights in the country.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is hopeful that conditions can be created soon to resume stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the State Department said Monday.
“We’re trying to work hard to create conditions for negotiation to continue and we hope to have this phase of this process completed in the next few weeks, Crowley told reporters after the hour-long meeting between Mubarak and Clinton at a Washington hotel.
Crowley said Egypt and the United States agreed that all sides – Israel, the Palestinians and Arab states – need to take “parallel steps to set the stage for a return to negotiations. Those include a halt to settlement activity by Israel, Palestinian moves to improve security and gestures by Arab nations toward normalization of relations with Israel.
“I think Egypt and the United States share the view that we have to have parallel steps here, he said.
Only Egypt and Jordan have peace treaties with Israel. Arab states without relations with Israel have rebuffed US appeals to take certain steps toward normalizing ties until Israel makes the first move. -Agencies