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Egyptian media concentrating on protests over Bush visit – Arab daily

BBC Monitoring

Text of report by London-based newspaper Al-Hayat website on 15 January

[Report by Muhammad Salah: "Race for Protest Against Bush's Visit"]

Egyptian media outlets did not show much interest in following up President George Bush's tour of the region, or even information on the issues that he will discuss with President Husni Mubarak at their meeting in Sharm al-Shaykh tomorrow, or the topics that have to do with issues that the Americans have continued to influence by virtue of "the friendship" that has brought both countries together since the era of former President Anwar al-Sadat. A reader of Egyptian papers immediately notices that they were interested in reporting on the reactions to the visit by various politcal forces, particularly the opposition, even before the visit has started. The papers are full of reports on sit-ins, protests, and "fiery" statements containing sharp attacks against Bush in particular and Americans in general. The statements also did not spare the Egyptian government, criticizing its policy which make! s Egypt "in need of the Americans."

President Bush's tour served as an occasion to review the disadvantages of US policy in the region and the harm being done to Egypt as a result of the "distinguished" relations with Washington. The papers stressed the futility of relying on US aid and underlined the need to take an open, sharp and strict position against occasional threats by US figures and bodies to cut or reduce aid. In addition, the papers published reports "exposing" Egyptian figures and parties that maintain links in one way or another with Washington whether these links serve personal or politcal interests.

It is worth noting that the pro-government newspapers took part in the campaign against President Bush's visit to Sharm al-Shaykh, joining in activities organized by politcal parties, professional associations, and opposition groups protesting Bush's reception in the Egyptian summer resort. This campaign indicates that tension in relations betw! een Cairo and Washington is not limited to the Egyptian opposition for ces, which take a firm position against anything American, but includes the Egyptian government itself. The Egyptian government may see the US congress's decision to withhold part of the US aid as part of the "game" of distribution of roles among various US parties, even though it is convinced that it will receive the US aid in full without any reduction. It is no secret that Cairo feels that the US Administration usually uses the aid card to get Egyptian support for US policy on certain issues.

Egyptian officials have more than once been forced to note that the US Administration pressures the Egyptian regime to change its policy towards the opposition forces, and push it to expedite steps towards politcal reform. It is worth noting that the opposition forces, which pressure the government through various means on the issues of freedoms and politcal reform, are usually keen to distance themselves from the Americans. They use politcal and media discourse that focuses on! rejecting reform if it comes through US pressure. They never stop criticizing other opposition parties and figures whose activities rely on US support, funds or subsidies.

Official Egyptian bodies sometimes find themselves fettered by restrictions preventing them from expressing their rejection of some US policies. Opposition forces and Egyptian media outlets, however, seem more free to do so. Bush's visit prompted them to vie with one another in courting the Egyptian public, who have long read and heard about enjoying "prosperity" if Egyptian-US ties remain good. Now, however, many Egyptians have reached the point of risking their lives seeking illegal emigration and dying on the coasts of European countries. They have come to realize that good and even distinguished ties with the United States have failed to bring them any prosperity or even help them live a decent life.

In speaking to any Egyptian official, one does not sense that Cairo counts on President B! ush's visit to achieve the minimum of Arab demands regarding regional issues, such as Palestine, Iraq, the Iranian nuclear programme, or Sudan. The same applies to popular circles, which held seminars and conferences this week expressing their conviction that under President Bush the US Administration continued to act against the interests of Arabs and Muslims. The clips aired by television channels of President Bush's visit to Israel and his remarks there increased criticism of his visit by Egyptian popular circles helping them in their bid to prove that the harm that will be caused to Egypt by his visit outstrips any benefit.

Egyptian government media outlets may adopt a different tone during President Bush's visit beginning tomorrow. However, this will not conceal the reality that President Mubarak has not visited the United States for four years in a row. A graph of relations between Egypt and the United States would show that the line goes straight or down, but has never gone up over the past few years.

Sourc! e: Al-Hayat website, London, in Arabic 15 Jan 08



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