MOBARAK VOICES OPPOSITION TO THE AMERICAN GREATER MIDDLE EAST
PARIS, 5 Mar. (IPS) French President Jacques Chirac and his Egyptian guest, Hosni Mobarak agreed on Friday that any initiative aimed at improving life in the Middle East by implementing modern changes must be carried out with the active participation of the concerned people.
Coming to Paris after meeting the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who assured him of his opposition to the controversial American plan for a "Greater Middle East", Mr. Mobarak, who is taking the leadership of the opponents to the American project in the Arab world, took up the matter with his French host, who had earlier met with the Qatari Crown Prince and briefed him on the French plan for a Great Middle East.
In an interview with the Italian daily "La Republica", Mr. Mobarak warned of a "political seism" and a "whirlwind of violence and anarchy" if "instant democracy and freedom" is imposed on people not yet ready, referring to the "tragedy" of Algerian elections of 1990.
On his way to London and a short break in Switzerland before meeting President George W. Bush, the initiator of the Greater Middle East in Washington on 12 March, Mr. Mobarak indicated that he would seek "clarifications and precisions" about the American plan, as it includes an area as vast as diverse, going from Morocco in North Africa to Pakistan, or almost all Muslim nations except of Malaysia and Indonesia in South East Asia and those in Central Asia and Caucasus.
"I will ask him to specify the content of these seemingly smoky reforms. I will explain to him that without our involvement, this initiative is vowed to failure", he told the daily, adding, "We won't let ourselves impose formula pre-packed by foreigners that would push us toward the chaos and anarchy. We know our countries and people better than any one else".
According to diplomats, the Egyptian President wishes to probe the main partners of Egypt within the European Union (EU) on their positions concerning the American project that calls for bold political, economic, cultural and social reforms for the countries of the region. Washington aims at presenting its project to the forthcoming meeting of the Group of Eight most industrialised nations scheduled for June in Sea Island, Georgia.
At the origin of a counter-initiative to the American project for the Greater Middle East, Cairo wishes to present for adoption its own project to the next Arab Summit due in Tunis on 29 March. Among other proposals, the Egyptian counter-initiative insists on a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict that some Arab analysts say is "the big absentee" from the American project".
For its part, France has also its own plan for a Great Middle East", a project that is more precise, less ambitious and ambiguous than the American plan, as it is based on the "active participation" of the concerned nations, distinction between them and the degree and nature of their needs.
Unlike the American plan that also brings the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), into the theatre and pay less attention to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the French project, concocted by Mr. Dominique de Villepin, the Foreign Affairs Minister, it says either this "essential" issue must be treated separately or being solved prior to the implementation of the proposals for a Great, or Greater Middle East.
Germany, one of the first initiators of such a plan, proposed by Mr. Joschka Fischer, the Foreign Affairs Minister at the last security summit of Munich, has also backed the French proposal, even though Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, in an effort to "smoke the pipe of peace" and put an end to the bitter row that opposed Berlin and Paris to Washington over the Iraqi crisis last year, voiced support for the American idea after his meting last week at the White House with President George W. Bush. ENDS GME 5304