Mubarak edging away from Sadat's hard anti-Sovietism?

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

The regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is showing signs of edging away from the staunchly anti-Soviet, pro-American policy set by Anwar Sadat.

The objective appears to be a more evenhanded approach in Egypt's relations with the superpowers.

President Sadat all but severed Egypt's relations with the Soviet Union, invited the US to use Egyptian ''facilities'' to counter possible Soviet moves in the Persian Gulf, and in September expelled over 1,500 Soviet advisers from Egypt. Also sent home were several Soviet journalists and most of the embassy staff, including the ambassador.

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Now, in an interview with a foreign journalist that appeared in the Jan. 24 edition of the authoritative Al-Ahram newspaper, Mr. Mubarak has said the return of Egyptian and Soviet ambassadors to Moscow and Cairo in the near future was ''inevitable'' in principle. Mr. Mubarak added that Egypt dealt with other countries on the basis of their readiness to provide assistance and support.

He conceded that the Soviet Union does not aid Egypt while the US extends much support. But he said, nevertheless, that Egypt ''rejects'' the establishment of special relationships between a ''great'' country and a ''little'' country.

Mr. Mubarak added, however, that he did not see any role the Soviet Union could play at the present time in reaching a solution for Middle East problems.

(According to Reuter, the Egyptian foreign ministry has disclosed that talks on Palestinian autonomy scheduled to begin Jan. 24 have been postponed at the request of the US. Egypt, Israel, and the US would set a new date after Secretary of State Alexander Haig's visits to Egypt and Israel, scheduled for this week.)

Other indicators, surfacing in the Egyptian press this past week, suggest a thaw in Egyptian-Soviet relations. Egyptian Minister of Electricity Maher Abaza announced that experts from the Soviet Union, as well as from France and the US, would help repair and modernize the turbines at the Aswan power station.

The Soviet Union financed and built the dam after the US withdrew its offer in the early 1960's, and it represents Egypt's single most prestigious and costly development project to date.

At the height of the Soviet Union's involvement in Egypt in the late '60s and early '70s, more than 17,000 technical and military advisers lived in the country. Mr. Sadat expelled those advisers in 1972, abrogated the Soviet-Egyptian friendship treaty in 1976, and signed the Camp David accords in 1978, shutting Moscow out of the Middle East peace process.

The Egyptian press also announced this week that Egypt had agreed to a Soviet request to expand its embassy staff in Cairo. And an Egyptian commercial delegation from the Egyptian ministry of economy will visit the USSR this month.

This week, too, Prime Minister Fouad Mohieddin received a cable from Soviet Premier Nikolai A. Tikhonov, who urged friendlier relations between the two countries. Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev had sent Mubarak a similar message after Mubarak's inauguration in October.

Since his inauguration, Mr. Mubarak has hinted in several speeches at the importance he attaches to a policy of nonalignment, first charted for Egypt by the late Egyptian President Nasser.

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