Mubarak puts fresh imprint on familiar Sadat policies
Hosni Mubarak comes to the United States this week for the first time as President of Egypt increasingly his own man.Skip to next paragraph
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Four months after the assassination of his predecessor, Anwar al-Sadat, he has continued the main lines of the latter's foreign policies. But he has markedly changed the style of pursuing them.
For Mr. Mubarak, as for Mr. Sadat, the two main pillars of international policy are association with the West, particularly the US, and reconciliation with Israel. But he clearly does not intend that these should be exclusive relationships. And as he pursues them, he tends to eschew the drama and rhetoric so much a part of the Sadat pattern.
In his talks in Washington with President Reagan, Mr. Mubarak's agenda can be split up under three headings:
* Development of bilateral Egyptian-US relations, with particular emphasis on economic aid and on the mutual de-bureaucratization of the procedures whereby US economic and military aid is supplied to Egypt.
* Keeping the Camp David peace process on course so that no hitch develops to prevent Israel from meeting its commitment to complete its withdrawal from occupied Sinai April 25.
* Exploring how best to break the virtual deadlock over the ''full autonomy'' for the Palestinians to which Israel and Egypt are committed under Camp David, once the Sinai part of the latter agreement is fully implemented in April.
US Secretary of State Alexander Haig returned to the US last week after his second visit to both Israel and Egypt during January persuaded that no early breakthrough on the autonomy question is likely.
This is because the present Israeli and Egyptian positions on the question seem irreconcilable.
Israel's aim is to concede nothing which would either open the door to an eventual independent Palestinian state - or close it to Israel's eventual annexation of the West Bank and Gaza, home of 1.2 million Palestinians. Egypt's aim is virtually the opposite: to keep the door open for Palestinian self-determination, including the option of an independent state.
But for the moment, both Egypt and Israel are, as it were, on their best behavior, neither wanting to appear before the international community as being responsible for wrecking the peace process set in motion by Camp David.
For example, the Israeli Cabinet gave its approval Jan. 31 to the participation of four European contingents (Britain, France, Italy and the Netherlands) to the international peacekeeping force to patrol the Egyptian-Israeli border in Sinai after April 25. Till now, Israel had shown some reluctance to admit the Europeans because (in Israeli eyes) the latter were too pro-Palestinian.
Later this month, as a gesture of good faith to Israel, Mr. Mubarak will be going to that country for his first visit ever to the Israeli capital.)
Both the US and Egyptian governments know how proud and sensitive Mr. Begin is. They know, too, how he can react dramatically to snubs or pressure. So both will want to avoid giving him any cause to provoke a new crisis in the Middle East in the weeks ahead - by an Israeli military initiative in south Lebanon, for example, or by moving his office to Arab East Jerusalem.
Egyptians have their pride, too. And while in Washington this week, Mr. Mubarak is expected to press Mr. Reagan to bring US treatment of Egypt into line with that accorded Israel in the furnishing of American aid and military sales.
The Egyptians are thinking of procedures more than of quantity. US-Egyptian deals, unlike US-Israeli deals, are clogged with feasibility studies and the like, for which there are heavy bureaucracies on both sides - financed from aid funds.
Egyptians argue that when they concluded their recent $1 billion deal with France for 20 Mirage 2000 jet fighters, the French Government did not insist on time and money-consuming procedures which would hold up delivery of the planes. The Egyptians would like the US to follow the French pattern.
Mr. Mubarak's turning to the French for planes - supplementng the 40 F-16 jet fighters on order from the US - is an indication of how he is quietly working to break out somewhat from the isolation which Mr. Sadat had helped bring to Egypt.
Another step toward the same end came last week when the Egyptian Government let it be known that it was asking the Soviet Union to send back to Egypt 66 key Russian experts needed to help run three Soviet-built installations. These are the High Dam at Aswan, a big steel plant, and a big aluminum plant. The 66 were among among the 760 Soviet experts whom the late President Sadat expelled in September.
President Sadat also expelled at that time Soviet Ambassador and a considerable number of Soviet diplomats, whom he believed had been involved in efforts to subvert his government. Some of these will be allowed back later this spring.
In another step to reduce isolation, Mr. Mubarak has said he will welcome any hitherto critical Arab hand proffered in his direction.