Mubarak meets Obama to patch up US-Egypt relationship
The Egyptian president hopes Obama will back away from Bush's push for reform, which caused a rift between the two nations.
Until five years ago, it was an annual tradition: every spring Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would travel to Washington to meet his American counterpart, congressional leaders, and a few newspaper editorial boards.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Mubarak usually sat down with public affairs talk show host Charlie Rose, where the authoritarian military man would invariably grow testy after a half-hour of Mr. Rose's persistent questioning.
"It was like his annual pilgrimage," says Khalil Al-Anani, an analyst with the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
Then came Sept. 11, the war on terror, and a pronounced chilling of the US-Egypt relationship.
Now, with Mubarak in Washington for the first time in five years, Egyptian media are hailing a new era of bilateral harmony between the world's sole superpower and the country struggling to remain the Middle East's political linchpin. He is expected to meet President Barack Obama on Tuesday morning.
Mubarak's pitch? A continuation of America's hands-off policy and the US aid that has helped keep this impoverished nation afloat since the 1978 Camp David Accords in exchange for assisting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Egypt receives $2 billion in direct US aid annually, second only to Israel.
The visit has dominated local newspapers for days. Local speculation is rampant that another Mubarak goal will be securing quiet American approval for a plan to eventually transfer power to his son Gamal. The cover of the influential regime-connected magazine Rose Al Youssef declares nothing less than a "Rebuilding of the Egyptian-American Relationship."
But there are also worries within the regime and among its backers that President Obama, like President Bush before him, will harp on Egypt's poor human rights record and Mubarak's authoritarian rule. The same Rose Al Youssef cover story nervously asks: "Will Egypt accept a lecture on democracy from Obama that it refused to accept from Bush?"
The Bush administration's calls for political reform are now recalled here as the low point in several decades of tight US-Egypt relations. The regime was shocked when former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered a public dressing-down of Mubarak in a June 2005 speech in Cairo, saying, "it is time to abandon the excuses that are made to avoid the hard work of democracy."