Mubarak's telling next move

President Reagan's Mideast peace formula seems to offer Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak a unique opportunity to boost his status as a leader in the region , Monitor contributor Olfat M. El Tohamy writes.

Egypt has so far reacted cautiously to President Reagan's proposals for establishment of an autonomous Palestinian entity. Mubarak has refused to commit himself to a clear-cut stand on the US peace formula, saying only that the proposal includes some positive elements. His aides say Egypt awaits Arab and other responses to the peace plan. Mubarak, who has not deviated from late president Anwar Sadat's commitment to a settlement along the lines of the Camp David agreements, seems to be aware his decision will have a crucial impact on Egypt's future under his leadership.

The fact that President Reagan cannot now be blamed for lacking a well-defined Mideast policy, means Egypt must prove its willingness to pursue the peace process started by President Sadat.

And Mubarak's next move will have an impact on Egypt's all-important ties with the US - its chief aid-donor and arms-supplier. For the first time in two years Egypt's top defense official said there were no problems in talks with the US - this time with Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.

Having turned down an official Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) request to host guerillas evacuating west Beirut, Mubarak's next action might also decide whether he will rejoin the Arab fold.

So far, Mubarak's gestures towards moderate Arab states have been met with indifference.

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