Mubarak moves to reassert Egypt's clout in Islamic world

Egypt has taken its first step in reasserting its influence in the Arab and Islamic world by rejoining the Islamic Conference Organization. Five years ago the 45-nation group expelled it, as did the Arab League, for making peace with Israel.

In accepting the ICO's invitation, Egypt made it clear it will continue its ties with the Jewish state.

The fact that the ICO was willing to reaccept Egypt without insisting that it first renounce the 1978 Camp David accords calls attention to the need, particularly among moderate Arab states, for Egypt's power and influence in the region to combat a perceived growing threat from such nations as Libya and Syria.

Egyptian newspapers have boldly asserted that the ICO invitation is an indication of the success of President Hosni Mubarak's world diplomacy and the ultimately central role Egypt must play in regional politics because of its size and historical weight.

The United States has expressed encouragement over Egypt's move, both so that the country can play a moderating role in the Middle East and so that Egypt can preach the path of peace.

Western diplomats in Cairo interpret Israel's low-key abstinence from comment as a possibly optmistic response. An Israeli diplomat said his country is waiting to see whether the readmission will bring Egypt closer to the peace process, or will distance that nation from it.

The resolution for the invitation was drafted at the Jan. 19 ICO summit in Casablanca and hand-delivered Monday to Mubarak by a four-man delegation led by Guinean President Ahmed Sekou Toure. Egypt's invitation, Mr. Sekou Toure said, was in part based on its stance on Jerusalem. Egypt and the ICO oppose the Israeli occupation of the city's eastern sector and the establishment of the city as Israel's capital.

Sekou Toure also cited Egypt's position on the Palestinian issue. Egypt's recent reconciliation with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat and its vocal opposition to Israel's West Bank policies reportedly influenced the ICO's decision.

Mubarak's active diplomacy among moderate Arab states, non-Arab Islamic countries, and in Africa also laid the groundwork for the welcome Egypt received among the vast majority of ICO members.

With the ICO feather in his cap, President Mubarak set off Tuesday for an eight-day tour of Africa. The first stop is Zaire, which shares Egypt's concern over a buildup of tensions over the Libyan involvement in Chad.

Mubarak has expressed concern about a resurgence of unrest in southern Sudan. Egypt has a military pact to support its southern neighbor, and has said it would send troops if necessary to quell any major disturbances instigated from outside Sudanese borders.

Mubarak has also fortified his links with African nations through the nomination of Egypt to the United Nations Security Council and the nonaligned summit in New Delhi last year.

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