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Cheney: Mubarak long has been U.S. ally

- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 6, 2011

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Former Vice President Dick Cheney said he doesn't "want to make a prediction" as to whether embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak can survive that nation's political turmoil, but he noted that Egypt under Mr. Mubarak has been a long-standing U.S. ally in the region.

"This issue is going to be resolved by the Egyptians," Mr. Cheney said after his keynote address Saturday night at the "Reagan 100" banquet sponsored by the Young America's Foundation at the Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara, marking the centennial of the birth of President Ronald Reagan. "Whatever comes next is going to be determined by the people of Egypt."

Mr. Cheney noted that as defense secretary under President George H.W. Bush, he worked with Mr. Mubarak in the lead-up to the first Gulf War, and that the Egyptian leader granted U.S. military aircraft permission for overflights.

He also said Egypt contributed two divisions of its army to the effort to drive then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's invading forces out of neighboring Kuwait.

"He's been a good friend and ally of the United States," Mr. Cheney said of Mr. Mubarak, who is facing continued calls for his immediate resignation after nearly 30 years in office although he already has promised to step down in September after the election of a successor.

"I don't want to make a prediction" whether Mr. Mubarak will remain in office until then, said Mr. Cheney, who was a member of Congress from Wyoming during the Reagan presidency and who turned 70 last Monday. "That's a decision only the Egyptians can make."

On the current strategy in the war in Afghanistan, Mr. Cheney said, "You're not going to get a full-blown democracy overnight," adding, "It's important that they don't revert back" to being a safe haven for al Qaeda.

On Pakistan: "If Pakistan ever goes over to the dark side, we're going to have a big problem," he said, in an oblique reference to the prospect of an Islamist regime taking over there. "This is not a place we can wash our hands of."

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