Friday, November 30, 2001

Egypt’s story
A delegation of Egyptian business executives is trying to correct an impression in Washington that Egypt is failing in its support for the war against terrorism.
“If you are battling terrorism and if anyone tells you that Egypt is not with you, that is ridiculous,” Hamed Fahmy, founder of the Allied Corp. of Egypt, told editors and reporters at The Washington Times yesterday.
Mr. Fahmy and other executives representing the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt emphasized that Egypt has long been a target of terrorism from some of the same extremists linked to the September 11 attacks on the United States.
He noted that Ayman Zawahiri, a top lieutenant to terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, is the founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. The group is also a key component in bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network.
Zawahiri fled Egypt and sought refuge for a while in Switzerland, Mr. Fahmy said.
“I cannot get a resident visa in Switzerland, but they gave him political asylum,” he said.
Terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists in Egypt have claimed 1,000 lives in the last decade.
Mr. Fahmy, president of TransCentury Associates developers Anis Aclimandos, and Hisham A. Fahmy, the chamber’s executive director, have been making the rounds of administration officials, members of Congress, think-tank experts and reporters since they arrived in Washington on Sunday.
Mr. Aclimandos dismissed press reports that implied Egypt was being critical of the war on terrorism.
“If you look at the facts, Egypt took quick action. I would rather have somebody take action rather than give me lip service,” he said.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was one of the first Arab leaders to strongly condemn the September 11 attacks and offer assistance to the United States.
The three also noted that earlier criticism of the war in the Egyptian press has changed since the rout of the Taliban. Al Akhbar, one of Egypt’s leading newspapers, recently printed a large front-page photograph of a smiling U.S. Marine surrounded by Afghan children.
Egypt has suffered economically from the attacks on America, especially its tourist industry. Five million visitors last year boosted tourism to $4.5 billion. The Egyptian pound has also lost 15 percent of its value.
“It has died since September 11,” Hisham A. Fahmy said of tourism.
They also tried to explain Egypt’s cautious response to President Bush’s warning to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
“We have to live in the area we are in and deal with our neighbors,” Mr. Aclimandos said. “But if it is proven that terrorists have a safe haven in Iraq I don’t think Egypt would hesitate to join a coalition against him. We all know he’s crazy.”

Envoy continues tour
U.S. diplomat William Burns is continuing his Middle East tour with stops in Jordan and Saudi Arabia before returning home on Sunday, the State Department said yesterday.
Mr. Burns, assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss the latest U.S. Middle East initiative and the war on terrorism.
Mr. Burns visits Jordan today and Saudi Arabia on Saturday. In Saudi Arabia, he will also discuss efforts to get foreign countries to freeze the bank accounts of depositors with suspected links to terrorists.

Off to Vienna
Stephan M. Minikes is heading to Vienna, Austria, to take up his new position as U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as the group prepares for a major summit on Monday.
Mr. Minikes, who was sworn in yesterday, leaves his position as managing partner of the Washington office of the New York-based Thelen Reid and Priest law firm.
“I have spent the most wonderful years of my life in Washington and at Thelen Reid and Priest,” Mr. Minikes said. “I will miss my friends and colleagues very much, but I welcome the challenges ahead.”
The OSCE opens a two-day meeting Monday and is expecting Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to attend.

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