- The Washington Times - Monday, March 4, 2002

CAIRO Terrorists are still active in Afghanistan and have sleeper cells in the United States waiting to strike out, President Hosni Mubarak said in an interview in which he called for extreme vigilance and close international cooperation against the scourge.
Mr. Mubarak also said that the voyage of the Karine A, seized in January in the Red Sea with a shipload of missiles and other sophisticated weapons, was the third such attempt to deliver arms to the Palestinians, and that more may follow.
Speaking ahead of his visit to Washington for talks with President Bush tomorrow, the Egyptian president also told The Washington Times that any U.S. attack on Iraq that kills innocent civilians would inflame festering anti-American feelings among the Arab public.
Mr. Mubarak, on his first visit to Washington since September 11, said the Afghan-based extremists blamed for the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were also behind more than a decade of terror in Egypt, including a 1997 attack that killed 58 foreign tourists at Luxor.
"We have given the Americans since September 11 a great deal of help, but this is not declared. Intelligence help, names, other things which I don't want to be put into the paper," Mr. Mubarak said last week at his presidential palace.
"You have several [terror] organizations in the United States. Now they are all sleeping, keeping very quiet as if they are very innocent, until they feel there is some freedom. Then they are going to attack," he said with a sharp clap of his hands.
Mr. Mubarak, who first called in 1986 for an international conference on fighting terrorism and has warned the world to pay closer attention to the problem on dozens of occasions since then, has acted sternly to subdue the threat in his own country.
"We were being criticized by the whole world" for deciding to try accused terrorists before military courts, the president said with an air of vindication now that Mr. Bush has proposed doing the same thing.
But he warned "the Afghanistan problem did not come to an end" with the defeat of the Taliban. "It needs a lot of work, a lot of cooperation. These people are very dangerous, and you have to watch them, even in the United States."
Asked about rising violence between Israel and the Palestinians, Mr. Mubarak held out little hope for an early solution as long as Ariel Sharon remains prime minister of Israel, and he cast doubt on the Israeli's willingness to withdraw from East Jerusalem as called for in a peace initiative from Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
"The period with Sharon has been the most terrible violence since the peace process started … in 1977," he said. "We have never seen such violence and killing and using arms. I am afraid of more escalation."
Referring to Israel's seizure of the Karine A with 50 tons of weapons on Jan. 3, he said, "That is ship number three. There will be maybe number four, number five, you never know. … One of the ships threw so many containers in the sea. We found two containers filled with anti-tank missiles."
Mr. Mubarak offered no further details, but an aide said later that the containers of missiles were discovered in the Nile Delta.
The president, who consulted closely with other regional leaders before coming to Washington, also took credit for persuading Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to arrest the suspected killers of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi on Feb. 21.
"We are making the maximum effort with Mr. Arafat. When I met the defense minister of Israel, he told me they should arrest some people. We pressed on Arafat. He arrested them," Mr. Mubarak said.
Mr. Mubarak criticized the Israelis, however, for breaking a promise to release the Palestinian leader from his confinement in Ramallah in return. That siege is "making Arafat have much more popularity. He is winning, and the Israelis are losing. Sharon cannot understand this."
While most Arab governments enjoy "very good" relations with the United States, public attitudes toward America in the region are being soured by a perception that the Palestinian people are suffering injustice, Mr. Mubarak said.
He acknowledged that "the leadership on both sides is responsible" for the violence, but said the Arab people sympathize with the Palestinians "because the Israelis are using the war gear against them. Planes, the F-16s, helicopters, tanks the people see everything on television."
At a recent meeting he held in Cairo with 600 religious leaders, "all of their questions were concentrated on Palestine and the behavior of the Israelis. Not a single question on Afghanistan," he said.
Those feelings will grow even stronger if the United States attacks Iraq in a way that kills innocent civilians without first offering proof of that country's involvement in terrorism, he said.
"We have to be very careful there very, very careful. Unless the people know definitely there is something real there, I am afraid from the public opinion," he said, noting that satellite television has given people far more sources of information than in the past.
"We have to keep this in mind when we take any decision."


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