- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 18, 2003

CAIRO, Jan. 18 (UPI) — Egyptian officials said that President Hosni Mubarak paid an unexpected visit to Libya Saturday for talks with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Mubarak, who did not make any statements to the official media before his departure to the Libyan capital, Tripoli, was expected to stay for several hours before returning home.

Presidential palace officials in the capital, Cairo, told United Press International that the two leaders were expected to focus their discussions on the Iraqi-U.S. crisis. They would not convey further details. However, Libya last month had called for an emergency summit to discuss the possible U.S. military operations against Iraq, and observers have noted rumors roaming the Middle East of an Arab effort to encourage Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to step down.

Arab diplomats said Saturday that Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Sharaa and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal were expected to visit Cairo in the next few days for consultations with Egyptian officials on a Turkish proposal to hold a six-way summit this week.

Turkey called for a summit gathering of Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Jordan to find a peaceful way out of a possible U.S. war on Iraq.

The diplomats told UPI in Cairo that while Prince Saud was due to visit on Tuesday, arrangements were still being made for Sharaa, who is also due to visit the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and Tehran, for the same reason. They added that consultations were expected to focus on the agenda of the possible six-way summit and steps that could be made by the concerned leaders to find a peaceful solution to the Iraqi issue.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher said his country accepted participation at the summit, and that he was consulting with other parties on the issue.

Turkish Prime Minster Abdullah Gul, who was on a recent tour to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and Egypt, called for the summit aimed at coordinating a common position to deal with the Iraqi-U.S. conflict and finding a peaceful way to avert a war.

Arab diplomats in Cairo said Ankara proposed the convening of the summit on Thursday in Istanbul, or four days before international weapons inspectors in Iraq submit their final report on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction to the U.N. Security Council.

The expected summit is expected to draft proposals to be presented to the Iraqi leadership and U.S. administration to resolve the crisis peacefully.

Meanwhile, Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abul Ragheb's discussions with Saudi leaders on Saturday were expected to focus on the expected regional summit dedicated to the Iraqi issue.

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