Egyptian President Favors Qualified Lifting of Anti-Iraq Sanctions
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ President Hosni Mubarak, chief among Arab leaders aligned against Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf crisis, now wants economic sanctions against Iraq lifted for the good of the Iraqi people.
But he said in remarks published today that the move should come only after world leaders devise checks on Saddam’s ambitions.
The interview with the state-owned magazine Al Mussawar reflected a turnabout in Mubarak’s support for sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council after Iraq invaded Kuwait in August last year.
″We strongly sympathize with the Iraqi people in their present ordeal resulting from the miscalculations of their leadership,″ he said. ″We are for the lifting of these sanctions.″
But Mubarak still called for international guidelines set on how Baghdad can spend money from oil sales.
″It would not be difficult for the world community to agree on adequate guarantees that would prevent the squandering of Iraq’s resources on projects which serve only the ambitions of its leader,″ he said.
His comments were published a day after Nabil Najim, Iraq’s delegate to the Arab League, told reporters in Cairo that he asked the secretary-general of the 21-member organization to try to persude the United Nations to ease the sanctions.
League officials initially saw little prospect that any effort by Secretary-General Esmat Abdel-Meguid, a former Egyptian foreign minister, would succeed. However, Mubarak’s comment could improve Iraq’s chances.
Sanctions were maintained even after a U.S.-led international military coalition drove Iraqi forces from Kuwait in February. Iraqi officials say shortages caused by sanctions have killed thousands of Iraqi civilians since the war ended.
The United Nations voted last Thursday to temporarily lift the sanctions by allowing Iraq to sell 1.6 billion in oil to raise money for food and medicine for Iraqi citizens.
Mubarak said his concern for the welfare of the Iraqi people also was behind his opposition to suggestions that the United States and other Western allies mount air strikes to destroy Iraq’s nuclear facilities.
He said he conveyed this position to President Bush through Secretary of State James A. Baker III on the secretary’s visit to Egypt last month during a Middle East tour.
Mubarak also said all Egyptian troops in Kuwait will be back home by the end of this month. About 36,000 Egyptian soldiers joined the battle to rid Kuwait of Iraqi occupation.
Egypt began withdrawing them last May after Kuwait appeared to have second thoughts about a Persian Gulf security agreement that would have kept them there with Syrian troops as the core of a security force.