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Mon 7 Feb 2011 07:52 PM

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Ex-US ambassador says Egypt talks with opposition crucial

Egyptian govt is standing firm to let Mubarak complete his term despite ongoing political crisis, says Kurtzer

Ex-US ambassador says Egypt talks with opposition crucial
Ex-IAEA chief and opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei
Ex-US ambassador says Egypt talks with opposition crucial
Vice President Omar Suleiman met with some opposition leaders yesterday and promised within a month a draft list of constitutional changes needed for free elections. (Getty Images)

Talks between the Egyptian government and members of the opposition have a long way to go, with key interests of the US at stake, said Daniel Charles Kurtzer, a former US ambassador to Egypt.

“I think everyone’s going to be tiptoeing through a number of minefields,” Kurtzer, ambassador to Egypt from 1998 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton, said in a Bloomberg Television interview. The Egyptian government “is standing firm” to let President Hosni Mubarak complete his term “and the demonstrators want him out.”

Vice President Omar Suleiman met with some opposition leaders on Sunday, including the Muslim Brotherhood, promising within a month a draft list of constitutional changes needed for free elections. The talks may ease pressure for an immediate resignation by Mubarak.

The government promised on Sunday to ease emergency laws in place since Mubarak came to power, release political prisoners and allow media freedom.

“The dialogue that started on Sunday has some distance to go before any kind of bridge can be built between each side,” Kurtzer said. He said the Obama administration has done a good job of balancing interests, but “it’s not going to get easier in the days ahead.”

Kurtzer, a professor of Middle East Studies at Princeton University, said that the US talks are crucial because they will determine whether Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel will be maintained, whether Egypt will remain on a moderate political course and whether Egypt will remain a source of Middle East intelligence for the US.

He said: “These are likely to be guideposts for the administration as we watch these events unfold.”

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