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Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Won't Be Attending Arab Summit

Aired March 26, 2002 - 11:45   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: I want to go to Ben Wedeman right now in Cairo, with some news about Mubarak -- President Mubarak of Egypt, and related to the Arab summit. Ben, what is going on?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's basically Egyptian television has just announced that President Hosni Mubarak will not be attending the Arab summit. In his place, the Egyptian prime minister, Atef Obeid will be going, and it's clear that this is a sign that the Egyptians are very unhappy about the situation regarding president -- the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, being unable to attend the summit. The Egyptians feel that this is unacceptable humiliation of the Palestinian leader, and therefore they do not want to be part of a summit, at least at the presidential level, if the Palestinian leader is not going to be allowed to attend.

LIN: What do you make of Christiane Amanpour's report, then, out of Beirut? She was saying the Arab leaders, in advance of the summit, are now saying maybe it is better for Yasser Arafat to stay home -- that this issue of whether he was attending or not was distracting from the Saudi peace initiative, which was to be discussed?

WEDEMAN: Well, certainly the feeling was that if it's a situation where he is not being allowed by the Israelis to attend, that they would rather not have him go if it is a question of him subjecting himself or obeying Israeli dictates. The feeling is that if it is a situation like that, then he should not go.

And there is a feeling that the Israelis aren't even going to allow Mr. Arafat the freedom to travel outside of Ramallah, then maybe the Saudi initiative, as much as it is praiseworthy from an Arab point of view, maybe it is better if Mr. Arafat stays where he is. And those who do attend the Beirut summit will push to get the Saudi initiative adopted. But certainly at this point it doesn't look very optimist in terms of pushing the peace process forward, if the Palestinian leader isn't even being allowed out of his compound.

LIN: All right. CNN's Ben Wedeman reporting live from Cairo. Certainly it looks like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will not be attending the Arab League Summit, making a statement there that Yasser Arafat is instrumental to the success of any peace initiative.

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