President Bush lavished praise on President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt on Wednesday, emphasizing the country’s role in regional security and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process while publicly avoiding mention of the government’s actions in jailing or exiling opposition leaders and its severe restrictions on opposition political activities.
Ending an eight-day trip through the Middle East in which he highlighted democratic change as the foundation for peace and security throughout the region, Mr. Bush strikingly avoided direct criticism of Mr. Mubarak, an autocratic leader in power since late 1981. In the past, Mr. Bush criticized Egypt for arresting political dissidents.
“I appreciate very much the long and proud tradition that you’ve had for a vibrant civil society,” said Mr. Bush, whose appearance with Mr. Mubarak was unannounced and, according to the White House, had been uncertain until the last minute.
Mr. Bush’s remarks reflected some of the contradictions evident in the issues he addressed on his trip.
He spoke passionately at times about the birth of liberty and justice in countries that restrict them and the role of women in societies that still largely sequester them.
And yet he avoided public disputes with monarchical leaders widely accused of limiting freedoms as he sought Arab support for the peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, the war in Iraq, diplomatic efforts to isolate Iran and easing the strain on the American economy caused by high oil prices. [complete article]