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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Egypt wants to go nuclear

Yesterday, I noted that a number of Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, are thinking of trying to join the nuclear club to compete with Iran. Now, you can add another Arab country to the list: Egypt. Egypt, the third largest recipient of United States foreign aid, which produces 700,000 barrels of oil per day and consumes 566,000, which has proven oil reserves of 2.7 billion barrels, and natural gas production of 27 billion cubic meters, and which has a gross domestic product per capita of $3900, wants to spend its 'vast' resources for 'nuclear weapons energy. Something doesn't fit here.

On top of this, the initiative apparently is coming from Hosni's boy Gamal, so the Times is playing this as 'raising expectations' that Mubarak junior is being groomed as a successor, although even the Times seems smart enough to realize that this is not a good thing:
The carefully crafted political speech raised the prospect of two potentially embarrassing developments for the White House at a time when the region is awash in crisis: a nuclear program in Egypt, recipient of about $2 billion a year in military and development aid from the United States, and Mr. Mubarak succeeding his father, Hosni Mubarak, as president without substantial political challenge.

Simply raising the topic of Egypt’s nuclear ambitions at a time of heightened tensions over Iran’s nuclear activity was received as a calculated effort to raise the younger Mr. Mubarak’s profile and to build public support through a show of defiance toward Washington, political analysts and foreign affairs experts said.

“The whole world — I don’t want to say all, but many developing countries — have proposed and started to execute the issue of alternative energy,” he said. “It is time for Egypt to put forth, and the party will put forth, this proposal for discussion about its future energy policies, the issue of alternative energy, including nuclear energy, as one of the alternatives.”

He also said in a clear reference to the White House: “We do not accept visions from abroad that try to dissolve the Arab identity and the joint Arab efforts within the framework of the so-called Greater Middle East Initiative.”

When President Bush called for promoting democracy in the Middle East, he looked to Egypt as a leader in that effort. But with all the chaos in the region, and with the United States in need of strong allies, the administration has backed off on pressing for democracy here.

Instead, it has witnessed the country reversing earlier gains, arresting political opposition figures, beating street demonstrators, locking up bloggers, blocking creation of new political parties and postponing local elections by two years.

In his speech, Mr. Mubarak, an assistant secretary general of the governing National Democratic Party and head of its powerful policies committee, did not specify what he envisioned for a nuclear program, but there are several potential avenues.
Still waiting to hear what the Egyptian bloggers have to say about this.


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