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Egypt's Mubarak: How to 'Kill the Snake's Head'

Sunday, 16 September 2001 12:00 AM

On the shores of the Red Sea, Mubarak said these commando-type units were needed "to go in and kill the snake's head." If American forces carried out such operations, he added, they "would be seen in the Muslin world as evidence of the worst paranoid suspicions of the fundamentalist extremists. Some countries are much better suited than the U.S. for such operations."

Seated in a conference room at the Jolie Ville resort hotel, Mubarak took exception to President Bush's idea of counter-terrorist coalition building by saving, "We must be careful not to embark on the wrong course of action." Plans for a coalition of nations, he said, "would simply divide the world between those who are part of it and those who are not, and thus fail to reach the objective."

Instead, Mubarak said, decisive action had to be preceded by "an international conference at the highest level, held at the U.N., to sign a solemn treaty on counter-terrorism, a document that must be well-prepared beforehand, leading to a strong binding resolution, with no wiggle room, to be implemented by all the countries in the world. This is a prerequisite if we want to live safely on this planet."

Asked how he read the motivations of such all-consuming hatred of the United States, Mubarak replied: "The feeling of injustice and the root cause is the Middle Eastern crisis. Muslims everywhere see America giving arms to the Israelis to kill Muslims and America not putting any conditions on the arms it gives free to Israel.

"Muslims see the media taking the side of Israel whatever Israel does. Public opinion is seething against America, which continues to support Israel irrespective of [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon's policies that are designed to prevent the Palestinians from having their own state. Go to all the so-called moderate states in the region, from Jordan to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE and Oman. Their leaders have told me that their streets are on the verge of boiling over."

As for what can be done in the immediate future, Mubarak said: "Both sides in the Palestinian-Israeli crisis should start implementing the U.S.-sponsored Mitchell report, gradually but quickly, withdrawing Israeli tanks and troops from the occupied Palestinian territories. The increasingly desperate Palestinians are encircled. They cannot send their children to school. They cannot feed them. They cannot send them to hospitals. They cannot earn a living. They cannot … cannot … cannot. So to recruit suicide bombers in such dire circumstances is not difficult."

The Egyptian president dismissed such well-known terrorist organizations as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and other Palestinian extremist groups as "small fry on the world stage" that would "fade away" as soon as the Palestinians "get a viable independent state with all of East Jerusalem as their capital."

Mubarak admitted that he didn't know about Iran, but in Libya, "I can assure you [terrorist training camps] are all gone," and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi "considers fundamentalist extremism as much of a threat as we do."

Could Iraq have been involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States? Mubarak doesn't think so. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein "has no wish to unleash the wrath of the U.S."

Asked how one goes about removing Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan, Mubarak said, "When all the nations of the world agree that no safe haven for terrorists will be tolerated, Afghanistan will have to extradite him or face a total cutoff from the assistance it is now getting from Pakistan. The three nations [Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates] that now recognize the Taliban government would have to sever all ties."

Referring to intelligence reports at his disposal, Mubarak, a former fighter pilot who succeeded the late President Anwar Sadat after he was assassinated 20 years ago, said Saudi fugitive bin Laden "is still very wealthy and spreads his money around Afghanistan."

Reminded that bin Laden's original $200 million family inheritance had dwindled substantially in recent years: Mubarak said, "Don't you believe it. He's worth one or two billion dollars" from Afghanistan's "opium trade."

In the past year, most of Afghanistan's poppy fields were eradicated by order of the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar. But Western narcotics experts say the Taliban still held vast supplies warehoused for such a hiatus in production.

"Don't forget," Mubarak said, "that bin Laden's organization was America's creation after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in late 1979, along with the recruitment of 'Afghan Arabs' from all over the Arab countries and several non-Arab Muslim countries." America, he added, abandoned the Afghan Arabs - estimated at 45,000 - after the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989. This was the manpower pool from which bin Laden recruited his global terror network.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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On the shores of the Red Sea, Mubarak said these commando-type units were needed to go in and kill the snake's head. If American forces carried out such operations, he added, they would be seen in the Muslin world as evidence of the worst paranoid suspicions of the...
Sunday, 16 September 2001 12:00 AM
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