August 24, 2006

Egypt’s Mubarak dismisses criticism

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak lashed
out at critics who have slammed his handling of the conflict in
Lebanon as indecisive and slow.

In an interview with Al Massai newspaper published on
Thursday, Mubarak dismissed criticism of Egypt's diplomatic
handling of the war in Lebanon, saying that suggestions Egypt
was absent from the crisis were wrong.

"My nerves are strong, thank God, and I am fortified
against provocation, and I ask God to guide all those who lose
their cool, which leads them to slips of the tongue," Mubarak
said, when asked how he felt about attacks from Arab

He said Egypt's stance had been clear during the war, with
its support for Lebanon and its condemnation of Israeli
attacks. But critics have blasted his lack of support for
Hizbollah and what they say was Egypt's slow response to the

Mubarak indirectly criticized the Islamist guerrilla group
at the start of the conflict, and his son's visit to Beirut to
show solidarity with the Lebanese was seen as having come too
late. Hizbollah is now seen by many Arabs as having won the

Scathing attacks on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a
Hizbollah patron, have appeared in state newspaper editorials
in recent days, following Assad's thinly veiled attack on some
Arab states for not supporting Hizbollah.

Without mentioning a state by name, Assad called leaders of
those countries "half men." Syria has since denied the comments
were directed at Mubarak.

Mubarak also rebuffed accusations that state negligence
caused Monday's train crash in which 58 died, accusing the
paper of unfairness in an editorial on the accident.

"The suspicion of negligence is not a possibility. Perhaps
mistakes are made ... but there's a big difference between
unintentional error and negligence deserving of questioning and
holding to account," Mubarak told the newspaper.

The government has faced a barrage of media criticism after
Monday's train crash, Egypt's worst in four years. The crash
was one of a string of recent Egyptian transport accidents.

Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif had ordered Transport Minister
Mohamed Lutfi Mansour to report preliminary findings on the
crash by Wednesday, but no announcements had been made as of
1200 GMT on Thursday.

In the interview Mubarak said the government had been aware
of the need to update and repair the railways for years, but
that difficult economic conditions had led it to postpone the
project "year after year."