Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said on Tuesday that Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s firebrand foreign minister, is still not welcome in Egypt, according to remarks reported by the official MENA news agency.
When asked whether Lieberman would visit Egypt after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mubarak said, "No," the agency reported on an interview the Egyptian president gave in Arabic to Israeli television.
Mubarak and Netanyahu met on Monday in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to take stock of the Middle East peace process.
"I deal with Netanyahu, I don’t deal with Lieberman," Mubarak reportedly told the interviewer.
"I don’t know if the foreign minister (Ahmed Abul Gheit) invited him or not. But public opinion will not accept Lieberman, that’s the problem," MENA quoted Mubarak as saying.
"Public opinion will not accept him because he said ‘I’m going to attack the Sinai’ and he has attacked us. These words remain engraved in the public conscience. How could he say ‘I’m going to destroy the dam’?" he asked.
Lieberman, an ultra-nationalist who triggered controversy over his virulently anti-Arab stance, leads the far-right Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is Our Home) party, and has been called a "racist" by critics.
He has suggested bombing Egypt’s famed Aswan dam in the event of war between the two countries, which signed a landmark peace deal in 1979.
Lieberman also said last year, before he became foreign minister after the February 2009 general election, that Mubarak could "go to hell" if he continued to refuse to visit the Jewish state.
Twice in recent weeks Cairo has denied reports from Israel that Lieberman had been formally invited to Egypt. Abul Gheit also said earlier this month that he would not shake Lieberman’s hand.
In his interview, Mubarak also took a dig at former U.S. president George W. Bush, saying that in eight years in office his administration "failed to move the Palestinian question forward by even one centimeter."
On May 26, in his first visit to the United States since 2004, Mubarak will meet Bush’s successor Barack Obama in Washington amid a revived Middle East peace drive by the new U.S. president.
"Obama is undoubtedly different from Bush," MENA quoted Mubarak as saying. "Obama is precise… and reasoned, he acts after hearing from his advisers and those countries with which he deals," he said.
"In order to take a decision in a region such as ours, you have to listen to the countries here, to the Israelis and Palestinians, the Egyptians and Saudis, the Gulf states and all countries concerned, to have any idea of how to reach peace," he said.
He also said he had been "surprised" by the previous U.S. administration’s wish to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before Bush’s presidential term expired in January this year.
"Quite frankly, I was astounded. I said: what? They want to solve a 60-year-old problem in just three months?"
(Alarabiya.net English and Agencies)