Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's closest political adviser says Cairo will deny passage through the Suez Canal to any American warships headed to the Persian Gulf to assist in an assault against Iraq, according to an Egyptian newspaper.
"Egypt will not allow American ships to pass through the Suez Canal in order to strike Iraq," Dr. Osama Al-Baz said in an exclusive interview with the weekly opposition newspaper Al-Geel.
He also warned "of the danger a U.S. military action against Iraq would pose for the entire region."
Al-Baz's comments were also reported Aug. 17 by the Qatar News Agency, which quoted the adviser as adding that Egypt did not support any U.S. action against Iraq.
Egypt also rejected any challenges to Iraq's "territorial unity, independence and safety of the Iraqi people," QNA reported, adding that Al-Baz said the U.S. had "no right" to take military action against Baghdad.
A State Department spokesman told WorldNetDaily the U.S. was unaware of Al-Baz's comments regarding the passage of U.S. warships through the 100-mile canal.
"I'm not even sure the canal treaty [between Egypt and the U.S.] would permit that," he said.
Officials at the Egyptian embassy in Washington, D.C., promised to look into the issue, but did not confirm or deny the report before press time after repeated attempts.
Unlike the Panama Canal, the Suez has no locks. It can accommodate all but the largest ships.
Egypt nationalized the canal in 1956 and has closed it briefly – mostly during times of war with Israel – in the past.
News of the possible closure comes amid vitriolic attacks against the U.S. in the official Egyptian press.
The attacks stem from the Bush administration's decision last week to withhold further economic aid to Cairo in retaliation for Egypt's prosecution of Dr. Sa'ad Eddin Ibrahim, a noted human-rights campaigner, and related treatment of pro-democracy organizations.
On Thursday, Mubarak met with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara, which the semi-official Al-Ahram newspaper reported would feature discussions about a possible U.S. attack on Iraq.
By Jon Dougherty © 2002 WorldNetDaily.com
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