The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Mubarak dismisses Lebanon, train criticism

The Raiess has spoken...
Egypt's Mubarak dismisses Lebanon, train criticism
By Aziz El-Kaissouni
CAIRO, Aug 24 (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 politicians.
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 crisis.

Mubarak indirectly criticised 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 war.

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."