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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Mubarak's son urges nuclear development

CAIRO, Egypt (AP)- The son of Egypt's president urged the nation to consider developing nuclear energy, a proposal that could help establish his own credentials as a serious politician and publicly distance him from the United States.

Gamal Mubarak made the suggestion in an address to delegates of the country's ruling party Tuesday as the impasse between the international community and
Iran continued over Tehran's defiance of a U.N. demand that it halt uranium enrichment.

"We will continue using our natural energy resources, but we should conserve these resources for our future generations. The whole world is looking at alternative energy — so should Egypt — including nuclear," Mubarak told the gathering in Cairo.

Since 2002, when Mubarak took up a high-profile position in his father's party, rumors have abounded that he was being groomed to replace his father. Frequent appearances at official functions in Egypt and several trips to the United States, which have included meetings with top officials, have fed that speculation.

Mubarak has repeatedly denied that he wants to succeed his father, President
Hosni Mubarak.

Asserting that his country has a "responsibility to offer a new vision for the Middle East based on our Arab identity," Gamal Mubarak vowed not to "accept ideas about a greater Middle East or a new Middle East," apparently referring to ideas for the region put forward by the Bush administration, which provides Egypt with a hefty annual aid package.

"We will not accept initiatives made abroad," said the 42-year-old politician. "Egypt is a big country and plays a leading role and will continue to do that."

The younger Mubarak addressed delegates for nearly an hour, emphasizing the party's commitment to continuing political and economic reform.

Egypt, which has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, has conducted nuclear experiments on a very small scale, according to the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog.

In February 2005, the
International Atomic Energy Agency disclosed that it was investigating Egypt's nuclear activities. It concluded that Egypt had conducted atomic research for as long as four decades, ending it as recently as 2000, but that research did not appear to be aimed at developing nuclear weapons and did not include uranium enrichment.

Egyptian officials have largely remained on the sidelines of international criticism of Iran's nuclear program, which the U.S. has said aims to produce nuclear weapons, although Tehran claims its goal is to generate electricity.

Like many other Arab countries, Egypt is said to be concerned that Iranian nuclear capabilities could spark an arms race and destabilize the region.
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