Egypt plans reforms to avoid US prescription
CAIRO: Egypt’s ruling party opened its annual conference on Tuesday with plans to speed up reforms to avoid having a US prescription imposed on it under Washington’s vision of a democratic Greater Middle East.
President Hosni Mubarak has regularly spoken out against external recipes for change being imposed on countries with other cultures, while the US is pushing for sweeping democratic and economic reforms across a region stretching from North Africa to Pakistan.
And the United States provides Egypt with an annual handout of around 1.9 billion dollars, making it the biggest beneficiary of US aid in the Middle East after Iraq and Israel. On the fringe of the conference, the National Democratic Party (NDP) has invited ambassadors and representatives of several foreign political parties to a debate Tuesday night on the party’s “new politics”. The “new” theme dominates the conference itself, focusing on a 19-point citizens’ charter which does not, however, take in the opposition parties’ demands for “institutional reform”.
According to the party draft, the charter will outlaw torture, guarantee private property and free economic activity, and state the major public freedoms, the right to education, health, work, social protection, freedom of opinion, expression and religious belief. It also guarantees freedom to vote, to form parties and trade unions, as well as the right to privacy. afp