Egypt to top Munich talks of world leaders

Feb. 4, 2011 at 12:16 PM
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MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- The ongoing turmoil in Egypt and the Middle East is expected to dominate talks among U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a flock of other world leaders meeting at a three-day security conference in Munich.

Issues on the agenda at the 47th Munich Security Conference, which kicked off Friday, include cybersecurity, NATO-Russia relations, Afghanistan and the security implications of the financial crisis.

Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are to exchange signed treaties on nuclear disarmament Saturday, a move that will put into force the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty -- a major anti-proliferation success for U.S. President Barack Obama.

Yet while this could be a reason to cheer, the crisis in Egypt and the aftereffects felt across North Africa and the Middle East are likely to overshadow the Munich talks. The West has urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to immediately launch a political transition but the Egyptian strongman has refused, saying such a move would lead to chaos.

Wolfgang Ischinger, the organizer of the conference and a former German ambassador to the United States, said Egypt will be put on the agenda.

"The conference … is the ideal forum to discuss the situation in the region, which harbors enormous risks, but also great possibilities," he told the Frankfurter Neue Presse newspaper.

Ischinger added that he was preparing a last-minute addition to the program to discuss the security implications of the political upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East, in a meeting "that will include representatives of the Arab nations and the major players of the region."

Apart from Clinton, Lavrov and Merkel, world leaders including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen are to attend. The Middle East Quartet, comprised of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia, will meet on the sidelines of the summit on Saturday to discuss how to revive the stalled Mideast peace process.

"It would be nice if the meeting could re-launch the Mideast peace process with more drive and determination," Ischinger said.

Leaders value the Munich Security Conference for its informality, because it's not an official summit that requires politicians to take decisions or agree on the text of communiques. Rather, leaders can discuss security issues without the pressure of having to present an outcome.

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