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Egypt, EU resolve rights imbroglio.
Egypt and the European Union have patched up a disagreement over human rights, enabling them to sign a “neighbourhood action plan” in Brussels on March 6, officials said yesterday.The Egyptian government had tried to exclude any discussion of individual human rights cases in the dialogue envisaged in the plan, which is tied to an aid package worth 558mn euros ($735mn) over the next four yea
Tuesday, February 27,2007 00:00
by Reuters

Egypt and the European Union have patched up a disagreement over human rights, enabling them to sign a “neighbourhood action plan” in Brussels on March 6, officials said yesterday.
The Egyptian government had tried to exclude any discussion of individual human rights cases in the dialogue envisaged in the plan, which is tied to an aid package worth 558mn euros ($735mn) over the next four years, an official said.
That disagreement, coupled with another dispute over declaring the Middle East a region free of nuclear weapons, had held up the package for at least eight months.
“After 18 months of negotiations we are both ready to go ahead. This is highly important,” EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told reporters after talks in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt’s human rights record has deteriorated since the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2005, which brought a temporary relaxation of state controls.
In many prominent cases, Egyptian courts have jailed people for the peaceful expression of their opinions.
A compromise text made available to Reuters says Egypt and the European Union agreed to set up a subcommittee on political matters, democracy and human rights.
“The subcommittee aims to facilitate dialogue within a context of mutual understanding and respect for the positions of both parties on all aspects of human rights and democracy ... in a comprehensive and non-exclusive way,” said EU spokeswoman Emma Udwin, reading from the text of the agreement.
A European Commission official who asked not to be named said: “In a nutshell the European Union wanted to be able to raise individual cases and the Egyptians resisted. We tried to reassure them that we would only raise individual cases to illustrate points of principle.”
“Eventually we arrived at a compromise which abandoned the phrase ‘individual cases’ but prevented either side from embargoing an agenda item,” the official said.
Udwin said she could not immediately say how the two sides resolved the dispute over the long-standing Egyptian proposal to declare the Middle East a region free of nuclear weapons.
The commission official said the agreement did refer to non-proliferation efforts and to weapons of mass destruction.
A senior European diplomat said last year the Europeans did not want any reference to the Egyptian proposal in the agreement for fear it would set them up for confrontation with Israel, which is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons.
The commission official said on Monday that EU member states with nuclear arsenals were also unhappy with the language first proposed by Egypt. France and Britain have nuclear weapons.
The aid package of 558mn euros includes 58mn euros in interest rate subsidies, which could attract to Egypt loans worth between 250mn and 300mn euros, the European Commission said in a statement.
Much of the money is meant to support economic and political reforms by the Egyptian government.

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