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Rice Meets Egypt's Mubarak, Hears Complaints From Liberal Activists


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Wednesday in Cairo, and then met with liberal activists who complained about Cairo's efforts to stifle political activism.

Aides to Rice said the meeting with Mr. Mubarak centered on the surprise electoral win by the Islamist Hamas movement in the Palestinian territories last month, and on Iran's nuclear program.

After the talks, Rice told a group of liberal activists that she will continue to press Mr. Mubarak to implement reforms that he promised during last year's presidential election.

One of the Egyptian attendees is a close ally of liberal leader Ayman Nour, who was jailed last year on forgery charges. The United States has repeatedly called for Nour's release.

Rice was due in Saudi Arabia late Wednesday, before visiting the United Arab Emirates on Thursday.

Rice's Middle East tour is aimed at convincing Arab governments to take a tough stand against Hamas and withhold funding to the Palestinian government when Hamas forms a Cabinet.

But Tuesday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the United States should give Hamas more time to change its anti-Israeli political doctrine before cutting off funding.

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