Top Egyptian general to visit Libyan leaders

In his first major trip abroad as acting head of state, Egypt’s top general is scheduled to fly to Libya on Monday for talks with interim leaders there on the cross-border flow of weapons and the return of Egyptian laborers who fled by the thousands during the Libyan revolution.

Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi’s expected meeting in Tripoli with Libya’s Transitional National Council highlights the important relationship between the two nations in transition and their shared concerns over the proliferation of weapons across the porous border from Libya into Egypt.

“Such a big visit is more than overdue,” an Egyptian Foreign Affairs Ministry official said Sunday. “We cannot have stability on our borders without cooperation.”

Tantawi and Egypt’s other ruling generals have drawn criticism at home for what opponents say has been their reluctance to move toward democratic rule. But Tantawi’s trip was widely seen here as essential to repairing economic cooperation between the two countries and not as an indication that the general was trying to expand his authority.

“He is making his visit as the head of the military council, which is the institution managing Egypt’s transitional phase,” said Hassan Abu Taleb, an analyst at al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, adding that the trip did not amount to Tantawi trying to assert presidential powers.

About 1 million Egyptians were working in the oil-rich North African nation when the uprising against the late authoritarian leader, Moammar Gaddafi, began in February. Egyptians have depended heavily on the labor market in Libya for work, and remittances from Libya have been a vital part of the Egyptian economy, which is now faltering.

“We have hundreds of thousands of Egyptians who want to return to Libya to participate in rebuilding the country,” said the Egyptian Foreign Affairs Ministry official, who was not authorized to speak publicly. “Libya needs manpower for reconstruction, and we are the primary candidate.”

Tantawi is to travel to Libya with eight cabinet members, including the ministers of foreign affairs, electricity and labor. He is scheduled to meet with the head of the transitional council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, as well as the Libyan prime minister, Abdurrahim el-Keib, and other Libyan cabinet ministers.

(Source: Washington Post)

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