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Egyptian ambassador to the Arab League Tasheen Mohamed Basheer, on leave from his post for a year of study at Harvard's Center for International Affairs, doesn't believe in separating morality from politics.
"At the heart of the (Middle Eastern) problem is a clash between two persecuted peoples," Basheer, who will return to his job next year, said. "It doesn't serve any constructive purpose to say who bleeds more--it's enough to say that one is bleeding," he added.
Basheer, a close friend and adviser of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, emphasizes that an eventual peace settlement between Israel and the Arabs must be fair to both sides. That means, Basheer said, that the final agreement should include provisions allowing the creation of an independent Palestinian state in occupied Israeli territory.
"The end of the Israeli occupation and the provision for a homeland for the Palestinians are the essential elements to be dealt with in the peace process," Basheer said.
Emphasizing that the Mid-East question is a moral problem as well as a political one, Basheer said he found it hard to believe that the Israelies, once persecuted themselves, could "deny" another people their human rights.
"Israel must not be allowed to escape the morality of the issue," Basheer said.
Originally asked to come to the Center for International Affairs in 1976, Basheer postponed the fellowship until he felt he could leave the Egyptian cabinet. The year abroad will serve as an opportunity "to do some brainwork and writing," Basheer said.
He added that the West, the United States in particular, has a vital role to play in the Mid-East peace process.
Basheer said he "welcomed" the efforts of President Carter, who mediated the Camp David agreement between Egypt and Israel, and added that the "courage" of other Americans, including former United Nations ambassador Andrew Young, was appreciated in Egypt. Young resigned his position earlier this year after a controversial meeting with PLO leaders.
Stressing that the situation is far from hopeless, Basheer did add that there was little prospect of a quick peace in the Middle East.
"There should be no excuses about peace, no evasions, no delays," Basheer said. "We are not living in a world of suicide--We must overcome this very difficult problem.
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