Anti-American demonstrations erupted Wednesday in Cairo for the second time in four days, and leaders of small opposition groups met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to ask that he sever diplomatic relations with Israel and the United States.
Government sources said Mubarak rejected the request and told the leaders of the five opposition parties that Egypt must respect its peace treaty with Israel and cannot afford to break its ties to the United States.
While the meeting was taking place, more than 1,000 students at Ein Shams University, Cairo’s second largest, took to the streets to protest the U.S. capture last Thursday of an Egyptian airliner carrying the hijackers of the cruise ship Achille Lauro to Tunisia.
The protesters--defying a ban on demonstrations--marched from their campus to nearby Abassiya Square, where they chanted anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans. Ranks of riot policemen looked on.
“Reagan, you animal, Egyptians are not cowards,” the students chanted. “Egypt is an Arab country, not an American protectorate.”
“Zionists are the enemy of God,” they chanted, over and over again.
The protesters made no attempt to break through the police lines, and no violence was reported.
Political analysts said the demonstrations and opposition demands for diplomatic action have created a difficult situation for Mubarak. He is caught between the need to respond to a wave of anti-American sentiment and his dependence on the United States, which will supply Egypt with $2.5 billion in economic and military aid this year.
The five opposition parties, which range from leftist to right-wing fundamentalist, were received by Mubarak for only the second time in two years to discuss the crisis, which has brought U.S-Egyptian relations to a 10-year low.
Ibrahim Shukri, leader of the tiny Socialist Labor Party, said that he and several others asked Mubarak to break relations with both the United States and Israel. Government sources said Mubarak dismissed the suggestion.
Officials here concede that Cairo is too dependent on the United States to take any drastic action, but they said that President Reagan’s refusal to apologize for the airliner incident has put Mubarak in a humiliating and precarious position. They said they expect Egyptian-U.S. ties to be strained for some time.
Egyptians were deeply insulted by the incident because of suggestions that they gave in to terrorism by agreeing to turn over the four hijackers of the Achille Lauro to the Palestine Liberation Organization, which had promised to punish them.
Egypt has said the deal it struck with the terrorists was the only way of freeing the cruise ship’s remaining hostages unharmed and that it resents Washington’s failure to show much gratitude for its role.
Lingering U.S. Attitude
A statement issued over the weekend by U.S. Ambassador Nicholas A. Veliotes did praise Egypt’s role in freeing the hostages, as did a personal letter from Reagan to Mubarak. But Egyptian officials noted that U.S. officials continue to portray the seizure of the Egyptian airliner as a victory against the forces of terrorism.
The situation was not improved by the remarks of the Egyptian plane’s captain, who said Wednesday that the U.S. interceptors threatened to shoot down his plane if he did not land as ordered. Besides the four terrorists and two PLO officials escorting them, the plane carried about 25 Egyptian security agents and crew members.
The crewmen were awarded medals for heroism by Mubarak.