U.S. could have averted bombing, Mubarak says

April 05, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said yesterday that the United States could have prevented the bombing of the World Trade Center if U.S. officials had heeded his country's warnings about an Islamic fundamentalist network in the United States.

But he suggested that the information provided by Egypt related generally to activities by individuals in the United States, not that Egypt had passed on specific information foreshadowing the bombing.

Mr. Mubarak called on the new administration to take a more active role in stemming international terrorism, particularly activities inspired by Islamic fundamentalist groups.

He blamed the current violence in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East in part on Iran and in part on veterans who fought with Afghan guerrillas as part of the U.S.-backed war against the Soviet-backed communist government in Kabul.

He offered new details about the background of Mahmud Abouhalima, a suspect in the World Trade Center bombing who was captured in Egypt and flown back to the United States two weeks ago.

Mr. Mubarak disclosed that the suspect said during his interrogation by the Egyptian authorities that he had quarreled with Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian fundamentalist cleric for whom he served as a driver and aide.

In an hourlong interview, a day after his arrival in Washington, Mr. Mubarak also said he would ask President Clinton when they meet for the first time tomorrow to urge Israel to make another gesture to help resolve the problem of the 400 Palestinians deported to Lebanon in December.

But Mr. Mubarak's most surprising remarks concerned the bombing. "It could have been prevented if you listened to our advice," he said. Asked whether the United States had been given clear information about the activities of individuals and specific mosques, he added: "That's right. And this information has been exchanged with American intelligence."

Mr. Mubarak declined to give details of what information had been passed on or how the U.S. authorities could have used it.

But other senior Egyptian officials said that several months ago, they had given the United States detailed warnings about the activities and inflammatory oratory of Mr. Abdel-Rahman and his operation in New Jersey, and about mosques in New York, through diplomatic and intelligence channels.

U.S. authorities have not publicly linked Mr. Abdel-Rahman with the trade center bombing, nor has it been disclosed whether he has been questioned in the case.

The United States and Egypt have an extremely close intelligence-sharing relationship, and the embassy in Cairo is used by the CIA and its sister intelligence agencies as the information-gathering hub for much of the Middle East.

Despite the repeated warnings from Egypt, U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials have taken a somewhat sanguine view about the threat posed by Mr. Abdel-Rahman and his followers.

In an interview last month, senior government analysts said they believed that his role in violent acts was limited to exhortation. The CIA declined to comment yesterday on Mr. Mubarak's assertions.

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