Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Officials from Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia and Mauritania Tour U.S. to Study Role of Legislators in Democracy

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Officials from Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia and Mauritania Tour U.S. to Study Role of Legislators in Democracy

Article excerpt

Officials From Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia and Mauritania Tour U.S. to Study Role of Legislators in Democracy

Official visitors from Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia and Mauritania participated in a U.S. Information Agency project for Arabic-speaking countries to study "The Role of Legislators in the U.S. Democratic Process." The group visited five U.S. cities from May 31 to June 22, arriving first in Washington, DC, then traveling to New York City, Springfield (IL), Houston, and to Portland, where they were hosted by the International Visitor Program of the World Affairs Council of Oregon.

Participants in the study tour included Mohamed Gadallah ElTawil of Egypt, deputy editor-in-chief and parliamentary affairs editor for October Magazine; Moez Boujmil of Tunisia, special adviser, Chamber of Deputies; Ahmed Al-Awadi of Yemen, director of public relations and protocol for the Yemen parliament; Ja'afar Said Basaleh, deputy speaker for the Yemen parliament; and Ahmedou Ould Hamma Khattar of Mauritania, member of parliament. USIA escort interpreters for the group were Taoufik Maged and Galal El-Nahal.

In Portland the group met with the Washington Report at the office of the World Affairs Council of Oregon and provided a review of their activities in Washington, DC, where they studied U.S. Senate procedures and observed the structure and operation of the office of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), met with Time Magazine's congressional correspondent Jay Carney, toured the Library of Congress and its Middle Eastern section, and met with William Danvers of the National Security Council. They also visited several special interest organizations in Washington, including the Arab American Institute, People for the American Way, and Toby Dershowitz and Dr. Raphael Danziger of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC.

Egyptian editor ElTawil told the Washington Report that the meeting with AIPAC representatives proved to be inconsequential. He said, "What we've found out through our meetings with Democrats and Republicans is that democracy differs from one country to another. In Egypt the system is simple, and this might appeal to Americans."

El-Tawil described the democratic process in Washington, DC as "boisterous noise" involving a large number of institutions, especially lobby groups. "If there is any claim that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, I think that is a deliberate mistake," he said. He explained that the claim that there is no democracy in Egypt stems from a mistaken understanding.

"Democracy as a model cannot be imposed on all countries alike," he said. He added that the presence of Israel in the Middle East over the past 50 years has led to a great economic expansion and development for the West, particularly the U. …

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