Egyptian President Mubarak
Chaney. Requested support
Egypt told U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney it supported efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East but slammed the West for turning a blind eye to Israel's atomic program, one official said.
Cheney was in Cairo as part of a Middle East tour that includes Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. He held talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on several subjects, including a standoff between the West and Iran over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
"The last thing we need in the Middle East is a nuclear weapon arms race," presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad said.
"But we cannot ignore Egyptian and Arab world public opinion (that refuses) to... make all this fuss about the Iranian nuclear program while turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the Israeli nuclear program and arsenal," he added.
Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons but has never confirmed or denied their existence and is not a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The West suspects Iran is trying to build nuclear bombs but Iran, one of the world's top oil producers, says it only wants to develop its nuclear capability to produce electricity.
The latest crisis was sparked by Iran's decision to resume nuclear research which could have civilian or military uses. The United States and some EU states want the matter referred to the U.N. Security Council, where Tehran could face sanctions.
Tensions between Syria, Lebanon also discussed
Egypt, who is a member of the governing board of the U.N. Nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said it wants to see the standoff ended by dialogue.
Referral to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions, depends on a vote by the 35-nation IAEA board.
Awad said Cheney's request for Egypt's support was part of an international effort by the United States and Europe.
Egypt, which has fought four wars with Israel, has long campaigned for making the Middle East free of nuclear weapons and complains that the West ignores Israel's nuclear capability.
Cheney did not speak to reporters in Cairo, but Awad said talks also covered tensions between Syria and Lebanon over last year's assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. A U.N. probe into Hariri's death has implicated Syrian officials.