Hosni MubarakMr. President, Mrs. Mubarak, your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.
We are always delighted to welcome you, Mr. President, and Mrs. Mubarak, to no.10 Downing Street. You are among our very favourite visitors because we all know you as particularly good and close friends of this country, as we are of Egypt. We also extend a very warm welcome to all the members of your distinguished delegation. They will find themselves among many good friends here and have a very warm welcome.
One of the things we most admire in you, Mr. President, is your incredible energy. You come here at the end of a whirlwind tour of Oman, North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union. That would tax most people. But you are as full of beans as ever. My own staff sometimes complain of the speed at which Thatcher-tours moves round the world. But [end p1184] compared with you, we are still in the age of steam.
Our only rival, Mr. President, is Fernando CollorThe new President of Brazil. I read that he pilots a jet fighter, rides a high powered motorbike, dives in a submarine, and was only stopped from parachuting out of an aircraft by a public appeal from his mother. Well, I was in a submarine last week: and I know you still play squash regularly, Mr. President. But if they are going to make parachuting a condition of being President or Prime Minister, I think we might both face difficulties—although I am of course hoping to pilot the British economy to a soft landing!
May I also say a particular word of welcome to your ambassador. We are fortunate to have many good ambassadors in London. But he and his wife are absolutely outstanding and among the most popular and respected ambassadors here. You are very fortunate and so are we. Only last week, we had the inaugural dinner of the [end p1185] British-Egyptian society and that is a tribute to the excellent work which the ambassador does to keep our relations in good repair.
Mr. President, after the sort of countries you have visited recently, you certainly will not want a long speech: I am sure you got plenty of those in North Korea. I really just want to say thank you for the tremendous contribution which you make, not just through your leadership in Egypt itself, but in the region and indeed in the world.
Thanks to you, Egypt's reputation on the world stage could hardly be higher. Egypt is one of the great civilizations of the world and we are delighted that her influence is once again being felt so strongly, in particular in the Middle East and in Africa, because of your role as chairman of the organisation of African unity. [end p1186]
These are very difficult and turbulent times in the Middle East and more than ever we need the stability, moderation and sound sense which Egypt brings to the region's affairs. We know how much you want to see peace in the Middle East, and so do we. We very much agree with you about the dangers which could arise from the spread of very sophisticated and unpleasant weapons. We value your judgement on what needs to be done to bring peace closer.
We know the difficult economic problems which Egypt faces and we will continue to provide such help and support as we can to help you overcome them and realise your country's great potential. We have here this evening representatives of some of our great companies who do business with Egypt and want to see even more trade between us. There are also representatives of our cultural life who have close association with Egypt. All of us here are committed to the goal of the best possible relations between Britain and Egypt. [end p1187]
Talking of goals, Mr. President, brings me to perhaps the most important event in Anglo-Egyptian relations in the next few weeks. I am referring of course to the fact that our football teams will be meeting in the world cup in Italy. I am sure that it will be an excellent game. But win or lose, we know that Britain and Egypt will remain on the same side in so much else as close friends and allies.
It is in that spirit that I ask you all to rise and drink a toast to the President of Egypt and Mrs. Mubarak, to the success and prosperity of the people of Egypt, and to ever better relations between our two countries and peoples.