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Reformer Released In Egypt

After serving forty-two days in prison, Ayman Nour, the head of Egypt's opposition Tomorrow Party, was released from prison. He is free on bail.

Mr. Nour was arrested in late January on charges that he falsified petitions that resulted in the legalization of his political party. But independent Egyptian lawyers saY the charges against him are groundless. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says that the U.S. welcomes Ayman Nour's release:

"We're pleased that Mr. Nour is free to continue his work and to receive the medical attention that he needs and we look forward to further steps that the Egyptian government will take in the coming months to expand political participation in Egyptian society."

Egypt's parliament has approved a constitutional amendment that would allow the first multi-candidate presidential election. "Egypt needs more freedom and democracy," says Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt since 1981.

The presidential election is expected to be held in September. Ayman Nour says he will be a candidate. But he told reporters that he was afraid that Mr. Mubarak's National Democratic Party will try to stop him. Mr. Nour vows to run in the presidential election -- as he put it -- "under any circumstances."

President George W. Bush says the United States and its allies are urging Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries to open up their political systems:

"While our expectations must be realistic, our ideals must be firm and they must be clear. We must expect higher standards from our friends and partners in the Middle East."

Mr. Bush said, "the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.