Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss Egypt's upcoming elections with top officials in his first visit since Hosni Mubarak stepped down.
Gates is expected to convey U.S. hopes for a delay in the elections by offering historical examples of countries that waited longer and had better outcomes as a result. He will meet with Prime Minister Essam Sharaf on Wednesday and with the head of Egypt’s ruling military council, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi on Thursday.
A senior defense official told Reuters that Gates will be in “listening mode” during the Egypt trip to offer technical assistance ahead of the planned parliamentary elections in September.
A landmark number of Egyptian voters cast ballots last week to approve a referendum to change the constitution, which had been suspended by the ruling military council after Mubarak stepped down. The changes, which include making it easier to run for president and imposing a presidential term limit, were passed with 77 percent of the vote. About 40 percent of Egypt’s eligible voters participated.
Gates will also be updating the Egyptians on the operation in Libya. "The Egyptians obviously have great concerns not only because Libya's next door but because the number of Egyptians -- two million Egyptians in Libya," the official told Reuters.
Yochi Dreazen contributed contributed to this article.