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EGYPT SEEKS THE RETURN OF RADICAL SHEIK FOR TRIAL

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The Egyptian government asked Washington on Sunday to extradite Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the radical Muslim cleric whose followers are blamed for terrorism at home and in the United States.

But the sheik could delay the process for months or even more than a year with appeals by lawyers in the United States and Egypt.Abdel-Rahman's followers are accused of conducting a violent crusade to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak's secular government and have been linked to the Feb. 26 World Trade Center bombing and an alleged plot to bomb other targets in New York.

Egypt has been reluctant to bring the 55-year-old sheik home for trial, however, fearing his jailing in Egypt could worsen the extremists' campaign to replace Mubarak's government with Islamic fundamentalist rule.

He faces retrial in Egypt for 1989 anti-government riots in the city of Fayoum, about 80 miles southeast of Cairo.

Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said he requested the extradition of Abdel-Rahman during a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Robert Pelletreau.

In Washington, Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the United States would act promptly to meet the request. But he expected there would be legal objections, which could delay extradition for months.

As recently as April, Mubarak was quoted as saying about Abdel-Rahman's exile in the United States: "You accepted him in your country - keep him."

But when Abdel-Rahman was jailed Friday in the United States, it was for allegedly violating immigration laws, not for alleged connection to bombing plots.

That left Egypt facing the prospect that Abdel-Rahman, either staying in the United States or deported to a third country, could persist in preaching the violent demise of Mubarak.

In the past two years, more than 180 people have died in the campaign blamed on Abdel-Rahman's followers in the al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, or Islamic Group. The violence has devastated Egypt's tourism industry, its major source of foreign currency.

In the southern Egyptian city of Assiut, a hotbed of Muslim extremism, a militant leader told reporters that Abdel-Rahman's extradition will be avenged with attacks against Egyptian officials and other targets. He spoke on condition of anonymity.