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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 January 2005, 17:33 GMT
Egypt urges Israel to negotiate
By Heba Saleh
BBC News, Cairo

Militants in Gaza prepare a roadside bomb
Israel says attacks by militants must end before talks
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has called on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to resume contacts with the new Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr Sharon refuses to meet Mr Abbas before he moves against militant groups who killed six Israelis on Thursday.

Mr Mubarak said that Israel should not react to acts of violence by freezing contacts with the Palestinians.

He said experience showed that it was not possible to insist all violence should stop before talks could start.

The Egyptian government has been hoping that the change in the Palestinian leadership following the death of Yasser Arafat would revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

'Hasty' move

Mr Mubarak argued that if conditions were to improve for the Palestinian people, "they will themselves call for violence to stop".

He urged the Israeli prime minister to "continue the peace process and negotiate" with the Palestinians.

Criticism of Mr Sharon also came from the Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

A key negotiator with Israel, he is reported to have said that Mr Sharon had been hasty in his decision to freeze all contacts with the Palestinian Authority.

These remarks came as Egyptian officials prepared to receive an Israeli envoy who had come seeking Egyptian pressure on the Palestinians to curb militant attacks.

Egyptian-Israeli relations have warmed in recent weeks.

It is largely a reflection of Cairo's hope that Arafat's passing created an opportunity for a fresh start in Middle East peacemaking.

Egyptians, however, like most Arabs, remain sceptical.

To many in the region, Israel's decision to suspend contacts with the new Palestinian leader even before he was sworn in was proof that it is not serious about the quest for peace.


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