The Israeli Embassy in Cairo said on Sunday that a delegation of elderly Egyptian-born Jews was forced to cancel a visit to Egypt because they were unable to find accommodation following a local media storm over their trip.

Israeli press attache Shani Cooper-Zubida says that the group had just come to visit Jewish sites in Egypt and hear a lecture by the Israeli ambassador.

"Unfortunately they had to cancel the visit two days ago because they had a lot of difficulties arranging their stay here," she told The Associated Press Sunday. "After the negative publicity in the Egyptian media, they just couldn't."

The visit was described in the Egyptian press as a conference with an agenda that included demanding the return of properties once owned by Jews in Egypt, a charge denied by the delegation.

Dr. Gabriel Rosenbaum, director of the Israeli Academic Center in Cairo who was scheduled to give a lecture to the delegation, said the whole event was grossly mispresented in the Egyptian media as a conference rather than just a visit.

"The average age of these people was between 70 and 80, not all of them in good health condition," he said. "Before they die, they just wanted to come see Egypt, to see the synagogues, to see maybe the tombs of their fathers and then go away."

He said that plenty of tourists, students and other delegations from Israel have visited Egypt and his center in the past without any incident.

Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement in 1979, but a steady campaign against the normalization of cultural and social relations by many intellectuals, journalists and others has prevented relations from warming.

The relationship's constant ups and downs are mainly just in the press and sometimes with the authorities, said Rosenbaum, describing the current time as a low point with the press.