Egypt's Suleiman: Mubarak may visit Israel after disengagement
Egyptian intelligence chief meets FM Shalom, PA leaders; Weisglass, Erekat discuss leaders' meeting next week.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak may visit Israel once the disengagement is complete, Egypt's intelligence chief Omar Mahmud Suleiman said on Wednesday in his meeting with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom in Jerusalem.
"After the disengagement there could be a good opportunity to hold the visit," Suleiman said. If such a visit takes place, it will be Mubarak's second visit to Israel as president, his last brief visit being to attend the funeral of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995
Suleiman's announcement indicates the importance the Egyptians are giving the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip and their desire to encourage Israel in its carrying out.
During their meeting, Shalom also said Israel wished to coordinate the pullout with the Palestinians but that it intended to use force if attacks are staged against it from zones it will have evacuated.
Suleiman reiterated Egypt's willingness to help in the disengagement, including actively taking part by sending observers to the Gaza Strip during the evacuation.
The two sides have nevertheless not reached an agreement on the posting of advanced Egyptian forces along the border with the Gaza Strip and Israel.
Suleiman opened his visit in a series of meetings with the leaders of the Palestinian Authority. During the meetings, Suleiman said Egypt was interested in strengthening the PA's securiyt services ahead of the pullout, fearing looting of evacuated houses and loss of control that could lead to firing on Israel Defense Forces during the pullout.
Weisglass, Erekat meet to discuss leaders' meetingAlso on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's senior advisor Dov Weisglass and Palestinian Authority Chief of Negotiations Department Saeb Erekat met to finalize the agenda of the meeting between Sharon and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, planned for next Tuesday.
One of the issues to top the leaders' meeting will be the coordination of the disengagement plan. The Palestinians have demanded that Israel hand them full control over the land and air crossings into the Gaza Strip. The disengagement could not be complete, Erekat said, unless the PA is given control over the land border crossings and the airport in the Strip.
The Palestinians are also demanding Israel accelerate the implementation of the accords agreed on during February's Sharm el-Sheikh summit. Palestinian officials believed that in view of the progress made ahead of the leaders' meeting, Israel will offer the Palestinian leader several gestures of goodwill.