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Cairo vehemently opposes the deployment of an international peacekeeping force in the Gaza Strip, Egypt's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman told a delegation of MKs from the left-wing Meretz party in Cairo Sunday.

Suleiman said Egypt fears such a deployment would seem an admission it is incapable of controlling the border.

He said of the idea "it is neither technically nor politically easy, and it is impractical."

Cairo has also requested that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas cease calls for a peacekeeping force. Abbas has recently declared interest in such a force being deployed both in Gaza and in the West Bank. Abbas mentioned the conflict zone of Darfur in Sudan as a precedent.

Gaza's border with Egypt is its only direct land link with the Arab world and is essential for the movement of goods and people. The Rafah crossing along the border has been mainly closed since Hamas' takeover of the coastal strip in mid-June.

Suleiman stressed that Hamas is against the deployment of an international force, in which he said Germany and the United States would not participate. In any event, peacekeepers should not be sent to Gaza without also being sent to the West Bank, he added.

The Meretz MKs pushed for the deployment of peacekeepers in Gaza at the Cairo meeting, and suggested Arab States could help man the force. It would be established by European states, and sponsored by the United Nations, they said.

MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) told Haaretz "this proposal is for the good of the Palestinians and for the good of Israel. It will bring an end to Qassam fire on Sderot, and will stabilize the situation in the Gaza Strip." Gal-On was referring to Palestinian rocket attacks on the Israeli town across the border from Gaza.