Mubarak: Olmert should 'forget about' talks with Saudi officials
Egyptian President: Saudi Arabians barred from meeting with Israelis due to religious pressure groups.
Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak has said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who called in April for a regional conference with Arab leaders, should "forget about" holding talks with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah.
In an interview with Israeli television, a transcript of which was published by Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper, Mubarak said circumstances in conservative Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites, prevented the Saudi monarch meeting Olmert.
"Forget about meeting with the king... The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has circumstances that differ from those of any other state. They have holy lands and men of religion," Mubarak said.
Olmert called in April for a regional conference with Arab leaders, singling out King Abdullah, for talks on an Arab peace plan championed by Saudi Arabia five years ago and renewed at an Arab summit in Riyadh in March.
But Saudi Arabia rejected the call, and diplomats said it had made clear to the United States that it would not be prepared to take part in meetings with Israel without a commitment from the Jewish state to accept the peace plan.
The plan offers Israel normal ties with all Arab states in return for full withdrawal from the lands it seized in the 1967 Six Day War, creation of a Palestinian state and a "just solution" for Palestinian refugees.
Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic relations.
In the interview, Mubarak also said that he believed Hamas had not planned to take control of the Gaza Strip. Hamas's armed wing defeated rival Fatah forces in a civil war and took control of the coastal strip just over two weeks ago.
"My personal opinion, I don't think Hamas intended to take over the Gaza Strip, but rather things got out of its control," Mubarak said. "I could be wrong, but my assessment is that they took some steps... and things reached the extent we're at now."