Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said yesterday that he hoped the pullout from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria would end peacefully, adding that disengagement would favorably affect not only relations between Israel and the Palestinians, but also Israel's relations with the international community. He was speaking at his palace in Cairo to a delegation from the Labor Party, including former prime minister Ehud Barak, and MKs Danny Yatom and Colette Avital.
Mubarak said that if the economic situation in the Palestinian Authority improves, the Palestinians will have no interest in renewing terror attacks after the disengagement.
The breakfast reception was also attended by Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman.
When the topic of Iraq came up, Mubarak said that he had warned U.S. President George Bush on the eve of the war not to invade Iraq, because "it will be a war without end, and indeed I was right." However, Mubarak said, the U.S. must not withdraw at this time.
The Egyptian president was asked by Yatom if he intends to visit Israel in November, for the memorial ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. Mubarak said he would like very much to participate, but may not be able to attend, because of matters related to the elections in Egypt.
On the subject of Lebanon, Mubarak said that it is not possible to disarm Hezbollah all at once, only by gradually incorporating the movement into Lebanon's political system. Similarly, Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] will not be able to disarm Hamas overnight but must incorporate it into the Palestinian political system.
In regard to Iran's new extremist leadership, Mubarak said, "Look at Sharon. He was considered very extremist, and look what he's doing."
The Egyptian president and his ministers promised to tightly monitor the Philadelphi route, to prevent the smuggling of arms into the Gaza Strip after the pullout. No seal is hermetic, he said, but "we will do all we can." Mubarak said Israel must help Abu Mazen solidify his rule. Ehud Barak said that public support could actually weaken him, and Mubarak responded that easing restrictions on daily life for the Palestinians, at the Karni crossing and the Gaza port, will help Abu Mazen. Don't turn Gaza into a prison after disengagement, Mubarak said.
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