Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was unable to secure the release of a U.S.-Israeli man being held in Egypt on charges of spying, despite lobbying the Cairo's interim leaders during his two-day visit.
Egypt has accused Ilan Grapel, 27, of being a Mossad agent - a claim Israel denies. He has been held since June 12.
Panetta said the U.S. has expressed concern about his treatment, and continued detention. Panetta said he is confident that the interim military leadership in Egypt will "deal with that fairly," but he did not indicate that he won any specific promise for Grapel's release.
Grapel is a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen who said he was working for a Cairo legal aid project when he was arrested. Published reports have suggested that he is ill and that Egypt's government was responding to appeals for his release. But there have been no specific promises, or any public suggestion his release might be tied to Panetta's visit in an effort to curry support from the U.S.
The United States is worried about increasingly public Egyptian displays of hostility to Israel. It was considered unlikely by some officials that Egypt would choose Panetta's visit as the time to release Grapel. But Panetta did not totally close the door when asked about the issue ahead of his brief visit.
"We have made our concerns known to Egypt about holding that individual and we would hope that ... they will take steps to release that individual," Panetta told reporters while in Tel Aviv on Monday.
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