Mubarak: Pressure on Hamas Blocked Shalit Deal

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak yesterday told the Cairo daily Al Ahram that he had drafted an agreement for the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, but that it had been scuttled by outside pressure on Hamas.

"I would not be revealing any secrets by saying I had written portions of a dignified resolution to the soldier crisis," Mubarak said in the interview.

According to the Egyptian leader, Israel promised to release numerous Palestinian prisoners, and Hamas leader Khaled Meshal and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas had both been told. However, the agreement was not implemented due to pressure on Hamas.

"Then Hamas was pressured and entities I do not want to name intervened in the mediation. This blocked the impending agreement," Mubarak said.

Meshal denied at a press conference on Monday that external entities such as Syria or Iran were making decisions for Hamas. He also said Shalit must be released as part of a prisoner swap and thanked Egypt for its efforts.

In other developments yesterday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met for the first time with Shalit's parents, 17 days after their son was abducted.

According to sources in the Prime Minister's Office, the meeting with the family was "charged and heavy," and the atmosphere was unpleasant.

Olmert reiterated his opposition to releasing Palestinians prisoners in exchange for Gilad's return, while the parents presented their conflicting stance.

Noam Shalit, Gilad's father, voiced his support for a prisoner swap last week for the first time.

"At the end of the day, everything has its price. I don't think that Gilad will be released without a price, it doesn't suit the Middle East," Noam Shalit said last Thursday. "I don't know what they're waiting for. I want to believe that there is some sort of secret channel that we aren't being told about, for obvious reasons, and I am asking to be kept informed, insofar as possible, so I can see what kind of dynamic toward solving this crisis is taking place," he continued.

He said that Gilad's mother, Aviva, was having difficulty coping and was focusing on Gilad's physical condition rather than on the diplomatic and military measures to obtain his release.

PMO chief of staff Yoram Turbowicz received word of events on Israel's northern border minutes into the meeting. The Shalits were not given an early report of the incident.