Egypt's Mubarak to EU: Hamas Must Not Be Allowed to Win in Gaza

Comment made as Hamas sent representatives to Cairo to discuss possible cease-fire with Israel.

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Hamas must not be allowed to win its conflict with the IDF, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Monday told a delegation of European foreign ministers in a closed conversation.

The comment occurred even as Hamas, for the first time since the fighting began, sent representatives to Cairo to discuss a cease-fire. Following a meeting with Egyptian intelligence officials, Hamas officials said they had received an Egyptian proposal and would consider it.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday told French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was visiting Jerusalem, that Israel would not honor a cease-fire imposed by the UN Security Council without its consent. Arab states are currently pushing for a Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire.

Israel is mainly pinning its hopes on the United States and France to thwart the Arab effort in the Security Council. However, it has sent messages to several Security Council members informing them that Israel will not accept an imposed cease-fire, and especially that it will not accept any resolution that places Israel and Hamas on the same level by calling for both to cease their fire impartially.

The European foreign ministers, headed by Karel Schwarzenberg of the Czech Republic, whose country currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency, came to Jerusalem after visiting Cairo, and briefed Livni on their meeting with Mubarak. Inter alia, they reportedly told her that Mubarak had said Hamas "must not be allowed to emerge from the fighting with the upper hand."

Regarding Israel's demand that Egypt halt arms smuggling from its territory into Gaza as part of any cease-fire agreement, the ministers said Mubarak denied that any such smuggling takes place. He insisted that the weapons arrive not via tunnels from Sinai, but in barrels thrown overboard from ships passing near Gaza's coast.

The ministers told Livni it is imperative to achieve a cease-fire as soon as possible, so as to enable peace talks between Israel and the PA to resume. They also asked for Israel's aid in sending humanitarian assistance into Gaza, to which Livni agreed.

On another issue, Israel asked France to press the Red Cross to arrange to visit kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who is held by Hamas in Gaza. Shalit holds dual French-Israeli citizenship. Sarkozy will apparently raise this issue with Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has influence with Hamas' Damascus-based political wing, when he meets him today in Damascus.

Livni also told the European foreign ministers that Israel "would not be able to ignore the Shalit issue in the framework of any cease-fire."

The Egyptian cease-fire proposal would require Israel to end its military operation and withdraw from Gaza, while Hamas would have to end rocket fire into Israel. The border crossings into Gaza would reopen, but PA officials would be stationed at the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

In addition, Egypt is demanding that Hamas resume reconciliation talks with Fatah.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas' political wing, told Reuters that Hamas was open to a truce, but said taht any proposal must guarantee an Israeli withdrawal and an end to the blockade of Gaza.

"Any initiative not based on ending the aggression, opening the border crossings and an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip has no chance of succeeding," he said.

Meanwhile, Turkish Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin charged in Antalya on Saturday that "Israel is the world's greatest terrorist provocateur. The war on terror cannot succeed as long as Israel continues its provocations."

He was followed on Sunday by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who, during a visit to Saudi Arabia, blamed Israel for the outbreak of fighting. "Hamas observed the truce for six months, but Israel did not honor the agreement to lift the embargo on Gaza," he said. "People in Gaza live in a sort of prison. Essentially, all of Palestine is a prison."

Also on Sunday, Jordanian Prime Minister Nader Dahabi said Jordan was liable to reconsider its relations with Israel in light of the Gaza operation.



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