Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's security adviser Jibril Rajoub said in an interview published on Thursday that the Egyptians are willing to prepare Palestinians for taking over security responsibilities in the Gaza Strip should Israel pull out.  

Rajoub told the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam that this pledge was conveyed to the Palestinian Authority by Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

Suleiman "told president Yasser Arafat that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was committed to rehabilitating and training the Palestinian security services so that they could meet the demands of future developments," Rajoub told the newspaper.

He was referring to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's so-called disengagement plan, which includes unilateral steps such as pulling out from most of the Gaza Strip and building the separation barrier in the West Bank.

Cairo meeting

Rajoub's announcement comes as Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom was meeting with Egyptian officials in Cairo to discuss Egypt's role in guaranteeing security in the flashpoint Gaza Strip after a possible pull-out.

Egypt has echoed the Palestinian opposition to a withdrawal outside the framework of a negotiated agreement.

Rajoub stressed that Egypt "insists on withdrawal planned in coordination with the Palestinian Authority and says it is ready to help it in enforcing law and order in the event of a pull-out from the Gaza Strip".

Suleiman met with Sharon on Monday to discuss the details of the disengagement plan.