The delegation, which included two generals, met Israeli military leaders at the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv, the daily said on Friday.

  

An Israeli Defence Ministry spokesman would not comment on the report.

  

Haaretz said the talks focused mainly on how to prevent arms smuggling through tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, both before and after the Israeli pullout, planned by the end of next year.

 

The meeting was the first of three planned during a discreet visit to Egypt at the beginning of July by Amos Gilad, a reserve general who is Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz's top adviser.

 

Border control

  

Gilad reportedly had talks with the Egyptian intelligence chief, General Umar Sulayman, on the question of whether Israel can cede control of the border area once its occupation ends.

  

Mofaz warned in late June that Israel would not leave the border buffer zone without Egyptian guarantees that smuggling of arms through underground tunnels would cease.

  

He said, however, that he believed "Egypt's intentions" regarding Gaza were "sincere".

  

Cairo has offered to help the Palestinian Authority maintain order after the Israelis dismantle all 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza and withdraw their troops from the territory.

  

The Israeli government approved Sharon's plan in principle in June.