Mubarak demands full Gaza pullout

Egyptian President Husni Mubarak has demanded a full Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and creation of a border buffer zone in his first ever talks with Israel's defence minister.

    Mubarak wants the pullout concluded as soon as possible

    The talks on Thursday between Mubarak and Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz follow a 8 February summit in Sharm al-Shaikh, where the Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to cease four years of bloodshed.

    They also come in advance of Egyptian-hosted talks next week in Cairo between all Palestinian resistance factions and the Palestinian Authority, whose president, Mahmud Abbas, said on Thursday a deal could result in the groups agreeing to a formal halting of attacks against Israel.

    Egypt has offered to deploy 750 national guards along its border with the Gaza Strip to tighten security as Israel's Gaza withdrawal plan takes place.

    Egypt says it will deploy its forces only after Israel pulls its troops out of a buffer zone, known to Arabs as the Salah al-Din corridor and to Israel as the Philadelphi corridor.

    Border flashpoint

    "Egypt is looking for a comprehensive withdrawal from Gaza including Philadelphi corridor," Egyptian presidential spokesman Sulaiman Awad said, referring to the Israeli-controlled buffer zone, which has been a scene of intense fighting during the last four years of violence.

    Egypt offered to deploy forces
    along its border with Gaza

    Sharon has pledged to withdraw Israeli forces and settlements from the volatile Gaza Strip, a key part of the US-backed road map for Middle East peace.

    Mubarak met Mofaz after Abbas asked Egypt to coax Israel to comply with agreements from the summit, including the Israeli handover of West Bank towns and release of Palestinian prisoners.

    "President Mubarak believes the obstacles that bar the implementation of Sharm al-Shaikh understanding are technical issues which can be solved if the two sides enjoy good intentions," Awad said after the talks.

    Mubarak told Mofaz that Israel's withdrawal from Palestinian cities, transfer of power to the Palestinian Authority, and release of prisoners should be concluded as soon as possible.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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