Thursday, October 21, 2004

Israel-Egypt rift

Israel and Egypt are engaged in a diplomatic disagreement:

A provision in the U.S.-brokered 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt moved into sharp focus last week, putting senior Egyptian and Israeli officials at loggerheads over each country's security responsibilities in the Sinai Peninsula after three terrorist bombs killed 34 persons, including 13 Israelis celebrating a Jewish holiday, on Egypt's side of the border.

Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Israeli Knesset's powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said Egypt was "partially responsible" for the Oct. 7 attacks because of its long-term laxity, although he acknowledged that the violence was damaging to Egypt's tourism trade.

In a Washington Times interview, Mr. Steinitz went so far as to accuse Egypt of deliberately failing to prevent rampant arms and explosives smuggling in the past four years and suggested that Egypt was trying to destabilize Israel and sap its strength by encouraging Palestinian-Israeli bloodshed.

Osama El-Baz, chief adviser to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, rejected the charges as "malicious, bad-intentioned and false," but said the accusations would not deflect Egypt from its commitment to combat terrorism.

Cairo authorities initially had tried to dismiss the bombings as explosions of cooking-gas canisters.

In cautious language, Mr. El-Baz offered to improve Egyptian-Israeli links for preventing terrorism.

"We believe we can improve things through some increased cooperation in certain areas," he said.

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