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Mubarak: Israel elections may delay prisoner exchange

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-10-31

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, mediating a prisoner exchange plan between Hamas and Israel, said Thursday that Israel's elections might delay the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit's release.

Israel's decision to hold elections in February may delay the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in remarks published on Thursday.
  
"These matters take time ... You must be patient and have forbearance, because you are approaching a change in government, and this may delay" Shalit's release," state news agency MENA quoted him as saying in an interview to be published by Israel's Yediot Aharanot daily on Friday.
  
When the interviewer reminded him that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would remain in office for three more months, Mubarak said "no one wants to take a decision on the (Palestinian prisoners)."
  
"The issue is tied to the Palestinian prisoners. This is the problem that is present in the discussions," Mubarak said.
  
Egypt has been mediating between Israel and Hamas, which has been holding Shalit after militants from Gaza captured him in a cross-border raid in 2006.
  
Hamas has demanded 1,400 Palestinin prisoners in exchange for Shalit, including about 450 prisoners implicated in attacks against Israelis. Israel holds more than 11,000 Palestinian prisoners, the Palestinian Authority says.
  
Mubarak said Shalit was in good health and Hamas would not benefit from harming him, but warned of the involvement of too many intermediaries in efforts to release Shalit.
  
"The best advice for the Israeli side (is) don't scatter your efforts. The increase in intermediaries is not in the best interests of the issue," he said, adding that he would "personally applaud" any intermediary who succeeded.
  
The Egyptian-brokered negotiations on a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas have made little progress so far, as the Israeli government remains reluctant to release prisoners "with blood on their hands."
  
Mubarak has argued against suggestions that Egypt has failed as a mediator. "There is no such thing called 'failure' so long as we are working and making an effort," MENA quoted him as saying.
  
In extracts from the same interview published in Israel on Thursday morning, Mubarak said said he believed Shalit was in good health and not being mistreated.
  
"Under no circumstances should he be mistreated," he said. "Palestinians are not stupid. They must seriously consider what the consequences would be if they kill him.
  
"If anything happens to him, Israel will not free a single prisoner."

Date created : 2008-10-31

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