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Middle east

Israel's Netanyahu in Egypt for Iran talks

Latest update : 2009-05-11

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo) arrived in Egypt on Monday to secure Cairo's support over the Iranian nuclear drive, despite differences between the two nations on the Middle East peace process.

AFP - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Egypt on Monday for talks with President Hosni Mubarak on his first trip abroad since taking office in March.
The hawkish premier was expected to seek Egypt's support against the Iranian nuclear drive, despite discord between the two neighbours on the Middle East peace process, before the Israeli leader travels to Washington next week.
US President Barack Obama has vowed to pursue Middle East peacemaking, but Netanyahu has yet to take a clear position on the stagnant peace process and has failed to publicly back the creation of a Palestinian state.
In the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Netanyahu will try to secure the support of Israel's main Arab ally for its campaign to halt arch-foe Iran's nuclear drive, which the premier considers the main threat to the Jewish state.
"Netanyahu will tell Mubarak that Israel and the moderate Arab states should act together in the face of the common threat posed by Iran, which is trying to acquire nuclear weapons and interfere in the region," a senior Israeli official told AFP.
Israel, widely considered to be the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear armed state, suspects Iran of trying to develop atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme, a charge Tehran has repeatedly denied.
Tensions between Cairo and Tehran have also risen in recent weeks, with Egyptian authorities accusing the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah of planning attacks in Egypt.
While Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979, Egypt and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since the Islamic revolution that same year.
Netanyahu and Mubarak are also expected to broach Cairo's efforts to broker a new ceasefire between Israel and the Islamist Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip in the wake of Israel's devastating war in December-January, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.
But Netanyahu's efforts are less than certain to succeed given the deep differences with Egypt on the Middle East peace process, which has been on ice since Israel's massive offensive on the Gaza Strip earlier this year.
Netanyahu has so far refused to publicly endorse the creation of a Palestinian state, a bedrock principle of international peace efforts to which Israel committed itself under the 2003 "roadmap" plan, saying that the Palestinian economy must improve before substantive talks on other issues.
Egypt has urged Netanyahu to clarify his stance on the two-state principle.
The creation of a Palestinian state constitutes "the primary aim of all the efforts exerted and the real guarantee for security and peace in the region," Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said last week.
Israeli-Egypt ties have also been strained by Netanyahu's choice of foreign minister, the ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman who last year said Mubarak could "go to hell" if he continued to refuse to visit the Jewish state.
The foreign minister has sparked international concern by saying the new cabinet was not bound by the US-backed decision by the previous government in November 2007 to relaunch negotiations with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu's trip comes a week before he is due to meet Obama in Washington and to finally unveil his policy toward the Middle East peace process.
Netanyahu may also meet Jordanian King Abdullah II on Wednesday, officials said. The Jordanian monarch warned on Monday that further delays to peace talks would lead to the world being "sucked into another conflict."
"If there are no clear signals and no clear directives to all of us, there will be a feeling that this is just another American government that is going to let us all down," Abdullah told Britain's The Times newspaper.
"Just because there is a right-wing government in Israel does not mean that we should chuck in the towel."

Date created : 2009-05-11