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Egyptian suspends government-to-government ties with Israel

Egypt announced Wednesday it was suspending contacts with Israel except
diplomatic contacts that could help the Palestinians, Minister of Information
Safwat al-Sherif said.
Egypt announced Wednesday it was suspending contacts with Israel except
diplomatic contacts that could help the Palestinians, Minister of Information
Safwat al-Sherif said.

Egypt's Middle East News Agency quoted al-Sherif as saying Egypt would limit
its contacts with Israel to those that "serve the Palestinian question."

"Government-to-government contacts are stopped. Diplomatic channels remain
open," a senior Egyptian official said.

"The cabinet issued a decree that all contacts between the two governments
would stop, short of diplomatic channels which will serve the Palestinian
question and the issue of peace in the region," he said.

Another official emphasized that the move did not affect diplomatic
representation in the two countries.

Abdel Moneim Said, who directs the Cairo think tank Al-Ahram Center for
Political and Strategic Studies and four years ago helped found a group seeking
improved relations with Israel, described the move as "a halfway step between
the present situation and severing of diplomatic relations" and a reaction to
recent protests.

"Extremists forces are taking over all sides," Said said, calling the move a
setback for peace activists.

Egypt, one of only three Arab states with diplomatic relations with Israel, has
been under pressure to cut its diplomatic ties altogether and freeze its 1979
peace treaty with Israel.

An official at the Israeli Embassy in Egypt, Madav Cohen, said the embassy
would have no comment until it had been officially informed of the move. He
said if Egypt decided to suspend contacts with Israel, "They have to inform us,
we are not going to follow them to ask them. There are rules about how to
inform us officially."

Egypt recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv, leaving only a charge d'affaires, more
than a year ago to protest the violence that erupted in September 2000.
Demonstrators demanding Egypt to expel the Israeli ambassador have clashed
with police in Cairo in recent days.

Palestinians joined the calls Tuesday, with Arafat aide Nabil Sha'ath, who is in
Cairo, saying Palestinians want the Arab world to take "practical steps" against
Israel - not merely issue denunciations.

Asked if Egypt and Jordan should cut their ties with Israel, as some hard-line
Arab nations have demanded, Shaath said: "I think so."

"We've never called for that before because we were seeking relations with the
Israelis ourselves," Sha'ath said from the Arab League headquarters. "We never
called for anything which would go against the peace process. But today, Israel
has destroyed every chance for the peace process."

Egypt and Jordan, he said, must take "a serious step" to show their anger.
 
 

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