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Sarkozy: 'Too Soon to Talk of Good News in Gaza'


French President Nicholas Sarkozy traveled to Egypt on Tuesday, after visiting Syria and Lebanon earlier in the day on a tour aimed at bringing peace to the conflict-torn Gaza Strip. There were few results. But, the French president was hopeful.

It was a long day of shuttle diplomacy for President Sarkozy - flying from Syria, to Lebanon, to Egypt, amid painstaking negotiations.

Mr. Sarkozy brought his whirlwind tour to its final stop late Tuesday, meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the Sinai resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh. The French president said it is still "too soon to talk of good news in Gaza," regarding a cease-fire, but that the situation is progressing.

He said that this is a very important moment in the conflict and that President Mubarak wants to begin talks with Israel over the security situation along its border with Gaza, perhaps within hours. He said that Mr. Mubarak agrees that firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas must stop.

President Sarkozy called for an immediate cease-fire and for Israel to withdraw from Gaza, but that there must "not be no victor or vanquished in this battle."

The Israeli military operation in Gaza, he added, would not bring Israel "any guarantee of security." Egypt, he said, is preparing to send a diplomatic delegation to Israel to discuss new security arrangements along its border.

Egyptian President Mubarak called the humanitarian crisis in Gaza "intolerable," and demanded an immediate ceasefire and the opening of a humanitarian corridor into Gaza.

Mr. Mubarak blamed the deteriorating situation in Gaza on Israel's military operations and said it is leading to an increase in tensions and instability in the Mideast.

Mr. Mubarak went on to spell out Egypt's proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza and the terms for a new regional security arrangement.

In addition to an immediate cease-fire, Mr. Mubarak called on Israel and the Palestinian parties to discuss security arrangements that would prevent a repeat of the current crisis, including the opening of border crossings and a lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Also on Tuesday, Egypt's intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, met with a Palestinian delegation headed by two Hamas political leaders based in Syria.

The Hamas officials said they would convey Egypt's proposals to the group's political bureau for consideration.

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