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Palestinian President Pushes Egyptian Peace Plan


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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Saturday, declaring afterwards that the Egyptian peace plan is the key to a solution in Gaza. He is also calling for the deployment of international peacekeeping forces inside Gaza.

The Egyptian capital, Cairo, is buzzing with diplomatic activity, as Arab and world leaders converge on Egypt in a frenetic effort to find a solution to the 15-day-old conflict in Gaza.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, insisting that Egyptian efforts and Egypt's peace plan are the only practical solution to the crisis, and that a solution must be found quickly.

He says that time is of the essence, and that any objections by Hamas to the Egyptian peace plan will be ironed out by Egypt and the Israelis. Egypt is the mediator, he insists, and the Egyptian peace plan is the mechanism to resolve the crisis and implement the UN Security Council ceasefire resolution.

Leaders of the militant Hamas group have repeatedly called the U.N. cease-fire resolution "unacceptable," but have sent a delegation to Cairo, Saturday, including Ayman Taha and Jamal Abu Hashem, to discuss their reservations with top Egyptian mediator, General Omar Suleiman.

Mohammed Nazzal, who is the Hamas representative to Jordan, said from Damascus that his group has a number of qualms with the Egyptian peace plan that it will discuss with Egyptian officials, Saturday.

He says a Hamas delegation, from Gaza and elsewhere will be in Cairo Saturday to examine and discuss the Egyptian peace plan which was presented to Hamas several days ago, and which Hamas representatives have discussed with thier leadership. As of now, Nazzal says, Hamas leaders have a series of reservations. If the Egyptians reply positively to these reservations, Hamas leaders say they will go along with the Egyptian plan.

Above all, Nazzal says Hamas wants to put an end to Israel's aggression and Hamas wants Israel to withdraw from Gaza.

Mussa Abu Marzouk, deputy chairman of Hamas' politburo, said from Damascus, Friday, that his group would "not accept any proposal that does not call for an end to the [Israeli] blockade and the opening of border crossings."

Another key stumbling block to negotiations, appears to be an Israeli demand that a U.S. military team patrol the Egyptian side of the border with Gaza to put an end to the
smuggling of arms through tunnels under the border.

Palestinian negotiator, Dr. Saeb Erekat, who is in Cairo with President Abbas, says that Egypt "opposes the stationing of U.S. forces along its border because that would be an affront to its national sovereignty."

President Abbas, meanwhile, is proposing that international peacekeeping forces be deployed inside Gaza, rather than along the border.

President Abbas says he wants an international force to protect the Palestinian people. He says this is not a new demand, but one that the Palestinians have been making for 30 years. Mr. Abbas stresses foreign forces are not needed along the border because he says Egypt isn't part of the problem.

German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier also arrived in Cairo, Friday, to help mediate in the Gaza crisis and is expected to meet both Egyptian and Israeli leaders, over the weekend, as well as Palestinian President Abbas. There is also a Turkish mediator in Cairo also.

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