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Netanyahu Scrambles to Mend Ties with Egypt


Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to mend ties with Egypt, strained as the result of an inflammatory remark made by the man he has picked to be Israel's next foreign minister.

Mr. Netanyahu's office said Sunday that his aides met with Egyptian officials to tell them Avigdor Lieberman's appointment as foreign minister should not be a reason for tensions between the two countries.

Last year, Lieberman criticized Mr. Mubarak for failing to visit Israel despite frequent visits to Egypt by Israeli leaders. He said that if the president does not want to come to Israel, then "he can go to hell."

Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert apologized for Lieberman's comment, saying Israel has great respect for both Mr. Mubarak and Egypt's leading role in promoting peace in the region.

Egypt and Israel signed a landmark peace treaty in 1979.

President Mubarak traveled to Israel once - to attend the 1995 funeral of assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. He has not traveled to the Jewish state on an official diplomatic visit since.

Lieberman, an immigrant from the former Soviet republic of Moldova, heads the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party. He is known for controversial statements, for which some have labeled him a racist.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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