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Egypt:  Britain Can Move Middle East Peace Process Forward - 2003-01-08

Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Maher, says it is up to Britain to press Israel to allow Palestinian participation in proposed peace talks in London and Cairo. Mr. Maher met in Cairo Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's national security adviser to explore how to revive peace efforts.

Foreign Minister Maher said Egypt and Israel still differ significantly on ways to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis after his talks with Israeli national security adviser Ephraim Halevy.

But the Egyptian foreign minister told reporters that Mr. Halevy assured him that Israel is serious about seeking peace.

Mr. Maher, according to Egyptian officials, emphasized to Mr. Halevy that Israeli actions and violence between the two sides is wrecking chances for a political settlement.

Mr. Maher denied reports that Egypt sought to press Israel to allow the Palestinians to participate in talks aimed at reviving peace moves scheduled in London and Cairo, saying the matter was now being discussed between Britain and Israel.

On Monday, Israel barred a Palestinian delegation from attending talks in London next week on a possible truce and Palestinian reform. Israel imposed the restrictions after a Palestinian double suicide bombing on Sunday that killed 22 people, the worst such attack in the Jewish state in nine months.

Analysts say that upcoming Israeli elections and recent Egyptian attempts to persuade Palestinian militants to stop their attacks could explain why Mr. Halevy, the former head of Israel's spy agency, Mossad, made the trip to Cairo.