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Egypt's President Defends Giving Red Sea Islands to Saudis

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In this picture provided by the Office of the Egyptian Presidency, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, right, sits with Saudi Arabia's King Salman in the Abdeen Palace, Cairo, April 9, 2016.

In this picture provided by the Office of the Egyptian Presidency, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, right, sits with Saudi Arabia's King Salman in the Abdeen Palace, Cairo, April 9, 2016.

Egypt's beleaguered president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi defended a controversial transfer of two islands to Saudi Arabia Wednesday and also denied that agents were behind the murder of an Italian student.

Sissi went on television to assure angry Egyptians that he did not give up a single "grain of sand."

"We did not surrender our rights but restored the rights of others," the president said. "Please let us not talk about this subject again. There is a parliament that you elected that will debate the accord. It will either ratify or reject it."

Cairo announced this week that it plans to hand over control of the Red Sea islands of Sanafir and Tiran to the Saudis. Sissi said the islands belong to Saudi Arabia and that the Saudis gave Egypt protective custody of the islands in 1950, fearing an Israeli invasion. Israel captured the islands in the 1967 Middle East war, but handed them back to Egypt.

Tiran and Sanafir Islands

Tiran and Sanafir Islands

The decision on the islands’ transfer was announced during a five-day visit to Egypt by King Salman, the Saudi monarch.

Some Egyptians accuse Sissi of selling Egyptian land in exchange for Saudi aid. When a member of parliament tried to ask the president about the matter during Wednesday's news conference, Sissi stopped him by saying "I did not give permission for anyone to speak."

The on air broadcast of the news conference was abruptly cut off.

In this photo released by the Egyptian Ministry of Interior March 24, 2016, personal belongings of slain Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni, including his passport, are displayed.

In this photo released by the Egyptian Ministry of Interior March 24, 2016, personal belongings of slain Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni, including his passport, are displayed.

Regeni case

Earlier, Sissi said Egyptian security forces had nothing to do with the disappearance, torture, and murder of Italian student Giulio Regini earlier this year.

Regeni disappeared on January 25, the five-year anniversary of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, when police were out in force to prevent demonstrations.

Sissi blamed the killing on what he called "evil folks in our midst."

Italy has recalled its ambassador to Egypt over what it says is Cairo's slow investigation of the murder.

Sissi criticized the media coverage of the case, calling its reporting "disturbing" and overly reliant on social media.

Activists hold placards that read, among others, "Giulio, one of us and killed like us," during a memorial for Giulio Regeni outside of the Italian embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 6, 2016.

Activists hold placards that read, among others, "Giulio, one of us and killed like us," during a memorial for Giulio Regeni outside of the Italian embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 6, 2016.

Some information for this story came from AP.

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