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Egyptian, Israeli Officials Renew Call For Dialogue - 2002-08-05

Egyptian and Israeli officials have again said dialogue is the only way to solve the Middle East conflict. Top officials of the two countries met in the Egyptian capital Monday.

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres all agreed that political negotiation is the way to achieve peace.

Mr. Maher told reporters after his meeting that Israel must return to the negotiating table. He said other tactics have not worked.

"Israel in the present circumstances should stop and ask itself a question," he said. "If it is peace they want, peace will not be achieved by force. Force will not solve any problem. If it is security, the use of force to obtain security has been tried and failed. So it is clear that force will not solve the problem of peace, will not solve the problem of security."

Both parties agreed on the need for dialogue, but disagreed on who should speak for the Palestinians. Mr. Maher said the Palestinians representative must be their elected leader, Yasser Arafat.

Mr. Peres said Mr. Arafat does not represent Palestinian needs and has ignored previous obligations concerning co-existence with Israel.

He said the Palestinians must put down their weapons before Israel would withdraw from Palestinian cities it occupies.

"The minute shooting will stop, we will leave all the places, we shall return to political dialogue and that is our real preference," he said. "We know there is no greater victory then to have peace. It was true with Egypt, it was true with Jordan, and it will be true with the Palestinians."

Mr. Peres last visited Egypt a year ago, although he and Israeli Defense Minister Benyamin Ben-Eliezer met President Mubarak in Alexandria in July.