U.S. team to look at Gaza smuggling

A U.S. team will travel to the Middle East to address arms smuggling between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, Condoleezza Rice said.

The U.S. secretary of state made the remarks Wednesday to the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. She was offering testimony about her recent visit to the Middle East and the upcoming peace talks in Annapolis, Md.

Rice told the committee that she had made clear to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and other top Egyptian officials that the smuggling of arms or money for arms to Gaza is unacceptable to the United States.

“As Hamas is in the Gaza, it is extremely important they be denied financial assistance for weapons or the like,” she said. “I believe that the Egyptians understand that it is not in their interest – their national interest – to have the smuggling take place.”

Rice said that she, Mubarak, the Egyptian intelligence chief and foreign minister agreed that the United States would send a senior delegation to work with the Egyptians, Israelis and Palestinians to stop the smuggling.

Rice described the discussion as “an extensive one and a very candid one.”

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