Barak to visit Egypt


Israel’s defense minister will visit Egypt this week for top-level talks on regional security.

Ehud Barak “in the coming days” will meet in Cairo with Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, as well as its intelligence and defense ministers, a top Israeli official said Saturday.

But Amos Gilad, chief of strategy and planning at the Defense Ministry, dismissed speculation that Barak’s visit also could involve efforts to reach a truce with Hamas in Gaza via Egypt as a mediator.

“There are no deals in the works. No such deal will be discussed there,” Gilad told Israel Radio.

He said Barak, whose Cairo visit has yet to be finalized, will ask his hosts to step up efforts against arms and cash smuggling from the Egyptian Sinai into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

“They have very significant potential capabilities, and very great efforts have to be invested in weakening this enemy,” Gilad said.

Barak also is expected to pursue Egyptian-mediated efforts to recover Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held by Hamas and other Gaza factions since June 2006.



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