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Egypt’s president reportedly will make a personal pledge to secure the release of an Israeli soldier held hostage in Gaza.

Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday hosted Israeli Trade and Industry Minister Eli Yishai, who was in Cairo for the signing of an export deal. Yishai brought with him a letter from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a top Sephardi sage, appealing to Mubarak to help end Sgt. Gilad Shalit’s 16-month captivity at the hands of Hamas gunmen in Gaza.

“I will make a tremendous effort on the issue of Gilad Shalit,” Mubarak told Yishai, according to Wednesday’s Ma’ariv. “In the end only we can deliver Gilad, and you know that. He’ll return home, I promise.”

Egypt has been mediating between Hamas and Israel in an effort to secure a prisoner exchange under which Shalit would go free. Israel balked at the Hamas demand early in the negotiations for the release of hundreds of jailed Palestinian terrorists as ransom.

According to Ma’ariv, Yishai conveyed to Mubarak the belief of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Egypt could do more to stop arms smuggling into neighboring Gaza. Mubarak rebuffed the charge, the newspaper reported.

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