Monday, December 31, 2007

Egypt warns Israel of diplomatic reprisals

Cairo threatens to use its diplomatic clout if Jerusalem continues to 'undermine Egypt's ties to Washington. 'We have capabilities which may inflict profound damage,' says Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit
Reuters Egypt's foreign minister warned Israel that Cairo could use its diplomatic influence against Israel which he said was trying to undermine Cairo's ties to Washington, state news agency MENA said.

"If they continue to push and try to affect Egypt's relationship with the US and harm Egyptian interests, Egypt will certainly respond and will try to damage their interests," MENA quoted Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Monday as saying in a television interview aired a day earlier.

"We have capabilities in every direction - all in diplomatic areas but not extending beyond that - which may inflict profound damage," he added.

Egyptian-Israeli ties have been particularly strained since Israel said this month it had sent a videotape to Washington that Israeli officials said showed Egyptian security men helping Hamas militants smuggle arms across the border to the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also said last week that Egypt had done a terrible job of trying to stop arms smuggling to Gaza via Egypt's Sinai peninsula, and said there could be regional implications.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak accused Israel of fabricating evidence to implicate Egyptian security men in arms smuggling and said Livni had crossed "red lines".

Egypt also accused Israel last week of encouraging pro-Israeli groups in the United States to lobby members of the US Congress to the detriment of Egyptian interests. Cairo said Israel was trying to distract attention from Jewish settlement building.

The Washington Post reported earlier this month that recent legislation by Congress withheld $100 million in aid to Egypt until Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice certifies that Cairo has done enough to stop arms smuggling to Gaza.

But that legislation also allows US President George W. Bush to waive the restriction on national security grounds, according to the Post.

Aboul Gheit said Egypt was waiting to see what Washington would do but said he believed the Bush administration opposed putting conditions on the aid because it would affect US interests.

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