Mubarak, Suleiman probe Lebanon developments, regional situation
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his Lebanese counterpart Michel Suleiman on Saturday held a summit meeting during which they discussed the recent developments in Lebanon.
Lebanese president says demarcation of borders between Lebanon, Syria to take place soon
Mubarak underlines Egypt's full support for Lebanon, its constitutional institutions
Egypt postpones Palestinian talks over Hamas boycott
Intensified meetings in Sharm el-Sheikh to support peace process
The two Arab leaders also probed the regional situation along with a range of issues of common concern.
The talks focused on the Lebanese national dialogue as well as means of boosting bilateral cooperation in the various domains, especially in trade, economy and energy ones.
President Mubarak officially received his Lebanese counterpart.
The two presidents reviewed the guard of honor and then the military musical band played the national anthems of the two countries.
President Suleiman shook hands with Egyptian officials who were on hand to receive him atop of whom were Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, Minister of Defense Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi and Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit.
Also, President Mubarak shook hands with the delegation accompanying the Lebanese president.
President Hosni Mubarak underlined Egypt's full support for Lebanon, its constitutional institutions and its army.
At a joint press conference with his Lebanese counterpart Michel Suleiman, President Mubarak said he also believes in boosting the capabilities of the Lebanese army to enable it carry out its duty across Lebanon.
At the start of the conference President Mubarak welcomed his Lebanese counterpart President Michel Suleiman and said that he had met him a year ago as commander of Lebanon's army and in July in his capacity as President of all Lebanon.
Egypt was following with great admiration President Michel Suleiman's contacts with all the Lebanese powers and his sponsorship of the national dialogue, President Mubarak said.
We also follow up his efforts to promote Lebanon's relations with its neighbors and with the entire region and his international partners.
Referring to the Lebanese political crisis, President Mubarak said he followed it over the past couple of years, voicing confidence in the Lebanese powers' keenness on the country's stability and unity.
"We are aware of the sensitivity of the political balance in Lebanon and look forward to its security and stability," President Mubarak said.
The president asserted Egypt's support for Lebanon and its constitutional institutions, referring to direct consultations he held with Suleiman on the latest developments in the Arab world, the Middle East and Lebanon in particular.
President Mubarak said they also reviewed the meetings of the joint committee held in Cairo last month at the level of premiers.
Suleiman said he was glad to meet with President Mubarak the leader of such great country that has played a pivotal regional role throughout history and has always supported Lebanon at all stages.
He referred to their meeting, saying they covered the latest regional and international developments and followed up the outcome of the Egyptian-Lebanese committee.
Asked about his views regarding the winds of change inside the United States and the election of Barack Obama as president, President Mubarak said Egyptian-American relations are continuous. Differences may occur between any two friends but relations remain unchanged, the president said, denying any problems between the two countries.
The Lebanese president said the current change in the US could be historical that would be of benefit to the entire world, voicing hope that democracy would prevail over the Middle East as well. It is an excellent opportunity to defend national and Arab issues, he said.
Asked about the absence of Amr Moussa, the Arab League Secretary General, from the 2nd session of Lebanese national dialogue, Suleiman said Moussa took part in launching the sessions and he is always available.
President Mubarak said the inter-Lebanese dialogue does not need UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon or Moussa or anybody else. The Lebanese together can hold dialogue without any intervention, the president said.
As for the Arab economic summit to be hosted by Kuwait in January, President Mubarak said the issue of the current financial crisis could be on the summit's agenda but right now there is no magic solution.
Regarding the demarcation of borders between Lebanon and Syria, the Lebanese president said it will take place as soon as possible, pointing out that it aims at stating that Shebaa Farms belong to Lebanon.
President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday held a luncheon at the presidential palace in Heliopolis in honor of Lebanese President Michel Suleiman
Premier Ahmed Nazif, Minister of Defense and Military Production Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit and Minister of Information Anas al Fiqi attended the banquet.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh, Minister of Tourism Elie Maroni, Minister State Wael Abu Faour and the Lebanese Ambassador in Cairo Khaled Ziyada were also present.
President Michel Suleiman then conferred at his Qubbah Palace in Cairo with Arab League chief Amr Moussa on the latest regional and Arab developments.
They also dealt with the latest developments regarding the Lebanese national unity dialogue which includes all the Lebanese political powers and is led by the Lebanese president.
Suleiman also received Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit, with the two reviewing Lebanese developments. They also reviewed Egyptian-Lebanese relations following the joint committee meeting held in October in Cairo at the premiers' level.
He received also Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif.
The meeting discussed ways of boosting Egyptian-Lebanese relations in the various domains, particularly the economic, trade and energy ones.
The meeting also took up means to activate an agreement reached by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the Lebanese leader during their talks earlier in the day.
Mubarak-Suleiman meeting reviewed the outcome of the joint committee meetings held last month under the prime ministers of both countries to enhance cooperation ties.
Nazif further underlined Egypt's readiness to meet Lebanon's electricity and gas needs.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman received Saturday at his Qubbah Palace residence Minister Omar Soliman.
They exchanged views on the latest developments in Lebanon.
President Michel Suleiman left Cairo Saturday evening back home after a short visit to Egypt.
The Lebanese president was seen off at the airport by Minister of Legal Affairs and Parliamentary Councils Mufed Shehab.
Meanwhile, a Saudi diplomat denied in remarks published on Friday that Riyadh had invited Israel to a UN inter-faith meeting in New York next week, saying the invitation had come from the United Nations.
"The president of the UN General Assembly addressed invitations to all UN member states," Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Lebanon, Abdulaziz Khoja, was quoted as saying in Saudi and Lebanese newspapers.
The November 13 conference is being held at the initiative of Saudi Arabia, which has no relations with Israel. Both Saudi King Abdullah and Israeli President Shimon Peres are due to attend.
The meeting, which aims to promote dialogue among the world's monotheistic religions, will be a follow-up to a similar conference in Madrid in July. This was an initiative by King Abdullah, whose country hosts Islam's holiest shrines and does not permit the public practice of religions other than Islam.
Peres's office said on Wednesday that he will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and that they intended to use the conference to meet leaders from the Arab world.
Khoja said Lebanese politicians who "accused" Saudi Arabia of inviting Israel should "check their facts," according to the Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and other newspapers.
On the Palestinian cause, a new date for the Palestinian national dialogue will be set soon as Egypt is still holding contacts with all Palestinian factions to serve this end, a well-placed Egyptian source told MENA Sunday.
"Egypt will not stop contacts with any Palestinian faction in the wake of the passing crisis," the source said commenting on Hamas' decision to boycott the Cairo-brokered Palestinian dialogue scheduled to open Monday.
"Egypt will never give up its role in support of the Palestinians and their just cause. It will continue exerting efforts to achieve inter-Palestinian reconciliation and materialize the dream of establishing an independent Palestinian state," the source said.
"Realizing appeasement among the Palestinians will bring the Palestinian cause back to the international community's top priorities," the source said.
Egypt is working on implementing comprehensive programs for supporting the Palestinian cause and it will never abandon these efforts, a well-informed Egyptian source said.
Egypt has been seeking to realize a Palestinian-Israeli truce and rapprochement among the Palestinians, the source said.
Egypt exerted painstaking efforts to clinch a ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza Strip on June 19 to stem Palestinian bloodshed and curb Israeli aggression, the source said.
Egypt is now working on achieving national reconciliation among the Palestinians to place the Palestinian question again at the top of the international community's priorities.
Egypt also offers all needed help and support for the Palestinians, especially those in the Gaza Strip who live under the Israeli siege, the source said.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has given directives not to leave the Palestinians die of hunger, the source added.
Meanwhile, the source said Egypt held tête-à-tête meetings with various Palestinian factions during preparations for the dialogue and found that there was a great opportunity to find a common ground among them.
For his part, Dr. Salah Al-Bardawil, the spokesman for the Hamas parliamentary bloc, stated Wednesday that his Movement would never condone the use of political arrests in the West Bank as a trump card to pressure the Palestinian interlocutors in Cairo, highlighting that if these arrests continue, the dialog with "Israel's collaborators" would never succeed.
In a speech delivered during a massive march held in Khan Younis in protest at the political arrests in the West Bank, Dr. Bardawil strongly castigated the PA security apparatuses for persisting in hunting Palestinian resistance fighters and women, asserting that these acts proved that the PA and Fatah never wanted dialog because they still rely on the Zionist-American support.
The angry masses carried banners and chanted slogans condemning PA chief Mahmoud Abbas's security apparatuses for hunting and arresting Palestinian citizens affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in order to please the Israeli occupation, calling for creating an atmosphere appropriate for the success of the inter-Palestinian dialog to be held in Cairo.
In a serious development, the PA intelligence apparatus in the Junied prison in Nablus transferred prisoner Hasan Marshoud, one of the Islamic Jihad leaders, to the Rafidya hospital after suffering severe burns all over his body. Medical sources described his condition as serious.
Palestinian local sources reported that the prisoner was subjected to excruciating torture, where PA officers poured a flammable liquid on his limbs especially his legs and then set fire to him, adding that he screamed in pain until he lost consciousness.
Egypt decided to postpone holding the inter-Palestinian dialog after four factions including Hamas officially informed Egypt this morning that they would not attend the dialog sessions unless their remarks on the Egyptian draft were taken into account.
Informed sources said that Hamas reservations concentrated on two basic principles, one is related to the release of all political prisoners in PA jails and the other about the administrative arrangements for dialog, where the four factions saw a clear Egyptian bias in favor of current PA chief Mahmoud Abbas at the expense of the resistance factions.
The sources said that the four Palestinian factions who sent their message to Egypt were Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the popular front for the liberation of Palestine-general command and Al-Sa'ika organization.
In a televised show broadcast by Al-Aqsa satellite channel, Dr. Salah Al-Bardawil, the spokesman for the Hamas parliamentary bloc, announced that Hamas would not attend the national dialog in Cairo in light of the ongoing war waged by the PA security apparatuses on Hamas cadres and institutions as well as the Palestinian citizens in the West Bank including women, children and worshipers at mosques.
Dr. Bardawil strongly denounced Abbas for denying the presence of political prisoners in his jails, saying that Abbas lies as he breathes and is not qualified at all to be a president.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum on Saturday held Abbas fully responsible for the lives of 600 political detainees in his jails after he denied their existence, and for the failure of dialog efforts because of his refusal to release the political prisoners.
"We networked with Cairo to overcome all the obstacles in order to start a successful dialog, but Abbas did not respond to the demand for releasing detainees and stopping the ongoing liquidation and massacre against Hamas in the West Bank."
Hamas issued a statement in the West Bank in which it underlined that its boycott of the national dialog was not a maneuver or a lack of seriousness, but it was a serious decision showing that Hamas considers the dialog as means to solve all crises that afflicted the Palestinian people and their cause.
Hamas added that the dialog would be meaningless as Abbas's security apparatuses are waging their most ferocious campaign against Hamas cadres and supporters and at the same time misleading the public opinion by alleging that they hunt thieves and law breakers.
For its part, the Salahuddin Brigades, the armed wing of the popular resistance committees, announced that it would go for any dialog not attended by both Hamas and Fatah, holding Abbas responsible for the collapse of the national dialog because of his refusal to release the political prisoners in his jails.
Abu Abeer, the spokesman for the Brigades, told Al-Quds Press that Egypt understood Hamas decision not to go for dialog especially after the arrival of US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice in the region carrying threats to Abbas against his participation in the dialog.
Abu Abeer also pointed out that the PA security apparatuses are detaining political prisoners from Salahuddin, Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
Dr. Ghazi Hussein, a prominent leader of the movement of the popular liberation war-Al-Sa'ika forces, said that his Movement's decision to boycott the dialog was taken after it made sure that its remarks on the Egyptian draft would not be taken into consideration.
Hussein also strongly castigated the PA unconstitutional government in Ramallah, describing its security apparatuses' practices in the West Bank as those used by the IOF troops against the Palestinian resistance.
Al-Sa'ika leader also pointed to his Movement's rejection of the arrangements for the opening session of the national dialog, adding that the attendance of Abbas as a sponsor of the dialog session was unacceptable because he is the head of Fatah and the dialog was between Palestinian factions.
Palestinian local sources said that Abbas's security apparatuses kidnapped during the last 24 hours 26 Palestinian citizens thought to be affiliated with Hamas in different West Bank areas mostly in Al-Khalil.
Other local sources said that the PA security apparatuses kidnapped 15 Palestinians in the Beit Ummar town, north of Al-Khalil, including mayor Farhan Alkam, adding the campaign is still ongoing in the town until the moment of writing this news report.
Khalil Abu Shammala, the director of the Dhameer foundation for human rights, confirmed Saturday that human rights organizations in the West Bank have lists of all political prisoners in PA jails, denying Abbas's allegations that there are no prisoners in his jails.
Abu Shammala underscored that the human rights organizations in the West Bank do not follow up the violations against human rights committed by PA security apparatuses, pointing out that the security apparatuses in Gaza respond positively with the human rights organizations and ease their missions.
The Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) executive committee has expressed full commitment to the Egyptian initiative for the Palestinian national dialogue and urged all factions to relinquish attempt to impose conditions or amend the Egyptian blue print on the dialogue.
In a statement following a meeting in Ramallah under Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the committee called on all factions to go directly to Cairo and work on the dialogue to end the divide which has substantially harmed the Palestinian people.
All factions and powers must live up to the higher Palestinian interests, the statement said.
The statement added the PLO factions are committed to the organization's political program, the national independence document and the formation of a national unity government that would fare Palestinians away from isolation.
They are also ready to hold presidential and legislative elections according to the proportionate representation at a date to be agreed upon, the statement said.
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa congratulated US president-elect Barack Obama on his election victory.
Moussa said that Obama's win has sent a 'message of hope' that tension will ease in the world and that efforts to establish peace would be reinforced.
Obama won the US presidential elections on Tuesday after beating his Republican rival John McCain.
Moussa said that the Arab League is ready to cooperate with the new US administration to achieve peace in the Arab region.
He voiced hope that Obama would seek to achieve his promise of working actively to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict.
He also expressed hope that the new US administration will adopt a balanced policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Moussa regretted the continuing divisions between the Palestinian factions.
"All Palestinian factions must realize the danger of divisions on the Palestinian cause and on chances to reach a just peace and establish a Palestinian state," Moussa said in statements in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Egypt postponed the Palestinian national dialogue after Hamas said it would boycott the talks.
Moussa said the Palestinian factions have missed an important opportunity to sign an agreement approved by all Palestinians.
Turning to the Middle East peace process, Moussa said the US-hosted Annapolis conference has bore no tangible results.
He said the Arab countries should discuss reasons of failure to reach a result in the peace process.
The Arab League chief underlined the need to end the Palestinian divisions.
He also voiced hope that the new US administration will work to reach a solution to the Palestinian problem.
"The Arab countries hope that the new US administration would succeed in solving the Palestinian problem," he said, underlining the importance of lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip and halting Israeli settlement activities and excavations in al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem).
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit held talks in Sharm el-Sheikh with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who arrived in this Red Sea resort city Saturday to attend the International Quartet meetings.
The talks covered the latest developments in the Middle East and efforts exerted to push forward the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Abul-Gheit is expected to meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the Quartet meetings Sunday.
She also a closed-door session of talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The meeting was held on the sidelines of the International Quartet meetings on the Middle East peace process.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday denied the Israeli-Palestinian peace process sponsored by U.S. President George W. Bush was a failure, saying it should lay the ground for an eventual deal.
Launched nearly a year ago at a conference in Annapolis, Maryland, the negotiations were hampered from the start by violence and bitter disputes over Jewish settlement building and the future of Jerusalem.
"We knew ... that if that agreement was not reached by the end of the year, there would be those that would say that the Annapolis process, the negotiations, had failed. In fact, it is quite the opposite," Rice told a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
"While we may not yet be at the finish line, I am quite certain that if Palestinians and Israelis stay on the Annapolis course, they are going to cross that finish line and can do so relatively soon," she added.
The White House acknowledged for the first time on Thursday that Bush's goal of a deal on Palestinian statehood before he leaves office in January was "unlikely" to be achieved.
Abbas and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni made public commitments to Rice to continue the negotiations, which the secretary of state insisted had narrowed the gaps between the two sides.
We hope that the new administration will begin immediately tackling the Middle East issue so we would not waste time," Abbas told reporters.
He also said he complained to Rice about continued Israeli settlement building, "incursions" into Palestinian areas and what he called a "dangerous escalation" in attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinian farmers during the olive harvest.
With Abbas at her side, Rice cautioned Israel about continued building activity in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, calling it damaging to peace prospects.
Rice said Saturday the American government will offer assistance to the West Bank city of Jenin totaling 14 million dollars.
Rice, who was on a visit to the Palestinian territories, said, while touring a wing in the Hospital of Dr. Soliman Khalil renovated with American funds, America will give Jenin 14 million dollars to improve roads and other infrastructure and education projects in the city.
The projects will be carried out through the USAID.
This new batch of US aid is part of the US efforts to promote the Palestinian Authority to encourage development in Jenin.
In May the American government offered Jenin some three million dollars for projects being currently implemented in the West Bank city.
King Abdullah II of Jordan held talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on means of pushing the Middle East peace process forward.
During the meeting, Abdullah highlighted the importance of settling the Palestinian issue, being the core of the Middle East conflict.
Reaching a just and permanent settlement based on international legitimacy resolutions and the two-state solution would contribute to solving other issues in the region, he noted.
Touching on the situation in Iraq, the monarch stressed Jordan's support to all efforts aimed at restoring security and stability to the country.
For her part, Rice briefed Abdullah on US efforts to resume the peace process, hailing the Jordanian role in establishing peace and stability in the region.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said she did not agree on the suggestion of her U.S. counterpart Rice on issuing a joint Israeli-Palestinian paper to summarize all understandings between the two sides to settle the cause.