President Mubarak holds important talks with Saudi monarch, UAE president, Kuwaiti emir

Egyptian President stresses support for Saudi Arabia in its efforts to deter Houthi infiltrators

Mubarak, UAE president warn of threats posed by West-Iran face-off on region

Palestinian, Iraqi, Sudanese issues figure high on President Mubarak’s Kuwait visit agenda

Egypt refutes criticism to its constructions on borders with Gaza

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Egyptian President Mohammad Hosni Mubarak co-chaired talks held by the Saudi and Egyptian sides.

During the talks, they discussed current developments at the Arab arena topped by the developments of the Palestinian cause, Islamic and international issues and Saudi-Egyptian cooperation.

The talks were attended by Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General; Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and a number of other princes and senior officials.

King Abdullah held a dinner for President Mubarak and his accompanying delegation.

The banquet was attended by Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation, and Inspector General, a number of other princes and senior officials.

President Mubarak had arrived in Riyadh on a two-day visit to the kingdom.

At King Khalid International Airport, he was received by King Abdullah, Crown Prince Sultan, Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz Second Deputy Premier, and Minister of Interior, and Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Governor of Riyadh Region, a number of other princes and senior officials.

Egyptian Presidential Spokesman Soliman Awwad said on Wednesday that President Mubarak's talks with King Abdullah covered all regional files and most particularly focused on resuscitating the Middle East peace process, the Palestinian reconciliation dialogue and the Iranian nuclear standoff with the West.

Mubarak posted the Saudi monarch on Egypt's efforts to break the impasse in the peace process and the outcome of his recent meetings with Turkish President Abdullah Gul, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the spokesman added in statements he gave before Mubarak's departure for Kuwait, the third leg of his current Gulf tour.

The Egyptian leader also briefed King Abdullah on the mission which he sent Minister Oman Suliman to Israel to carry out and the results of his recent contacts with the international Quartet on the Middle East, including the US and European sides and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the spokesman said.

Egypt fears of the current growing challenges facing the Palestinian cause, he said, warning that the failings it is currently witnessing should not be allowed to continue because they could badly harm the regional situation.

Unless the peace process is revived on the basis of clear references and specific timeframes the Middle East problem could further escalate, he said.

The Iranian nuclear file was one of the important files that figured high on the Egyptian-Saudi summit talks, Egyptian spokesman Awwad said.

Because of their geographical proximity to Iran, the Arab brothers in the Gulf fear of the damage that could be caused to Gulf security and the entire Middle East security in the case of any escalation in the Iranian-Western showdown, he said.

Talks between the two sides took place in a positive, brotherly and constructive atmosphere, he said.

The two leaders agreed to maintain consultations and coordination on the regional dossiers, especially those of the regional peacemaking efforts and the Iranian nuclear problem, he said.

Describing Egypt's relations with the Saudi kingdom as very close, Awwad said that Saudi Arabia is the second biggest investor in Egypt after the United Arab Emirates, noting that the volume of trade exchange between the two countries runs at nearly three billion dollars.

Also, President Mubarak concluded a two-day visit to the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday. Before leaving, he met his UAE counterpart Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and also held talks with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE vice president and ruler of Dubai.

According to the official UAE news agency, the parties discussed Arab affairs, the Palestinian situation and boosting bilateral ties, among other issues.

Mubarak was set to head to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to complete his Gulf tour.

The Egyptian leader is accompanied by Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit, officials from economic ministries and Omar Suleiman, his intelligence chief.

The United Arab Emirates and Egypt on Tuesday agreed to enhance efforts towards just and lasting peace in the region within increased bilateral ties.

The President of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, held a round of talks with President Mubarak and exchanged views on the latest Arab, regional and international events of mutual interest.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was present during the talks at Al Mushrif Palace.

Sheikh Khalifa expressed his keenness to boost fraternal bonds between the UAE and Egypt. He appreciated Cairo’s stand on Arab issues and noted its efforts to achieve national reconciliation among various groups.

He voiced support for these efforts and stressed the need for advancing efforts towards boosting the chances of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region.

For his part, the Egyptian head of state praised the prudent policies of the UAE under the leadership of Sheikh Khalifa. He said his visit occurred in the context of bilateral consultations to review current Arab issues and bolster opportunities of joint cooperation in the best interest of the two peoples.

President Mubarak was welcomed upon arrival at Al Mushrif Palace by Sheikh Khalifa, Sheikh Mohammed, General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and several Sheikhs, ministers and senior officials.

Later, Sheikh Khalifa hosted a lunch banquet in honor of the Egyptian president and his accompanying delegation.

In Kuwait, President Mubarak also had talks with Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber dealing with a wide range of regional and international issues, the Gulf security, reactivating the peace process and enhancing economic relations with Kuwait.

During the talks, the emir of Kuwait renewed support for the Egyptian efforts to achieve Palestinian reconciliation in preparations for resuming the political process, stressing the need for confronting the challenges facing the Arab nation, Egypt's efforts for eliminating the obstacles facing the peace process, establishing a Palestinian state, achieving Palestinian reconciliation.

The two leaders also discussed developments in Iraq, enhancing Gulf security, the Iranian nuclear file, positions in Lebanon, Yemen, and developing economic and commercial as well as investment relations between Egypt and Kuwait.

President Mubarak's talks with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber Al-Sabah on Wednesday completed a successful three-day Gulf tour, said presidential spokesman Suleiman Awwad.

In statements after the talks, Awwad added that the talks in Kuwait are invested with paramount importance given the role of Kuwait in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Kuwait is the current rotating president of the GCC for one year.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held talks on Monday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the second day of a visit to boost ties with his country's main trade partner in the region, the state-run MENA news agency reported.

The two discussed "international and regional issues of joint interest, the Middle East developments, efforts to revive the stalled Middle East peace process and bilateral ties," MENA said.

On Sunday, Lavrov met Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit for the fifth round of the Egyptian-Russian strategic dialogue, and signed a cooperation plan for 2010, MENA said.

Russia has a total of 230 projects in Egypt with total investments estimated at one billion dollars, foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said after Sunday's talks.

Lavrov said Moscow hoped that the total volume of trade between the two countries would reach four billion dollars. Egypt is Russia's largest commercial partner in Africa.

In June, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made a trip to Egypt as part of efforts to boost Russia's clout in the region, which was a stronghold of Soviet influence before the end of the Cold War and the subsequent surge of US dominance.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov on Monday signed an agreement on setting up an Arab-Russian cooperation forum, Egypt's MENA news agency reported.

In statements on Monday, Lavrov made it clear that the agreement will further boost Arab-Russian relations. It aims at developing relations between Russia and the Arab League in all fields, starting from bilateral consultations on regional and international issues, he said.

Lavrov invited Moussa to visit Moscow to follow up the accord, which he said, was agreed upon during a visit paid to the league's headquarters by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in June.

Russia expects trade with Egypt to total $4 billion this year, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Sunday after talks with his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Abul-Gheit.

"Egypt is one of the few countries whose trade was not affected by the crisis. We expect trade to reach $4 billion," he said. The two foreign ministers signed a cooperation plan for 2010 on Sunday.

"The document embraces our bilateral projects as well as international problems, including Middle East issues, the situation in Africa, Central Asia, as well as disarmament and nonproliferation issues and the UN activity," Lavrov said.

Egypt is one of the largest and most economically developed countries in the Middle East and Africa and also Russia's traditional business partner in the region. Bilateral trade grew more than fivefold in the past five years.

In 2008, the total volume of Russian-Egyptian trade and economic cooperation exceeded $4 billion.

The number of Russian tourists who visited Egypt in 2008 was 1.8 million and may reach 2 million by the end of this year.

Mubarak had received Monday Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for talks on the latest regional developments and ways to promote bilateral relations and trade and investment cooperation between Egypt and Iraq.

The meeting covered the contribution of Egyptian companies to development and infrastructure ventures in Iraq.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari described the meeting as positive, cordial and important for the development of Egypt-Iraq ties.

During the meeting, Maliki briefed the Egyptian president on the latest political developments in Iraq as well as the ongoing democratic process in the country in light of the upcoming Iraqi elections, slated for March 7, Zebari said.

The two leaders also discuss security situation in Iraq and bombings targeting the Iraqi government, Zebari added.

Iraq's prime minister opened a landmark visit to Egypt on Sunday in what aides described as an ambitious attempt to improve relations with one of the Arab world's most powerful players.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's last visit to Egypt was in 2007 as part of an international conference to discuss his war-ravaged country's future. But this visit was designed specifically for meetings with Egyptian officials.

A statement posted on the prime minister's Web site following his arrival in Egypt expressed al-Maliki's happiness at moving forward with a new phase of cooperation between the two countries.

The trip appeared intended to drum up support in the Arab world, where Iraq's Shiite-led government and its close ties to Iran are often viewed with suspicion by its mostly Sunni neighbors.

Al-Maliki appears particularly eager for better relations with Egypt, an influential U.S. ally and host of the Arab League. Relations, already strained during the reign of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, deteriorated further after Egypt's ambassador to Baghdad was kidnapped and killed by al-Qaeda in 2005.

Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the post-Saddam Hussein government struggled to build ties with other Arab nations. Several have since named ambassadors to Baghdad, including Egypt, which appointed a new envoy in June.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told the Associated Press before the Sunday visit that the prime minister would be meeting with government officials and Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, during his two-day visit.

"The visit to Egypt is a political one which will enhance good bilateral relations between the two countries," al-Dabbagh said.

Al-Dabbagh said the visit would include signing of many "agreements and memorandums of understanding" but did not elaborate. Al-Maliki is expected to return to Iraq on Monday.

As violence has subsided in Iraq, the country has been trying to attract international investors to help rebuild after years of violence and neglect.

The Iraqi prime minister also renewed calls for Egyptian companies and expertise to invest in Iraq's provinces. Tens of thousands of Egyptians used to work in Iraq, but the vast majority left after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the 2003-U.S. led invasion of Iraq.

Iraqi political analyst Hadi Jalo said that al-Maliki likely believes he has a better chance at mending ties with the Arabs through Egypt, rather than Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are seen as much more aligned with Iraq's Sunni parties, while Egypt is seen as more moderate.

"Al-Maliki's chances with Saudi Arabia are so weak, he could not approach Saudi Arabia so he wants to penetrate the Arab rejection shield of his government through his visit to Egypt," he said.

President Mubarak also met Sunday with Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani in the first high-level talks between both countries since relations were strained after Israel's war on Gaza.

Larijani, who met Mubarak and Egyptian parliament speaker Ahmed Fathi Surur for two hours, described the meeting as "very good and constructive."

"The two countries' visions on bilateral relations are positive, which is key to the development of the relationship between them," Larijani told reporters.

He said Iran backs the Palestinian Hamas movement and Hezbollah in Lebanon because both Islamist groups "stood up to Israel" while stressing his country "supports and encourages Egyptian efforts for Palestinian reconciliation."

Relations between Iran and Egypt were highly strained during the war on Gaza at the turn of the year, with Cairo accusing Tehran of trying to dominate the region through its alliances with Hamas and Hezbollah.

Tehran for its part blamed Cairo for participating in the blockade of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by refusing to open the Rafah border crossing, the only entry to the enclave that bypasses Israel.

Asked about the crisis involving neighboring Iran, whose troops occupied a disputed border oil well, Larijani said the situation had been blown "out of proportion."

"The problem has now been contained," he said.

On Friday, Iraq's state-owned South Oil Co in the southeastern city of Amara said about a dozen Iranian troops had arrived at the field, taken control of the Well 4 and raised the Iranian flag.

But officials said Sunday that Iranian troops had pulled back 50 meters (yards) and removed the flag.

It was the first serious incident between the two neighbors since the US-led invasion of 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein, whose forces fought a 1980-1988 war against Iran.

Egypt's foreign minister on Tuesday said that a wall being built along his country's border with the Gaza Strip will defend it "against threats to national security". Ahmed Abul-Gheit made these comments to Al Arabiya TV. Hamas has heavily criticized the move.

Abul-Gheit said that the measures along the border involve "construction, engineering work and ultrasound equipment".

The new barrier is to consist of a series of steel sheets and pipes that will be buried deep into the ground to prevent the construction of smuggling tunnels under the frontier.

On Monday, Khaled Mishaal, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, stated that the building of the steel wall is a new war against Gaza people and their resistance. “The victory of Gaza did not appeal to those who wagered on the defeat of the resistance and there is a desire to tighten the screw on the resistance which showed fortitude in the face of the occupation,” the Hamas leader stressed.

Egypt has the sovereign right to build a wall along its border with the Gaza Strip, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was cited as saying Saturday. In remarks to Egypt's Al Ahram newspaper, the Palestinian leader said the wall, which extends underground in an apparent attempt to curtail a network of smuggling tunnels, was "a matter of Egyptian sovereignty."

Abbas rules in the West Bank but lost control over the Gaza Strip to the rival Hamas faction in 2007. He also accused Iran, which backs the Islamist movement, of delaying reconciliation between the two main Palestinian parties.

Egypt has been under international pressure to curtail the lucrative smuggling trade in basic commodities, livestock, drugs, weapons and more through the tunnels since the imposition of blockade on the coastal enclave after Hamas solidified its control.

"The wall ... is in fact the same wall" already along the border, "with reinforcements made to the foundations buried underground," the editor of Cairo's official al-Gomhuriya daily wrote Thursday, in the first admission of the much-rumored construction.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit and Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki earlier this week, in separate interviews to media outlets, stopped short of confirming reports of an underground wall, but defended Egypt's "right" to take such steps.

Egypt's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman was in Israel on Sunday to meet with top officials during a low-profile visit to the Jewish state, an Israeli official said.

Suleiman met Defense Minister Ehud Barak in his Tel Aviv office and was also due to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the head of the Mossad, Israel's foreign spy service, according to the official.

Barak's office said in a statement that the talks focused on "ways to deal with the regional threats and challenges which both countries face," referring mainly to Iran.

The two also discussed ways to renew Middle East peace talks. Suleiman is Egypt's point man for indirect talks between Israel and the Hamas movement on a prisoner exchange of some 1,000 jailed Palestinians for an Israeli soldier captured by Gaza militants in 2006.

The visit comes a day after Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit implicitly confirmed that his country was building an underground barrier with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in a new bid to prevent smuggling through tunnels.

A network of tunnels beneath the Egypt-Gaza border provide a crucial economic lifeline to Gaza, which has been sealed off from all but vital humanitarian aid by Israel and Egypt since Hamas took over in June 2007.

The tunnels are mainly used for supplying food, fuel and electronic appliances to the beleaguered territory, but Israel has accused Hamas of using the tunnels to rearm following a devastating Gaza war a year ago.

Egypt ruled out on Tuesday that the constructions on its borders with Gaza Strip are meant to build a steel wall to punish Islamic Hamas movement as media reports said.

Egypt is the one that determines measures on its territory to preserve national security and protect the country's borders, Egypt's MENA news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying on Tuesday.

Such an issue is non-negotiable, said Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hossam Zaki.

Zaki said news that Egypt is constructing a wall along its borders with the Gaza Strip was reported by an Israeli newspaper and then fanned by some media outlets, adding that the move was followed by comments by international officials who do not have precise information about Egypt's measures in this regard.

He described as groundless news reports that Egypt's constructions along the border with the coastal enclave are designed to punish Hamas as the movement refuses to sign an Egyptian paper on Palestinian reconciliation.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit told pan-Arab al Arabiya news channel that no country should interfere in Egypt's decisions that aimed at protecting the security and safety of its territories.

Abul-Gheit underlined that Egypt would never accept any kind of threat to its national security, saying that his country has the right to make any kind of establishments on its territories or even fix eavesdropping equipment.

Earlier on Monday, hundreds of Hamas supporters gathered on the Palestinian side of Gaza's southern border with Egypt, protesting an underground barrier Egypt is building.

The demonstrators chanted slogans calling for a lift to an Israeli blockade imposed more than two years ago and urged Egypt to stop building the steel wall.

The assumed wall would curb a network of underground tunnels the Palestinians use to bring in a wide variety of goods and products that Israel does not allow into Gaza markets due to the closure of the commercial crossings with Israel.