Emir of Kuwait receives message from Egypt’s military council chief, exchanges views on regional scene with Sharaf

Ex-interior minister trial adjourned, gas deal with Israel probed

More than half Egyptians for ending Camp David treaty

Nato air strikes target Gaddafi compound

Libyan opposition says regime using weapons coming from Israel

Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah of Kuwait received a message from Field Marshal Muhammad Hussein Tantawi, the chief of Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, on Kuwaiti-Egyptian cooperation in all fields, particularly the economic area, as well as means to boost trade exchange and joint investments.

Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, who conveyed the message, has underlined the strength and depth of Egypt-Kuwait relations.

Egyptian-Kuwaiti cooperation has become an example to be followed as far as Arab ties are concerned, added Sharaf in an interview with KUNA Board Chairman and Director Sheikh Mubarak Duaij al-Ibrahim al-Sabah on 27/4/2011.

Sharaf expressed to boost ties with the Gulf countries in a way that meets the aspirations of the Egyptian people," he said.

The Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are of strategic importance to the security of the Arabs and Egypt in particular, he said, stressing that the Gulf security is a red line that cannot be crossed under any circumstances.

Egypt has made it clear more than once it rejects Iran's interference in the internal affairs of the Arab countries, Sharaf said, calling on Tehran to heed neighborly relations with the Gulf States.

Post-revolution Egypt is seeking to turn a new leaf with all countries, including Iran, Sharaf said, but he still noted that the level of relations with Tehran is not on a par with Egypt-Gulf ties.

Sharaf said his meetings in Kuwait and earlier in Saudi Arabia took up Arab developments, with focus on the GCC initiative to solve the Yemeni problem.

Cairo supports the Gulf initiative to peacefully transfer power in Yemen, he said.

The Egyptian prime minister assured Arab citizens about the security situation in Egypt. "Everything is back to normal after policemen were redeployed," Sharaf said, adding "there is nothing to be worried about." "The Egyptian people are keen on stability," he stressed.

Sharaf was optimistic that the Egyptian economy would rebound, especially with Gulf and Western states offering to help through this stage.

A court adjourned Tuesday the trial of Egypt's former interior minister on charges of killing anti-government protesters, delaying the verdict in a case seen as a test for the country's ruling generals.

Many Egyptians are closely watching the fate of Habib el-Adli, one of the most hated members of the administration of deposed President Hosni Mubarak, because of the brutality of his police force.

Adli and six other senior officers are charged with killing pro-democracy protesters during the uprising.

He is one of the most senior Mubarak-era ministers to be put on trial, as the generals who now rule Egypt seek to show their commitment to cracking down on abuse of power and corruption.

The Cairo court said it had postponed Adli's trial until May 21 for several reasons, including allowing his defense lawyers more time to prepare.

Judge Adel Goma'a said the next session would also be held in a bigger courtroom to accommodate the large number of relatives of the slain protesters who showed up at this session.

Othman el-Hifnawy, a lawyer for one of the committees that charged Adli with murder, said he was seeking the death sentence for the former interior minister and his aides.

"If the defendants are not executed for the present accusations, they will be executed for using explosives against the protesters," Hifnawy told reporters at the courthouse.

Several police stations were torched during the uprising which erupted on January 25, partly because Egyptians were frustrated with a security apparatus that many say was corrupt and acted as if it were above the law.

More than 800 people died in the uprising and thousands were injured, when police fired rubber bullets, live ammunition, water cannon and tear gas at peaceful protesters.

Egypt's prosecutor orders the country's ex-energy ministers detained for questioning over a controversial gas deal with Israel under the rule of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

The Egyptian public prosecutor issued the arrest warrants against former Energy Minister Sameh Fahmy and two of his predecessors, Reuters reported.

Israel gets 40 percent of its natural gas from Egypt, under an arrangement put in place after a 1979 US-pushed 'peace' deal.

Four Israeli firms have signed agreements to import Egyptian natural gas under a 20-year contract.

The deal has been repeatedly challenged in Egyptian courts as it was signed without a parliamentary consultation and approval.

Opposition groups have long complained that Egyptian gas was sold to Israel at below-market prices.

Egyptian chief prosecutor earlier said he possessed evidence that Mubarak and Fahmy had sold natural gas to the Israeli regime and several Western countries at below-market rates.

Meanwhile, About 54 per cent of Egyptians do not want to keep the peace treaty with Israel and do not want the Israeli embassy to remain in the country, according to a US survey.

The survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center and published on Tuesday. Researchers conducted personal interviews with 1,000 Egyptian adults between 24 March and 7 April.

The survey has sent shockwaves among Israelis with one Israeli official describing the results as a catastrophe for Israel.

According to the poll, many Egyptians view the peace between Egypt and Israel as one of the negative aspects of the Mubarak era for his perceived favoring of Tel Aviv in his economic, security and political policies.

The Israeli daily Haaretz responded to the results of the survey by saying that the danger of these results is that they reflect the fact that many Egyptians do not trust Israel and do not want to deepen relations between the two countries. The newspaper also pointed out that the two countries share a bloody history that Egyptians have not forgotten.

The report also revealed that most Egyptians feel that the peace treaty was pursued by both late president Anwar El Sadat and ousted president Mubarak purely for the sake of regional and international benefits.

Another Israeli daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, added that the survey is a slap in the face to Israelis and shows that strong relations between the two neighboring countries will not resume after the revolution. The paper asked Israeli officials to prepare for a cooling off of relations.

The poll also showed changes in the Egyptian attitude towards democracy with 71 per cent describing it as the preferred form of governance, compared to 60 per cent who held the same view a year ago. Additionally, 34 per cent of Egyptians rated the economy as good, as opposed to 20 per cent last year.

Regarding the military, 88 per cent of those interviewed described its influence on the country as good. Ninety per cent rated military chief Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi favorably.

The court system and religious leaders were also viewed positively with 67 per cent and 81 per cent respectively seeing them as having a positive influence on the country.

In Libya, rebels in the besieged Misrata port said they have pushed troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi out of the city, after the Libyan leader's compound took direct hits in a NATO air strike.

Several rebel sources said regime forces had been ejected from Misrata, 215 kilometers east of Tripoli, but rockets continue to rain down on the country's third city.

"Clashes took place on the western outskirts, but the rest has been cleaned up. There may be some soldiers hiding in the city, afraid of being killed, but there are no groups of soldiers left," one rebel said.

However, the claim was greeted skeptically in Benghazi, bastion of the rebellion that erupted in mid-February against the veteran strongman.

The Transitional National Council's military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani dismissed reports of progress in Misrata.

"It is a disaster there. Gaddafi is not losing," he said.

"Gaddafi is not going anywhere. Misrata is the key to Tripoli. If he lets go of Misrata, he will let go of Tripoli. He is not crazy enough to do that."

Bani reiterated that the embattled Gaddafi was playing dirty: "He is saying one thing and then doing the opposite," he said.

In Tripoli, Gaddafi's son Seif al-Islam called the overnight NATO raid on the Bab al-Aziziya compound "cowardly."

"This cowardly attack on Muammar Gaddafi's office may frighten or terrorize children but we will not abandon the battle and we are not afraid," he said, claiming that NATO's battle was "lost in advance."

Regime spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told reporters Gaddafi was safe and well.

"The leader is working from Tripoli. The leader is well, is very healthy, is leading the battle for peace and democracy in Libya," Ibrahim said, adding that three people were killed and 45 wounded - 15 seriously - in the air strike.

A meeting room facing Gaddafi's office was badly damaged by the blast which NATO in Brussels said had targeted a communications centre.

"NATO carried out a precision strike in central Tripoli last night," a statement said. "The target was a Communications Headquarter that was used to coordinate attacks against civilians."

At least five explosions rocked eastern Tripoli, witnesses said, although they could not pinpoint the precise location of the blasts.

Misrata, where residents have lived under a rain of shells and sniper fire for 50 days, was hit overnight by rockets and incessant gunfire, despite a pledge by the Libyan regime to halt the fighting.

By Monday morning the streets were mostly deserted, with many residents holed up inside buildings marked with the scars of weeks of battle, blasted by artillery and pockmarked by bullets.

For a time the only sound was the voice of the muezzin from a local mosque, who chanted repeatedly "God is greatest, He is my only guide."

Throughout a terrifying night, as salvos of Grad rockets and bursts of automatic weapons echoed across the city, the muezzin continued his refrain.

"He chanted for hours to calm people," said Seilam Naas, 55, a resident of the Kharuba district and one of a few locals to venture out.

In the Mujamaa Tibi hospital, Mohamed al-Fajieh recounted the results of the night's fighting, describing unusually severe wounds and corpses reduced to little more than ashes.

There were "completely charred corpses, some of them so badly burned that we aren't sure they are human bodies," he told AFP. "This is the first time we've seen such burns."

According to figures provided by sources at hospitals across Misrata, around a dozen people were killed and at least 20 wounded overnight.

Sources said those caught up in the violence were all civilians - men, women and young children.

Rebel leader Taher Bashaga said: "It will take some time, I think, but then it will all go well and Misrata will be free for ever, God willing."

Two captured pro-Gaddafi soldiers told AFP that loyalist forces were losing their grip in Misrata.

"Many soldiers want to surrender but they are afraid of being executed" by the rebels, said Lili Mohammed, a Mauritanian hired by Gaddafi's regime to fight the insurgents.

British photographer Guy Martin, who was wounded last week in a mortar attack which killed two colleagues, was evacuated by boat on Monday from besieged Misrata, an AFP journalist said.

Martin suffered a ruptured spleen in the mortar blast that killed photographers award-winning photographers Tim Hetherington, a 40-year-old Briton with dual US nationality, and American Chris Hondros, 41.

Libya's Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim has said the army had suspended operations against rebels in Misrata, but not left the city, to enable local tribes to settle the battle "peacefully and not militarily."

Gaddafi's regime is accusing the United States, which launched its first Predator drone strikes over the weekend, of "new crimes against humanity" for deploying the low-flying, unmanned aircraft.

Drone strikes have so far hit a rocket launcher targeting Misrata and an SA-8 surface-to-air missile in Tripoli, according to NATO officials.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Italy is ready to allow its air force to take part in "targeted action" against selected military objectives in Libya.

On the diplomatic front, British defense minister Liam Fox traveled to the United States for talks on Libya with his American counterpart Robert Gates, defense officials in London said.

Massive protests in Libya in February, inspired by the revolts that toppled long-time autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia, escalated into war when Gaddafi's troops fired on demonstrators and protesters seized several eastern towns.

Moreover, the Libyan opposition, amid its failure to topple Col. Moammar Gadhafi, has accused Israel of supplying weapons to the Tripoli regime.

The opposition has charged that Israeli weapons were being supplied to the Gadhafi regime through a senior Palestinian official. Libyan opposition member Omar Khadraoui identified the official as Mohammed Dahlan, former Palestinian Authority security chief and now a member of the Fatah Central Committee. The Libyan rebel said Dahlan was working with an unidentified Iraqi Kurd.

“Dahlan is behind a deal to supply internationally-forbidden weapons to Col. Gadhafi,” Khadraoui said.

In an interview with the Algerian daily Echorouk, Khadraoui did not identify the weapons purportedly ordered by Gadhafi.

Khadraoui said Dahlan brought a ship loaded with Israeli weapons from Greece to Tripoli. The weapons were said to have been acquired from an unidentified Israeli supplier.

“Revolutionaries in Misrata seized a portion of those weapons,” Khadraoui said on April 2.

This marked the first time that Israel was linked to the Libyan rebellion, which began in February. [Not the first time, actually. In late February, reports emerged that an Israeli security company, Global CST, was recruiting mercenaries to support Gadhafi's counterrevolution.]

Over the last month, Libya has been under a naval blockade by NATO to prevent weapons from reaching Gadhafi or the rebels.

NATO has acknowledged allowing foreign ships that transported fuel and other non-combat equipment to arrive in Tripoli for the Gadhafi regime. In contrast, the Libyan rebel movement has accused NATO warships of blocking food supplies to the besieged city of Misrata.

Dahlan, long linked to weapons smuggling, has maintained ties to Israeli officials and executives. In late 2010, Dahlan left the West Bank for Jordan amid accusations that he was attempting to overthrow Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Dahlan has denied that he was supplying weapons to Gadhafi.

Fatah has announced an investigation of the Libyan rebel allegations against Dahlan. The movement’s Central Committee said Dahlan’s membership had been suspended and that he was under investigation on charges of corruption.

“The Central Committee emphasizes that it contravenes the principles of the movement and the interests of the Palestinian people and to ensure the hard non-interference in Arab affairs,” Fatah said in a statement on April 5.

In the interview, Khadraoui accused Gadhafi, who has frequently called for the destruction of the Jewish state, of maintaining links with Israel. The Libyan opposition member said Dahlan served as a liaison between Israel and the Libyan ruler.

“Col. Gadhafi pretends to be against Israel, but actually he has strong ties with it through Dahlan,” Khadraoui said.