Even as Egypt is warning of a new escalation between Israel and Lebanon, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak reassured his Lebanese counterpart, Sa’ad Hariri, on Tuesday that Israel does not plan to attack his country.
Israeli officials also denied plans to attack Lebanon, with Ambassador to the US Michael Oren telling CNN that Israel has “no intention of attacking Lebanon, Syria or anybody else in the Middle East.”
But tensions have been rising over allegations that Syria is supplying Scud middles to Hizbullah operatives in Lebanon. Egypt sent a letter Tuesday to US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in an effort to “defuse tensions” between the two countries.
In the past week, Egypt has taken an aggressive stance against Israel, with Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit calling Israel an “enemy” state, and saying that the Scud transfers are a “big lie.”
An editorial in Al-Ahram, the daily newspaper of the Egyptian government, called on Arab countries to isolate Israel.
After Egypt subsequently denied calling Israel the enemy, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Danny Ayalon said, “As far as Israel is concerned, the matter is now closed.”
Reports of the alleged Scud transfer surfaced in Kuwait’s Al-Rai newspaper earlier this month. Israel subsequently issued a stern warning that it would consider attacking both Syrian and Lebanese targets in response to a Scud attack on its territory.
During a visit to Brazil, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said Tuesday that his country would defend itself if it came under attack.
And Hariri, on his way out of a meeting with Mubarak at Sharm e-Sheikh, said he was reassured that Egypt would support Lebanon if a war were to break out. He further denied Scud missiles had been delivered to Hizbullah in Lebanon.
Also on Tuesday, Oren said, “The fact of the matter is the Syrians have been providing missiles to Hizbullah in Lebanon.”
Asked whether another conflict was imminent, Oren said the Obama administration has made it clear to Syria that arming Hizbullah is “unacceptable behavior.” He pointed out that the Syrian ambassador has been summoned to the White House on four occasions related to the weapons charges.
“We are convinced that the Obama administration understands this
danger” and made “its concerns clear to the Syrian government,” he said.
Asked about the Iranian nuclear threat, Oren said Israel was fully
committed to the sanctions program being pursued by the United States.
“Israel, like any country in the world, has a right to defend itself,”
he said. “We are committed to these sanctions, seeing how they work,
getting them up and running... Nobody is talking about coexisting with
a nuclear Iran.”