October 6, 2007 23:38

An official Egyptian source on Saturday blamed Israel for thwarting a deal to free kidnapped Cpl. Gilad Schalit, being held in the Gaza Strip since June 2006. According to the official, quoted by the London-based Pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper, substantial progress was made towards Schalit's release five months ago, when both sides agreed on the numbers and names of Palestinian security prisoners to be released in return for Schalit. Israeli officials then "changed their minds," according to the report, asking international officials to put pressure on Damascus-based Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal to completely change the prisoner list, a move that Egypt opposed. Al-Hayat also reported that Ofer Dekel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's representative in the prisoner exchange negotiations, contacted officials in Cairo several days ago, asking that the Egyptians resume their role as mediators in the negotiations for Schalit's release. European officials have also attempted to revive the talks in recent weeks, Israel Radio reported.

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