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(photo credit: Ariel Hermoni / Defense Ministry)
At the end of an hour-long meeting Sunday evening with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated that "Egypt has more to fear from Iran than we do."
The foreign minister went on to stress that "The greatest danger in the Middle East today is Iran, which is a greater threat to moderate Arab nations than to Israel."
Teheran, according to Lieberman, is "attempting to duplicate the model of Hizbullah in Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen."
Earlier on Sunday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak welcomed Suleiman to Jerusalem, saying that Egypt is a "central player" in the Middle East.
"We're always happy to see him," Barak added. "I hope we have fruitful talks here."
Ahead of a half-hour meeting at the capitol's Crowne Plaza Hotel, the defense minister also expressed hope that Suleiman's visit would help to restart peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
The two ministers discussed four different regional issues, according to a statement from the Defense Ministry. Barak stressed the need to prevent Hamas from bolstering its arsenal, including rockets.
Also attending the meeting was Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, Amos Gilad, OC IDF Planning Division Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, and aides to Barak and Suleiman.
Suleiman also met with with Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer Sunday, who told the Egyptian official that Israel had made serious concessions in order to advance the peace process with the Palestinians.
Ben-Eliezer told Suleiman that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas should return to the negotiating table, stressing that "Egypt has a central role" in the Middle East peace process.
The Egyptian official's visit to Israel was reportedly prompted by a boost in joint efforts by Jerusalem and Cairo to prevent arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip via tunnels. Reports surfaced last week that Egypt had begun to build a sturdy, impenetrable metal wall under the ground near its border with Gaza in order to block the tunnels.
Officials in Cairo on Saturday denied that Suleiman's visit was related to negotiations to free captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, held by Hamas in Gaza. Suleiman, as the most prominent figure in Egyptian intelligence, has reportedly been heavily involved in the talks.
Suleiman met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and with President Shimon Peres later Sunday evening.