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Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Friday that a compromise had been reached with several Hamas leaders for a conditional release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.
The agreement that Mubarak claimed to have reached with the kidnappers involved an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the release of prisoners scheduled to be released anyway in the next year, in exchange for the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit who was kidnapped on Sunday, Palestinian sources said.
The London-based Al-Hayat newspaper said that Cairo has proposed that the swap would not be simultaneous but that the Palestinian prisoners would be freed later. Al-Hayat's sources, whom it did not name, said Hamas' leadership outside the Palestinian territories has not responded to the proposal.
Mubarak told Egypt's leading pro-government newspaper, Al-Ahram that Shalit's kidnappers have agreed to his conditional release, but Israel has not yet accepted their terms.
Mubarak said, "Egyptian contacts with several Hamas leaders resulted in preliminary, positive results in the form of a conditional agreement to hand over the Israeli soldier as soon as possible to avoid an escalation.
The president said he had asked Prime Minister Ehud Olmert "not to hurry" the military offensive in Gaza, but to "give additional time to find a peaceful solution to the problem of the kidnapped soldier."
Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, was expected to go to Gaza on Friday, as Mubarak's representative, to advance the compromise. He was also scheduled to meet with Hamas leader in Damascus Khaled Mashaal. However, Nazal dismissed as rumors reports that said Hamas is sending a representative to Egypt soon.
Gilad Shalit's father, Noam, welcomed the news of the compromise and thanked Mubarak for his efforts.
Still, MK Ephraim Sneh (Labor) dismissed the Egyptian initiative, saying "a diplomatic option is when someone brings about the unilateral, unconditional release of the kidnapped [soldier], not when someone serves as a mediator between us and the Hamas head in Gaza," Army Radio reported.
Sources in Jerusalem stated that they had not yet received the details of the compromise. Moreover, the Prime Minister's Office insisted that it was not negotiating for Shalit's release.
The Egyptian president also demanded from his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad to deport the Syrian-based Hamas leadership unless it agreed to Shalit, Palestinian sources said. He warned Mashaal that by insisting that thousands of Palestinian detainees be released in exchange for Shalit, he was leading the Palestinians to disaster, Israel Radio reported.
Mubarak's remark implied he was claiming a role in Israel's decision.
In Jerusalem, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official, Gideon Meir, said Israel did not know of such an offer.
Reached just after midnight on Friday morning, Meir told The Associated Press that Israel would have no comment until daybreak.
"In general Israel's stance is, as the prime minister said earlier, that the soldier will only be released unconditionally and there will be no negotiations with a gang of terrorists and criminals who abducted a soldier from Israeli territory," Meir said.
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