Israel denies Pakistani delegation visit

Officials dismissed as "nonsense" reports large group visited Israel last week.

musharraf 298 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
musharraf 298 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israeli officials dismissed as "nonsense" Pakistani-media reports that a 174-strong Pakistani delegation visited Israel last week and even met with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "It never took place," said Sharon's spokesman Asi Shariv. Asked if he had any explanation for the reports in the Pakistani media, Shariv said he had difficulty enough understanding the ways of the Israeli media, let alone the Pakistani press. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev also denied that there was any such delegation in Israel. The group was also purported to have met with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. And not only Israeli officials were denying the reports. According to the Pakistani Dawn newspaper's internet site, A Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman said that a private delegation may have gone to Israel, "but there is no government sponsorship." According to the paper, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry had "neither any association with the reported delegation nor it had any information about it." In September, soon after Shalom met Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri in Istanbul, Pakistan's Foreign Office said a Pakistani delegation would travel to Gaza and Jerusalem in October. A Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman at the time said the "delegation will be visiting Gaza, Al Quds and some other places next month." That visit, according to the report in Dawn, was postponed because of the deadly earthquake that hit the country on October 8. Despite the denials, Army Radio Saturday reported that a Kuwaiti news agency spoke to the head of the purported delegation, Jamal Kadri, in a telephone interview from Ramallah. Kadri, described as the head of a religious movement, reportedly said that members of the delegation met with Sharon on Thursday. According to Kadri, the meeting was not "very productive." He said Sharon "left the meeting in a fury after one of the delegation members questioned him about radical right-wing Likud members." However, according to Kadri, the prime minister eventually returned and invited the delegation to a Friday lunch. Kadri added that he also met with Shalom, and with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The internet edition of the Pakistani Times, which first reported on the delegation last Sunday, wrote that Kadri spoke by phone with the Pakistan Observer on Friday and said the meeting with Abbas was productive and positive. "We assured President Abbas that Pakistan's non official delegation's visit to Al-Quds Sharif [Jerusalem] has not altered Pakistan's principled position on Palestinian issue," the paper quoted him as saying. It also quoted him as saying that he visited Israel in private capacity, and that the visit had nothing to do with the government of Pakistan.