Mubarak: Contacts ongoing to secure release of Shalit

Head of Germany's intelligence service in Lebanon for talks on release of kidnapped IDF reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.

shalit, gilad, 298 ap (photo credit: AP)
shalit, gilad, 298 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak disclosed that contacts were ongoing to secure the release of kidnapped soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit by Palestinian operatives, according to an interview published Saturday by a semiofficial daily. Israel is waiting for a Palestinian "initiative" that spells out Palestinian conditions for a prisoner exchange, Mubarak told Al-Ahram newspaper. Their demands could include the freeing of Palestinian prisoners who are women or minors, he said. The Egyptian president did not provide information on official involvement in the talks, but said that non-governmental groups from each side were participating. He did not name them. On Friday the Saudi Arabian newspaper, Ukha'az reported that an Israeli security delegation was negotiating the release of Shalit via Egyptian mediators in Cairo. Egyptian officials have told their Israeli counterparts in recent days that in exchange for the release of 500 Palestinian female and juvenile prisoners, the kidnappers of Shalit would be willing to release the IDF soldier to Egyptian custody, The Jerusalem Post has learned. Two officers from Egyptian intelligence are currently stationed in the Gaza Strip and are said to be in touch with the actual kidnappers, who have passed on to them their demands. Following the release of the first 500 prisoners and Shalit, the kidnappers are also demanding the release of an additional 500 Hamas members being held in Israeli prisons. This was the first time that an exact number of prisoners demanded by the kidnappers was stipulated in talks over the release of Shalit. At the moment, the Post has learned, Israel is holding up the deal, and Egypt is waiting for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's response. "The Egyptians are keeping their line of communication with the kidnappers open on a low flame," one source said. "The plan is in place. All Israel needs to do is answer the request." The official government stance has been that Israel refuses to negotiate the return of Shalit so as not to encourage the kidnapping of additional IDF soldiers. Meanwhile, the Qatari daily Al-Watan reported on Sunday that the head of Germany's intelligence service, Ernst Urlau, who arrived in Lebanon on Friday, was negotiating with Hizbullah officials for the release of kidnapped IDF reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. According to Israel Radio, the report stated that despite the cooperation of Hizbullah representatives, the organization still refused to allow Red Cross workers to visit the prisoners and refused to transfer Regev and Goldwasser to the custody of the Lebanese government until negotiations on a possible prisoner exchange progressed. Urlau also met with the head of Lebanese army intelligence.