Peres, Mubarak to discuss Iran, Gilo

Peres, Mubarak to discus

President Shimon Peres prepared to go to Cairo on Sunday for a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, expected to focus on the diplomatic process with the Palestinians, Iran and kidnapped soldier St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit. Peres met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday to discuss the trip. Officials in the Prime Minister's Office said the visit was completely coordinated, and described Peres as a "national asset" who had a close working relationship with Mubarak. The officials deflected questions about whether the fact that Peres was going to Egypt, rather than Netanyahu, reflected any difficulties in the relationship between the two leaders, saying that Netanyahu had already gone to Egypt twice since taking office in late March. The Jerusalem Municipal Planning Committee's recent decision to approve construction of some 900 new homes in the Gilo neighborhood is also expected to come up in the discussions, as Egypt has joined the international chorus opposing the move. In a Cairo address on Saturday, Mubarak said Israeli plans to "judaize" Jerusalem, its excavations around al-Aksa Mosque and the confrontations with Palestinians were placing "new obstacles in the path to peace." Israel's "demand to recognize it as a Jewish state and refusal to include Jerusalem in negotiations for a comprehensive agreement," said the Egyptian president, were "undermining" peace efforts. "Lift the blockade on Gaza. Let there be an end to stubbornness, let the call for peace be heard," he said. Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki last week termed the decision to go ahead with the construction "provocative" and said it was deplorable and deserved condemnation. Regarding the diplomatic process, both Peres and Mubarak have expressed hope that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is currently visiting South America, will remain in office and resume peace negotiations. Speaking on Saturday in Salvador De Bahia in the presence of Brazilian President Luiz Incio Lula da Silva, Abbas said, "Our people want peace for our children and the Israeli children to live without fear, and look forward to the day when we can live without ugly occupation." Peres returned on Wednesday from visits to Brazil and Argentina and has two more overseas trips scheduled before the end of January, to Sweden and Germany. In related news, jailed Tanzim leader and Fatah Central Committee member Marwan Barghouti urged Abbas and the Palestinian factions to lead a "popular resistance" to stop Israel's settlement construction and "Judaizing" activities. "I have always called for creatively combining negotiations with resistance and political, diplomatic and popular activism," Israel Radio quoted Barghouti on Saturday as telling the PA's Al-Hayat al-Jadida newspaper. "I warned against relying exclusively on negotiations, but some were late to discover this," he said. In a message transmitted via his lawyer from the Israeli prison where he has been incarcerated for seven years since being convicted of five murders, Barghouti said there was no Israeli peace partner. He made similar remarks in October, when he warned that the circumstances that had led to the second intifada still existed, and called on the Palestinians to conduct a "peaceful resistance" campaign. staff contributed to this report.