Aboul Gheit lashes back at Nasrallah

Gheit says Nasrallah wants to create chaos; thousands attend Gaza support rally in Beirut.

Nasrallah doh 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Nasrallah doh 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Tensions between moderate and radical rival camps in the Arab world reached a new height Monday, with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit launching a scathing critique of Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who on Sunday had called on millions of Egyptians to take to the streets to protest their government's response to Israel's attack. "They have practically declared war on Egypt via several satellite stations. The Egyptian people reject and opposes this declaration," Aboul Gheit said during a press conference in Turkey, following talks with his Turkish counterpart. "They want for there to be chaos in Egypt as there is in their country," Aboul Gheit said of Hizbullah. "I tell this man: No, no! Our armed forces can defend our homeland from people like you. Your interest in creating chaos is not in the best interest of the area," he added. On Monday, Nasrallah called for uprisings throughout the Arab and Islamic world and said he supported a third Palestinian intifada. "The people of Gaza are the purest and most honorable people, and those who abandon them are participating in the crime, killings and treason," he said. He also asked Egypt and other Arab countries "to secure what is needed of the Gazan resistance." But amid recent speculation that Hizbullah might launch an attack on Israel, he said "we will not attack anyone." Meanwhile, Arab diplomatic and grassroots efforts regarding Israel's assault on Hamas targets in Gaza intensified, with Aboul Gheit meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan in Ankara to discuss the crisis in Gaza. Aboul Gheit called for an immediate cease-fire, a return to the tahdiyeh, or calm, and opening up the crossings with Gaza. "Egypt and Turkey are seeking an immediate cease-fire and opening of the crossings to allow the arrival of the needed goods to the Palestinian people," Aboul Gheit said. The Egyptian foreign minister added that his country had tried to prevent the escalation in violence by asking Israel not to carry out an operation in the Gaza Strip. He also accused Nasrallah of creating an atmosphere of anarchy "similar to the one they created in their own country." "This person also called on the Egyptian armed forces, but he is not aware of the situation," he said. "If you do not know, let me tell you that the Egyptian armed forces are tasked with defending Egypt. If need be, they will also protect Egypt against people like you." The verbal war between Nasrallah and Egypt is part of the larger regional divide between radicals, led by Iran, and moderate states, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. "The Palestinian cause is a major bribe used by the radicals to legitimate their aims and further Iranian hegemony in the Middle East," said Gamal Abdel Gawad, head of the international relations unit of Al-Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies. For a third day, waves of protesters took to the streets in cities throughout the Arab and Muslim world to condemn the Israeli assault in the Gaza Strip and to urge their governments to take action. In Cairo, between 20,000 and 30,000 protesters took to the streets, calling on their government to do more to help the people of Gaza. In Mauritania, demonstrators and the country's senate asked government officials to sever its ties with Israel. The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council started its annual summit Monday to discuss the economic crisis and moving towards a joint currency by 2010 but made an urgent decision to make the issue of Gaza a leading item on the agenda. "[Gaza] is the most prominent event on the summit," Abdel-Rahman al-Attiyah, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), told reporters after an opening session of leaders in the Omani capital, Reuters reported. "Gaza was discussed yesterday, has been discussed in the meetings today and will be discussed tomorrow at all levels. It will be reflected in the summit statement and therefore this issue is one of the hottest in the summit." Egypt is seeking to renew the six-month truce that expired between Israel and Hamas on December 17. In addition, Arab League foreign ministers are also scheduled to meet in Cairo on Wednesday to create a unified stance on Israel's operation. After opening the Rafah crossing on Sunday, Egypt allowed trucks with food and medical supplies to continue to pass through to the Gaza Strip on Monday. When asked how long the foreign ministry would keep the Rafah crossing open, spokesman Hossam Zaki said, "It's not about the Rafah crossing being open or not, but in view of the military activities going on, whether it will be possible to use it." "This area is an area of military activities, as we're told [by Israel], but our policy here is to keep it open, to keep the crossings open and to keep humanitarian aid flowing," he said. Zaki suggested that Egypt has been the subject of criticism not because it hasn't allowed aid through its crossings, but because critics "want it entirely open for persons to go through as they please, which is not our policy."