Arab League official: We are not mediating between Lebanon and Egypt over Hizbullah cell

"The Arab League has no position on the issue, because it is up to the courts in Egypt," spokesman tells 'Post.'

moussa 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
moussa 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Arab League is not involved in mediating between Egypt and Lebanon or Hizbullah, which has been accused by Cairo of setting up a terror cell that plotted attacks on its soil, a spokesman for the organization said Sunday. On Saturday, Arab League chief Amr Moussa met with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, raising speculation that the 22-nation organization was actively involved in trying to diffuse escalating tensions over the issue. "The Arab League has no position on the issue, because it is up to the courts in Egypt; it's a court issue," spokesman Abdel Alim al-Abayad told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. "We are not involved in any mediation, because it is a juridical matter and it's in front of the Egyptian courts." He said that Moussa mainly made the trip to attend a celebration announcing Beirut as "World Book Capital City 2009." According to Lebanese press reports, Moussa discussed the crisis between Egypt and the Iranian-backed Hizbullah, along with the upcoming parliamentary elections and other developments in Lebanon and the region. Al-Abayad, however, denied that Moussa discussed the Hizbullah cell with Lebanese leaders. "He didn't discuss it and we don't discuss it at the Arab League," he said. "We have no position on that." Moussa declined to respond to reporters' questions about the issue on Saturday but confirmed that quiet diplomatic efforts are under way, as Suleiman had previously stated, over the issue. Moussa also denied reports that he would relay a message to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak about the matter. Suleiman said he is using quiet diplomacy to try to keep the allegations that a Hizbullah cell plotted attacks in Egypt from harming his country's relations with Cairo, according to Saturday's pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat. "Our policy on this issue is quiet and serious - to solve it so that this will not affect the cordial relations between Lebanon and Egypt," Suleiman was quoted as saying. "We shouldn't talk much about this issue," he said. "The state is doing its job and the president is trying to find a fair and quiet solution to all." Suleiman told Moussa that Lebanon wants "to maintain the very good ties with Egypt, which are strengthened by a number of bilateral agreements," according to a Sunday report in the Lebanese daily An-Nahar. He added that relations between the two countries "should not be affected by unexpected incidents like those that happened recently and which led to Egypt's extremely tough position." Suleiman said he supports a peaceful solution to the crisis, according to the report. Egypt recently announced the discovery of a 49-member cell that allegedly plotted attacks against Egyptian installations and Israeli tourists. Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah has acknowledged that one of the cell's members is a member of the terror group but says that he and about 10 others were only planning to smuggle weapons into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip rather than plot attacks in the country. Al-Hayat has reported that Sami Shehab, who is accused of leading the group, was traveling on a false passport issued by the Lebanese Interior Ministry. Cairo is reportedly demanding that Lebanon investigate the matter. Egyptian officials say that the investigation into the terror cell is almost complete and the trial of the suspects is expected to begin in the coming days. Among other missions, the Hizbullah cell was assigned to monitor Egypt's strategic Suez Canal and Shehab instructed six members stationed in Port Said to buy a boat to do so, the Egyptian Al-Akhbar newspaper reported. The London-based Asharq al-Awsat, citing unnamed sources, has reported that the cell had planned three major bombings in tourist cities in the Sinai and on the Red Sea. AP contributed to this report.