Gheit: We'll work with Israel, not FM

Egyptian FM says Lieberman won't be invited to country until he changes his attitude toward Cairo.

aboul gheit 248 88 (photo credit: AP)
aboul gheit 248 88
(photo credit: AP)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Wednesday that until the attitude of his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, toward his country changes, Cairo will not work with him, nor will he be welcome in Egypt. "A person must be aware of what he says, because what he says will have consequences for him," Gheit said in an interview with the Russia Today television channel. "I can't imagine that his feet will step on Egyptian soil as long as his positions remain as they are," he said. The Egyptian foreign minister stressed that Cairo would cooperate with the new Netanyahu government, just not via Lieberman. In the past, Lieberman has harshly criticized Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for never visiting Israel, except for prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's funeral in 1995, saying he could "go to hell." He also once said Israel could attack the Aswan Dam in the event of a war with Egypt. Earlier this month, Gheit said he would not shake Lieberman's hand until he retracted such statements. During his speech when he took office last month, Lieberman attempted to relieve tensions with Egypt, calling it an important country in the Arab world and a key factor in maintaining regional stability. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry, however, responded negatively to Lieberman's attempt to mend his relations with Cairo, issuing a statement that Egypt "did not need any party to recognize its position or role, especially from those who have previously attacked it." Also during Wednesday's interview, Gheit called Hizbullah's alleged plans to destabilize the Egyptian regime a "dangerous" episode, saying violating Egyptian law was "unacceptable" and had "consequences." The foreign minister went on to say that his country, which he emphasized "is not small," had the full ability to control what goes on in its territory and would not let anyone threaten it. He added that Iran must reevaluate its activities vis-a-vis Egypt, and that "they aren't hurting Egypt, they are only hurting themselves." Meanwhile on Tuesday, Aboul Gheit charged that Iran had been using Hizbullah as a cover to infiltrate and create a presence on its territory. Teheran and its followers "want Egypt to become a maid of honor for the crowned Iranian queen when she enters the Middle East," he said in an interview with the London-based pan-Arab daily A-Sharq al-Awsat. Western-backed Arab states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia have long been concerned about increasing Iranian interference in Arab affairs, particularly following the US-led invasion of Iraq. Teheran accused Cairo on Wednesday of employing an "old trick" against Hizbullah that was aimed to sabotaging the Lebanese parliamentary elections in June. Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchechr Mottaki was responding to Egypt's recent allegation that it had uncovered a 49-member cell linked to the Shi'ite group that planned to carry out terrorist attacks in the country. "Labels against... Hizbullah and [its chief] Hassan Nasrallah are an old and frayed trick and will not achieve anything," Mottaki was quoted as saying by the Iranian Fars news agency. Egypt has arrested at least 25 members of a 49-member cell with ties to Hizbullah that was allegedly plotting attacks in Egypt, including against Israeli tourists at resorts in Sinai and against Egyptian installations. At a press conference after meeting the Omani foreign minister, Mottaki also warned against attempts to create problems for the parliamentary elections in Lebanon. "Of course, the Zionist regime will not attain its goals," Mottaki said, adding that "it will not succeed in using this political plot as it sustained a strong defeat from the Lebanese resistance in the military front." Meanwhile, Egyptian police detained three teenage Palestinian men on Wednesday on suspicion of crossing illegally into Egypt and also found explosives near the border with Gaza, security sources told Reuters. Police detained the three men, aged 16 to 18, in a dawn raid in the town of Sheikh Zweid, near Gaza, the sources said. A massive hunt was underway for the members the Hizbullah cell who were still at large. Egypt has tightened security on its border with Israel to prevent illegal crossings of any of the remaining suspects into Israel, and Israel has done the same. Also on Wednesday, Hizbullah deputy head Naim Qassem accused Egypt of engaging in a "policy of retaliation" because of Hizbullah's stance during Israel's recent military offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and its demand to fully open the Rafah border crossing between Sinai and southern Gaza. "The Egyptian regime wants revenge and wants to distort the reputation of Hizbullah, but I think he will be disappointed," Qassem said, according to the Iranian Fars News Agency. He added that "the details that Egyptian intelligence services and the Egyptian regime stitched up has no value because the allegations lack even the lowest levels of evidence and it is part of the political decision to crack down on Hizbullah." An Egyptian official said Wednesday that Hizbullah and Hassan Nasrallah would pay a high price for "terrorist attempts" to carry out attacks inside the country's sovereign territory, according to Wednesday's Al-Ahram newspaper. Egypt would not necessarily attack Hizbullah installations or kill members of the terrorist group, but Hizbullah members, including ministers in the Lebanese government, might be banned from entering Egypt, he said. Egypt's parliament condemned "Hizbullah attempts aimed at undermining the security of Egypt and her stability" on Tuesday, Al-Ahram reported. Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.