Mubarak: Israel was close to releasing prisoners

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was about to release a large number of Palestinian prisoners before the crisis over Cpl. Gilad Shalit worsened, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in remarks published Tuesday. In an interview with the state-run newspaper El-Messa, Mubarak spoke of a missed opportunity to resolve the confrontation that developed between Israel and the Palestinians after the Hamas-linked group kidnapped the IDF soldier on June 25 and demanded an exchange for hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. "Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, promised me to free a large number of Palestinian prisoners," Mubarak said. "But events suddenly escalated." Mubarak did not blame Hamas for the escalation, but privately Egyptian officials have said the group did not respond favorably to Egypt's mediation.