Sunday, August 31, 2008
Egypt: Consider Arab force in Gaza
Egyptian foreign minister says 'presence of Arab forces on ground can help in preventing the fighting'
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Saturday an Arab force for the Gaza Strip could help stop violence there, and the idea should be taken seriously, Egypt's state news agency MENA reported. But Aboul Gheit, whose country is sponsoring unity talks between rival Palestinian groups, stopped short of directly calling for such a force in the Hamas-controlled territory.
"The presence of Arab forces on the ground can help in preventing the fighting and stopping the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Aboul Gheit told Egypt's October magazine, according to excerpts that ran on MENA ahead of the magazine piece, due out on Sunday.
"The matter has not been studied yet, but it is an attractive idea that deserves to be taken seriously when we consider that Egypt and the Arab League may play a role in this matter," he added.
However, a Hamas spokesman rejected the idea later in the day.
"The idea of sending an Arab force to Gaza is unjustified and unbalanced and it could not happen without the agreement of all Palestinian factions. Since Hamas rejects the idea, it will never be implemented," Sami Abu Zuhri said.
Aboul Gheit said the issue of an Arab force for Gaza would only be brought up in Palestinian talks after Palestinians achieved unity and following "appropriate study."