CAIRO (AFP) — Egypt denied on Tuesday a report in an Israeli newspaper that President Hosni Mubarak had told European ministers on a peace mission that Hamas must not be allowed to win the ongoing war in Gaza.
The daily Haaretz reported on its website that Mubarak made the comment on Monday to a visiting European Union delegation, which included several European foreign ministers.
“If an Israeli newspaper published comments such as these, non-attributed, from a closed meeting, how credible can it be?” said foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki.
The report came on the day a Hamas delegation was expected in Cairo to discuss an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, where a 11-day-long Israeli offensive has killed at least 560 Palestinians.
Rockets fired by Gaza militants have killed four Israelis.
Egypt had mediated a six-month truce between Hamas and Israel, which expired on December 19.
Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit has blamed Hamas, which fired dozens of rockets into Israel after the truce ended, for provoking the conflict, saying the Islamist group had given Israel the opportunity “on a golden platter.”
His comments had further strained relations between Egypt and Hamas, which boycotted in November a Cairo-mediated Palestinian reconciliation meeting with its Fatah rivals.
“There is an obvious reason for Israel at this moment to further the wedge that has been driven between Egypt and Hamas,” said Zaki. “Such manoeuvres do not serve the purpose of finding a quick end to this situation.”
Egypt has been accused by Hamas and some others in the region of having accepted or supported Israel’s operations in the Gaza Strip.
Amr Mussa, chief of the Arab League, said on Saturday that reports of Arab support for Israel in the ongoing conflict were Israeli “disinformation.”