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Palestinians should approve the West Asia road map

Written by: Staff

CAIRO, May 4: Egypt gave a visiting Palestinian minister a meeting today but told him the Palestinians should approve the West Asia road map and other peace initiatives which imply recognition of Israel.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit met Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud el-Zahar for the first time since the Islamist group Hamas took over the cabinet in March.

Aboul Gheit was not available when Zahar came to Egypt last month, creating media speculation that the Egyptian government was joining the US, Israeli and European campaign to isolate the Hamas government diplomatically.

The meeting did take place on Thursday but in a written statement released later the Egyptian foreign ministry restated Egypt's position on what Hamas should do.

''The minister (Aboul Gheit) called for the formulation of a united Palestinian position based on the principles of the Arab peace initiative, UN resolutions on the Palestinian question, the Road Map and adopting the language of negotiations as a sole means to settle the Palestinian-Israeli dispute,'' it said.

The Arab peace plan of 2002, the Road Map of 2003 and many UN resolutions are based on the principle of two states, one Israeli and on Palestinian, living side by side.

Hamas, which won elections in January, says all the pre-Israel territory of Palestine should be one Muslim state.

The United States and the European Union have cut off aid to press their political demand that Hamas change its position.

Zahar told reporters after the meeting there was no crisis in relations with Egypt. He described the meeting with Aboul Gheit as positive but gave no details.

Hamas says the new government is broke because of the cuts in aid and unable to pay wages to 140,000 government workers.

Arab governments have donated money to cover the shortfall but banks are afraid to transfer it to the Palestinian territories for fear they could face US sanctions.

Zahar, speaking with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa earlier today said the delays were only technical banking problems and that a Palestinian Finance Ministry delegation was in Cairo to help resolve them.

''There are technical procedures on the part of banks, who fear that the funding will reach blockage points and be frozen,'' Zahar said. ''This is a technical issue more than a political one,'' he added.

Some countries have floated the idea of paying salaries directly to Palestinian workers through a trust fund, most recently staunch US ally Britain, Western diplomats said.

France and the Arab League had previously backed the idea despite US misgivings.


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