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Egypt will limit -- not end -- ties with Israel

©Associated Press
April 4, 2002

CAIRO -- Egypt announced Wednesday it was limiting diplomatic contacts with Israel, but did not sever ties despite pressure from protesters who have clashed with police in angry demonstrations against Israel's offensive in the West Bank.

Egypt will suspend government contacts with Israel except diplomatic ones that "serve the Palestinian cause," Information Minister Safwat el-Sherif said.

The decision means official visits and phone calls between the countries are banned and the Israeli ambassador, while allowed to stay, will not be contacted, said Mustafa Bakri, editor-in-chief of Al-Osboa and one of a group of Egyptian journalists who met with President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday.

Egypt signed a 1979 peace treaty with Israel, but the peace has been a cool one, with few contacts beyond diplomatic ones and limited economic exchanges.

In brief . . .

FIGHTING IN LEBANON: Israeli fighter jets bombed suspected guerrilla hideouts in southern Lebanon on Wednesday after Israeli army outposts were attacked in a disputed border area.

Lebanese security officials said Hezbollah guerrillas attacked three Israeli army outposts in the hills of Chebaa Farms with about a dozen rockets.

Israeli fighter jets responded, firing about a dozen air-to-surface missiles in six runs on locations where guerrillas were thought to be taking cover. The Israeli army also responded with automatic rifle, tank and artillery fire.

ARAB PROTESTS: Lebanese and Palestinians shredded an American flag and clashed with security forces outside the fortified U.S. Embassy compound in Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday in one of many angry protests throughout the Arab world against Israel and the United States.

About 25 people, including nine members of the security forces, were slightly hurt in a melee involving 5,000 people, mainly students, outside the Beirut embassy. The injured were hit by stones or overcome by tear gas.

Demonstrators also took to the streets in the capitals of Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan and Syria. In Saudi Arabia, where demonstrations are banned, word emerged Wednesday of rare protests in support of the Palestinians.

VATICAN SPEAKS OUT: The Vatican raised its profile on the Mideast crisis by sharply criticizing Israel for imposing "unjust and humiliating conditions" on Palestinians and by condemning acts of terrorism. With Bethlehem under Israel military occupation, the Vatican called on the two sides to respect holy places.

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