These warnings have been heard before, but somehow seem to make no impression. The end result is inevitable, yet everyone seems paralyzed
By Sue Pleming
WASHINGTON, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Egypt is doing too little to stop arms smuggling into Gaza, which emboldens the militant group Hamas and weakens rival Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter said on Thursday.
"Tens of tons" of explosives were being smuggled into Gaza via Egypt, including anti-aircraft missiles, Dichter told reporters while visiting Washington for meetings with U.S. officials.
"Egypt is not doing enough. That is for sure. It is not doing enough in terms of blocking this smuggling of means of warfare into the Gaza Strip," Dichter said.
He added that he did not believe Egypt was behind the smuggling, just that it was not stopping it.
Dichter said he had raised the issue with the Bush administration and would likely do so again during a meeting later on Thursday with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is due to visit the region next week.
The United States has been trying to consolidate the support of moderate Arab states such as Egypt to help break a deadlock in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Rice met Egypt's foreign minister in Washington on Wednesday.
"I can't see any reason why Egypt doesn't block totally the smuggling from Egypt into Gaza Strip ... I am sure that if Egypt decides to block this flow of smuggling they can do it, 100 percent," Dichter said, when asked whether he thought Egypt was deliberately not stopping the flow of weapons.
He said the flow of weapons was causing big problems for Abbas and weakening his position in Gaza. "It strengthens Hamas and weakens President Abbas," he said.
"I cannot think of a reason why Egypt is trying to weaken Abu Mazen (Abbas) and that is why I think it is lack of determination," said Dichter.
Abbas is currently holding talks with Hamas in Saudi Arabia on forming a unity government which could help end fighting that has killed more than 90 Palestinians since December.
It could also end an international blockade of the Islamist group Hamas, after it won parliamentary elections last year against Abbas's Fatah party, which had steered peace talks with Israel since 1993.
Israeli troops withdrew from Gaza and parts of the West Bank in late 2005. (Reporting by Sue Pleming; editing by Randall Mikkelsen; e-mail:sue.pleming@Reuters.com; tel:" 202 898 8393 )
Labels: Egypt, Gaza