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Salafist party official tells Israeli radio station Egypt will respect peace deals

A spokesman for Egypt’s main Salafist party on Wednesday pledged that the hardline Islamist group would respect the peace treaty with Israel in an unprecedented interview with an Israeli radio station.

“We are not against the (1979 peace) agreement but we say that Egypt is committed to the agreements signed by the previous governments,” Nour Party spokesman Yusri Hammad said in a telephone interview with Israel’s army radio, in which he spoke in Arabic.

“If there are some clauses that the people of Egypt want to change in the agreements, then these belong on the negotiating table,” he said. “We respect all treaties.”

Al-Nour Party is the main party of the Salafists.

The hardline faction was initially part of the Democratic Alliance coalition led by the Muslim Brotherhood, but they broke away to form the Islamic Alliance, which calls for a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Hammad said the Salafists image had been “distorted” by the media and by other elements who were against Islamist elements ruling Egypt.

The interview prompted surprise in Israel that a member of the Egyptian Salafist movement would grant an interview to an Israeli media outlet, particularly one associated with the military.

“We were surprised by this interview,” a senior government source told AFP. “It gives us, without any doubt, something to think about regarding what is happening in Egypt.”

Hammad’s remarks were made as Egyptians turned out to vote in the run-off of a second round of legislative polls.

Since voting began just over three weeks ago, Egypt’s main Islamist parties − Al-Nour Party and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party − have emerged as the front-runners, trumping their liberal rivals.

Asked on whether Israeli tourists can visit Egypt in a post-Mubarak era, the Hammad said that “any tourist coming to Egypt is welcomed and without any doubt."

Meanwhile, Hammad told Al Arabiya.net that he received an anonymous phone call and when he started the conversation with the caller, the Israeli journalist at first presented himself as an Iraqi one and spoke with him in Arabic.

“If I knew [the caller being a journalist from the Isareli army radio station], I would not have talked to him,” he said, adding “this is a media deceit and I reject such approach.”

The spokesman said only at the end of the interview the journalist said that he is Israeli.

Despite reiterating the stance that the Salafist party will respect and uphold previous peace agreements with Israel, the spokesman said that “as a political party and not as a political authority we do not see any interest in communicating with any Israeli official and we do not accept to sit with the Israeli ambassador to Egypt, and we do not see ourselves as a political party [the interest] to sit with an Israeli official in Israel on which we consider [the Jewish state] as a conquering country.”

New anti-Israel Islamists

A new Islamist group in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula has vowed attacks on the military government in Cairo and U.S. targets, according to a statement posted on a jihadist forum.

The group, calling itself Ansar al-Jihad in the Sinai Peninsula, pledged to “do our best to fight the corrupt (Egyptian) regime and its henchmen among the Jews, the Americans and those around them,” according to a translation of the statement by the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group.

The statement spoke of “a fierce war against Islam” and of the “theft” of Egypt’s natural resources, which it said were being sold to Israel, referring to a controversial natural gas deal between the two countries.
The group complained about the Egyptian government’s treatment of individuals who bombed the gas pipeline and the killing of one suspect during an outbreak of violence along the Egypt-Israel border in August.

It went on to quote al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden’s vow that the United States would not enjoy security as long as Palestinians did not.

It was not immediately possible to confirm the statement or the existence of the group.

Egypt’s rugged Sinai was hit by a string of bombings targeting tourist resorts from 2004 to 2006 that killed more than 100 people.

The worst was claimed by a group calling itself al-Tawhid wal Jihad (Unity and Holy War). It had also pledged allegiance to bin Laden, who was killed earlier this year in a U.S. commando raid in Pakistan.

The Egyptian gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan has been attacked 10 times since the fall of longtime Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak in February.