CAIRO: Egypt s foreign minister said on Tuesday he has demanded Israel investigate the alleged killings of Egyptian prisoners of war in 1967.
His comments appeared to be an attempt to diffuse a public uproar over his earlier remarks which were decried here as too lenient toward Israel.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters that he sent a harsh rhetoric letter to his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni after watching the Israeli-made documentary The Spirit of Shaked .
The Egyptian press claimed the film was evidence that an elite Israeli military unit executed 250 Egyptian POWs in the Sinai Peninsula instead of transferring them to prison camps.
Aboul Gheit said that the film raises question marks … there was no reason for the excessive use of force by the [Israeli] military unit against the special Egyptian forces.
The foreign minister s comments appeared to be a veiled apology to the Egyptian public, infuriated after he said Cairo has no intention of cutting ties with Israel just because of a film.
The flare-up over the documentary which was first broadcast in Israel in early March, led the Israeli infrastructure minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a former commander of the Shaked unit depicted in the film, to postpone a planned visit to Cairo.
Egyptian lawmakers called on the government to suspend the peace agreement with Israel, recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv and file war crimes charges against Israel.
But Aboul Gheit did not directly accuse the Israeli unit of killing Egyptian POWs but said Israel must conduct an immediate investigation and take all measures necessary to try the suspects over violations of international law.
The film s Israeli producer, Ran Ederlist, has said that Egyptian press reports badly distorted his documentary. He said the incident did not involve unarmed Egyptian POWs but Palestinian fighters killed in battle.
Egypt had previously probed Israel about the incident. In 1995, former Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres assigned a reserve Israeli army major to investigate it, but the investigation yielded no results.The peace agreement between Egypt and Israel was reached in 1979, ending a conflict that had lasted three decades and included four major wars.
Today Egypt plays an important mediating role between Israel and the Palestinians. But the peace agreement remains unpopular with many Egyptians.
Local newspapers this month published several interviews with army figures from the 1967 war who talked about the killing of the POWs.
El-Masry El-Youm daily cited former army officer Osama El-Sadek, who recounted a scene after June 6, when orders were given to withdraw troops.
We found some 40 [Egyptian] soldiers shot in the head and we saw the trail of tanks that had passed over their bodies. It was a horrible scene, El-Sadek was quoted as saying.