CAIRO: Egypt s top Muslim cleric, Mohamed Sayed Tantawy, has urged Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza, only days after saying he was unaware the Palestinian territory was under siege, a newspaper reported on Friday.
Tantawy, the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar in Cairo, has been under attack in the opposition press after shaking hands with Israeli President Shimon Peres at a religious conference in the United States last month, and then denying he recognized him.
He called journalists who published pictures of the handshake a group of lunatics and the editors of Israeli newspaper Maariv liars for publishing details of the encounter with Peres.
Asked last week about shaking Peres hand at a time when Israel is maintaining its blockade of Gaza, Tantawy responded: I don t know whether there is a siege of Gaza, the daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.
Israel imposed its blockade on the impoverished coastal strip after Hamas seized power there in June 2007.
Tantawy, who is government-appointed, added at the time: What siege? What rubbish? There has been a siege for months.
Al-Masry Al-Youm reported on Friday that Tantawy said in a new statement that Israel should end its tyrannical practices against the Palestinians and end the Gaza blockade.
But Tantawy’s latest statement did not impress his critics.
His floundering is a sign that the Sheikh of Al-Azhar is too small for his post, Wahid Abdel Meguid, an analyst with Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Al-Masry Al-Youm.
It s not only his fault, but also the fault of whoever appointed him, Abdel Meguid added. -AFP