Palestinians must unite before creation of state: Mubarak

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SHARM EL-SHEIKH: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday urged rival Palestinian factions to unite in order to achieve the creation of a Palestinian state.

If they want two states, Palestinians must unite, Mubarak said during a joint news conference with visiting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Being two separate states (in Gaza and the West Bank) will not work and will just make Israel very happy, said an apparently frustrated Mubarak.

The veteran Egyptian leader also urged Israel to allow movement between the two territories.

Israel must agree to movement between the West Bank and Gaza so these people can mix with each other, he said.

Cairo has played a key role as mediator between Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas Fatah faction and the rival Islamist Hamas movement, which have been bitterly divided after Hamas seized Gaza in a week of deadly factional fighting in June 2007.

Egyptian efforts to reconcile them have been unsuccessful so far because of disagreements on the composition and obligations of a Palestinian unity government.

Berlusconi reiterated his support for a two-state solution, a bedrock principle of international peace efforts under the 2003 roadmap plan.

We must move towards the creation of two states, the creation of a Palestinian state and give Israel security, Berlusconi said.

The two leaders met at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, where Mubarak had hosted Benjamin Netenyahu a day earlier on the Israeli prime minister s first trip abroad since taking office in March.

During his visit to Egypt, Netanyahu said he wanted to resume peace talks with the Palestinians within weeks but avoided any mention of a two-state solution.

Mubarak and Berlusconi oversaw the signing of 22 bilateral agreements between Egypt and Italy in different areas including energy, transport, culture, migration, health and agriculture, state television reported.

They are also stepping up efforts to curb illegal migration from Africa to Europe.

One of the agreements signed establishes an Italian university in Egypt and another provides for training of Egyptian laborers by Italian experts.

They appear to be aimed at offering an alternative to young Egyptians contemplating a dangerous, illegal journey across the Mediterranean to Italy to flee grinding poverty, high unemployment and rising prices at home.

Italy regularly expels illegal Egyptian migrants who are caught back to Egypt. -Agencies

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