Assad Cuts Short Visit to Egypt
Syrian President Bashar Al Assad cut short talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on efforts to end Israeli attacks on Palestinians and left early for Damascus on Wednesday night, a government official said.
Information Minister Safwat el-Sherif told reporters the two leaders had been due to continue discussions on Thursday at the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh.
Asked for the reason for Assad's early departure, Sherif said: "Bashar asked the president when he first arrived to hold intensive meetings so that he could return this evening."
A Syrian official declined to elaborate immediately on the reason for Assad's decision to leave, but said he would comment on the departure subsequently.
Sherif said the leaders had discussed US contact with the Palestinians as a way to end Israeli attacks on Palestinians.
"The two presidents stressed the importance of all efforts for the Palestinian people to get back their legitimate rights, stop the (Israeli) aggression and the bloodshed," Sherif said.
It was Assad's second visit to Egypt since he took over from his late father Hafez al-Assad last year. Mubarak visited Damascus in March.
Mubarak held talks on Tuesday with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in which they discussed Israeli military incursions into Palestinian territory, the report of an international fact-finding mission led by former U.S. senator George Mitchell, and an Egyptian-Jordanian peace plan.
At least 425 Palestinians, 13 Israeli Arabs and 80 other Israelis have been killed since the start of a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in September.
Syrian-Israeli peace talks, held intermittently since 1991, broke off in January 2000. Egypt supports Syria's demand for the full return of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, in return for peace with the Jewish state -- BEIRUT (Reuters)
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