The fate of an Israeli soldier captured in 2006 should not be linked to Egypt-mediated talks on a long-term ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza Strip, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was quoted as saying Tuesday. "Egypt will not change its position on the truce, the matter of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is a separate issue which can in no way be linked to the truce negotiations," the state-owned Al-Ahram daily quoted Mubarak as saying.
Israel has linked a truce agreement to the release of Shalit, who was seized in a cross-border raid in June 2006.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that Shalit's release took priority over any other consideration in the negotiations for a lasting ceasefire.
According to AFP, Hamas on Monday insisted it wouldn't discuss releasing Shalit as part of the truce negotiations, accusing Israel of "blackmail" for raising the issue of the captured soldier when an agreement had almost been reached. "We blame Israel for preventing the implementation of the truce...and we reject blackmail attempts by Israel," said Gaza-based Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu.