No Deadline For Shalit Prisoner Exchange

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A spokesman for the men holding Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit captive in Gaza said yesterday that no deadline had been imposed on a potential prisoner exchange.

The comments came as Israeli cabinet ministers held an emergency meeting reported to be addressing a prisoner swap.

Egyptian intelligence director Omar Suleiman who is involved in the prisoner negotiations, was also expected to visit Israel yesterday.

Abu Mujahid, the spokesman of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) said that a German mediator in the indirect talks with Israel had given no time limit.

Abu Mujahid reiterated that the captors are ready to conclude a deal when Israel accepts their demands. He said the mediator is to deliver the Israeli response to these demands soon.

Abu Mujahid insisted: ‘The occupation, not the captors, lays down obstacles in front of the deal every day.’

Commenting on the visit to Israel by Suleiman, Abu Mujahid said: ‘Egypt plays an important role in any possible deal as Egypt started mediation and is still playing important role.’

Also yesterday morning, Israel’s seven top cabinet ministers held an emergency meeting to address a potential prisoner exchange deal, after being summoned late on Saturday night, Israeli media reported.

It was reported that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is likely to be discussing the deal with his senior ministers.

A Hamas-Israel prisoner swap could see the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit, a soldier taken captive by Gazan fighters in 2006.

Commenting on intelligence chief Omar Suleiman’s expected visit to Israel for talks with top officials on the swap deal, sources in Cairo said that he would likely not bring news of progress in the negotiations.

On Friday, a senior Hamas leader Mohamed Nazzal, a member of the group’s Political Bureau, said that Israeli obstinacy had brought the talks to a stalemate.

The statement came a day after Israeli government sources were saying Netanyahu was reluctant to sign a deal presented to him three weeks ago.

The reluctance seemed to stem from a professed distrust of the German mediator currently brokering the deal.