Negotiations to swap Israeli-Palestinian prisoners stalled

Egyptian diplomatic efforts to secure an Israeli-Palestinian prisoners' swap have stalled as each side demands conditions the other refuses to accept, Egyptian officials said on Tuesday.

On Monday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said a deal was only "days or hours away." Reports in the Arab and Israeli media suggested an agreement had been reached. Some even claimed that Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit had been moved to Egypt for a possible exchange with Palestinian prisoners.

But Egyptian officials who are close to the mediators, said negotiations were bogged down as Hamas and Israel each kept adding to their original conditions.

"There have been demands and counter demands," said an Egyptian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

But a deal was still in the works, he said. "It might take few more days."

Aboul Gheit said that the Egyptian effort continues and "(I) hope it will achieve the targeted goal."

"It might take hours or days," he said, without giving details on Egypt's role.

An Egyptian security team in Gaza is working out final details for a prisoner exchange, officials said. Over the weekend, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said negotiations to secure Shalit's release were ongoing.

Shalit's capture on June 25 by Palestinian militants linked to Hamas sparked an Israeli military assault on the Gaza Strip. Hezbollah's capture of two additional soldiers on Aug. 12 triggered a much larger offensive against Lebanon. Fighting between the Lebanon-based guerrilla group and Israel ended 34 days later following a United Nations cease-fire resolution.

The points of contention are the number of Palestinians who would be released from Israeli jails in return for Shalit and whether the exchange would be simultaneous.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking Tuesday in Bahrain, also said that the Egyptian efforts had stalled.

"In fact, there have been efforts by the Egyptians ... but they have been fruitless." Abbas told reporters.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday denied reports of an impending deal to swap Palestinian prisoners for Shalit who was abducted June 25 by Palestinian militants linked to Hamas.

"I read about it in the newspapers alone and know nothing of such a deal," said Olmert.

A Hamas spokesman, Osama Hamdan said the reports about Shalit being handed over to Egyptian authorities are "baseless," reports AP. 

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