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Egypt keeps lines to Israel open

As pressure mounts with Israeli troops threatening Beirut, Egyptian officials say developments in Lebanon will delay the Camp David autonomy negotiations. But the Egyptians are keeping diplomatic channels open with Israel in an effort to assist in mediating the crisis in Lebanon, reports Monitor contributor Olfat M. El Tohamy.

Dr. Butros Ghali, Egyptian minister of state for foreign affairs, said in an interview he has communicated several messages on Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) terms for concluding a cease-fire with Israel. A number of PLO representatives met here several times last week with Dr. Ghali, and formally asked Egypt to mediate the cease-fire.

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Israel's thrust into southern Lebanon initially triggered strong Egyptian official and news media reactions, but Dr. Ghali said Egypt has no intention of calling home its ambassador to Tel Aviv.

Rather, Egypt is following up US efforts to work out a settlement among the PLO, Israel, and Syria. Dr. Ghali stressed, ''There should not be any link between Israel's presence there and the solution of Lebanon's problem.''

Dr. Ghali said the Israeli invasion of Lebanon ''will certainly create obstacles for the resumption of the talks on autonomy for the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza.'' But he said that immediate unconditional withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon was not a precondition to sitting with the Israelis at a negotiating table in the future.

In other Middle East news, Syria announced it will work toward a strategic alliance with the Soviet Union against Israel and the United States in the region. The statement coincided with a visit to Damascus by a high Soviet military official. The Soviet Union is Syria's main supplier of arms.

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