Egypt, Israel agree joint inquiry into shooting


Hours before the first Egyptian summit with a new Israeli leader, the two governments agreed today to a joint investigation into how Israeli troops killed two Egyptian policemen.

Egyptian minister Moufid Shehab told parliament in Cairo that a joint committee would try to find out whether the two policemen really crossed into Israel, as the Israelis said after Friday's border incident.

The killings have cast a shadow over the meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh later today between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert -- their first since Olmert took office exactly a month ago.

Senior Israeli official Raanan Gissin confirmed that the committee would meet. "It was a regrettable incident. A joint inquiry is going to take place in the next few days with Egyptian and Israeli officials," he told reporters in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the venue for the summit.

"I am sure that the lessons drawn by both sides will ensure such an incident does not occur again," he added.

Israel's version of the incident is that its troops reacted in self-defence after the Egyptian policemen stormed across the frontier firing at them, but Egypt said the policemen wandered across the border by accident.

The state news agency MENA said yesterday that initial investigations indicated that the men were shot on Egyptian territory and the Israelis then dragged them across the border.

The Egyptian government has not said it considered a postponement of the Olmert-Mubarak meeting but Shehab, who is responsible for parliamentary affairs, indicated the government was sensitive to the effect of the incident on public opinion.