Although no details of the meeting were given, US Ambassador David Welch and Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman attended the meeting.

Under Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal plan, by the end of 2005, Israeli settlers and soldiers will have moved out of Gaza and four West Bank settlements. When Israel pulls out, Egypt intends to increase the number of troops on its side of the border with Gaza and send security advisers there to help train Palestinian forces. Egypt will also assist with building new police stations and jails in Gaza.

Egypt has been careful to maintain that it is not helping Israel but defending its own borders against instability.

Mubarak told reporters that Egypt’s role, with Washington’s support, might be expanded to include the West Bank. ‘We offered training to the Palestinians to preserve peace and stop the continued acts of violence,’ Mubarak said. ‘We have agreed on that with the support of the United States and it will not be in Gaza only, but might be extended to include the West Bank.’

On the same day, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia arrived in Cairo for talks with Mubarak the following day. Palestinian representative to the Arab League, Mohammed Sobeih, said the talks would focus on preparing for the coming round of dialogue between Palestinian factions, which is scheduled for early next month.