Egypt will not allow its border with Gaza to be breached again by militants seeking to escape an Israeli blockade, President Hosni Mubarak said on Tuesday in an interview published in Spain.
“It is a mistake to besiege the Palestinians but we will not accept that the border (with Gaza) be left open indefinitely. What happened will not be repeated,” he told conservative daily newspaper ABC.
Mubarak, 79, rejected any responsibility for the violence between Egyptian police and the Palestinians at the border in the interview, timed to coincide with the start of a two-day a visit by Spanish King Juan Carlos to Egypt.
“We did not give any order to shoot anyone,” he said.
Hamas militants blew up large sections of the Gaza-Egypt border wall on Jan 23, allowing thousands of the impoverished Palestinian territory’s 1.5 million population to flood into Egypt in search of goods made scarce by the Israeli blockade.
The border was resealed by Egyptian and Hamas forces at the weekend.
The closure of the border sparked protests from the Palestinians, with a demonstration turning violent late on Monday with stone-throwing, exchanges of fire and tear gas.
Mubarak said US-style democracy could not be imposed in Egypt and must be adapted to “the character, composition of the population and way of life of the people.”
Mubarak has ruled Egypt for 26 years and has no designated successor, although many of his opponents believe he plans to nominate his son Gamal.
“We have never talked about this issue as a family, he has never broached the topic with me,” Mubarak said when asked about the possibility. Washington has pressured Egypt, a staunch US ally, into introducing more freedoms as part of its efforts to spread democracy in the Middle East.
But the observers say the US call for democracy in the region has waned amid setbacks in Iraq and Lebanon.