US Defense Chief Holds Regional Security Talks in Cairo

Posted October 4th, 2011 at 1:00 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Cairo on Tuesday discussed security in the Sinai Peninsula, after recent cross-border attacks there sparked a diplomatic dispute between Egypt and Israel.

He brought up regional security issues with the head of Egypt's ruling military council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi during a wide-ranging discussion that included Egypt's response to Arab Spring protests. The demonstrations forced former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to resign.

In August, at least eight Israelis were killed after militants crossed into southern Israel from the Sinai. Later, five Egyptian security officers were killed after Israeli forces pursued some of the militants who had fled to the Sinai.

Previous reports said Panetta was expected to discuss the possible release of Ilan Grapel, an alleged spy for Israel who is being held in Egypt. Grapel is a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen. Egyptian authorities detained him in June on charges of working for Israel's Mossad spy agency, a charge Israel denies.

Panetta traveled to Cairo from Tel Aviv. He will next fly to Brussels for a meeting of NATO defense chiefs.