US Defense Chief Holds Talks on Egypt’s Regional Security

Posted October 4th, 2011 at 3:35 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the head of Egypt's ruling military council have discussed regional security issues, after recent cross-border attacks between Egypt and Israel sparked a diplomatic dispute between the two countries.

Panetta and Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi held talks on the issue Tuesday during a meeting in Cairo that covered a wide range of issues, including Egypt's response to Arab Spring protests. The demonstrations forced former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to resign.

Tensions between Israel and Egypt heightened in August when at least eight Israelis were killed after militants crossed into southern Israel from the Sinai Peninsula. Later, five Egyptian security officers were killed after Israeli forces pursued some of the militants who fled to the Sinai.

Panetta said he also urged Egyptian authorities to release 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 fly next to Brussels for a meeting of NATO defense chiefs.