January 11, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel said on Sunday the job of stopping arms smuggling from Egypt to the Gaza Strip should be done by Egyptian forces and rejected the idea of an international force. European and Israeli diplomats have said an international force is part of a package mediators are trying to put together to end a more than two-week-old Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip that is designed to stop Palestinian rocket attacks.

Egypt said on Saturday it would not allow such a force to be stationed on its side of the 15 km (9 mile) Gaza border. On the other side, Hamas has said it would not accept foreign troops.

"There's no doubt Egypt has a superb military and security forces which can tackle all the undesirable phenomena from a security standpoint. No one can compete with this," leading Israeli Defence Ministry official Amos Gilad told Israel Radio.

Gilad, Israel's point man in security talks with Egypt, said by contrast an international force would be "devoid of intelligence, devoid of an ability to penetrate those doing all of this smuggling, devoid of an operational capability".

"There's an international force in southern Lebanon and we know exactly what's going on there," he said, referring to U.N. peacekeepers whom Israel accuses of not doing enough to stop a military build-up by Hezbollah since the Lebanese guerrilla group's 2006 war with the Jewish state.

Israel Radio said Gilad would travel to Egypt on Monday to discuss truce ideas.

Israel's main demand is for a new mechanism to prevent Gaza's Islamist Hamas rulers from receiving arms smuggled through tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border.


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