Egypt says Israeli border barrier none of its concern

Egypt neither approves nor rejects the construction of a fence that Israel has begun constructing along the Egyptian-Israeli border, so long as it is built on Israeli territory, spokesperson for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, Hossam Zaki, said on Monday.

Zaki said Egypt has reiterated this position several times before, adding that the wall is an internal Israeli affair that does not harm Egypt's interests nor violate its sovereignty.

Israel says the fence should stop infiltrators and smugglers who cross into Israel from the Egyptian side of the border.

Bulldozers were dispatched to three points along the 250km boundary and Israeli TV showed them clearing patches of land and digging trenches near Egyptian border posts.

The project is estimated to cost US$370 million and will take up to two years to complete.

The fence is expected to cover at least 140km of the border and will be backed up by an electronic barrier.

In statements broadcast by Israeli Radio, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak described the construction of the frontier fence as a "national mission."

African and Chinese immigrants frequently illegally pass into Israel via the Sinai border, triggering clashes with Egyptian police that have lead to fatalities.

According to the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, Egypt must maintain a limited security presence in the Sinai peninsula.

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