Golfing set makes way for the big players

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The Independent Online

THE GOLF club at the luxury Movenpick hotel in the sun-drenched beach resort of Sharm el-Sheikh is a surreal setting for such important and delicate negotiations. As the peak winter season was gathering pace yesterday, Israeli, Palestinian and American delegations were cheek by jowl with wealthy holidaymakers more interested in watersports than diplomacy.

THE GOLF club at the luxury Movenpick hotel in the sun-drenched beach resort of Sharm el-Sheikh is a surreal setting for such important and delicate negotiations. As the peak winter season was gathering pace yesterday, Israeli, Palestinian and American delegations were cheek by jowl with wealthy holidaymakers more interested in watersports than diplomacy.

Sharm el-Sheikh, famed around the world for its stunning coral reefs and underwater marine life, is one of Egypt's most popular Red Sea resorts.

While the hotel conference suites were surrounded all day by swarms of security men, an ambulance and fire-engine stood guard outside. Hordes of journalists and television cameras were camped on the edge of the golf course. The golfers themselves had been turned away for the day. But during a break between sessions in the middle of the afternoon President Bill Clinton, surrounded by security men, was seen strolling the fairways.

Few people in Egypt were in the mood for mediation with Israel. Demonstrators have been calling for war. Protests against the summit were held in several Egyptian cities last weekend. "It's useless because the Israelis are not interested in peace," one Cairo man said, "They're in militant mode so I don't think there's any point."

A woman said: "There should be a very strong action against Israel from the whole world. We must impose sanctions because they are killing children." But Ati Said, the Movenpick's caddy master, said: "I hope it works, everyone hopes it works. Nobody can win if there is a war."

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