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Egypt official: leader’s letter to Israel is fake

JERUSALEM — A letter to Israel from Egypt’s new president hoping for regional peace kicked up a stir Tuesday when the Egyptian leader’s Islamist movement denied he sent it. Israel insisted the letter was genuine.

The spat underlined the touchy nature of Egyptian-Israeli relations, always frosty but now especially sensitive since the Muslim Brotherhood victories in Egyptian elections.

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It also appeared to show some disarray in the fractured Egyptian government.

The letter, ostensibly sent by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, was a response to a message from Israeli President Shimon Peres, conveying Israel’s good wishes for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The return letter, released by the Israeli president’s office, was on the stationery of the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv.

In it, Morsi appeared to write in English, ‘‘I am looking forward to exerting our best efforts to get the Middle east Peace Process back to its right track in order to achieve security and stability for all peoples of the region, including that Israeli people.’’ The Israeli president’s name was spelled ‘‘Perez.’’

Then a spokesman for Morsi, Yasser Ali, said in Cairo that Morsi had not written a letter to the Israeli president at all.

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An official in Peres’s office — speaking anonymously because the issue concerned sensitive diplomatic relations between the two countries — said the president’s aides received the official communique Tuesday from the Egyptian ambassador to Israel, both by registered mail and by fax from the embassy in Tel Aviv.

Peres’s office asked the Egyptian ambassador if it could publicize the letter or if it should be kept secret, the official said. The Egyptian envoy phoned Morsi’s office to inquire, the official said, and then told Peres’s aides that Morsi’s staff had given the green light to make the letter public.

Peres’s office sent reporters a copy of what was said to be the faxed letter. The top of the letter featured a time stamp with Tuesday’s date, the phone number from which the fax was sent, and the label ‘‘EGY EMB TEL AVIV.’’

The fax number, which appeared to be printed automatically from the machine, was a number listed on Israel’s Foreign Ministry website as belonging to the Egyptian Embassy in Israel.

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