Egyptian men turning to Israeli women, MP says

CAIRO, Egypt - Rising unemployment is driving Egyptian men into the arms of Israeli women, an Egyptian member of parliament said.

"Unemployment is one of the reasons for the increase in the marriage of Egyptians to Israeli women and Israel is encouraging this," opposition parliamentarian Abul-Ezz al-Hariri complained in a parliamentary committee meeting late on Monday.

Egypt's economic recession over the past year has made joblessness a growing concern in the country.

Officially, the unemployment rate for the 1999/2000 financial year was estimated at 7.4 percent, down from 7.9 percent the previous year. But analysts estimate that it is much higher, and still rising.

Over 14,000 Egyptian men are estimated to have Israeli wives, but many of them are Palestinian nationals of the Jewish state. Children of unions between Egyptian men and Israeli women are entitled to both Egyptian and Israeli nationality.

Sunni Islam is Egypt's state religion but there is a substantial Coptic Christian minority, at about six million of its 65.2 million population.

Egypt and Israel fought four wars before making peace in 1979, but relations between the two neighbours have remained tense during the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

07:34 04-03-01

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