Last update - 22:35 06/12/2008 Egyptian paper urges top cleric to purify his hand after Peres handshake By The Associated Press Tags: Egypt, UN, Peres, Israel news Several opposition newspapers and lawmakers in Egypt called on the country's top Islamic cleric to resign Saturday for shaking the Israeli president's hand at a conference. Egyptian media has been running a photo of Grand Sheik Mohammed Seyed Tantawi shaking hands with Israeli President Shimon Peres almost daily since the two met at a United Nations-sponsored interfaith dialogue in New York last month. The photo has been accompanied by critical editorials and comments by lawmakers. Al-Osboa newspaper said in an editorial Saturday that Peres' hands were tainted with the blood of thousands of Palestinians who have lost their homes in Israel. The paper called on Tantawi - the sheik of al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's pre-eminent institution and oldest university - to ritually purify his hands after the shake. Egypt is one of the only Arab countries to make peace with Israel, but the attitude of the country's citizens toward the Jewish state remains cool over the treatment of the Palestinians. Tantawi, who was appointed by the Egyptian government, was quoted in Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper and several others as saying he shook the Israeli president's hand without recognizing him. A spokesman for al-Azhar was quoted in the paper as blaming Tantawi's handlers for not paying attention and misdirecting the cleric toward Peres. Hisham Kassem, an Egyptian activist and publisher, expressed doubt about Tantawi's version of the story, saying "how can you go to an interfaith meeting and not know who Peres is?" "Tantawi needs to be honest with the press," Kassem told The Associated Press. "So what if he shook the man's hand? War and anger has gained us nothing. There must be time for negotiation." Peres' office declined comment on what it called Egypt's internal matters. But at the time of the meeting, his office said the encounter was pleasant, and Tantawi and Peres sat next to each during a dinner and had a very serious conversation. Many Egyptian opposition lawmakers have called for the cleric to step down over the handshake. "I feel shame because the person who did this is the head of one of Islam's greatest institutions," lawmaker Hamdein Sabaheen was quoted as saying Saturday in Al-Dustour newspaper. The UN-sponsored interfaith conference held in New York in mid-November attracted 80 countries and 14 world leaders, including Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah. a..