Arab foreign ministers launch talks on political reform, Iraq, Israel-Palestine conflict
Arab foreign ministers began a new round of meetings to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, instability in Iraq and political reform in Arab countries.
"The ministers will debate the situation in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ideas for reform in the Middle East in order to draft a joint Arab stand," Arab League deputy secretary general Ahmed Ben Helli told reporters.
Meanwhile, sources close to the participants said senior Arab diplomats were due to produce a joint draft for reform in the Middle East, amounting to a counter-proposal to US plans for "political and economic change" - also known as the "Greater Middle East Initiative."
Egypt submitted its own counter-initiative to the foreign ministers in Cairo Monday and also stressed the need to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to improve the atmosphere for reform.
According to Jordan's Petra news agency, the Egyptian initiative also affirmed the importance of providing justice and overcoming despair on settling the Palestinian cause, ending occupation, respecting people's sovereignty and maintaining the unity and safety of its lands.
On Wednesday, Amman submitted its own project, which covers the broad lines of the Egyptian plan, stressing that Arab countries pledge to continue down the road to reform and insisting on a Palestinian settlement.
On Tuesday, state-run Damascus Radio slammed the US "reform" program.
"The project aims at ignoring the Arabs’ culture, historical heritage, civilization and aspirations," the Syrian radio said.
In its daily political commentary, the Radio, cited by SANA, said the project aims only at "protecting the American interests" because it "neglects...basic issues in the region such as occupation, mass displacing and acts of killing practiced by Israel against the Arabs", especially against the Palestinians.
With regards to Iraq, Arab ministers were expected to condemn the attacks in Baghdad and Karbala that left nearly 200 people dead and stress the need to maintain its sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence, Arab League sources said. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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