Arabs Prepare for Own Middle East Crisis Summit on Heels of Sharm el-Sheikh
Arab states have started preparing for their own summit, only the second since the 1991 Gulf War, hot on the heels of the Sharm el-Sheikh summit that called for a US-brokered truce between Israel and the Palestinians.
Foreign ministers of the 22-member Arab League started to arrive in Cairo on Wednesday, as newspapers back home dismissed the previous day's summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh as a victory for the Jewish state.
The ministers were on Thursday and Friday to discuss the draft resolution to be submitted to Arab heads of state for their gathering at the Cairo International Conference Center.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf and Kuwaiti Minister of State Soliman Majed al-Shahin were among the first to arrive, along with Lebanese Prime Minister Salim Hoss and the PLO's political department chief, Faruq Qaddumi.
Cairo will mark the return of Baghdad, taking part in its first summit since the aftermath of the August 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait that split the already splintered Arab ranks.
An Arab summit was also held in 1996, but Iraq was not invited.
Vice President Ezzat Ibrahim is to represent Iraq on Saturday, in the absence of President Saddam Hussein who, for security reasons, has not traveled abroad since the invasion that triggered the 1991 Gulf War.
Kuwait has said it wants the agenda devoted entirely to "Jerusalem and the latest events in the Middle East", opposing efforts to discuss the mounting calls for a lifting of the decade-old UN embargo against Iraq.
Eighteen out of the 22 members of the Arab League have so far confirmed their participation at the summit, at various levels, said an official at the organization's Cairo headquarters.
Several Arab countries, meanwhile, criticized the Sharm el-Sheikh summit hosted by Egypt.
They warned it would preempt their own top-level meeting and Arab efforts to confront Israel's killings of Palestinians in a wave of violence since September 28 that has claimed more than 110 lives.
After the truce accord announced by US President Bill Clinton, Arab League Secretary General Esmat Abdel Meguid pressed the United Nations to play a greater role in the Middle East peace process.
The summit was "the beginning of a stage, which requires the efforts of all sides, especially the United Nations," he said.
Abdel Meguid welcomed the participation of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the European Union at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, and urged the Israeli side to stick to its commitments.
The three-point truce deal calls for Israel and the Palestinians to work for an immediate end to the violence, a fact-finding committee to be set up to look into the clashes and a revival of the peace process.
Ahead of the Cairo summit, Egypt criticized Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi for revealing details of the draft resolution that has been drawn up for foreign ministers to debate.
"The draft statement is an initial document and not a final document, and it is not right to make it public," Foreign Minister Amr Mussa said.
Kadhafi told Qatar's Al-Jazeera satellite TV on Tuesday that he had received a copy of the draft and that it failed to propose any concrete action against Israel, limiting itself instead to condemnation of the Jewish state.
"I denounce them (the Arab heads of state) because they are incapable of responding to the expectations of the Arab masses," said Kadhafi, who has not clarified if he will take part.
One good point in the draft, Kadhafi said, was a proposal to seek international legal action against "certain Israeli leaders," notably Ariel Sharon, the hawkish leader of Israel's right-wing Likud opposition.
It was a highly publicized visit by Sharon to a disputed holy site in Arab east Jerusalem sacred to both Jews and Muslims that sparked the almost three-week-old clashes between Israel and the Palestinians.
Kadhafi has called for war against Israel or at least an economic boycott of the Jewish state - CAIRO (AFP)
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