Mubarak, King Abdullah Prepare Arab Summit
Jordan's King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met here Tuesday to prepare an Arab summit to be held March 27 in Amman, hoping it will set a "new beginning" for Arab unity, Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdel Ilah al-Khatib said.
Meeting ahead of a visit to Amman by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the two leaders stressed that the "Palestinian cause is the key priority of the Arab nation" and called for a lifting of sanctions on Iraq, he said.
"The two leaders examined preparations for the summit which will constitute the start of a new phase of Arab action and the determination of Arabs to unify their positions and close ranks," Khatib told reporters.
The Palestinian cause and Iraq were at the heart of their discussions at the Raghadan palace where Mubarak was Abdullah's guest for lunch during the two-hour visit to Amman.
Mubarak then flew home where on Wednesday he will hold consultations with Arafat, officials said.
"The Palestinian cause, the situation in the Palestinian territories and the need to lift the (Israeli) blockade imposed on these territories are a priority for the Arab nation," Khatib said.
Mubarak and Abdullah also discussed Iraq as well as Arab wishes to see an end to the 10-year-old UN sanctions which were imposed on Baghdad after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
"Discussions underway on the partial lifting of sanctions are taking place as several countries are calling for an end to this tragic situation in Iraq which is hurting the people," Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said.
"The mission of Arab countries is to deal with the Iraqi question in a way to guarantee the interests of the Iraqi people, those of the Arab nation as well as international laws," Moussa said.
He was obviously referring to the just-ended tour of the region by US Secretary of State Colin Powell who announced having found an Arab consensus for a review of sanctions to ease the hardships of the Iraqi people.
During his whirlwind tour of Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Syria, Powell urged regional leaders to help the United States contain Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
But he apparently failed to narrow differences between Israel and the Palestinian Authority or secure an end to the five-month violence that has claimed more than 400 lives.
Jordan and Egypt, key regional allies of the United States, have denounced the deadly February 16 US-British air strikes on Baghdad and both have called for a lifting of UN sanctions on Iraq during talks with Powell.
Mubarak also said last week that Saddam was not a threat to world peace.
Egypt and Jordan, the only Arab countries bound by a peace treaty with Israel, want the Jewish state to pick up peace talks with the Palestinians where they left off last month.
Arafat was due to meet Abdullah in the late afternoon Tuesday and brief him on his talks Sunday with Powell, a royal court official and Palestinian diplomats earlier told AFP.
Powell on Sunday conveyed to Arafat conditions by Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon for a resumption of peace negotiations which mainly call for an end to the anti-Israeli uprising before talks can restart.
Moussa meanwhile commented on the decision by Israel's vanquished Labor Party to join a national unity government with Sharon saying he did not see a "bad omen" in such a development.
"It is the absence of a willingness for peace that is a bad omen, not Labor," Moussa told reporters before leaving Amman -- AMMAN (AFP)
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