Mubarak Says Arabs to Hold Emergency Summit Oct 21-22
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced Friday that leaders from the Arab world will meet on October 21 and 22 in Cairo to discuss the situation in the Palestinian territories.
Mubarak said that the holding of the summit had depended on approval by the Arab states, "of which 99 percent have approved."
So far, Syria, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Kuwait and Jordan have announced their backing for a summit, as have the Palestinians, who have been pushing for one since the Camp David peace summit with Israel broke down in late July.
The lone voice of dissent Friday came from Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.
Speaking from Amman, where he is on an official visit, Kadhafi said he was opposed to an Arab summit unless it would lead to a declaration of war on Israel or an economic boycott of the Jewish state.
In his view, "the Arabs are not capable of fighting or boycotting the enemy," so the summit would serve to do no more than "issue denunciations."
"I challenge the Arabs to declare war or a boycott," the Libyan leader said.
A question mark also hangs over the prospect of Iraq participating.
Since the 1991 Gulf War, following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the resultant opening of a deep rift in the Arab world, only one Arab summit has been held. That was in 1996, and Iraq was not invited.
Since then, several Arab capitals have tried in vain to hold a summit, notably during the US-British air raids on Iraq in December 1998.
Arab diplomatic sources in Cairo said Thursday night that Iraq was to be invited to this one, but there was no official word out of Cairo.
Iraq has yet to react even to an initial call for a summit on the Palestinian crisis made Monday by Mubarak and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
But in August, Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz said that Iraq, which seeks Arab support for a lifting of decade-old UN sanctions, would take part in a summit to reunify Arab ranks.
Pressure for holding an emergency summit has been building all week.
On Monday, Mubarak said that Egypt was ready "to host a summit immediately," but added later that it would probably take three months to organize.
On Tuesday, the Arab League backed the call, and on Thursday Mubarak said a summit should be held before the end of this month to discuss "the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian territories."
Later in the day, diplomatic sources in Cairo said consultations were underway to hold the meeting on October 23 and 24.
In his televised remarks Friday, Mubarak said "the conditions (for holding the summit) were not the best but, following the latest events, I found it was necessary to bring together Arab leaders to examine the issue."
Mubarak said a foreign ministers' meeting which had in already been scheduled for October 21 would now be held in a week to 10 days to lay the groundwork for the summit.
Separately Friday, Egypt's ambassador to Israel, Mohamed Bassiuni, said Egypt would withdraw him from his post if the summit voted in favor of that.
Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel.
Bassiuni said "a withdrawal of Arab ambassadors from Israel would not resolve the problem, because dialogue with Israel would (then) be indirect, but if the Arab summit decides such a move, it must be respected." -- CAIRO (AFP)
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