Saudi Crown Prince to Boycott Islamic Summit
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz will boycott the summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) which opens Sunday in Doha over Qatar's trade ties with Israel, official sources said Wednesday.
The prince made the decision because Qatar has refused to close the trade bureau despite the clamour in the Arab world to isolate Israel, the sources said.
But they could not say who, if anyone, would represent Saudi Arabia at the November 12-14 meeting of the 56-member OIC.
The Saudi daily Asharq al-Awsat reported that Qatar's Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani had failed during a visit to Riyadh on Tuesday to persuade the crown prince to attend the summit.
Hamad said Monday in Gaza that Qatar would not cut ties with Israel for the time being despite the rising Arab death toll from clashes with Israeli security forces.
Abdullah, who has run Saudi Arabia's daily business since King Fahd suffered a stroke in 1995, "has informed the Qatari government of his refusal to take part in the summit because of the Israeli bureau in Doha", the daily said.
He had listened to "Qatari proposals which did not go as far as breaking off (relations) with Israel".
Abdullah's stance was in line with Arab summit resolutions urging the boycott of Israel, the daily added, referring to the October 21-22 meeting of Arab leaders in Cairo devoted to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and which ended with threats to cut links with Israel.
The prince had told the Qataris "the kingdom cannot agree to take part in a summit, supposed to be Islamic and aimed at supporting the inhabitants of the holy city of Jerusalem, which is held in a place where there are Israelis."
At the end of the summit Qatar is due to take over from Iran the rotating three-year OIC presidency.
In Doha, an Iranian envoy announced Monday that President Mohammad Khatami was to take part in the summit, despite Qatar's resistance to calls for the closure of the Israeli trade office.
Khatami himself on Monday renewed a call for all Muslim countries to sever relations with Israel in solidarity with the Palestinians.
However Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi has said he will stay away from the summit and has suggested that Qatar's fear of its neighbors could explain its continued links with Israel.
"The Islamic summit will be just like the Arab summit -- just ink on paper," he said.
The Emir of Bahrain has also announced he will boycott the summit because of a simmering territorial dispute with Qatar which is before the International Court of Justice.
The organizers have said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will dominate the agenda of the November 12-14 summit.
The foreign ministers, in a preparatory meeting on Thursday and Friday, and the OIC leaders will each devote a special session to "Israel's aggressions against the Palestinian people," an OIC official said.
The heads of state are to due to converge on the Qatari capital on November 11.
Qatar established trade links with Israel in 1996 but froze the normalization process later the same year after right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu came to power as Israeli prime minister.
Oman, the only other Gulf Arab state to have links with Israel, closed its trade office in Tel Aviv and ordered the closure of the Jewish state's commercial mission in Muscat on October 12, two weeks into the Israeli-Palestinian clashes -- RIYADH (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)