Schroeder Supports Nuclear-Free Middle East
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Sunday he supports an Egyptian initiative to rid the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, Egypt's state-run MENA news agency reported.
Schroeder, on a six-stage tour of the Middle East, "expressed his support" for the drive during a meeting with Egypt's Prime Minister Atef Ebeid, Information Minister Safwat al-Sherif said in remarks published by MENA.
Egypt has long campaigned for international pressure on Israel to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and place its nuclear facilities under international control.
Unlike Iran and the region's Arab states, Israel has never signed the NPT and refuses to submit to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Western experts say it has used its reactor at Dimona in the southern Negev desert to produce around 200 nuclear warheads, but Israel has never publicly acknowledged possessing nuclear weapons.
Earlier Sunday, Arab League chief Esmat Abdel Meguid told Schroeder that the Arab world has had enough of four weeks of Israeli-Palestinian clashes that have left close to 150 people dead, the vast majority Palestinian.
"We told the Germans that Arab states striving for peace cannot accept the continuation of Israel's obstinacy and its violence against the Palestinian people," Abdel Meguid told reporters after meeting Schroeder.
Schroeder met the League secretary general on the second day of his Middle East tour, to discuss the tense situation in the region.
An Arab League official said the German leader had accepted a request from the League chief for his country to treat an unspecified number of Palestinians wounded during the latest confrontations.
Schroeder called Saturday for an end to violence in the Middle East as he arrived in Egypt at the start of his regional tour.
"It's in everybody's interest that the violence comes to an end. The end of the violence is the basis for continuing the peace process," Schroeder said after talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Later Sunday, Schroeder heads on to Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Israel and the Palestinian territories for top-level talks, returning to Berlin Wednesday evening, with the aim of contributing to European Union peace efforts.
Officials in Berlin said there is no question of Germany condemning one side or the other for the violence that erupted on September 28 after Israel's hardline opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited a disputed holy site in east Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said, in remarks published by the German magazine Stern on Thursday, that he expects Schroeder to put pressure on Yasser Arafat to try to stop Palestinian violence – CAIRO (AFP)
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