Arab foreign ministers began a two-day meeting at the Arab League in Cairo on Wednesday expected to focus on U.S. threats to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Israeli-Palestinian violence.
About 20 foreign ministers from the Arab League's 22 member states -- including Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri -- were due to attend the regular twice-yearly meeting, which usually attracts a lower turnout.
For the first time, the Arab League invited a representative of Arab Americans to attend the meeting, Reuters reported. The talks had been scheduled for a long time, but rising regional tensions have given them more weight than usual, diplomats and analysts said.
The Arab League has said that all Arab states opposed a U.S. military action against Iraq, which Washington says is developing weapons of mass destruction. "We insist on deploying quick efforts to avoid a strike and to find a solution through dialogue with the United Nations," Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa said at the opening of the meeting.
One Arab League official said the ministers could, however, call on Iraq to readmit U.N. weapons inspectors as part of efforts to avert a strike.
A Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation this week's collapse of peace talks between the Sudanese government and southern rebels will be discussed also, analysts said.
"The Arab League fears that dangers against Iraq, its people and stability will arise" from a US military strike, Mussa told the ministers and other top Arab diplomats.
According to AFP, he was echoing remarks in the opening speech by Lebanese Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hamoud, the meeting chairman, who said "any aggression, any threat against any Arab state is a threat to all Arab states. "And we have to take a clear and strong Arab position, and send a clear and united message in this regard," Hamoud aired.
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