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Sunday, 4 November, 2001, 19:54 GMT
Arabs push for Palestinian state
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa at start of foreign minister's meeting
Arab League: No peace without a Palestinian state
The head of the Arab League has dismissed Osama Bin Laden's latest call for holy war, but stressed the need for a Palestinian state.

Arab League Secretary-General, Amr Moussa, said Arabs would not be fooled into accepting a Middle East peace accord that did not aim at founding a Palestinian state.

Speaking at the start of a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in the Syrian capital, Damascus, he said Arabs would not be victims of "political fraud".

A BBC correspondent in the region says the ministers are sceptical about recent statements by the United States and Britain favouring a Palestinian state.

Palestine key to peace

"A peace process must have content and its aim must be the establishment of a Palestinian state," Mr Moussa said.

Bin Laden doesn't speak in the name of Arabs and Muslims

Arab League Secretary-General
Mr Moussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister, said Bin Laden spoke only for himself in a recent broadcast message urging Muslims to join a holy war against the West.

Analysts said the Saudi-born militant was attacking pro-Western Arab leaders - but at the same time trying to win over popular Arab opinion.

Osama Bin Laden's statement released to al-Jazeera
Bin Laden: Quotes from the Prophet
Bin Laden repeatedly referred to the Koran, apparently trying to appeal to Muslims angry at the killings of Palestinians by Israel, and worried about the continuation of air strikes on Afghanistan as the holy month of Ramadan approaches.

Egypt's Foreign Minister, Ahmed Maher, said Bin Laden - the chief suspect in the 11 September terror attacks in the United States - was at war with the world.

Terrorists or freedom fighters?

But Syrian Foreign Minister, Farouq al-Shara, echoing a criticism Bin Laden often directs at Washington, condemned "unlimited" US support for Israel.

And Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, speaking to the ministers after their meeting, stressed the need "to distinguish between terrorism and legitimate resistance".

The ministers also warned the United States that it would lose Arab support if it expanded its war on terror from Afghanistan to any Arab countries.

Mr Moussa said it was "inconceivable for Arabs to join a coalition that would target an Arab country. It's our unshakeable position."

The BBC's Emil Petrie
"Bin Laden said any Muslim who backs the US was a sinner"
Arab League's Secretary General, Amr Moussa
"Osama Bin Laden does not speak for the Arab Muslim people: he has his own ideas"
See also:

03 Nov 01 | Media reports
Bin Laden rails against Crusaders and UN
10 Oct 01 | Middle East
TV station defends Bin Laden coverage
04 Nov 01 | South Asia
US rejects Pakistan Ramadan plea
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