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Monday, 25 June, 2001, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Greater Mid-East role urged for Europe
Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
The Saudi prince is urging more European involvement
Three Arab countries are pushing for what they see as a more balanced western role in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah has criticised what he calls America's one-sided support for Israel.

Egypt's pro-government press says Washington should be pushing for a political solution and Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is expected to begin his visit to France on Monday with a call for a bigger European role in the crisis.

Ariel Sharon
Sharon hopes to boost US-Israeli relations
There has been renewed violence in the Middle East, with two Israeli women injured as their bus was fired upon.

Meanwhile Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon arrived in the US at the start of a visit designed to bolster US support for Israel.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who effectively runs the country, was quoted on Monday as saying that Europe should play a more prominent role.

Risk of war

In an interview with the Financial Times he said Europe had "a moral and political responsibility" to the region because of its former colonial role.

The paper quoted the Crown Prince as saying that an escalation of violence could increase the risk of a war in the Middle East.

He also called for an international force to monitor the Palestinian-Israeli ceasefire.

Syria's young President, Bashar al-Assad, is also pushing for Europe to become more involved in the search for an Arab-Israeli peace deal.

He is expected to deliver this message during his three day visit to France this week.

European sympathy

The Arabs have long seen European countries as being more sympathetic to their cause than the US, which they regard as biased towards Israel because of military and strategic ties.

The mother of Sgt Ofir Kit at his funeral
The ceasefire has not stopped the bloodshed

But the BBC's Cairo correspondent, Frank Gardner, said that in truth Europe has comparatively little influence over Israeli policy making.

He said that Egypt's leadership knows this and that is why instead Monday's Egyptian press is praising the US for returning to a more active role in peacemaking.

Mr Sharon arrived in New York late on Sunday and is to travel on to Washington, where he will meet US President George W Bush at the White House on Tuesday.

Continuing violence

The US trip is Mr Sharon's second since coming to office in March and underscores the importance he places on the support of the US, Israel's number-one ally.

Mr Sharon's visit comes as hard-liners and settlers continue to pressure him into breaking the ceasefire brokered by CIA director George Tenet because of its perceived failure to stop the bloodshed.

On Monday two Israeli women were hurt by shrapnel in a shooting attack on a bus carrying settlers in the West Bank, the Israeli army said.

And in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians fired two mortar shells at the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom, it added. The Palestinian authorities denied that shells had been fired.

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See also:

24 Jun 01 | Middle East
Palestinian activist killed in blast
18 Jun 01 | Middle East
Mid-East killings go on despite truce
12 Jun 01 | Middle East
Hardliners disapprove of ceasefire plan
06 Jun 01 | Middle East
CIA back centre stage in Mid-East
13 Jun 01 | Middle East
Israeli press sceptical on truce
18 Jun 01 | Middle East
Israelis outraged by BBC documentary
18 Jun 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Annan's Middle East progress
13 Jun 01 | Middle East
Tenet plan open to interpretation
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