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Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 16:28 GMT
Arab League summit in quotes
President Emile Lahoud
The Arab League summit opens in Beirut
The Arab League summit raised hopes and provoked controversy even before opening in Beirut on Wednesday. BBC News Online has compiled the comments of some of the main players and the Arab media.

PLO leader Yasser Arafat

On Israel's conditions for his attendance:

"They are putting on my shoulders conditions. Do you accept it if you are in my place?"

"Is there any law to prevent me to [come] back to my homeland?" he said. "This is my right."

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abd Rabbo

"He [Arafat] has decided not to allow Israel to pressure the Palestinian negotiators into submitting to Israeli conditions and so he decided not to go to the summit."

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

On the conditions for Yasser Arafat's attendance:

"President Arafat must declare a ceasefire in his language to his people and seek an end to the violence."

"If it is said to Israel by the United States that (Israel) can refuse to allow him to return if there are terror attacks, it will be easier for me to allow him to leave,"

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer

"The president believes no matter what decisions are made vis-a-vis attendance, this should not be a lost opportunity for those who are there,"

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak

On why he changed his mind and decided not to attend:

"I found the issue becoming a matter of blackmail of the Palestinian people and the head of the Palestinian Authority, insult and humiliation."

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw

"Israel's continuing refusal to allow [Yasser Arafat] to attend will damage the prospects of achieving the outcome we all want."

Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abul-Ragheb

"The Palestinian leader's absence from this summit required us all to provide more support and backing to the Palestinian brethren in facing Israeli arrogance,"

Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

"I propose that the Arab League present a collective programme to the [UN] Security Council based on normal relationships and security to Israel and parallel with an independent Palestinian country with its capital Jerusalem and the right of Palestinian people to come back to their homeland."

From the Arab press:

Palestinian - Al-Quds (independent, pro-PNA, pro-peace process)

"The Arab states have already agreed on peace as a strategic option in the summits that have been held since 1980s. But the responsibility for defining the means to achieving this aim is the challenge that is facing the Beirut summit."

Syria - Al-Thawrah (government owned)

"There is a great and legitimate hope that the [Arab] summit will rise to the level of the challenges. All the facts show that the summit will deliver and that it will be a historic summit."

Lebanon - Al-Nahar (Independent, centrist, Arab nationalist)

"We demand three decisions [from the Arab summit], to be declared clearly and courageously: First, the declaration of the Palestinian state whether President Arafat is present or not; Second, move the Saudi initiative to the level of implementation;Third, take practical measures to support the intifada in every aspect."

Saudi - Al-Jazirah (liberal, Arab nationalist)

"The unanimous agreement over the initiative of his highness the crown prince perhaps represents an encouraging start to the Arab summit that begins in Beirut today. However, differences are still hovering here and there over some issues, chief of which the so-called Iraqi-Kuwaiti situation."

Iraq Al-Thawrah (ruling Socialist Arab Ba'th Party organ)

"These realities [US world domination, its alliance with Israel, etc] put on Beirut summit the responsibility of taking decisions to meet these challenges, particularly the Palestinian intifada and an clear Arab position with regards to the issue of terrorism, and the demand for the imposed siege on Iraq to be lifted."

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