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Thursday, 28 March, 2002, 17:24 GMT
Arabs offer Israelis peace plan
Refugees demonstrate in the Sabra camp, Beirut
The refugee issue was the most contentious
Arab leaders meeting in Beirut have unanimously endorsed Saudi Arabia's peace plan for the Middle East.

Israel, however, has rejected the peace initiative, which offers it "normal relations" and full peace with Arab states, if it pulls out of all Arab land it occupied in 1967.

This means the destruction of the state of Israel and obviously we cannot agree

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman
The plan also calls for a "fair solution" to the problem of Palestinian refugees based on UN resolutions and a Palestinian sovereign state to be established with East Jerusalem as its capital.

News of the peace plan's approval came as Palestinian officials evacuated their offices in the West Bank town of Ramallah, for fear of another Israeli military attack.

Twenty Israelis were killed and more than 100 wounded on Wednesday night when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a busy hotel in the coastal city of Netanya.

Refugee issue

Rejecting the Saudi proposal as a "non-starter", a government statement said it would effectively lead to the destruction of the state of Israel.

"We cannot accept on the one hand to have negotiations for the creation of a Palestinian state, an independent Palestinian state, and on the other hand have all the Palestinians come into Israel," the statement said

Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
Saudi plan

Israel must:

  • Withdraw from land seized in 1967: the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights
  • Agree right of return for Palestinian refugees
  • Accept independent Palestine with East Jerusalem as capital

    Arab states will:

  • Consider Arab-Israeli conflict over
  • Agree peace treaty for region
  • Establish normal relations with Israel

    See also:
      Text of declaration

  • The Beirut Declaration, read by Lebanon's Culture Minister Ghassan Salameh near the close of the two-day meeting, also demands a guarantee that Palestinian refugees will not be resettled in the countries where they currently reside.

    Correspondents say that the refugee issue was the most contentious.

    Lebanon's President Emile Lahoud is said to have demanded that the agreement reflect his country's constitution, rejecting the settlement of Palestinian refugees on its territory.

    Arab leaders finally agreed to reject any solutions "which conflict with the special interests of the Arab host countries".

    The declaration appealed to Israel to accept the proposals in order, as they put it, that Israelis and Arabs will be able to live side by side in peace.

    Israeli paramedics
    Twenty Israelis were killed in a suicide bomb attack on Wednesday
    Arab leaders called on the international community to support the initiative and called for a committee to be set up to pursue peace with Israel.

    The committee should include representatives of Arab states and Islamic countries, the United Nations Security Council, the US and European countries, the statement said.

    UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who was at the summit, called for an immediate ceasefire between the Palestinians and Israel

    "I have just spoken to both Prime Minister (Ariel) Sharon and Chairman Arafat," Mr Annan said in a statement.

    "I urge the leadership of both peoples to stay the course and continue the quest for peace.


    Correspondents have said the Saudi proposal will carry little weight in the absence of the Palestinian, Egyptian and Jordanian leaders.

    Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat decided not to attend the summit in protest against conditions set down by the Israelis demanding that he declare a ceasefire before they lifted a travel ban confining him to the West Bank.

    Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak stayed away in solidarity with the Palestinian leader, while Jordan's King Abdullah II was absent due to health reasons, an official Jordanian spokesman said.

    The BBC's Brian Hanrahan
    "I do not think they expected Sharon to accept it"
    Political analyst Professor Adib Fahar
    "Mr Sharon's not going to work"
    Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrullah
    "I do not think there are the conditions for a peace process"
    US Congressman Joseph Hoeffel
    "This gives us a real solution to promote"
    See also:

    28 Mar 02 | Middle East
    Arafat row overshadows summit successes
    29 Mar 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
    Beirut's hollow calm
    29 Mar 02 | Middle East
    Media focus on summit disagreements
    28 Mar 02 | Middle East
    Iraq pledges to respect Kuwait
    28 Mar 02 | Middle East
    Deadly suicide bomb hits Israeli hotel
    28 Mar 02 | Middle East
    Bush condemns 'callous' killing
    27 Mar 02 | Middle East
    Arab summit: Egyptian view
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