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Saturday, 6 April, 2002, 23:47 GMT 00:47 UK
Arab leaders push for UN meeting
Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa
Mr Moussa chaired the emergency Arab League meeting
Arab foreign ministers say they will push for an immediate meeting of the United Nations Security Council, in the light of continuing Palestinian casualties in the Middle East.

The announcement was made by the Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa after an emergency meeting of the 22-member league to discuss the recent Israeli incursions in the West Bank.

Lebanon's Foreign Minister at the Arab League summit last week
Lebanon and Syria want Egypt and Jordan to break ties with Israel
The Arab ministers also said they supported the "legitimate Palestinian resistance" against Israeli occupation.

And they confirmed their support for Yasser Arafat as the sole legitimate leader of the Palestinian people.

Their comments came as United States President George Bush reiterated his condemnation of Mr Arafat for "failing his people".

Support for Arafat

Mr Moussa said the Arab foreign ministers have given recommendations to their ambassadors at the UN, to ask for an immediate emergency meeting of the Security Council.

He said the reason for this move was the latest fighting in Nablus and Jenin.

In a strongly-worded statement, the delegates said they welcomed "the intifada (uprising) of the Palestinian people and support its legitimate resistance against the Israeli occupation forces."

All the ministers said they will tell Powell that President Arafat is the sole representative of the Palestinian people

Palestinian minister Nabil Shaath
The BBC's Hebah Saleh in Cairo says the Arabs are concerned that the American president's sharp criticism of Mr Arafat signals implicit US backing for potential Israeli attempts to expel or sideline him.

Palestinian International Co-operation Minister Nabil Shaath said the ministers would tell US Secretary of State Colin Powell - due to arrive on Monday on a peace mission to the region - to meet Mr Arafat during that trip.

But on Saturday President Bush again hinted that Mr Arafat was near the end of his time as a leader that Washington would recognise.

"Arafat has never earned my trust," said Mr Bush. "He had opportunity after opportunity to be a leader, and he hasn't led and I'm disappointed."

Growing discord

As expected, there were no drastic decisions taken at the Arab League meeting.

Arab governments are determined not to get drawn into any armed confrontations with Israel, and are counting on diplomacy to revive any semblance of a peace process.

But there is growing discord between the Arab nations, regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Syria and Lebanon did not send their foreign ministers to the meeting, as they are objecting to Egypt and Jordan's refusal to break ties with Israel.

Iraq's foreign minister also did not attend the meeting following a rejection by the Arab League of the country's proposal to cut down on oil supplies in order to force the West to rein in Israel.

See also:

06 Apr 02 | Middle East
Arab leaders urge Arafat meeting
01 Apr 02 | Middle East
Arabs pressed to act over Israel
31 Mar 02 | Middle East
Israel warns Syria over Lebanon
01 Apr 02 | Middle East
In pictures: Palestinian support demos
27 Mar 02 | Middle East
Arab League summit in quotes
21 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Quick guide: Arab League
04 Jan 02 | Country profiles
Timeline: Arab League
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