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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 20:17 GMT 21:17 UK
Egypt dismisses Sharon proposal
Hosni Mubarak at a meeting with Yasser Arafat
Mubarak (left) says only Arafat can represent the Palestinians
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By Heba Saleh
BBC correspondent in Cairo

The Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, has said that Israel has to deal with the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, if it is serious about seeking peace.

The Egyptian president was responding to reports that Mr Sharon had taken to Washington plans to overhaul the Palestinian Authority and reduce the influence of Yasser Arafat.

The Israeli prime minister also discussed in the US his plans for a peace conference without Mr Arafat.

Arab leaders are eager to get political talks underway, but have no faith in Mr Sharon's conference proposal.

Interim settlement

They fear that with American backing, he will sideline Mr Arafat and impose peace on his own terms.

Mr Sharon has made no secret of his opposition to previous deals between Israel and the Palestinians.

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah at the Arab summit in Beirut earlier this year
The Saudi peace plan includes Israeli withdrawal from settlements
He wants to negotiate a long-term interim agreement rather than the final settlement the Arabs want.

By this agreement, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories would remain, and there would be no resolution to the key issues of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

1967 borders

Although this is not yet a formal proposal, the Arabs are already making known their reservations.

Jordan has announced it will not attend a meeting that did not have on its agenda the Arab initiative offering Israel normal relations in return for a full withdrawal from lands occupied in 1967.

Meanwhile, Egypt has insisted it will reject a conference which did not build on previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

See also:

08 May 02 | Middle East
Analysis: Sharon's options
05 May 02 | Middle East
US criticises Arafat's leadership
21 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Quick guide: Arab League
04 Jan 02 | Country profiles
Timeline: Arab League
27 Feb 02 | Middle East
What is in the Saudi peace initiative?
06 May 02 | Middle East
Sharon courts US leaders
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