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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 June, 2003, 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK
Arabs vow to fight militants
Arab leaders and President Bush
Arab leaders face a difficult dilemma
Arab leaders will take measures to stop support for terrorist groups in the Middle East, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has announced.

Mr Mubarak was speaking after a summit, in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, attended by US President George W Bush and leaders from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, as well as Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen.

"We are going to utilise all means possible to block support for terrorist organisations," the Egyptian leader said, without naming any.

The US regards militant Palestinian groups, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as terrorist organisations - a view not shared across the Arab world.

An overt condemnation of the Palestinian militants - an American and Israeli demand - was always going to be difficult to secure, says the BBC's Heba Saleh, in Sharm el-Sheikh.

In his statement after the talks, Mr Bush repeated his commitment to achieving a Palestinian state "that is free, and at peace" - part of a broader reconciliation involving the entire region.

We seek true peace, not just a pause between more wars and intifadas
George W Bush

Underlining his support for the internationally-backed peace plan - known as the roadmap - he said Israel must deal with Jewish settlements to "make sure there is a continuous territory the Palestinians can call home".

Mr Bush holds his first joint summit with the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers on Wednesday.

Power of law

"We will use all the power of the law to prevent support reaching illegal organisations including terrorist groups," Mr Mubarak said.

He said they supported the Palestinian Authority's (PA) insistence on meeting its responsibilities for ending violence and Arab assistance to the Palestinians would solely go through the PA.

The Egyptian president said Arab leaders were against terror and violence and rejected "the culture of extremism and violence in any form or shape, from whatever source or place, regardless of justifications or motives".

Many will read this to mean violence whether it emanates from Israel or the Palestinians, our correspondent says.

Phase 1 (to May 2003): End to Palestinian violence; Palestinian political reform; Israeli withdrawal and freeze on settlement expansion; Palestinian elections
Phase 2: (June-Dec 2003) Creation of an independent Palestinian state; international conference and international monitoring of compliance with roadmap
Phase 3 (2004-2005): Second international conference; permanent status agreement and end of conflict; agreement on final borders, Jerusalem, refugees and settlements; Arab states to agree to peace deals with Israel

Mr Bush said the United States "is committed and I am committed in helping all the parties to reach the hard and heroic decisions that will lead to peace".

"If all sides fulfil their obligations, we can make steady progress on the road towards Palestinian statehood, a secure Israel and a just and comprehensive peace," Mr Bush said.

"We seek true peace, not just a pause between more wars and intifadas, but a permanent reconciliation among the peoples of the Middle East."

The US is refusing to deal with Yasser Arafat, who remains the official head of the Palestinian Authority.

Mr Bush had hoped to get Arab leaders to support Abu Mazen, but their statement had only a passing reference to him, the BBC's Jon Leyne says, as Arab countries remain reluctant to undermine Mr Arafat.

Ahead of Wednesday's summit, Israel began releasing about 100 Palestinian prisoners as part of goodwill measures aimed at boosting the implementation of the roadmap.

They included Ahmad Jbarah - the longest-serving inmate who spent nearly three decades in jail - and a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive committee, Taysir Khaled, arrested in February.

The BBC's Paul Wood
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