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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 September, 2004, 18:02 GMT 19:02 UK
Anger over Iraqi-Israeli greeting
Iyad Allawi (left) with Iraq's foreign minister at the UN General Assembly
Iraq is beside Israel at the UN headquarters in New York
Iraq's interim prime minister is facing some withering criticism for shaking hands with Israel's foreign minister at the United Nations general assembly.

Lebanese militant Hezbollah group said Iyad Allawi's gesture was "scornful" to Arabs and an "insult" to Iraqis.

Israel's Silvan Shalom said it was the first official contact between Israel and Iraq. He told Mr Allawi he hoped for peace in the Middle East, he said.

Israel and Iraq are neighbours at the alphabetically-seated New York venue.

Mr Shalom and Mr Allawi and other Israeli and Iraqi delegates exchanged handshakes and pleasantries just before the start of the UN's annual debate on Tuesday night.

Hezbollah said the gesture showed how the US was trying to pull Iraq away from the Arab and Islamic worlds and draw it into an American-Israeli sphere of influence.

"It was also in blatant disregard of the pains and sufferings of the Palestinian people, and of the feelings of Arabs and Muslims everywhere," the statement added.

Mr Shalom told Associated Press he hoped Iraq would establish relations with Israel and US officials have expressed the same aspiration.

However, Mr Allawi has said Iraq will not establish relations with Israel until other Arab states did so as part of a Middle East peace settlement.

Iraq's mission at the UN said it had no information about the incident.


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