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Tuesday, August 10, 1999 Published at 00:48 GMT 01:48 UK

World: Middle East

Protest grows against burger giant

Burger King has many outlets in Arab and Muslim states

The Arab League is to consider backing a campaign to force the closure of a fast-food outlet in a West Bank Jewish settlement built on land seized during the 1967 war.

The American-based company Burger King has franchised a fast food outlet in Maale Adumim - a settlement of 25,000 residents just east of Jerusalem and one of the fastest growing in the West Bank.

American Muslims reacted by calling for a worldwide boycott of Burger King outlets unless the franchise is withdrawn.

The Arab League now says it plans to discuss the matter at a meeting of foreign ministers next month.

Burger King officials have said the Miami-based company is taking the issue very seriously and will try to resolve it.

They have said they meant no offence by opening the new restaurant in a controversial location and plan to meet the executive director of American Muslims for Jerusalem (AMJ) to discuss the issue.

However critics have said that other US companies - including McDonalds - have refused to open in areas outside of Israel's 1967 borders.

Khalid Turaani, the AMJ's executive director, said: "Our community views Burger King's decision to become a party to illegal occupation with profound distaste."

Roaring trade

In Maale Adumin itself, the burger restaurant is reported to be busy with customers critical of the boycott threat.

[ image: Tensions are high in the West Bank]
Tensions are high in the West Bank
"We shouldn't involve political opinion with food or other such things. I'm very fond of Burger King," said one settler, Orna Makov.

Maale Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel says the boycott could hamper existing peaceful relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

"We are doing our shopping in the nearby Palestinian market, and they are coming here to our market. Any (attempt) to disturb these relations between us and the Palestinians will hurt the peace negotiations," he said.

The West Bank, east of Jerusalem, is land disputed between Israel and the Palestinians.

The two sides are discussing the resumption of negotiations aimed at achieving a permanent peace agreement and a final disposition of West Bank territory, some of which has already has been put under Palestinian administration.

So far, nine groups, including the Arab American Institute and the Palestinian American Congress, have joined AMJ in protesting against the new Burger King restaurant.

Burger King has more than 10,000 fast-food outlets world-wide, including sites in Muslim majority nations of Malaysia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE.

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