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Tuesday, September 21, 1999 Published at 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK

World: Middle East

Disney boycott threat back on

Jerusalem is prominent in the forthcoming display

Arab League Secretary-General Esmat Abdel Meguid says he will ask member states to "reconsider" their relations with the American Disney corporation in the continuing row over a exhibit on Jerusalem.

Jerusalem's status is one of the trickiest unresolved issues in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Reports that an exhibition opening at Disney World in Florida next month shows the city as the capital of Israel has led to widespread Muslim protests.

It appeared the row had been resolved last week after the intervention of Prince Al Walid bin Talal, a member of the Saudi royal family and major shareholder in the EuroDisney operation in France.

'Arab blackmail'

But on Saturday, Israel claimed victory in the row over the exhibition.

A statement from the foreign ministry said: "Presenting Jerusalem as the central element in Israel's exhibit ... speaks for itself. There is not clearer or stronger statement than that."

Israel's ambassador to the United States said there would be no changes to the exhibition.

Zalman Shoval told Israeli military radio that Disney had finally "understood that it was better not to give in to Arab blackmail."

In response, the Arab league secretary general said he would ask Arab foreign ministers meeting in New York next Friday on the sidelines of the UN general assembly to reconsider their relations with Disney.

[ image: Disney wants no part in an
Disney wants no part in an "ideological" dispute
"The American firm has not changed its position concerning the Israeli exhibit. Israel is trying to dupe the Arabs and we will not accept that," he said.

In a statement on Friday, Disney said the exhibit would explore the history of Jerusalem but would not depict the city as Isael's capital.

"We are an entertainment company and we do not take (ideological) positions," the company said.

Millions at stake

A boycott of Disney products might cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues.

Arab Americans have threatened to boycott Disney's theme parks, films, shops and products.

The exhibition, called Millennium Village, plans to feature the culture of 40 nations in what Disney says is a non-political event.

The 800 square-metre Israel Pavilion will showcase the nation's agricultural, energy and technology industries.

A feature of the pavilion is a huge model of Jerusalem's Old City, which is located in east Jerusalem.

Israel regards Jerusalem as its "eternal and indivisible capital" although it is not recognised internationally as such.

The Arab world wants the mainly-Muslim eastern half of the city to be the capital of a future Palestinian state - the east side of the city was captured and annexed by Israel in contravention of international law.

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