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Monday, September 27, 1999 Published at 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK

World: Middle East

Disney row sparks peace warning

The status of Jerusalem has been highlighted by the Disney exhibit

By Gulf Correspondent Frank Gardner

The dispute between the Arab League and Walt Disney over an Israeli exhibit at the company's millennium theme park has triggered widespread concern in the Gulf over the status of Jerusalem.

The United Arab Emirates' information and culture minister says the row shows that disagreement over Jerusalem's status could bring sudden death to the Middle East peace process.

[ image: The exhibition opens on Friday]
The exhibition opens on Friday
And the Arab League's decision to abandon the threat of a boycott against Walt Disney products has left many Gulf Arabs dismayed and disappointed.

The US entertainment company has given assurances that the Israeli exhibit at Disney's millennium theme park in Florida will no longer portray Jerusalem as the capital of Israel but Arabs remain suspicious that when the exhibition opens on Friday visitors will still get the impression that Jerusalem is Israel's historic capital.

The media in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar have sharply criticised the Arab League for dropping the boycott threat before the exhibition has even opened.

The man who has led the drive to remove all references to Jerusalem as Israel's capital is the UAE's information minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Nahyan.

'Mini tempest'

On Monday he told the BBC that he believed the dispute had served to highlight just how difficult the negotiations are going to be over the final status of Jerusalem.

The historic city is claimed by Israel as its internal and undivided capital but Palestinians have vowed to make east Jerusalem the capital of their future state.

An article in Monday's Dubai-based paper, Gulf News, by the President of the Arab American institute called on Arab countries to combine their resources to defend Arab interest in Jerusalem.

Dr James Zogby said what he called the mini tempest at Disney was a wake-up call that showed the depth of Arab feeling for the holy city of Jerusalem.

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