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Monday, 22 May, 2000, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
Arab concern over Israeli pullout
Israeli position in South Lebanon
Israel is taking the initiative in Southern Lebanon
By Caroline Hawley in Cairo

The withdrawal of Israeli troops and allied militia men from Southern Lebanon is being watched around the Arab world with deep concern.

A senior Arab League official described the current situation in Southern Lebanon as "very dangerous".

He said Israel was making its own moves without the control of the United Nations, which was meant to oversee the pullout.


Shebaa landscape
Israeli held Shebaa Farms area now under spotlight
The immediate concern over what is happening in Southern Lebanon reflects a much wider Arab worry - Israel's apparent ability to dictate terms in the Middle East.

The Arab League official said the Israelis seemed to have completely neglected peace talks over the Golan Heights, and reneged on previous agreements with the Palestinians.

Syria cold-shouldered

Since the Madrid peace process began almost a decade ago, it was always accepted wisdom that there would never be peace between Lebanon and Israel, without a deal with Syria, the main power broker there.

Israel's decision to withdraw unilaterally from Southern Lebanon took the Arab World by surprise.

It also removed Syria's only real bargaining chip in its own negotiations with Israel.

An Arab diplomat in Cairo said that a new Lebanese demand that Israel withdraw from an area known as the Shebaa Farms - where the borders of Syria, Israel and Lebanon meet - appeared to be what he called a "hidden message to Israel", that it must also deal with Damascus.

The Hezbollah guerrilla group now says it is widening its field of operations to include the Shebaa Farms.

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See also:

22 May 00 | Middle East
Hezbollah splits occupation zone
21 May 00 | Middle East
Israel and Hezbollah exchange fire
21 May 00 | Middle East
Air raid hits Bekaa base
05 May 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Risky strategy exposed
09 Feb 00 | Middle East
Q & A: Southern Lebanon
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