Leaders at Arab summit shun U.S. efforts on Mideast truce

March 29, 2007|By Noha El-Hennawy and Borzou Daragahi | Noha El-Hennawy and Borzou Daragahi,LOS ANGELES TIMES

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia -- Bush administration attempts to broker a truce between its Arab allies and Israel suffered a setback yesterday as leaders at an Arab League summit here condemned Washington's foreign policy and refused to budge on a peace proposal that Israel has rejected.

Middle East leaders and diplomats gathered to try to revive the Middle East peace process but instead focused much of their attention on U.S. policy in the region.

The summit's host, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, condemned the "illegitimate foreign occupation" of Iraq, and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa lamented "the absence of honest mediation" in the Arab-Israeli conflict, a reference to U.S. officials perceived as too pro-Israeli.

"In our beloved Iraq, blood is shed among brothers under illegitimate foreign occupation and detestable sectarianism that raises the threat of a civil war," the king said.

A host of problems arose during the first sessions of the two-day summit, including the standoff between Iran and Britain over Tehran's capture of 15 British sailors in the Persian Gulf, fears of an impending nuclear arms race, the situation in Iraq and the standoff between government and opposition forces in Lebanon.

But the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis took center stage at the summit. King Abdullah condemned the U.S.-backed aid boycott of the Palestinian Authority government, which is led by Hamas militants who don't recognize Israel's right to exist.

"In wounded Palestine, the resistant [Palestinian] people are still suffering from oppression and occupation, deprived of their right to independence and to have a country," the Saudi king told the arriving diplomats.

Saudis want to revive their 2002 peace plan, in which they proposed swapping Arab recognition of Israel for a host of concessions, including the withdrawal of Israeli forces from territory Israel occupied after its 1967 war with Arab nations and a "just solution" for Palestinians uprooted from ancestral homes.

Noha El-Hennawy and Borzou Daragahi write for the Los Angeles Times.

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