Arab Communique Praises Intifada; Denounces Israel; Arafat, Mubarak Not at Summit
Byline: Betsy Pisik, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
BEIRUT - Ministers here for an Arab League summit yesterday completed a draft communique of harsh anti-Israeli rhetoric that belied the conciliatory tone of a Saudi peace plan to be discussed later this week.
The formal statement, to be finalized by presidents and prime ministers from 22 Arab nations tomorrow, reflects generations of pain and hatred rather than the more generous tone of the Saudi land-for-peace initiative.
For example, the communique calls for an "activated Arab vision holding Israel fully responsible for its subversive acts against the Palestinian people" and salutes the "heroic intifada."
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who was to have been a key participant at the summit, was blocked by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from attending.
Also, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak - an influential and centrist Arab voice - was staying home for unspecified "domestic commitments."
The absence of both leaders came as a blow to summit efforts to address Israeli-Palestinian fighting.
Mr. Sharon, who had been under U.S. pressure to allow Mr. Arafat to attend, said he might have considered it had the Palestinian leader called on his people, in Arabic, to put down their guns and stop 18 months of fighting.
"Unfortunately, the conditions are not yet ripe for Chairman Arafat's departure for Beirut," Mr. Sharon said in an interview on Israel television's Arab-language program.
After Mr. Sharon's interview, Mr. Arafat's office said Israel was using the summit as leverage to get Palestinians to accept unfair security arrangements for ending their uprising.
"President Arafat has consulted with his leadership and has studied the issue carefully. He has decided not to allow Israel to pressure the Palestinian negotiators into submitting to Israeli conditions, and so he decided not to go to the summit," said Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo.
The Palestinian leader is expected to address the summit by satellite from Ramallah, where he has been confined by Israel for months.
With Mr. Arafat and Mr. Mubarak absent, the summit appeared yesterday to take on a harsher tone than envisioned a week ago.
The communique promises to raise an additional $150 million to support Palestinian military groups leading the 18-month-old uprising.
"Arab leaders also declared their commitment to cease building any new relations with Israel" until the Jewish state implements international legal resolutions, the communique says.
The 50-page document, written in Arabic, was translated into three pages of English by the National News Agency of Lebanon.
It could be adapted by leaders today and tomorrow to include aspects of the Saudi peace initiative - in which Arab nations would make peace with Israel in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from land occupied in the 1967 war. …