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Summit ends with no consensus on Lebanon

©

Latest update : 2008-03-30

The Arab League summit in Damascus closed Sunday with a declaration to help Lebanon emerge from its current political crisis, but without any specific proposals on how to achieve it.

An Arab summit, subdued in the absence of leaders critical of Syria, told Israel on Sunday Arab countries would review an Arab peace offer unless the Jewish state changes its behaviour.
 

Arab leaders sent the warning at the end of the two-day meeting in the Syrian capital Damascus. It did not say what
options were under consideration or when the review would take place.
 

"For the Arab side to continue to offer the Arab peace initiative is tied to Israel executing its commitments in the framework of international resolutions to achieve peace in the region," a Damascus Declaration said.
 

The Arab initiative of 2002 offers Israel peace and normal relations with all Arab countries in return for withdrawal from all territory captured in the 1967 war.
 

Successive Israeli governments have either ignored or rejected the offer, which would require Israel to dismantle settlements which house hundreds of thousands of Jews.
 

The statement, read by Arab League chief Amr Moussa, added: "(The Arab heads of state decided) to evaluate and review Arab strategies and the plan of action regarding reviving the peace process as a prelude to decide on next Arab moves."
 

Although it did not set a time frame, Moussa told a news conference later that Arab foreign ministers could start a review in the middle of the year.
 

The language on the Arab peace plan was not a surprise as it was almost identical to that of a decision approved by Arab foreign ministers at a meeting in Cairo three weeks ago.
 

 LEBANESE BOYCOTT
 

Moussa and other Arab officials have said that withdrawing the peace plan is not an option and in public they have not given details of alternative approaches.
 

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem told the news conference: "The (peace) initiative is one thing and the strategy for activating the peace process is something else. We did not submit any proposal to amend the initiative."
 

Moualem said the summit was a success because it had survived predictions that it would be a disaster if the Arabs did not solve the political crisis in Lebanon before it began.
 

Lebanon boycotted the Damascus summit in protest at what it says is Syrian obstruction, through its local allies, of the process of electing a new Lebanese president.
 

Three key Arab heads of state friendly with Washington -- from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan -- also stayed away from the meeting, in solidarity with the Lebanese government.
 

On Lebanon, the Damascus Declaration broke no new ground, saying the Arab leaders stand by an Arab initiative which endorses army chief Michel Suleiman as a consensus president.
 

The Lebanese government and the opposition, which is allied with Syria and Iran, agree on Suleiman but disagree on whether the opposition forces should have veto power in a new cabinet.
 

The declaration said: "We declare that ... we stand by the Arab initiative to help Lebanon and support the efforts of the (Arab League) secretary general to encourage the Lebanese parties to reach consensus to resolve this crisis to preserve Lebanon's security, unity, stability and prosperity."
 

The Iraqi government, embroiled in conflict with powerful Shi'ite militias opposed to its alliance with the United States, said it objected to omissions from the summit declaration.
 

The Iraqis said the summit had failed to express support for its U.S.-backed government or condemn operations by insurgents.
 

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told Reuters that Iraq considered the paragraph on Iraq "not positive" and asked the Arab League to redraft it.
 

Iran objected to the summit's support for the United Arab Emirates claim to three islands in the Gulf. Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, quoted by the news agency IRNA, said the claim was "vain and baseless" as the islands were an inseparable part of Iranian territory.

Date created : 2008-03-30

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