Arab leaders endorse Saudi peace plan


Arab leaders have endorsed a Saudi peace plan offering Israel "normal relations" in exchange for withdrawal from all occupied Arab land, Lebanon's foreign minister announced today at the Arab summit in Beirut.

Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud said that once Israel fulfills the Arab demands, "the Arab-Israeli conflict would be considered finished and (the parties) would enter into a peace treaty and achieving security for all countries of the region and establish normal relations with Israel."

The summit went into a second day after an ill-tempered start when host Lebanon blocked plans for Palestinian President Mr Yasser Arafat to address Arab leaders by video link from the West Bank, where he has been confined by Israel since December.

The Palestinian delegation walked out in protest but agreed to return after Arab leaders smoothed over a dispute that reflected rancour dating back to the role of Mr Arafat and his guerrillas in Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war.

Iraq and Kuwait also reached a landmark agreement, mediated by Oman and Qatar, to work on disputes that have divided them and the Arab world since the 1990 invasion and Gulf War.