Arab world united by events in Territories


The divided Arab world has been reunified by the events in the Palestinian territories and southern Lebanon. There is now general agreement that an emergency Arab summit should be convened on October 21st rather than wait till after the US presidential election.

Reluctant to hold such a meeting before next January, Egypt has been obliged to issue invitations to all 22 members of the league, including Iraq which was excluded from the summit in 1996.

The Egyptian Foreign Minister, Mr Amr Musa, was in Damascus yesterday for discussions on the situation and the summit with the Syrian President, Dr Bashar Assad. Dr Assad has been conferring with the Libyan leader, Col Muammar Gadafy. Both Dr Assad and Col Gadafy, who met Jordan's King Abdullah last week, will be visiting Saudi Arabia in coming days.

The flurry of activity has been building up over the weekend. On Saturday the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, went to Iran and the Iranian President, Dr Muhammad Khatami, current head of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, called for an urgent ministerial meeting to co-ordinate policy against Israel.

The Gulf States, including Kuwait, have reconciled their relations with the Palestinian President, Mr Yasser Arafat, who had been cold-shouldered since he refused to support the US-led military campaign against Iraq after it occupied Kuwait in 1990.

Popular demonstrations have taken place in many Arab countries. In Damascus police confronted protesters attempting to storm the US embassy.

The President of Yemen, Mr Ali Abdullah Saleh, called on Arab governments to encourage their citizens to join the fight against Israel and to open their borders to convoys travelling to the Palestinian territories. Lebanese Muslim and Christian clerics called for the "liberation" of Jerusalem and said a "state of war" exists between the Jewish state and the Arabs.

Baghdad urged Arab states to break ties with Israel and the US, and called for a jihad (holy war).

Jordan's king has donated blood for Palestinian wounded, many of whom have been transferred to Jordanian hospitals. The Gulf States have rushed medical supplies and financial aid to the Palestinians.

Mr Ghassan Talhoub, editor of Al-Khaleej daily in the UAE, said: "Some felt that the Palestinian issue was on the road to settlement after the Oslo accords" were signed in 1993. Instead "the peace process has become a device for humiliating the Arabs".