Jordan, Syria say Palestine must be priority


UN: In their addresses to the UN General Assembly both the Jordanian and Syrian Foreign Ministers focused on the situation in Palestine, which, the Arabs believe, should be tackled before the issue of weapons inspections in Iraq.

The Jordanian Foreign Minister, Mr Marwan Muasher, said that Israel's reoccupation of Palestinian-ruled areas, its closures, blockades and curfews have created unbearable living conditions for the Palestinian people. "International organisations have been on high alert because Israeli policies of economic and political strangulation . . . are aimed at making [the Palestinian people] kneel down and give up their rights," he said.

The Syrian Foreign Minister, Mr Farouk al-Sharaa, said, "Why should the world request Iraq to adhere to Security Council resolutions, while Israel is allowed to be above international law?

"We see no justification for igniting a new war in the Middle East. We strongly believe that striking Iraq, which no longer occupies the lands of others, while keeping silent about the Israeli occupation . . . represents blind bias and a distorted vision of the real situation."

Mr Sharaa's address was the strongest statement of the Arab belief that US obstruction of UN action against Israel, a routine violator of UN resolutions, contrasts sharply with US determination to compel the Security Council to take action against Iraq. "It is indeed odd that the United States considers Israel to be acting in self-defence in territories acknowledged to be occupied by Security Council resolutions, which the United States played a role in drafting," he said.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mr Colin Powell described weekend remarks by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal regarding the use of Saudi bases as "forthcoming," but said there was no talk for the moment of military attacks or bases.

Asked in a weekend interview with CNN if Riyadh would permit use of its bases for a war on Iraq, Prince Saud said: "If the United Nations takes a decision by the Security Council to implement a policy of the UN, every country that has signed the charter of the UN has to fulfil it."