Following a meeting with Saudi Arabian and Syrian opposite numbers on Monday, Ahmad Mahir told Egypt’s Middle East News Agency it “is not possible to recognize the legitimacy of the current governing council in Iraq”.

But Mahir added Arab states were ready to meet members of the council just as they were ready to meet members of any Iraqi political group.
   
The Egyptian minister reiterated a political position reached by the three foreign ministers in a meeting held in Cairo last week.

However, last Tuesday Bahraini Foreign Minister Shaikh Muhammad bin Mubarak al-Khalifa said the Iraqi council was a step in the right direction, and that Arab states hoped it would lead to the creation of an Iraqi government.

South Lebanon

Monday’s meeting was called after Israeli warplanes attacked Lebanon on Sunday in an attempt to reduce resistance group Hizb Allah’s ability to target Israeli aeroplanes that frequently violate Lebanese air space.

Mahir declined to say how he and his colleagues decided to address the revival of fighting along the Israeli-Lebanese border, but said: "It is unimaginable that we meet here without discussing Israeli provocations."

"It is not possible to recognize the legitimacy of the current governing council in Iraq”.

Ahmad Mahir
Egyptian foreign minister

Israeli officials have warned Lebanon and Syria they will be held responsible for the actions of Hizb Allah, which took part in the first exchange of artillery fire in eight months with a bombardment on Friday near the Israeli occupied Shibaa farms.

Roadmap violation

Mahir accused Israel on Monday of impeding the roadmap peace plan and described Israel's construction of a wall around the Palestinian territories as a violation of the peace process. The plan aims to stem the conflict and set up a Palestinian state by 2005.

"It is clear that the Israelis are violating their obligations under the roadmap plan and creating conditions that make it difficult for the Palestinians to carry out their obligations," Mahir told reporters after meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Faruk al-Sharaa and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud.

The foreign minister made clear Arab governments would not be swayed by growing support for recognition of the Governing Council in Iraq.

Since the Arab League refused to recognize the council early last week, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov have said the body should be recognized as a transitional government.