Arab nations cautious over “approval”

The Middle East reacted cautiously on Monday to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s conditional approval of a US-backed “road map” aimed at ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

    Israel has expressed 14
    reservations over the 'road map'

    Politicians and newspapers criticised the Israeli cabinet’s refusal to accept the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Under the US-backed plan, the right of return will not be discussed for years.

    Speaking on the sidelines of the Euromed summit in Crete, Arab League chief Amr Moussa, was cautious. “It’s a small step. The true test will be its implementation,” he said in reference to the “road map”.

    “Everything depends now on the way the United States will handle the question,” said Moussa.

    In Qatar, home to US Central Command, the Al Raya newspaper expressed fears that Israel was engaged in a “political ruse aimed at earning time and rebuffing Western attempts to pressure it”.

    Saudi Arabia’s Al Nadwa newspaper wrote Israel “hasn’t made the slightest step” in halting its military activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.

    “Everything indicates that Sharon will twist the road map despite its approval,” said the article. It called on Washington to pressure Sharon to respect the “road map”.

    Lebanon’s President Emile Lahoud called the Israeli move a “manoeuvre” aimed at removing the rights of Palestinians.

    Iran described the “road map” as another imposition on Arabs and Palestinians.

    “The road map is a new hardship for Arab countries and Palestinians and considering the Zionist regime’s policies the execution of this plan is not possible,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hamid-Reza Assefi.

    Tehran’s Kayhan daily said the plan was a “road map to nowhere” and called on Palestinians to reject it and continue with their uprising.

    Islamic Jihad, which is spearheading the Palestinian uprising along with Hamas, also denounced the plan, saying it was aimed at ending the Intifada.


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