Arab leaders vow to cut off " terror"

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Arab leaders attending the Sharm el-Sheikh summit on Tuesday backed the US-supported "road map" and vowed to fight " terrorist organisations".

    This is Bush's first time wading
    into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict

    Mubarak was speaking after the summit between Arab leaders and US President George W Bush at the Egyptian Red Sea Resort. Formal talks lasted only 30 minutes.  

    The Egyptian President said Arab states will do all they can to fight "terrorist organizations".

    Bush said that all Arab leaders "have declared their firm rejection of terror", adding the summit made progress in moving toward peace.

    The US President met Arab leaders to shore up support for a US-backed “road map” aimed at ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

    Bush called for a creation of a US-Middle East free trade zone by 2013 as part of efforts to secure a "permanent" end to the conflict.

    Bush met Egypt’s Mubarak, Crown Prince Abd Allah bin Abd al-Aziz of Saudi Arabia, King Abd Allah II of Jordan, King Hamad bin Khalifa of Bahrain and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

    It was the US President’s first meeting with the Palestinian Premier. Bush told Abbas he had assumed a great deal of responsibility.

    “I want to work with you as do the other leaders here,” Bush said.

    Abbas has vowed to crackdown on Palestinian resistance fighters spearheading an uprising against Israel’s occupation.

    Bush’s meeting with Abbas was aimed at confirming his stand as Washington's preferred representative for the Palestinian people and at trying to sideline President Yasser Arafat's role in the peace process.

    The US leader said Israel must deal with Jewish settlements.

    Israel said it would dismantle what it deems unlawful among them. Under international law all Jewish settlements are illegal.  

    Bush is scheduled to hold another summit with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Wednesday in the Jordanian Red Sea resort of Aqaba.

    Hamas reaction

    In related developments, Hamas threatened to disavow Abbas if he did not reject Bush's demands to curb resistance activities.

    Hamas leader Abd al-Aziz Rantissi told Aljazeera the group would continue its activities unless Israel ended its attacks against civilians and released detainees.

    Rantissi called on Abbas to support resistance efforts. Earlier, the Hamas leader denounced the two summits, saying talks sponsored by Washington are always doomed to fail.

    Normalization of ties

    Arab officials have no reservations
    to the plan; Israel has 14 

    Meanwhile, Egypt’s official MENA news agency reported that  differences over normalization with Israel emerged before the summit and had delayed its formal opening.

    Earlier, Arab participants said US Secretary of State Colin Powell had asked his Arab counterparts to speed up  normalization of ties with Israel, but was met with a hesitant response.

    Powell made the request on Monday with Foreign Ministers Ahmad Maher of Egypt, Marwan Moasher of Jordan, Sheikh Mohammad bin Mubarak Alkhalifa of Bahrain, Saud Alfaisal of Saudi Arabia and Palestinian Nabil Shaath.

    Powell said he was satisfied that Arabs had accepted the "road map" blueprint, but believed normalization of ties with Israel would move the plan forward, a participant told AFP on condition of anonymity.

    Egypt and Jordan have signed peace treaties with Israel, but the United States wanted more Arab states to sign deals.

    Participants at the meeting said they supported comprehensive multilateral Arab moves rather than separate ones to normalize relations with Israel.

    In exchange, the Jewish state should withdraw from occupied territories and recognise a Palestinian state.


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