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Arab leaders warn world: Don’t punish Palestinians

July 1, 2012

Friday, March 31. 2006

Arab leaders gathered Tuesday at a summit focused on mounting chaos in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while rifts emerged over host Sudan’s rejection of UN troops for war-torn Darfur.

The annual meeting was marred by the absence of a number of key regional heavyweights, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Saudi King Abdullah.

Addressing the summit amid tensions, its host, Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir, warned that Khartoum would not accept the deployment of foreign troops in its troubled western Darfur region.

“The African Union forces are capable of accomplishing their mission in Darfur without any foreign intervention,” Beshir told the one-day gathering in Khartoum.

Instead, Beshir called on “Arab countries and the international community to support financially the AU forces,” which are cash strapped and undermanned.

The UN Security Council voted on Friday to speed up plans to deploy peacekeepers to replace the African Union mission in Darfur.

While Arab foreign ministers agreed to a raft of draft resolutions over the weekend, the members remained divided over Darfur and wrote a text that stopped short of Khartoum’s demand for outright support.

Only Egypt and Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa are backing full implementation of the UN Security Council resolution on Darfur, the source said, while other members are lining up behind Sudan.

The Palestinian Authority meanwhile was hoping that Arab countries will open their coffers to help stave off a financial crisis after international donors threatened to halt funding to a Hamas-led government.

Arab leaders at the summit urged the international community not to punish the Palestinians for voting Islamic radicals Hamas into power in January elections.

“All calls to distort the political meaning of the Palestinian choice by threatening to boycott it and cut aid cannot be justified,” Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika told the gathering.

Sudan’s Beshir urged his Arab counterparts not to succumb to the international community’s efforts to isolate Hamas over its refusal to recognise Israel, forswear violence or honour previous peace agreements.

A draft resolution, expected to be passed by the summit, calls on the international community not to suspend funding to the Palestinian Authority.

The resolution also rejects plans by acting Israeli premier Ehud Olmert to fix his country’s borders unilaterally.

The summit was taking place as Israel headed to the polls in a vote crucial for the future of Middle East peacemaking, while the Palestian parliament was set to approve the new Hamas-led government.

Meanwhile, leaders are expected to endorse a draft resolution at the summit stressing the need for an Arab role in the future of Iraq and supporting efforts at reconciliation sponsored by the 22-member Arab League.

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