Arabs to relaunch peace offer with Israel
CAIRO, Egypt – Arabs will relaunch a 2002 land-for-peace offer in an effort to end the decades-long conflict with Israel at a summit later this month, but without changes Israel has been pushing, the Arab League’s Secretary-General said Sunday.Amr Moussa’s remarks to a meeting of Arab foreign ministers came as Saudi Arabia announced that hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offered support for the initiative during talks with Saudi officials, though Iran later denied the two discussed the peace plan.”The Arab peace initiative expresses an Arab consensus and will not be redrafted as demanded by some foreign powers,” Moussa told the ministers, who were meeting in Cairo ahead of the Arab League summit scheduled for March 28-29 in the Saudi capital.”Maneuvering and watering down (the initiative) will be a strategic mistake,” Moussa said. “It perhaps will lead to new bloodshed.Last week, Israeli newspapers quoted Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni as saying Israel would not accept the Arab peace plan as is and asked to drop any reference to the right of the Palestinians displaced in the 1948 Mideast war to return to their homes inside the Jewish state.Moussa reiterated that Israel should give back all territories it seized in the 1967 war and allow Palestinian refugees to return.The 2002 plan calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state and full recognition of Israel in return for an Israeli withdrawal from all territory captured in the Arab-Israeli wars. A later version of the initiative states that Israel should return all Arab land and also allow Palestinian refugees to return.In what appeared to be a reversal of anti-Israel rhetoric by Iran’s president, Saudi Arabia’s official news agency reported Sunday that Ahmadinejad expressed support the 2002 initiative during talks Saturday with Saudi’s King Abdullah. But further details about the talks were not released, and Iran’s state media reported that an Iranian official denied the initiative was even discussed.Libya’s foreign minister said Sunday his country would not attend the upcoming summit in Saudi Arabia, adding that the Arab world “is not serious” and that “joint Arab action is dysfunctional.””Libya is insisting on a real Arab mechanism – not policies of axes, groups and unilateral changes to decisions,” Foreign Minister Abdel-Rahman Shalqam said at Arab League headquarters in Cairo.Hesham Youssef, an aide to the Arab League secretary-general, said there was still time to discuss the issue and that officials hoped Libya would reconsider.Arab foreign ministers also gave full support Sunday to a regional conference on Iraq to be held in Baghdad beginning Saturday. Iraqi officials have said the country’s neighbors, including Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, have agreed to join U.S. and British representatives to discuss the Iraqi security crisis.