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Muslim Nations Wrangle Over Israel

November 10, 2000

DOHA, Qatar (AP) _ Egypt, Jordan and Turkey stood firm Friday against a demand by other Muslim nations, including Iran, to cut relations with Israel, delaying the endorsement of a draft resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Preparing for a three-day Islamic gathering that begins Sunday, Palestinian delegates at a ministerial meeting proposed that the summit call on all participants with ties to Israel to sever them.

The proposal was welcomed by most delegates, including those from Mauritania, a member of the Arab League that had just opened diplomatic relations with Israel in January, said Mohammad Khonsari, an adviser to Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi.

However, Egypt and Jordan, the only Arab states with peace accords with the Jewish state, as well as Turkey, the only Muslim state with military agreements with Israel, rejected the Palestinian demand, according to diplomats attending the meeting.

The three countries said they were ready to provide all kinds of support for the Palestinians but argued that cutting relations with Israel would not serve the Palestinian cause, the diplomats said on condition of anonymity. They said the countries wanted to give diplomatic efforts a chance to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that erupted Sept. 28. Egypt and Jordan took a similar conciliatory position at an Arab summit last month.

``This is one of the very serious issues of the summit,″ Kharrazi said. ``This is an issue on which the summit will not compromise and on which it will insist.″

Khonsari said Iran’s voice on this issue ``appears to be the loudest″ but said most delegates present were also in favor of the Palestinian proposal.

``The whole atmosphere of the summit seems to be anti-Israeli,″ Khonsari said.

Palestinian officials said Egypt, Jordan and Turkey wanted to change the word ``cut″ to ``reconsider″ relations in a draft resolution to be submitted to the leaders Sunday.

Discussions of the resolution had been scheduled for Thursday only. But by Friday evening, there was still no word on an agreement over the statement as the delegates tried to find an acceptable compromise.

The focus of the summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference is the latest Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed, which has killed more than 180 people, most of them Palestinian. Angry protests have taken place in most Arab and Muslim countries, blaming Israel for the violence.

A day after Qatar closed an Israeli trade mission in response to pressure from delegates, Saudi officials said Friday that Crown Prince Abdullah will lead his country’s delegation to the summit. The kingdom had threatened to boycott the gathering over Qatar’s low-level relations with Israel.

Iranian officials at the ministerial meeting said they expected Qatar to keep the Israeli office closed throughout its three-year chairmanship of the Islamic Conference.

On the sidelines of Friday’s session, Kharrazi met with his Iraqi counterpart, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, to discuss how their governments could further boost ties. Relations between the two countries, who were at war from 1980-1988, have recently improved.

Update hourly