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'Palestinian State must for peace'

BEIRUT, MARCH 26. Arab leaders fell back on their long-standing demands that Israel surrender occupied Arab land and grant Palestinians a State in exchange for peace, according to a draft of the final summit statement distributed on Tuesday by Lebanon's National News Agency.

The 21-page, 52-point draft document prepared for the two-day Arab summit that opens on Wednesday did not mention an initiative still to be formally presented by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. Arab Foreign Ministers and delegates who met on Monday to prepare for the summit have said the Saudi initiative will only be dealt with later by top leaders. Unusual attention has been focused on this Arab summit — usually a predictable affair that yields little concrete action — because of the Saudi proposal floated in recent weeks to offer Israel full, normal relations with the Arab world in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal from Arab land occupied since 1967.

The draft communique also addressed the Iraq issue, affirming Arab leaders' "serious concern about Iraq's unity and safety and their rejection to the use of force or any threats of using (force) against it or against any other Arab country. In a clear response to worries the U.S. will target Iraq in its war on terrorism, the draft said force against Iraq or any Arab country would be considered "an infringement on the region's security and stability." It also renewed Arab leaders' condemnation of the September 11 terror attacks on the United States, rejected terrorism "in all its forms" and expressed full readiness to co-operate with efforts to fight terrorism.

The Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat's attendance at the summit, meanwhile, remained uncertain on Tuesday. Israel has linked his departure to reaching a truce, but is under international pressure to let him go. The Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, was quoted on Tuesday as saying Mr. Arafat should be wary of the risk he may not be allowed to return home if he attends the summit. "The moment he leaves, (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon will stir up incidents after which he will destroy the last offices of the Palestinian Authority and force it to remain outside," Mr. Mubarak said.

— AP

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