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Arab Leaders Lock Horns Over Proposed Summit on Gaza


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has left for the Mideast to press both Israel and Hamas to accept a U.N. resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. Arab leaders are scrambling to react to calls for an emergency summit Friday in Qatar, as an Egyptian peace plan for Gaza fails to bring progress toward a cease-fire.

Arab leaders appear to be locking horns over an Egyptian peace proposal, as fighting continues unabated in Gaza. Signs that the militant Hamas group is rejecting the proposal have encouraged hardline states to call for an emergency Arab summit Friday in Qatar.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa is trying to downplay the proposed summit, insisting the Arab League would discuss the Gaza crisis, alongside a scheduled Arab economic forum next week in Kuwait.

He says that an Arab economic summit, planned months ago, will be held in Kuwait on Monday and Tuesday. He says an extraordinary Arab League meeting will be held alongside the economic summit, ... with a possible emergency summit to be held, later, if Arab states agree.

But Egypt says it opposes a special, emergency Arab summit and it is unclear if a two-thirds quorum of Arab states can be brought together for the proposed Qatar summit, despite pledges from Syria, Lebanon and Sudan to attend.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is conferring with Saudi King Abdallah in Riyadh to coordinate positions over Egypt's peace plan, and the proposed Arab summit.

Analysts say neither Egypt nor Saudi Arabia are likely to favor a new diplomatic role for Qatar after it negotiated a peace agreement in Lebanon, last May. That agreement permitted the Hezbollah guerrilla group to obtain veto power within the new Lebanese government.

Meanwhile, a Hamas delegation from both Gaza and Damascus is expected to meet with aides to Egyptian Intelligence Chief General Omar Suleiman to deliver their official position on the Egyptian peace plan.

The Deputy Head of Hamas' politburo, Moussa Abu Marzouk, warned from Damascus that his group will not accept any proposal that does not call for a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the reopening of border crossings.

He says that for Hamas to accept the [Egyptian] proposal it must conform with the group's demands from the outset: an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, a complete ceasefire, followed by a complete opening of border crossings.

Israel has a different set of demands, including a total cessation of rocket-fire by Hamas onto Israeli territory and an end to weapons smuggling via tunnels under the border from Egypt into Gaza.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Amos Gilad is to visit Cairo on Wednesday to deliver Israel's response to the Egyptian plan. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon is also expected to visit Cairo to confer with President Mubarak.



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