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Arab League Secretary Condems Israel's Attacks - 2002-04-01

The secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, says Israel's latest military campaign in the Palestinian territories has outraged all Arabs.

In an interview with VOA's Greg LaMotte, the Arab official talked about the Israeli campaign and the pressure it has placed on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa says Israeli officials are asking the impossible of Yasser Arafat. They insist that he do something to end the attacks on Israel even as they keep him trapped inside his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah.

"They call on Arafat to do more. How can he do anything while he is under siege and the tanks are around his office, seven meters from his office, and he is called upon to act? The call for action should be addressed to the prime minister of Israel that this situation cannot continue. That he has to withdraw and he has to let Arafat work as the chairman of the Palestinian authority," Amr Moussa said.

The secretary general, a former foreign minister of Egypt, says Mr. Arafat does not have the ability to follow what is going on in the territories, while isolated in his compound. Asking him to stop the suicide bombers, Mr. Moussa says, is about as unrealistic as asking President Bush to stop violence in America.

Mr. Moussa says if peace is ever to come to the Middle East, the concerns of Israelis and Palestinians will have to be addressed. "It's not a question of security alone. It's not a question of suicide bombings. It's a question of foreign military occupation that breeds all of this. And as much as we are sorry for the innocent lives that have been lost on both sides, the culprit is the foreign military occupation that led to all those violent manifestations," he said.

Israel has said consistently that terrorist violence must stop, before negotiations about military withdrawal can go ahead.

Mr. Moussa would not discuss how Arab states might respond to the latest developments, saying such decisions rest with each government. But the Arab League secretary general believes the region is "reaching a boiling point." "We're going to see what will happen in the next 24 hours or so and I believe we are on the brink, everybody is on the brink of doing something," he said.

Mr. Moussa says while much pressure is being put on Yasser Arafat, there is no pressure being applied on Israel to comply with a recent Security Council resolution, supported by the United States, calling on Israel to remove its troops from Ramallah.