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Arab League Votes to Support UN Weapons Inspections in Iraq - 2002-09-05

Foreign ministers of the Arab League have voted Thursday to support a resumption of U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq, but they have rejected the use of military force against Iraq. The foreign ministers have concluded two days of meetings in Cairo.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa told reporters at the end of the meeting that Arab states are unified in their opposition to a military strike against Iraq.

"We cannot take part, we cannot cooperate, we cannot accept the attack or the threats against any Arab country including, in particular, the threats against Iraq," he said.

But the secretary-general said the 22-member Arab League unanimously supports sending U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq. Mr. Moussa said this is the most effective way of determining whether Iraq is violating U.N. resolutions.

"We believe that the return of the weapons inspectors, within the framework of the U.N. Security Council, would be an important step toward showing the world whether there is indeed a violation of Security Council resolutions, the re-arming outside the scope of the Security Council resolutions, or not," he said. "This would be crucial for what kind of next step should be taken. We believe that whatever problems we have with or without weapons of mass destruction it has to be dealt with through the United Nations."

Mr. Moussa said no Arab state will offer assistance to the United States should it decide to use military force against Iraq.

On the Israel-Palestinian issue, Mr. Moussa said the Arab foreign ministers also discussed why the United States is not insisting that Israel adhere to U.N. Security Council resolutions. They include a resolution that Israel return to its 1967 borders and withdraw its troops from the Palestinian territories.

The Arab League leader said a "double-standard" is being applied.

The Arab foreign ministers also voted to extend for six months Arab financial aid to Palestinians in their fight against Israeli occupation.

The ministers also called for Sudan to remain unified as one country. Peace talks aimed at ending years of civil war in Sudan broke down Monday after rebels seized a strategically important town in southeastern Sudan. The ministers decided to form a special committee of nine member states to follow the developments in Sudan.