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Arab Leaders Wrap Up Two-Day Summit

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi (l) whispers to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
Arab leaders are wrapping up their two-day summit in Algiers that produced a revamped Middle East peace-initiative that was immediately rejected by Israel. Also, it appears the investigation into the death of the most powerful political figure in Lebanon may intensify.

According to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, a more-complete investigation into the assassination last month of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri may be necessary.

Mr. Annan made his comments Wednesday in Algiers, where the 22-member Arab League is wrapping up a two-day summit.

Mr. Hariri was killed in a bomb explosion near downtown Beirut. His death triggered massive demonstrations in the Lebanese capital, calling for a complete withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon.

Tuesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Mr. Annan the troop withdrawal was underway.

The summit - which eight of 22 eligible heads of state failed to attend - produced a revitalized Middle East land-for-peace initiative calling for an Israeli withdrawal of all occupied territories; the creation of an independent Palestinian state; and the return of Palestinian refugees. In return, Arab states would consider the Arab-Israeli conflict over and would agree to normalize relations with Israel.

The initiative was quickly rejected by Israel as being out of touch with the reality.

The proposal was first introduced by Saudi Arabia during the 2002 summit in Beirut.

None of the most pressing issues facing the Arab world was discussed during the latest summit, including greater democratization and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

However, Arab states drafted a statement of support for efforts being made by Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinians to recover land occupied by Israel.

They also called on the international community to support the Arab peace initiative; condemned terrorism in all forms; agreed to create an Arab parliament that will play an advisory role to the Arab League; and reaffirmed support for the sovereignty and independence of Iraq.

Arab leaders will meet again next year in Khartoum.