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Arab League Cuts Contact with Sharon - 2001-12-21

Arab League foreign ministers have voted to not to recognize or deal with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a partner in reaching peace. The emergency meeting stopped short of cutting all contact with Israel.

Following an emergency meeting of Arab League Foreign Ministers Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa used strong language in describing the League's position regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. "We are mad as hell, indeed," he said. "We are mad as hell. I want to reaffirm that we are all angry and mad as hell."

Mr. Moussa's comments followed the release of a final statement from the emergency meeting in which the Arab League voted to dismiss Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a partner in the peace process and voted to no longer deal with Mr. Sharon. The vote was similar to the position taken by the Israeli cabinet that deemed Yasser Arafat irrelevant.

"It has to be taken in the same context that he decided not to recognize Arafat as his partner," said Mr. Moussa. "We don't think that Sharon is that partner in making peace and this is a statement of fact that the ministers wished to put it on paper and in very clear terms. So it has to be taken together with his rejection of Yasser Arafat and there is a counter rejection for Sharon."

It should be noted most of the Arab League's 22 members have no dealings with Israeli leaders. Egypt and Jordan are the only two Arab countries with peace treaties with Israel.

The concluding statement made no mention of the Palestinian Intifada but Mr. Moussa said the Arab world fully supports it as a struggle against occupation. However, he said, the Arab League fully supports the leadership of Yasser Arafat who has been calling for an end to suicide bombings and attacks in Israel.

The Arab League voted to discuss, during its upcoming summit in March, the idea of severing all ties with Israel and a boycott of Israeli commodities and products.

The Arab ministers urged Washington to "take immediate steps and measures" to help revitalize the Mideast peace process and not to use its veto power in the U.N. Security Council in favor of Israel.