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Sharon Seeks to Attend Arab Summit - 2002-03-24

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says he wants to address the summit of the Arab League in Beirut later this week.

Mr. Sharon says he has raised with the Bush administration the idea of attending the Arab League Summit. In an interview with Newsweek magazine, he says he asked Washington to help intervene in his favor.

Mr. Sharon says he wants to discuss a Saudi peace initiative with Arab leaders in the Lebanese capital.

The Saudi proposal calls for an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict on the basis of exchanging land for peace.

Mr. Sharon says that given the opportunity he would also present his own peace plan, which sets out three phases for implementation.

Under the first stage of the Israeli leader's plan, the two sides would observe the cease-fire drawn up last year by the head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet.

Israel and the Palestinians would then implement the recommendations of the inquiry into the current violence, headed by former U.S. senator George Mitchell.

The second stage would consist of a long-term interim agreement under which the Palestinians would "gain territorial contiguity."

And in the third stage, the final borders of an independent Palestinian state would be determined on the basis of United Nations resolutions calling for Israel to withdraw from areas occupied since the 1967 Middle East war.

But any notion that Mr. Sharon would be granted an audience in a forum such as the Arab League seems outlandish to most observers in the Middle East.

The secretary of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, says he regards any suggestion that Mr. Sharon would be allowed to attend the summit as preposterous.