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Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria Committed to Peace - 2002-05-12

Arab leaders at a mini-summit in Egypt, Saturday, have reiterated their desires for peace, and denounced violence in the region. But Arabs are sticking to their position of support for what they call 'courageous Palestinian resistance, ' and are calling the international community to force Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territories.

After a day of talks in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheik, leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria restated Arab desires for peace with Israel, and a need for the violence in the region to end.

But in a final communiqué issued after the summit, the blame for the on going violence in the region, is clearly put on Israel.

The communiqué praises "the courageous Palestinian intifada," in face of what it calls "the Israeli occupation and its destructive military forces." The communiqué also insists on the need for a fact finding committee to go to Jenin, to investigate Arab claims Israel committed war crimes there.

But the communiqué also confirms what it calls "Arabs' true desires for peace," based on a Saudi-inspired peace plan produced at an Arab summit last March. The Saudi plan offers Israel a full normalization of ties with Arabs, if Israel withdraws from all Arab lands it occupied in 1967, allows a Palestinian state and resolves the Palestinian refugee problem.

The summit was convened amidst fears Israel was gearing for another military assault on Palestinian towns, including the Gaza Strip where the Islamic militant group Hamas has its stronghold.

President Hosni Mubarak walking into the summit said he was saddened by suicide attacks on Israeli citizens, but cautioned Israel against taking action that would only lead to more violence. A rash response will only lead to other, counter-responses, and we will enter into a vicious circle of violence, Mr. Mubarak said.

The summit was also a chance for Egypt and Syria to hear the results of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's recent meeting in the United States with President Bush. Saudi officials have said they see hope for peace in light of a "new proactive U.S. position in the peace process."

Syria's president Bashar Al Assad left Egypt on Saturday, but the Saudi Crown Prince was staying into Sunday for more talks with President Mubarak.