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Arab Leaders Denounce Israeli Efforts to Sideline Arafat - 2002-07-20

The Arab League has denounced Israel's plan to deport families of suspected suicide bombers from the West Bank. Arab leaders have backed efforts to revive the stalled peace process but denounce Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's efforts to sideline Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa calls Israel's deportation plan an aggression that undermines international law. He says the plan is unacceptable and violates the Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians under occupation.

The Arab League chief says he is contacting other signatories to see what can be done to prevent Israel from carrying out its threat.

Mr. Moussa says Israel's actions would sabotage Arab and international efforts to revive the stagnant peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

On Friday, Israeli authorities said they had arrested more than 20 male relatives of suspects linked to two suicide bombings and they were considering deporting them to Gaza from the West Bank. The announcement was greeted by an outcry of criticism from Palestinian and European leaders. U.S. officials also criticized the action.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warns that Israel's strategy for dealing with the violence will backfire and will not lead to peace or security.

He told reporters in Geneva the plan to expel relatives of the militant suspects and destroy their homes would only breed more suicide bombings. Mr. Mubarak was in Geneva to meet with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

Israel's actions, he said, only aggravate Palestinian hatred against Israelis. The current situation, he added, will not bring security to either side.

The bloodshed during the past 19 months has claimed more than 2,000 victims, most of them Palestinians.

Egyptian President Mubarak also has repeated his support for the latest U.S. plans to move the peace process forward. But he, like other Arab and European leaders, rejects the U.S. demand that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat step aside before peace talks can resume in earnest.