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Moussa: Arab World Cannot Accept Military Action Against Iraq - 2002-09-22

The head of the Arab League is urging the United States to give United Nations weapons inspectors time to find out more about Iraq's weapons stockpiles before moving ahead with plans for military action. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa made his comments to an Arab-American organization Saturday night in Chicago.

Mr. Moussa says the Arab world can not accept United States-led military action against Iraq, and is urging Washington to give diplomacy a chance. In remarks to the Chicago chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the former Egyptian foreign minister said this is a difficult situation, not only for the United States and Iraq, but for the rest of the Arab world as well.

Mr. Moussa says the Arab world does not consider the United States an enemy, but feels anger and frustration, especially concerning the state of affairs between Israel and the Palestinian territories. A U.S. attack on Iraq, he says, would intensify that frustration and, as he put it earlier this month, open the gates of hell.

The Arab League leader was instrumental in lobbying Iraq to allow U.N. weapons inspectors back into the country. He calls Iraq's decision to do so a positive step, and says his efforts to promote inspections is not aimed at defending Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, but rather to deal with a sensitive issue.

Mr. Moussa says the inspectors should be given time to perform their duties and report back to the United Nations Security Council.

On the situation between Israel and the Palestinians, Mr. Moussa says conditions in the region are deteriorating by the hour. He urged the United States to play a stronger role in the region as an honest broker representing both sides. He says the Palestinians spent the decade of the 1990s in negotiations with Israel without being able to reach what it considers a fair peace agreement. He says the Palestinians are not about to spend another ten years in what he called talk with no hope.

Mr. Moussa also urged the Arab-American community to act as a bridge to help improve relations between the United States and the Arab world. He says next May, the city of Detroit will host a conference called the U.S. Arab Economic Forum. It will focus on relations between the United States and the Arab world.