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Arab League Rejects Military Strike Against Iraq - 2003-03-01

Arab leaders meeting in Egypt's resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh issued a joint communiqué Saturday, saying they oppose war against Iraq and that they will not participate if there is one.

The Arab League statement says its members agreed on the "complete rejection" of a military strike against Iraq. The statement called on all Arab states to refrain from participating in any military action against Baghdad.

The statement said no action should be taken outside of the U.N. Security Council, and asked that weapons inspectors in Iraq be given more time to complete their mission. It also called on the Iraqi government to comply with all U.N. resolutions.

The communiqué, issued after a day-long summit, also called for the formation of a high-level Arab delegation, including representatives from Tunisia, Lebanon and Bahrain, that would be sent to both Baghdad and the Security Council to put forth the Arab position regarding possible war with Iraq.

Arab League officials said prior to Saturday's summit that, while they were powerless to prevent a possible U.S.-led attack against Iraq, they would continue to seek a peaceful solution to the Iraqi crisis.

During the summit, the United Arab Emirates issued a proposal calling for Saddam Hussein and his government to step down and leave Iraq. The proposal called for international guarantees that the Iraqi regime would not be prosecuted and called for amnesty for all Iraqis both inside Iraq and abroad. It marked the first time an Arab state has officially called for Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq.

The Arab League rejected a call by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for all Arab states to refuse to allow their military bases to be used by U.S. troops. There are tens-of-thousands of U.S. and British troops located in Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.