Anger churns in Arab nations, reducing chances of peace as Iraq is invited to Arab Summit for first time since Persian Gulf War : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Anger churns in Arab nations, reducing chances of peace as Iraq is invited to Arab Summit for first time since Persian Gulf War

BY JOHN F. BURNS New York Times

CAIRO, Egypt -- Not since the Oslo peace efforts began in 1993 has the Mideast seen such widespread turmoil. The angry crowds that have marched in capitals like Baghdad and Tehran -- hotbeds of hostility toward Israel -- are matched by protests in nations that have moved in recent years toward an acceptance of Israel's existence, including oil-rich monarchies in the Persian Gulf like Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

The anger churning across the Middle East since the recent surge of violence between Israelis and Palestinians suggested a polarization of Muslim opinion that may sharply reduce prospects for an overall peace settlement, even if the violence can be curbed.

Arab countries that have signed peace agreements with Israel, or opened trade and diplomatic ties, have found themselves roiled by popular anger. In Amman, Jordan, troops opened fire Friday on Palestinian refugees who were demanding the closure of the Israeli Embassy. An 18-year-old Palestinian was killed, but Jordanian authorities said Saturday that he was the victim of a ``settling of accounts'' between rival Palestinian groups, not of police gunfire. Wednesday, Jordan's King Abdullah II -- who met twice in August with the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, urging both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute not to miss the chance of reaching a final peace accord -- visited a clinic in Amman to donate blood for Palestinian casualties of the violence.

Jordan, like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and several other Arab nations, announced that its hospitals were available to treat any Palestinian wounded.

An Arab businessman in Dubai placed a newspaper advertisement to announce plans to ship 50 truckloads of stones and 500,000 slingshots overland to Jordan for use by Palestinian protesters.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, marches, campus protests and officially sponsored rallies have drawn crowds of 10,000 and more in Cairo, Baghdad, Beirut and Tehran, among other places. Governments that routinely ban protests have turned a blind eye.

In the Syrian capital, Damascus, 1,000 students pelted the U.S. Embassy with stones, branches and bags of rubbish Wednesday. One man managed to haul down the American flag. At the American University in Cairo, also Wednesday, students replaced the American flag briefly with a black-and-white Palestinian kaffiyeh, or head scarf.

One measure of the changed mood across the Arab world was Egypt's announcement Friday that it would convene an emergency Arab summit meeting in Cairo on Oct. 21 and 22, and that the nations attending would include Iraq, which has not attended an Arab summit meeting since before the Persian Gulf War.

Although President Saddam Hussein has not confirmed that he will lead the Iraqi delegation in person, Arab diplomats in Cairo said the decision to include Iraq marked a major shift, and reflected a wider momentum across the Arab world to break with the U.S.-led drive to maintain Iraq's isolation.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a key player in Middle East diplomacy for nearly 20 years, told Egypt's army newspaper Saturday that the Israeli-Palestinian settlement being urged by Washington ``would be a time bomb that would explode in the faces of all.''

In a TV interview Friday, he criticized Israel for ``excessive force'' against ``unarmed'' Palestinians and called on the Jewish state to ``stop your provocations,'' adding: ``The Palestinians throw rocks, while you fire live bullets at them and even rockets from aircraft.''

The Egyptian leader has warned that Arafat would face assassination if he ceded to U.S. pressures on East Jerusalem, and some Arabs see this as a coded reminder from Mubarak that he, too, has escaped assassination attempts by radicals angered at Egypt's accommodation with Israel since 1978.

-- Carl Jenkins (, October 08, 2000

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