Arab Summit Ends with Solidarity for Palestinians, No Agreement on Iraq
Yasser Arafat, left, and Syrian President Bashar Assad leave a private meeting in Amman
AMMAN, March 28 - Arab leaders wound up a summit here Wednesday still struggling over how to deal with Iraq but united in their support for the Palestinian intifada as the uprising against Israel claimed more lives on both sides.
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Israel helicopter gun ships hit targets in the Gaza Strip and the main West Bank city of Ramallah in the raids unleashed at 8:00 p.m. (1800 GMT), while tanks also shelled Ramallah.
The Israeli army said it hit the Force 17 headquarters in Ramallah as well as several targets in the Gaza Strip, including a weapons depot, a training camp and an armored vehicle.
Palestinian medical sources said one member of Force 17 was killed in Ramallah and more than 60 injured, mainly in the Gaza Strip.
Israel said it was "retaliating" after renewed bombing attacks that coincided with the two-day summit of Arab leaders in Amman that wrapped up today.
An apparent suicide bomb claimed by the armed wing of the Hamas movement killed two Israeli teenage boys, the day after two bombings in Jerusalem killed another suicide bomber and injured some 30 Israelis.
Two teenage Israeli students and a Palestinian suicide bomber died in an attack in Tel Aviv and a Palestinian woman died of asphyxiation after Israeli soldiers fired tear gas at her house in the West Bank.
In the Gaza Strip, a nine-year-old Palestinian, boy was killed and four other children were injured when an unexploded Israeli shell they were playing with blew up.
In their 52-point final communiqu, the leaders of the Arab world charged that Israel's "collective punishment" of the Palestinians and division of their lands were tantamount to crimes against humanity.
"The Palestinians are living in danger, under wide scale attack from the Israeli occupation forces using internationally outlawed weapons," Arab League secretary-general Esmat Abdel Meguid charged at the end of the summit.
Abdel Meguid slammed the United States for vetoing a United Nations resolution to send an observer force to protect the Palestinians and charged that Washington was shunning its peace commitments.
The two-day Arab summit vowed to keep pressing for the protection force, demanded the "reactivation" of a moribund boycott of Israel and threatened to sever ties with any country that recognizes disputed Jerusalem as its capital, notably by moving its embassy there.
The leaders, gathered at a newly-built conference center attached to Amman's luxury Meridien hotel, also paid tribute to the "heroic" Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against Israeli occupation which erupted six months ago to the day.
An Iraqi pledge of a billion euros (900 million dollars) to bolster the intifada received backing from the Arab leaders who also authorized loans of around 40 million dollars a month to the Palestinians to support their budget deficit, suffering from an Israeli blockade.
The money came on top of another two funds totaling one billion dollars pledged to the Palestinians at the last Arab summit in Cairo in October which focused exclusively on the then fresh intifada.
After a reconciliation between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the Syrian leadership on Tuesday, following years of wrangling over how to make peace with Israel, the Arab world looked more united than ever behind the Palestinians.
But Iraq still posed a problem, and its obduracy prevented the summit approving a resolution that would have set out a framework for its relations with Kuwait over a decade after Baghdad troops invaded Kuwait.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf blamed Kuwait for the summit's lack of success on their relations.
"It is a failure, our requests were not met and Kuwait is responsible for this failure," said Sahhaf who had been demanding an Arab decision to unilaterally break the sanctions on his country.
But Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdel Ilah al-Khatib said the important point was that the summit had discussed "all the details" of the Iraq-Kuwait conflict for the first time since the 1991 Gulf War, and would serve as a solid base for future reconciliation attempts.
Jordan's King Abdullah II was entrusted with the delicate task of resolving the thorny problem.
The summit's "Amman declaration" called simply for "the lifting of sanctions against Iraq," but there the issue was omitted from the summit's separate final communiqu.
Iraq rejected a three-point draft resolution, which was agreed to by Kuwait, despite last-ditch efforts by Abdullah and several Arab leaders right up until the end of the summit.
On the question of UN sanctions on Libya, wh,ich have been suspended but not fully lifted after two Libyan suspects in the Lockerbie plane bombing were handed over in 1999, the Arab leaders decided to unilaterally break the embargo if it is ever reimposed.
Abdel Meguid will hand over to Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Mussa, 64, when his mandate expires in May, the summit decided.
The Arab leaders also took modest steps toward paving the way for the economic integration of the Arab world, but made no solid commitments and failed to set deadlines for their goal.
At the end of their summit in Amman, they pledged to hold an "economic summit" to shape their policies in seven months in Cairo at the invitation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
AFP contributed to this report.
Topics: Foreign Policy, Occupation, Palestine