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Arabs advise Hamas to adopt Arab peace initiative

By Staff
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CAIRO, Apr 15 (Reuters) Arab states urged the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority today to accept an Arab initiative which offers Israel peace in return for land Israel has occupied since 1967.

But Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, on an Arab tour in urgent search of funds, made no commitment to the initiative, which conflicts with the Hamas movement's goal of a single Islamic state throughout historic Palestine.

Zahar told a news conference at the Arab League he was confident that Arab governments would provide money for the authority, which has lost mainly European aid because it refuses to recognise Israel's right to exist.

Zahar met representatives of Arab governments and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa for more than 2-1/2 hours, with much of the discussion centred on the Arab initiative, launched in 2002 and rejected by Israel.

''All the interventions (by Arab diplomats) spoke about the Arab initiative and its importance to the Arab position and the Palestinian people,'' Zahar told a news conference with Moussa.

''We will convey what we heard to every Palestinian decision- maker, inside the government and outside, so that we can lay out a clear vision on this initiative,'' he added.

But Zahar said he was sceptical the initiative offered a quick solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

''If the whole world agrees to the Arab initiative, is that a way out? (Late Palestinian President) Yasser Arafat agreed to it before, and the result is well-known.

''The whole problem is with the other side, the Israeli side, which does not respect anything submitted by the world or the Arabs or anyone else,'' he said.

On the Palestinian government's financial crisis, he said the Arab governments told him that Arab support for the Palestinian Authority would continue.

''We are seeking not only the continuation (of Arab aid) but also an increase because of the importance of the situation. I believe that the intention to help the Palestinian people is real,'' he said.

But there had been a technical problem with bank accounts, he added.

Moussa said the Arab League would release later on Saturday a list of banks and accounts which would accept transfers to the Palestinians.

''As soon as these accounts are put in the hands of the Arab countries, it (aid) will arrive, God willing,'' Zahar said.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit was not available to see Zahar, giving rise to speculation that the Egyptian government was snubbing him.

But Zahar, Moussa and Egyptian officials all said that Aboul Gheit was out of Cairo for personal reasons and that it would not be proper for Zahar to see anyone else.

REUTERS CH VC2132

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