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Yemen says Arabs too divided for Mideast summit

Written by: Staff
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SANAA, July 23 (Reuters) Yemen withdrew today a proposal for an emergency Arab summit on Middle East violence, saying such a meeting would only widen political schism among Arab governments.

Yemen's Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi made the announcement as a senior official in the Cairo-based Arab League said the organisation was one vote shy of a two-thirds majority needed to convene a meeting.

''Yemen has withdrawn its call for an emergency Arab summit, out of fear that such a meeting would lead to deeper divisions and wider schism within Arab ranks,'' Qirbi told reporters.

Yemen first proposed the meeting shortly after Israel started bombarding Lebanon 12 days ago after Hizbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers. Israel also stepped up attacks on Gaza after Palestinians captured another soldier.

Since then, Saudi Arabia has directly criticised Hizbollah, saying it had embarked on an ill-considered adventure. Syria, the only Arab government that openly backs Palestinian militant group Hamas and Hizbollah, has said its position towards the summit would depend on whether it would support the guerrillas.

Diplomats say other Arab governments friendly with the United States also consider Hizbollah's kidnapping of the soldiers a mistake.

Hesham Youssef, a senior aide to the Arab League secretary -general, said the organisation had not yet been formally notified of Yemen's decision.

Youssef said 14 Arab governments had backed the idea of the summit. At least 15 governments in the 22-member Arab League must agree before a summit can go ahead.

''Consultations have been ongoing for the past couple of days,'' Youssef told reporters in Cairo. ''A number of countries are waiting to see how things develop in Lebanon.'' Israel's onslaught in Lebanon to cripple Hizbollah has claimed more than 350 lives, mostly civilians. Hizbollah attacks and rockets have also killed 37 Israelis.

Today, Israel bombed Hizbollah's stronghold in Beirut and civilian targets in east and south Lebanon and Hizbollah fired rockets at Haifa.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said Arab countries must agree on the main points before the leaders meet.Arab foreign ministers held an emergency meeting in Cairo earlier in July on the violence and called for a ceasefire.

REUTERS SKU KP1721

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