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UN to start anew on Wasia peace: Arab nations

Written by: Staff
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United Nations, Sep 2: Arab countries have formally asked the UN Security Council to acknowledge that efforts to end the Arab-Israeli conflict have failed and to resuscitate and reshape the peace process.

The 22-nation Arab League called on the council to formally recognize ''the need to reactivate the West Asia peace process and establish a mechanism for us to proceed on all tracks'' -- in the Palestinian territories, Syria and Lebanon, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in Damascus today.

A letter, sent to the Security Council this week by Arab League UN Observer Yahya Mahmassani but not yet made public, showed that concrete steps were underway to resume peace efforts, Annan said.

The letter called on foreign ministers from the council's 15 members to meet this month in New York to discuss its plea.

Council diplomats said the request was under study and no date had been set.

John Bolton, the US ambassador to the United Nations, denied the peace process had failed. He said not every country in the region supported the Arab League idea, and he wanted to know whether Israel would be invited to the proposed ministerial meeting.

''One always wants to know what the outcome is going to be when you ask your foreign minister to come to a meeting,'' he told reporters. ''The question of diplomatic activity should always be whether it is going to contribute to a solution to the existing problems or not.'' Arab League foreign ministers agreed on the proposal at an Aug. 20 meeting in Cairo.

The group said on its Web site that the plan for ending the conflict should be based on past UN resolutions as well as ''on the basis of land for peace, and through establishment of effective and specific mechanisms for the swift resumption of direct talks between the parties.'' The group wants the Security Council to supervise negotiations and set a target date for their completion, according to the Web site.

Since the outbreak in July of the month-long war between Israel and Lebanon's Hizbollah, Annan has been pushing hard for international acknowledgment that a lasting peace would come in the region only if a comprehensive approach were taken. All parties agree the Israeli-Palestinian issue remains the core of the conflict.

Ibrahim Gambari, the UN political affairs chief, told the council last week it should transform the tragedy of the Israeli-Hizbollah conflict into ''an opportunity ... to resolve the problems and issues in the region, which have confronted us, without resolution, for far too long.'' Events over the past year had led to a ''woeful decline'' in confidence in the peace process, he said, expressing concern this trend could fuel support for ''violence and terror'' on the Palestinian side and for ''harsh and excessive military actions and unilateral measures'' on the Israeli side.

''Positions may be hardening and could harden further unless a credible political process is somehow revived,'' he warned.

Reuters

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