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Arab, Muslim nations express cautious hope for cease-fire plan

The Hindu 12 Aug 2006

Cairo, Aug. 12 (AP): Jordan’s Prime Minister called a U.N. cease-fire plan a critical “first step”,  and Turkey suggested on Saturday that it could send peacekeeping troops as Arab and Muslim nations expressed cautious hopes Saturday that an end to the month-long conflict could be nearing.

The Arab League criticized the U.N. Security Council resolution for not clearly labeling Israel as the main aggressor in the Lebanon conflict but said the peace plan was the best option to halt fighting that has claimed more than 850 lives.

“The resolution is the best that can be achieved in the mean time under the unbalanced international equation,” said Ahmed bin Heli, the league’s assistant secretary-general.

Qatar, the only Arab League member currently on the 15-nation Security Council, voted in favour of the resolution, which was passed unanimously on Friday.

The plan calls for expanding the U.N. force in Lebanon and adding Lebanese soldiers to patrol a buffer zone between the Israeli military and Hezbollah guerrillas. The plan still needs approval by Lebanon and Israel _ expected on Saturday or Sunday _ but both sides appear ready to let it move ahead.

Israel has said it will not withdraw its troops until a strong peacekeeping mission is in place, and Hezbollah has made clear it won’t stop fighting until the Israelis leave.

In Jordan, Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit, after talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, said both his nation and Palestinians “hope Lebanon will approve the resolution.”

“This is the first step to stop the bloodshed _ which is an imperative priority, “al-Bakhit said. “What’s happening in Lebanon is one of the repercussions of the Palestinian issue. We must revive efforts to resolve this problem.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said his country will look “very favorably” toward sending peacekeepers to Lebanon after a full cease-fire is achieved.

But Gul added that “it is still early to say anything,” according to the state-run Anatolia news agency.

Egypt’s foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, urged Israel to acknowledge the international will by calling an immediate end to the attacks and pull out of Lebanon.

“Israel now should be committed and show total commitment by (announcing) an immediate cease-fire so that the elements of political settlement _ which were reached after a big effort and after a heavy price was paid by the families and civilians _ can take place,” he said.

He also demanded investigations into “massacres” by Israeli forces during the war.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was scheduled to meet Sunday with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. Iran and Syria are Hezbollah’s main backers.

In Syria, the government’s official newspaper did not address the U.N. resolution but sharply criticized U.S. President George Bush’s unrelated remarks that Washington was “at war with Islamic fascists.”

Bush made the comments on Thursday speaking about an alleged foiled plot to blow up U.S.-bound passenger jets from Britain.

The editorial in Syria’s state-run Tishrin daily said Bush’s statement “hints to a new era of targeting the Islamic nation and of continuing the destructive war against it.”

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