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Arab Leaders Wrap Up Summit

Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki (left) with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in Riyadh on March 28 (epa) March 29, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Arab leaders are wrapping up a two-day summit in Riyadh today. But there is little prospect any breakthroughs in the deadlocked Israeli-Arab peace process will come from it.

Today, Israel rejected the Arab peace proposal that the summit has been discussing. Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres said negotiations were needed.

The Arab plan offers little that is new to Israel. Five years ago Israel rejected a similar offer.

The plan envisages the creation of a Palestinian state and Israel withdrawing from the occupied territories.

Israel objects to the key elements, including the proposed return to 1967 borders and the inclusion of Arab East Jerusalem in a Palestinian state.

Seeking Broader Involvement In Palestine

Still, Arab leaders at the summit are calling the proposal a valid peace initiative. Palestinian national security adviser Muhammad Dahlan put it this way on March 28.

"If Israel is serious about peace negotiations with the Arabs then the Arab [peace] initiative is a valid [peace proposal]," Dahlan said. "It was initially a Saudi initiative, adopted by the Arab League, and taken up in Beirut and which will be reaffirmed. I think this is an opportunity for the Arab League to participate in the international community with this initiative and [in trying to get] Israel's commitment to it."

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said at the meeting in Riyadh on March 28 that it remains to be seen how the Arab "vision" might be implemented.

"Well, I think [what] is, first, very important is that from here [at] the summit comes the repetition of the will of the Arab League to support the Arab vision, this is very important," Solana said. "That comes out again and then we have to see how the Arab vision can be implemented."

Iraq On The Agenda

Violence in Iraq has also been a key focus of the summit. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said in Riyadh on March 28 that the summit's resolutions will include a call by Iraq's government for all militia to disband and for the constitution to be revised.

"[Iraqi issues in the summit resolutions will include] the condemnation of terrorism in an honest and clear way and assurance with regards to security cooperation between Arab states and neighboring countries with the Iraqi government," Zebari said.

One of the surprises of the summit has been Saudi King Abdullah's telling Arab leaders that the U.S. occupation of Iraq was illegal.

Speaking at the meeting's opening on March 28, the king -- usually considered a close ally of Washington -- said that bloodshed in Iraq is "continuing under an illegal foreign occupation and detestable sectarianism."

The Saudi king has not spoken publicly in such critical terms of Washington's role in Iraq before. The remarks are widely seen as staking out a more independent position for Saudi Arabia as a regional peace broker -- a role Washington has encouraged it to take.

The U.S. daily "The Washington Post" reported on March 28 that Abdullah has cancelled his appearance at a White House dinner in his honor scheduled for next month. The paper cited the official reason as a scheduling conflict.

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