WASHINGTON - Arab League Secretary General Amr
Moussa said on Monday that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was
a root cause of the Arab anger that gives ``terrorists'' a chance
to hide behind a legitimate cause.
After the United States deals with Saudi-born militant
Osama bin Laden, the target of the U.S. military campaign in
Afghanistan, it should move on to resolve the conflict, he told
a Washington lunch organized by the Arab American Institute.
``Only by resolving ongoing conflicts can we effectively
deprive terrorists of hiding behind legitimate causes and
gaining sympathizers,'' he said.
``Phase two of the international effort should focus on the
root causes of terrorism. Frustration, despair and anger are
sentiments which, if unchecked, can be channeled into
destructive acts,'' added the former Egyptian foreign minister.
``The anger in the Middle East, the frustration and despair,
emanate chiefly from the major injustice done to the
Palestinians and other Arabs and the continued occupation and
seeing no light at the end of the tunnel,'' he said.
Israel says that, on the contrary, violence by Palestinian
groups should be the next target of the U.S. campaign, which
opened early this month with air strikes on Afghanistan.
The United States accuses bin Laden and his al Qaeda
organization of planning the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings which
killed nearly 5,400 people in New York and Washington.
It says it intends to target all ``terrorist groups of
global reach'' but has not specified which ones it has in mind.
In the meantime, Washington is trying to muster Arab
support for its campaign against bin Laden by saying it is not
waging war on the Arab and Muslim worlds.
WITHDRAWAL TO 1967 BORDERS
Moussa said: ``If we are serious about the security of the
world... we must all concede that reaching a just,
comprehensive and balanced settlement ( between Israelis and
Palestinians) is an imperative.''
Middle East peace should be based on ``relevant Security
Council resolutions and the principle of land for peace'' he
said, reiterating the standard Arab League position.
This should include Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders,
a viable Palestinian state and a fair solution for Jerusalem
and for Palestinian refugees, he said.
``What we need is a serious process, one whose outcome is
known and agreed and defined... Time is of the essence. We need
to work quickly,'' he added.
Israel and the United States say the outcome should emerge
through direct negotiations, not be defined in advance.
Moussa said he understood American anger at the attacks of
Sept. 11 but was deeply concerned at the humanitarian situation
in Afghanistan, where a crisis is looming over deliveries of
food after three years of drought. The U.S. air strikes have
frightened off some relief aid truck drivers.
``I call for the protection of innocent civilians and
addressing the plight of refugees. I agree with what Secretary
Powell (Secretary of State Colin Powell) expressed yesterday
concerning the hope that this campaign comes to an end soon,''
Asked whether he thought that the shortage of democracy in
the Arab world was also a root cause of frustration, Moussa
said that this was not the issue after Sept. 11.
``There is one thing above all that is looming over, with
despair, and that is the Palestinian question. Many things
depend on it,'' he said.
Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited