Arafat, Jordan king agree to Arab summit on violent clashes

AMMAN, Reuters

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Jordan’s King Abdullah welcomed a call on Monday for an urgent Arab summit to discuss Israeli-Palestinian violence and called on Israel to pull back its forces to restore calm.

“His Majesty King Abdullah and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat welcomed the (call for) convening of an urgent Arab summit to discuss the security situation in the Palestinian territories,” the official Jordanian news agency Petra said after the two leaders held a two-hour a meeting in Amman.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad urged Arab states at a news conference in Cairo to put aside their disputes and convene a long-delayed summit after five days of Israeli Palestinian clashes which have claimed at least 37 lives.

“The two leaders … called on Israel to pull out its forces to lines determined by (previous) agreements and to remove all sources of tension for quiet to return,” Petra added.

It said King Abdullah reiterated Jordan’s backing for the Palestinians and its will to provide any required aid.

The king and Arafat urged a proposed U.S.-led, three-party commission to start immediately investigating the violence, Petra said.

The White House said on Sunday that Israel and the Palestinians had agreed to support the inquiry.

Jordanian officials said helicopters flew medical aid to the West Bank on Monday and were expected to bring around two dozen seriously wounded Palestinians for treatment at a hospital in Amman.

At least 31 Palestinians, four Israeli Arabs, an Israeli border policeman and an Israeli Jewish civilian have been killed in the violence, which erupted after Israeli right-wing leader Ariel Sharon visited a shrine in Jerusalem sacred to Jews and Muslims, causing Palestinian protests that he had defiled the site.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdulilah al-Khatib told Reuters that a summit could serve well the interests of Arabs.

“Jordan welcomes this invitation and hopes the meeting of Arab leaders will be a positive one and serve the interests of the Arab nation in this extremely sensitive phase which it confronts,” he said.

Jordan has in the past backed calls for an Arab summit but said its successful outcome hinges on preparatory work to ensure a common stance on the peace process rather than widening existing rifts.

The last summit was held in Cairo in 1996 to discuss the future of the Arab-Israeli peace talks, but Iraq — which invaded Kuwait in 1990 — was not invited.