Arafat To Stay Home From Arab Summit
(CNSNews.com) - Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat decided Tuesday not to attend an Arab League summit meeting in Beirut, Lebanon, fearing that if he went, Israel might not allow him to return home.
Earlier Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suggested, "the conditions are not ripe" for Arafat to attend, referring to the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian violence.
Sharon also said on Israeli television, "President Arafat must declare a ceasefire in his language to his people and seek an end to the violence."
And even if Arafat did attend Wednesday's summit, Sharon warned that he reserved the right to decide if the Palestinian leader would return home.
"If it is said to Israel by the United States that Israel can refuse to allow him to return if there are terror attacks, it will be easier for me to allow him to leave," Sharon said.
A Saudi peace plan for the region tops the summit's agenda.
But Dr. Daniel Pipes, Editor of the Middle East Quarterly doesn't think much will be accomplished at the summit.
"It's essentially a yawn. I don't think any decisions are going to be made at this meeting. There is a war underway and neither side is interested in negotiating at this point," Pipes told CNSNews.com.
Israel has kept Arafat under house arrest in the West Bank town of Ramallah for several months now, demanding that he act more decisively to stop attacks by Palestinian militants.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who also won't attend the summit, advised Arafat not to go, saying Israel might take advantage of Arafat's absence to destroy what's left of the Palestinian Authority.
BBC Radio reports that no official reason was given for Mubarak's decision not to attend. But the network reported there is speculation in Cairo that Mubarak is angry over the treatment Arafat has received by the Israelis.
BBC also reported that pro-Arafat rallies have been held in many parts of the Arab world, from Gaza and the West Bank to the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and at three Egyptian universities.
There is also speculation that Arafat might try to address the summit by satellite.
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Beirut Tuesday. He is scheduled to address the opening of the summit Wednesday and will also hold a number of meetings Wednesday afternoon with various officials, according to a U.N. spokesman.
E-mail a news tip to Jim Burns.
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CNSNews.com Jerusalem Bureau Chief Julie Stahl contributed to this report