Al-Ahram Weekly Online
23 - 29 August 2001
Issue No.548
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

Intense contacts

PRESIDENT Hosni Mubarak held talks yesterday with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat about ongoing efforts to reach a cease-fire agreement in the occupied Palestinian territories and resume peace talks with Israel.

Mubarak met with Arafat at the coastal town of Marsa Matrouh for nearly two hours. Arafat later returned to Cairo to take part in an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers at Arab League headquarters. Arafat requested the meeting following Israel's escalation of violence against Palestinians and its occupation of Orient House in Arab East Jerusalem. After the foreign ministers' meeting, the Palestinian leader is scheduled to leave for China to hold talks with top officials on the deteriorating situation in the region.

Palestinian officials said that if the current mediation effort sponsored by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer achieves positive results, Arafat could meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in Berlin early next week.

President Mubarak also held separate talks in Marsa Matrouh with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Al-Sharaa, also in Egypt to take part in the Arab League foreign ministers meeting.

Cape rally

AT LEAST 20,000 demonstrators paraded through the rainy streets of Cape Town on Tuesday in a mass protest against Israel and the United States, 10 days before the start of the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban. The conference has been dogged by controversy over demands by Arab states to denounce Zionism as racism and by African countries for reparations for centuries of slavery and colonialism. The US has refused both demands and said it might decide to participate at a lower level instead of boycotting the conference, according to an American Jewish leader, Reuters reported.

Palestinian human rights lawyer Diana Loping addressed the protesters saying she was a witness to "Palestinian villages flattened, where hospitals were ill- equipped and where Red Cross trucks were turned away daily. The identities of the people were being obliterated in Palestine just as they were during the apartheid years in South Africa."

Meanwhile, the Union for Arab Human Rights Organisations has sent US President George Bush a letter denouncing the US stance and its refusal to discuss Israel's racist crimes against the Palestinians since 1948. The letter said US international credibility was at stake and hoped it would rectify its position.

Surprise call

IRAQI Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan held talks with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad shortly after arriving in Damascus on Tuesday on a previously unannounced visit.

A Syrian presidential spokesman said the talks covered the outcome of meetings of the supreme Syrian-Iraqi joint commission and economic and commercial agreements that were signed recently.

The meetings came one day after Al-Assad returned from his first visit to Kuwait since becoming president during which differences between Kuwait and Iraq were touched on, and 10 days after Syrian Prime Minister Mohamed Mustafa Mero held talks in Baghdad.

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