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Arab bloc pushes US to trade Iraq stability for Israel's land
By Associated Press
January 15, 2007

Moderate Arab governments will tell U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week that they will help Washington to stabilize Iraq if America in turn takes more active steps to revive the Mideast peace process, Arab officials, diplomats and media said Sunday.

The deal, dubbed "Iraq for Land," is expected to be proposed during a meeting between Rice and her counterparts from eight Arab countries in Kuwait on Tuesday.

Rice arrived in the Middle East this weekend in a bid to explore opportunities for a fresh start in the stalled effort, but warned at the beginning of her trip that enduring peace cannot be stamped "Made in America."

During a meeting with Rice on Sunday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expressed his opposition to an Israeli plan to establish a provisional Palestinian state in temporary borders. Rice responded by vowing to deepen Washington's involvement in Mideast peace efforts, reiterating U.S. commitment to the internationally back "road map" plan.

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak said he wrote a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush urging him to help resume the peace process. Mubarak, a U.S. ally, will "offer a vision, ideas and proposals" to Rice when they meet on Monday, his spokesman, Suleiman Awaad said Saturday.

"We have a clear vision for a political horizon that will provide an opportunity to reach a just and comprehensive peace settlement," Mubarak was quoted as saying Sunday in the state-owned Rose El-Youssef newspaper.

"It is high time that the Palestinian cause be given a push, which will open the door for other tracks,' he added, referring to the deadlocked peace talks between Syria and Israel.

Arab diplomats said Mubarak's views -- shared by other key regional leaders -- will be presented forcefully to Rice when she meets the Arab foreign ministers in Kuwait.

"She will listen to one voice that if the United States wants Arabs' help in Iraq they should help them in Palestine," said one Arab diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.

Mamoun Fandy said in the Saudi Arabian-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that Arabs must "name names and say clearly that the new equation in the region is 'Land for Iraq."'

"Arabs have no interests to be engaged in the Iraqi file without reaping the fruits in the Palestinian file," wrote Fandy, the president of Fandy Associates, a Washington, D.C. based research group which is believed to express Saudi thinking.

Bush on Wednesday announced his decision to send 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq to try to stabilize the country but also warned Arab countries against a surge in extremism in the region should America fail in Iraq.

He called on Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf states to increase their support for Iraq's government." Two days later, Bush sought support for his plan in telephone calls to Jordan's King Abdullah II and Mubarak, two key Washington allies.

But Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said Arab states are not required to help implement Bush's new strategy without discussing it first.

"Those countries which have vested interests in Iraq should make their views heard, so that we can solve the Iraqi crisis," he said.

Sunni Muslim leaders in the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan appear terrified at the prospect of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and all-out civil war there. But they are cool to Shiite-dominated rule in Iraq and are pushing for a larger share of power by Arab Sunnis there.

"Shifting focus to Palestine and offering lip-service to shore up the fortunes of beleaguered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas does not take away from an essentially unsound strategy in Iraq that further diminishes the Sunni Arabs and does nothing toward ending the sectarian strife that is tearing the country apart," the United Arab Emirates-based Gulf News wrote in and editorial Sunday.

Awaad, Mubarak's spokesman, in a veiled criticism of the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also said that alienating "a certain sect while defending interest of other sects will not achieve national reconciliation" in Iraq.

But Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal stressed that a U.S. policy toward Iraq was inevitable.

"Unity of Iraq is necessary. Independence of Iraq is necessary, and peace in Iraq is necessary," al-Faisal said on Saturday. "None of these have been achieved so far. There must be a change, of course."

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