Archive for Monday, November 5, 2001

Diplomats distance themselves from anti-American rhetoric

November 5, 2001


— Osama bin Laden is waging a war against the world and does not represent Arabs and Muslims, senior Arab officials said Sunday during a gathering of foreign ministers in the Syrian capital.

"I think there is a war between him (bin Laden) and the world," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told reporters before the meeting of Arab League foreign ministers.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa also reproached bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, saying he "does not speak for Arabs and Muslims."

Bin Laden and his al-Qaida organization have called on Muslims to wage holy war against the United States following the Oct. 7 launch of U.S. airstrikes against Afghanistan, where the Taliban rulers have refused to hand over bin Laden.

The comments by Moussa and Maher followed Saturday's broadcast of bin Laden's latest televised statement, in which he denounced the United Nations and criticized Arab leaders as "infidels" who consider using the world body to negotiate for peace.

The statement the fifth communique from bin Laden or his al-Qaida organization broadcast by Qatari television station Al-Jazeera since Oct. 7 appeared to be aimed at Arab leaders who have called for international efforts to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Bin Laden's "been trying to take advantage of Islam, distort Islam, to take on moderate regimes in the Middle East, to take on civilized society in the West and in different parts of the world," Nabil Fahmy, Egypt's ambassador to the United States, said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"But it's a distortion. I don't agree with the argument. Islam has nothing to do with what he is propagating," Fahmy added.

Moussa later reiterated the Arab League's opposition to the U.S.-led campaign inside Afghanistan spreading to include any Arab nation.

"Any attack against an Arab country means the international alliance (against terrorism) will break off," Moussa told reporters at the close of the two-day meeting.

The Arab League committee meeting in Damascus included Moussa and the foreign ministers of Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Yemen.

The committee was set up a year ago, shortly after the start of Palestinian-Israeli clashes, to garner support for the Palestinians.

Syria on Sunday likened Israeli action against Palestinians to terrorism and said the United States could not accuse others of terrorism while supporting the Jewish state.

"It is absolutely unacceptable (that) who protects Israeli terrorism accuses others of terrorism," Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa told the foreign ministers, who met to discuss ways to support the Palestinians and revive the Mideast peace process.

Al-Sharaa demanded that "a just and comprehensive" Mideast peace be achieved, saying that would rob terrorists of a cause they have used as a cover.

Moussa told a press conference following the committee meeting that the ministers agreed to guarantee the Palestinians more financial aid from the beginning of 2002. He did not elaborate on the value of the proposed assistance.

The Arab League committee was expected to travel to Brussels soon to meet with the 15 European Union foreign ministers.

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