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Egypt, Arabs offer Rice "Iraq for land" deal - Daily News Egypt

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Egypt, Arabs offer Rice "Iraq for land" deal

CAIRO: Arab governments are poised to reach an agreement with the United States over its declared policy shift in Iraq in exchange for a renewed effort to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the press Monday that the planned resumption of high-level Israeli-Palestinian contacts would be the most serious Middle …


CAIRO: Arab governments are poised to reach an agreement with the United States over its declared policy shift in Iraq in exchange for a renewed effort to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the press Monday that the planned resumption of high-level Israeli-Palestinian contacts would be the most serious Middle East peace talks in six years.

It has been at least six years since they talked about these issues, Rice said in Luxor after meeting with Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit.

She also announced that there had been agreement to convene a summit with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to focus on what would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state .

Rice’s statements indicate that the US still favors the implementation of the road map for the conflict, rather than the “final status agreement Arab countries are trying to push for.

Dr Mohammed Abdel-Salam an expert from the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies told The Daily Star Egypt that it’s not so much an exchange being negotiated between Arab countries and the US, but rather an attempt to tackle all issues in the region comprehensively.

“The news about this deal has existed for a while, but not as an exchange, Abdel-Salam said.

“It is more a comprehensive approach rather than an exchange. Arab countries see Palestine as the central issue, despite the fears they have for Iraq.

To drive the point home, Arab officials have declared that they will offer a bargain to the US dubbed “Iraq for land wherein they will support the incumbent Iraqi government in exchange for a solution to the Palestinian issue, which they feel is the crux of unrest and discontent in the Middle East.

Abdel-Salam added that policy aims have shifted concerning how to handle the thorny issues of the Middle East.

He said “They are searching for a regional road map. This talk of an exchange seems to come from analysts. For the first time there’s talk about all the issues in the region. Last time there was talk about moderate countries versus extremist ones. The US is now seeking stability in the Middle East.

But seeking stability in the Middle East by dealing with all contentions issues in one go may be a pipe dream if all regional players do not cooperate.

On Monday, the Israeli government published plans to build an additional 44 homes in the largest West Bank settlement, in violation of the tenets of the road map which calls for the dismantling of such settlements.

Rice will be in Kuwait today to attend a meeting of what has been dubbed as the 6+2+1 nations. Those are the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council in addition to Egypt, Jordan and the United States.

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