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Mubarak Seeks to End Feud Between Syria, Iraq

From Associated Press

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Thursday that he wants to help end the feud between Syria and Iraq and persuade Syria’s president to attend an Arab summit in the Iraqi capital.

Mubarak also said that President Hafez Assad of Syria is now willing to meet with his main foe, Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat.

Mubarak spoke to foreign reporters before his final meeting with Assad. It was the first trip to Syria by an Egyptian head of state in 12 years.

In Baghdad, Foreign Minister Tarik Aziz said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein will invite Assad to attend the Arab summit.

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But Assad said in an interview with Egyptian journalists that he is surprised that holding the summit in Baghdad appears to be a foregone conclusion without more discussion among Arab leaders. Assad said the meeting should be held in a location that is not disputed, Egypt’s news agency reported.

The feud between Syria and Iraq, one of the most bitter in the Arab world, has been partly responsible for delays in convening a summit to discuss Soviet Jewish emigration to Israel.

“We had a lot of discussion yesterday (Wednesday), but still there are so many points which need efforts, not only from Egypt, but from all the friends in the whole region so as to narrow the gap between Syria and Iraq,” Mubarak said.

Arab diplomatic sources said Mubarak brought a “paper” to Damascus suggesting a meeting of the Syrian and Iraqi foreign ministers in Cairo.

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Aziz, the Iraqi foreign minister, said in Baghdad that Hussein will dispatch personal envoys with invitations to all the Arab leaders next week.

A presidential envoy will visit Damascus to hand Assad the invitation, Aziz said. There were few other indications, however, that the gulf between Assad and Hussein is really narrowing.

Their countries are ruled by rival wings of the Arab Baath Socialist Party. Assad supported Persian Iran in its eight-year war with Arab Iraq. Hussein provided weapons to Lebanon’s Christian Maj. Gen. Michel Aoun in his failed “war of liberation” against Syria and its allies.

Another major rift in the Arab world involves Assad and Arafat. Mubarak said the Syrian president is now ready to meet with the PLO leader.

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“He has no good relations with Yasser Arafat, yet he will welcome Arafat if he comes here; he’s not against that,” Mubarak said.

Assad and Arafat have been feuding for years. A major source of animosity is the Palestinian leader’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist.

Palestinian sources in Damascus have said previously that Arafat has set three conditions for traveling to Damascus: recognition of a Palestinian state, the release of thousands of pro-Arafat guerrillas in Syrian jails and a pledge not to interfere in Palestinian affairs.


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