RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah believes his peace overture to Israel has been rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, according to Saudi press reports Sunday.
``I found out that everyone wants this proposal except for one person and that's Sharon,'' Abdullah, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, was quoted as saying by Al Watan daily.
Abdullah's remarks came during a meeting in the Red Sea port of Jiddah Saturday with participants of a symposium on Islam.
``If they (Israelis) don't accept it, then we will have exposed them and shown all the world that Arabs and Muslims are the ones who want peace and that some, not all, Israelis don't want peace,'' he was quoted as saying.
Abdullah will present his initiative to end the almost 55-year Mideast crisis at an Arab summit that begins Wednesday in Beirut, Lebanon. Almost all the league's 22 members have welcomed the proposal, which offers Israel peace and normal relations with its neighbors in exchange for full withdrawal from areas Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast war.
``If the initiative is accepted, then that's what we want. We don't want to fight and we are not bloodthirsty. We like to live in peace, safety and security,'' the official Saudi Press Agency quoted Abdullah as saying.
Sharon, in an interview published Saturday in The Washington Post, said he was interested in Abdullah's vision of ``peace and normalization with all the Arab world,'' but that Israel's security would be threatened if it withdrew to 1967 borders. Sharon told the Post he was ready to talk with the Saudis, but the Saudis have said negotiations should only involve Israel and the Palestinians, the Syrians and the Lebanese.
Sharon told his Cabinet Sunday that he would like to go to the Beirut summit to explain the Israeli position on the Mideast conflict. An invitation is unlikely, as host Lebanon is officially at war with Israel and several other members of the Arab League refuse any contact with Israel. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa and the Lebanese refugee affairs minister scoffed at Sharon's offer shortly after it was published.
In Damascus on Sunday, Syrian protesters filled a central square and called on Arab leaders to take tough stands on the Palestinian uprising and U.S. support for Israel at their summit this week. The crowd appeared to number about a million people.
Popular feelings run high in Syria about the bloodshed in the Palestinian-Israeli clashes.
``We reject normalization with Israel and Israel will never be able to stop the uprising,'' former Maj. Gen. Ahmed Abdul Kareem, an organizer of the demonstration, told the crowd.
In Cairo, a group of some 50 Egyptian intellectuals, artists and opposition politicians staged a demonstration outside the headquarters of the Arab League.
``Liberation is achieved by weapons, not by negotiations,'' the protesters chanted. They were held back by more than 100 anti-riot policemen.
Regarding the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, Abdullah said the attackers were under the influence of drugs. But Washington says the attacks were masterminded by Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden and carried out by 19 hijackers. The Saudis have acknowledged that 15 of the hijackers were Saudi.
``It has become clear to me ... that most of those (attackers) used drugs and sold them to aid them in doing evil,'' Abdullah was quoted as saying.