Arab Leaders Discuss Israel

Three key Middle East leaders on Saturday began talks on the prospects of an Israeli military offensive in Gaza and President Bush's meeting last month with the Saudi prince.

Syrian President Bashar Assad flew into this Red Sea resort town earlier in the day and held talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, the oil-rich Gulf state's de facto ruler, arrived later Saturday and met briefly with Mubarak before the leaders entered trilateral talks with Assad at about 8 p.m.

Speaking to reporters before Assad's arrival, Mubarak said that if Israel invaded the Gaza Strip, "it will be very dangerous and this will be reflected in a horrible way on the Israeli people and on the whole region."

Expectations had been high that Israeli troops and tanks massed on the border with Gaza would move in to retaliate for a suicide bombing that killed 15 people Tuesday night. Reports said the troops would seek Palestinians suspected of organizing bombings.

However, the troops remained in place Saturday. An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer decided Friday to postpone the strike, concerned that too many details had been leaked and given Palestinian militants too much time to prepare defenses.

"It is obvious that there is an Israeli reconsideration to the decision ... to attack Gaza," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told reporters. "We don't say that the danger is over, but we say that there is more realization to the gravity of such an adventure."

Mubarak said Abdullah would report on his April 25 meeting with Bush in Washington. Abdullah, whose Mideast peace plan was endorsed by an Arab summit in March, presented Bush an 8-point program for reviving peace efforts which was received positively in Washington.

"All that concerns us is peace, and security and peace will only be achieved when Israel withdraws from the occupied lands," Mubarak said.

Israel's just-ended military operation in the Palestinian-controlled parts of the West Bank provoked widespread demonstrations in the Arab world. Protesters accused Arab governments of not doing enough to support the Palestinians.

Mubarak, Assad and Abdullah also were expected to discuss a U.S. proposal for an international peace conference on the Middle East. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said such a gathering, possibly as soon as next month, would attempt to clear "the political way forward" to a Palestinian state.

Arabs states have reacted cautiously to the idea. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa has said Arab countries would insist on Israel's withdrawal from all Palestinian Authority territory as a precondition for such a conference.