CAIRO, Egypt – Foreign ministers of Arab League states opened discussions on Mideast violence Sunday with an appeal to the United States to stop Israel from assassinating Palestinian militants.
Proposed talks between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres are expected to dominate the biannual meeting in Cairo. Palestinian officials say that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who is not attending, wants to hear the league's view before deciding whether to meet with Peres.
Continuing violence, though, has cast doubt on whether the truce talks will come anytime soon.
A suicide bombing Sunday in the Israeli town of Nahariya killed four people, including the bomber, and wounded more than 30, police and a hospital said. In another attack by Palestinian militants Sunday, a gunman in a jeep sprayed automatic rifle fire on a van carrying Israeli teachers to schools in the West Bank, killing two Israelis and injuring four, police said.
On Saturday, an Israeli helicopter-gunship blasted the offices of Arafat's Fatah party in the West Bank town of Ramallah. Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said the attack had torpedoed the purpose of an Arafat-Peres meeting, which Israelis say will take place in the coming days.
Opening the 22-member Arab League meeting in Cairo, Qatar's foreign minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani, said the latest fighting in the Palestinian territories "reveal without a doubt the real face of the current Israeli government that rejects peace and uses extreme oppression and violence against the Palestinian people."
Sheik Hamad urged the United States to pressure Israel to stop its "aggressive practices," particularly its assassination of individual Palestinian militants.
On Saturday six Arab states in the Gulf also called for the United States to put an end to Israeli attacks on Palestinians. The foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council held talks in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on a Saudi plan to present Arab concerns over the violence to the Bush administration.
The proposed meeting between Peres and Arafat would be their first since June 29 when they held two hours of talks in Lisbon, Portugal. It would come after 11 months of fighting between Israelis and Palestinians. More than 600 people have been killed on the Palestinian side and more than 160 on the Israeli side.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said Sunday's agenda would include the World Conference Against Racism, which concluded in South Africa on Saturday with a declaration that recognized the "plight of the Palestinians," but did not accuse Israel of "racist practices," as Arab and Muslim states had demanded.