Arabs Cautiously Welcome Cease-Fire

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

Major Arab nations (search) on Monday cautiously welcomed a truce to halt Palestinian attacks on Israelis, but pro-government media questioned whether Israel (search) would also exercise restraint.

Many Arab states withheld immediate comment Sunday after the three-month truce was announced by the militant groups Hamas (search) and Islamic Jihad (search). The mainstream Fatah movement said it would call a halt to attacks for six months.

But on Monday, Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher applauded the agreement, saying it will "enhance the Palestinians' negotiating capability," Jordan's official Petra news agency reported.

Muasher also welcomed the separate accord under which Israel began withdrawing some of its troops from the Palestinian territories.

In Lebanon, Foreign Minister Jean Obeid said Monday: "We support anything that spares and safeguards Palestinian blood."

In Syria, which had previously expressed support for suicide attacks on Israelis, the state-run Syria Times said the truce was "one step forward on the road to a peaceful solution."

"The question is: will Israel stop its brutal aggression and terrorism against the Palestinian people? Is (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon's government ready to give up its anti-peace stands?" the Syria Times asked.

In Cairo, the Egyptian government was slow to respond, but the leading newspaper, the pro-government Al-Ahram, questioned Israel's readiness to "fully implement the agreement."

The cease-fire is regarded as a breakthrough for the implementation of the "road map" peace plan, which envisions the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005. Israel sees the truce as an agreement among the Palestinians.

"Israel should clearly realize that any violation of the truce conditions, or manipulation, will torpedo the truce and lead the Palestinian resistance movements to react forcefully," Al-Ahram wrote Monday.

Many Arabs and Israelis doubt that a cease-fire will last for long, having been disappointed many times before. And both sides see the truce agreement as incomplete.

The U.N. envoy for the Middle East, Terje Roed-Larsen, said Monday he was "encouraged" by the cease-fire and by Israel's subsequent pullout from parts of the Gaza Strip.

"It's a very, very important step," Roed-Larsen told reporters in Damascus, Syria.