Egypt rejoins Arab fold


CASABLANCA, Morocco -- Arab League nations welcomed Egypt back into their fold after a 10-year break on the eve of a two-day emergency summit meeting called to discuss recent PLO peace initiatives and Lebanon.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak left Cairo Monday for Casablanca to attend the summit, which opens Tuesday.


There was no official vote or declaration on Egypt's readmission to the Arab League, but Arab leaders said that its first participation at a summit-level meeting of the organization marked its formal return to the group.

During meetings Sunday and Monday, foreign ministers prepared a summit agenda, which includes recent initiatives by Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat, support for the Palestinian uprising in the Israeli-occupied territories and the Lebanon crisis.

Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel-Meguid of Egypt said in a meeting late Sunday with his Arab League counterparts, 'Egypt has been encouraged to pursue steps toward resolving the main problems of the Arab world, including Lebanon and Palestine.'

'If Egypt can contribute to peace and understanding, this is an important achievement,' Abdel-Meguid said, adding there was unanimous support for Egypt's return to the Arab League, including an expression of congratulations from Syria.


The majority of Arab countries broke ties with Cairo and Egypt's Arab League membership was suspended in 1979 after it signed the Camp David peace accords with Israel, but most Arab nations, with the exception of Syria, Libya and Lebanon, have restored full diplomatic ties with Cairo.

Summit preparations were marked by a flurry of diplomatic activity in an apparent effort to pursuade Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to join other heads of state for the meetings.

Algerian President Chadli Bendjedid, Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Syrian President Hafez Assad traveled to Libya over the weekend and early Monday.

The official Libyan news agency questioned the need for an emergency summit, but Arab political observers said Gadhafi remained unwilling to support Egypt's return to League membership. Syrian sources in Casablanca, however, expressed optimism that Gadhafi might be convinced to attend the summit.

Both Libya and Lebanon were absent from the foreign ministers meeting.

Lebanon was unable to agree on a delegation due to the dispute between Christian and Moslem factions over who has the legitimate right to govern Lebanon.

The Arab League's special committee on Lebanon planned to meet Monday to prepare for summit discussions on its efforts to enforce a shaky cease-fire in Lebanon.


Meetings were also planned Monday to work out proposals on the PLO-Israeli conflict. Arab sources said Syrian and PLO delegations had submitted preliminary draft proposals, which were incompatible.

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