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Damascus Declaration opens meeting

DAMASCUS, Dec. 27 -- Foreign Ministersof six Gulf Arab countries, Syria and Egypt Wednesday opened a two-day meeting in the Syrian capital to discuss peace with Israel and ways to reactivate security and economic cooperation. The meeting is expected to urge support for Syria's position at its peace talks with Israel, which were resuming Wednesday near Washington after six months interruption. The meeting will also evaluate the situation in Iraq and inter-Arab disputes, including the dispute between Yemen and Eritrea over islands in the Red Sea. Egyptian Foreign Minister Amer Moussa said the conference would focus on ways to reactivate economic and security cooperation among the so- called Damascus Declaration states -- Arab members of the U.S.-led coalition force that ended Iraq's occupation of Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War. It comprises members of the Gulf Cooperation Council -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates -- plus Egypt and Syria. It took its name after the Damascus Declaration, an alliance blueprint issued by their first meeting in the Syrian capital in 1991. Moussa emphasized the need to preserve Iraq's unity and territorial sovereignty. 'It is a matter agreed upon and that would not be relinquished,' he said. He said the Damascus Declaration countries opposed alleged plans by King Hussein of Jordan for a federation between his country and Iraq. 'This is a matter not for discussion,' Moussa told reporters. 'It only concerns the Iraqis who should decide by themselves what they want.

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' A Saudi source said he believed King Hussein backed out from his plan to form a federation with Iraq after a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak earlier this week. Mubarak was reported to have told him that Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia were opposed to his plan, the source said. The Saudi source also said the ministers were expected to call on Yemen and Eritrea, on the northeast African coast, to solve their dispute the Great Hanish island by peaceful means based on dialogue. Egypt and Qatar have led Arab mediation efforts since Eritrean forces seized the islands earlier this month and took nearly 200 Yemeni troops captive. It will discuss ways to overcome conflicts over island disputes between Qatar and Bahrain and the UAE and Iran.

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