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Arab League stops short of call to end ties with Israel
CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- A two-day Arab League emergency summit ended Sunday with leaders issuing a final declaration that said Arab nations could consider cutting ties with Israel as punishment for Israeli-Palestinian clashes.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority blame each other for fighting in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank that has killed close to 120 people -- all but a handful of them Palestinians or Israeli Arabs -- during the past three weeks.
The Arab communique denounced Israel for the fighting, offered funds to the Palestinians and called for a United Nations-led "international war crimes tribunal" to investigate actions committed by Israeli soldiers during the clashes. It also requested a U.N. presence in Gaza and the West Bank to prevent future Israeli-Palestinian clashes.
In addition, the Arab leaders also agreed to end all steps toward normalization of relations with Israel, stopping just short of calling for the cutting of all existing ties.
Israeli government spokesman Nachman Shai said the communique, because it stopped short of calling for an end to all ties with Israel, "is a victory of wisdom for the Arab world."
"If there's no cutting of diplomatic relations between Israel-Jordan and Israel-Egypt, this is a relief in a way," Shai told CNN. "And also I think what's missing there is a call for an end of violence in the region."
Palestinian Council Member Hanan Ashrawi told CNN the Arab summit final declaration was "extremely diluted, watered down, as may have been euphemistically described as being moderate and rational."
She accused summit leaders of responding to influence from the United States and said many Palestinians would be disappointed, including Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat .
"Many (Palestinians) said, 'Well we didn't expect any better because the Arab leaders had cast their lot with the U.S. and were taking their orders from the U.S. directly rather than responding to their own people who were crying out for some kind of justice, for some kind of political will and for some kind of strategy that would be translated into a plan of action on the ground.'"
Stronger words Saturday
The communique followed much stronger individual statements Saturday from nations such as Iraq, which called for a jihad -- or holy war -- against Israel.
The Libyan delegation walked out of the summit Saturday, complaining that leaders were refusing to call outright for Arab nations to cut ties with Israel.
Arafat on Saturday accused Israel of "massacring Palestinians."
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak accused Israel of adopting a belligerent attitude, which, in his words, threatens the very essence of peace. Israel expressed disappointment in Mubarak's peace-making efforts.
"I expect Arab leaders, especially President Mubarak ... to call for the Palestinians to cease their hostilities and to return to negotiations with Israel. That was very important. Unfortunately, it was not mentioned there," Shai said.
Hostilities continued even as the summit ended Sunday. Israeli-Palestinian clashes reported in Gaza left at least four Palestinians dead, including a 14-year-old Palestinian boy.
Barak calls 'timeout'
Shai said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak told his Cabinet earlier Sunday that Israel would take a "timeout" and reassess its position, while continuing with the Palestinian peace process.
"The 'timeout' means that we are going to reassess our position of where things stand right now," Shai said. "It doesn't mean we are going to withdraw our support for the peace process, just the opposite."
Arab leaders divided on response to Israel; emergency summit to reconvene today
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