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Arab leaders welcome U.S. Mideast moves

Palestinian and his would-be country's flag
Palestinians hope their flag will fly over their own country  

CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- The Arab League of 22 nations has welcomed the U.S. president's "vision" of a Palestinian state.

President Bush told reporters on Tuesday that a Palestinian state was always "part of a vision" if Israel's right to exist is respected.

A series of high-profile meetings are planned -- including one between Bush and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will travel Tuesday night to the Middle East, the Pentagon has announced.

Press Secretary Torie Clarke would not say how long Rumsfeld would be out of the U.S. or what nations he would visit. Clarke said the Pentagon was still working on details of the trip.

The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, welcomed the Bush administration's plan to publicly endorse the formation of a Palestinian state.

He said, following a meeting of the league's countries: "We welcome the developments, both the support by the U.S. of a Palestinian state and the meeting that will take place between the president and President Arafat.

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CNN's James Martone reports on the Arab League ministers meeting in Cairo (October 2)

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"And all those are steps in the right direction."

State Department and other administration officials said on Monday that the U.S. is considering a series of high-profile steps regarding the Middle East with the intention of shoring up Arab support for its campaign against terrorism.

As a part of that plan, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is crafting a speech that "will clarify its (the U.S.) views on an end result" to the Middle East crisis and the eventual "creation of a Palestinian state," officials said.

Bush added the two parties needed to get to work "on the Mitchell process" which he said provides a clear path to solving the crisis in the Middle East.

He refused, when asked, to say whether he had been prepared to announce his support for a Palestinian state before the September 11 suicide attacks on Washington and New York.

What the two sides need to remember, he said, is that his administration is committed to the Mitchell process.

Moussa said he hoped that an increased U.S. involvement in the region would help curb Palestinian deaths.

"The situation in the occupied territories continues to be precarious," said Moussa.

"There is no ceasing of killing people in the occupied territories we hope that the U.S. intervention as a sponsor of the peace process will deal with those major violations that led to a lot of Palestinian casualties."

King Abdullah of Jordan has said that Bush promised him that there would not be attacks on Arab countries as part of the U.S. war on terrorism.

Moussa said Arab countries could see no reason for an attack and said such a move would have far reaching effects on any coalition efforts.

"We really don't see why an Arab country would be attacked but if this happens it would lead to a very serious situation across the Middle East and would harm the idea of international co-operation or alliance," he said.

Moussa said if the United States find evidence of terrorism that proof should be given to Arab countries before strikes occur, adding "they will discuss it."

Any search for terrorists, said Moussa, should "also include European countries that have a lot of those people hosted or living in those countries."


• U.S. State Department, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
• The Arab League

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