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Peacemakers unite to defeat terrorism

peacemaker summit

Guerrillas attack Israeli outposts in response

March 13, 1996
Web posted at: 9:10 a.m. EST (1410 GMT)

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (CNN) -- The participants in the "Summit of Peacemakers" pledged unity Wednesday to stop a bloody wave of terrorism that has washed over the Middle East in recent weeks.

U.S. President Bill Clinton, co-hosting the one-day summit with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek, outlined a plan agreed to by the 29 world leaders who attended. According to Clinton, a "working group" of world leaders will report in 30 days on the plan's goals: enhancing the peace process, promoting security, and ending the terrorist attacks. (254K AIFF sound or 254K WAV sound)

Clinton

The conference at Sharm el-Sheikh, a resort town along the Red Sea, was boycotted by Syria and Lebanon, who complained that too much emphasis was being put on Israel's interests at Arab expense. At the post-summit press conference, Mubarak and Clinton both said they believe Syrian leader Hafez Assad is committed to the peace process.

Mubarak opened the conference, exhorting the assembly of kings, presidents, sheiks and prime ministers not to "resort to despair." The enemies of peace, Mubarak said, must be stopped in their attempts "to abort our process."

Other leaders, in their opening remarks, echoed Mubarak's comments, but they differed in their approach to the task of stopping extremist violence.

Arafat urges change in Israeli policy

"Our dream of freedom and independence can never prosper in the middle of a sea of blood and tears," said Palestinian Assembly President Yasser Arafat. He pledged the support of the Palestinian people in uprooting the violence of extremist factions, but urged Israel to end its policy of closing off the West Bank and Gaza. (255K AIFF sound or 255K WAV sound)

Peres

"Collective punishment has never been the proper tool to provide security and stability," he said, adding that preventing Palestinians from reaching jobs across closed borders created a "hotbed for extremism and violence."

Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres evoked images of children killed by terrorism in recent weeks, and demanded stronger action from the Palestinians.

"Terrorism knows no borders," he said, "so borders must not restrain action to smash the terrorist snake." (357K AIFF sound or 357K WAV sound)

table

Russian President Boris Yeltsin denounced the spate of terrorist bombings in Israel that killed 62 people in nine days, and offered Moscow as a site for a new conference to give fresh life to the Middle East peace process.

"Terrorism is terrorism anywhere and struggle against terrorism should be of universal character," Yeltsin said.

Clinton praised the character and strength of the leaders gathered at the Egyptian Red Sea resort, saying the summit was "proof and promise that this region has changed for good." (230K AIFF sound or 230K WAV sound)

"From all over the world we have come to state a very simple unified message," Clinton said. "Peace will prevail."

Hamas calls for withdrawal of Israelis

While the 29 leaders gathered in Egypt, Hamas -- the Islamic organization that has claimed responsibility for four bomb attacks in Israel since February 25 -- argued that their attacks are justified.

Egypt map

"The reason that our military apparatus had carried out attacks against Israeli targets was the continuing occupation of Palestinian lands," Hamas said in a statement. "This targeting stops automatically when the occupation ceases."

As the conference opened, Islamic guerrillas took advantage of Lebanon's boycott to launch attacks against Israeli military outposts in southern Lebanon. It is not known if there were any injuries in the attacks.

"At the very moment when the summit is being held our fighters are carrying out marvelous attacks, our strugglers are hitting the enemy posts, the posts of the Israeli enemy occupying our land," a camouflaged guerrilla told Reuters.

At the same time as the mortar and grenade attacks, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon protested the conference by going on strike.

Lebanon and neighboring Syria both permit Islamic guerrillas to stage their attacks from within their borders.

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