Mideast crisis has potential to spread

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Mideast crisis has potential to spread


CAIRO: Arab leaders are becoming increasingly concerned that the Israeli-Palestinian fighting may turn into an international conflict, with US and Israeli interests in other countries potential targets of terrorist acts.

"Unfortunately, day by day, (the Americans) are going to be affected by what is going on. I can't say how, when and where. But they must take responsibility for their negative position," Said Kamal, the assistant secretary general of the Arab League, commented the day after Israel killed the prominent leader of a Palestinian group.

Abu Ali Mustafa, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was killed at his West Bank office of Ramallah on Monday by missiles from an Israeli helicopter as part of a "hunt-and-kill" policy against militants whom Israelis believe are planning attacks on Israelis.

"They should study carefully what it means, what this assassination means for the Palestinians," Kamal said, adding he was expressing a personal opinion and not the position of the pan-Arab grouping.

Most Arab countries believe the United States is indirectly responsible for the assassination since it is the main financial, military and political supporter of the Jewish state.

They say the same is true for the escalation of violence since the Palestinians started their intifada, or uprising, against Israel's occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip last September. The fighting has so far left more than 750 people dead, most of them Palestinians.

A senior member of the PFLP vowed on Tuesday that his group would send suicide bombers to hunt down Israeli and US overseas targets to avenge Mustafa's death.

"Our response will be hard and will target American and Israeli interests, wherever they are found," PFLP central committee member Abu Ali Tallal said from the Palestinian Ain el-Helweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon.

Two of the more radical Arab groups with a history of suicide bombings, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have also called for Mustafa's death to be avenged.

More moderate regional players, such as Egypt, have warned the United States for months that the conflict could eventually spread beyond the Palestinian territories, and urged them to move for a rapid solution.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said he is especially concerned over the spread of terrorism since the administration of US President George W. Bush has not shown the same vigour in pushing the peace process forward as his predecessor, Bill Clinton.

"If the United States does not push to find a solution to the violence, this violence could become terrorism," Mubarak warned in June.

Already a favourite target of international bombings, the United States in July acknowledged it was facing possible attacks in the Arab peninsula, namely Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. About 36,000 US citizens live in Saudi Arabia alone.

Agencies via Xinhua


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), September 02, 2001

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