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At Arab summit, Annan urges Sharon, Arafat to lead their peoples 'back from brink'

At Arab summit, Annan urges Sharon, Arafat to lead their peoples 'back from brink'

Kofi Annan addresses  Arab League summit in Beirut
Appealing to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat to lead their peoples "back from the brink," United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today also urged leaders attending the Arab League summit in Beirut to unite in support of the recent Saudi proposal in an effort to help the two sides reach a peace agreement.

"There is no conflict in the world today whose solution is so clear, so widely agreed upon, and so necessary to world peace as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Mr. Annan said in an address to the League of Arab States. "Through political courage and leadership, we must bridge the gap between our vision of peace and the present reality of conflict."

In his address, the Secretary-General reiterated his earlier statements that Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat must set aside hatred and mistrust and instead reaffirm the "strategic choice" for peace, based on a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement, the fundamentals of which are embedded in UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338.

"It is their role, and their duty, to lead their peoples back from the brink," Mr. Annan said of the two leaders. "History, and their peoples, will remember them kindly if they rise to the challenge. History, and their peoples, will judge them harshly if they do not."

Turning to the Arab leaders, the Secretary-General said the international community wanted to hear "firm and credible" assurances that once Israel concluded a just and comprehensive peace and withdrew from Arab lands, it could look forward to peace and full normal relations with all the Arab world. "That assurance can - and I say must - be your contribution to peace between Palestinians and Israelis," he stressed.

The recent important proposal put forward by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah - based on the principle of "land for peace" - could be the foundation as it provides a clear and compelling vision, Mr. Annan said. "The search for peace and stability has never been more urgent," he said. "I appeal to you today to unite in support of this vision, showing the world - and the parties - that you are ready to help them in making the crucial choices for peace."

In his address, the Secretary-General also mentioned his recent talks with senior Iraqi officials. He urged Baghdad once again to comply without delay with all relevant Security Council resolutions and stressed that the sooner the Iraqi authorities accepted that there was no other path towards ending the sanctions and relieving the suffering of the Iraqi people, the sooner the problem would be resolved.