Pro-Western Arab states dominate policy session


CAIRO, Egypt -- The pro-Western Arab countries appeared to lay down the law for new inter-Arab relations at an Arab League meeting here yesterday, dismissing all of Iraq's justifications for occupying Kuwait and hinting that they no longer regard the Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole representative of Palestinians.

In restrained but purposeful speeches, the representatives of Egypt and Kuwait told delegates to the first full-fledged Arab League meeting since the end of the Persian Gulf war that the Arab countries that participated in the defeat of Iraq, primarily Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria, would be setting the political agenda for some time to come.

The Egyptian foreign minister, Esmat Abdel-Meguid, set the tone by noting in his opening speech that the 21 members of the Arab League have moved the organization's headquarters back to Cairo after an absence of more than 10 years and must now begin to follow new rules in inter-Arab relations.

The meeting conducted very little real business, but Mr. Abdel-Meguid described it as a new beginning for the Arab world after the invasion of Kuwait, easily the most divisive crisis for Arabs in four decades.

"In this fashion, the Arab nation has put an end to a period of its history and is on the verge of a new era of united Arab work," he said. "It is no secret that our meeting today is especially important, since it comes after the liberation of our sister nation, Kuwait, and the return of legitimate government there."

The representative of Iraq, Saad Qassem al-Hammudi, remained silent and stiff as Mr. Abdel-Meguid indirectly but clearly impugned every single stand taken by Iraq to justify its occupation of Kuwait.

Dismissing the idea that rich Arab countries must share their wealth, a view used by Iraq as a rationalization of its occupation of Kuwait, the Egyptian official said that the new ground rules must be based on the notion that "each Arab country has total sovereignty on its natural and economic resources."

The Kuwaiti representative, Abdulmohsen Jihan, who presided over the regularly scheduled, twice-yearly session, also refrained from mentioning Iraq by name but congratulated his countrymen and the world for the liberation of his homeland from what he described as "the claws of a gruesome occupier."

The meeting also showcased a harder attitude toward the PLO. Its representative, Hakam Balawi, held his applause after speeches by Mr. Abdel-Meguid, Mr. Jihan and the Qatari delegate, all of whom spoke of the struggle of the "Palestinian people" without the customary mention of the PLO as their "sole and legitimate representative." It was a clear signal that the triumphant Arab coalition in the war would not easily forget the PLO's support of Iraq.

Reinforcing the message, the Gulf Cooperation Council affirmed that it was cutting off all economic aid to the PLO and Jordan because of their support of Iraq during the crisis.

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