Middle East: Egypt rejects extra Arab League talks on Gaza

Lahore, 13 Jan. (AKI) - Egypt has rejected a request from Qatar to hold an emergency Arab League summit in Doha on Friday in a bid to end the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.

According to the Arab network, Al-Jazeera, the Egyptian foreign ministry said on Tuesday Arab leaders were meeting for an economic summit in Kuwait at the end of the week, and that would be the appropriate time to discuss Gaza.

Abdel-Alim al-Abyad, the Arab League spokesman, said Qatar flagged the summit proposal on Monday and two-thirds of the league's 22 members had to approve the request for a summit to take place.

Syria, Lebanon and Algeria had agreed to attend the talks, and Palestinian National Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, confirmed his participation.

But according to Al-Jazeera Egypt and Saudi Arabia were afraid that a summit would produce few results and make Arab leaders seem ineffective.

The 18-day-old Israeli offensive has exposed deep divisions between Arab countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which both oppose the Islamist group Hamas, and Syria and Qatar which are sympathetic to the group that won Palestinian elections in 2006 and rules the Gaza Strip.

While frantic diplomatic efforts were continuing on Tuesday, Palestinian health officials said that the Palestinian death toll had risen to 952, and included some 400 women and children among those killed in the Israeli campaign.

Medical workers said 18 Palestinian gunmen, most of them members of the ruling Islamist Hamas, and seven civilians were killed in the latest fighting.

Israel said 10 Israeli soldiers and three civilians have died since its raids began.

In Cairo, a Hamas delegation resumed talks with Egypt on a ceasefire plan proposed by the Arab country, which flanks the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Amr Moussa, the Arab League secretary-general, said that Arab foreign ministers would hold emergency talks in Kuwait on Friday to discuss "the Israeli aggression on Gaza".

Friday's meeting will examine developments relating to Israel's refusal to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 1860 calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Meanwhile a team of 50 Pakistani doctors and paramedical staff are preparing to travel to the Gaza Strip from Pakistan next week to help treat Palestinians injured in Israel's Operation Cast Lead.


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