Oppose Israeli nukes too, Moussa tells US


Published: Wednesday, 28 June, 2006, 11:46 AM Doha Time

HOUSTON, Texas: The US cannot denounce Iran’s nuclear programme while accepting Israel’s possession of nuclear bombs, the head of the Arab League said yesterday.

“This will ultimately bring the Middle East to further instability and there will be an inevitable arms race,” Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa told the US Arab Economic Forum in Houston, Texas.

The US is locked in a standoff with Iran over its uranium enrichment programme. But the US administration turns a diplomatic blind eye to widely held suspicions – including by the International Atomic Energy Agency – that Israel already has a nuclear weapon. “We do not believe there is a good and bad nuclear programme,” said Moussa.

“There is no moral and legal ground to distinguish them. Both are bad and all military nuclear programmes or programmes of weapons of mass destruction should not be allowed.”

Moussa reiterated Iran’s right to operate peaceful nuclear programmes under the terms of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and said the Arab-Israeli conflict is the greatest threat to instability in the Middle East.

“This conflict is the one that will make or break stability in the region,” he said. “There is no doubt that this conflict cannot be resolved without the active involvement of the US as an honest broker.”

Moussa said the US needed to acknowledge that the conflict was not a result of “terrorists” but of a military occupation by Israel. The policy of aiming for “security now and peace later” will not work, he said.

“Only the role of honest broker played by the US will save the situation, will clear and change the reputation of US policy and lessen to a large extent the frustration.”

The Arab League chief said the conflict in Iraq was also a source of instability that could only be resolved through a reconciliation programme to unite the varying factions.

“Iraq should not be the theatre for settling accounts. Reconciliation is necessary for rebuilding the new Iraq.”

Moussa also hailed recent progress in events in Somalia and Sudan and hoped that a recent peace agreement would bring peace to Darfur.

He characterised the current global political situation as a “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West. “The clash is being fed and abetted by extremists on both sides,” he said in his speech.

Several senior US and Arab officials who spoke at the forum said a gulf of suspicion and misunderstanding in Arab-US relations must be breached in order to avoid further tensions.

“One of the biggest problems that we are facing in this part of the world - in the US - is a lack of knowledge of what is happening on the other side,” said Abdullah Zainal Alireza, Saudi Arabia’s minister of state.

“Ignorance of facts will contribute to further schism that is going to occur unless we rectify what is happening.”

Alireza noted that one source of mistrust was the way the US could hail elections in Iraq while refusing to acknowledge the democratically elected Hamas government in Palestine.

Karen Hughes, the US undersecretary of state for public diplomacy in charge of improving the US image abroad, acknowledged that Americans held unwarranted suspicions and mistrust of Arabs.

“The Dubai ports matter hit a deep nerve of worry among our population about American security in a post-9/11 world,” said Hughes, referring to the US Congress’s opposition to a Dubai company’s bid to take over operations at six US ports.

Hughes, a close confidante of US President George W Bush, said the US government needed to do a better job of highlighting the benefits of foreign investment and was working to educate the public about the common values shared with the Arab and Muslim world.

Hughes said misunderstanding and suspicion was not only an American problem and urged the Arab leaders present to advance the education of their growing population, noting several times the need bring opportunities to women.