Arab leaders split over Hizbullah
Foreign ministers of 18 Arab countries hold emergency summit in Cairo over Israel's expanding assault on Lebanon. Saudi foreign minister appears to lead camp of ministers criticizing Hizbullah's actions, calling them 'unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts'
The Saudi foreign minister appeared to be leading a camp of ministers criticizing the guerrilla group's actions, calling them "unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts."
"These acts will pull the whole region back to years ago, and we cannot simply accept them," Saudi al-Faisal told his counterparts.
Supporting his stance were representatives of Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, delegates said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem lashed back al-Faisal, asking "how can we come here to discuss the burning situation in Lebanon while others are making statements criticizing the resistance?"
Moallem emerged as the leader of another camp of ministers defending Hizbullah as carrying out "legitimate acts in line with international resolutions and the U.N. charter, as acts of resistance," delegates said.
The rift appeared likely to prevent participants from issuing a unanimous resolution over Israel's bloody incursion into Lebanon — the worst Israeli attack on its neighbor in 24 years.
'Frustration and bitterness among Arab people'
Earlier, Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh presented his fellow Arab League members with a draft resolution condemning Israel's military offensive and supporting Lebanon's "right to resist occupation by all legitimate means" — language frequently used by Hizbullah to justify its guerrillas' presence in south Lebanon.
The draft, a copy of which obtained by The Associated Press, also demanded the release of Lebanese captives and detainees in Israeli prisons, and supported Lebanon's right to "liberate them by all legitimate means."
Salloukh, a Shiite close to the mainstream Amal faction as well as the militant Hizbullah, said Arab governments were not doing enough to protest Israel's assault on Lebanon.
"What our Arab brothers have called `involvement' has only resulted in frustration and bitterness among Arab people," Salloukh told participants at the meeting Saturday.
"If (Arab) governments are not serious and determined ... our people will sooner or later take things into their own hands," he said.
Israel launched its offensive after Hizbullah guerrillas crossed the Israel-Lebanon border on Wednesday and captured two Israeli soldiers. Israel has bombarded Lebanon's airport and main roads and destroyed Hizbullah's headquarters in south Beirut. Hizbullah has responded by launching hundreds of rockets into Israel.
At least 79 Lebanese have died, mostly civilians.