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Saudi Arabia Says Israel Must Accept Arab Peace Offer Before Talks

03 April 2007

Saudi Arabia says Israel should first clearly accept Arab peace initiative before the kingdom would consider talks.

A statement from the Saudi cabinet Monday did not directly refer to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's invitation to Arab leaders to attend a Middle East peace conference.

The statement said Israel first must end what it called constant violations and inhuman aggression against the Palestinian people.

It also said the Arab leaders made a clear commitment to peace at last week's summit in Riyadh, where they offered a broad land-for-peace plan.

In Paris, visiting Palestinian Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr said Mr. Olmert's proposal skips over necessary steps in the peace process.

But in Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that interaction between Israel and potential Arab partners would be positive.

Mr. Olmert Sunday invited all Arab leaders to a peace conference, and called Saudi King Abdullah a "very important leader."

Last week, the Arab League re-launched a 2002 plan calling for normal relations with Israel in return for Israel's withdrawal to its 1967 borders, establishment of a Palestinian state and the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes inside Israel.

Mr. Olmert said Israel does not accept all parts of the plan. But he said the plan, with some changes, could be a basis for dialogue.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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