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Club of Monaco: There`s a Limit

On Sunday, a few days before the U.S. surprised the world (including its friend, Israel) with a somewhat meaningless, new United Nations Security Council resolution about secure and recognized borders between Israel and Palestine, presenting it to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, his predecessor, Butros Ghali, signed a document in Monaco that is much more up to date.

The Club of Monaco, a new organization of Mediterranean "personalities," founded this month in Monaco "to contribute to the search for peace and stability" in the region, elected Ghali as the club president. Its first declaration declares that "only a two-state solution on the basis of the June 4, 1967 border can ensure a just and lasting peace for the two peoples," and the club "welcomes" the initiative of Saudi Prince Abdullah.

What makes the club statement significant is its membership, which includes another former UN secretary general Javier Perez de Cuellar, the former Arab League secretary general Ismat Abdel Maguid, former Algerian prime minister Sidahmed Ghozali, former prime minister of Greece Constantin Mitsotakis, the adviser to the King of Morocco, Andrei Azoulay, as well as a representative from Libya, Muhammed Madani Al-Azhari, head of the Sahara Fund.

Israel was represented by former justice minister Yossi Beilin, while the Palestinians sent Minister Sari Nusseibeh, and their ambassador to Paris, Leila Shahid. Nusseibeh proposed that the club gave Beilin and Shahid the job of formulating the statement.

Support from such a prestigious group of people for the Saudi initiative could make it somewhat more difficult for the Americans to avoid dealing directly with the June 1967 border issue through vague and ambiguous formulas, like the new resolution they rushed through the security council this week to help Vice President Richard Cheney on his trip through the region. But Arab and European countries don't intend to cooperate with such transparent cosmetics meant, like Cheney's trip, to neutralize the Arabs before a possible American attack on Iraq.

As far as the Palestinians are concerned, Cheney is irrelevant, after it was made clear to them that the U.S. administration rejected pressure by Arab leaders asking Washington not to help Sharon humiliate Arafat by leaving Ramallah and a meeting with Arafat off the Cheney itinerary. Palestinian Minister Nabil Sha'ath returned from Saudi Arabia this week, where he presented Abdullah's aides with a European Union document summarizing the Taba talks. Sha'ath said that he received their approval of the document, which includes territorial exchanges. On the other hand, under instructions from Arafat, Abu Ala told Foreign Minister Shimon Peres that he has no mandate to discuss any plan that does not include reference to June 4, 1967, with, at least, a reference to territorial exchanges.
By Akiva Eldar

Khatami: Iran will support any agreement between Israel-PA

Iranian President Mohammed Khatami said Saturday that Iran would support any decision reached by the Palestinians regarding Israel. Khatami, speaking at an airport in Iran following a visit to Austria and Greece, said that, "any step aimed at attaining a true and just peace in the Middle East is a positive one and we will respect anything the Palestinian nation agrees to."

Khatami continued to say that his country did not recognize Israel, but hinted that it was because of its presence in Arab territories. "According to the traditional commitments, Iran does not recognize Israel, and we never will recognize a government based on occupation which carries out a policy of oppression," he said.

Khatami's comments reflect the views of Iran's reform party, which believes that in the future Iran should not act against any agreement reached between the Palestinian Authority and the Arab countries and Israel.

The Iranian president's comments are the first time he has supported such views. However, his authority is limited and his policies are mainly decided upon by the conservative camp, headed by spiritual leader Ali Khamenei.

The differences in both sides' viewpoints regarding the Israeli-Arab peace process also came to light recently regarding the peace proposal floated by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah. In official contacts between the two countries, Iran expressed support in the crown prince's plan. However, newspapers published by the conservative party condemn the proposal. Iranian ambassador to Riyadh, said last week that Iran trusted Crown Prince Abdullah.
By Daniel Sobelman, Ha'aretz Corespondent