- LONDON (Reuters) - Arabs
bitterly denounced on Tuesday U.S. legislation requiring President Bush's
administration to identify Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
- Some of Washington's Arab allies acknowledged that Bush
had stated that U.S. policy on Jerusalem was unchanged despite the provisions
inserted by Congress into the act that provides over $4 billion to run
the State Department in 2003.
- But most Arab reactions reflected anger at what was seen
as fresh evidence of U.S. bias toward Israel, which annexed Arab East Jerusalem,
encompassing one of Islam's holiest shrines, after capturing it in the
1967 Middle East war.
- "This is an act against peace, an act of incitement,"
Palestinian Planning and International Cooperation Minister Nabil Shaath
told Reuters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
- "It is against the commitment of the United States,
contrary to international law, contrary to agreements signed by the United
States. This is really totally unhelpful and obstructs any move toward
the peace process," he said, calling the U.S. legislation "an
insult to the Arab and Muslim world."
- The militant Palestinian group Islamic Jihad said the
move "reflects the frank antagonism of the U.S. administration toward
the rights of Palestinians, Muslims and Arabs to Jerusalem, and reveals
its outrageous bias for the Zionist usurper entity."
- Israel, which says a united Jerusalem is its eternal
capital, had no immediate official comment.
- POLITICAL PRICE
- In Beirut, Lebanon's most prominent Shi'ite Muslim cleric
said the United States should pay a steep price for the law.
- "This decision is a blow to the Arab and Muslim
worlds, and we call for a strong stance against U.S. policy so that America
will know that its contempt for Arabs and Muslims and its unwavering commitment
to Israel will cost a great deal politically," Sheikh Mohammed Hussein
Fadlallah told Reuters.
- Fadlallah, former spiritual guide to Lebanon's Hizbollah
guerrillas, said the decision proved that U.S. policy was one of slavish
devotion to Israel in its conflict with Palestinians.
- Qatar, current head of the Organization of the Islamic
Conference, condemned the law as "a flagrant violation of U.N. Security
Council resolutions on Jerusalem."
- But a Qatari foreign ministry official told the state-run
Qatar News Agency that his country was satisfied with Bush's affirmation
that U.S. policy on Jerusalem remained the same.
- Bush signed the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for
2003 on Monday. Its provisions go beyond previous moves by Congress, which
has pressed successive administrations on the related question of moving
the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
- The administrations have promised to make the move but
have repeatedly put it off because of the ill feeling it would create in
the Arab world, which considers East Jerusalem to be occupied territory
and the capital of a future Palestinian state.
- An Egyptian official said Bush was in a tricky position
because vetoing the bill would scupper the funding for U.S. diplomacy around
the world. But he said the legislation did not serve peace. "To the
contrary, it would ignite further reaction from both the Arab sides and
- "ONE-EYED POLICY"
- The official, who asked not to be named, said Egypt took
the decision as another signal that the United States was pursuing a "one-eyed
policy" that looked only to Israel's interests.
- "No one can change the Arab, Egyptian and Muslim
position on (east) Jerusalem. It is an occupied, Arab city," he declared.
- Kuwait, a close U.S. ally, voiced regret at the legislation.
- "I know of the pressures inside the United States
and we hope this will be amended at a later stage," Kuwaiti Foreign
Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah told reporters.
- State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Monday
the United States still believed the status of Jerusalem should be decided
in negotiations between Israel and Palestinians.
- The legislation adds three mandatory provisions which
change the way the United States treats the city.
- It says money cannot be spent on the U.S. consulate in
Jerusalem unless the consulate is under the supervision of the U.S. ambassador
to Israel. The U.S. consul general, who deals mainly with Palestinians,
now reports to the State Department.
- Any U.S. government document which lists countries and
their capitals will have to identify Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
- And in U.S. documents such as passports, birth certificates
and nationality certifications, U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem may insist
that their place of birth be recorded as Israel.
- The legislation, in another section opposed by the White
House, also withholds $10 million in aid allocated to Lebanon in 2003 until
the Lebanese army deploys to the border with Israel.
- After Israel quit southern Lebanon in 2000, the Lebanese
army did not take over all the territory, allowing Hizbollah to keep up
cross-border attacks in the disputed Shebaa Farms area.
- The Lebanese government made no comment on the U.S. decision,
but Hizbollah dismissed it. "We don't need American aid, and we hope
the government tells them that," the group's deputy secretary-general
Naeem Kassem told a rally on Monday. (Additional reporting from Ramallah,
Beirut, Dubai and Cairo)
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