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Saudi cool on Peres speech

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said he was "disappointed" in Israeli President Shimon Peres’ reading of the Arab peace initiative.

The formula, first put forward by the Arab League in 2002 and revived this year through Saudi prodding, would exchange an Israeli return to 1967 lines for full peace with the Arab world.

Israel recently reversed its policy of downplaying the offer and has said in recent months that it is positive; this week, at an interfaith conference in New York cosponsored by the Saudis and the United Nations, Peres said the initiative "provides hope to the people and inspires confidence in the nations."

He singled out passages guaranteeing peace and security for Israel and the Arab nations, but did not mention its specifics of land for peace and for taking into account Palestinian refugees.

"The disappointing side of President Peres’ comment is that he chose parts of the Arab peace plan and left other parts untouched," Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters on Thursday. In another press conference, Peres said: "Nobody expects Israel to accept the Arab peace initiative as is."

Israel expects to continue to control parts of the lands it captured in the 1967 Six Fay War, perhaps exchanging them for strips of desert adjacent to the Gaza Strip; it also rejects the Saudi plan’s language on refugees as not specifically counting out a return of refugees to Israel.

Separately, Saudi King Abdullah met privately this week with Jewish leaders as part of his regime’s recent outreach to non-Muslims.
 

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