Gulf leaders tell Israel to end Gaza "massacres"

Tue Dec 30, 2008 11:48am EST

(Recasts with summit communique)

By Daliah Merzaban and John Irish

MUSCAT, Dec 30 (Reuters) - Gulf Arab leaders called on Tuesday for an end to Israel's "massacres" of Palestinians in Gaza but did not unite behind a Qatari call for an emergency Arab summit to discuss a joint stance.

A communique issued after a Gulf summit suggested that the U.S.-allied rulers partly blamed the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas for the violence, which Israel says the militant faction provoked by firing rockets at southern Israeli towns.

More than 380 Palestinians have been killed in nearly four days of Israeli attacks on the territory controlled by Hamas.

"The (supreme) council strongly denounced this Israeli aggression and placed most of the responsibility for pushing matters to this dangerous level on its stubborn policies and inhumane practices against the Palestinian people", the rulers said in a communique issued after their two-day summit in Oman.

Without naming Hamas, they said Israel should "end the unjust siege imposed on all Palestinian land including Gaza".

The leaders of the six oil-producing nations urged the world to "move immediately to stop the massacres and the aggressions practised by the Israeli killing machine and provide protection for the Palestinian people".

Qatar, a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, has called for an Arab summit to discuss the offensive, but regional power Saudi Arabia has said it saw little benefit in holding a meeting at which leaders make statements which carry no weight.

Saudi Arabia had urged Israel to end its attacks but appears unwilling to endorse a summit which might boost support for Hamas, whose supporters, Shi'ite Muslim Iran and Syria, are at odds with the kingdom over regional policies.

"Saudi Arabia has no interest in helping Hamas through political stances and it is aware that an Arab summit will do only that," a senior Arab diplomat said.

"For Qatar, this (stance) portrays it as a defender of Arabs. This divide is not unique to the Gulf; the Arab world is divided along these lines," he told Reuters.

Arab foreign ministers are due to discuss holding an emergency Arab summit at a meeting in Cairo on Wednesday, a call also made by Syria.

Commenting on the idea, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal has said: "There would be no benefit in attending an Arab summit for statements."

Officials at the GCC summit tried to avoid discussing the details of the Gaza crisis, which dominated the agenda of a meeting originally aimed at approving a monetary union.

The Gaza issue has not derailed the bloc's economic agenda as the leaders approved a monetary union pact that paves the way for a single currency and agreed to coordinate efforts in the face of a global financial crisis. (Additional reporting by Saleh al-Shaibany; writing by Inal Ersan; editing by Tim Pearce)



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