Egypt Proposes Iraq Cease-Fire
Egypt Proposes Iraq Cease-Fire
Apr 30, 8:33 PM (ET)
By SALAH NASRAWI
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Egypt wants an international
conference on Iraq this week to call for a three-month
cease-fire between Iraqi forces and insurgents,
according to a draft resolution. But Iraq strongly
objected to the idea on Monday.
The Egyptian proposal was the latest source of
division between Iraq and its Arab neighbors. It
implicitly treats the Shiite-led Iraqi government and
the Sunni-led insurgency as equals, and an Iraqi
diplomat said Monday that Baghdad rejected the idea.
Egypt is trying to include the cease-fire call in
resolutions for a two-day conference starting
Thursday, according to a copy of the draft resolutions
obtained by The Associated Press.
Egypt is hosting the meeting in the Red Sea resort of
Sharm el-Sheik with the aim of uniting countries
behind a plan to stabilize Iraq. It is expected to
bring together Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice,
officials from Iran, Russia, China, Europe and Arab
The U.S. and Iraq are hoping the conference will
produce a strong show of international support for
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government,
particularly a commitment to reduce Iraq's huge debts.
But Arab countries with a majority of Sunnis are
demanding that Iraq do more to reach out to Sunni
Arabs before pledging any substantial aid. Al-Maliki
has rejected any conditions on his government.
Arab nations want the Iraqi government to take
concrete steps to better incorporate the Sunnis into
the government and military, including changing the
constitution and ending the system for purging former
members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.
Iraq's Shiites and Kurds have long viewed Sunni-led
Arab governments as favoring Iraqi Sunnis and
sympathetic to the insurgency.
Under the Egyptian proposal, the participants would
"call on all parties to implement a cease-fire for an
initial period of three months to allow for a
conducive environment to help foster the political
process and national accord," according to the draft
resolutions. It did not elaborate on how insurgents
could be brought on board for a cease-fire.
An Iraqi official close to diplomatic discussions of
the resolutions said the Egyptian proposal was a
"This is not a good idea. How can we have a cease-fire
with terrorists?" said the Iraqi diplomat, who spoke
on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity
of the discussions.
Although the United States has been pushing al-Maliki
to reach out for Sunni Arabs, it is highly unlikely to
back a cease-fire with insurgents who are battling
U.S. forces as well as Iraqi troops.
There were also differences over a resolution on
reconciliation between Iraq's Shiites, Sunnis and
An Arab-backed resolution calls for the Iraqi
government to take "constructive steps toward
reviewing and amending the constitution and the
The Iraqi-backed version calls only for steps toward
reviewing the constitution, without a mention of
changing it or of the Debaathification program.
Syria is pressing for the final statement to include a
timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, a step
opposed by Washington and the Iraqi government.
"There have been some differences in the points of
view about the presence of the foreign troops in Iraq.
There is a need for a compromise, and there is no need
to mention a specific timetable," said Italy's
ambassador to Egypt, Antonio Badini, who participated
in the talks.
The Bush administration has not ruled out sideline
talks Syria during the conference, though it is not
inviting a broad conversation.
On Monday, Syrian President Bashar Assad predicted
that the U.S. vision for a "new Middle East" would
fail as the region's conflicts escalate. He was
referring to Rice's call last year for a "new Middle
East" of healthy, elected governments and enduring
"Results until now do not seem in favor of this
project, and what we are seeing now in the east is a
resisting Iraq, and in the west a resisting Lebanon,
and in the south a resisting Palestinian people,"
Syria's official news agency SANA quoted Assad as