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Arabs Fail at Israeli Boycott

April 30, 2002

DAMASCUS, Syria -- Arab officials on Tuesday failed to revive the moribund boycott of companies doing business with Israel but said the decades-old sanctions regime remained an important tool to deter Israeli military action against Palestinians.

Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania, which have relations with Israel, were absent from the three-day meeting of the Damascus-based Central Boycott Office of the 22-member Arab League.

A closing communique said the 19 countries present discussed "ways of activating the economic boycott of Israel in the Arab and Islamic countries," as well as the status of companies violating the existing but largely ineffectual boycott.

The statement did not say if the meeting blacklisted any new companies and did not name the companies that were discussed.

"The participants expressed their conviction that economic boycott of Israel and expanding (the boycott's) geographical boundaries ... constitutes a tool for deterring (Israeli) aggression and bolstering world peace and security," said the statement read by Ahmed Khazaa, commissioner-general of the boycott office.

Abdullah al-Jurmani, of Oman, told reporters participants examined the status of 17 companies, including ones from Italy, Germany, the United States and Britain, and made certain recommendations without taking the decision to boycott them. He did not elaborate.

The boycott office was set up in 1951 to track down foreigners who do business with or support Israel and then ban them from operating in the Arab world. It has not been active for almost a decade but once listed more than 8,500 companies and people, including Coca-Cola, the Ford Motor Co. and Elizabeth Taylor movies because the actress converted to Judaism and was seen as pro-Israel.

But the boycott's influence waned as Egypt and Jordan made peace with Israel and the Palestinians embarked on a peace process.

A boycott on international companies said to be pro-Israeli, meanwhile, was called for on posters that began appearing on downtown walls in Sarajevo, the capital of predominantly Muslim Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"Our contribution to the fight against terrorism. Boycott the companies that support Israel," the posters said.

One poster displayed the logos of 64 international companies, including world-renowned producers of food, soft drinks, cosmetics and clothing - but failed to explain why the companies are considered in support of Israel.

The posters carried the mark of an organization called Islambosna. The head of the organization Muslim Brotherhood in Sarajevo, Faruk Visca, told the Sarajevo daily Oslobodjenje on Tuesday that the companies named were chosen according to a survey done by a U.K.-based Muslim Web site, Inminds.