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Israel is opposed to a new Arab League initiative to hold an international Middle East peace conference, which was discussed Tuesday by the Arab foreign ministers in Cairo.

The plan, which the Arab states wish to bring up before the Security Council is also being met with reservations among senior diplomats at the UN in New York.

Informed government sources in Jerusalem said that this is a Palestinian attempt to evade applying the first stage of the road map which calls for the elimination of terrorist organizations in the Palestinian Authority.

"An international conference is part of the second stage of the road map, but before that, the first stage must be carried out," the sources said. "The Arab foreign ministers' proposal focuses on the procedure for convening the conference and not on its contents and is intended to win international sympathy for warming up the peace process rather than going into details that could cause dissention," they added.

Earlier reports had said the 22 foreign ministers would adopt a resolution empowering the secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, to leave for New York where he would organize the diplomatic efforts to adopt the plan during the General Assembly session which opens there in two weeks' time. Qatar, which is a current member of the Security Council, was designated to raise the issue here at the end of the month.

However, diplomatic sources told Haaretz that, if the plan - based on the Saudi initiative of 2002 - circumvents existing frameworks such as the road map, or evades existing mechanisms such as the Quartet, it was unlikely to be acceptable to the Council members, particularly the five permanent members.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was asked for his opinion of the initiative Tuesday during a press conference in Cairo. He said merely that he had been informed of the plan by the Egyptian foreign minister but declined to comment further.

If a Security Council member requests a discussion of a topic, it cannot be prevented, representatives at the world body said. But they pointed out that the United States and Russia are committed to the road map and the Quartet, and would not lend a hand to a new diplomatic venture. "How can a new initiative be adopted for restarting the peace process when even the three basic conditions for recognition of the Palestinian government have not yet been met by Hamas?" one western diplomat in New York said in an interview with Haaretz.