Report: Arab countries refuse US request to normalize ties with Israel

Arab states have expressed reservations over a US request that they make initial steps towards normalizing their relations with Israel so as to encourage Jerusalem to freeze West Bank construction, according to Arab diplomatic sources quoted by the London-based Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday. According to the report, Arab leaders that were approached by the Americans were of the opinion that the time was not yet ripe for warmer relations with Israel. US Mideast envoy George Mitchell has been trying to persuade Arab leaders to act so that the Israeli government does not feel that it is the only regional player that has come under pressure from Washington. The report came two days after the White House announced that it had asked several Arab countries to engage in confidence-building measures with Israel in order to encourage the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians.