The Arab League has taken further steps to play down comments by US Commerce Secretary Ron Brown that member states would discuss the lifting of the secondary and tertiary boycott of Israel. League officials say the issue will be brought up at the council meeting on 27 March, but whether it will be debated will be decided by member states. Senior Saudi Arabian officials have reaffirmed that country’s commitment to maintaining the boycott until there is a peaceful settlement in the region.

In mid-January, Brown said he had had a commitment from Arab League secretary- general Esmat Abdel Meguid that the lifting of the secondary and tertiary boycott would be discussed at the next league meeting. Nassis Hitti, a member of the secretary-general’s cabinet, says Arab states have been notified about Brown’s request and it will be raised under a permanent item on the council’s agenda covering the boycott.

A senior Saudi Arabian trade official says the kingdom cannot be expected to take unilateral action to lift or ease the boycott. The official says Saudi Arabia is unrelenting in its application of the boycott, and the issue will have to be discussed in the context of a comprehensive peace settlement in the region.

On 10 February, Adnan Omran, an assistant to the secretary-general, said the Arab League would not obstruct firms that wanted to set up projects in the Palestinian self-rule areas of Gaza and Jericho.