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ISRAEL OPENS 1ST PHONE LINKS WITH ARAB NATIONS

Israel has opened direct phone links with Arab countries for the first time since the Jewish state was founded in 1948. Arabs living in Israel are delighted, but Jordan is crying foul.

The Israeli Communications Ministry on Thursday unilaterally opened direct lines to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Yemen.The calls are placed via satellite to Western telephone systems that have lines to Arab countries. Because Israel and the Arab world are technically at war, Egypt excepted, such telephone links had not existed before.

Joseph Chen, a Communications Ministry spokesman, said Israel opened the lines as a show of good faith. "We want to show that we will do everything that is possible to bring peace," he said.

So far it is a one-way service, and Israelis appeared to have jumped the gun, since the establishment of phone links requires both sides' approval.

Jordan sharply protested, saying phone links should wait for formal peace. "This is piracy," said Jordan's communications minister, Jamal Sarayrah, and he ordered phone officials to block the calls.

Chen said Israel would probably comply if the Arabs insisted the lines be disconnected.

But Mohammed Said Al-Sabek, a retired Arab teacher in Jerusalem, was delighted. He said he made two calls to Qatar to talk to his son and three daughters in that Persian Gulf nation.