Doha (AsiaNews/Agencies) – An important summit opens today in Doha (Qatar) bringing together the 22 members of the Arab League to discuss Iran’s position in the region and the Palestinian situation, but also the international arrest warrant issued by the UN International Criminal Court against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who arrived in Qatar yesterday. Charges of genocide are pending against him for the situation in Darfur (300,000 dead and 2.5 million refugees since 2003).
Many Arab countries have criticised the warrant, viewing it as Western interference in the internal affairs of an Arab country. Saudi Arabia will ask League members to express their solidarity to the Sudanese leader.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will also attend the meeting. The United Nations is in fact hoping that Arab countries will urge Sudan to find a quick solution to the Darfur crisis and move against the imminent threat of famine that could affect more than a million of its people.
On his arrival on Sunday at Doha’s international airport, Al-Bashir was given the red carpet treatment, welcomed by Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, before the pair had coffee with Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League.
Al-Bashir’s presence could overshadow the Arab countries’ response to the growing power of Shia Iran in the Middle East.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia, also backed by Jordan, have accused Tehran of building up Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine, and supporting the armed struggle against Israel.
Iran and Syria have countered that such a struggle is a legitimate reaction to Israel’s invasion of Arab lands in 1967.
The recent Israeli offensive against Gaza has accentuated the divide also because Israel has not yet accepted the proposal put forward by the Arab world for the “normalisation” of relations in exchange for the return of the occupied territories.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will not be at the summit—instead Egypt will be represented by a low key delegation and his absence will be felt.
Moroccan King Mohammed VI will also skip the meeting, sending instead his brother Moulay Rachid who has no official role in the Moroccan government. As of yesterday it was not even clear whether the kings of Jordan and Bahrain would attend.
Saudi King Abdullah, a strong supporter of Arab unity, will however attend the meting.
In order to ensure the participation of Arab leaders, Qatar, which wants a general resolution, did not invite Iran or Hamas to the summit.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had threatened to boycott the meeting if Hamas was invited.
Iran will instead send an observer, perhaps Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.