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  • » 03/30/2009, 00.00

    QATAR

    Doha: an Arab League summit with many questions



    Iran’s growing regional power, the Arab position vis-à-vis Israel and the Palestinians as well as the international arrest warrant against Sudan president will be on the discussion table. Arab countries are trying to reach common positions on various issues but few experts expect them to reach actual decisions.
    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.

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    See also

    26/03/2008 LEBANON – MIDDLE EAST
    Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to boycott Damascus meeting
    Syria is blamed for Lebanon’s presidential deadlock. Arab countries fear Iran’s growing influence.

    05/03/2009 CHINA - SUDAN
    China asks UN to suspend arrest warrant against Omar al-Bashir
    Beijing is expressing fears that this could worsen the situation in Darfur. But for years, it has done nothing to prevent the genocide taking place, preferring to focus on its lucrative economic deals with Khartoum.

    25/10/2006 QATAR – ISRAEL
    Israeli foreign minister invited to Qatar
    The unprecedented move is part of broader efforts by moderate Arab countries to push forward the peace process in the region. Israel has not responded yet.

    21/06/2007 ISRAEL – PALESTINE
    Fallout from Palestinian crisis to be discussed at four-party summit next Monday
    Egypt, which took the summit initiative, will be joined by the PNA, Israel and Jordan. Abbas’ aides demand the meeting lead to concrete results. Tzipi Livni and Salam Fayyad make first phone contact.

    18/02/2009 CHINA - SUDAN
    China hails agreement between Sudan and Darfur rebel group
    The Chinese press calls it the beginning of a true reconciliation. Comments from other countries are much more cautious. Dispute continues at United Nations between those who want to try the Sudanese president for genocide and those who, like Beijing, do not want direct interventions.



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