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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Arab reconciliation tops Doha summit agenda

By Jumana Al Tamimi, Associate Editor
Doha: The Arab summit opens in Doha to address a plethora of issues plaguing the region, but initial optimism the meeting would consolidate an Arab reconciliation drive was dealt a blow by the absence of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who arrived in the Qatari capital on Monday, leading the UAE delegation, expressed hope Arab leaders would work together and take an effective unified position in the face of current regional challenges.

"The summit is held amid critical circumstances that require from us to activate cooperation and coordination between our countries to arrive at common views and unified stances in view of the growing challenges and dangers facing our Arab nation," Shaikh Khalifa said in a statement on his arrival.
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Qatari Prime Minister Shaikh Hamad Bin Jasem Bin Jabr Al Thani, late on Saturday said that Doha respects Mubarak's decision to stay away. "The level of the representation is up to the Egyptians," he said.

Egypt's delegation to the summit will be headed by the Minister of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mufeed Shehab. As for Qatari-Egyptian relations, Shaikh Hamad added: "I can't say they are perfect," but the bilateral relations have long and deep roots. Egypt is a big Arab country, and we respect it."

High on the summit agenda will be an attempt to heal a growing rift on key regional issues, such as Palestinian divisions and Iran's military backing of fighter groups. As for Iran, Shaikh Hamad shrugged off some Arab states' concerns over Qatar's relations with the non-Arab state.

"Qatar doesn't need permission from any side for its relations with Iran or any other country. It also doesn't give its approval for anybody's relations with others," he said. Prior to the Doha summit, press reports said some countries had warned they would send low-level delegations to the meeting in case President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was invited.

Iran is expected to send its Foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki to attend the summit as an "observer".

Ban and Al Bahir at summit

Doha: UN chief Ban Ki-moon will attend the opening of the Arab summit on Monday despite the presence of Sudan's President Omar Al Bashir who faces an international arrest warrant, a UN official said on Sunday.

"Sudan is a member of the United Nations while the International Criminal Court is an independent judicial body, which does not prevent the UN from dealing with Sudan," the official told reporters. The ICC issued on March 4 an arrest warrant against Al Bashir for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

In Doha, Al Bashir was given a warm welcome by Qatar's Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani. A Sudanese newspaper earlier reported Al Bashir would not be attending the summit. Arab heads of state were expected to give their support to Al Bashir over the warrant.

- Gulf News Report

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