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Arab Summit Opens Amid High Expectations

From R. Ravichandran

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah receives Syrian President Bashar Assad in Riyadh on Tuesday. (SPA)

RIYADH, March 28 (Bernama) -- The 19th Arab Summit, the annual gathering of the Arab League members, opened here today amid high expectations among the Arab people for their leaders to find solutions to problems and conflicts besetting them, some unresolved for decades.

The two-day summit is being held at a time when old and protracted problems have yet to be solved such as the Israel-Palestine conflict which has been on the Arab League agenda since 1945, the year it was formed in Cairo.

And not forgetting new problems such as the ongoing political crisis in Lebanon and the Darfur conflict in Sudan where certain Western countries are trying to take advantage of the situation.

The bloody sectarian violence and instability in Iraq after the US-led occupation and the tensions surrounding the Middle East related to Iran's nuclear enrichment programme are also of grave concern to the Islamic world.

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Also on the agenda is the Somalia conflict, another let down of the Arab League in helping to find a solution to the failed state, which has been without a functioning government for more than 15 years.

The internationally-recognised transitional government of Somalian President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed is now battling Islamic militants who moved in to capital Mogadishu late last year with the support of Ethiopian forces.

Given the scenario, the summit comes at a difficult time, with full of challenges for the Arab world.

The Arab people are hoping the summit would be able to realise their aspirations for peace, security and stability.

And for the Arab League, being one of the world's oldest organisations, it would not be that easy to solve all the conflicts and problems at hand, given the deep divisions among member states.

In the case of faction-ridden Lebanese government, the leaders are here with two rival delegations. One led by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the other by President Emile Lahoud and they are expected to come up with different solutions to solve the Lebanon political crisis. Topping the agenda is efforts to revive the Arab Peace Plan, mooted exactly five years ago by Saudi Arabia at the Beirut Arab League Summit, which offers peace with Israel in return for withdrawal from the occupied territories.

The plan, among others, calls for full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since the 1967 War, return of Palestinian refugees and establishing a sovereign Palestine state.

In return, Arab countries will enter into a peace agreement with Israel and establish normal relations with the Jewish state.

Malaysia had expressed support when the plan was mooted in 2002.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal had said there would be no amendments to the peace plan.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is attending the summit at the King Abdul Aziz International Conference Centre here in his capacity as chairman of the 57-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

Source: Bernama, Mar 28, 2007



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