The two-day 18th Arab League Summit opening in Khartoum Tuesday, March 28, looks like being a semi-washout. Eight rulers announced their non-attendance including Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, Tunisia’s Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and Oman’s Sultan Qaboos.
The Arab foreign ministers who laid out the agenda and drafted final resolutions agreed on one issue: deep resentment of the US-Iranian dialogue on Iran. The two powers had no business discussing Iraq directly without co-opting a representative Arab voice, they declared. Even Iraq’s Kurdish foreign minister demanded more Arab involvement in helping to stabilize Iraq.
The collective absenteeism is explained by DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources by weakened Arab League leverage in five pressing issues and the summit’s location:
1. Khartoum is way off the beaten track and hardly the safest place in the region for an Arab ruler. Some have unfortunate associations with the Sudanese capital. The Saudi king will recall that Osama bin Laden used Sudan as his home base in the 1990s; to this day, al Qaeda cells fugitives with Saudi links are hiding there. President Mubarak is unlikely to forget that the most serious assassination attempt launched against him emanated from Khartoum in 1995, although its was staged in Addis Ababa.
2. No Arab leader feels comfortable associating publicly with Sudan’s government as long as the Darfur conflict rages. ...
The article cites Hamas as the fifth point of difficulty for the Khartoum summit:
The summit proposes to affirm a draft pledge of $50 m per month for the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. The Hamas government is due to be confirmed by the legislative council Monday, March 27. At the same time, most Arab leaders were secretly relieved that it would be too late for an elected Hamas official to join the Palestinian delegation. Saudi king Abdullah, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and North African rulers were therefore easily persuaded by Bush officials to withhold an invitation to the summit from Hamas.
Arab summit resolutions must be unanimous to take effect. No Arab ruler relishes the thought that firebrands like Hamas’s Khalid Meshaal, Mussa Abu Marzuk and Mahmoud a-Zahar, the incoming Palestinian foreign minister, would have held the power to veto Khartoum’s resolutions.
Read the rest at the link.