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26 Mar, 2008 20:39

Arab League bicker ahead of summit

The annual Arab League summit will open in Damascus on Saturday, but already some states in the region have announced boycotts. The political crisis in Lebanon, which has left the country without a president since November, appears to be the main reason.

The summit, normally attended by heads of state from the Arab world, will have to go ahead without Lebanon which announced it will not be taking part.

“We see this event as a necessity to respect Lebanon's sovereignty and independence, and the rejection of interference in its internal affairs, and to adhere to its constitution,” Ghazi Aridi, Lebanese Information Minister, said.
And they are not the only ones. Also staying away are the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who are sending low-level representatives to the summit.

The sticking points include the political crisis in Lebanon, Syria’s support for Palestinian Hamas faction and its alliance with Iran.

The U.S. and its Arab allies accuse Damascus of backing Lebanon’s opposition led by the Shiite Hezbollah group and playing a role in paralyzing the country’s parliament and preventing it from choosing a new president.

Syra denies playing a blocking role and accuses the U.S. of trying to torpedo the summit.
“I think Lebanon should take part in summit to solve its problems as soon as possible. And the reason why Lebanon's leadership is boycotting the summit is due to U.S. and Saudi Arabian influence as they are interested in disrupting the Damascus Summit,” Ismail Sakeriah, Deputy Head of Hezbollah Faction in Parliament, said.
Damascus is hoping this summit can be an opportunity for Arab leaders to stand united in their dealings with Israel after the Jewish states latest assault on Gaza earlier this month.

So far only Algeria’s leader has confirmed he will attend, signaling the extent of the division among the Arab states.