News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqFears of Iran's role in Iraq loom over Arab...

Fears of Iran’s role in Iraq loom over Arab summit

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AFP: Fears of an increasing Iranian role in Iraq appeared to loom over the annual summit of Arab leaders as the Arab League chief warned Saturday of marginalising the Arab role in the war-torn country. by Mona Salem and Sakher Abu El Oun

KHARTOUM, March 25, 2006 (AFP) – Fears of an increasing Iranian role in Iraq appeared to loom over the annual summit of Arab leaders as the Arab League chief warned Saturday of marginalising the Arab role in the war-torn country.

Foreign ministers of the 22-member Arab League started Saturday a two-day preparatory meeting ahead of Tuesday’s annual summit in the Sudanese capital.

A resolution stressing the necessity “of not marginalising the Arab role in drawing the future of Iraq under any condition,” will be discussed by the leaders, Arab League secretary general Amr Mussa said.

“I don’t think any dialogue taking place behind the Iraqis’ and Arabs’ backs can be fruitful,” Mussa said, hinting at pending direct talks between Iran and the United States over Iraq.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday she was “quite certain” that direct talks would take place with Iran on the turmoil in Iraq, but did not say exactly when.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said Arabs should have a greater role in Iraq.

“There is a US-Iranian agreement to have dialogue over Iraq. There should be an Arab role,” in the efforts to end Iraq’s crisis, he said.

Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari also demanded serious and clear Arab commitment to help in stabilising his war-torn country.

Our demands “include Arab involvement in helping to stabilise Iraq … (and) more (Arab) diplomatic representation,” he said ahead of an Arab ministerial meeting to discuss the situation in Iraq.

“More Arab engagement with Iraq (is needed) especially at this very critical time, and we need serious and clear commitment from our brothers,” added Zebari, who is a Kurd.

Mussa meanwhile said Arab leaders will urge Iraqis to form a national unity government soon.

But the 18th regular summit, which has the conflict in Iraq and the Palestinian situation under a Hamas-led government high on its agenda, will be shunned by a number of key Arab leaders.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will not take part in the summit on March 28-29 and will be replaced by Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, a source in Egypt’s delegation told AFP.

Saudi King Abdullah, Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and Oman’s Sultan Qaboos will also not attend the meeting, an Arab League official said Friday.

In addition to the conflict in Iraq, the summit was also to focus on the future of the Arab-Israeli conflict in light of the January election victory of radical Islamist Palestinian group Hamas.

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