League says no request to change Arab summit

Reuters , Friday 18 Feb 2011

Arab League declares it has not received an official request to change the date of its upcoming summit

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa in Cairo 14 February 2011. (Reuters)

Arab League chief Amr Moussa said on Friday the group had not received any formal request to reschedule an Arab summit planned for Iraq in March, after Libya said it would be postponed due to regional circumstances.

Iraq is to host the summit that has been set for March 29. It is seen as crucial for Iraq's reintegration into the Arab world and comes at a critical time in the region following protests that have unseated Tunisia and Egypt's presidents.

Libya's official news agency Jana reported that there had been a decision to postpone the summit because of "the circumstances in the Arab region".

Asked if it had been delayed, Moussa told Reuters: "I haven't received any formal request."

He said the meeting was still due to go ahead as scheduled.

"This is a decision that has to be taken collectively. If there is a suggestion of that nature, a decision has to be taken collectively," said Hesham Youssef, a senior aide to Moussa.

Iraq's main aim at the summit will be to reassure its neighbours. Many Sunni Arab-dominated governments view the rise of Iraq's Shia majority with suspicion and fear the growing influence of Shia power Iran.

A successful summit would help Iraq to reassert itself as a major Arab nation and could lead to reduced tacit backing in some Arab countries for a weakened but still lethal insurgency.

"We have not received, to date, any formal request to postpone the summit," Ali Al-Alaq, general secretary of Iraq's cabinet, said. "We will submit to the Arab League's decision, if it decides to delay."

Moussa had said last month at a summit held in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh where Egypt's deposed president is now holed up that the anger of Arab citizens over economic and political problems had hit an unprecedented level.

The Arab world has been rattled by recent uprisings which started in Tunisia and spread to Egypt, emboldening activists throughout the region to express their anger over economic hardships and authoritarian leaders clinging to power.

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