- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 2, 2003

SHARM EL SHEIK, Egypt Arab leaders said they reject war on Iraq and U.S. threats to remove President Saddam Hussein, but their message yesterday was undermined by exchanges of insults and sharp divisions at a summit intended to find unity about the Iraq crisis.
Highlighting the splits within the Arab League, the United Arab Emirates became the first Arab nation to propose publicly that Saddam step down to avert a war. When other leaders refused to discuss the idea, the Emirate information minister grumbled that the Arab League "didn't have the courage."
Near the close of the one-day summit, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah insulted each other. A live broadcast of the session halted soon after, and other leaders had to convince Prince Abdullah not to leave the meeting, diplomats said.
A final statement, issued after the summit's close, expressed "complete rejection of any aggression on Iraq" and urged more time for inspections.
Leaders had come into the 22-member Arab League summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik deeply split.
Some countries, particularly in the Persian Gulf, say war is inevitable and argue that the region should be planning for the aftermath. A second camp, which includes Egypt and Saudi Arabia, insists war can be avoided if Iraq cooperates fully with U.N. weapons inspectors. A third camp, led by Syria, wanted the summit to make an unequivocal anti-war declaration.
The final statement said Arab leaders agreed to form a committee to "explain the Arab position" to the United Nations and to consult with Iraq. It said U.N. weapons inspectors should be given enough time to carry out their mission.
United Arab Emirates President Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan proposed that Arab states press Saddam and his leadership to give up power in exchange for immunity from prosecution. He proposed that Iraq be governed by the Arab League and the United Nations until it could return to "its normal situation."
Mr. Zayed is a U.S. ally and issued his proposal a day after White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the only way for Iraq to avoid war is "disarmament and regime change." Mr. Zayed, in his 80s and in poor health, did not attend the summit but sent his vice president with a letter with the proposal.
In contrast, Syrian President Bashar Assad accused the United States of seeking to secure Iraq's "oil, and redraw the region's map and destroy Iraq's infrastructure."
"We are all targeted. … We are all in danger," said Mr. Assad, whose country is a nonpermanent member of the U.N. Security Council, which is expected to vote on a second resolution authorizing war on Iraq.
Col. Gadhafi, a sharp critic of what he calls a lack of Arab unity, said in his speech that Saudi Arabia had formed an "alliance with the devil" when it asked U.S. troops to protect it from Iraq during the 1991 Gulf war.
Prince Abdullah interrupted angrily from across the room, calling Col. Gadhafi an "agent for colonizers."
"Don't talk or get involved in things which are not your business," he told the Col. Gadhafi.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide