The troubled Arab League Summit ended in disarray after Libyan leader Muamar Gaddafy launched a blistering attack on the Saudi King Abdullah over links to the US and Britain. Although his mike was eventually switched off by Qatari television, Libyan state television reported Gaddafy was incensed Abdullah had not visited him in six years. After making his impassioned speech, Gaddafy walked out of the summit hall while Arab League head Amr Moussa was speaking.
The speech displayed extraordinary sensitivity to Gaddafy’s role in history. Libyan official JANA news agency was there to publish the full text of his words: “I am the leader of the Arab leaders, the dean of Arab rulers, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of the Muslims,” proclaimed Gaddafy to Abdullah. “I am ready to visit you and for you to visit me..I tell my brother Abdullah, that you have avoided me for six years and you are afraid to confront me.” Gaddafy didn’t stop there and criticised Abdullah over links to the West. “You are a product of Great Britain and protected by the United States,” he said. “Out of respect for the (Arab) nation, I consider the personal problem between us over and I am ready to visit you and to welcome you to Libya.”
Gaddafy stormed out of the meeting with aides saying he was off to visit a museum. Qatar held a reconciliatory summit between the Libyan leader and King Abdullah. Gaddafy’s personal envoy said the meeting was “friendly and frank” and there were no differences between Libya and Saudi Arabia. “There was misunderstanding and it’s over now,” claimed the envoy.
These weren’t the only differences at the conference. Egypt did not attend because of the League’s perceived drift towards outright anti-American attitudes. President Mubarak did send a message to the Summit that claimed Egypt was keen to achieve a genuine Arab reconciliation. The message said Egypt was keen to achieve the Palestinian unity and rebuild Gaza. Mubarak claimed Egypt was also interested in “marinating” Sudan’s unity and territorial integrity. He said Egypt supports the Sudan in its crisis with the International Criminal Court arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir.
Al-Bashir was treated with respect by Qatar which is not a signatory to the ICC (nor are the US, Russia, China and India). The final communiqué of the meeting rejected the warrant and wanted continuation of talks between the Sudanese government and anti-government groups on Darfur under the mediation of Qatar. “We emphasis our solidarity with Sudan and our dismissal and rejection of the decision handed down by the International Criminal Court,” read the communiqué. “The decision to arrest Bashir was aimed at undermining the unity and stability of Sudan”.
The league’s solidarity with Sudan is testament to its bonds. This is the 21st summit since the Arab League was founded in 1945 and after a slow start has been an annual event since 2000. Egypt’s absence at this year’s summit is poignant as it was their suggestion to decide to form the League and adopt its Charter. There are 22 member states and the Summit is the League’s highest organ of power, as well as being the Arab world’s top-level forum for discussion of major regional issues.