The foreign ministers of the Arab League are meeting in Cairo, in preparation for an Arab summit to be held, later this month, in Algiers. It will be the first such meeting of the 22-member organization since the Palestinian and Iraqi elections and the resignation of the pro-Syrian government in Lebanon.
Although the issue of a Syrian troop withdrawal from Lebanon is not officially on the agenda for Arab League foreign ministers, it is expected to dominate the meeting.
International pressure has been mounting on Damascus to withdraw its estimated 14,000 troops from neighboring Lebanon. Monday, pro-Syrian Lebanese Prime Minister Omar Karamai resigned, amid massive demonstrations calling for an end to Syrian influence in Lebanon.
However, upon arriving in Cairo for the meeting of Arab foreign ministers, Lebanese diplomat Bassam Numani stressed that Beirut wants to maintain good relations with Syria. He says he continues to support an older agreement between Syria and Lebanon that calls for a phased partial withdrawal of troops, with no timetable.
Among the items on the agenda for the foreign ministers are Palestinian-Israeli peace efforts. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal, Thursday, in the Egyptian resort Sharm el-Sheikh.
Also on the agenda for the meeting in Cairo is the post-electoral transition period in Iraq.
The foreign ministers meeting is aimed at preparing for a two-day Arab summit to be held in Algiers beginning March 22, in which most, if not all, of the agreements reached in Cairo will be ratified by Arab League members.