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Arab League Seeks Unified Position on Iraq


Leaders of the 22-member Arab League, meeting in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, are trying to come up with a unified position on the Iraq crisis. The United Arab Emirates is proposing that the entire Iraqi leadership step down.

The United Arab Emirates proposal urges Saddam Hussein and his government to quit power and leave Iraq.

The proposal says international guarantees should be granted that the Iraqi leadership would not be prosecuted, and it calls for a general amnesty for all Iraqis both inside Iraq and abroad.

Arab League sources say the resolution has little chance of being adopted, but they say it represents some of the diverse sentiments of League members in the lead-up to a possible U.S.-led military attack.

As the Sharm el-Sheikh summit got under way, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud asked the League to urge Iraq to cooperate fully with U.N. weapons inspectors.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called on Arab states to deny facilities to the United States, if it attacks Iraq. Arab League officials have told VOA that while many Arab states would support such a ban, they would choose more moderate language. The officials say the Syrian proposal would be pointless, given that Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are already hosting tens-of-thousands of U.S. and British troops.

Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak asked that U.N. weapons inspectors working in Iraq be given more time to complete their mission.

The Arab League is expected to issue a statement late Saturday calling on Iraq to continue to comply with weapons inspectors, and asking Arab states to "abstain" from joining any military action against Iraq. The statement is also expected to express support for allowing the weapons inspectors more time to complete their mission.

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