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Arab League Skeptical About Iraqi Council - 2003-07-12

The 22-member Arab League says that, for any Iraqi council to win Arab approval, it must be run by Iraqis, not the United States. Arab League spokesman Hisham Youssef says, for Arab governments to accept any new authority in Iraq, it would have to be more than just an "advisory" body.

"We believe it is important for the Iraqis to start as soon as possible governing their own affairs," he said. "So much will depend on the authority of this council and what it is intended to do."

Mr. Youssef says the Arab League would reject any council not accepted by the Iraqis themselves.

"We will have to see how the Iraqi people react to what is happening," continued Mr. Youssef. "The situation has been precarious; security has not been achieved; stability has not been achieved; so, the situation is rather tense."

Although a member of the Cairo-based Arab League, Iraq has not been represented at any League meeting since the U.S.-led coalition overthrew Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in April. Mr. Youssef says Iraq's seat in the league will only be filled by a representative of an Iraqi government, which is recognized by all Arab nations.

Analyst Mohamed Kamel says the Arab League stand reflects the mood of millions in the Arab world, where many believe the United States has no intention of passing real control back to Iraqis.

"Most probably, the people here will see this council as a puppet regime, or a puppet council, that is being controlled by the U.S., probably from behind the scenes," he said.

Mr. Kamel, a political science professor at Cairo University, says there is little hope that the new Iraqi council will win approval from Arabs who accuse the United States of not living up to its promise of improving Iraqi lives.