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Gadhafi Walks Out of Arab League Summit - 2004-05-22


The Arab League summit held in Tunis was billed as a show of Arab unity. But signs of divisions showed shortly after it opened Saturday, when Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi walked out.

Just moments after Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa opened the Arab League summit, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi stood up and walked out of the meeting in apparent disagreement over the agenda.

The Libyan leader then held a news conference, but did not discuss the reasons for his departure. He criticized Middle East peace proposals backed by Arab leaders, and proposed his own one-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa acknowledged the organization was not effectively dealing with problems facing the region. But he said the organization has reached a point at which it is capable of reforms, both internally and among Arab states.

The League's spokesman, Hossam Zaki, said the adoption of the an Arab Human Rights charter, which is expected at this summit, is a good example.

"The charter is a significant milestone in the field of human rights in this region, because it has a number of provisions that never existed before," he said. "And, it is all driven from international instruments of human rights and international humanitarian law. So, it is really something that we hold very dearly, and we hope that member states will ratify it soon."

The Arab League has also initiated internal reforms in hopes of broadening the organization's social and economic influence, while giving it greater authority to enforce the resolutions it adopts.

Speaking from his compound in Ramallah via a video link, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat asked for international protection against Israeli military strikes in the Gaza Strip. He said the Palestinians remained committed to a negotiated peace with Israel. The summit, which was scheduled for March, but was canceled at the last minute amid recriminations, is scheduled to end on Sunday. Most of its deliberations are being held behind closed doors.

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