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Arab League Summit Opens in Tunis - 2004-05-22


Arab leaders are meeting in Tunisia for a delayed annual Arab League summit expected to consider political reforms, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the situation in Iraq.

Arab League foreign ministers held talks ahead of the summit in Tunis, in a bid to build consensus for resolutions on the issues and avoid problems that forced host Tunisia to postpone the meeting two months ago.

Tunisia abruptly canceled the summit in March, saying differences over political reforms had to be worked out before leaders from the 22-member Arab League could meet.

Officials say only 14 heads of state are likely to attend the two-day summit.

The meeting is expected to release a declaration saying Arab states are committed to democracy, equality, freedom of expression and rights for women -- but it is not clear, if any concrete action will be included.

The statement is said to be in response to a U.S. call for political reform in the Middle East.

Leaders also are expected to discuss recent developments in the region, including this week's Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip, the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops and the imposition of U.S. sanctions on Syria this month.

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