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Arab League Ends Meeting With Calls for Reforms - 2004-05-23

The Arab League concluded its annual summit with calls for increased democracy. The League adopted resolutions calling for greater international participation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as promises to increase the fight against terrorism.

In his closing statement, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa called for a wide range of reforms throughout the Arab world.

Mr. Moussa said, in the hopes of strengthening democracy and enhancing modernization, Arab countries should continue their efforts on social, economic, and educational reforms while developing democracy according to each Arab state's cultural and religious values. He said there should be broader political participation, freedom of speech, an independent court system and a strengthened role for women in Arab society.

In its final statement, the 22-member Arab League also promised to fight terrorism.

And, while calling for an end to the targeted assassinations Palestinian resistance leaders the Arab leaders also called for an end to the killing of both Palestinian and Israeli civilians. The League also called for the protection of Palestinians by the international community and said Israel must withdraw all military troops from Palestinian areas occupied since 1967.

The Palestinian representative to the Arab League, Mohammad Sobeih, said he agrees with the League's decisions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But he says he hopes that this time the decisions will be implemented.

"We are satisfied with the decisions as approved," he said. "But, our problem has never been with the decisions, it has always been with the implementation of the decisions and we hope this time that the decisions taken will be implemented. It is the implementation that counts for a people who are beleaguered, who are under siege, who are facing an Israeli aggression."

Political analysts at the summit indicated that the reforms being proposed by the Arab League are a step in the right direction. But they also noted that the League did not spell out how the changes are to be implemented, and it has no enforcement powers.

It was a criticism Secretary-General Moussa was asked about following the conclusion of the summit. He said the League has never been given financing to enforce the resolutions it adopts.

"The Arab League, from its inception, from its beginning has played a very important role even it if it is below our expectations," said Mr. Moussa. "And, it could have played a stronger role but the League was not empowered, or allowed to play a key role. And, if it has not played, so far, a key role it should not be blamed."

Mr. Moussa said there will be broad discussions on the proposed reforms and detailed meetings leading up to next year's summit in Algiers. At that time, he says, more-specific measures can be adopted to enhance the growth of democracy and human rights in the Arab world.

In the meantime, Mr. Moussa says the resolutions approved during the Tunis summit will at least help set the stage for future modernization and political reform in the region, something League officials said they are completely serious about accomplishing.