Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa has warned Middle East leaders that the region is being "broken" by poverty, unemployment and a general slide in economic conditions.
He commented Wednesday at a summit in Egypt that is being overshadowed by the unrest that toppled Tunisia's government last week.
Moussa told Arab leaders the political upheaval in Tunisia is an indicator of spreading discontent in the Middle East. He said the anger of Arab citizens has reached unprecedented levels.
Arab populations face problems similar to those that led to the unrest in Tunisia - surging prices, poverty and political systems that offer little or no outlet for dissent.
Earlier, Moussa said economic and political reforms in the region should be packaged together. The leaders are expected to announce support for a $2-billion program to promote job growth and small business initiatives in the region.
News reports say Tunisian Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane left Egypt Wednesday ahead of the start of the summit, which he had been scheduled to attend. There was no immediate word on what led to his departure.
Separately, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir urged the group to present a clear initiative to cancel his country's debts. Southern Sudan appears to have voted for independence from the country's north, which would mean a loss of oil revenue for Mr. Bashir.
Mr. Bashir traveled to Egypt in spite of the International Criminal Court's call for his arrest on charges that include genocide and war crimes.