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Arab League Meets in Cairo, Wednesday - 2002-09-03

The foreign ministers of the Arab League will begin two days of meetings Wednesday in Cairo.

According to Arab League spokesman Hesham Youssef, the meeting of representatives from 22 Arab League states is "an ordinary meeting, but the situation is extraordinary."

Political analyst Hassan Nafae says three main issues Iraq, Sudan, and the situation in the Palestinian territories will dominate the discussions.

"The meeting is important because we are in the middle of almost crisis because of what is going on in the occupied territories, on the one hand and because of the threat against Iraq on the other hand," he said. "I think the issue of Sudan will also have some attention especially after the crisis of negotiations and the resumption of military action inside Sudan in the south."

The Sudanese government suspended peace talks in Kenya Monday, after rebels seized a strategically important town in the south. The peace talks are aimed at ending Sudan's 19-year civil war.

Sources within the Arab League have told VOA the ministers are expected to draft a unified resolution strongly opposing an attack against any Arab state, including Iraq. They may also call for a return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Baghdad.

President Bush has warned Iraq of unspecified consequences unless the weapons inspectors are allowed to return. The weapons inspectors left Iraq on the eve of U.S. and British air strikes against Iraq in 1998 and the Baghdad government has not allowed them to return.

There is a fear throughout the Arab world that an attack against Iraq could lead to a U.S. attempt to seek government changes throughout the region.

Iraqi officials have been traveling throughout the region as well as to China, Africa, and Russia in an effort to build an international consensus against a possible U.S. led attack against Iraq.

On the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, Palestinian authorities have long complained of inadequate Arab funding for their battle against Israel.

Two funds were set up after the revolt against Israeli occupation erupted in September 2000. The Arab League ministers are expected to discuss new funding for the Palestinians.