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Analysts Take Aim at Arab League Summit on Iraq - 2003-03-02

Analysts in the Middle East are criticizing Saturday's Arab League summit on the Iraqi crisis, saying its final statement lacked conviction.

In recent years, political analysts in the region have accused the Arab League of being long on words and short on action. Following Saturday's summit in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, that opinion seems unchanged.

The carefully worded statement issued after the day-long Arab League summit said Arab states would "completely reject" a U.S.-led military strike against Baghdad, and would "refrain" from participating in any military action against Iraq.

It asked that United Nations weapons inspectors be given "sufficient time" to complete their mission. The statement stressed the need to settle the crisis peacefully, and called for the creation of a high-level Arab delegation to explain the Arab position to the international community, the U.N. Security Council, and Iraq.

According to political analyst Mohammad Kamal, there was nothing new in the Arab League statement. The political science professor at Cairo University told VOA he feels the statement "lacks action."

"I do not think people will have a strong memory of this meeting. They said the obvious. They are not in favor of war in Iraq. They want to give more time to the inspectors. They did not go beyond official lines that were adopted by the various governments. It was not a proactive statement. So, I do not think it accomplished much in the sense of trying to resolve the conflict," Mr. Kamal said.

Mr. Kamal said Turkey's narrow rejection Saturday of a U.S. request to give American troops access to Turkey magnifies what he calls "the meaninglessness" of the Arab League statement.

While the summit statement said Arab states agree to refrain from participating in a U.S.-led attack against Iraq, several states, including Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are hosting tens-of-thousands of U.S. and British troops, which are assembling in the event of an attack on Iraq.

Uraib el-Rantawi, who heads the al-Quds Center for Political Studies in Jordan, says the Arab League statement lacked conviction because of deep political divisions among Arab states.

"I think it is a grand failure for the Arab order. It reflects the deep differences, the deep conflicts, among the Arab states, and I think the end result of this summit will have nothing to do to avert the war or to bring peace to the Middle East," Mr. el-Rantawi said.

Mr. el-Rantawi said the latest Arab League statement indicates "an impotence" on the part of the League to be a proactive organization because, he says, most positions taken by the League fail to mention what consequences await those Arab states that fail to abide by Arab League decisions.