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Egypt Calls for Arab League Meeting in Cairo

Egypt is calling for the Arab League Summit to be held as soon as possible in Cairo. The meeting was unexpectedly postponed by its Tunisian hosts on Saturday. But officials in Tunis say a change of venue ignores the real problems between Arab countries, which they say led to the postponement.

According to a top Yemeni official, the next Arab League Smmit could be held as early as mid-April in Cairo.

The leader of Yemen spoke by phone with Egyptian Pesident Hosni Mubarak, who has called for a quick rescheduling of the summit.

But Tunisian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hatem bin Salem said Sunday the decision to put off the meeting offered "another chance" to Arabs to resolve their differences. He said "the summit would have come out with formalities," and "would have been the subject of ridicule."

An unnamed source at the Tunisian foreign ministry released a statement Sunday reaffirming Tunisia's right to host the summit. The statement said a change of venues ignores the real causes of the postponement, which it says was "due mainly to the deep divergence of views on issues of substance" including human rights and the status of women as well as restructuring the Arab League organization as a whole.

Tunisia abruptly cancelled the summit late Saturday, to the surprise of many Arab foreign ministers who had been holding preliminary discussions in Tunis to iron out a new approach to reform in the Middle East. They were also hoping to try to agree upon a new stance toward Israeli-Palestinian peace in the wake of the assassination of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin. Syria's foreign minister described the decision to put off the summit as "inexplicable" and "inappropriate".

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said he hopes the summit will go ahead and expects to have talks with Arab leaders this week.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister also plans to travel to Cairo Monday to discuss plans to reschedule the summit with Egyptian leaders.