Baghdad Summit Weighs Syria as Violence Continues
Edward Yeranian | Cairo March 29, 2012
The leaders of fewer than half the Arab League's member states turned out for a summit in Baghdad Thursday amid tight security and a government-imposed curfew. Iraqi security officials say a rocket exploded in central Baghdad but caused little damage.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani welcomed Arab dignitaries to the official opening of the Baghdad summit, saying that a “new Iraq” was welcoming them and offering them the occasion to find solutions to issues facing the Arab world.
He said the Baghdad Arab summit bears a historic responsibility in the wake of political developments in the Arab world and their repercussions, giving us "the obligation to create a suitable atmosphere for dialogue, so as to avoid violence, chaos and foreign intervention."
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who heads Libya's Transitional National Council, thanked Arab states for helping his people to overthrow the regime of Moammar Gadhafi and to pave the way towards a democratic future.
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, who is also attending his first Arab summit since predecessor Zein el Abidine Ben Ali was overthrown, praised the Tunisian people for their revolution and went on to urge Arab support for the Arab League peace mission in Syria.
The democratic Arab revolution, which began in Tunisia in December 2010, "put an end to regimes with ambitions of inherited rule and squashed the old Arab order of corruption, lies and oppression," he said. The president added Arab people have been given a choice between quick and deep reform along the Tunisian model or a scenario like what is happening in Syria.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was not invited to attend the summit. The league has suspended Syria's membership because of his violent crackdown on civilian protest.
The leaders of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have spearheaded Arab League action against Syria's government, also did not attend the summit.
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