Libya wants new Arab summit venue

By DALAL SAOUD  |  Jan. 13, 2002 at 8:28 PM
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BEIRUT, Lebanon, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Arab-League Secretary General Amr Mousa said Sunday a number of Arab countries have supported Libya's demand to hold the upcoming Arab summit in Cairo instead of Beirut.

He said Arab leaders were quietly consulting each other to resolve this issue.

Mousa told reporters in Beirut that there was a consensus on holding the summit in March but the Libyans have "officially proposed moving the summit from Beirut to Cairo."

"An official proposal... cannot be taken lightly and has to be resolved calmly," he said after meeting Lebanese Culture Minister Ghassan Salame, the man charged with organizing the next summit in Beirut.

Libya requested the change of venue after Lebanese Shiite officials objected to the participation of Libyan leader Col. Moammar Qadhafi -- alleged to be involved in the 1979 disappearance of their leader Imam Mousa Sadr.

Sadr, the founder of the Shiite Amal movement, disappeared along with two of his companions while on a trip to the Libyan capital Tripoli. Libya has repeatedly denied any responsibility for his disappearance, saying that he went missing after boarding a plane to Italy.

Mousa said "some Arab countries have approved the Libyan point of view" but he refused to name them, saying he did not want to go into such details.

"We are now holding quiet consultations to remove (a dispute that) could threaten the summit," he said. "We should create the proper climate... and the summit should take place (on time)."

Mousa warned that it would hurt the Arabs if the summit could not take place on time. Even Libya, he said, realized the importance of holding the summit on time.

He spoke of "an attack against the Arab culture" following the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States, adding that "the current dangerous situation" further increases the importance of the Arab summit.

The present situation, he said, would have far reaching effects on "the Arab world, its security and on the future of the major issues confronting the Arabs, such as the Palestinian dispute."

The Lebanese minister, Ghassan Salame, said he hoped that Mousa's visit to Beirut would bring good news, adding that invitations to the Arab leaders were ready for distribution.

If it goes ahead, March's meeting would be the second Arab summit to be held in Beirut.

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