Mubarak snubs Arab summit in Syria

Many Arab leaders enraged by Assad's alliance with Iran and his meddling in Lebanon's internal affairs.

Walid Moallem 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Walid Moallem 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Egypt announced Wednesday that it would send a junior minister to the Arab summit in Damascus, which is expected to take place starting Saturday. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said his country would be represented at the summit by its Minister for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Moufid Shehab. The decision came less than 24 hours after the Lebanese government decided to completely boycott the summit in protest against Syria's continued attempts to foil the election of a new Lebanese president. It also followed an announcement by Saudi Arabia that King Abdullah would also boycott the summit. The Saudis said they would be represented at the summit by their ambassador to the Arab League. Jordan's King Abdullah II, who maintains strong ties with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, has also decided to boycott the summit. Nearly half of Arab leaders are scheduled to stay away from the summit in what is regarded by Arab political analysts as a "severe blow" to Syrian President Bashar Assad. Many Arab leaders are enraged by Assad's alliance with Iran and his meddling in Lebanon's internal affairs. Lebanon has been without a president since November because of a power struggle between politicians supported by Saudi Arabia and Egypt and others backed by Syria and Iran. The crisis in Lebanon is one of the main issues on the agenda of the upcoming summit, in addition to the situation in Iraq and the Arab peace initiative. The Arab leaders are also divided on the Palestinian issue. While Syria and Iran support Hamas, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other pro-Western Arab countries back the Ramallah-based government of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. "It's a sad fact that the fate of the Arab summit is already doomed to failure," said political commentator Osama al-Sharif. "The absence of key Arab leaders from this summit can only be interpreted as a political indictment of the host country over its policies, especially in Lebanon. It's a summit only in name." Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi daily, said the pro-Western Arab leaders were doing Syria a favor by boycotting the summit. "Their absence will create the impression that the upcoming summit is not being dominated by the Americans," he said. "In the eyes of the Arab masses, the Syrians will appear as patriots."