"There are discussions … heated discussions, but we will find an agreement eventually," said Amr Musa on Saturday. "It is important to have disagreements. Sometimes they become critical, it happens."

The rifts, mainly over the issue of drafting an Arab reform project, have dominated the second day of the ministers' closed meeting in Tunis.

Gathering to prepare an agenda for the 26th ordinary session of the Arab Summit, foreign ministers disagreed on key regional issues.

Official sources told Aljazeera.net that these rifts divided the participants into two factions. One side is in favour of reform and is pushing for its implementation, while another wants to postpone the issue until the next Arab summit in Algeria.

Arab reform is expected to top the agenda of the Tunis summit between March 29 and 30. It was put forward after Arab foreign ministers meeting in early March drafted a document on regional reform to counter a US proposal called the Greater Middle East Initiative.

The unnamed Arab reform document, which was reviewed and argued over by foreign ministers, is expected be presented to the Arab leaders on Monday.

Peace dispute

Other disagreements also took place on Saturday between the Syrians and the Egyptians over the issue of the Saudi peace plan presented at the Beirut summit two years ago, informed sources told Aljazeera.net.

Syria's envoy has argued that
peace with Israel is 'premature'

The Saudi peace plan, which was presented by Crown Prince Abd Allah bin Abd al-Aziz, called for an Israeli withdrawal from all the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 and return of Palestine refugees to Israel.

In return, Arab states would recognise Israel and normalise relations with it.

"While Egypt is pushing for putting the plan back on the agenda, Syria insists it is not the right time to discuss peace while Israeli military escalation continues, the latest example being the assassination of Hamas leader Shaikh Yasin," said the official, who asked not to be named.

Healthy signs

But in spite of the disagreements, observers say the discussion is a good sign.

"This is really healthy," said Usama al-Saraya, editor-in-chief of al-Ahram al-Arabi magazine.

"I think the summit will succeed in coming up with the minimum requirements of Arab reform," he added. "In these difficult political times, this in itself is an achievement."

Editor-in-chief of the Middle East News Agency (MENA), Mahfuz al-Ansari, agreed.

"They are dealing with complex issues that prompt different opinions," he said. "They have to confront these issues since the old approach of complacency is no longer acceptable."

"For me these are not rifts but brainstorming sessions," he said.