The Arab League on Saturday cited the Algerian presidential elections on 8 April as the reason, but the change in Musa's plans added to speculation about a rift between North African states and governments in the eastern part of the Arab world. 

Arab League spokesman Husam Zaki said Musa had left Tunis and would instead spend the day in Libya, where he would meet Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi. He would go to Morocco on Sunday. 

"All the coming dates are dates where every (Algerian) candidate will be fighting his campaign. It is not the right time to make a call like this so it was agreed that the visit will take place after the elections," Zaki said. 

Tunisia position

Musa had talks on Friday with Tunisian President Zain al-Abidin bin Ali, who stunned the Arab world last Saturday by postponing the Tunis summit indefinitely. 

Tunisia said some countries were reluctant to make a clear commitment to democracy and human rights, but delegates from other countries disputed the Tunisian explanation. 

Algeria has shown some sympathy for the Tunisian position and President Abd Al-Aziz Boutaflika said during preparations for the summit that some countries were in favour of a postponement. 

Tunisia stunned the Arab World by
calling off the summit last week

A central block of Arab states, led by Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia, is campaigning for a quick summit in any venue to dispel the impression that the Arab world is divided. 

On Friday Saudi Crown Prince Abd Allah bin Abd Al-Aziz met King Mohammad of Morocco - the first high-level meeting since the Tunis debacle between leaders from the two wings. 

After Musa saw bin Ali, the Tunisian presidency said it stood by its right to hold the summit in Tunis and that the substance of the summit was more important than the timing. 

Agenda

The agenda for the summit includes Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a common Arab response to Washington's campaign for political reform in the region. 

A presidency statement said Tunisia intended to consult other Arab governments to find a common position on the substance of the summit and to fix a new date for a meeting. 

"All the coming dates are dates where every (Algerian) candidate will be fighting his campaign. It is not the right time to make a call like this so it was agreed that the visit
will take place after the elections" 

Husam Zaki,
Arab League spokesman

But in practice Egyptian President Husni Mubarak has been at the centre of consultations. He has seen the Saudi, Jordanian and Bahraini leaders this week and will meet Syrian President Bashar al-Asad in Cairo on Sunday, officials said. 

An Arab diplomat said Musa and Mubarak were treading carefully because they did not want to alienate the North African states by giving the impression that Egypt was running the show. 

Treading carefully

Musa, a former Egyptian foreign minister, has sometimes irritated Arab governments because of his strong personal views and assertive style of diplomacy. 

The Arab League does not expect that a single visit to North Africa by Musa will bring Arab governments together on where and when to meet and what decisions to take, an official said. 

"It needs very delicate diplomacy, a lot of convincing and flexibility and we have to be patient and focus on the content, because it is the content that is important now," said the league official, who asked not to be named.