Arab foreign ministers focus on reform

Arab foreign ministers have turned their attention to the issue of political reform, on the second day of closed-door talks aimed at salvaging the postponed Arab League summit.

    The ministers are to debate reforms in the Arab world

    In preparation for the summit, which is now tentatively scheduled to take place in late May at the original venue in Tunis, the ministers discussed the Iraq and Arab-Israeli conflicts. 

    "The ministers are to debate reforms in the Arab world as well as internal reform in the Arab League," Hisham Zaki, spokesman for Arab League chief Amr Musa, told reporters. 

    Another official of the Cairo-based league, on condition of anonymity, said the secretariat of the 22-member organisation had drawn up a draft statement on "the Arab vision of internal reforms". 

    The draft would combine proposals from several Arab countries, including Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Tunisia and Yemen. 

    Middle East initiative

    The official also said the Greater Middle East Initiative, which Washington is championing to bolster democracy in the region, was not on the agenda of the ministers' meeting. 

    Iraqi Interim Foreign Minister
    Hoshyar Zebari talks to reporters

    The US says it wants to launch the scheme during a summit of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations in June. 

    But several Arab countries, including US allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have criticised the initiative, fearing Washington wants to impose its own cultural models on the region. 

    Also Arab sources talking to Aljazeera denied that Jordan had put forward a US-suggested initiative on political reform.

    The Iraqi project

    Official sources told Aljazeera Arab foreign ministers had made important amendments to the draft project on Iraq which the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) had presented to the postponed Arab summit.

     

    The amendments include a demand to end the US occupation of Iraq and to put forward a precise schedule for the withdrawal of US occupation forces from Iraq. The amendments also called for giving a vital role to the UN in Iraq.

    The Cairo meeting was the fruit of a compromise brokered by the league's secretariat under which Egypt would host the preparatory talks and Tunisia the actual summit, now planned for 22-23 May. 

    Prisoners abuse

    "The draft resolution includes a clear condemnation in firm
    tones against the practices inflicted on Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation to which they were subjected"


    Hoshyar Zebari,
    Iraqi interim foreign minister

    The ministers also discussed the abuse of prisoners held by US forces in Iraq, and were preparing a strongly worded condemnation, according to Iraqi Interim Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. 

    "The draft resolution includes a clear condemnation in firm tones against the practices inflicted on Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation to which they were subjected," he told reporters. 

    Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail said the abuse highlighted the "double standards" of the US which could no longer claim the moral high ground on human rights.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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