In the Bahraini capital Manama, the palace announced on Monday that King Shaikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa would not attend. The official Bahrain News Agency said Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa would take his place. 

The Bahraini leader, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the summit for this year, is supposed to hand over the title to host country Tunisia. 

Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince and de facto ruler Abd Allah bin Abd Al-Aziz will not attend either, the Saudi-owned daily al-Hayat reported on Monday. 

'Commitments at home'

The Saudi delegation to the summit will be headed by Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, the London-based newspaper said, quoting "informed Saudi sources".

Abd Allah will stay away from the 22 to 23 May gathering "because of commitments at home," al-Hayat said without giving further details. 

Bahrain King Shaikh Hamad bin
Isa al-Khalifa will not attend

The Saudi crown prince had similarly planned not to attend the summit when it was originally due to be held in March, a decision which at the time immediately triggered speculation that the meeting would prove abortive. 

The summit was eventually called off by Tunisia at the 11th hour on the grounds that Arab states could not reach agreement on proposals for democratic reform. 

The report of Abd Allah's plan to shun the rescheduled summit comes a day after Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Kurbi said President Ali Abd Allah Salih would not go to Tunis and that he expected to represent Yemen himself. 

Al-Kurbi told reporters Salih would stay at home to attend celebrations marking the 14th anniversary of the merger of the former north and south Yemen. 

Kuwait announced on 9 May that its Prime Minister Shaikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah would head the country's delegation to Tunis. 

Amir Shaikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Sabah rarely appears in public since suffering a minor brain haemorrhage in September 2001. 

Though he resumed his duties soon after recovering and is reported to be now in good health, the 75-year-old amir delegates his prime minister to represent the emirate at most domestic functions and all meetings abroad. 

Arab reform

Ali Abd Allah Salih wants to
attend celebrations at home

Similarly, United Arab Emirates (UAE) President Zayid bin Sultan Al Nahayan, who has been troubled by bad health for several years, went to London on Friday on a private visit. 

The UAE has still not announced who will be representing the country at the summit. The governor of Fujairah, one of the seven emirates that makes up the UAE federation, was to represent the country at the postponed March summit. 

Oman and Qatar have also not yet announced who will lead their delegations to the Tunis gathering. 

Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa told reporters in the Jordanian Dead Sea resort on Monday the weekend summit would discuss a working paper on Arab reform, as well as proposals to revamp the charter of the 22-member league.