Amr Moussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister, was head of the Arab League for 10 years [EPA]

Egypt's foreign minister has been confirmed as the Arab League's next chief, after last minute diplomacy left him as the only candidate in the race.

Egypt changed its candidate for head of the 22-member Arab organisation at the last minute on Sunday, backing Nabil Elaraby, who was quickly elected.

He replaces Amr Moussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister, who after 10 years as the organisation's chief has resigned in order to run for the office of president in Egypt.

'Toughest assignment'

"This is the toughest assignment I will have," Elaraby said in an acceptance speech that was broadcast live on television.

Egypt's state news agency announced the change in candidate and, shortly after, Qatar's Abdulrahman bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, a former secretary-general of the six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council, announced his withdrawal.

Egypt had fielded a career diplomat - Mostafa el-Fekki - a former member of parliament for the former president's ruling party, although he quit his post during the 18-day uprising that led to president Hosni Mubarak being pushed out of power on February 11.

Egypt then switched its candidate to Elaraby, a former judge at the International Court of Justice and previously Egypt's representative at the United Nations.

Elaraby, appointed foreign minister after Mubarak was ousted, has carved a fresh diplomatic track for Egypt since taking over the ministry.

He has been a tougher critic of Israel, more supportive of Palestinians and has offered an opening to Iran.

Source: Agencies