Arab League pledges to reform

Arab foreign ministers have reached agreement on a formula to turn the Arab League into an organisation that would have greater international clout.

    The Arab League has been called 'a talking shop'

    Egyptian Foreign

    Minister Ahmad Mahir

     said on Tuesday the deal would be submitted to the summit of Arab leaders

    slated to be held in Tunisia at the end of March.

    During a press conference with Arab League chief Amr

    Musa in Cairo, 

    Mahir said the details of the deal would not be made public

    before the meeting in Tunis.

    But he said the accord represented a

    "comprehensive project that covers all aspects of reform".

    Economic reforms

    For his part, Musa said: "We have made good progress,"

    explaining the deal was a synthesis of various proposals put


    However, he cautioned that genuine reform of the Arab League

    would still take "one or two years, perhaps three".

    Amr Musa says it will take years
    for the Arab League to reform

    An Arab League official said earlier the summit would

    probably launch economic reforms, such as forming an Arab economic

    bloc, as well as approve a mechanism for carrying out league


    He added that plans to create a court of justice, a parliament,

    an Arab development bank and a cultural council would be

    postponed until some later date.

    'Talking shop'

    Arab diplomatic sources said outstanding issues would be

    postponed until the Arab Summit of 2005, which is scheduled for


    The Arab League has often been accused of being a "talking shop", and

     of failing to

    stand up for Iraq and the Palestinians.

    Set up in 1945, the Arab League groups 21 countries and the

    Palestinian Authority.

    Differences among its members, displayed

    openly at its last summit in March 2003 just before the US led the war

    against Iraq, have largely paralysed its various bodies.



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