Mubarak: Summit likely in May

Egyptian President Husni Mubarak says Arab leaders can meet "even on the moon" as long as they resurrect the summit that collapsed last week in Tunis.

    Al-Asad (L) with Mubarak, who is struggling to re-schedule summit

    Smiling as he spoke to reporters after talks in Cairo on Sunday with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, Mubarak said many Arab leaders agreed it was important to reschedule the summit, and that it might be held as early as May.

    Tunisia, the host of this year's annual Arab League summit scheduled for 29 March, called off the gathering 48 hours before it was to begin. It cited disagreements among the countries on key agenda items: a US reform plan for the region and a two-year-old Arab peace initiative to Israel.

    Mubarak received al-Asad and Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir in Cairo on Sunday for consultations on rescheduling the Arab summit. In recent days, he had also discussed the matter in person with the kings of Bahrain and Jordan and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

    Mubarak urged Tunisia to start contacts with Arab countries to gauge opinions on where and when the summit should be convened. He said, however, April looked unlikely because he and King Abd Allah II of Jordan would be visiting the United States and other leaders also had travel plans.

    Venue unclear

    "I can say that the summit will be held in May, but this is preliminary and will depend on the decision of the presidents," Mubarak said after a 90-minute meeting with al-Asad at Cairo airport.

    "I don't think the decision to postpone the summit is beneficial to the Arab nations. Where it is held is a decision to be taken by the presidents, and not me alone," Mubarak said. "Holding it in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen or any country, I don't have a problem - even on the moon," he said.

    Mubarak said the reform issue was under discussion and was "not an obstacle as was reported".

    Mubarak was harshly critical of Tunisia for calling off the summit and quickly offered Egypt as a venue, prompting Tunisia to respond that it retained its right to play host. Mubarak said he suggested the summit came to Egypt to "solve the problem" and to prevent any demonstrations against the cancellation.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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