“Unfortunately Libya is forced to boycott the summit because it does not agree to the agenda of the Arab governments. Libya wants the agenda of the Arab peoples,” Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi proclaimed on Saturday.
Al-Qadhafi walked out as Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa defended the 22-member league from what he said were attempts to undermine it.
In a news conference later, al-Qadhafi said he hoped that Libya’s basic people’s congresses – local councils which theoretically decide Libyan policy – would agree to Libyan withdrawal from the Arab League.
Libya has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the 22-member league and al-Qadhafi was a reluctant participant in the Tunis meeting, which was meant to present a united Arab front on Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and political reform.
‘The white paper’
Al-Qadhafi criticised the secretariat of the Arab League for shelving his plan, known as a “white paper”, to revive a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian solution.
Some Arab leaders have skipped
The one state, from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan, would includes Israelis and Palestinians as equal. Most Arab states, along with the international community, favour separate Israeli and Palestinian states living in peace side by side.
Al-Qadhafi said: “I stand beside the Arab peoples, not with the Arab governments.”
He said the demographics of
Israel and the Palestinian territories, and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, made his one-state proposal the only solution to the conflict.
The only glitch
Al-Qadhafi is famous for creating drama at international meetings but his walkout was the only glitch in a meeting carefully prepared to prevent unwelcome surprises.
“I stand beside the Arab peoples, not with the Arab governments”
Thirteen heads of state and three prime ministers took part in the opening session at a heavily guarded conference centre in the Tunisian capital.
An Arab diplomat said the summit would criticise the “immoral and inhumane practices and crimes of the coalition forces” in Iraq and call for the trial of all those responsible, not just the US guards at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
Palestinian President Yasir Arafat, who is trapped in the West Bank town of Ram Allah by Israeli forces, spoke by video-link, condemning attacks on Israeli and Palestinian civilians and denouncing recent Israeli actions in Gaza.
The Tunisian government unexpectedly called off a first attempt at a summit in March, arguing some Arab governments were obstructing the reforms which the world expected.