Last updated: 25 March, 2012

Arab League chief arrives in Iraq for summit

Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi arrived in Baghdad on Sunday ahead of this week’s Arab summit in the Iraqi capital, the first to be held here in more than 20 years.

“This is a summit for Iraq,” Arabi said in remarks aired on state broadcaster Iraqiya TV, which showed him touring the summit venues with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

“The whole world is watching the summit and looking forward to the resolutions it will pass,” he added.

Arabi and his delegation met Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at the palace in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad where the summit is to take place, a statement on the premier’s website said.

Maliki stressed “the need for continuing Arab coordination,” it added.

“Today’s world is a world of blocs and international organisations, so a country cannot face the challenges that exist alone,” he said.

Maliki also called for a united stance on challenges in the region, and said that the summit will address the issue of “terrorism (which has) hit all Arab countries.”

The summit, which runs from Tuesday to Thursday, is expected to tackle the ongoing conflict in Syria and the impact of regional Arab Spring revolts, as well as structural reforms to the 22-member Arab League.

Earlier, Arabi said the pan-Arab bloc would not call for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to quit, as some Arab leaders have demanded.

Asked in an interview with the Arabic daily Al-Hayat if it was unlikely that the Arab League would call for Assad’s resignation during the meeting in Iraq, Arabi replied: “That is correct.”

He said he planned to submit a report on the Syria crisis to summit leaders.

In its preparations for the gathering, Iraq has deployed thousands of extra policemen and soldiers, and spent $500 million refurbishing hotels, summit venues and infrastructure in the capital.