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Nazif may lead Egyptian delegation to Arab summit

CAIRO: President Hosni Mubarak is expected to assign Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif to lead the Egyptian delegation at the upcoming Arab summit in Damascus, according to Egyptian diplomatic sources speaking to the Saudi Al-Watan newspaper. However, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit played down the report, stating that “the level of representation [at the summit] was …


CAIRO: President Hosni Mubarak is expected to assign Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif to lead the Egyptian delegation at the upcoming Arab summit in Damascus, according to Egyptian diplomatic sources speaking to the Saudi Al-Watan newspaper.

However, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit played down the report, stating that “the level of representation [at the summit] was still being studied, and that he would be attending the Arab foreign ministers’ conference which precedes the summit by two days.

The diplomatic sources told Al-Watan that Aboul Gheit has yet to confirm the level of representation of the Egyptian delegation to give Syria more time with the Lebanese crisis.

The Arab summit, scheduled to take place March 29-30, will focus solely on Lebanon’s political crisis.

Many Arab states believe that Syria is part of the problem, and that it could play a role in averting further troubles. As such, Arab regimes are reticent about sending high level delegations to the summit in Damascus.

Another bone of contention is the presence of Iran – which is not an Arab country – at the summit. As a major ally of Syria, Iran will send a delegation headed by its foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

At the Brussels forum conference in Belgium last Sunday, European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana said more pressure should be placed on Syria to find a solution for Lebanon’s political quagmire.

“The pressure on Syria has to grow in order to solve at least the situation in Lebanon, he said. “All the pressure has to be placed now to see if the president of Lebanon can be elected before this summit. If that’s not the case, I’d be very pessimistic about the coming period of time.

Even the country at the center of all this, Lebanon, has not yet decided whether to attend the summit and, if so, in what capacity.

Lebanon has been without a president since Emile Lahud stepped down in November.

Tensions are fraught between Syria and US allies Saudi Arabia and Egypt over the crisis which has brought the sectarian nature of Lebanese politics to the fore as different parties – delineated along sectarian lines – have failed to reach a consensus on the nature of power rule in the country.

The crux of the divide is between the majority coalition government, supported by Saudi Arabia, and Hezbollah – backed by Syria and Iran – over the level of its representation in a new unity government. Also part of the Syrian and Iranian backed opposition is Maronite Christian leader General Michele Aoun.

“There are serious problems in the Arab world between the regional powers, Nabil Abdel-Fatah from Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies previously told Daily News Egypt, “one of which is between Saudi Arabia and Syria and Iran in Lebanon. The Saudis back the parliamentary majority with funding and diplomatic support.

“The Egyptians also support the majority government but they keep a bit of distance from all parties involved, Abdel-Fatah added, “so they can be in a position to mediate between all sides and thus appease the parties without weakening the majority coalition.

The Arab League support the decision to appoint General Michel Sleiman as the president and are also calling for a unity government in which no one party will have veto power, as well as changing the electoral law.

The parties in Lebanon all agree on Sleiman but have not reached a consensus on either the unity government or the changes in electoral law.

The confessional politics system in Lebanon stipulates that the president be a Maronite Christian, usually from the army, such as Sleiman and his predecessor Emile Lahud, while the Prime Minister is a Sunni Muslim and the Speaker of the House a Shia Muslim.

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