Gaddafi Storms Out of Arab League
30 Mar 09 | BBC
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has stormed out of the Arab League summit in Qatar having denounced the Saudi king for his ties with the West.
He disrupted the opening session by criticising King Abdullah, calling him a British product and an American ally.
Col Gaddafi has angered Arab leaders in the past with sharp remarks at summits.
Meanwhile, leaders have been urged to reject an international arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur.
Arrest first “those who have committed massacres and atrocities in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon”, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad said.
The summit is also expected to discuss Iran’s influence in the Middle East.
A number of countries are particularly concerned about Iran’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and for Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Col Gaddafi’s grudge against King Abdullah goes back to an Arab meeting shortly before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, when they exchanged harsh words.
“Now after six years, it has [been] proved that you were the liar,” said the Libyan leader.
He added that he now considered their “problem” over and was ready to reconcile.
But when the emir of Qatar switched off his microphone, Col Gaddafi insisted that he could not be denied the right to address the summit as – he called himself – the dean of the Arab rulers, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of Muslims.
Splits among the Arab League nations have become glaring, says the BBC’s Katya Adler who is in Doha, over Arab nations’ differing attitudes to internal Palestinian divisions between the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the Islamist militant group Hamas.
Our correspondent says Western-backed Sunni nations fear the spread of Iranian influence – in Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq and among marginalised Shia communities in the Gulf States – and are suspicious of those they regard as Iran’s Arab friends, such as Syria and Qatar.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is attending the two-day summit, criticised Sudan’s decision to expel aid agencies in Darfur taken after the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant was issued.
“Relief efforts should not become politicised,” he said.
In his remarks, President Bashir of Sudan thanked the Arab League for support against the ICC warrant.
“This support will continue, God willing, through resolutions… demanding that those who fabricated it, revoke it… so that the Arab and African peace initiative in Darfur can get a strong base to stand on,” he said.
Qatar has not signed the ICC charter, which obliges a member state to arrest those indicted by the court when they enter its territory.
Many African states, along with Sudan’s key ally China, have called for the ICC proceedings to be suspended, arguing it will hamper efforts to bring peace to Darfur.
In other opening remarks, President Assad said the Arab Middle East peace initiative launched in 2002 was ineffective because the Arabs did not have a real peace partner in Israel.
The peace initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia, offers Israel full recognition if it withdraws from all the land occupied in 1967.
The plan proposes the establishment of a Palestinian state and also a “just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem”, based on people returning to their homes or the payment of appropriate compensation.
One notable absentee is President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt; correspondents say he is unhappy with Qatar’s stance during the recent Gaza conflict.