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IRAQ: Baghdad preparing to host Arab League summit in March

January 9, 2011 |  1:25 pm

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A visit to Baghdad by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa was a boost for Iraq ahead of its scheduled hosting in March of the next Arab League Summit.

The summit, if it is pulled off, would be a triumph for the Iraqi government, which has often been cold-shouldered by its Arab neighbors in the years after 2003, and has not hosted such a meeting in over 20 years. The relationship between Iraq and Saudi Arabia is notoriously cold. Nonetheless, Baghdad secured the right to host the summit and has moved forward with an intense campaign to accommodate the 22-member Arab states. Hotels are being refurbished and the government will have to prepare for any number of possible security threats, from mortars to suicide bombers.

Now, with less than three months to go before the March 23 event, Moussa cheered the Iraqi government on.

“I think that a new phase of Iraq's political life has started; the Iraqi mood has started to relax and the process of reconciliation and accordance is going ahead. Iraq is an important cornerstone of the Arab world and the stability of the region,” Moussa said. The summit could prove the opening to a warmer relationship between Shiite-led Iraq and the Sunni Arab world.

“We are looking forward to this summit because it has many meanings. One of them is that Iraq is back to its leading position; another meaning is that Iraq is an active Arab state,” he said in his address to parliament.

If Iraq can successfully pull off the meeting of Arab heads of state, it would be a huge accomplishment for the Iraqi government. Last week, the Arab League confirmed Iraq was going ahead with hosting the gathering, but last-minute developments could still lead to a decision to convene the meeting elsewhere.

-- Salar Jaff and Ned Parker in Baghdad

Photo: Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa speaks during a joint press conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari (R) following a meeting in Baghdad on January 8, 2011. Credit: ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images

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