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Arab support slips for Doha summit

Dubai, January 15, 2009

Support has slipped for a special Arab summit on the Israeli offensive in Gaza proposed to be held in Qatar on Friday, with several countries dropping out after a tug-of-war highlighting Arab divisions.

Qatar's emir insists his invitation still stands, but Arab League official Hesham Youssef said one of the Arab League's 22 members had withdrawn support for the Doha meeting, leaving it short of the 15-state quorum required for official endorsement.

'The invitation to the summit still stands,' Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani said in a speech carried by state media, in which he also pledged $250 million to help rebuild Gaza.

Sheikh Hamad, whose country has low-level ties with Israel and close ties to Hamas leaders, said the summit should discuss issues including a suspension of an Arab peace initiative, a review of diplomatic and economic ties with Israel, and ways of holding the Jewish state accountable for 'war crimes'.

With the death toll in Gaza above 1,000, the summit plans have underscored deep divisions and risk further undermining the Arab League, already seen by many Arabs as a toothless body.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt, both opposed to the Hamas group that rules Gaza, have said they would attend the Jan 19-20 Arab Economic Summit in Kuwait and would discuss the matter, rather than holding a special meeting in Qatar's capital Doha.

Conservative Arab governments are wary of summits at times of crisis because they are reluctant to pass confrontational resolutions which would meet the expectations of public opinion.

Egypt, the only Arab state bordering Gaza, has also faced Arab criticism for cooperating in the Israeli blockade of Gaza.-Reuters




Tags: Qatar | gaza | Arab summit |

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