Libya's Gaddafi steals the show at Arab summit

Libya's Gaddafi steals the show at Arab summit

By | 2009-03-30T13:59:00-04:00 March 30th, 2009|News|0 Comments

Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi stole the show at Monday's Arab summit when he verbally attacked Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz and proclaimed himself the "king of kings of Africa," before storming out to visit a museum.Leader attacks Saudi's King Abdullah during opening speech

Sound on the televised transmission of the session was interrupted as Gadaffi began his tirade in which he proclaimed himself to be "the leader of the Arab leaders, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of the Muslims." The Libyan leader has been in power since 1969 and had recently been elected to chair the African Union.


The outburst, however, was short-lived and Gaddafi quickly changed his tune and continued the rest of his speech with a conciliatory tone as he addressed the monarch, drawing applause from delegates.

"I consider the personal problem between you and me to be over and I am prepared to visit you and receive a visit from you," Gaddafi said.

At the end of the session he held a landmark reconciliation meeting with King Abdullah after years of dispute.

Sixteen heads of state from the 22-member Arab League attended the two-day gathering, as is U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The summit convened in the presence of the Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, but without Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who snubbed the meeting.

At the end of the gathering on Tuesday, Arab leaders are expected to back Bashir and try to heal the rifts between them over how to deal with ascendant power Iran.

According to a draft statement obtained by AFP, the Arab leaders are expected to adopt a Saudi-sponsored resolution urging "dialogue and consultation in solving Arab differences."

Supporting Bashir

Qatar, which hosts a key U.S. military base, said last week it had faced unspecified pressure not to receive Bashir but it repeated an invitation for him to attend.

Bashir’s presence poses a challenge for the summit of the 22-member Arab League but officials in Doha said Saudi Arabia had pressed the summit to offer strong support for Sudan.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein, international justice for Sudan’s leader would set another troubling precedent for Arab leaders accused by rights groups of ruling by repression.

Bashir adviser Mustafa Osman Ismail told reporters in Doha: "We expect this popular uprising of support for Sudan, not just in the Arab world, to be translated into a strong resolution that meets the hopes of the Arab street."

In the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, an official played down any risk of Bashir being detained during the trip.

"There is no power on earth that will intercept the president when he travels. If he flew to France, maybe they would try to apprehend him there. But none of them is going to come all this way to apprehend him," said Ali Youssef Ahmed, head of protocol at Sudan’s foreign ministry.

But Khalil Ibrahim, leader of Darfur’s rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), said Qatar should hand Bashir over to the ICC and warned of an upsurge in violence from disappointed Darfuris. He stopped short of threatening any new JEM attacks.

"We want Qatar to respect the decision of the ICC… If Bashir manages to come back to Khartoum safety, there is going to be huge disappointment among the people, the victims of Darfur," he told Reuters in Khartoum by satellite phone.

Analysts say Bashir’s presence in Doha threatens to overshadow a main aim of the summit for its Qatari hosts — showcasing the tiny Gulf state, now a major natural gas power, as a leading regional powerbroker.

"Qatar wants to be a distinguished international player," said Abdel-Hameed al-Ansari, a newspaper commentator and professor of Islamic law.