Gulf states want to cancel Arab summit in Iraq

Gulf nations say "atmosphere is not right" for leaders to meet in Baghdad.

Last Updated: Apr 13, 2011, 22:32 PM IST

Manama: Gulf nations are asking the
Arab League to cancel an upcoming summit in Iraq, saying that
the "atmosphere is not right" for leaders of the 22-member
group to meet in Baghdad while political unrest persists
across the region.

The request signals growing tensions between Sunni Arab
states and Iraq`s Shiite-dominated government that has
supported the uprising of Bahrain`s Shiite majority against
the Sunni rulers.

Relations between Iraq and Bahrain have deteriorated
since the tiny Gulf island`s monarch declared martial law last
month and invited troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab
Emirates to help quell the Shiite rebellion.

Bahrain`s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa
said the six states of the Gulf Cooperation Council have asked
the Arab League to cancel the meeting. "The atmosphere is not
right to hold the meeting in Iraq," he said in comments,
posted on his Twitter account late yesterday.

In Baghdad, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said
today that he has not yet been "officially informed of any GCC
demand to postpone the summit."

The two-day summit is scheduled to take place in the
Iraqi capital Baghdad on May 10-11. It had already been
rescheduled from March because of the unprecedented political
unrest in Tunisia, Egypt and in the tiny, but strategically
important Bahrain that is the home of the US Navy`s 5th Fleet.

Bahrain`s decision to invite a Gulf force of about 1,500
troops to help end the Shiite rebellion has deepened the
kingdom`s sectarian divide.

The unrest in the nation of 700,000 has also inflamed
tensions between the peninsula`s Sunni heavyweight, Saudi
Arabia, and neighboring Iran, a Shiite theocracy.

Iran blasted the deployment of the Saudi-led force in
Bahrain and Iraq`s Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
warned that the crackdown could ignite sectarian violence
across the region.

Hundreds of Iraq`s majority Shiites many still reeling
from the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni have been
taking to the streets in demonstrations against Bahrain`s
ruling elite and Saudi Arabia.

In addition to Bahrain, the GCC countries include
Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United
Arab Emirates.

PTI