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Syria tops Arab agenda at Iraq summit

Crucially, the Arab League will have to reconcile a proposal by Gulf countries to arm opponents of President Assad.

Baghdad: After decades at the centre of the
Arab world, Syria now sits in the dock with regional leaders
meeting in Baghdad this week over how to end Bashar al-Assad`s
bloody crackdown on a popular uprising.

But wide disparities among Arab chiefs` positions may
hamper any hope of an aggressive resolution from the meeting,
the first to be held in Iraq in more than 20 years and taking
place under heavy security after deadly bombings just a week

Crucially, the Arab League will have to reconcile a
proposal by Gulf countries to arm opponents of President Assad
with calls from states like Iraq for a political resolution to
the year-long crackdown monitors say has left more than 9,100

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters
today that Syria is a "pressing issue... It has an
international dimension, it has a regional (dimension)."

Deputy National Security Adviser Safa Hussein, meanwhile,
admitted Syria was "not an easy issue."

"There is a division internationally and there is a
division within the Arab world," he said. "I don`t think
we should expect miracles to happen in the summit, but I would
say there would be an opportunity to bring Arab opinions

Iraqi authorities have insisted that the summit will
focus on structural reform of the Arab League in an effort to
make the organisation more active, but Syria remains in the
limelight, rocked by ongoing protests and deadly clashes, US
and European sanctions and a United Nations human rights

Syrian forces sent shells crashing into a rebel
neighbourhood of Homs for a seventh straight day today,
monitors said, as Russia, whose President Dmitry Medvedev
discussed the crisis with his US counterpart Barack Obama,
warned Damascus it must act to avoid civil war.

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi has told pan-Arab daily
Al-Hayat, however, that it was unlikely the meeting in Iraq
would call for the Syrian leader to step down.


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