Arabs to meet on Syria after League visit delayed

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 07, 2011 8:25 AM

CAIRO (Reuters) - Arab foreign ministers meet in Cairo next week to discuss Syria after a visit by the Arab League chief to Damascus to convey concerns over its crackdown on popular unrest was delayed, Arab diplomats said on Wednesday.

Arab governments broke months of silence at a meeting at the Arab League in Cairo last week, demanding Syria stop the bloodshed, and decided to send League chief Nabil Elaraby to Damascus to push for political and economic reforms.

One Arab diplomat had said Wednesday's visit was postponed and would take place "when conditions permit." Egypt's state news agency said the delay followed a request from Syria.

An Arab diplomatic source said Syria refused to receive Elaraby after Damascus said he met Syrian opposition members and due to the leaking of a proposal by Qatar on possible Arab action over Syria, although the document was not adopted.

It was not immediately possible to confirm any such meetings by Elaraby.

"The situation in Syria will top the discussions in the coming ministerial meeting after the delay to the visit of the Arab League Secretary-General to Syria," said a representative at the League for one Arab state, asking not to be named.

A League official confirmed a ministerial meeting would be held on September 13.

The Arab representative said there was no plan to suspend Syria's membership in the Arab League, as happened to Libya in February after forces loyal to the now deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi attacked protesters.

"No one is thinking till now about freezing Syrian membership in the Arab League because every Arab state is keen on stability in Syria. All that Arab foreign ministers asked in the last meeting was to speed up the pace of reforms and stop the violence," he said.

Another diplomat at the League said the September 13 meeting would discuss Syria, Palestinian issues and Somalia. The Arab representative said the situation between Sudan and the newly independent south and Libya would also be on the agenda.

(Reporting by Ayman Samir; Writing by Edmund Blair; editing by Elizabeth Piper)