Arab Summit Concludes in Saudi Arabia An Arab summit concluding in Saudi Arabia on Thursday has revived a plan for Mideast peace embraced by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. The summit also produced a statement of unity among Arab states.
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Arab Summit Concludes in Saudi Arabia

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Arab Summit Concludes in Saudi Arabia

Arab Summit Concludes in Saudi Arabia

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a summit of Arab leaders is concluding today. It has revived a plan for Mideast peace, one embraced by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as a statement of unity among Arab states that expresses concern for the spreading sectarian divide in the Arab world, especially in Iraq.

Khaled al-Maeena is editor in chief of the Arab News, the English language daily. He's with us by phone from Jeddah. Khaled, the lead story of your Web site is that Saudi leader King Abdullah - he's the new president now of the Arab League - has called the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq illegitimate. What does that mean for the king to say that?

Mr. KHALED AL-MAEENA (Editor in Chief, Arab News): Well, I think what was meant now is that it is high time that the Iraqi people would be allowed to conduct their our affairs. You spoke about sectarian violence, and I think occupation, quote, unquote, "adds tension." So, I think it's time now for the Iraqis to be helped by their neighbors, to be helped by the international powers under a U.N. umbrella. I think that would expedite the process of peace.

CHADWICK: Is this something that everyone at the conference agrees on? I mean, I'm wondering, is King Abdullah speaking on behalf of Sunni Arabs or all Arabs?

Mr. AL-MAEENA: I think across the board, people think the Iraqis, and even the message that we get from across the Atlantic also, it's high time the Iraqis shoulder their own responsibility and get on with their lives. So, I think the king was sort of giving his views and the views of many others, without, sort of, referring to their sect or community.

CHADWICK: Are you saying that the Arab League is saying, specifically, we agree with the Democrats in Congress when you speak about voices from across the Atlantic? We agree with the Democrats, you should set a timeline for U.S. forces to get out of Iraq.

Mr. AL-MAEENA: Well, I think there should be a timeline. I think there should be other confidence-building measures taken in Iraq. And I think it's time that we should allow them to get on. And I don't think the king was blaming anyone. In fact, he blamed the Arab world and he said, I am to blame myself, and held them accountable. And this is a major thing. Nobody has ever said this in public ever before.

CHADWICK: I read that account in your newspaper. He got up and said, the problems of the Arab world, the problems that we don't advance, these are the problems of the Arab leaders. We are to be held accountable for this because we cannot find unity.

Mr. AL-MAEENA: Well, apart from unity, what I think the Arab people are upset is years have been wasted in things that should not have been done, you know, petty quarrels, revolutions, corrupt leaders. So the Arab people want to hold these people accountable. They want leadership that really rises to the occasion.

CHADWICK: Let me ask you about the peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians, which essentially says Israel draw back to the 1967 boarders and will guarantee security for Israel, and the Palestinians will get a state. Is this peace plan open for discussion or is it a kind of a take it or leave it deal?

Mr. AL-MAEENA: Well, it's open for discussion. But what makes this plan more important and significant is that this comes from Saudi Arabia, the heart of Islam, which is Saudi Arabia has always not had any relationships with Israel -dealt with it. Now, here is the king of Saudi Arabia, he means what he says. This is a golden and historic opportunity for Israel. There is nothing underhand. It's very open plan. It's safe. That they have defined a two-state solution - guarantees the securities for all.

CHADWICK: Khaled al-Maeena, editor in chief of the English language daily paper the Arab News, speaking with us from Jeddah. Khaled, thank you again.

Mr. AL-MAEENA: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: And stay with us on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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