March 30, 2012 in Nation/World

Summit a win for Iraq

‘Boycotted and sanctioned’ country hosts Arab League
Hannah Allam And Sahar Issa McClatchy
Assad wants vow

 BEIRUT – Syria’s President Bashar Assad said Thursday he will spare no effort to make U.N. envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan a success, but demanded that armed opponents battling his regime commit to halting violence.

 In brazen attacks, gunmen kidnapped a high-ranking military pilot outside the capital and assassinated two army colonels in the country’s business hub, in what appeared to be part of a stepped-up campaign by the battered opposition against the symbols of Assad’s power.

 Assad’s condition of an express promise from the opposition to stop attacks could complicate Annan’s attempts to bring an end to more than a year of violence that the U.N. says has killed more than 9,000 people.

Associated Press

BAGHDAD – Arab leaders who gathered Thursday in Baghdad broke no new ground on Syria or other regional crises, but their summit was still hailed as a success – for returning Iraq to the Arab fold after years of isolating war and occupation.

Ten of the Arab League’s 22 member nations sent a head of state to the summit, most notably Kuwait, whose emir traded ceremonial kisses with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a rapprochement that comes two decades after Saddam Hussein invaded that tiny neighbor in a provocation that sparked the first Persian Gulf War.

Other Gulf nations such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar sent pointedly lower-level delegations, but none of them boycotted the summit, which was organized by Iraq’s ruling Shiite Muslims and Kurds, whom many Sunni leaders have shunned since the U.S.-led invasion swept them into power.

“This is a country that was distanced, overlooked, boycotted and sanctioned. And now it is back,” a triumphant Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told journalists after the summit.

With Syria and other sectarian-tinged conflicts still dividing Arab nations, no one would call the member states’ relations warm. But the very presence of Gulf notables as guests of Shiites in a palace that was once the headquarters of the American occupation was a milestone for Iraq, and an achievement for an Arab League caught in the limbo between the old authoritarian order and a new crop of revolutionaries-turned-leaders.

The lack of disruptive violence also gave a boost to Iraq’s security forces, which have struggled to stop sporadic bombings that still plague the country after the U.S. military’s withdrawal at the end of 2011.

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