Arab leaders set to agree Gaza aid, economic accord

Leaders will discuss a range of initiatives and some 400 projects to improve economic cooperation, such as an Arab railway and regional power grids.

Arab leaders set to agree Gaza aid, economic accord
Arab leaders, meeting for the third time in five days on Monday, were expected to agree a $2 billion aid package to rebuild Gaza destructed after a three-week Israeli aggression.

Arab countries' split over how to deal with Israel's offensive against Gaza had clouded longstanding plans for the two-day summit that initially was meant to focus only on economic cooperation.

Leaders will still discuss at the Kuwait meeting how to counter the impact on the Arab world of the collapse in oil prices, the global economic slowdown and the credit crunch.

But they are now also expected to back the Palestinian Authority and discuss plans to set up a $2 billion fund to rebuild the bombed Gaza Strip after Israel and Hamas both declared unilateral ceasefires.

Qatar and Mauritania suspended ties with Israel and Syria, which broke off indirect peace talks over Gaza, pronounced a 2002 Arab peace initiative dead.

Gulf Arab leaders also met in Saudi Arabia last week but regional powerbrokers Egypt and Saudi Arabia shunned the later Doha meeting, preferring to merge the Gaza discussion into the economic summit.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said on Sunday that Gaza would be a priority.

"Gaza and the Palestinian cause are among priorities... and the development projects that connect between our interests should also take our attention," he said.

Leaders will discuss a range of initiatives and some 400 projects to improve economic cooperation, such as an Arab railway and regional power grids.

Even the wealthiest oil producers have been hurt by the credit crisis, with Kuwait having to save one of its major lenders.

The summit, which the World Bank chief is due to attend, will also look at how to reduce poverty in the Arab world as well as improving health and telecommunications and achieving food security.

Standards of living differ vastly among Arab states, from the rich Gulf oil-producers to poorer countries such as Yemen or Sudan. According to summit organisers, the Arab world has 100 million illiterate people and some 20 million unemployed.

"The Arab world needs to create 100 million new job opportunities to solve its unemployment problem," Siniora said.

Reuters
Last Mod: 19 Ocak 2009, 15:50
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