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Arab ministers to discuss Saddam's abdication

Monday, March 24, 2003

CAIRO Arab League foreign ministers are expected to discuss a proposal for the abdication of the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The foreign ministers include Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, who drove from Baghdad to Syria and then flew to Cairo. Sabri is the first senior Iraqi official to have appeared in the capital of a U.S. ally since the start of the war.

"We are not able to do more than we have done," Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said.

Foreign ministers began informal talks on late Sunday amid deep divisions regarding the future of Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported. On Sunday, Jordan expelled five Iraqi diplomats, becoming the first Arab League member to do so.

"We have helped Jordan all the time and provided generous assistance to it," Sabri said. "This is regrettable."

Several countries, such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, insist that Saddam must surrender power to ensure the end of the war.

Arab diplomatic sources said the meeting is not expected to reach any significant agreement. But the sources said Arab countries feel they must demonstrate efforts to end the U.S.-led war amid the violent pro-Iraqi demonstrations in most Arab capitals. A large anti-U.S. demonstration was held as Arab foreign ministers met.

Several regimes have cracked down on opposition movements. In Jordan, Islamic opposition and union leaders have been arrested on suspicion of fomenting massive anti-U.S. demonstrations over the weekend.

In Sanaa, Yemeni authorities arrested four opposition leaders in the wake of bloody riots on Friday. Those arrested included Islamic and leftist politicians.

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