Author:Lancaster, Pat

In the cusp of war and with the eyes of the world focussed on Doha, what a pantomime the emergency summit of the Organisation of Islamic Conference in March turned out to be. How the world's media enjoyed the `joke' when Iraqi and Kuwaiti delegates began trading insults with each other, devoting many more column inches to their antics than to any other event that took place.

The meeting was hastily called by Qatar's Emir Hamed Al Thani for what was described as a last attempt by the Islamic world to help avert a war against Iraq. But what the members of the 57 member state organisation were forced to witness was a shouting match between Iraqi and Kuwaiti delegates when years of bitterness boiled over.

Tensions between other Arab leaders over their differing stances towards Iraq have surfaced at other meetings. Heated exchanges between Saudi Arabian and Libyan officials were recorded at the Sharm el Sheikh summit in Egypt just days before. Such incidents do not bode well for future shows of unity and this is another of those historic times when a unified Arab voice must be heard above all the caterwauling that has blighted progress on so many past occasions, not least events related to the Palestinian/Israeli situation.

Arab writer and philosopher Edward Said pointed to the most honest and factual statement that has come out of the Middle East so far as being that of King Isa of Bahrain. In an interview with Egypt's Al Ahram daily, King Isa observed: We should not deceive ourselves, deceive Iraq or the Palestinian people when it comes to the joint Arab possibility to support them or to repel harm. We cannot prevent war or impose peace."

The Emir of Qatar, who is emerging as an ever more important force in regional politics, hoped to win a unified voice from the Islamic world against war. Respected elder statesman Sheikh Zayed of the UAE took the trouble to send his son...

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