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2004-03-29 14:28:00
Embassy Djibouti
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						UNCLAS DJIBOUTI 000463 


E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Immediately following the announcement of the
postponement of the Arab League summit in Tunis,
"La Nation," the official government newspaper, ran
three articles of commentary in the Monday, March 29th

2. (U) The first article, on the front page of "La
Nation," carried an immediate account from Tunis on the
postponement of the Arab League summit. The article
stated facts, but had a few comments of disappointment
sprinkled into the wording of the piece. The article
stated that Tunisia decided to postpone the summit due
to differences of opinions concerning questions of
democratic reform, protection of Human Rights, promotion
of women's rights and the role of civil society. The
article quoted Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Hatem Ben Salem, as saying that the Tunisian propositions
for Arab reforms were "an affirmation of the value of
tolerance, understanding and dialogue between
civilizations while expressing categorical refusal of
extremism, fanaticism, violence and terrorism." Salem
also alluded to the assassination of Sheik Yassin when
he further expressed his "profound regret for the
postponement of the summit from which the Arab world was
expecting a lot especially in these delicate
circumstances which the Arab world is going through and
the deadlock in which the Palestinian cause is in after
the latest dramatic developments." The article went on
to comment that Arab reforms and the Arab-Israeli
conflict set off serious differences and deadlock in the
preparatory meetings of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs.
The article stated that some ministers were surprised and
did not understand the decision, while others thought it
was imperative to get beyond the differences and reach a
convergence of opinion on the two main issues; the Arab
reforms and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

3. (U) The second article ran on page six, of ten, in
the Arab World section of the paper. The article stated
that Tunisia decided to postpone the summit, "which
seemed to get off to a bad start." The reason cited
for the postponement was the serious discord among the
member countries on two of the main issues during
preliminary planning meetings. The preliminary meetings
held Friday and Saturday were attended by the Ministers
of Foreign Affairs for the member nations. The article
repeated many of the same facts from the front-page
article, but elaborated that a large cause for the discord
at the planning meetings stemmed from the "order of the
day," the topic of relaunching of an Israeli-Palestinian
peace initiative. The article quoted Jordanian Minister
of Foreign Affairs as saying that the Arabs must come to
an agreement quickly on a date and location for the summit.

4. (U) The third article, also in the Arab World section
of the paper, repeated many of the same facts as the
first two but was more of an in-depth look at the reasons
the countries were unable to come to a consensus. The
article included several quotes from Ministers that were
slanted against Tunisia for postponing the summit, saying
that they made a unilateral decision. The article also
specifically stated that the assassination of Sheik Yassin
rendered continuation of the peace initiative as
"politically risky." The article reported that general
outcry from Syria and Libya over the mere inclusion of a
proposed peace initiative and Arab League reforms made
preparatory meetings "intense" and "turbulent." The two
countries were reported to comment that these two issues
were not among Arab priorities. The chief of the
political department of the Palestinian Liberation
Organization (PLO), Farouk Kaddoumi, was reported to be
in line with the Syrians and Libyans to denounce the plan
for reforms. However, another Arab spokesperson was
quoted as saying "The position expressed by Mr. Kaddoumi
does not particularly represent the position of the
Palestinian Authority, which is not opposed to the
adoption of a plan for reform, but an acerbic critique
of a Palestinian spokesperson against Egypt and Jordan
for their ties with Israel." An anonymous source is
quoted as saying the representatives of these two
countries insist on the "necessity to settle the
Arab-Israeli conflict in its entirety."