Arab leaders concluded their annual summit on Monday with a strong message of support for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court over Darfur and agreed to hold their next year’s gathering in Libya.
"We stress our solidarity with Sudan and our rejection of the ICC decision against President Omar al-Bashir," Arab League chief Amr Mussa said, reading the Doha declaration.
The annual summit had been scheduled to last for two days, but later in the day Arab heads of states decided to wrap up their gathering with a concluding session tonight, following reconciliation talks between them, including a historic meeting between Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah.
Arab leaders in the summit’s concluding statement agreed to hold their next year’s gathering in Libya, after Iraq, whose turn was to host the summit in 2010 requested from the league to postpone its turn until 2011 for “logistical reasons.”
In its concluding session, the summit also called on Arab states to continue their support for the Palestinian cause and strongly condemned the last Israeli war on Gaza.
During summit proceedings, Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi stole the show when he verbally attacked Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz and proclaimed himself the "king of kings of Africa," before storming out to visit a museum.
Sound on the televised transmission of the session was interrupted as Gadaffi began his tirade in which he proclaimed himself to be "the leader of the Arab leaders, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of the Muslims." The Libyan leader has been in power since 1969 and had recently been elected to chair the African Union.
The outburst, however, was short-lived and Gaddafi quickly changed his tune and continued the rest of his speech with a conciliatory tone as he addressed the monarch, drawing applause from delegates.
"I consider the personal problem between you and me to be over and I am prepared to visit you and receive a visit from you," Gaddafi said.
At the end of the session he held a landmark reconciliation meeting with King Abdullah after years of dispute.
Sixteen heads of state from the 22-member Arab League attended the two-day gathering, as is U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
The league also renewed their backing of the UAE’s claims to three disputed Gulf islands and adopted a resolution calling on Iran to respond to "sincere calls" made by UAE President, Sheikh Kalifa bin Nahyan.
The final resolution was a shortened version of a draft that had been discussed earlier in the week calling on Iran to translate into action its “announced desire to improve its relations with the Arab world through dialogue and easing of tensions”.
The leaders went on to support “all measures and peaceful means taken by the UAE to regain its sovereignty over the occupied islands.”
Iran gained control of the strategic islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa as British forces left the Gulf in 1971. Abu Musa is the only inhabited island and was placed under joint administration under a deal with Sharjah, now part of the UAE.