MARCH 29 2012 14:29h
Iraq hosts first summit post-Saddam rule
Eight of the Arab League's 22 leaders attended the day-long gathering Thursday in Iraq's capital, where security was tight and an all-day curfew in place, the BBC reported.
The arrival of Sheik Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah, the emir of Kuwait, was the first time a Kuwaiti leader visited Iraq since Saddam Hussein's cross-border invasion in 1990.
The U.N.-Arab League plan presented by envoy Kofi Annan would see a U.N.-monitored end to fighting in Syria, a withdrawal of troops from opposition areas and access for humanitarian services. Syrian President Bashar Assad agreed to the initiative Tuesday, but fighting has continued.
The Arab leaders would not ask Assad to step down, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told Middle East Online.
"The Arab League initiative is clear and did not demand that Bashar step down," Zebari said after a ministerial meeting.
Zebari said it was "up to the people of Syria to decide, to choose, to elect their leaders. It's not up to the league or to anybody else."
He said summit participants didn't discuss whether to arm Syrian rebels, Middle East Online said.
U.S. officials have urged countries keep pressure on Assad to end the violence against protesters who have been calling for his ouster for more than a year.
Much of Iraq's capital city was at a standstill because of tight security for the summit, which cost an estimated $500 million to stage.
Afifi Abdel Wahab, Egypt's Arab League ambassador, said the organization's next summit would be in Doha, the Qatari capital.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was to arrive Friday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for two days of talks with Saudi and other Gulf leaders before meeting Sunday with Arab, Turkish and Western officials in Istanbul, Turkey.
BAGHDAD, March 29 (UPI) -- Arab leaders travels to Baghdad for a summit, the city's first international gathering in decades, that includes talks on a U.N.-backed peace plan for Syria.