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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 March 2005, 15:13 GMT
Arab Leaders avoid the issues
By Roger Hardy
BBC MIddle East analyst

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Saudi FM Saud al-Faisal
Arabs have grown cynical about their leaders' in part because of summits like this one
Arab leaders have gathered in Algiers for their annual summit. But a number of leaders have stayed away and some of the burning issues of the day are not on the agenda.

At least as striking as what the Arab leaders will talk about is what they will not talk about.

Although there is an international effort under way to revive the Middle East peace process, the Arab leaders plan to do no more than reiterate the cautious peace plan they first announced three years ago.

They are unwilling to discuss democratic reform. And also absent from their deliberations will be the event which has plunged Syria and Lebanon into crisis - the assassination last month of a former Lebanese prime minister.

Expected agenda
Saudi Middle East peace plan
Expression of support for Syria
Pan-Arab "parliament" to discuss political reform

It's scarcely surprising that ordinary Arabs have grown cynical about their leaders' tendency either to be constantly at one another's throats - or to utter long-winded platitudes about their common purpose.

Today's Arab world is very different from 60 years ago, when the Arab League was founded.

Arabism no longer means the dream of creating a single Arab nation stretching from the Atlantic to the Gulf.

What unites Arabs now is something fuzzier - they tend to support the Palestinians, to dislike America, to watch al-Jazeera.

What frustrates them is that their leaders and their institutions seem so incapable of getting the world to sit up and listen.

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