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Last Updated:  Saturday, 1 March, 2003, 18:17 GMT
Public spat mars Arab summit
Crown Prince Abdullah (left) and Hosni Mubarak
Officials had to calm the leaders down
A public slanging match between the Libyan and Saudi leaders dominated the Arab League summit on Iraq.

The de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Prince Abdullah Bin Abdel Aziz, stormed out of the meeting after Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi berated him for seeking US protection in the 1991 Gulf War.

Arab leaders had been meeting in the Egyptian port of Sharm el-Sheikh to try to forge a common position on the Iraq crisis amid the continuing build-up towards a possible US-led attack.

The region is split over whether to support military action to force Saddam Hussein to disarm.
You are a liar and your grave awaits you
Prince Abdullah Bin Abdel Aziz

The summit's final declaration "totally rejected any attack on Iraq" - despite the presence of American troops on the territory of several Arab countries.

Earlier on Saturday, the United Arab Emirates became the first Arab country to officially call for Saddam Hussein to go into exile in order to avert a war.

Iraq, which was represented at the summit, angrily denounced the suggestion.

'Alliance with devil'

The acrimonious exchange, which was broadcast live across the region, began when Colonel Gaddafi addressed the delegates.

He said Saudi Arabia's King Fahd had been ready to "strike an alliance with the devil" when American troops were deployed to protect the kingdom after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Crown Prince Abdullah interrupted, retorting: "Saudi Arabia is not an agent of colonialism".

"Who exactly brought you to power?" he asked the Libyan leader.

"You are a liar and your grave awaits you," he said, before Egyptian state television pulled the plug on the broadcast.

Delegates said Colonel Gadaffi refused to withdraw his charge and Crown Prince Abdullah stormed out of the room.

The conference was suspended for about half an hour while other participants calmed the two men down, news agencies reported.

Final declaration

In a final declaration, delegates registered their "total rejection of any attack on Iraq" and called for the crisis to be resolved through international channels.

They urged Arabs to "not participate in any military action aimed at Iraq's or any Arab country's safety and territorial integrity", and said that inspectors should be given "ample time" to carry out their work.

Deeply split over how to deal with Iraq, officials said delegates spoke about sending envoys to Baghdad to urge Saddam Hussein to quit, or to press the Iraqi leader to co-operate with UN inspectors.

The Arabs are divided three ways in their approach to the crisis.

The Gulf States have taken the hardest line, siding with America's call for Saddam Hussein to be ousted.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia lead a second camp urging war to be avoided.

Syria, meanwhile, is resolutely opposed to any conflict which does not have the backing of the United Nations and has accused America of seeking to control Iraq's oil.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"This will only deepen the divisions at this summit"


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