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Monday, 14 January, 2002, 20:36 GMT
Arab League summit venue row
Libya's empty seat at the Arab League summit in October 2000
Libyan boycott threat unlikely to be empty gesture
A row has been brewing over the venue for the next Arab League summit which was scheduled to be held in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, in March.

Libya, one of the 22 member states of the Arab League, says it will not attend if the meeting is held in Lebanon, because of the "lack of necessary conditions, particularly with regard to security".

We will surprise everybody if Colonel Muammar Gaddafi attends the summit in Beirut

Lebanese Shia Sadr Brigades

The Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said he would like the summit to be held where all Arab leaders could attend, and suggested the meeting be held in, Cairo, the seat of the Arab League. He said the states of Qatar, Djibouti and Sudan support this.

Lost leader

Relations between predominantly Sunni Libya and Lebanon soured after Shia Muslims in Lebanon accused Tripoli of being behind the mysterious disappearance of one of their most prominent leaders, Imam Musa Sadr, during a 1978 visit to Libya.

Imam Sadr was never proclaimed dead. Libyan authorities say he travelled on to Italy - a claim the Italian authorities denied.

Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi
The Libyan leader's life could be in danger in Beirut
In November 2000, the official Libyan newspaper, Jamahiriya, called for the expulsion of all Lebanese living in the country "to prevent threats to Libyan security".

Now Shia groups in Lebanon have threatened Gaddafi if he makes an appearance in Beirut.

The Shia Sadr Brigades have warned that "we will surprise everybody if Colonel Muammar Gaddafi attends the summit in Beirut before the settlement of the issue of Imam Musa Sadr".

Imam Al-Sadr was a friend of Libya.... What benefit would we gain from liquidating him?

Colonel Gaddafi's spokesman, Ali al-Turayki

Beirut chosen

While Arab League secretary general, Amr Musa, agreed that "nobody can ignore statements and positions which included threats to kill the Libyan leader," he went on to announce that the summit would be held in Beirut.

In a recent interview with the Cairo paper, Al-Ahram, Colonel Gaddafi's spokesman, Ali al-Turayki said: "Imam Al-Sadr was a friend of Libya. We regard him as one of the greatest resistance fighters against Zionism. What benefit would we gain from liquidating him?"

Arab League secretary Amr Musa
Musa is on a regional tour to try to defuse the problem

"We said from the beginning that we were prepared to launch joint investigations with the Lebanese authorities, Syria, Iran, or any other party, to find the truth and close that file," he remarked.

The Lebanese president, Emile Lahoud, said Lebanon is "determined to hold the summit on its own soil".

On Monday, he dispatched eight cabinet ministers "to invite Arab heads of states, including Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi" to the summit.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

06 Jan 02 | Middle East
Arab League still meeting in Beirut
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