.and raise hackles in the Middle East

07 March 2003
Rising tension over the Iraq crisis upset the course of two regional summits held in early March, as tempers frayed and the usual high-minded fog of diplomatic discourse descended into a slanging match between Arab delegates. Both summits focussed on a proposal by the UAE that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein be persuaded to go into exile.

An Arab League summit held in the UAE on 1 March was marred by a heated exchange between Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia over their respective relationships with the US. Gaddafi accused King Fahd of a being a colonialist agent, describing his agreement to accept US troops on Saudi soil as 'an alliance with the devil'.

'Who exactly brought you to power?' Crown Prince Abdullah replied. 'You are a liar and your grave awaits you.' The conference was suspended for half an hour while the other delegates calmed the two men down. Tripoli later recalled its ambassador to the kingdom and said it was reconsidering its position within the Arab League.

A similar performance was observed by bemused representatives of the 57-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference, as Iraqi and Kuwaiti delegates traded insults at a summit in Doha on 5 March. The row started when the Kuwaiti representative interrupted his Iraqi counterpart with the words 'shut up you dog'. Izzat Ibrahim, deputy leader of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council, responded by branding the representative a traitor to the Arab world: 'Shut up, you minion, you agent, you monkey. You are addressing Iraq.' Another Kuwaiti minister jumped to his feet and furiously waved a small Kuwaiti flag in the air before the summit chairman, Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifah al-Thani, called the meeting to order.

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