(BAGHDAD) — This was not the way the Iraqi government envisioned things happening as the highly-anticipated Arab League summit got underway Thursday in Baghdad.
For one thing, the participants were greeted with rockets, presumably fired by the enemies of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s regime. One hit near the fortified Green Zone where the summit was taking place while two others landed elsewhere in Baghdad. No injuries were reported.
More embarrassing for the Iraqi government was that the only monarch from its neighboring Gulf states who showed up was from Kuwait while the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Qatar were conspicuously absent as were the rulers of Jordan and Morocco.
There is still a great deal of distrust between the Sunni leaders of the Arab League and Iraq’s Shiite government, particularly since Baghdad now considers Iran a close ally.
The Arab League is also angry that Iraq hasn’t take a stronger stand against Syria, which continues to crack down on pro-democracy dissidents.
Still, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who also attended the summit, exhorted all the summit participants to go along with a plan backed by the international community to force Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end the onslaught against civilians that has claimed more than 8,000 lives over the past year.
The group then endorsed the plan, which calls for an immediate ceasefire and negotiations between Damascus and opposition leaders although there is no demand for al-Assad to step down.
This was the first Arab League summit since before the “Arab Spring” last year that spawned revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Chandrika Narayan and Steve Almasy, CNN
Georgia McCafferty and Junko Ogura, CNN
KJ Kwon and Ben Westcott, CNN