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Egypt offers to host Arab summit

Tunisia meeting canceled

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(CNN) -- Egypt has offered to host the Arab League summit after the annual event was abruptly postponed just two days before the meeting was to start in Tunisia.

The postponement followed disagreements among members over such topics as how to deal with Israel and modernizing the Arab world. No new date has been set for the summit which was to start Monday.

Egyptian officials are contacting leaders of the organization's 22 countries and regions to agree on a date for the summit, which was to begin Monday, the officials said.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa welcomed the offer from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to host the summit.

"I think Egypt is the only solution to solving this critical issue that we are going through," said Moussa, who once served as Egyptian former minister.

Mubarak notified Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of the offer. Foreign ministers from Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen have requested the summit take place before June so the Arab leaders can reach an agreement before the upcoming Group of Eight (G8) summit.

The G8 is made up of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States, Canada and Russia.

On Saturday, Tunisia's Foreign Minister Habib Benyahya announced the postponement to foreign ministers who had been meeting over the weekend to lay the groundwork and prepare a communiqué that was to be delivered during the two-day meeting, two of the ministers told CNN.

One Arab official said there had been "a lot of disagreements" over such core issues as democracy, human rights and reform of the league itself.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher, who welcomed Egypt's request, said the ministers were "very near agreement on many of the issues at hand" during their meeting Saturday.

"It is very important to send a message that the Arab world does have a document on reform, [and] is committed to reform," Muasher said.

He said he and the other foreign ministers were surprised by the decision from Tunis -- the capital of Tunisia -- to postpone the summit.

"This is a decision that Tunis has taken, at the same time we feel that it needs to be followed with a quick summit," Muasher said.

Tunisian Foreign Ministry official Hatem bin Salem told reporters that the country regretted the postponement, adding that it was called off because of "a lot of differences in views regarding issues of great importance to us and to the process of development, modernization and reform in the Arab countries."

Among the issues of contention were whether the communiqué would address Monday's targeted killing by Israel of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin, which sparked outrage in the Arab world. (Full story)

On Friday, Saudi Arabia announced that Crown Prince Abdullah would not attend, as did the president of Bahrain.

CNN's Caroline Faraj in Tunis contributed to this report.

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