Egypt takes the forefront at Arab summit

But other Arab nations could lay claim to 'kingpin' title

June 22, 1996
Web posted at: 1:25 p.m. EDT (1725 GMT)

From Correspondent Richard Roth

CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- They may be standing together in a show of unity in Cairo, but many of the Arab leaders gathered here have been known to seek the title of kingpin of the Middle East.

So what better time than an Arab summit to determine who is the power broker in the region?


Forty years ago, the power broker was unquestionably Abdul Gamel Nasser, leader of Egypt. Then it was Anwar Sadat of Egypt, with a historic flight to Israel in 1977. On their way to the summit, delegates will pass the reviewing stand where he was assassinated .

Sadat's successor and organizer of this summit, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, is now considered by many as the driving force in the region.

"I think unquestionably Egypt is the key player here," said Dan Tschrigi, a political analyst at American University in Cairo.

The summit gives Mubarak a large stage to champion his influence.

"We can use all channels," said Nabil Osman, an official with the Ministry of Information. "We can talk to everyone and this is the role Egypt has played and will continue to play in the future." (128K AIFF or WAV sound)

Political analyst Adel Darwish said that Mubarak could follow up the Arab summit by arranging a meeting between Israel and Jordan's King Hussein or the Palestinians.


But any talk of power in the Middle East must include long- time Syrian ruler Hafez Assad. He has won the right to say he's the Arab leader who defiantly held the line on negotiations with Israel.

"I would say that the Syrian-Israeli tract remains the most important strategic tract in the peace process," said Nassif Hitti, an adviser to the Arab League. "For that reason, Syria is well situated in the whole process itself." (128K AIFF or WAV sound)

And then there are the Saudis, whose petro dollars do much of their talking.

King Hussein

"Saudi Arabia has the purse to pay for all kinds of investments ... and indeed it's one of the countries that the Americans would consult and listen to," said Darwish.

Jordan's King Hussein angered fellow Arabs when he sided with Iraq's Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War. The summit offers the king an opportunity to close ranks with the others.

One Western diplomat in Cairo said that it is impossible to name any overall Arab leader, although he did credit Egypt with putting the building blocks for Arab unity together.

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