Summit of South American-Arab Countries: totals and decisions

South American and &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Arab leaders opened an unprecedented summit Tuesday to usher in a new wave of cooperation aimed at undercutting the international influence of the United States.

With 9,000 soldiers posted around the city and helicopters flying overhead, 16 heads of state and top officials from 34 South American, Middle Eastern and &to=http:// ' target=_blank>North African nations gathered for the first Summit of South American-Arab Countries.

Silva said the leaders must band together to ensure that free trade helps the developing world's masses, instead of only helping rich countries and multinational corporations.

The summit started amid the biggest show of security in Brazilian capital since Silva was sworn into office 2 1/2 years ago as the first elected leftist leader of Latin America's largest country, reports the Kansas City Star.

According to the Scotsman, the stronger ties to counter US dominance in the global political arena reflect a key policy goal of Silva, who proposed the summit during a 2003 trip to the Middle East. The gathering comes at a time when Washington is pressuring Arab nations to relax their mostly authoritarian systems of government.

The draft summit declaration also condemns Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory and denounces terrorism but asserts the right of people to resist foreign occupation, according to the document approved by foreign ministers yesterday.

In the statement, the two regions demand that Israel, whose biggest ally is the US, disband settlements in Palestinian areas, including “those in East Jerusalem,” and retreat to its borders before the &to=http:// ' target=_blank>1967 Mideast war.

They also lash out at US economic sanctions against Syria and denounce terrorism. But they assert the right of people “to resist foreign occupation in accordance with the principles of international legality and in compliance with international humanitarian law.”

The clause was a clear reference to Israeli and American condemnation of the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Bouteflika tried to downplay elements of the declaration criticising US policy, saying the summit’s main point is to strengthen regional ties. On the Mideast peace front, the draft supports international efforts, including the US-backed “road map” peace plan. And on Iraq, the two sides stressed the need to respect the “unity, sovereignty and independence of Iraq and of not interfering in its internal affairs.”

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