BEIRUT: The Arab League's Assistant Secretary-General Hossam Zaki confirmed that the upcoming Economic Social Development Summit in Beirut, which has become a focal point of regional tensions, will be held on January 19 and 20 despite calls for its postponement.
The summit has turned into a topic of hot debate between rival Lebanese political camps over the need to normalize relations with the Syrian government, while also bringing to the forefront decades-old grievances between Speaker Nabih Berri's Amal movement and Libya.
"There is no Arab consensus so far on Syria's return to the Arab League," Zaki told AFP.
Berri, along with his Shiite allies Hezbollah, has led the charge calling for the inclusion of the Syrian regime whose status was suspended in November 2011 following the outbreak of the bloody civil war.
The move has been opposed by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, a close of ally Saudi Arabia, prompting President Michel Aoun's son-in-law, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, to seek Syria's re-inclusion ahead of the summit but to no avail.
"There are no plans to discuss Syria's participation in the annual Arab League summit (to be held next March in Tunisia) during the Beirut gathering," Zaki added.
The Shiite allies have attempted to derail the summit, arguing that the summit should take place after a Lebanese Cabinet is formed. Aoun, however, had assured last week that the event would be held as planned and "on time."
The highly controversial summit has stirred tensions between the Amal movement and Libya, stemming from the disappearance of Mussa Sadr, the founder of the Shiite group, who vanished along with his companions on August 31, 1978, in Libya while on an official visit.
Berri has vehemently opposed the participation of Libyan officials, in what political rivals described as another attempt to adjourn the summit to blackmail Lebanese authorities to normalize relations with Syria.
Over the weekend, Amal supporters took down a Libyan flag erected on the road leading up to the Biel center, where the summit will be held, replacing it with their own.
This prompted a group of Libyans to vandalize the exterior of Lebanon's embassy in Tripoli, Libya, while some reports indicated that the Libyan government has decided to withdraw from the economic summit.
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