Race for Arab League top position has begun, Qatari daily Al Watan reports

April 13, 2010

The race to choose a replacement for Arab League Secretary General Amr Mousa who is likely to leave at the end of his mandate has begun, a Qatari newspaper has reported.

Quoting unnamed Arab diplomats, Al Watan daily said that the disagreement over whether the secretary general should be an Egyptian national would lead many countries to present their nominees.

Algeria has been leading a drive within the League to put an end to the tradition of having the secretary general from Egypt where the pan-Arab alliance is headquartered.

However, the Egyptians have strongly resisted the option and insisted that the secretary general should be an Egyptian national.

“The secretary general should be from the country that hosts the Arab League as that immensely facilitates his work,” Ahmad Abul Ghaith, Egypt;s foreign minister, has said.

The issue is likely to be taken up by the Arab leaders when they hold their extraordinary summit at the end of this year, Al Watan said.

“In case they agree on the rotation principle, several countries are likely to present their candidates and Syria would nominate one of its veteran diplomats for the position,” the paper said.

Amr Mousa, 74, this year said that he was planning to leave the Arab League at the end of his term in March 2011. He however denied speculations that he was eyeing running for president in Egypt.

“It is not in any way linked with personal political ambitions in Egypt. I simply believe that ten years in the position are enough,” he said in an interview this month.

Mousa has been the Secretary General of the Arab League since May 2001. He served as Egypt’s ambassador to India in 1984 and to the United Nations in 1990. He was appointed foreign minister in 1991 and remained in this position until 2001.

In its 65-year history, the Arab League has had six secretaries general, five of whom were from Egypt. Chedli Kelibi, a Tunisian national, was in charge of the League when its headquarters were moved to Tunisia in 1979 following the suspension of Egypt after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat visited Jerusalem and paved the way for signing a peace treaty with Israel.

Egypt was readmitted into the Arab League in 1987 and the headquarters were moved back to Cairo. A Lebanese national, Assad Al Asaad, held the post in 1990 for a short interim.

Algeria has repeatedly said that the rotation of the Arab League secretary general position among the member countries is “a perfectly sensible” move.

“The nature of regional and international organizations comprised of several national members is to rotate positons,” Abdelaziz Belkhadem, the personal representative of the Algerian president, said in February.

“Rotations happen in the African Union, the Organisation of Islamic Conference, the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and others. There is no reason it should not happen in the Arab League,” he said.

Egypt has often had to put up with charges that the Arab League was in fact a department of Egypt’s foreign ministry. The Egyptians have however regularly denied the claims, saying that they were malicious.


Arab League


The Arab League, founded in 1945, is an association of 22 member states. Even though it has primarily political aims, membership in the league is based on culture rather than geographical location.


The main drive of the League, founded in 1945, is to “draw closer relations between member States and co-ordinate collaboration between them, to safeguard their independence and sovereignty, and to consider in a general way the affairs and interests of the Arab countries.”


List of Arab League Secretary Generals


Abdul Rahman Azzam 1945 to 1952

Abdul Khalek Hassouna 1952 to 1972

Mahmoud Riad 1972 to 1979

Chedli Klibi 1979 to 1990

Assad Al Assad 1990 to 1991 (interim)

Ahmad Esmat Abd Al Majeed 1991 to 2001

Amr Mousa 2001 – Present 


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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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