World

Arab League promises political and social reform

The Arab League summit has ended with a promise of political and social reform.

The Arab League has wrapped up its two-day summit in Tunis with a declaration pledging political and social reform in the Middle East.

The league also called for an end to Israel's occupation of Arab lands and a greater role for the UN in Iraq.

But the summit was barely over before critics denounced the meetings' declarations as being toothless, coming as they did without a program of implementation.

Tunisian Foreign Minister Habib Ben Yahia was on the defensive at a press conference. But said "We are dead serious about the implementation."

The league's last attempt at a summit was cancelled two months ago because members couldn't agree on the issues they have now managed to approve, Some analysts say the mere mention of social and political reform is a feat in itself for an organization that includes some of the world's most autocratic governments.

Abdelbasset ben Hassen, the director of the Tunis-based Arab Institute for Human Rights, says the summit has broken new ground.

"In this summit we have new words, like 'human rights,' like 'women's rights,' like 'the role of civil society.' It's the first time in an Arab League Summit that the Arab governments talked about these concepts."

The members may have talked about the concepts, but not all of them actually signed the final communique before leaving Tunis.