Former Egyptian foreign minister confirmed as Arab League chief

After a brief delay, Egyptian diplomat and former Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit was named Thursday as the Arab League's new secretary general, AFP reports.

The appointment came after Qatar had earlier voiced its opposition to it because of Abul Gheit's "hostile positions" towards the Gulf state.

Nevertheless, Abul Gheit's appointment was later confirmed.

"The consultations resulted in the nomination of Ahmed Abul Gheit to the post of secretary general," Bahraini Foreign Minister Khaled bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa announced in televised remarks at the end of a ministerial meeting.

Abul Gheit, who served as foreign minister under Egypt's ousted president Hosni Mubarak, takes office at a time when the Cairo-based Arab League is facing several tests of its unity.

At the top of the list is the war in Syria that has killed more than 270,000 people and displaced millions since it erupted in 2011.

The more than five-year-old conflict has seen regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran backing opposite sides.

In addition, relations between Qatar and Egypt, which traditionally chooses candidates for the post of secretary general, have soured.

Cairo accuses Doha of supporting its outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement of former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, who was toppled by the army in 2013.

The Brotherhood has been the target of a brutal crackdown since then, and Doha has regularly denounced the operations that left hundreds dead and thousands in jail.

At the forefront of the tension between Egypt and Qatar is the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera television network, which Egypt has accused of doing Doha's bidding by serving as Islamists' mouthpiece at a time of a ferocious crackdown on their ranks.

Egypt arrested several Al Jazeera journalists over this accusation and they were subsequently sentenced to prison.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani expressed Doha's "reservations" over Abul Gheit but voiced hope the next secretary general "will maintain contact between all Arab countries in the interest of joint Arab action."

Unlike the charismatic ex-chief of the Arab League, fellow Egyptian Amr Moussa, who was known for taking a tough stand on Israel, Abul Gheit has often faced criticism for adopting a softer approach towards the Jewish state.

Abul Gheit had in the past accused the Palestinian Hamas group which rules Gaza of being responsible for Israel launching the anti-terror operation Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009.

Abul Gheit will be the eighth secretary general of the League since it was founded in 1945.

AFP contributed to this report.

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/209246

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