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Arab ministers approve peace and security council

Written by: Staff

KHARTOUM, Mar 25 (Reuters) Arab foreign ministers today approved the creation of a five-member Arab peace and security council to resolve disputes between member states, officials said.

The ministers, meeting in the Sudanese capital Khartoum to prepare for a summit next week, also approved a new method of voting designed to give more weight to Arab League decisions.

The peace and security council, similar to an African Union council already working, will have a rotating membership of five countries -- the country which holds the chairmanship of the ministerial council, plus the two previous chair countries and the two future chair countries.

The concept has been under debate at Arab League meetings for several years and some earlier proposals included permanent members, as in the U.N. Security Council. Smaller countries objected to dominance by regional powers.

Under the system agreed today, which needs approval by the summit and ratification in national parliaments, each of the Arab League's 21 countries will spend two and a half years on the council.

''It will tackle issues related to Arab security, whether conflicts between Arab states or issues affecting the security of the Arab states, so weapons of mass destruction, even water security, resolution of conflicts,'' said Hesham Youssef, a senior adviser to Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa.

Under the new voting system, which also needs summit approval, some Arab League decisions will need a two-thirds majority, rather than the simple majority required at present.

Under the present system, the decisions are not binding on countries which did not approve them, greatly weakening the effectiveness of the Arab League as a multilateral institution.

The idea of the change is that Arab governments will feel less inclined to ignore a decision passed by a two-thirds majority, even if they disagreed with it.

The structural changes are part of a larger project backed by Moussa, who is expected to win a second term at the head of the Arab League secretariat on Tuesday.

Reuters PDS VP0110

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