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Iraq spending $450 million on Arab summit

by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) April 11, 2011
Iraq has spent 450 million dollars on preparations to host an Arab summit scheduled for mid-May, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said on Monday.

He said the summit will be held at Saddam Hussein's former presidential palace, which had been built by Iraq's last monarch, Faisal II, who was slain in 1958.

Saddam later seized the palace and refurbished it, but it was taken over by American troops after the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 until January 2009.

Seven Arab heads of state will be housed in the former presidential palace while the other leaders will be lodged elsewhere, Zebari said.

Baghdad's six largest hotels have been closed for months for renovations.

Last August, Zebari had said that preparations for the Arab summit would cost 300 million dollars.

The annual summit of the Arab League was scheduled for March 29, but was postponed to May 11.

"We are soon going to visit each of the Arab countries with invitations," said Zebari.

"This summit is very important because of the political and security developments, and the historical changes in several Arab countries," he added.

The Arab world has been swept by a wave of unrest and uprisings which have already toppled entrenched regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, and are rocking rulers in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain.

Iraq has not hosted a regular Arab summit since November 1978, but a extraordinary summit was held in Baghdad in May 1990.

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