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Egypt proposes Mubarak’s foreign minister to head Arab League

Hosni Mubarak

Cairo: The Arab League said today Egypt has presented Ahmed Abul Gheit, ex-president Hosni Mubarak’s last foreign minister, as its candidate to head the pan-Arab body after its present chief declined a second term.

In February, the secretary general of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi, 80, announced that he would not seek a second term after his current one ends in July.

“The Arab League has been officially notified by Egypt that its candidate for the post of secretary general is foreign minister Ahmed Abul Gheit,” said Ahmed Ben Helli, the deputy chief of the Cairo-based League.

He told reporters that only Egypt so far had presented its candidate to head the Arab diplomatic body.

Traditionally, the secretary general of Arab League has held the post for two terms, and Cairo has always insisted that it be held by an Egyptian diplomat.

Arab League foreign ministers will hold a meeting on Thursday to discuss the candidacy of Abul Gheit, 74.

Appointed in 2004, Abul Gheit was the last foreign minister of Mubarak, who was overthrown in a popular 18-day uprising in early 2011.

After Mubarak’s ouster, the veteran diplomat, who was well known for his tough position on Iran, had stayed away from politics and devoted his time to writing.

After joining the Egyptian foreign service in 1967, Abul Gheit held several diplomatic posts, including in Rome, Moscow and New York.

In 1999 he was appointed Egypt’s permanent representative to the United Nations.

Abul Gheit had also participated in the Camp David negotiations that saw the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty in 1979.

Arabi, also a veteran Egyptian diplomat, had taken over as the bloc’s chief from fellow Egyptian diplomat Amr Moussa in 2011.

Since becoming secretary general, Arabi has had to contend with a number of sensitive issues, including the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Libya, as well as the rise of the Islamic State jihadist group.

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