15 MAY 2011


When we mentioned his name as an ideal candidate for the post, and indicated that the official Egyptian candidate would most likely be withdrawn, it was -- admittedly -- more wishful thinking than insider information. That's why we reported that if the new Egyptian government insisted on an old regime candidate, the Arab League Chief post would then go to a Gulf country.

There was also a complication of a delay in the Arab heads of state summit meeting, initially postponed from March to May in Baghdad and postponed again until March next year. The current Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa had already resigned and is running for President of Egypt.

Another complication was that Qatar had officially put forward the name of Dr. Abdel Rahman Al-Attiyah, who just left his post as Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council. He is a highly regarded, experienced diplomat who had been Director General of his ambitious country's Foreign Affairs Ministry. A series of contacts between Gulf countries occurred to prepare for an effective campaign.

During the current tension among several Arab countries, agreement on a new Secretary General seemed very remote; hence an initial hint of a year delay in locating a consensus candidate highly regarded by all.

Suddenly, on Saturday 14 May, there was a silver lining, a sunny break away from the persisting clouds, so to speak. The Egyptian government withdrew the hopeless El-Faki, Qatar withdrew Al-Attiyah -- the two official candidates.

Arab Ministers of Foreign Affairs agreed on Nabil El-Araby, one of the most experienced Egyptian, Arab, and international diplomats.

It may be an appropriate coincidence that -- as we had mentioned in previous issues -- his name literally means "Noble Arab." Almost all those who had worked with him agree that his name is true to character.

Let's hope it is one of those unexplained but indicative signals that a new turn to the better is in store for the Arab region.

Clearly, much would depend on the governments, some of who may opt for further confusion. But an outstanding Secretary General, whose heart is in the right place, will at least do his best to meet the aspirations of the peoples, not just the governments, particularly young men and women deserving a more hopeful future.