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Tuesday, December 27, 2005 

Syrian-based 'Arab League Parliament' meets for the first time

The long-awaited Arab Parliament, which will be based in Damascus, has met for the first time.

The 88 parliamentarians - 4 from each Arab League country - will meet at the new 'Arab Parliament' in Damascus twice a year. It has been set up by the Arab League.

The first meeting, however, was in Cairo, the headquarters of the Arab League.

The Parliament's been criticised for lacking legislative authority - and it can only discuss issues referred to it by the Arab League.

The move to Damascus is seen as democratising the League, which is often seen as Egyptian-controlled.

A liberal Kuwaiti has been chosen as the first Speaker. The interim parliament has five years to create a permenent institution. Arab League officials hope the parliament will evenutally have direct elections, like the European Parliament.

Some of the Arab World's only 'free and fair' elections have taken place for foreign institutions: Iraqis living in Damascus were recently allowed to vote in Iraq's elections.

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