Libya's bid to parlay the American bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi into an issue that would unite the Arab world has failed, and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi now appears to be more conspicuously isolated than he was before the raids.
Qaddafi had sought an emergency summit to condemn the April 15 attacks and coordinate an overalll Arab response against the United States. But after two days of talks in Fez, Morocco, Arab foreign ministers yesterday decided to go home without having set an agenda or a date for the meeting.
Even before those sessions were over, one influential Egyptian commentator concluded, "The Arab world is not polarized, it's shattered."
While Libya's confrontation with the United States since January and the bombing in April had brought forth a fairly unified chorus of condemnation from Arab leaders, the prospect of meeting to take some concrete action brought out all the fundamental divisions that have kept a full-scale summit from convening since 1982.
Libya and Syria wanted to limit the agenda to discussion of the American bombing raids. But Libya and Syria are the odd countries out in the Arab world because they support non-Arab Iran in its war against Arab Iraq.
The states of the Persian Gulf insisted that the Iran-Iraq war should be part of the agenda.
As the entire effort was falling apart yesterday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak took the opportunity to criticize the Arab League that has excluded his country since it made peace with Israel in 1978.
Speaking at a May Day rally, Mubarak mocked the efforts of Syria and Libya to invoke a collective Arab defense pact when they support Iran in its war against Iraq.
Defending the Camp David Accords, Mubarak said, "God knows that deep in their hearts" the other Arab nations "wished they had Egypt's courage to make peace instead of living in a vicious and impotent circle for the past seven years."