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Prince Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz, Saudi Arabia’s director of general intelligence, suffered a stroke during the opening of the Arab summit in Beirut today. He has reportedly been placed in the intensive care unit of the American University of Beirut Hospital.

The Saudi delegation withdrew from the summit following Nawaf’s hospitalization. The intelligence director’s stroke comes at a convenient time for the Saudis, who suffered a major political embarrassment when few Arab leaders showed up for the summit.

The annual meeting was to be the vehicle for Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah’s plan for Middle East peace. The de facto ruler earlier floated an idea promising to deliver the entire Arab world in a peace deal with Israel in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal to its 1967 borders. But 10 Arab leaders – including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah of Jordan and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat – did not attend, and the Palestinian delegation withdrew after a tiff with Lebanese officials about the transmission of a speech by Arafat from Ramallah.

The summit’s descent into chaos demonstrates clearly that the Saudis were not speaking for the entire Arab world when offering peace to Israel and that Crown Prince Abdullah’s peace proposal is untenable.

With the withdrawal of the Saudi delegation, the summit is essentially over. Lebanese television has already reported that the summit might finish today rather than as scheduled tomorrow.

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