Arab League delays meeting on creating joint military force

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CAIRO (AP) — The Arab League has postponed a meeting of member state defense ministers who were scheduled to ratify a protocol for a new joint military force to intervene in troubled areas in the region, the organization said in a statement Wednesday.

Arab League countries will decide later on a new date for the meeting, which had been scheduled for Thursday, the statement said. Members had formally announced the agreement in March, and drafted a protocol for it in May.

The delay comes as the idea of an Arab joint force is already being tested in Yemen, where an ad hoc Saudi-led and U.S.-backed coalition has been targeting Iran-backed Shiite rebels and their allies.

Experts say a new force would have difficulty reaching consensus on intervention in cases like Libya, where different Arab countries support rival parties.

Members already reportedly disagree over whether the force should be headquartered in Cairo, the home of the Arab League. Qatar and Algeria reportedly object to the location. Qatar, a wealthy Gulf nation with huge reserves of natural gas, and Egypt, which has the Arab world's largest standing army, have been at odds since the military overthrew Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who Qatar backed.

Countries that requested the Thursday meeting be postponed include Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Iraq, according to the statement.

Defense ministers of member states would run the force, with a two-thirds majority required to make decisions. Military plans would be left to the member states' top generals.

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