Saturday, February 28, 2004

Mideast politics enliven Miami



By Jon Gambrell
Enquirer contributor

OXFORD - As the occupation of Iraq continues, the Iraqi people are trying to find their voice.

But on the campus of Miami University, the country has a voice in University of Cincinnati senior David Reed as he argues with a nearby "delegate" from Tunisia.

It's all part of the Model Arab League, sponsored by the National Council on Arab-U.S. Relations, to give students an opportunity to learn more about the Mideast.

"I'm just salivating to get to the next section," says Reed, a 23-year-old political-science major. He has proposed legislation to strike Article VIII of the council's charter, which is a promise not to meddle in a country's regime change.

With 10 university-level summits, a national competition and a high school program, the Model Arab League helps students break down stereotypes of the Middle East, said Miami grad Shawn Romer of the national council.

"This is ... not just reading out of a textbook and listening to a lecture," Romer said. "Once you learn their reasoning, (their actions) start to make sense."

Nearly 130 students from seven universities have been arguing politics since Wednesday. The summit ends today.

Debates are fast and fluid, the tables covered in empty coffee cups, laptop computers and stacks of resolutions. After researching their assigned country, students create a plan of action, behaving and voting as their countrymen would.

Miami senior Dan Wilberding, representing Libya, says leader Moammar Gadhafi's recent overtures to the United States put the country in a unique position.

"As we represent Libya, we have to walk a careful balance of having an independent voice of Arab nations and alienating the West," he said.

Reed approached Wilberding during a lull in a session, pitching his legislation.

Libya was non-committal.

E-mail jgambrell@fuse.net




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