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Summary Box: Arab League talks economy, water

The Associated Press

UAE Ambassador to Iraq Abdullah al-Shihy, right, attends the meeting of Arab economic, finance, and trade ministers as part of Arab League Summit in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, March 27, 2012. Economic ministers from across the Arab world are looking at ways to develop tourism and ensure access to increasingly strapped water supplies in the region to boost economic stability in their countries. (AP Photo/Ali Haider, Pool)

THE FOCUS: Drought and uprisings are threatening to undermine the Middle East's economy, Arab officials said Tuesday as leaders from 21 states gathered in Iraq for the Arab League's annual summit.

THE BACKDROP: In Iraq the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers are drying up, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan say their ground water is rapidly depleting, and the Dead Sea is drying up. Much of the problem is due to the failure of governments in the region to manage growth and use of the major rivers. A State Department report released last week in Washington concluded that the use of water as a weapon of war or a tool of terrorism will become more likely beyond 2022, particularly in South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

PROPOSALS: Economic ministers tentatively agreed to cooperate on proposals for tourism and to deal with water shortages and natural disasters. Syria is expected to top the agenda on Wednesday.