Chicago's mayor to host Arab leaders

April 27, 2008 9:04:39 PM PDT
Mayor Richard Daley will assume the role of international statesman this week.He will welcome nearly 50 mayors and other leaders from Middle Eastern nations, who are in Chicago to take part in the first ever U.S. Arab cities forum.

The mayors will represent countries as diverse as Morocco and Iraq.

The mayor from Mosul, Iraq, the country's second largest city, is in Chicago. Mozul is roughly the same size as Chicago, but these days, that about sums up the similarities between the two cities.

"There's still a lot of potential, a lot of growth and building going on. The city is moving forward as much as it can," Zuhair Muhsin Abdul Aziz Al Aaraji, Mosul's mayor, said.

Mosul has been the scene of intense fighting, bombings and bloodshed. It is believed to be the last urban-strong hold of al-Qaida in Iraq.

So why, at a time like this, is that city's mayor in the heartland of America?

Mayor Zuhair wants to learn about cows, specifically the dairy industry. He also is interested in recycling, education and infrastructure, the bread and butter topics of mayors the all over the world.

That's why leaders from cities from Algeria to Iraq, Libya to Lebanon and Qatar to Yemen are in Chicago.

"Problems with education and violence, all things we talk about. They have the same issues in different degrees," Mayor Daley said.

)Chicago's mayor will play host, teacher and student all in one week. The exchange of ideas will extend to the annual Richard J. Daley Urban Forum at UIC.

If the old saying, all politics are local, is true, Daley is spinning that phrase into a forum and a philosophy.

"I may differ with President Bush, but I still have respect for him. What we're trying to say is national governments are up here, but this is down here. People to people about mayors. What's we're trying to do is help our fellow mayors, regardless of where they are, to improve the quality of life for them and their countries," Mayor Daley said.

No doubt Mayor Daley's showcasing of Chicago also aims to polish the city's image abroad. It's good for business and potentially good for the city's 2016 Olympic bid.

As for the mayor of Mosul, he's been working on a few phrases in English.

"I love all the people in Chicago!" Mayor Zuhair said.

"Spoken like a true politician!" ABC7 Chicago's Ben Bradley joked.

The U.S. Arab Cities Forum also includes the mayors of several suburbs including Aurora and Batavia, which will be held at UIC Monday through Wednesday.


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