Review of the Arab press

By SANA ABDALLAH  |  March 29, 2004 at 10:18 AM
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AMMAN, Jordan, March 29 (UPI) -- Arab press round up for March 29

Arab newspapers Monday criticized Arabs leaders after Tunisia called off the Arab summit that was scheduled for Monday and Tuesday. Jordan's mass-circulation al-Rai daily ran a commentary that described the cancellation of the summit as a "great success," saying it issued its resolutions without being convened. The paper, partially owned by the government, said the summit that was never held was "one of the most successful of Arab summits, because it showed most of our Arab regimes and leaders as our true enemies, and enemies of democracy and human rights." The paper outlined what it saw as the Arab summit resolutions without convening the meeting as follows:

-- "The Arab masses have no right to organize themselves, to voice their views and choose their leaders.

-- "It is not the responsibility of Arab governments to stand in the face of the Zionist entity and its continued terrorism against the Palestinian people.

-- "It is not in the interest or responsibility of these regimes to stand against the occupation of Iraq.

-- "It is not in the interest of the Arab regimes to get the Arab governments' League out of its negativity and impotence, and to become representative of the people."

The paper said it wished that future Arab summits "will be even more successful."

The London-based al-Quds al-Arabi daily shared a similar view, and said it was grateful the Tunis summit collapsed hours before it started, "so that the Arab masses see their regimes in their true colors; as weak, divided, impotent, lacking initiative, and living a state of confusion." The independent Palestinian-owned paper said the leaders who decided not to attend the summit had caused its collapse. It also blamed Arab regimes that sought to turn the meeting into "a bugle for America and its greater Middle East in order to kill real reforms that the grassroots forces are demanding for democracy and human rights." The daily said it was unfortunate that none of the Arab foreign ministers who were meeting in Tunis "stood bravely in a press conference to announce the real reasons for this farce and tell us exactly what happened behind the scenes." It described the ministers as "spineless," saying they represent "dark regimes that are accustomed to falsifying the truth, just as they have excelled in hypocrisy and lies." The paper said the problem was not a matter of a summit or venue, "but in the leaders who participate in such meetings with their very private special agendas to remain in power."

Lebanon's independent as-Safir, however, lashed out at the Tunisian leadership for calling off the Arab summit, saying it was a "suspicious" move. A commentary in the daily said Tunisian President Zain al-Abedine bin Ali had dealt with the summit as if it was "one of his departments that requires his authority to establish and cancel with a personal decision." The paper said the Tunisian decision "to cancel the meeting at the last minute" was an insult to the Arab people, as well as other Arab leaders. It said it was unacceptable that the "ruler of Tunisia would adjourn the summit before it is convened with the pretext that it was not responding to the demands he brought from Washington." The Beirut-based daily said "this clumsy behavior" could not be seen as being concerned with an Arab consensus or out of fear that the summit he was hosting will fail. It noted that the Tunisian leader had refused to meet with the Arab foreign ministers and the Arab League secretary general, adding that "using the excuse that he has a bad cold is even a worse excuse."

Egypt's government-owned al-Ahram mass-circulation daily said calling off the summit was a "shock to all the Arabs" and called for convening a summit as soon as possible. The paper said in its editorial that more efforts were needed to prevent the cancellation of the meeting of Arab leaders, "especially when Arab countries are facing a serious crisis." The Cairo daily, which said all indications prior to the summit were mostly positive, added that while previous summits had often witnessed differences among the members of the Arab League, the divisions "were always under control." It said it was "very dangerous for any common Arab action" for Tunisia to have called off the meeting because some member states rejected its proposals for reform. Al-Ahram added that while Tunisia's decision was a sovereign one because it was hosting the summit, it said the "crucial moments that this region is going through called for all efforts to prevent reaching such a decision." The paper added that what was now needed was to "recognize this unusual situation and restore confidence to the Arab people in the nation, Arab establishment and their Arab League."

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