Review of the Arab press

Jan. 9, 2006 at 11:23 AM
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AMMAN, Jordan, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Arab press roundup for Jan. 9:

The Jordan Times commented in its editorial on a recent local public opinion poll that showed 20 percent of Jordanians still consider al-Qaida a legitimate resistance movement, saying these results are "deeply troubling and worrisome." The country's only English-language daily said while the poll results showed a significant drop in considering al-Qaida as a resistance group dropped from 66.8 percent in 2004 to 20 percent in December 2005, and al-Qaida in Iraq down to 6.2 percent from 72.2 percent last year, it was still worrisome that one-fifth of Jordanians still respect this organization. "It is as if for all these people, the Nov. 9 attacks never occurred," it complained, in reference to a triple suicide attack on Amman hotels. The pro-government paper said it seems there remains a significant number of Jordanians that are so "disgruntled, disillusioned and desperate that they have embraced the most deviant notions and ideologies," adding that the government and non-government institutions must restore hope "amongst the pockets of desperation." It insisted that only through development and a courageous and aggressive move to modernize education can people's views shift. It said that if public school children are taught that "domestic abuse is okay, provided it doesn't leave unsightly scars, no wonder things can get terribly messed up when it comes to much more complex issues, such as the line separating national liberation movements from terrorist organizations." But the paper urged the government to be very careful when reshaping its relations with religious institutions, saying it must ensure it does not "turn a much-needed dialogue into blind witch-hunting."

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Lebanon's an-Nahar daily reported Monday the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt were "speaking one language" in pushing Syrian President Bashar Assad to fully cooperate with the international probe into former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination. The anti-Syrian paper quoted unidentified sources as saying that Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak advised Assad that responding to the investigation is "what will save the regime in Syria." The mass-circulation paper quoted Arab diplomats in the Saudi Red Sea port city of Jeddah as saying that talks between the Saudi monarch and the Syrian president on Sunday focused on "finding a way to save Assad's face in dealing with the investigation commission to hear his testimony." The diplomats said among the suggestions made to Assad by Abdullah is for the Syrian president to dispatch an envoy to meet with the investigators to take their questions to Assad. In return, Assad could respond to their questions in writing. The diplomats also told the paper that the Syrian president was seeking more Arab support to confront Western pressure by convening an Arab summit to discuss Syria's crisis with the West.

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Egypt's mainstream al-Ahram daily said in its editorial the Saudi foreign minister's unannounced visit to Damascus and Assad's consequent meeting with the Saudi monarch in Jeddah Sunday showed the role activation of the "major countries" in the region to contain tension and prevent international intervention. The semi-official paper said the escalating tension between Syria and Lebanon has taken a serious turn as some Lebanese forces started calling for a change of regime in Damascus. It said such calls were "irresponsible and only complicates matters between the two countries," adding they were also a "service to the foreign plans aimed at blatant intervention in Syrian affairs." The mass-circulation argued that the issue of Hariri's assassination should remain the framework of Syrian-Lebanese-international interaction and must not allow using this issue as an entry to seek revenge from Syria for its positions that have nothing to do with Hariri's murder. It added that Saudi-Syrian agreement on the Lebanese-Syrian crisis, as well as Egypt's efforts, should contribute to finding an exit from this crisis.

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The London-based al-Quds al-Arabi commented the Egyptian and Saudi leaders cannot help Syria's Assad in confronting American pressure and the U.S. use of the U.N. to topple his regime because Abdullah and Mubarak were more concerned with protecting their relationship with Washington than with any other Arab country. The independent Palestinian-owned daily said the most these two leaders can do for Assad is to show sympathy and a desire to save him by giving him advice on cooperating with the U.N., "just as President Mubarak did with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein." The paper, distributed in most Arab capitals, added that listening to Mubarak over the years led to extending the sanctions on Libya and the invasion of Iraq. "We realize the Syrian president's choices are very limited," it said, "that's why we find the justification for him to move between Jeddah and Sharm el-Sheikh in search of exits that could gain him some time and a little margin." The paper advised Assad to remember that the campaign against him and his regime led by his former vice president, Abdel Halim Khaddam, was launched by the Saudi media and supported by Rafik Hariri's son, Saad, whom it said continues to hold a Saudi citizenship and enjoys support from the government in Riyadh.

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Qatar's al-Watan said in a commentary that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's visit to Lebanon last week showed "hidden motives" as he met with politicians and sectarian leaders. It said Straw's moves in Beirut were as if he was "benefiting from the inheritance of the old British empire to serve the new American empire," and that's why no one expected him to offer solutions. "He wanted to study Lebanon's internal situation in details and the possibilities of using these conditions in the region's conflicts through the common vision with the United States," the pro-government daily opined. It blasted the British official for having praised Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from Beirut, saying Straw had failed to meet the minimum standards of diplomacy because Sharon had led the Israeli invasion of Beirut in 1982, "destroyed its neighborhoods and committed massacres, mainly in the Sabra and Shatila" Palestinian refugee camps. The Qatari paper criticized Straw for going further and saying he wanted to deal with the sects in Lebanon, rather than Lebanon as a country, adding that no one can conclude from his visit and its timing that his positions could be positive for the country's future.

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