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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Review of the Arab press

AMMAN, Jordan, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Arab press roundup for Oct. 4:

Egypt's al-Ahram said Wednesday the meeting between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Egypt and Jordan in Cairo Tuesday was very significant towards efforts to revive the Mideast peace process.

The semi-official daily added in its editorial the meeting came at an important time because the situation in the Palestinian territories continues to deteriorate and threatens to have serious repercussions.

This requires international and regional efforts to calm down the situation and to bring back the rivals to the negotiating table, it argued, saying Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas needs more support to achieve his "moderate vision to reach peace with Israel, as Rice said."

In addition, the mass-circulation paper said, the security and political conditions in Iraq are quickly heading towards a real civil war, adding it was time to end the violence and reunite the Iraqis behind a strong government that imposes its sovereignty, influence and security.

"Rice's tour and the Cairo meeting affirm the importance the United States places on achieving stability and security in the region," the paper stated.

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Bahrain's al-Wasat, however, said Rice was in the region to dictate to the "moderate Arabs" how to "stand against the extremist forces in the region," including Iran, Hamas, the Lebanese Hezbollah organization and other anti-Israeli forces.

The pro-government daily, which describes itself as independent, added in a commentary that Washington is trying to gather Arab political and possibly financial support to resist Iran by portraying the Islamic republic as a threat to the Arab Gulf region.

"The Americans want to achieve their interests in our region, to exploit and steal our resources and allow the Zionists on our lands," it complained, "but where are our interests in standing with them when it will only lead us to more weakness and divisions?"

Iran, it noted, borders the Arab Gulf region, but nothing "ties us to America except animosity and hatred our people have for the Americans," adding the oil-rich Arab countries would be making a huge mistake if they accepted the American "instructions."

The paper opined that Rice and other figures from the U.S. administration are hated by the Arab masses because of the size of the American hatred towards the Arabs, saying it wished the leaders of these masses would stand by their own people to achieve the "strength we want."

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Lebanon's an-Nahar said when Rice delivered a lecture in July 2005 at Cairo University on the need for democracy in the Arab world, she upset Washington's traditional Arab friends because she was clearly criticizing the Egyptian and Saudi regimes.

Today, it added, she returns to Cairo to meet eight of her Arab counterparts, describes them as "moderate forces" in the region, and consults with them on how to confront the "extremist forces" that came to power through democratic elections in Iran, Palestine and Lebanon.

"The Bush administration returned to the regimes it had criticized as being undemocratic to discuss with them stability at the expense of democracy," the anti-Syrian paper argued.

The mass-circulation daily said reasons for the American shift were obvious: The democracy that America promoted had elected its rivals in Palestine, consolidated the Islamic positions in other countries and had seen sectarian chaos erupt in Iraq.

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Algeria's al-Khabar said it doubted that a recent report by 16 U.S. intelligence agencies showing the invasion and occupation of Iraq has increased terrorism would lead to a change of U.S. policy in the region.

The mass-circulation daily said all indications prove the Bush administration will persist in its policies despite the setbacks suffered by the Arabs from these policies and despite the absence of an American vision for the future of the region.

It predicted the White House will "remain confined to military force alone," adding that Rice's Middle East tour and meeting with eight Arab ministers suggests Washington "continues to define the future policy of the region based on worn-out tools."

The paper said Rice should remember that the leader of the strongest country in the region, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, "did not win the presidential election except with 23 percent of the Egyptian voters."

Al-Khabar asked Rice what had changed, since previous American reports found that violence was a result of -- and a natural reaction to -- corrupt Arab dictatorships for the U.S. administration to take these "corrupt regimes as tools and partners to build the future of the Arab countries."

Nothing has changed in terms of the Arab leaders and the logic of the White House, the paper said, "which means the violence that was caused by the corrupt regimes and American policies will recur in the future."

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London-based ash-Sharq al-Awsat said the street battles between Fatah and Hamas followers in Gaza were embarrassing, unjustifiable and cannot be defended under any circumstances.

The Saudi-owned daily said the fighting was nothing more than a power struggle, whether it is carried under the name of unpaid salaries, Israel or the "new democracy." It complained the Palestinians were fighting over an impoverished, troubled and weak government, blaming Hamas because it is a government that was elected legitimately, yet refuses to be clear and honest with its people over two main issues.

These issues, the paper said, are its administrative commitments on the domestic front and its political "games" regarding the Palestinian Authority's peace agreements signed with Israel.

The paper, distributed in many Arab capitals, also blamed Fatah because it refuses to accept its defeat in the Palestinian elections and "conspires as it exploits the crises and seeks a coup d'├ętat to return to a power it lost because of its mismanagement and corruption of senior officials."

The Palestinians and the Arabs, it argued, are being held hostage to a struggle between an organization that seeks power but rejects its commitments and an opposition that seeks power by instigating battles. It said a national unity government initially seemed to be an acceptable solution, but even such a plan will not hold.

"It seems (more) confrontations are imminent," it predicted.
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