Arab Press Roundup: March 14, 2005

AMMAN, Jordan -- Egypt's al-Akhbar daily commented that President George W. Bush does not seem to listen to the news of what is happening in Iraq, saying that if he knew the truth there, "he would chose silence instead of talking about the democracy he promises to the Iraqis." The mass-circulation daily, which describes itself as independent but falls under government censorship, said that American political academics and activists have been calling on the U.S. administration to publish the number of Americans killed and injured, as well as those of innocent Iraqi civilian victims who fell in the past two years since the American-led invasion of Iraq. It added that reports from Britain indicated the demands of these activists, being published on Internet sites, were also causing a lot of "embarrassment and anger towards British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the largest partner in Iraq's invasion." The paper said these people were challenging the administration to reveal the truth about the casualties, insisting that "the number of those victims from the invasion is much higher than the murder victims thrown in the mass graves during Saddam Hussein's reign."

The London-based al-Quds al-Arabi said in its editorial that the Egyptian government was the biggest winner for hosting the meetings of the Palestinian factions, which start Tuesday, because it will give the impression to the American administration that it still had great influence on the Palestinians. The independent Palestinian-owned daily said Cairo thought that this could perhaps ease Washington's pressure on the regime. The paper, with pan-Arab nationalist trends, said the Egyptian leadership was trying to keep the momentum of last month's Sharm el-Sheikh summit rolling to "keep up its role in the political process after it lost" its other regional influences. It added it did not believe this week's Palestinian dialogue would be different than previous ones conducted in the past four years because the Egyptian influence was limited only to the Palestinians. It insisted that Cairo "does not dare come near the Israelis, despite the great concessions the Egyptian leadership presented in this regard, starting with the unconditional release of the Israeli spy Azzam Azzam and ending with dispatching the Egyptian ambassador to Tel Aviv." But the paper added that the Palestinian factions, especially Hamas, gave the Egyptian government a lot of credibility by taking part in these meetings, "at a time when this government is facing growing popular rejection and escalating international criticism."

The Jordan Times welcomed Hamas' decision to "join the political game" in the Palestinian territories by entering the July legislative elections as a "supreme act of maturity." The kingdom's only English-language daily said that now Hamas has taken this "courageous step," it urged other armed factions like Islamic Jihad, to "join the political bandwagon and suspend armed insurgency in favor of dialogue and negotiations, in search of a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Predicting that Hamas would make substantial gains in the legislative elections, hoping that it would "give peaceful resolution" of the conflict, the paper said the stage was now set for "more vibrant political competition, which will be given even more impetus if more factions decide and be given the chance to share in the political decision-making process at the parliamentary level." The paper, partially owned by the government, argued there was a "sea of change in the Palestinian arena that requires regional and international support," adding that political backing and economic assistance were "critical to getting the Palestinians up on their own feet."

The United Arab Emirates' al-Khaleej quoted a senior Gulf official participating in the Berlin International Tourism Fair as saying there were ongoing negotiations between Israel and an unidentified Gulf state to allow Israelis, especially the Arab Muslim citizens of Israel, to visit the holy and tourist sites in the country. The official, whose name or nationality was not identified, told the pro-government daily that some Israeli travel agents "resorted to many tricks, and even fraud, by issuing non-Israeli passports to tourists wishing to visit this Gulf state." He said that this oil-rich country was also trying to persuade its neighbors to allow the Israeli tourists to pass through without restrictions.

The same paper quoted former Jordanian Crown Prince Hassan, the brother of the late King Hussein, as calling for "developing the culture of participation and dialogue" to pave the way for an international "humanity law" based on the "basics of ethical principles, not on domination and control." Prince Hassan told the paper the role of women also needed to be strengthened in the Arab world and called for utilizing the Arab satellite television channels to become open for "popular conferences." He said that with 167 Arab channels, "air time should not be filled only with entertainment and special programs." He added that 70 percent of the world's immigrants were Muslims, insisting this indicated negligence "in charity and in caring for others. ... So what is the point of talking about investments if we don't invest in the capabilities of human beings?" He said this negligence was the main reason for injustice, adding that the "result of injustice is the surfacing of extremism." The Jordanian prince said the tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia also revealed the "ordeal of the Muslims and the need to respond to the issues of poverty in all their forms."

By UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL Published March 14, 2005

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