International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

April 2, 2004

April 2, 2004





**  "Differences" over the U.S.' Greater Middle East Initiative (GMEI) caused the postponement.

**  Hard-line outlets urge Arabs to "reject" foreign "dictates" for reform.

**  The postponement reveals "fault lines" within the Arab world.

**  Arab summits, even if held, are just "mere talk and cries for justice."




The Arab world's 'total disarray' made the summit impossible--  Both Euro and Arab papers blamed the postponement on how Arab governments are "divided into two teams"; some are "very attentive" to reform while others dismiss it as "Washington's desire to control the region."  Euro and moderate Arab writers saw a "continued abject failure" by Arab leaders to "produce solid proposals" in response to the GMEI, despite the "desperate need for reform in the region."  Morocco's leading L'Opinion said only democratic reforms can solve "the Arab world's humiliating marginalization";  Saudi Arabia's moderate Al-Yaum urged Arabs to "fix their house from the inside instead of waiting for external advice." 


The U.S. seeks to 'impose its policy on each and every Arab regime'--  Palestinian, Syrian and Algerian writers blamed "the two enemies, America and Israel" for the summit's postponement.  The "invisible hand of America" forced Tunisia to shelve the gathering, thus undermining Arab solidarity and making the U.S. "better able to deal with Arabs individually in order to swallow and digest them," according to the West Bank's independent Al-Ayyam.  Algeria's influential El Watan blasted Arab rulers' "cowardice and subservience" to "their American masters."  Syria's government-owned Tishreen alleged the GMEI "poses grave dangers to Arabs" because it aims at "absorbing them and taking their land and wealth."


'The Arab house is burning'--  Euro papers agreed the summit's postponement was an "embarrassing picture" that "reveals the fault lines of the Arab world."  A German observer termed the Arab League "not even a powerless chatterbox" but rather an "ostrich that buries its head in the sand" when facing the reform question.  According to Italy's centrist Corriere della Sera, democratic reform is a "deadly time bomb" for the "Arab dinosaur governments."  Saudi and Yemeni writers bemoaned how Arabs are "incapable of finding a decisive solution" to current problems; Jordan's mass-appeal Al-Arab Al-Yawm judged the summit's postponement "conclusive proof that the Arab regimes are on the edge of collapse." 


Arab Summits only lead to 'immense disappointment'--  Some papers downplayed the summit's delay, since previous summits were, as the pro-government Times of Yemen observed, "full of useless talk and denunciations."  A Jordanian writer rejected "repetitious and rhetorical" speeches that turn Arab summits into "farce," while Lebanon's moderate Daily Star saw "not much difference between an Arab summit that convenes and one that is postponed."  But some Saudi and Pakistani writers stressed the importance of holding a summit to "create a united strategy" that will enable Arabs to face "Israeli arrogance" and "foreign hegemony."


EDITOR:  Ben Goldberg


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 70 reports from 22 countries over 23 March - 3 April 2004.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN:  "Imaginable?"


The independent weekly Economist held (4/3):  "Given the Arab League's less than impressive history, is the fracture in its unity now a good or a bad thing?....  A concerted Arab effort to acknowledge past failings would be particularly timely.  Two admirably candid reports in the past few years written by Arab academics for the UN's development programme, and testifying to the link between political repression and economic backwardness, have powerfully underscored the need to loosen up....  An inability to embrace greater democracy is not inherent in Islam--witness progress in Turkey, but also in Malaysia and Indonesia.  There is no reason why Arabs cannot do likewise.  But if their rulers cannot even agree to discuss such matters, outsiders may be forgiven for querying their proclaimed determination to make their countries worthier of respect."


"Reform On Arab Agenda Despite Cancelled Summit"


Foreign editor Bronwen Maddox commented in the conservative Times (3/30):  "The summit's implosion illustrated the huge contentiousness of any talk of reform, but it also showed that this debate has now begun in earnest.  For everyone--the Arab world, its neighbours and the West--that is very good news....  The league was under pressure to come up with a coherent response to the U.S. 'Greater Middle East Initiative", that bland declaration which caused such offence by seeming to brand changes already occurring as U.S.-inspired....  The row in Tunis [shows] that Arab governments are now confronting the problems that face them, including Islamic militancy and their underemployed youthful populations.  The temptation is to reject change as a U.S. imposition, irrelevant while the Israeli-Palestinian sore still festers.  But those tendencies are weakening--witness the energy with which Egypt pledged to hold a summit within three weeks if Tunisia did not.  It shows that some governments recognise the embarrassment of the summit's collapse, and who their people will blame."


FRANCE:  "Arab Failure"


Left-of-center Le Monde opined (3/30):  “The question that was to be central to the Arab League Summit was the U.S. initiative for the Greater Middle East and its objectives of democratic and economic development. The plan has divided Arab regional nations into the 'new' and the 'old' Arab world, similar to the new and old Europe concept so dear to Donald Rumsfeld. Some, such as the Gulf monarchies, Tunisia and Morocco, are very attentive to Washington’s advice and positions. Others, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria are worried about what they perceive as Washington’s desire to control the region....  The Arab League is in serious need of revamping if it wants to be credible. Its impotence and inactivity are patent, while the region’s problems grow....  But Washington, which is more than ever hated in the Arab world, and its aspirations to promote democracy are suffering from a lack of credibility....  President Bush’s Iraq policy, the support he has given Sharon and his refusal to get involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not about to make his plans for reforming the region popular. But blaming the U.S., or the West, for all of the Arab world’s problems will not put an end to the region’s misery and frustration. At best it will maintain the authoritarian regimes in their immobility.”


"Arab League Summit Postponed"


Jean-Pierre Perrin wrote in left-of-center Liberation (3/29):  “Mirroring the image of an Arab world deeply divided, Arab summits are going from bad to worse.  Already in 2003 the Sharm Al Sheik summit proved that Arab leaders were incapable of finding a common ground.  On the aftermath of Yassin’s assassination, the Tunis summit has not even given Arab leaders the possibility to expose their disagreements....  The postponement of the summit, because it reveals the fault lines of the Arab world, elicits more interest than the summit itself, had it been held, because such summits are generally marked by a consensus of pure form.”


GERMANY:  "Failed"


Josef Joffe argued in center-left weekly Die Zeit of Hamburg (4/1):  "The Greater Middle East Initiative suffers from one incurable contradiction:  Autocrats are recruited to solve the problem, who are themselves not part of the solution but the problem.  The summit of the Arab League therefore failed before it started....  Only when Arab regimes negate their hostile image of Israel will they live in peace."


"The Barbers From Tunis"


Rudolph Chimelli noted in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/29):  "The planned summit failed even before it had begun since the Arab foreign ministers were incapable of finding a phrase hiding their refusal to accept the appeal for free and democratic reforms.  The U.S. Greater Middle East initiative is embarrassing Arab leaders, since they have suppressed its demand for reforms for decades....  It is difficult to find a therapy, and this will be even more so if this therapy comes from the United States.  In the Islamic countries, people measure the U.S.  not against its declaration of intent but against the things the Americans do in Afghanistan and Iraq, and even more against the things they do not do in Palestine in particular.  The respect of the U.S. power is greater than ever, but America's moral credit and its credibility in particular as advocate of freedom is suffering because Washington supports authoritarian regimes ranging from North Africa to Pakistan whenever they are useful for U.S. plans....  The European ideas that were emphasized in the Barcelona process in 1995 are not even taken note of in the U.S. project.  But this process, that was temporarily dormant and has often been criticized, is much more concrete than the vague U.S. plans.  The EU links established with the region in trade and migration are much closer, even though the risks of a destabilization are much greater.  The Europeans should sharpen their feelings for such realities, as long as there is time."


"Avoid Saying Anything"


Andrea Nuesse opined in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (3/29) and centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (3/29):  "We can rely on the Arab regimes.  They do not miss a single opportunity to present themselves as a bunch of nations that are at odds with each other....  Now those Arab nations, mainly Syria, feel strengthened that want to discuss political reforms only when the Middle East conflict has been settled.   But Damascus is nevertheless among the losers.  For Syria it would have been very important to send a positive signal to Washington.  But the cancellation of the summit is also a setback for President Bush.  He would have liked to refer to the Iraq invasion having set in motion the reform movement....  But the Arab regimes must blame themselves for the fact that they again failed to make clear their common position that the reforms of their states and the solution of the Middle East conflict must be addressed at the same time....  But how can we expect statesman-like skills when foreign ministers discuss half a day over the issue whether NGOs are necessary for the building of a civil society.  After the cancellation of the summit, the Arab League offers an embarrassing picture.  It is not even a powerless chatterbox.  It looks like an ostrich that buries its head in the sand."


"Apocalyptic Mood"


Karim el-Gawhary argued in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin (3/29):  "Once again, the Arab dinosaur governments have proved to be totally incapable of crisis management.  The Arab world is in an uncomfortable situation.  After reforms from the bottom could not be implemented for many years, they are now imposed on them from the outside, mainly from Washington....  It is no wonder that an apocalyptic mood is spreading in the Arab world....  It is true that almost all Arab leaders like to use the term 'reform,' but nothing has happened, since they are faced with an unpleasant dilemma.  If they do not initiate reforms, they will be removed, and if they initiate reforms, they will lose power at the end of this process....  The cancellation of the summit resembles another declaration of bankruptcy.  The political vacuum has become bigger and the only question that now must be raised is who will become the bankruptcy administrator.  President George W. Bush or the Arab inferiors who will call to account their leaders once they have proved to be self-confident citizens.  But what would happen if the outcome of this process did not correspond with western wishes?"


ITALY:  "Arab League Splits On Reform And Democracy"


Antonio Ferrari stated in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (3/29):  “The Arab Summit has failed.  Even worse, it never began. Tunisia, on a frantic and dramatic eve, surprisingly decided to postpone the summit indefinitely.  This had never happened before....  It’s clear that the leaders of countries who continue to refer to each other as brothers no longer even care enough to keep up appearances....  It’s a simple truth: the reform chapter is becoming a deadly time bomb--more dangerous than the Israeli targeted killing of the spiritual leader of Hamas Yassin....  We must now understand the meaning of reform.  And this is where things get tough, because in the Arab world reforms have always only aimed to change as little as possible for the purpose of maintaining the status quo.  Bin Laden terrorists and their associates have every reason to exult. In terms of popularity in the Arab world, Tunisian President Ben Ali is losing ground, while the Egyptian Mubarak has regained a good number of his lost points.”


"Arab League In Full Crisis, Tunis Summit Postponed"


R.A. Segre noted pro-government, leading center-right Il Giornale (3/29):  “Whether this failed meeting will mark the end of the League, or only a postponement of the summit, doesn’t matter much now.  What counts are the tensions that have been stirred by the lack of political unity on the Palestinian and Syrian issues....  Understanding between Arabs is difficult because they no longer know what role to play in the politics of the modern world....  After the end of the Cold War and in the absence of a European role which is capable of counterbalancing the American one in the Middle East, the Arab States can no longer ask others to be more Arab than the Arab themselves in order to defend their interests.”


RUSSIA:  "Arab World Plunges Into Chaos"


Vladimir Bogdanov wrote in official government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta (4/1):  "The opinion in the West is that the aborted summit in Tunis is another major defeat for the Arab world, which is impossible to piece together.  The Tunisian president has confirmed that by calling off the meeting without consulting any of the Arab League members. This, when the Arab world is considering democratic projects and cardinal political reforms.   Many analysts believe that the idea of a united Arab world makes no political sense anymore, as there is not a single important issue on which the Arabs will agree among themselves.   Arab leaders are incapable of developing a common stand on ways to reform and update society....  The Arab world lacks a striking, strong leader.  Saddest of all, none of the current Arab leaders possesses any of Osama bin Laden's charisma."




ISRAEL:  "No Lost Sleep Over The Postponed Summit"


Danny Rubinstein wrote in left-leaning, independent Ha'aretz (3/29):  "One factor that has somewhat disrupted preparations for this [Arab League] summit was the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.  Most Palestinians derived great pleasure from scenes of the demonstrations against Israel and the U.S., some of them violent, which took place throughout the Arab world after Yassin's death.  Such demonstrations always become protests against rulers of the country in which they take place, who are asked to break off any contact, direct or indirect, with Israel.  The Prime Minister's disengagement plan, which confounded the Palestinians, is confounding Arab leaders, too....  If in the past, Arab summit conferences were a subject that sparked excitement and enthusiasm among the Palestinian public and its leadership, today's summit was conceived as a routine, ho-hum event.  Arafat was supposed to give one of his ordinary speeches, and the Arab spokesmen had prepared a few mutual verbal barbs.  The Palestinians had few expectations of the summit, and no one is losing sleep over its postponement."


WEST BANK:  "Failure Of A Family Meeting"


Mohammad Yaghi commented in independent Al-Ayyam (4/1):  "As opposed to the American reform initiative which was not listed on the agenda [of the Arab summit], an Egyptian-Saudi-Syrian initiative calling for gradual reforms under the so-called 'chaos prevention' in the Arab world has been developed....  News agencies talked about instructions given by Washington to Zayn Al-Abdin [President of Tunis] during his visit to Washington at the beginning of this year, on the need to cancel the summit as a means to frustrate the Arab reforms project.  The truth is that none of the official Arab regimes has a wish for this demand [reforms], and therefore the cancellation or postponement of the summit was the only legal way out of this trouble.  Tunis, more willingly than anyone else, has no interest in carrying out the needed reforms, mainly after its constitution was modified more than once to fit the re-election of its president for the fourth consecutive time."


"Between Holding The Summit And Burying It Alive"


Independent Al-Quds editorialized (3/30):  "In the last few days, holding the Arab summit has become the main concern of Arab diplomats and officials, as well as Arab and foreign media outlets.  Meanwhile, Arab citizens throughout the Arab world have lost any interest in the issue.  This is especially the case because of past experiences of previous summits, which have all but dashed the aspirations of the Arab peoples, diminishing in the process their confidence in their ruling regimes....  The Arab masses know that the decision-makers in the Arab world are under tremendous foreign pressure, which not only defines the course of political developments in each country individually, but also draws the map of the entire region, dictates the positions [these leaders] must adopt, and tries to impose on them reform programs that serve the foreign entity's objectives and bolster its strategies.  Still, the real problem is not the existence of such pressure, for the Arab regimes have always been subjected in one way or another to foreign influence.  The problem actually lies in the scattered Arab reactions to this pressure, whether with regard to quality or quantity of such a reaction....  We want to stress that even though Arab solidarity and unified discourse will surely support the Palestinian cause and serve the aspirations of neighboring Iraq in terms of ending foreign occupation and restoring its lost sovereignty, the prevalent impression among the Arab people is that achieving such Arab solidarity...has become unattainable, especially in light of the internal and external givens in the Arab world.  Therefore, holding the summit or postponing it, or even canceling it altogether, wouldn't have any impact anyway."


"Arabs Must Learn To Remove Their Own Thorns"


Adli Sadiq held in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (3/29):  "The Arab summit failed to meet as scheduled.  The contradictions over the fates of regimes rather than of peoples were the cause of its failure to convene the summit.  The points of disagreement over priorities reflected differences in viewpoints on the extent of U.S. involvement in particularities of Arab life....  The Arab dilemma does not lie in agreeing on ways to respond to U.S. wishes and dictates.  Rather, it lies in the inability of the Arab regimes to find a formula that would reject these dictates in the first place....  The Arab regimes have started doubting each other's intentions; they have accused each other of being catalysts for change in the Arab world and the Arab League itself in accordance with a U.S. 'catalogue'....  But the problem goes beyond [U.S. pressure on Arab regimes] to become several detailed questions: Would the regimes allow a democratic social movement that opens the doors to social trends in the interest of small ruling parties?  Would we see the advancement of a judiciary system that is revered by everyone?  Would the regimes have the courage to revise school curricula and history books?  Would they respect the value of solidarity among people, and change their ways of dealing with the Palestinian cause and resistance?"


"Suspension Of Arab Summit Opens Doors To American Initiative"


Rajab Abu Siriya wrote in independent Al-Ayyam (3/30):  "Some people linked the failure to hold the Arab summit at its appointed time and place to the argument that occurred among Arab foreign ministers in their meeting on reforms.  Two positions were adopted in the meeting....  The first called for more emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a response to the American Greater Middle East Initiative.  The second, led by Egypt and Jordan, saw in the Egyptian initiative [announced earlier in the year] an Arab response to the American one, especially after Jordanian FM Muashar visited Washington and obtained American agreement to withdraw the Greater Middle East Initiative from consideration at the G-8 summit next June and instead replace it with an Arab one.  It seems that this Arab initiative would basically be an Arabic version of the American one, just to save face for the official Arab regimes....  Is the decision to postpone the summit going to be a first step in opening the door to implementation of the American initiative?"


"Failure To Hold The Summit Is A Victory For American Policy"


Independent Al-Quds editorialized (3/29):  "Under the absence of a unified Arab position, the door will be wide open for the U.S. to impose its policy on each and every Arab regime--a policy that lacks consideration of Arab rights and interests while giving much concern to supporting and protecting the Israeli occupation....  The truth is that the alleged 'Greater Middle East Initiative,' which the U.S. is trying to dictate to the peoples and leaders of the Arab region--except Israel--is not to strengthen democracy and reform as much as to reinforce American control over the region."  


"The Official Arab Regime:  RIP"


Talal Okal commented in independent Al-Ayyam (3/29):  "Ever since Tunis was announced as the host of the [Arab League] summit and was hesitant to accept that [role] until it got a green light from the U.S., it became obvious that this summit would not be ordinary in terms of its agenda, recommendations and level of representation.  It seems the American fingers were present when the indefinite postponement decision was announced....  Signs of failure appeared ahead of time through the Arab foreign ministers' meetings.  Even if the summit had actually taken place, there were not indications that it would have succeeded....  If the American interest was to have every Arab country deal with its own reforms, it wanted the Arabs to say so themselves, and thus it pushed for delaying the summit, just to show the Arab leaders' failure to their people and to make Washington better able to deal with the Arabs individually in order to swallow and digest them."


EGYPT:  "Postponement Of Summit, A Crisis That Must Be Understood Quickly" 


Leading, pro-government Al-Ahram commented (3/29):  "The truth is that the sudden postponement of the [Arab] summit has come at a time when Arab nations are facing a deadly crisis in the form of increasing Israeli terrorism to the extent of criminally assassinating Shaykh Ahmad Yasin, and when a great Arab nation, Iraq, is being surrendered to the occupation....  Israeli joy as shown by the world news channels and agencies concerning the [Arab summit] postponement, has hit Arab streets with great frustration, because Israel has seen it as a positive development for her interests.  As far as Palestinians are concerned, it is an opportunity for Israel to escalate its aggression and heinous acts against them just when they really need Arab support."


"Egypt Has Managed To Solve Others' Mistakes"


Small-circulation pro-government Al-Gomhuriya remarked (3/29):  "Egypt has managed to hoist the flag of joint Arab work and to bear a big burden in salvaging the process from collapse by solving other [people's] mistakes which were about to bring down the Arab organization as the enemies wanted.  Egypt's hosting of the Arab summit, postponed in Tunisia, has brought new hopes to the masses of the Arab nation who saw what happened in Tunisia as a big blow to hopes and aspirations of surmounting serious challenges, at the top of which is the occupation of two Arab states, Palestine and Iraq, and the challenges facing other Arab states in trying to make them abandon their decisions and hand over leadership to others."


SAUDI ARABIA:  "On The Road To The Summit"


Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazira editorialized (4/1):  "Following the postponement of the Arab summit frustration prevailed at all levels, government as well as with ordinary people.  Phrases such as 'Arabs agreed to disagree' were frequently used in commentaries, demonstrating a state of desperation that could poison the entire Arab world....  Thus it becomes absolutely necessary to see a determination for success, only success."


"Collective Responsibility"


Dammam’s moderate Al-Yaum opined (4/1):  "Arab leaders, to deal with the current serious political circumstances, must quickly adopt ways to convene an alternate summit....  Time moves quickly and Arabs must establish a timetable for domestic reform instead of reforms being imposed from outside."


"Arab Reparation"


Abha’s moderate Al-Watan contended (4/1):  "The meeting of selected Arab leaders in Egypt is an attempt to repair the breach that was caused by the postponement of the summit in Tunis.  The Palestinian situation is becoming increasingly worse.  The situation in Iraq is not in any better shape, especially after Arabs failed to contain it from the beginning.  Furthermore, when we see U.S. pressure on this country and others we realize how much the Arab world is internally divided.  Arabs today should look back at their past mistakes and apply the lessons they learned to future plans.  Despite the difference in time and values, there are certain things that remain constant.  A reality check tells us that Arab leaders should put their differences behind them and concentrate on the things that unite their countries."


"A Summit To Overcome Differences"


Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina editorialized (3/31):  "Whether the summit is held in Tunis or in Cairo, the fundamental issues must remain at the top of the agenda.  The leaders have an obligation to resolve these issues at a time when our nation faces vicious and serious dangers.  We are confident that wise Arab leadership will foil the enemies’ chance to harm this nation.  They will do that by overcoming their superficial differences and devoting their attention to the main issues.  We need to reach collective solutions that reflect our unity and coalition."


"Fixing The Arabian House From Within"


Dammam’s moderate Al-Yaum declared (3/31):  "Because of the difficult political situations in the region, there is an urgent need for Arab nations to discuss their unresolved issues, mainly the Palestinian question and occupied Iraq....  Arabs must fix their house from the inside instead of waiting for external advice....  In light of international economic cooperation and development, Arab nations desperately need to achieve economic integration....  Arab leaders must reschedule an alternate summit that addresses all Arab issues, and be determined to solve them."


"Rescheduling The Arab Summit"


Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazirah maintained (3/31):  "The Arab region has succeeded in overcoming a serious crisis following the indefinite postponement of the summit. The latest developments show the desire of Arab leaders to reschedule the meeting at the earliest time, regardless of venue. They have also showed willingness to resolve the differences that have emerged over several key issues. The postponement gave them the opportunity to review the situation from all aspects. Arabs have begun to realize that taking decisions only is not enough. The decisions should be followed by action."


"Bilateral Move To Save The Summit"


Jeddah’s moderate Al-Bilad opined (3/31):  "The Saudi-Egyptian move to save the Arab Summit comes at a critical time.  This initiative aims at unifying the deteriorating Arab coalition.  Arabs are going through tough times, and are living in a period where bilateral and regional cooperation has become more valuable than the national efforts of individual nations.  Crown Prince Abdullah indicated that we need to overcome obstacles and look ahead rather than look back."


"Who Is The Cause?"


Abd-al-Rahman al-Rashid contended in London-based pan-Arab Al-Sharq al-Awsat (3/30):  "The clamor that raged due to the postponement of the Arab summit and the dispute on where and when to convene it demonstrate no doubt that the Arab summit is extremely important. This is a good sign....  This postponement will widen the gap not only due to the controversies that raged regarding its topics but also regarding its participants, hosts, and stands of the countries about attending it....  Regarding the Tunis summit, there are those who are implicitly putting the blame on the Saudi side. They are holding it responsible for aborting the summit....  Saudi Arabia's absence will definitely weaken the summit for several reasons. One of the reasons is that Saudi Arabia was behind two of the most important papers that will be presented to the leaders. It was Saudi Arabia that proposed the only peace plan that was adopted at the Beirut summit and that the conferees generally wish to resurrect. It was also Saudi Arabia that is behind the second paper calling for political reform in the region....  This idea gained more importance after the Americans embarrassed the Arab governments by proposing a plan to develop the region on the political level. Thus, the reform paper became a collective need to offset external ideas and drove five Arab countries to present similar positive ideas.  With the approaching implementation of the promised plan--the Arab common market--Saudi Arabia is pushing to give it priority. I do not really know how a summit would be held without the attendance of the side that proposed the principal plans, although this is not an excuse to put the blame on it. The absence of principal leaders from conferences is not something new."


"Solidarity Is the Priority"


Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazirah editorialized (3/30):  "The recent crises raised from the indefinite postponement of the Arab summit threatens the solidarity of Arabs....  Israeli remarks about the postponement were very frank, and made it clear that Israel is supportive of any resolution that would encourage disunity among Arabs....  Any kind of solidarity is enough to remind Israelis that their country is not free to do whatever it wishes....  A little solidarity would go a long way to support the Arab cause.  Solidarity will help Arabs face Israeli arrogance, foreign hegemony, and be more competent to handle international developments."


"A Summit Now"


Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina declared (3/30):  "Before deciding on the location and date for a new summit, Arab leaders should work on the factors that would guarantee the success of a summit. Serious negotiations must precede the summit so that there is at least an agreement among the participants on a cohesive vision for the future.  The leaders must agree on commonalities and avoid the differences that waste their time, exhaust their strengths, and ruin any images of dignity.  If the American initiative, which no Arab country has yet seen in its final and official form, has really exhausted the negotiators, perhaps it would be better if they devoted the time to finding an Arab reform plan.  Having differences is not a sign of weakness; it just means that there are diverse opinions, which should be a source of strength.  The issue was not whether we should have reform or not.  Different people just had different views on its timing, strategies, and mechanism.  Diversity should lead to more dialogue and discussions until a resolution is reached."


"Alternative Summit"


Dammam’s moderate Al-Yaum held (3/30):  "Arabs should not become frustrated with the suspension of the Arab Summit, since nothing can block them from dealing with their concerns.  The difficult situation in the Palestinian territories, the unstable condition in Iraq, and the issue of internal reform at this critical time, will obligate Arab leaders to set a new place and time for their next summit. Arab leaders must satisfy their people, and they are capable of dealing with all crisis and unresolved issues." 


"Postpone And Save"


Jeddah’s moderate Al-Bilad editorialized (3/29):  "Postponing the summit in Tunis saved the dignity of Arabs.  Arabs are incapable of finding a decisive solution for the issues of today such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the occupation of Iraq, and the continuous threats on Syria.  Delaying the summit saved Arabs from revealing the true depth of their disarray.  The Summit would have had to issue a statement to condemn the killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.  Such a statement would have carried no weight at this time."


"The Scene In Tunis"


Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina declared (3/29):  "Another summit might be a solution, but there are no guarantees.  Arabs must prove that they are seriously willing and ready to enter into the future of a new political system.  This requires critical assessment of current systems and norms of the new international political structure.  The question that should be answered is: Are we ready to become part of the future, and not just reminisce about the past?"


ALGERIA:  "The ‘Invisible Hand’ Behind The Cancellation Of Arab League Summit"


Top-circulation French-language influential Le Quotidien d’Oran maintained (3/31):  "It is the first time since its creation in 1945 that the Arab League Summit has been postponed without the approval from all its member countries.  What are the real motivations behind the cancellation of the Arab League Summit?  And what then compelled the Tunisian president to postpone this Summit?   Several Arab political analysts believe that the ‘invisible hand’ of America may be behind Tunisia’s decision to postpone the Arab League Summit.  This not only makes Bush and Sharon become the exclusive beneficiaries of this action, but, for Israel, it is ‘a positive sign illustrating that the Arab world is constantly changing.’  Maybe the ‘invisible hand’ has done such a good job that Arab leaders will soon turn their backs on each other, making their uniting cause seem superficial.”


"The Arab League Summit Is A Failure"


Influential French-language El Watan asserted (3/29):  "The cowardice and subservience of Arab leaders have no limit.  In order to not offend their American masters, they decided to postpone the summit scheduled for March 29-30, in Tunis and to hold it in...Cairo.  And yet, there is an emergency.  The Arab house is burning.  Israel decided to increase the violence in Gaza and the West Bank by assassinating Hamas leader Sheikh Yassine.  In addition, Iraq is being colonized by a coalition led by the United States.  This organization (the Arab League) is totally obsolete, it serves American interests more than those of the Arab world.  Now it is time to pose the question: How does Algeria benefit from belonging to this league?  Algerians are wasting their time in this league that does not even fight for the emancipation of its own (Arab) people.”


"Inability And Sterility"


Top-circulation Arabic-language El Khabar opined (3/29):  "The postponement of Tunis’ summit demonstrates the inability of Arab leaders to deal with the dangerous situation in the Arab world.  It also expresses the sterility of their regimes....  Nevertheless, most of these leaders are rushing to please America and Israel, not in the aim of settling the existing conflicts in the Arab world, but of ensuring the continuity of their regimes, which are threatened by democratic reforms (Greater Middle East Initiative).”


JORDAN:  "Why Did They Make It Fail?"


Yaser Za'atreh stated in center-left, influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour (3/31):  "The conference of wasted dreams, the conference of oppressed people, the conference that was and then was not.  We do not claim that the Arab people had pinned big hopes on that Arab summit conference, for frustration is prevalent.  However, the Arab people felt that this conference must take place, even if it was out of courtesy...and even if it was for show, so as we are belittled in the eyes of the enemies....  Why did they not meet?  Who 'shuffled' the game?  Who is the mastermind and the saboteur?  Why was the truth not told to the people? Who dictated, was it America or Israel?  Yes, it is the two enemies, America and Israel.  They are the ones capable of directing events and turning things in their favor.  They are not above anything.  After all, the person who assassinates, arrests, destroys, drops missiles on peaceful people, would it be beyond him to conspire and cancel a conference for the Arab leaders?  Why did the summit conference fail?  Were they (the Arab leaders) afraid of embarrassment, of the repercussions, of facing America?  Whatever the reasons, what happened is shameful, and the proof is Israel's comment that it is a positive thing, meaning that there is no Arab consensus on enmity for Israel."


"Why All This Crying Over The Arab Summit?"


Bater Wardam noted in center-left, influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour (3/31):  "I am baffled by the reactions of the Arab media outlets and the Arab politicians to Tunis' decision to postpone the Arab summit.  It is a reaction characterized by much wailing and crying, as if the Arab nation has lost a one-time historic opportunity to fix everything....  A state of pessimism and sarcasm had prevailed among Arab politicians and media people prior to the summit.  Then suddenly, it switched to all this wailing and crying and accusing the U.S. of working to abort the summit.  If the summit had really reached a level of posing a threat to the U.S. policy, so much so that Washington would work on aborting it, then that would be a great thing.  I tend to believe Colin Powell's denial of having exercised pressure on the summit and it would be in the best interest of America to have the summit convene, because at the end of the day, it will bring nothing new....  The summit may be held in Cairo and I can already anticipate what the draft final statement would say.  But the Arab summit and the institutional Arab action were dealt a massive blow that would not be salvaged by Arab leaders meeting in Cairo or even in Baghdad.  The Arab world is still far from institutional action, and we thank Tunis for exposing the truth."


"The 'Folkloric Tradition' Of Convening Arab Summits"


Urayb Rintawi asserted in center-left, influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour (3/29):  "For the past twenty years, the writer of these lines has had the opportunity to witness a large number of Arab summits--comprehensive and small-scale ones, ordinary and emergency ones--only to get a feeling of suffocation towards the folklore of these summits and their traditions.  In addition to the same old faces at every summit--not only with respect to rulers, but also with respect to ministers, counselors, and media delegations--there exists a repetitious and rhetorical address that has no effect on anyone anymore.  It neither brings harm nor benefit....  And when the summit fails to provide complete and comprehensive answers, we--the masters of the Arabic language--as usual, resort to beautiful prose along the lines that the mere convening of an Arab summit is a national gain not to be underestimated."


"The Farce"


Basem Sakijha contended in center-left, influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour (3/29):  "The farce that is trying desperately to get the audience laughing will not find a place to convene.  The landowner does not want it to take place on his own land, and he has every right to do that.  Tunis, which embraced the Arab League when it temporarily left Egypt, does not want to be the place where the coup de grace is administered to the horse that never won a race and was always behind.  Why would an Arab summit convene when it is already known that the level of representation would not be summit-level, that core issues would not be discussed, and that a clear stand followed by a clear action vis-à-vis the issues that are facing the Arab nation could not be adopted?  It is a summit doomed to fail even as it opens.  The Arab countries evaded the responsibility by pointing an accusing finger at Tunis because of its bold decision--typical of the Arab habit of coming up with conspiratorial explanations.  But this will not harm Tunis, the only country that agreed to embrace the Palestinian resistance when it was kicked out of Lebanon."


"The Tunisian Event"


Chief Editor Taher Udwan concluded in independent, mass-appeal Arabic-language Al-Arab Al-Yawm (3/29):  "The decision to postpone the summit was exceptional in the history of Arab summits because it was a unilateral decision issued by the host country and without any consultation with the Arab leaders.  This leads to the conclusion that the Arab regime, as represented by its highest-ranking institution, namely the summit institution, has become frail and is collapsing....  The number of those who are crying the demise of the summit will shrink in number, because what happened is difficult to fix and because it is conclusive proof that the Arab regimes are on the edge of collapse and that what history destroyed cannot be fixed."


"Convening The Summit Is A Pan-Arab Necessity"


Center-left, influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour editorialized (3/29):  "We do not need to list the dangers that would evolve around us if we display our helplessness in creating a stand vis-à-vis the Israeli measures against the Palestinian people and against the peace process and vis-à-vis the situation in Iraq, and even vis-à-vis the reform project that is being planned externally, or if we come to believe that the Arab League and its pan-Arab programs are over and done with.  We view what happened in Tunis as merely a passing problem, since the Arabs have become aware of the need to work towards convening the summit as soon as possible."


KUWAIT:  “Amr Moussa, Leave” 


Dr. Ayed Al-Mana’a wrote in independent Al-Watan (3/29):  “The postponement of the Arab summit in Tunisia is a clear indication of the failure of the present General Secretariat, headed by Amr Moussa, in reconciling various Arab appeals on the necessity of reform of the Arab League.  Moussa must understand that since the escalation in tensions between the US and the Iraqi regime eighteen months ago, confidence in the Secretary General has been waning.  This is due to his eagerness to protect the former regime from the U.S. hammer, and his justification that foreign intervention would create havoc in the region.”




Mohammed Musaed Al-Saleh held in independent Al-Qabas (3/29):  “Disagreements between ministers or even presidents is quite a healthy phenomenon, which must be encouraged.  It appears that internal reforms are the reasons behind the problem and the indefinite postponement of the summit.  Usually, leaders who attend summits inherit their positions, or win elections designed for the nomination of a sole candidate; therefore they have no intention for reforms.  As a result, not holding a summit will not have any effect, because decisions are just ink on paper.”


LEBANON:  “The Limited Options And Not The Complexity Of The Location”


Rafiq Khoury commented in centrist Al-Anwar (4/2):  “The question (of holding the Arab Summit) in the end is not about the place or date but is about the decisions to be made.  America has succeeded, regardless of its intentions and regardless of opposition to the Greater Middle East imposing its agenda on all parties: From Europe to the Middle East.  No one can ignore the issue of reform.    Refusing the so-called reform from the outside cannot continue to be the pretext for abstaining from introducing internal reforms....  Escaping reform is the last thing Arab regimes can do now....  In the past it would have been possible for summits to succeed because then the request was to have decisions that did not have any effective change.  But now, the minimum request is for change.”


“The Official End Of Arabism?"


Nassif Hitti opined in pro-Hariri Al-Mustaqbal (4/1):  “If we remember the real atmosphere surrounding the (Arab) Summit...we would say don’t fret because all events are ultimately for the better as we hope that this sudden postponement...will wake up the Arabs and prevent rotational summits that produce routine decisions....  Not holding the summit might be a dangerous matter for the future of Arab cooperation and evidence of the state Arab to Arab relations have reached....  We are before a situation in which not holding the Summit might be viewed as failure.  But holding the Summit does not necessarily mean success....  What is required is a Summit that would express Arab anger regarding some issues, but which would also bring about policies that lay down the basis for dialogue and interaction with international players that are active and influential on the issues.  A Summit whose title is joint enrollment in international politics that are of importance to the Arabs and not just a rejection of certain stances.”


“Conflicting State Of Arabs”


Ali Hamadeh observed in moderate anti-Syrian An-Nahar (4/1):  “The Sharm Al-Sheikh meetings that followed the cancellation of the Arab Summit in Tunis is an effort by the ‘Arabs of the Center’ namely Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to reorganize...the Arab line after rebellions by Arabs on the sidelines.  What is giving small countries more weight than ever, is that the big countries are being subject to unprecedented American and internal pressures....  The three countries of the center are facing a rebellion from the (smaller Arab countries) that see in direct contact with America compensation for their size...and historical weight and relation to regional conflicts....  The Americans have become their partner in maintaining a balance in the face of the Arabs of the Center.  Not much time will pass before we see a new partner come forward through the American door to offer himself as a local guarantee of the stability of small countries and their balance with big ones.  And we mean by that Israel.”


“Death Of The Arab League”


Munir Al-Khatib concluded in independent Al-Balad (4/1):  “The failure of the Tunis summit did not come from no where.  And it was surely not a sudden Tunisian decision.  The director might have been Tunis, but the decision was without any doubt a joint Arab decision.  The corpse was lying before the foreign Ministers, but no one bothered to burry it.  The ministers enjoyed toying with it once under the pretext of reform and once under the excuse of the proposals of resistance and confrontation....  The Arab League might have failed in administering Arab differences but announcing its death and burial today is a real catastrophe, because it is the last possible hope for Arab cooperation and it remains despite all its disadvantages the only frame for the institution of Arab summits.”


“Reasons For Canceling The Tunis Summit?!”


Aouni Al-Kaaki remarked in pro-Syria Ash-Sharq (3/29):  “Arab regimes have divided into two teams: one with the U.S. and one against it; however, the majority of the Arab people are against the U.S.  Perhaps this reality gives an answer, even if it is not satisfactory, about the reasons that lead to the collapse of the Arab Summit in Tunis, particularly since Arab leaders have nothing to talk about except the failures they’ve been encountering on all levels....  What could the Tunis summit say?  Would it have been able to support the American presence in Iraq for example or would it have called for the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq?....  Would it have been able to denounce the Bush Administration’s complete bias towards Israel at the expense of Arab rights?....  There are great pressures to stop Arabs from cooperating and collaborating....  So we ask, is the cancellation of this summit a result of American pressures?....  It is very important to contain what happened, a summit should be held very quickly.”


“The Fired And Chased Summit”


Talal Salman maintained in Arab nationalist As-Safir (3/29):  “No, we cannot accept this...position which was taken by the Tunisian Ruler who dealt with the summit as if it is one of his administrations....  No one can accept this insult of the Arabs....  We want to confirm that Arabs, as human beings, did not assume that this summit will achieve fact, they were afraid that it might end up in presenting additional concessions to the Israeli enemy...however, some thought that it might, at least, try not to give Sharon a bill of innocence.”


"The 'No Summit' Of The Transparent Reality"


Independent Al-Balad editorialized (3/29):  “Between the Arab world and the Greater Middle East Initiative the Arabs reached a ‘no summit.’  Ministers of Foreign Affairs returned empty handed except for additional problems....  One thing is reform can take place within Arab States before there is reconciliation between the Arabs themselves, and no summit can be held without a real Arab will to hold it....  There is one benefit though, at least this time Sharon will not have the chance to mock Arab resolutions and decisions."


"Some Summits Are Worthy Of Postponement--For A While"


The moderate English-language Daily Star declared (3/29):  "The hectic pace of events around the would-be Arab summit last week culminated Sunday in the gathering's postponement....  The many pressing crises and challenges in this region demand action, preferably collective and firm action. Iraq, Palestine, Sudan, reform, Algeria, the economy, education, water and other issues cannot wait for a more propitious climate in which Arab heads of state might actually hold a scheduled meeting, make some sensible decisions and actually follow through on them....  There is not much difference between an Arab summit that convenes and one that is postponed. In the end neither results in any practical action.  That may be too harsh a judgment, but it is also a common one.  There are times when it is better to postpone a meeting rather than to gather for no measurable purpose.  We will know in the coming days if this was the case here, and why this summit was postponed.  The preparatory meetings in Tunis revealed major differences among the Arab governments in their attitudes to American, Arab and European proposals for political reform, and also to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Israel's assassination a week ago of the Palestinian leader and Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin somewhat reshuffled priorities and expectations....  The unfortunate corollary is that we have lost some of the impetus for a common move forward on Arab political, economic and social reforms....  The differences that surfaced during the foreign ministers' preparatory meetings were expected and genuine, and therefore were also a constructive prelude to reaching agreement on a broad regional reform agenda.  Arab summitry has never been a very good instrument for down to earth joint action--but it has always offered a useful forum to air differences and identify convergences in views and goals. This is a moment that desperately requires minimum agreement on regional challenges."


MOROCCO:  "Disarray"


Abdelmouneim Dilami noted in French-language business-oriented L'Economiste (3/30):  "The Arab world is in total disarray....  The main argument paralyzing the Arab world is the American proposal for the Greater Middle East Initiative to reshape the region. In fact, one of these jokes of history is that the plan to reshape the Arab world is not facing any open resistance. Arab governments are divided into two groups; those who immediately caved in and those who are trying to negotiate their caving in....  The American plan is a real earthquake, a real declaration of intent to control the region, to reorganize it ideologically and politically. The first targets are the existing regimes, which are considered inefficient, even harmful to American interests....  But for the Arabs themselves, what has been proposed may not be any better than what they already have."


"Why Has Tunisia Cancelled The Arab Summit?"


Mohamed Tazi argued in Istiqlal party-run Arabic-language Al Alam (3/30):  "If it had been held, the Arab summit participants would have been obliged to take three major, frank and pragmatic positions to silence Arab and Muslim anger: First, condemnation of flagrant U.S. intervention in Arab countries' internal affairs by presenting the Greater Middle East project, which clashes with every country's special characteristics. Second, calling upon all Arab countries with relations with Israel to lower the level of those relations and return to negotiations with the Palestinians for implementing the roadmap. Third, condemnation of the U.S. veto that killed the Arab resolution at the Security Council and thus gave Israel the green light for pursuing its terrorism against the Palestinian people."


"Vital Need To Tighten Arab Lines"


Professor Sedrati maintained in French-language, leading L'Opinion (3/30):  "But, no harm will have been done if the postponed Summit’s agenda includes the crucial reforms coming from a source outside the Arab world--is it not judicious to discuss them, ignoring their origin, and focusing on the gist and the validity of their contents? Is it by sticking our heads in the sand that we will solve the major problem of the Arab world’s humiliating marginalization on the chessboard of world policy, where the Arab world practically has no say?....  In politics, as in everything, there are important matters and there is what matters most. Presently, it is the unity of the Arab ranks where the lack is most keenly felt, because it is this breach splitting Arab ranks that the Zionist enemy exploits, as do all the other hegemonic powers, to...defeat us one by one, in a state of weakness...and on every level."


"They Are All Responsible And All Regretful"


Istiqlal party-run Arabic-language Al Alam observed (3/30):  "All Arab foreign ministers are responsible for the delay of the Arab summit expected to take place yesterday and today in Tunis....  Although they are all regretful, they may be relieved to have shirked off strong external pressure against having the discussions be focused on the daily repetitive massacres in Iraq and the ugly daily massacres in Palestine, most recently the shredding of Sheikh Yassin's body by missiles....  They are all responsible and regretful. They have abandoned the content to discuss the form: Will the summit be held in Cairo, or in Tunis? We Arabs feel regretful for this delay, although we did not expect the summit to be successful."


OMAN:  "The Challlenge For Arab Foreign Ministers"


Government-run Arabic-language Oman editorialized (3/23):  "By assassinating Sheikh Yasin a few days before the Tunis Summit, Israel presented the Arab countries with a tremendous challenge.  The challenge increased further after the failure of the UNSC to reach a resolution condemning Israel due to the American veto.  The veto will give the green light to Israel to continue its criminal operations.  Arab foreign ministers are thus confronted with a complicated situation in which they have heavy responsibilities."


SYRIA:  "No Alternative To Joint Arab Action"


Izziddin Darwish observed in government-owned Tishreen (4/1):  "Joint Arab action is the destiny of Arabs and their only option....  Any observer sees that foreign occupation and intervention in the Arab region have become so humiliating....  The Greater Middle East Initiative poses grave dangers to Arabs, the least of is the destruction of pan-Arab ties, separating them from the rest of the Moslem world, then absorbing them and taking their land and wealth....  Settling the summit issue should not take so long. The venue is not important; time is what counts....  The summit should rise to the level of dangers....  It is true that there were difficulties that blocked the summit, but these differences are not substantive, rather they are ordinary and inconsequential. They should be overcome by true will and real effort."


"The Upcoming Summit: A Raised, Not A Lowered Ceiling"


Mahdi Dakhllalah, Chief Editor, wrote in government-owned Al-Ba'th (3/31):  "After the Tunis shock (i.e. the postponement of the summit), Arab public opinion has raised the level of expectations of Arab demands. If anyone suggests lowering Arab demands below those of the Beirut Initiative, then he will be in full confrontation with the Arab street....  Since the Beirut initiative, the situation of unprecedented escalation in the terrorist mechanisms of the Zionist state, as well as the occupation of Iraq and proposals circulating in the Arab black market behind the back of Arabs has become more complicated (i.e. the Greater Middle East Initiative) has become more complicated."


"Fragmenting The Arab League, An Israeli Goal"


Ahmad Hamadeh commented in government-owned Al-Thawra (3/31):  "In the first reaction to postponing the Arab summit, Israeli officials claimed that 'the Arab world has started to change,' and that Arab hostility to their Zionist entity is no longer a common denominator uniting Arabs....  The Israeli entity is delighted when Arab countries fail to carry out the 'annual summits', and when Arab actions are trapped in a circle of emergency and Arab resolutions become knee-jerk reactions....  Arab leaders today must support all efforts to contain what happened in Tunis....  The so-called controversial issues raised at the summit were natural. Containing them is natural, too. But what is unnatural is to spread the idea of 'substantive differences.' It is unreasonable for Arabs to have differences on positions such as supporting the Palestinian cause and Iraq and the necessity of reform and common development."


"A Postponed Summit, The Lesser Of Two Bitter Things"


Chief Editor Mahdi Dakhllalah commented in government-owned Al-Ba'th (3/29):  "Apparently it was too difficult to raise all the issues on the Arab summit agenda in light of bad regional and international developments....  The Arab system today suffers from a double crisis: the pressing issues of development and the negative impact of international developments, including the concentration of hegemony and increasing Israeli terrorism....  Heavy pressures might generate more enthusiasm and energy, but regrettably they might (also) lead towards frustration and retraction....  Adjourning the Arab Foreign Ministers meeting was less bitter than it would have been to adjourn the summit while in session."


TUNISIA:  “The Machrek And The Maghreb?”


Senior editor Hajer Jeridi asserted in independent French-language Le Temps (4/2):  “The issue of the postponement of the Arab League Summit continues to arouse passionate debate.  Between the supporters and detractors of the Tunisian decision, we have the impression that there exist two Arab worlds....  And even if these two worlds have always existed, perhaps in a less pronounced way, they are now emerging in strong confrontation....  On one hand we have the Machrek that claims the genesis of Arab-nationalism and prides itself on having a historic impact on the whole Arab world.  On the other hand, we have the Maghreb--of which Tunisia is a part--which gives the impression of being more rooted in the West....  The only similarities that the Arab countries share are a political and democratic decline that they are going through, despite their timid attempts to catch up with the rest of the world. In all other areas, the Arab countries defy categorization. There are those countries that have a high GDP rate thanks to oil resources, while others are sinking into underdevelopment, with an increase in the illiteracy rate, and a handicapping poverty. Other countries, thanks to their focus since independence on developing education and women’s’ rights, are doing a little bit better.  So who has the right to claim any kind of leadership among these different kinds of countries?  It seems that the ones who are arguing their historic claim on the Arab nation are the ones responsible for the successive failures of this region.  Leadership can’t be inherited it should be deserved.”


"Prior Consultations Should Have Been Made"


Rachid Khachana, Editor-in-Chief, held in pro-opposition Arabic-language Al-Mawkif (3/30):  "It is regrettable that this happened when Arabs should respond to three major challenges: the killing perpetrated by the Israeli government, the Iraqi occupation and the reform of the Arab League. Even if the Chiefs of State could not come up with satisfactory decisions on these three issues, the holding of the Summit in itself could have, at a minimum, proved that the Arab World is still alive and able to resist external challenges. I think that prior consultations with the main countries could have minimized the divergences mentioned in the statement made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”   


"The Failure"


Senior editor Hajer Jeridi remarked in independent French-language Le Temps (3/30):  “The Arab unity has always been an illusion--only a symbol waved in speeches. The reality is something else; it is made of disagreements, division and deep divergences....  Hence, the postponement of the Tunis Summit is just a revealing illustration of the situation in the region....  Now the most urgent question is not where to hold the summit. The essential is rather to respond clearly and directly to the following questions: What are the tangible and pragmatic measures that result from such a Summit? How can we rationalize existing rigid systems, resistant to any change, with an emergency need for reform and modernization?....  We are currently facing a status-quo of failure full of lessons to be learned.  First, it teaches us the limit of the Arab League system that shows signs of fatigue.  It reveals that the Arab countries turn their backs to any hope for modernization and that they are not ready to work together to become unified." 


UAE:  "A Summit That Was Not Attained"


The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf News maintained (3/29):  "The "indefinite postponement" of the Arab League summit, due to open today, is an immense disappointment. There were hopes for progress in reforms but, in the end, it was the reform proposals that caused disunity and, fearing disagreement, a deferment by Tunis.  This goes to the very heart of the continued abject failure of the Arab League to produce solid proposals.  While intentions may be good on the part of some nations, others in the Arab world will not attend meetings which are not a foregone conclusion and the results presented to the delegates as a fait accompli.  This is reflected in the Arab League and other regional bodies where progress is either non-existent or staggeringly slow, thus depriving such organization of any purpose.  It was hoped that the summit would discuss important points such as a relaunch of a peace initiative that Israel might agree upon, as well as various human rights issues and reforms.  Reforms were proposed in a report prepared by the U.S., which has caused consternation in the Arab world, as many believe that such matters should come from within.  Yet, given the opportunity to produce reform proposals, the Arab world--this time in the guise of the Arab League--falls before it has even got to the first hurdle.  There is a desperate need for reform in the region; leaders cannot continue to thwart the ideas presented to them by their citizens.  They must lend a sympathetic ear to them, with a view to their implementation, not rejection.  As the youth of the Arab world become more educated and more aware of the rights that are afforded to them under such charters as the UN, so the demands will increase volubly if they are ignored. The leaders owe it to their people to be alert to such demands."


YEMEN:  "Symbolizing Weakness And Humiliation"


The English-language pro-government Times of Yemen held (3/29):  "The Arab Summits...have nowadays turned to symbols of inability and helplessness. Looking at Arab summits held in the recent past, one would easily find that every time Arab leaders meet in any Arab city, all they end up with is mere talk and cries for justice.  They condemn or denounce the occupation of Arab land, while doing nothing to change the reality....  What more can we expect from those summits?  Perhaps more humiliation and embarrassment?  As a nation, we have reached the most vulnerable time in our history.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see another Arab nation attacked and occupied without any action by other states because we are all in a stage of complete stagnation....  On an individual basis, each of the Arab regimes of today do not believe that their people will stand with them in case of confrontation with the enemy, whoever that enemy is.  This is obvious because Arab regimes are generally oppressive and still hold a mentality of dictatorship and total domination and control of the people and the country’s resources....  This year’s Arab Summit is expected to be like many others, full of useless talk and denunciations, and empty of any agreement or real action.  We just hope that those leaders will look into their people’s affairs and stop wasting money on traveling and spending time in useless meetings that are concluded with no concrete action."




CHINA (MACAU SAR):  "U.S. 'Greater Middle East Plan' Puts Off The League Of Arab States Summit Indefinitely"


Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked (3/31):  "In early April, U.S. President Bush put forward the 'Greater Middle East Plan' to promote the implementation of western-style democracy and capitalism in the Middle East.  The plan was immediately criticized by many Arab countries.  Egyptian President Mubarak was the first to object....  Many Arab countries supported his stance.  There is a simple reason for the resistance by the Arab world to the 'Greater Middle East Plan.'  The plan affects the fundamental interests of all Middle Eastern countries.  Once the reform is implemented, the positions of a majority of Middle Eastern leaders will be threatened....  The democratic reform issue was on the agenda of the League of Arab States meeting because Tunisia is under the influence of the U.S.  The Tunisian leader knows that there is no use in compelling others to do something.  Rather than wasting time holding a meeting about an issue that could not be resolved, Tunisia decided to call the meeting off.  From this angle, the postponement of the summit is not only a failure of the League of Arab States but also a failure of the U.S. 'Greater Middle East Plan.'"


PAKISTAN:  "Arab Summit Chaos"


An editorial in Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn read (3/31):  "The summit cancellation was due to differences over President George Bush's Greater Middle East Initiative, but the holding of the conference could have demonstrated Arab unity in the wake of Sheikh Yassin's murder....  Washington must see to it that this occupation comes to an end, and the Palestinians have a sovereign state of their own.  Without addressing this basic issue, Washington should not expect its reform initiative to make any headway.  As a prelude to this, Washington must pressure Israel to end its reign of terror in occupied territories and renounce murder as a state policy."


"Arab League Summit"


The centrist national English-language News declared (3/30):  "When the Arab world cannot even converge and come up with a united stand at this critical juncture--when the Palestinian issue is threatening to become a matter of life and death for it, the talk of a Greater Israel and redrawing of the map of the Middle East.  Sadly the much-needed unity, whose need couldn’t have been more critical today, is missing with the divisions within the Arab world increasingly becoming pronounced....  Only a united strategy and stand would enable the Arab world to face this challenge and the sooner they realize this the better it is for them...and also for us."




KENYA:  "Islam, Terror And Middle East Crisis"


Mohammed Omar Maluki, of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, asserted in the independent pro-business Standard (3/31):  "Under strong American pressure, the leaders of the world have pretty much found it easier to forget about Palestinian rights and from the grand notions of the still unimplemented UNSC resolutions 242 and 338....  Palestinians have seen their dispossession and oppression multiply....  The truth of the matter is that Muslims are fighting themselves in petty issues while our enemies are killing our brothers in every corner of the world.”



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