The United States, in taking the initiative on Syria following the UN’s failure to pass a resolution against the Assad regime, receives favorable coverage in all major Arab media reports today.
The Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports on the intention of the United States and other Western countries to form “a group of friends of the Syrian people,” initiating independent sanctions against the regime. The London-based daily Al-Hayat leads with the trip of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Syria Tuesday to implement “fast democratic reforms.” A-Sharq Al-Awsat speculates that those reforms may include convincing Assad to step down. Al-Hayat quotes Arab leaders condemning the Chinese and Russian veto of the UN resolution against Syria. Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Arabi says that the veto does not negate “wide international support for the Arab League initiative.” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamid bin Jasim Aal Al-Thani is even more unequivocal in his condemnation of Russia and China, stating that the veto gave “a bad message, justifying the killing.”
The hard-line London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, for its part, focuses not on the international arena but on the killing still continuing on the ground. Its headline reads “Fear in Syria from the repeat of the Khalidiya massacre,” a reference to the government crackdown on Homs Friday. The report stresses the fear of opposition activists in the city of an intensification of government violence following the Russian and Chinese veto. Lavrov’s trip to Syria, which leads the story in Al-Hayat, is pushed to the end of Al-Quds Al-Arabi’s coverage.
In a call to Arab action, A-Sharq Al-Awsat editor Tareq Al-Humeid writes that fear in Syria is “hereditary”, referring to recurring patterns of violence by both father and son in the Assad family. “The question is, will the Arabs remain silent on the crimes of the son as they did on the crimes of the father? The power of the Assad regime, both father and son, does not lie in their capabilities but in the fact that they have grown accustomed to evading punishment and consequences.”
Mubarak to prison
Wide coverage is given to the imminent transfer of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to Tora Prison, near Cairo, where the clinic is being refurbished in preparation for him. Al-Quds Al-Arabi views the decision as a government attempt to pacify the public following the Port Said soccer fiasco, which led to the death of 74 fans last week. “Mubarak to the prison hospital: containing the anger and preparing for a conviction,” reads the daily’s headline. Mubarak is currently being held in a prestigious civilian hospital in Cairo, to the dismay of Egypt’s protest movement.
Al-Hayat focuses its coverage on an agreement reached between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military not to expedite the presidential elections scheduled for this summer. The daily also reports on the deteriorating diplomatic relations between the US and Egypt following the trial of 40 attorneys, including 19 Americans, on charges of illicit foreign funding of American non-profits. One of the arrested Americans is the son of American transportation minister Ray LaHood.
A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports that although Egyptian officials are to be dispersed in five prisons, Mubarak’s sons Jamal and Alaa’ will remain close to heir father, in Tora Prison.
Abbas to become Palestinian prime minister, as well as president
Major play is given today in Arab media to the Doha Summit discussing Palestinian unity talks. According to major news channels Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, Hamas has agreed to accept Mahmoud Abbas as prime minister of the future unity government. Qatar-based Al-Jazeera stresses that leaving Abbas in power until the parliamentary and presidential elections at the end of the year was the idea of Sheikh Hamad Aal-Thani, the Qatari Emir, who is hosting Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashal in the Qatari capital.
Leading Palestinian daily Al-Quds reports that Abbas’s nomination as prime minister is intended to break the deadlock created by Hamas’s refusal to accept Salam Fayyad as prime minister of the unity government, while avoiding the international condemnation and boycotts that would result from a Hamas candidate. Palestinian law must be amended to enable Abbas to fill the position, Al-Quds notes.
The Palestinian Information Center, a Hamas news agency, stresses that Abbas will only lead the government for a transitional period, until elections are held in May. Izat Rishq, a Hamas official, tells the agency that further agreements were reached between the sides on the release of [Hamas] prisoners from West Bank jails.
Lebanese satire annoys Palestinians
A Lebanese TV satire show, ‘Ktir Salbi’ (How Odd), has managed to aggravate Palestinian sensibilities. In a recently aired skit, the program poked fun at the ban placed on Palestinians to work and own property. “How odd that everyone talks about Palestinians’ right in Lebanon, but no one talks about the rights of Lebanese,” says one actor, while another adds: “How odd that everyone talks about the Palestinian right to own property but no one mentions the fact that Lebanese can’t afford an apartment.”
Angry Palestinians have formed a Facebook page calling on viewers to boycott the MTV channel which broadcasts the show, Al-Quds Al-Arabi reports.