A North Korean nuclear experiment, a Saudi accusation of Iranian dishonesty on the nuclear issue and political unrest in Tunisia all feature prominently in Arab print media on Wednesday.
Al-Hayat, based in London, leads its news with the North Korean nuclear experiment that was condemned on Tuesday by the UN Security Council. The daily features a photo of North Korean citizens standing and clapping in a snow-covered street as they hear news of the experiment.
“Pyongyang defies the world with a new nuclear experiment,” reads the headline.
In its TV report, Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera calls the experiment “a clear defiance,” noting that this is North Korea’s third nuclear test since 2006. The channel displays Chinese and Japanese condemnations of the experiment, and features South Koreans burning the North Korean flags in the South’s capital, Seoul.
Saudi foreign minister bashes Iran
Saudi daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat leads its news on Wednesday with the words of foreign minister Saud Al-Faisal during a joint press conference Tuesday with the Austrian foreign minister.
Faisal told journalists in Riyadh that Iran is “dishonest” regarding its nuclear program, which is “not right and against international law.”
Referring to the crisis in Syria, Faisal said that a solution did not depend on intermediaries in the Arab League or the UN but on the position of the Assad regime, which has rejected all proposals for a peaceful transfer of power. Faisal asserted the Syrian people’s “right to self-defense.”
Meanwhile, Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya dedicates a TV report to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, in which he called on Iran to negotiate a diplomatic solution for its nuclear program.
Moroccan PM: We’re not part of the Muslim Brotherhood
Speaking to Arab press in Rabat Tuesday, Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane attempted to portray his Islamist Justice and Development Party as progressive, renouncing the Muslim Brotherhood brand name, which has received much bad press recently.
“We do not belong to the ‘Brotherhood’ and our relations with Saudi Arabia are warm,” reads the story’s headline in Al-Hayat.
“Moroccan society is Muslim by nature, but our government does not come and tell people ‘grow a beard’ or tell women ‘wear a veil,'” Benkirane told the journalists, stressing that his party was opposed to intervention in peoples’ lives or “Islamizing society.”
>When asked about the appointment of only one woman to his cabinet, Benkirane said that Morocco could not be compared to France, since female participation in Moroccan politics began only quite recently. He said that gradual incorporation of women in politics is the best solution.
Meanwhile, reporting on the same interview, A-Sharq Al-Awsat focuses on Benkirane’s foreign policy opinions.
“Benkirane to A-Sharq Al-Awsat: The situation in Mali will certainly have a positive effect on the Sahara issue,” reads the front page story’s headline.
Benkirane was referring to Western Sahara, a region occupied by Morocco, which has recently received partial autonomy from the central government in Rabat.
He said that the Mali experience has shown that weak countries which can be easily penetrated by jihadist elements should not be allowed to exist.
“There is no doubt that [Mali] will have a positive effect on the Sahara issue.”
Tunisia: Unity government this week
The leader of Tunisia’s ruling party, Rashed Ghanoushi, told A-Sharq Al-Awsat he hoped a wider unity government will be formed this week, following the political earthquake which resulted from the assassination of opposition leader Chokri Belaid last week.
Ghanoushi’s position stands in contrast to that of prime minister and party member Hamadi Jabali, who proposed a nonpolitical government comprising technocrats.
Ghanoushi told the Saudi-owned daily that Ennahda, his party, is the “spine of the country,” and should not be diminished in any way, since that would harm the country itself.
Meanwhile, Tunisian foreign minister Rafiq Abdul Salam told Al-Arabiya that Ennahda had no objection to involving international elements in the murder investigation of Belaid.
Abdul Salam told the station that like most of his party’s leaders, he preferred a political government to a purely professional one.