A Saudi statement Sunday supporting the establishment of a safe zone in Syria to protect civilians from government-inflicted violence is making headlines in the Arab press, much of which is owned by Saudi Arabia.

“Assad asserts security solution, and Saudi Arabia supports buffer zones,” reads the headline of Saudi-owned A-Sharq Al-Awsat. The article displays a photo of children from the town of Houla — where a massacre was perpetrated last week — taking refuge in a local school.

“Riyadh: The situation in Syria is very dangerous and its regime is procrastinating,” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Hayat, quoting Saudi foreign minister Saud Al-Faysal. The daily refers to a new speech by President Bashar Assad in which he vowed to “fight terrorism in order to cure the nation, without compromising or negotiating with its supporters.” It quotes opposition sources who consider Assad’s speech a commitment to a “bloody resolution” of the Syrian crisis.

‘Following Assad’s speech there must come practical positions, including military intervention. The dictator of Damascus made the matter simpler by announcing that he will continue fighting, regardless of the price’

Al-Quds Al-Arabi editor-in-chief Abd Al-Bari Atwan also analyzes Assad’s parliamentary speech in his editorial Monday. He mocks the decisions taken by Arab foreign ministers in Doha, Qatar, this week to ban the broadcast of Assad’s speeches on Arab satellites and to implement Kofi Annan’s plan for Syria under chapter 7 of the United Nations, allowing for the use of military force in case of noncompliance.

“The Arab foreign ministers know how hard it is to implement their decisions… they could not impose their will on Iranian channels which are stronger and more dangerous than the three miserable Syrian channels with limited viewership. [The ministers] know full well that the Russian-Chinese veto will await any Security Council decision on use of force.”

“President Bashar Assad gave his speech yesterday knowing all of this. He could not have been more confident in the support of his Russian, Chinese and Iranian allies. Therefore, he asserted his insistence on continuing with bloody security solutions, which brought Syria to its tragic state.”

But A-Sharq Al-Awsat editor-in-chief Tareq Homayed reads Assad’s speech differently. For him, Assad’s insistence on the path of violence renders the diplomatic track impossible and makes international military intervention inevitable.

“Following Assad’s speech there must come practical positions, including military intervention. The dictator of Damascus made the matter simpler by announcing that he will continue fighting, regardless of the price.”

Gloating at Mubarak’s downfall

Fallout from the court ruling in the trial of deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak continues to fill the Arab press.

Al-Hayat reports that Egypt’s general prosecution is attempting to quell public outrage at Mubarak’s ruling by appealing the verdict.

A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Mamoun Fandy argues that Egyptians are frantically trying to find a new national consensus following the collapse of the Mubarak regime, and are doing so using two accessories: the ballot box and the cage of Mubarak’s trial.

“But neither the cage nor the ballot box will be of avail. The presidential elections did not fill the void, nor did the trial of Mubarak and his aides succeed in curing the malady.”

Al-Quds Al-Arabi gloats at Mubarak’s health deterioration following his ruling Saturday. “The ‘Pharaoh’ collapses on his first day in prison and the prosecution will appeal for a harsher sentence,” reads the daily’s front-page headline. It goes on to report that Mubarak was forced to wear  the blue prisoner’s uniform, and the prison authorities refused his request to summon his private doctor to the prison.

“In a spectacle that was unimaginable for many centuries, Egyptians placed their Pharaoh in the prison which he filled with his opponents,” begins the report. “Deposed President Hosni Mubarak spent his first day in the infirmary of Tora prison in a state of emotional collapse, forcing doctors to prescribe tranquilizers to calm him.”

Meanwhile, the tones are rising in the political battle between Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi and independent candidate Ahmad Shafiq.

A-Sharq Al-Awsat dedicates an article to Ahmad Shafiq, quoting his attack on the Muslim Brotherhood as a force that wishes “to monopolize power and bring the country back to the Dark Ages.” The article displays a photo of Shafiq during a press conference presenting proof that the Brotherhood had promised not to nominate a presidential candidate.

‘In a spectacle that was unimaginable for many centuries, Egyptians placed their Pharaoh in the prison which he filled with his opponents’

The Saudi-owned news website Elaph covers the start of the absentee voting in the Egyptian presidential elections by interviewing Egyptian voters in the United Arab Emirates. The conclusion, as stated in the article headline, is: “It is better to boycott the elections than choose between two devils.”

Sheikh for porn

Egyptian Salafi Sheikh Osama Qawsi has spoken up in favor of sexual scenes in Egyptian films, especially if the scenes serve the plot, reports Al-Quds Al-Arabi. Qawsi caused a storm when citing the Quranic story of Joseph who overcame the temptation of the wife of his master. He said that love scenes on the silver screen help educate the public to avoid sin.

Muhammad Abd Al-Munim Birri, head of the Salafi scholars union, criticized Qawsi’s unusual views, saying the scholar misspoke. Religion, Birri added, prohibits anything that excites human inclinations.