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Arabic media review

America goes soft on Assad

Arab columnist criticizes the Obama administration’s change of heart regarding dialogue between government and opposition

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague, left, shakes hands with after signing an agreement to hold further talks with Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Lavrov during a joint Britain - Russia, foreign and defence ministerial conference at Lancaster House in London Wednesday March 13, 2013 (Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/AP)
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague, left, shakes hands with after signing an agreement to hold further talks with Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Lavrov during a joint Britain - Russia, foreign and defence ministerial conference at Lancaster House in London Wednesday March 13, 2013 (Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/AP)

Western diplomatic talk about arming the anti-Assad rebels in Syria leads the news in Arab media on Thursday, as Lebanon requests financial assistance to cope with an influx of refugees from Syria.

Al-Jazeera, a Qatar-based news station, reports that talks between Britain and Russia over Western support for the rebels have failed, as French foreign minister Laurent Fabius announces that France and Britain intend to arm rebels regardless of an EU decision on the matter.

A-Sharq Al-Awsat, a Saudi-owned daily based in London, leads its front page with reports of a shift in the American position regarding dialogue between the government and opposition in Syria. In past months the US has unequivocally demanded Assad’s departure, but in a recent speech in Oslo Secretary of State John Kerry indicated that the US was now in favor of dialogue between government and opposition to prepare a transitional government.

“There is a sense in Washington, particularly with the arrival of Kerry — who had a personal relationship with Assad and believes he knows the Syrian president’s way of thinking — that cooperation with Assad should be endorsed at this stage,” reads the daily.

Meanwhile, Syria’s neighboring countries are growing increasingly wary of the influx of refugees to their territories.

London-based daily Al-Hayat reports that Lebanese President Michel Suleiman stated during a tour in Africa that the numbers of refugees entering Lebanon from Syria “exceed Lebanon’s geographic, financial and human capabilities to supply them with proper aid.” Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Miqati pleaded in a Reuters interview for Arab financial assistance in absorbing the refugees.

Salah Al-Qalab, a Jordanian columnist writing for A-Sharq Al-Awsat, warns on Thursday that Jordan’s security is in danger as a result of the masses of Syrian refugees crossing the border into the Hashemite Kingdom.

“As the number of Syrian refugees flocking to Jordan reaches astronomical numbers, with real expectations that the numbers may reach not one million a day but four or five million and more, and bearing in mind that Bashar Assad himself threatened … that the crisis will engulf the entire region … It is clear that these threats are directed at Jordan more than any other country,” writes Qalab.

Zohei Quseibati, an Al-Hayat columnist, comments on what he regards as the irony of Israeli public relations surrounding the Syrian tragedy, following Israeli President Shimon Peres’ comments on Syria.

“The Syrian predicament is creating political miracles: America fears the desperation of the Damascus regime and Israel ‘has mercy’ on the Syrians trapped in the carnage.”

“In Washington’s view, desperation is the only thing which can push the regime to use chemical weapons… Israeli President Shimon Peres who spoke of the massacre went so far as to direct a warning to the Arab League: ‘Either you will intervene to stop it, or we will act, to save the Syrians.'”

“The plight of the heroes in Syria does not allow us to laugh at the public relations farce which Israel is waging in the world, out of ‘mercy’ for the victims. Its own victims are dying as a result of racist weapons no less fascist than the Arab dictatorships which planted new generations loaded with hateful ideologies and sectarian fanaticism.”

Egyptian government to outlaw soccer fan clubs

The Egyptian government has drafted a law branding soccer fan clubs in Egypt, known as ultras, as illegal entities. The new law, called “the thuggery in the playing fields law,” stipulates a penalty ranging from one week in jail all the way to execution, when rioting results in a death.

Meanwhile, President Mohammed Morsi has appealed an administrative court decision to postpone the parliamentary elections scheduled to begin in April.

Al-Masry Al-Youm, an independent Egyptian daily, reports that the opposition’s Salvation Front criticized the move, dubbing Morsi’s government “a secretariat of the Muslim Brotherhood’s guidance bureau.”

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