Arab League chief: We oppose military action in Syria, but no one knows what future holds
In an interview with the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat on Friday, the secretary general of the Arab League, Nabil Al Arabi, reiterated his rejection of "the military option" in Syria, despite the international outcry that followed the recent massacre of 108 people, almost half of them children, in one of the Syrian villages of Houla in Homs province.
United Nations observers said the Syrian regime's footprint was evident in the way the villagers were executed.
Asked whether the continual unresponsiveness of President Bashar Al Assad's regime to Arab and international diplomatic efforts would justify foreign military intervention, Mr Al Arabi said:
"I reject the military option for the simple reason that the Arab League and its member states do not play that kind of role, and the countries that can actually play that role have publicly stated that they did not want to."
"This might change in a few months, but for the time being, this is the situation we're dealing with … I've met with the US ambassador to Cairo and many other ambassadors from western nations, and all of them confirm this." He added that "the secretary general of Nato said 10 days ago: 'We are not going to intervene in Syria'".
Mr Arabi brushed aside a question about Syria's lack of significant oil resources being the main disincentive for Nato countries - which intervened in oil-rich Libya last year amid talk that military expenditures would later be recouped from the country's oil revenues.
"Look," he said, "whatever the reasons, the bottom line is that, right now, there are no intentions for military intervention. As to what may happen in a month or two, that I don't know."
Mr Al Arabi was speaking to reporter Sawsan Abu Hussein on the eve of his scheduled regional tour to discuss next steps on the Syrian front with Arab leaders, ahead of an Arab League summit in Doha.
Asked how the upcoming Doha summit would contribute to efforts to resolve the 15-month political and humanitarian crisis in Syria, Mr Al Arabi said that "it's hard to anticipate events or point to specific measures … There are indeed alternatives and proposed solutions going in various directions".
Again, he offered few details.
Mr Al Arabi also blamed the Syrian regime's inflexibility and perceived indifference on the strong support it receives from Russia and China, both veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council.
"If any of us were in the Syrian foreign ministry's shoes and stopped to think for a little bit about whether to change the regime or not, the answer would be: why change while Russia is watching my back and Nato declared that it will not resort to military intervention?"
'If I were Egyptian, I'd vote for Shafiq'
Egyptian voters are faced with an unhappy choice later this month between presidential contenders Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under Hosni Mubarak, and Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate.
The former is considered "felool" - a pejorative term referring to the "remnants" of the old regime - and the latter is the representative of a group that will never deliver on promises for a civil and democratic Egypt, columnist Saad Al Ajami wrote in an article for the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad on Saturday.
"If the Muslim Brotherhood win the presidency, they will turn Egypt into a religious state, monopolise power and wage war on all their opponents in the name of Allah, for they will equate opposition to their rule with opposition to the rule of Allah's law."
Mr Shafiq has his weaknesses too. Yet, at least he is "the less sour of two bitter options", the columnist said.
If he proves to be no good, unseating him would be easier than causing the smallest dent in the entrenched power of the Brotherhood.
"So if I were an Egyptian voter, I would vote Shafiq, hoping that the Constitutional Court will find a way to discharge him … which should lead to a re-election between two candidates with clear-cut political orientations: Hamdeen Sabahi's secularism and Mohammed Morsi's religious state."
Pain as Palestinian remains return home
Palestinians were in for yet another taxing emotional experience last Thursday, when they received the remains of 91 of their martyrs - fathers, husbands and sons - who have been kept in Israeli freezers for varying periods of time, noted the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej in its editorial yesterday.
"Once again, we stand witness to emotions that will be very hard for anyone who hasn't been there before to fathom," the newspaper said.
Some of the bodies have been kept by the Israelis for 25 years and longer. "Holding on to the body of a martyr after killing him, as the occupation forces like to do, means only one thing: you're not just after punishing the Palestinian martyr who has been prepared all along for hurt, imprisonment and death. Your aim is rather to inflict pain on all his people."
Palestinian families received the remains of their loves ones with tears. "With the remains of every martyr, memories are conjured up of a life that expired too soon and of the first day the tragic news was heard, yet was followed by no goodbyes or funerals."
* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi