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Syria's delegate to the UN is blinded to the facts

Arabic language editorials also comment on Egypt's new cabinet and literary censorship in Lebanon.

Syria's permanent UN delegate seems to have no clue as to the reality of the situation at home

"Every time he speaks, Bashar Al Jaafari, the Assad regime's delegate to the United Nations, makes one wonder: Does this man have a clue what he's talking about? Is he even aware of what is going down in Syria? Or has his resolve to defend the tyrant Al Assad blinded him to the facts?" asked Tariq Al Homayed, editor of the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Al Awsat, in his column yesterday.

On Friday, Mr Al Jaafari launched a public attack on Saudi Arabia and Qatar from the headquarters of the United Nations in New York, accusing the two Gulf countries of supporting terrorism in Syria, the editor reported.

Mr Al Jaafari also added that neither country offers a model to look up to, and as such cannot afford to present proposals before the international community for a way out of the Syrian crisis.

"The point that Al Jaafari and many like him don't get is that so long as regimes like the Assad's in Syria have chosen to adopt the republican system, they must abide by republican principles - that's the first thing.

"The second thing is that all that has been required of Mr Al Assad is to stop the killing machine; is this one too hard to understand?"

Some tend to forget that the uprising in Syria started with "100 per cent" peaceful, spontaneous protests, the editor went on. The rebels had no weapons whatsoever, while Mr Al Assad elected to allow, if not order, killing, shelling and destruction of property and jailing citizens arbitrarily, the editor said.

"Saudi Arabia does not kill its own people, and would not kill even those who are tempted and misled by Iran in Qatif [in the Eastern Province of the kingdom]. Saudi Arabia is, in fact, exercising an amazing level of self-restraint, although those groups have carried weapons and thrown explosives for a not-so-short period of time now."

The Sunni kingdom has been trying to contain sporadic unrest in the Shiite villages of Qatif for several months, fearing that sectarian protests are being fomented by Iran to kick up the dust in the region and let Syria, its major ally, off the hook. Tehran denies involvement.

Mr Al Jaafari is so out of the loop, the editor went on. On the same day he was crying "terrorism" the Syrian deputy prime minister was in Moscow emphasising the importance of dialogue with the opposition - a dialogue that has hitherto been stalled by Mr Al Assad.

So, from within the Syrian regime itself, we see that Mr Al Jaafari's stances are sometimes more hard-line that those of his bosses.

Sadly, Mr Al Jaafari's case is that of being more royalist than the king, which often makes one look silly, the editor concluded.

Give Egypt's cabinet benefit of the doubt

The newly sworn-in cabinet of the Egyptian prime minister Hisham Qandil is facing too many pressing challenges, making any judgment of it at this early stage unfair and not constructive, stated the UAE-based newspaper Al Khaleej in its editorial yesterday.

"One of those major challenges is the economy, with the budget deficit rising to 35 billion Egyptian pounds (Dh21 billion) that is 6.7 per cent of GDP," the paper said. "Add to that an internal debt amounting to 1.1 trillion Egyptian pounds, not to mention a colossal external debt."

The other major challenge for this new cabinet, which was welcomed with more boos than cheers, is national security. This is the issue that is leaving Egyptians without sleep, and gnawing at the fabric of society, particularly the once-solid relationship between the Muslims and the Coptic Christians.

"There are signs that this bond is starting to fray, as we keep seeing confrontations in certain areas prompted by fanatical calls," the newspaper argued.

Mr Qandil's cabinet may have failed to ensure the representation of revolutionary forces and political parties, relying instead on technocrats and members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

But critics must wait for at least the conventional 100-day period to pass before pulling out their red pens.

Of mice, men and the politics of literature

"Censorship surprises in Lebanon never end; they're almost like a literary genre on their own," reported Maya Al Haj for the London-based newspaper Al Hayat on Friday.

Without prior notice, it was decided last Wednesday that Of Mice and Men, one of American literature's classics, be banned from libraries, the reporter said.

Authored by John Steinbeck, the Nobel Prize laureate best known for The Grapes of Wrath, the novella has been a required reading in a number of literature departments in Lebanese universities.

The novel had sparked controversy in the past over the nationality of its author, which some claimed was Israeli. The novel escaped censorship after it was established that the author held the American nationality only.

Lebanon views Israel as an enemy. The most recent war that Israel has waged on Lebanon was in the summer of 2006, leaving hundreds of civilians dead.

"Why would it be banned today?" the reporter asked. "There is no answer to that." The General Security Directorate which should have the answer has not issued a statement yet.

Sami Nawfal, chairman of Librairie Antoine, said: "This is so strange, it's hard to believe, but we as a library will have to comply with the decision."

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk


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