The Arab English Language Press: What They Are Saying

NOVEMBER 16, 2011 – A selection of news from various Arab media sources.

Hamas representative addresses Tunisian political rally

Tunisia Live – Tunisian Islamist party Ennahda invited Houda Naïm, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council based in Gaza, to speak at a rally in Sousse, a coastal Tunisian city, this past Sunday. The event marked the first time in known memory a member of Hamas has addressed the Tunisian public. Naïm praised the victory of the Tunisian people in establishing democracy, and stated her hope that the “liberation” of Tunisia would lead to the liberation of Palestine. The event also saw a speech from Ennahda’s general secretary Hammadi Jebali, recently proposed by the party to be the new Prime Minister of Tunisia. Jebali declared that the occasion was “a divine moment in a new state, and in, hopefully, a 6th caliphate,” referring to the historical system of Islamic monarchies. The tone of this last comment is in sharp contrast to many of the party’s public statements, where it has denied any intention of instituting Sharia or Islamic law in the nascent democracy. The general secretary also echoed Naïm’s words, stating, “The liberation of Tunisia will, God willing, bring about the liberation of Jerusalem.”

ElBaradei warns of new revolution in Egypt

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt – Prominent presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei on Tuesday renewed warnings that a “revolution of the hungry” could occur in Egypt if the country remained unstable. ElBaradei’s words came during an interview with Tunisia’s Al-Shorouk Daily. Nine months after the 25 January revolution first began, Egypt’s old constitution is still ruling the country, noted ElBaradei, adding that the country suffers from a fabricated, unjustified polarization between civil and religious forces. He said that Deputy Prime Minister Ali al-Selmy’s constitutional principles’ document comes at a time that Egyptian society is consumed by fear that it will not be fully represented in the new constitution. “We didn’t adopt the right path during the transition period,” he said. There are two issues that the Egyptian people are wary of, namely the state’s civil nature and the role of religion in the political system, he added. ElBaradei expects that Selmy will amend the document to contain the emerging crisis. “I’m not surprised that the Tunisian Nahda Party won a majority in the constituent council, and I think Islamic parties in Egypt will get a good percentage of seats in parliament,” he said. “We have to define what type of Islam we’re talking about, the Islam of bin Laden, Sheikha Housnia… or Erdogan?” “We’ve mismanaged so many issues that we’ve become enemies of ourselves,” he added.

PLO to drop land swap formula from talks

Gulf News, UAE – Ramallah: The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) announced on Monday that it will very soon drop the “land swap” formula, which the it branded as a grave mistake that was included in any agreement with Israel. Speaking to Gulf News, Tayseer Khalid, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, said that the formula was only mere talk by Israelis and mediators. “We have never signed an agreement with Israel, which states any shape of land swap formula,” he added. “Land swap formula is a heresay in the track of negotiations,” he said. The Palestinians should have reached agreements on the borders and arranged for the withdrawal of Israeli troops and handled the other core issues before the land swap formula is addressed, he said. “It is time for this mistake to get corrected,” he stressed. Khalid also said the PLO believes that the recent setback at the UN Security Council was not the end of the road for the leadership and that other moves are on the PLO agenda. “We will seek a non-member state status for Palestine at the UN General Assembly as per the European proposal (Sarkozy Plan),” he said… “The PLO totally rejects all the conciliatory formulas offered by the Mideast Quartet, where there is no room even to consider them,” he said. The Quartet is proposing conciliatory formulas including a Palestinian recognition of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people in exchange for a construction freeze in the West Bank colonies.

Egyptian Shiite theoretician to launch party

Asharq Al-Awsat– Egyptian Shiite theoretician, Dr Ahmad Rasim al-Nafis, has denied that the political party he is seeking to form would be sectarian or would aim at spreading Shiism in Egypt, emphasizing that the Al-Tahrir party will be political and civilian. “We are Egyptian Muslims,” he said. “We are proud of our Islam and our Egyptianness. We are proud of our position in the community.” Al-Nafis, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone from Beirut, stressed that he would strive to apply Islamic law and its precepts, providing that this was not done “in the Taliban manner.” He hoped that Egyptian relations with Iran would rise to the level of relations with Israel. “Egypt’s security,” he said, “is related to Iran’s security.”

Britain to press for more sanctions on Iran

Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) – Britain is to press for further sanctions against Iran in a bid to prevent it developing nuclear weapons, peers were told Tuesday. British Foreign Office Minister Lord Howell said a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency indicated Iran had worked on developing nuclear weapons and some of the work was continuing. At question time he urged Iran to take the “necessary steps to assure the international community that it is not pursuing a military nuclear programme”.  And he warned Britain would be pressing for “strong action” when the agency’s board of governors meets later this week.

Lebanese cabinet in disarray over Lebanon’s stance in Arab League vote on Syria

The Daily Star, Lebanon – Lebanon’s vote against the Arab League’s decision to suspend Syria’s participation in the League’s meetings seems to have thrown the Cabinet into disarray with some ministers complaining that they were not notified of the controversial Lebanese stance taken by Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour. “We want to know who took this decision [voting against the Arab League’s decision to isolate Syria] and on what basis?” Public Works Minister Ghazi Aridi told The Daily Star Monday night. He said that since the government’s well-known position was to dissociate Lebanon from the developments of the seven-month popular uprising in Syria, it was surprising to see Lebanon voting against the Arab League’s decision. “Regardless of whether the Lebanese stance [at the Arab League] was correct or not, this stance has sparked a heated debate in the country,” Aridi added.

Interference by Iran is condemned

Gulf Daily News, Bahrain – Iran’s repeated interferences in Bahrain’s affairs was yesterday condemned by the Shura Council. It comes after the authorities foiled a terrorist plot and arrested five men in connection with the help of Qatari security services. Council secretary-general Abduljalil Al Tareef read out a statement at yesterday’s session that condemned the Iranian interference. He praised GCC co-operation that had uncovered a terror plot that would have caused chaos and disruption in Bahrain. “Those with evil intentions have failed to achieve their goal of damaging the country by targeting active facilities and prominent figures as they have been arrested before they were able to commit their crime,” he said. “The men behind the foiled attempt were working with a foreign country to destabilise Bahrain and harm its peace and security. “They were not just looking to harm Bahrain, but the whole Gulf, and Qatar’s stance against them shows that the GCC is one and any threat to any member state is a threat to the six nations. “The council will come up with legislation that will help ensure Bahrain stays secure and that terror crimes are prevented and dealt with seriously.”

It is time for Assad to go

Arab News, Saudi Arabia – The Arab League has finally done what it should have months ago — suspending Syria and demanding international sanctions against the country. …Without doubt, the failure by both the Arabs and the international community to confront the regime emboldened it to continue and expand the carnage across the country. The civilian toll, according to the United Nations, topped 3,500 last week. It is almost certain to be much higher given the lack of transparency and total blackout of international media in Syria. It’s high time the world community stood up to the criminals in Damascus who have the blood of thousands of innocents on their hands. For the longer the world dithers in dealing with Damascus, the more innocents it will be guilty of sending to their deaths. Syria’s junta hasn’t merely lost all moral right to govern the country — if it ever had one — it must now face international justice for its crimes against humanity. Defying repeated appeals by the Arab and Muslim countries and rest of the world, the full might of the Syrian security forces has been used against the very people they are supposed to protect. This will not go on forever though. Syria’s moment of reckoning has nearly arrived and justice will catch up with all those soon who thought they could get away with murder. But then this is what many a mighty ruler in the neighborhood thought and look where they are today.

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