An Arab tug of war continues over the rehabilitation of Iraq, with Arab press commentators differing over whether to blame Baghdad's rhetoric or Saudi Arabia's intransigence for the lack of a common Arab policy toward Saddam Hussein. According to leading Arab affairs analyst Riad Najib el-Rayyes, writing Tuesday in the Beirut daily an-Nahar, Saddam's reiteration of Iraq's historical claim to Kuwait is intended as a signal to his Arab detractors that, if they continue trying to block his rehabilitation, he will make life hard for them by reopening a number of troublesome "files."
Rayyes sees Saddam's pronouncement as a response to Saudi efforts to exclude him from the proposed Arab summit meeting on Iraq, which is to be discussed by Arab foreign ministers when they meet in Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 24. Baghdad wants the summit to condemn U.S. military action against Iraq and to support the lifting of sanctions, while Saudi Arabia insisted that neither the summit nor the foreign ministers' meeting should "bestow legitimacy" on Saddam.
According to the Pan-Arab al-Quds al-Arabi, there may be a compromise deal under which there will be no talk of an Arab summit until after the Israeli elections in May, while the Jan. 24 meeting will issue a "balanced" statement opposing fresh U.S. strikes against Iraq and also coming out against assistance to the Iraqi opposition in its goal of bringing down Saddam. Al-Quds al-Arabi said it expects U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to use her forthcoming visit to the region to try to persuade countries such as Egypt and Morocco, both of which are on her itinerary, to support the hard-line Saudi position on Iraq.
"The brethren in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait want to bombard Iraq with missiles, deprive it of half of its only seaport and finance its dissident groups, but get angry when Iraqi officials cannot contain their outrage and let fly with a few statements condemning those who collude in aggression against their country," al-Quds al-Arabi added. "What do the brethren in Riyadh and Kuwait expect? For Iraq to anoint them with rose-petal water and fancy French perfume, and organize carnivals in celebration of their policies?"
According to the Jordanian news agency Petra Wednesday, King Hussein's return to Jordan after six months of cancer treatment in the United States was celebrated with the slaughter of sheep and camels along Jordanian roadsides. The king's return was also welcomed in Israel, where Yosef Lapid wrote in Maariv: "He is a good king, a brave king, a wise king, a friendly king. We hope his recovery will put paid to the struggle for his throne. As long as he governs Jordan, we have real peace with at least one Arab country." In the Jerusalem Post, David Newman wrote Wednesday that King Hussein was seen "not only as an Arab leader who made peace, but also as one who believes in that peace and, who is prepared to come and visit the parents of schoolchildren killed by his border guards, as a person who has really had enough of war and bloodshed."
David Makovsky, diplomatic correspondent of Ha'aretz, wrote Wednesday that Israeli officials want King Hussein's brother, Crown Prince Hassan, to remain next in line to the Jordanian throne, despite speculation that the king, under pressure from Queen Noor, might name their 19-year-old son, Hamza, as the next monarch. He quoted one Israeli official as saying that Israel hopes Hassan will succeed because he is not only deeply committed to the peace process but is also "a person of vast experience."
Under the headline "New Russian Ambassador To Play It Tough in Washington," the Russian daily Segodnya said that Yuri Ushakov, who flew to Washington Tuesday to take up his post, had been given instructions "reminiscent of Cold War documents" by the Russian foreign ministry. It also said that Ushakov's reputation for toughness might be one of the main reasons for his appointment.
"Given his personality, one can deduce that Moscow doesn't intend to surrender its international standing for the sake of its friendship with Washington, in spite of serious economic setbacks and the fact that it is dependent on American benevolence for overcoming them," the paper said. It added that the new ambassador seems determined to fight to make the United Nations become the main guarantor of international stability and security. Moscow needs "one victory," regardless of the price, it said.
According to the Copenhagen Post Wednesday, new statistics show that one in every 25 births in Denmark now occurs with the help of artificial insemination techniques. Four percent of births in 1997 took place with the help of either "test-tube baby" techniques or in vitro fertilization, it said. Two years earlier the figure stood at just 2.5 percent.