Can there be better relations with Tehran?

'It is positive that the newly appointed Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, seeks better relations with Saudi Arabia. But this should be put into practice,' noted the Saudi newspaper Al Jazeera in its editorial.

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"It is positive that the newly appointed Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, seeks better relations with Saudi Arabia. But this should be put into practice," noted the Saudi newspaper Al Jazeera in its editorial.

"The kingdom is not a party in any hostile enterprise against Iran, and has no aims to create alliances or export crises."

Achieving regional security is vital, but "military bullying and attempts to export the Iranian revolution have no longer become valid in the new international order. Indeed, great powers had once strived to impose their dominance, but they failed."

Security in the Gulf is of interest to all parties. Anything that disturbs its stability will likely affect all. The countries of the region have intertwined interests, and any regional problem should be addressed among us to avoid the interference of foreign powers.

Iran has every right to enlarge the scope of its relations, but it is not acceptable for it to aspire to shape the Gulf region to its political whim. "And if Mr Salehi wants to suit actions to words by looking forward to genuine and certain relations, the Kingdom is also keen to do so. Saudi Arabia invited past Iranian presidents and tended to deal with them in an effective partnership."

Iran is an important country with its own ambitions, but the interests of all its neighbours should be respected in a way that ensures regional security.

Negotiations speed up on Western Sahara

Morocco and the Polisario Front agree to speed up the process of negotiations at the end of their fourth unofficial talks held in Manhasset, New York, this week, reported Mohammed al Achab in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

Christopher Ross, the UN envoy to the Western Sahara, said that the two parties were ready to explore a new negotiation mechanism, yet both still maintained their stances. Morocco's minister of foreign affairs, Taib al Fassi Fihri, said that his country proposed solutions to speed up the negotiations, mentioning that this round of talks focused on new approaches to support the UN Security Council resolutions relative to the western Sahara.

Fihri said that Morocco would like to search all available diplomatic means to listen to the true representatives of the Western Sahara's population, adding, "The Polisario does not represent the Sahrawis in the province, but only our brothers detained in camps in Algerian territory."

He also reiterated the need for active involvement of neighbouring countries in negotiations with a view to reaching a solution that would ensure Morocco's sovereignty over the land. While he promoted the autonomy plan suggested by Morocco, Mr Fihri called on Mr Ross to tour the region regularly and listen to the views of all parties. Two rounds of negotiations will be held in January and March 2011.

US military presence in Iraq is in question

In an opinion article for the Qatari daily Al Watan, the columnist Mazen Hammad described the emergence of an Iraqi movement that is strongly opposed to the US military presence in Iraq. This casts doubt on whether it would be possible to lay the foundations for a continued US military role in the country after the final withdrawal next year.

In light of Iraqi military deficiencies in air defence, intelligence and logistics, US and Iraqi officials predict that Iraq would still require the aid of US military forces even after 2011.

Washington says the White House has not taken a final decision about a possible postponement of the withdrawal date, and confirmed that the administration would not look into this issue unless it received an official request from the Iraqi president Nuri al Maliki's government.

There are in fact numerous factors that prevent the officials of both countries from further discussing the possibility of an extension. For one, the Sadrist movement's participation in the current government is a strong deterrent for such a request.

Much depends on whether the Iraqis want the US to have a military role in their country beyond 2011 or whether they prefer the security cooperation option that would supervise and aid in training and importing arms for the Iraqi forces.

Education meeting fails expectations

In a commentary for the UAE newspaper Al Bayan, Ali Obeid wrote that the outcome of the general conference of the Arab Bureau of Education in the Gulf States failed to meet public expectations, either in the GCC or other Arab countries.

"The closing statement was monotonous, ranging between cables of thanks and tributes, in addition to stereotypical recommendations."

Education in the Arab world needs a revolution that will topple old-school ideas and outdated methods. In terms of spending, it should receive an equal budget as other sectors of development.

According to the second cultural development report issued by the Arab Thought Foundation, spending on higher education in the Arab states is far below the standards in advanced countries.

In light of these facts, the role of civil society appears important in bridging this gap. The business community should be a real player in providing funds through educational endowments. This practice has always been popular in the West.

The business community's contribution can help upgrade the quality of education, and in turn can benefit later from its output by employing qualified professionals.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi