Egypt prevents travel of Hamas officials

On Friday, Egypt's intelligence services notified Hamas that three of its leaders would be banned from leaving the Gaza Strip.

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In a lead article, the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi noted that relations between Egypt and Hamas had always been tense because of ideological differences and also because of Cairo's failure to convince the Islamic movement to accept the Palestinian reconciliation plan.

On Friday, Egypt's intelligence services notified Hamas that three of its leaders would be banned from leaving the Gaza Strip, and would not be allowed to perform Haj this year. They also will not be able to take part in an official delegation leaving for Cairo or Damascus as part of any future reconciliation efforts.

Egypt's decision came as a form of retaliation against some senior members, who vehemently criticised Cairo when it closed the checkpoint of Rafah and prevented entry of aid to the besieged population inside the strip.

"The Egyptian government is wrong to take the use of passage rights through checkpoints as a pressing issue, especially since the goal to leave Gaza is for the religious purpose of Haj."

The way Cairo treats Gaza's population in general is "inhumane", as it is generally forced to endure a long transit procedure both through the Rafah checkpoint and in the airport. "This needs to be reviewed because travel is a human, legitimate right, and there are considerations that should outweigh grudges and political differences."

Ahmadinejad has new role in Lebanon

"The hype that surrounded the visit of the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has at last subsided," noted Tareq Alhomayed in an opinion article for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

"Finally we have not seen him throwing a stone at Israel, or visiting the Fatima Gate. In fact, he did not say anything new, except that he hinted at Iranian support for Hizbollah before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon."

The rationale behind the visit is thus to affirm the Iranian position in Lebanon following the visit made jointly by the Syrian president Bashar al Assad and the Saudi monarch King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. Similarly, it aims to rescue Hizbollah from any eventual indictment by the Tribunal.

As a sign of gratitude, the party welcomed Mr Ahmadinejad with grandeur, as if Hizbollah would like to say that "Iran has wide popular support in Lebanon". Perhaps Mr Ahmadinejad had never been treated in similar way in his own country.

Yet what can be taken from the visit is that a new equation emerges: Lebanon's situation might involve more than the two external parties of Syria and Saudi Arabia. The third strong candidate, Iran, is implicitly present by way of Hassan Nasrallah as a strong sponsor for his party; particularly during forthcoming judicial challenges.

Pakistan's double-game foreign policy

In an opinion piece in the UAE newspaper Al Ittihad, Abdullah al Haj wrote that although Pakistani intelligence services announced several months ago that they arrested the Afghan Taliban's second-in-command, western troops operating in Afghanistan still believe Pakistan maintains good relations with the group.

"Although Pakistan captured Abdul Ghani Baradar along with other members, it released at the same time many Afghan Taliban figures it had arrested earlier."

This led western officials to think that freeing important Taliban members was an indication that Pakistani intelligence had played a double game.

Official sources said that Pakistan has a complex foreign policy, as it strives to keep good relations with both the West and the Afghan government. Meanwhile, it maintains a good rapport with Afghan resistance organisations such as the Taliban, with the aim of controlling the course of war.

The Pakistani government did not deny having direct contact with the Afghan Taliban, yet it described these as "not dangerous", and were only meant to control the armed groups in Pakistan.

Moreover, and even though the West has exerted pressure on Pakistan to cut its relations with armed Afghan movements since the September 11 attacks, Islamabad has not seriously complied as this contradicts its over-arching interests.

US supports a divided Sudan for its interests

"What made the US president Barack Obama say in an assured manner that failing to hold the referendum in southern Sudan could lead to the death of millions of people?" This question was asked by Areeb al Rantawi in a commentary for the Jordanian newspaper Addustoor.

Talking about post-poll era scenarios, or putting forward false claims to justify a hasty referendum, shows the extent to which the US is biased towards the Sudan Popular Liberation Movement (SPLM). With such an attitude, it tries to depict the chronic crisis of the South as apocalyptic.

The US has no right to interfere and encourage a premature resolutions of the crisis. Nor should it provide support to the southern leaders Salva Kiir, when he called on the UN to deploy international troops along the borders between the North and the South of Sudan.

The American position towards the Sudan crisis has the far-reaching aim of ensuring separation and ultimately establishing a "Christian state". "Washington would like to create a new Israel in the south of Sudan to be a base for its war on terror as well as a security, military and intelligence bridge for Israel into Africa."

In that regard, the US could care less whether the referendum is free and fair - as long as it leads to separation.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi