Disappointing visit by US president

"So far, the new American President Barack Obama has yet to say anything new. His words in Turkey were neither surprising nor influential."

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Sateh Noureddine, a regular columnist for Lebanon's As Safir, wrote: "So far, the new American President Barack Obama has yet to say anything new. His words in Turkey were neither surprising nor influential. He wasn't able to extend bridges of confidence either to the Turks nor to the Islamic world, which still expects some sort of American apology for accusing it of terrorism and subjecting it to one of the most violent campaigns of western colonisation in modern history."

Obama's words, he added, "still mimic those of his predecessor George Bush who considered Islam a great and tolerant religion that was hijacked by terrorists. Bush respected and loved Muslims to the extent that he wished to rid them of the suffering of this world by dispatching them to the afterlife in the millions. Yet he didn't have any Islamic roots or relatives like the current president who keeps repeating to any Muslim that he comes from a Muslim family despite the fact that he doesn't recognise any of the members of that family. "Obama's Turkish appearance was thus extremely disappointing for those who expected radical changes in the American stance, and for those who wagered on reconciliations throughout the world."

The London-based Al Quds al Arabi daily carried an opinion piece by Khodeir Boukaila who wrote: "The day after tomorrow, Algeria will enter a new stage after President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika proclaims himself the winner in the clean, democratic and honest presidential elections."

However, the author asked: "Do you really believe that the coming stage deserves to be called a new one? What can possibly change in Algeria following the April 9 elections? The president? He is the same, only older. The regime? It is also the same. The problems burdening the Algerian people? They will remain the same. The frustration among the Algerian youths? It will also be unchanged. The monopolisation of political, unionist and media action? They will stay the same."

Turning to the election issue of terrorism, Boukaila concluded that it "will remain a scarecrow that is taken out whenever the regime wants to frighten the people and get them to adopt its choices, thus concealing it at times and unveiling it whenever it serves other goals. The Algerians should know that the end of terrorism will not be secured by this regime, just like al Qa'eda was not eliminated by Bush even though he depicted them to the world as being the number one enemy."

Khaled Saghieh, a regular columnist for Lebanon's Al Akhbar, wrote sarcastically that "the electoral programmes are starting to flow with vibrant visions and ideas. MP Sa'd al Hariri decided to address his supporters with complete candidness during the celebration held by the Future Movement in Biel to launch its electoral programme last Sunday. He told them: 'The most dangerous illness afflicting Lebanon, in complete honesty, is sectarianism. Is it all right for this day and age for political struggles to become sectarian struggles and for stances to become sectarian attitudes instead of expressions of political opinions?'"

This enmity towards sectarianism, Saghieh added, "is not the only common factor among all the active political forces. Social justice is also, like the Arab language, a common factor that unites us. For example, the Future Movement's economic document expressed its concern for justice, balanced development, and encourages the productive sectors. This document, as far as I know, was written by a group of academics who solved a century-old dilemma as they managed to produce a programme that supports the poor, defends the middle, and removes all obstacles facing businessmen all at once."

Abdul-Wahhab Basrkhan, a regular columnist for the UAE's Al Ittihad, wrote: "Obama didn't choose Ankara solely for the purpose of addressing the Muslims, but also and especially for the goal of renewing the choice of Turkey as an ally to the United States, with two important and difficult upcoming occasions in mind: the withdrawal from Iraq and the programmed rapprochement with Iran."

Obama also didn't forget the Turkish role between the Arabs and Israel. "Obama's reiteration of his statements concerning the two state solution in Palestine and reviving the peace process was not mere idle chatter aimed at giving the Arabs and Muslims what they want. Netanyahu's Israel constitutes a problem and a burden more than part of the necessary solution. Thus, there emerges the need for the new Turkish friend. This will not be appreciated by the Israelis because they have always considered that they have a free hand when it comes to the Israeli-American context without any interferences from any other side."

* Digest compiled by www.mideastwire.com