- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2003

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Arab skepticism over the U.S.-backed “road map” for peace in the Middle East is growing, with Egyptian diplomats and media leading a campaign of doubt.

In recent days, several Egyptian newspapers have called on the United States “to redress its policies before it is too late,” citing difficulties in the occupation of Iraq and Washington’s continuing commitment to Israel’s security.

President Bush plans a summit meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas, the new Palestinian prime minister, most likely next week in Jordan.

This summit is to be followed by a meeting with the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, all of which support the road map sponsored by Mr. Bush.

According to Cairo’s Al-Akhbar, “The living and health conditions of the Iraqi people are daily becoming worse. The political and ethnic disputes are escalating. There is no sign that the conditions in Iraq are heading toward stability.”

It attacked what it called “the imperialist greed for oil and the desire to protect Israeli national security” and stated that “the only thing preoccupying the U.S. occupation force is to control Iraq’s affairs.”

Another Egyptian newspaper, Cairo’s Al-Wafd, charged that because of U.S. “religious extremism,” Arab fanatics “will continue to threaten U.S. interests around the world, no matter how Washington increases its security arrangements.”

With uncertainty about the future of the Arab world and its suspicions of the U.S. role in the area, doubts also shroud commitments by Arab nations to each other.

Diplomatic sources report a growing tendency among Arab countries to revamp the various treaties binding them together, including drastic transformation of the 22-nation Arab League.

Cairo’s Al-Ahram weekly went as far as saying that “a revolt is brewing in the Arab world including calls for dismantling the Arab League.”

It added: “Most states do not implement the Arab League’s decisions and some are not keen to see the league survive.”

Western diplomats believe that most critical Egyptian-press comment is caused by the chaotic situation in Iraq and the absence of effective measures to improve it.

Such a view is said to be shared by Egyptian officials and members of the ruling National Democratic Party.

These diplomats point out that while heaping criticism on U.S. intentions in Iraq, Egypt itself tolerates no opposition to President Hosni Mubarak and has not authorized a new political party in 20 years.

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