Thursday, October 06, 2005

Terrorism, Poverty and Reform

Jihad El Khazen

Al-Hayat 22/09/2005

Talking about terrorism at the U.N. General Assembly is like talking about sin at church. They are against it.One speech would have sufficed. Instead delegates had to endure 190 other speakers, all equally unanimous in supporting reform of the world body and fighting poverty.In such a gathering, some speeches are important by what they leave out. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made no reference to the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, did not congratulate Ariel Sharon for transforming the strip from occupied territory to a concentration camp, and did not recommend the septuagenarian war criminal for a Nobel Peace Prize.On the other hand, Saudi Crown Prince Sultan ben Abdul Aziz would not go to New York to talk about the green house effect. He chose the occasion to reiterate his country's support for a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and to stress Iraq's Arabism and unity. And when the foreign minister, Prince Saud Al Feisal addressed the General Assembly three days later, he chose his words carefully citing the withdrawal from Gaza without praise or crtiticism and demanding further Israeli steps to withdraw from all the territories occupied in 1967. On this point, the Qatar and UAE speeches were almost identical to the Saudi.Sheikh Abdullah ben Rashid, the UAE minister of information and culture, made references to Iraq and Palestine but also reminded the assembly of three small UAE islands in the Guld occupied by Iran.Many Arab speeches at the U.N. summit did not mention terrorism at all or made scant references. But the subject was covered at length in the general debate. The ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad ben Khalifah, did not mention terrorism once (and I thank him for not meeting Sharon as expected by the Israeli press). President Emile Lahoud of Lebanon took a similar position at the summit delivering a safe statement but was in a fighting mood at the general debate delivering a comprehensive speech. Sheikh Salman ben Hamad, the Bahraini crown prince, spoke carefully at the summit but the other Bahraini speech at the following General Assembly debate, delivered by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed ben Mubarak, covered all the political points of interest to the Arabs.Egypt's Foreign Minister Mohammed Abu el Ghait offered three points: One side must not impose its will or social standards on others, economic assistance must not be employed as a means of pressure, and force and occupation must not be used in settling disputes among nations.The Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa offered three points of his own: reforming international politics and reforming domestic policies are two sides of the same coin so a country cannot be asked to be democratic when there is no democracy in relations among nations, reform must be achieved through consensus not coercion, and reform must be general and not concentrating on one side while ignoring the other.The U.N. summit was convened to address certain problems among which fighting poverty remains the most important. The Millennium summit had suggested that rich nations allocate 0.5 per cent of their GNP to help the poor nations, rising to 0.7 between 2010 and 2015. The European Union has already committed itself to such a percentage but the U.S., the richest country in the world, only gives 0.16 per cent in foreign aid. This paltry figure would be halved when we consider that almost half of the U.S. foreign aid goes to Israel which enjoys a Western European level of income.I would like to compare U.S. aid with that of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait:- Prince Sultan said that over the last three decades his country offered 4 per cent of its income in aid to poor countries. I am not a mathematician but this is over 20 times more than the U.S. without considering the aid to Israel. Saudi Arabia has already scrapped six billion dollars in poor country debts.- Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed said that the Kuwait Economic Development Fund has already offered poor countries 12 billion dollars in aid or about twice the rate suggested by the Millennium Summit. And he promised more aid in the coming years.I know for fact that Saudi and Kuwaiti aid to the Palestinians has been the most effective. The Saudis always pay on time and the Kuwaitis don't pay at all but ask for projects that the Palestinains need and build them themselves, thus avoiding any waste or corruption. I heard this from both Yasser Arafat and Mahmdoud Abbas, and President Abbas is there to confirm or refute my information.Two final thoughts. One is that I have heard that Turkey has advised Pakistan to benefit from the Israeli influence with the U.S. the way India did and this may explain the suspicious high level talks between President Musharraf and the Israelis. The second is that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmedi Nejad has told Arab leaders that he will not play the game of Arab vs Persian or Sunni vs Shia as enemies of the Arabs and Muslims want. Let's hope so.


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