Mar 3, 2007

Taking The Show On The Road

Many are hoping a trip by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Saudi Arabia will help calm sectarian tensions threatening the Middle East, notably those in Iraq and Lebanon. ...

Saudi newspapers, which are government-guided, struck a welcoming tone in editorials, saying they hoped Ahmadinejad's visit signals an Iranian willingness to revise its regional policies and work with, rather than against, Arab governments.

"We wish you the very best on your first official visit to Saudi Arabia," said Saudi Gazette.

The paper said the challenge facing the two countries is how to unite the Islamic world, which is in danger of fragmenting because of sectarian tensions.

"How did we ever allow ourselves to slip into this situation? What good is our (the Islamic world's) common cause if we waste our energies and resources on self-destruction rather than self-preservation?" said the paper.

Ghassan Sharbil, the Lebanese editor of the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat daily, described the visit as "exceptional" and said Ahmadinejad can, if he wants to, turn it into an opportunity for his country.

"Iran has proved its capability of destabilization ... cold and hot objections," wrote Sharbil. "Now, it's time to prove its ability to participate in creating stability."

"Ahmadinejad can invest in this summit to calm down the Arab world, the Islamic world and the whole globe in order to protect Iran against isolation, the dangers of an American strike and a new resolution by the Security Council."

Iranian newspapers only published official reports that Ahmadinejad will be visiting Saudi Arabia later Saturday.

Just one newspaper included some opinion in its report. The independent daily "Tehran-e-Emrooz," or Today's Tehran, said Ahmadinejad's administration is seeking improved ties with Saudi Arabia to increases chances of resolving the Middle East conflict without much U.S. intervention and at the same time ease Saudi worries over Iran's nuclear activities.

"Trying to help improve cool relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria to resolve the Lebanese crisis ahead of the Arab League meeting is another goal of Ahmadinejad's visit to Saudi," the paper said.

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