TUNIS — From Morocco to the Gulf, Arab commentators with near unanimity vented frustration Monday at the deep fissures in the Arab world following the collapse of a regional summit here before it even started.
But several newspapers suggested the gathering may have foundered under US pressure and or have been sabotaged by forces that want to avoid confronting Israel.
The Tunisian hosts indefinitely postponed the summit overnight Saturday, saying foreign ministers preparing the March 29-30 meeting had failed to agree on proposals for political and social reform in the Arab world.
Egypt promptly offered to host the summit in Cairo, where the 22-member Arab League is headquartered.
Arab League head Amr Musa said Monday that a meeting of Arab heads of state and government would now convene in three to seven weeks, although it was unclear where the session would take place.
Meanwhile, Arab newspapers on Monday made no secret of their exasperation with the flop in Tunis.
"Arab peoples have never understood why their heads of state have been meeting for nearly 60 years to do nothing, or rather do everything to scupper any desire for unity," said the Moroccan paper Aujourd'hui Le Maroc.
Another paper, the Islamist-leaning Attajdid, detected "irresponsible forces" that it said had been at work.
"It is clear that irresponsible parties sabotaged this summit to avoid answering the demands of the Arab and Muslim people, who want Zionist state terrorism to be condemned," it said.
The stakes for the summit had been especially high as the Bush administration is promoting its own plan to reform the Middle East, prompting many Arab leaders to insist that such changes cannot be imposed from outside.
The independent An-Nahar in Lebanon said the United States wanted the summit to fail in order to ensure that its own initiative would have no competition.
"American pressure undermined the summit," it charged, since Washington was "indisposed by an Arab document on reforms since it wants to impose its 'Greater Middle East' initiaitive."
Syria's government newspaper Tishrin said the cancellation came as "a shock and a great surprise."
"The issue of reform is extremely important but it cannot be dealt with during a meeting with a magic wand."
The English-language Jordan Times agreed that "there is no simple fix for all the Arab woes, as it will take time to forge a united Arab front where it counts most."
In the Gulf newspapers voiced scepticism on the fate of the summit, arguing that it would be fruitless without the implementation of real reform.
Saudi daily Bilad said: "The delay saved the Arabs from a situation that would have proved their weakness ... because the summit would have only reached a statement on denouncing" Israel's assassination last week of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
In Kuwait, an editorial in Siyassa denounced "the plot theory" suggested by certain countries that accused Tunis of succumbing to US pressure to delay the summit.
"This is the easier means to cover the weakness" of the Arabs, it added.
Tunisian commentators insisted that the postponement was justified.
Tunisia had to "resign itself" to the delay because "far-reaching differences ... on fundamental and strategic questions such as democracy, human rights, the status of women and the need to further involve civil society in public life" had emerged between member states at pre-summit meetings, wrote La Presse newspaper, close to the government.
"What's more serious is that some delegations did not even want to discuss democracy, political pluralism or women's rights, even though they are the very basis of any modern state."
But the United Arab Emirates on Monday denied the postponement was the result of differences over reforms.
"There was agreement on this project between all the Arab countries before the Tunisian announcement," Emirati Foreign Minister Rashed Abdullah Nuaimi said on his return from Tunis.
He said the postponement was "decided by Tunisia because of that country's own considerations."www.jordantimes.com/tue/news/news5.htmE-mail this article