Lebanese political leaders hardly need occasion to snipe at each other in the press. The media facilitates the endeavor because major political factions own the largest media outlets, where they flog their own views and denounce those of their opponents. In a political landscape of frequently shifting and sometimes questionable alliances (virulently anti-Syria Christian leader Michel Aoun allying with Hezbollah, for example), recent comments by Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros al-Rai in Paris have generated outrage among Syria opponents. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should be given more time to reform because "the poor man can't perform miracles," the patriarch said. Back in Lebanon on Wednesday, the patriarch backed off the statements, saying "the church does not get involved in sectarian disputes."
Abdulrahman al-Rashed opined in pan-Arab daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat that the patriarch "affected Syrian Christians and their image in the Arab world" by making the comments, which can't help but provoke Sunnis. "People in the region heard the news that the patriarch defended the Syrian regime, which is drowning in its citizens' blood," al-Rashed writes. "The biggest myth lies in claiming that the Syrian regime is a guarantee against religious extremism," al-Rashed says. "No one will accept a radical Sunni regime."
The great tradition of acolytes of Arab leaders vehemently denying reality continues: Along with Iraq's Mohammed Sahhaf, Yemen's Aburabbu Mansour Hadi, Syria's Buthaina Shaaban and Reem Haddad, there is also Gaddafi's spokesman Moussa Ibrahim, who now says that the wanted Libyan dictator's "morale is good and he has a strong army behind him." Ibrahim told Reuters in a satellite-phone interview that "the fighting is far from over, despite what the world thinks." A source in the National Transitional Council claims that Ibrahim and Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi's son, were seen in Bani Walid on Tuesday.
Egypt's Deputy Prime Minister, who is also the Finance Minister, has granted more than 3,200 extraordinary pensions for citizens in "difficult" health and social conditions, EGYNews.net reports. Minister Hazem al-Bilawi is also putting the finishing touches on "procedures for granting special retirement to 632 families of martyrs who were killed during the January 25th revolution."