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Most Arabs Unimpressed by Bush TV Interviews, Media Reports Say - 2004-05-06

Media in the Arab world, and many ordinary people in the region's cities, were generally not impressed by President Bush's statements on two Arabic-language television stations on Wednesday, condemning the mistreatment of some Iraqi prisoners by a small number of U.S. soldiers.

Arab newspapers highlighted the fact that President Bush did not specifically apologize for the mistreatment of the prisoners. They also viewed his interviews as a public relations ploy.

Syria's Ath-Thawra newspaper asked whether Mr. Bush has any right to talk about human rights and freedom following the disclosure of prisoner abuse in Iraq. That theme was echoed in other countries, as well.

Egypt's al-Ahram newspaper published side-by-side drawings of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and President Bush, both using whips on Iraqi prisoners.

Qatar's al-Watan newspaper said, no matter how much the president pledges to punish guilty soldiers, it is concerned that the acts of abuse might continue, as long as Iraq is under foreign control.

But the English-language Arab News in Saudi Arabia said President Bush would not have convinced most Arabs of his good intentions, no matter what he said. And in London, the Arabic-language paper Al-Quds Al-Arabi described the president's effort to reassure Arabs as "mission impossible.'"

On the streets of Cairo, many people echoed those views.

Mohammed Eiid works at a local coffee shop in the Egyptian capital. He says the president was just trying to reduce anger in the region, nothing more, nothing less. And he said he now wonders what other illegal things might be going on in Iraq that will be disclosed in the future.

Fellow-Egyptian Alla Hassan agrees. Mr. Hassan says, whatever the president said is of no use and was not needed. He said it did not do any good for anyone.

Reporting from Baghdad, The Associated Press reported similar sentiments. But the news agency also quoted one teacher in the Iraqi capital who said no one spoke of the atrocities committed under Saddam Hussein, and no former officials have apologized. She said President Bush's effort on television was a good thing.

During the interviews with the al-Arabiya and AlHurra stations, President Bush called the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners "abhorrent," and promised there would be justice. He also warned that those who dislike America would likely try to use the incidents of abuse as a way to spread their own anger.

He did not specifically apologize. But several senior administration officials, including national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, have done so, and White House spokesman Scott McClellan said late Wednesday the president is deeply sorry for what happened to the Iraqi prisoners.