Sir-- The reform will have little meaning (aside from supporting Bush propaganda) unless, one, the personal security and legal inviolability of opposing candidates is guaranteed. Two, opposing parties are allowed to function, as long as they are loyal to the Constitution -- that loyalty should be for an independent court to test, as in Germany for example.
Three, the same applies for civil society organisations wishing to participate in the campaign. Four, access to the media for all candidates is guaranteed and fair -- state television is prohibited from electioneering for the incumbent. Five, all candidates have access to the necessary financing. Six, an entirely independent elections commission is set up to supervise the count.
There is absolutely no reason why these conditions could not be fulfilled in Egypt, even if it results in the incumbent staying in power. The current president of Egypt could undoubtedly win in free and fair elections.
New York, NY
A step forward
Sir-- We were all surprised by the historic step which President Mubarak took to amend the Constitution, especially Article 76 which allows citizens to choose their president through direct elections and allow more than one candidate in the elections.
This historic step has many consequences. First, the importance and role of Egypt in the Middle East, which means that any democratic move in Egypt will have a positive effect in all the region. Second, this is a step which all Egyptians and the whole world have been waiting for, especially that there is pressure on Egypt to undertake democratic reforms.
Finally, we congratulate the Egyptians for the wisdom of their president who is leading Egypt to prosperity and democracy.
Hunt the culprits
Sir-- I am not surprised that former Lebanese PM Rafiq Al-Hariri has been killed. He resigned a few months ago in protest of Emile Lahoud's presidential extension crises that was endorsed and pushed by Syria.
Al-Hariri was a staunch opponent of Syrian presence in Lebanon and might have paid dearly with his life for that stance. Now fingers will point at Israel and the CIA, as they always do, while the real culprit will be standing in the shadows, counting his gains from the ensuing confusion.
Lebanon must deal with this issue overtly and find out, with evidence, who is really behind this wicked murder and act to defuse their goals. They can start by working hard to enjoy the benefits of complete independence from foreign forces by asking Syrians to leave. The Syrians should respect Lebanese sovereignty and evacuate, as its days in Lebanon are numbered anyway.
It is what Rafiq Al-Hariri would have wanted to see, as any proud Lebanese national would agree. If it is accomplished, then his death was not in vain.
S G Lent
Sir-- Sami Moubayed's article 'All eyes on Damascus' about Rafiq Al-Hariri's assassination ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 17-23 February) speaks volumes about the limits and restrictions under which political analysts operate in a totalitarian regime, like that of Syria.
With no freedom of expression and with no right to criticise the regime, it is no wonder that Mr Moubayed's article navigates in fantasy when blaming Israel for the killing of Mr Al-Hariri.
Obviously, in Syria the truth is not the truth but what the government says it is. I wonder why Al-Ahram Weekly lends itself to publications of official lies, disguised as political analysis by someone bound by the chains of such a regime.
Who's to defend Beirut?
Sir-- Mohalhel Fakih's 'Cry the beloved country' ( Al- Ahram Weekly, 17-23 February) demonstrated the willingness of many to shape reality to their desired goals.
Rather than place blame on Israel (which has occupied Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Palestine) or on America (which occupies Iraq and secures the Arabian Peninsula countries), many anti-Syria zealots marry their wishes with the death of former prime minister Al-Hariri to produce an explosive, contrived rhetoric.
Yet, if one is to believe in the myths of nationalism, the Lebanese who want Syrians out of Lebanon have a point: Syria does occupy the country. One wonders if these cohorts of nationalists would prefer American or Israeli occupation.
Lebanon, with Syria occupying it, has some ability to manoeuvre around American and Israeli plots. Without Syria, Lebanon presents an easy target for either Tel Aviv or Washington. It does not take an expert to realise that the Lebanese armed forces are mostly an interior security force, rather than an army.
Who will defend Beirut once the Syrians go?
Brock L Bevan
Where to now?
Sir-- So now we have the US "committing" itself to bring peace for the Palestinians? Certain truce has been agreed upon and sealed by a honey-coated, extra civilised handshake between Abbas and Sharon. It all looks stunning and fresh, but it all seems a bit too familiar to us. Remember G Bush's vision about Palestine just before the invasion of Iraq? Well, is it a déjÀ vu or is it our bad memories that the US has suddenly "re-engaged" itself in the Mid East peace process, just when it is planning to attack Iran?
The way the whole thing is being packaged will put the best spin doctors in the world to shame. What the US and Israel are now saying is that there is a peaceful and shiny life waiting on a platter for the Palestinians but Iran is stopping them from getting it. This is not the first time Israel and the US came up with "obstacles" to peace. They had issues with Palestinian reform, corrupt administration, suicide bombing, foreign aid to Palestine, Yasser Arafat, democratic elections; and now Iran.
Essentially, what the US and Israel are saying is that we will invade and bomb your countries, sexually abuse your men and women, loot your properties, steal your oil and insult you as much as we like. But if you want us to stop, then do as we tell you and we will think about -- not necessarily give -- you some sort of a peace. I don't have to remind you that the US has no right to invade countries for allegedly developing nuclear weapons -- especially if the US itself has thousands of nuclear warheads.
Considering the danger Muslims are facing, we all have one simple question for our leaders: Exactly how do you intend to save the Iranian people from being locked and raped in another Abu Ghraib? Do you have any plan? You have failed in Afghanistan; you have failed in Iraq; and you have miserably failed in Palestine. So what is your plan now?