Sir -- As an Egyptian citizen I would have been happy had our Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni won the UNESCO presidency because his victory would have meant a victory for Egypt, not just for him personally.
Egypt exerted strenuous efforts in support of Hosni, and it succeeded in gaining the backing of many Arab, African and Islamic countries. President Hosni Mubarak personally intervened in this matter in order to support Hosni. But elections by nature must include manoeuvring and media pressure.
However, I think the elections were free and fair and there was no suspicion of fraud or manipulation. It's enough Egypt had the honour of being supported by many states, and in the end this election was a useful experience to draw on in the future.
12 hours in class
Sir -- Re 'Better safe than sorry' (1-7 October Al-Ahram Weekly ), it should also be noted that the new schedules in our universities, as a result of the fear of swine flu, have angered many students.
The 8am to 8pm, three days a week format, as introduced by the Supreme Council for Universities, will affect institutions like the Faculty of Alsun in Ain Shams University.
The Alsun students are upset with the new system because of the extra long duration of classes. Twelve hours of lectures?
A different day
Sir -- Things have changed over the past decade between Palestinians and the United States, and much for the better. Yasser Arafat was enticed to attend the Camp David meeting in 2000 with the promise that he would not be blamed if it failed. It did, and he was. President Mahmoud Abbas was recently invited to attend the New York meeting without any such promise. He was not blamed, and the meeting was not a failure.
The meeting dealt with both an immediate crisis and a long term strategic goal. The crisis was generated by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's refusal to budge on the total settlement freeze proposed by the US administration and by Abbas refusing to negotiate without it.
Entering the trilateral meeting, the Palestinians had no expectations that President Barack Obama could deliver a 100 per cent freeze or even find a way out of the crisis, let alone offer a commitment and a mechanism to advance a major strategic goal. However, Obama refused to yield on his own demand for a freeze, set it aside for now, and responded by demanding an even more ambitious and strategic goal: the resumption of final status issues, which Netanyahu did not exactly seek. In his speech to the UN General Assembly, Obama spelled out the parameters for these negotiations: security for all, borders, refugees and Jerusalem. And to add clarity, he said the goal was to end the occupation that began in 1967, and declared settlement activity illegitimate.
Netanyahu may have won the first round on freezing the settlements, but he lost the case on their legitimacy. Moreover, the end game is about establishing a Palestinian state, and that is very much in play. Netanyahu's commitment to a two-state solution, now twice expressed in official pronouncements, will be seriously tested in new negotiations.
He stymied the quest for a settlement freeze, but he has yet to prove that his opposition was to this one specific issue, rather than to negotiating a genuine end to the conflict.