BOSNIA CRISIS: ARAB VIEW: Wave of Islamic anger and frustration shakes Middle East

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The Independent Online
The Lebanese woman shook with anger as she read through the news agency dispatch on the Muslim refugees of Srebrenica, of the refugee woman who had hanged herself in the wood at Tuzla, of the young women led away by Serb gunmen.

"Our bullshit leaders are worth nothing in the Middle East," she shouted. "They sit in their palaces and offices and count their money and do nothing for the people of Bosnia. If they did something - anything - this would never happen to the Bosnian people."

Hers was a fury articulated in various forms across the Middle East over the past two days as the plight of the 40,000 Muslims of Srebrenica was shown on Arab television. A month ago, Arabs were expressing their anger at the crushing of the Muslim uprising in Chechnya by Orthodox Russians, now it is Bosnia again where Muslims are being destroyed by Orthodox Serbs. For in the Middle East, it is not just the UN's credibility that is seen to be at stake, but that of the Arab regimes as well.

The semi-official Egyptian newspaper Al-Gumhurriya greeted the fall of the UN's "safe area" and the apparent rape of its young women by asking if this will not now move Muslim Arabs to action. "The Islamic and Arab countries, many of whom claim they are working for Islam and Muslims ... have been acting as mere spectators for what has been taking place in Bosnia and in the six other Islamic countries which used to be part of the Soviet Union," the paper's editorial claimed all too accurately. ''We are not putting any hope in the West or on the US, but we hope that the presidents of the Arab and Islamic countries will, for once, push the UN Secretary-General to convene the Security Council and lift the arms embargo imposed on the [Bosnian] Muslims."

But what can the Arabs do? The Iranians offered 10,000 troops to the UN last year, an offer refused by President Bill Clinton. The Saudis and Kuwaitis offered money and Korans. The Egyptians and Jordanians sent their troops to join Unprofor, the latter watching from the sidelines when the Croats overran their operational area in Serb Slavonia. Boutros Boutros- Ghali, the UN Secretary-General is an Egyptian, although a Copt, not a Muslim. The Iranians have sent revolutionary guards into Bosnia to train Muslim forces but it is the UN, in which the Arabs have always placed such hopeless faith, that has also infuriated Muslims in the Middle East.

Srebrenica, said Amr Moussa, Egypt's Foreign Minister, "mocks the authority of anything resembling the New International Order". He demanded an end to the Bosnia arms embargo because "the UN and Nato have proven inadequate".

At a press conference in Lebanon yesterday, Farez Bouiez, the Lebanese Foreign Minister, drew an unhappy parallel between the UN's failure to protect the Muslims of Srebrenica from the Serbs, and the UN's failure to force Israel to leave the largely Muslim area of southern Lebanon under UN Security Council resolution 425. "The credibility of the UN is linked everywhere in the world to whether its resolutions are obeyed," he said. According to the Beirut daily As-Safir, the error of the Bosnian Muslims was to put their faith in what it called "the international conscience", a conscience "which has proved hitherto to be extremely sensitive and decisive when the interests of the powerful are threatened, but provides only tears of compassion for the weak".

It endorsed the Bosnian Prime Minister when he said that "the contemptibility and inhumanity of the international community have reached their nadir in Srebrenica".