Pundits see 'new style' in UN speeches

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (L) and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi during their speeches at the UN Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (L) and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi during their speeches at the UN

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Commentators in the Middle East are reacting positively to two of the most highly-anticipated speeches by world leaders at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York - those given by the Iranian and Egyptian leaders.

Mainstream and social media sources were broadly impressed with an uncharacteristically low-key address by the normally controversial Iranian President Ahmadinejad, and by the assertive and religious tone of newcomer to the UN, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.

Both speeches seemed designed to engage with rather than provoke the international community, commentators said.

Back on the world stage

State TV in Egypt deemed the speech a "declaration that Egypt will resume its position in the theatre of international politics after a long absence".

President Morsi's speech came too late to feature in Middle Eastern press editorials, who instead chose to focus on earlier comments made by US President Obama.

The "Brotherhood Pulse Network" Facebook page, attracting some 250,000 "likes", said that Morsi's speech "really expressed a free Egypt, Egypt's revolution, Egypt's will, Egypt's civilisation. The speech is full of honour and pride."

Egyptian commentators saw Morsi's frank comments on the Syrian crisis as another expression of Egypt's confidence. A political analyst on Egyptian TV, Halah Mustafa, said it was "normal" for Egypt to side with the Arab Spring revolutions.

Iran's Press TV, on the other hand, chose to cut off its live broadcast of the Egyptian leader's speech when it came to his remarks supporting the "freedom" of the Syrian people and backing a transfer of power. Other Iranian channels did not relay Morsi's speech at all.

New tone

Some social media users were puzzled by the religious remarks and citing of Koranic verses at the beginning of Morsi's address. Twitter user @Masriology wondered: "Has Egypt's speech in the UN turned into a Friday sermon?" Others found the new approach "revolutionary", such as user @mahmoudelhoshy and @jalshamsi777, who wrote that "the speech actually expressed the aspirations of the Arab peoples. He raised our heads high".

Well-known blogger Demagh Mak was more circumspect, saying that the speech was similar to those of the former President Hosni Mubarak, but with "a 10% increase in words like Allah, Muslims, Mecca etc".

Gaffe-free approach

Commentators also appreciated what they saw as a more philosophical approach from the Iranian leader, who has been known to cause storms of controversy at the UN gatherings in the past. In his final speech to the UN, President Ahmadinejad included poetic references to the Arab Spring and Jesus Christ, and a call for a "new world order".

Women protest against Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN General Assembly in New York Protesters gathered in New York to oppose President Ahmadinejad's presence at the UN

Iran's own Arabic channel Al-Alam TV said that Ahmadinejad's speech focussed on "principles". A talk show aired immediately after the live speech spoke approvingly of the Iranian president's call for the "adoption of moral principles" in international relations and a reform of the UN to make it less "biased". A pundit on the show said the leader was steering away from details and trying to find common ground with the world community.

The popular pan-Arab TV station Al-Jazeera thought that Ahmadinejad was possibly "overshadowed", in the words of its New York correspondent, by the Egyptian leader who had been busier networking on the sidelines of the UNGA. He said the Iranian president's speech, while still sharply critical of the West, lacked the alienating political stances of the past and sought "common spaces through which he could address the world consciousness".

The independent Arab nationalist newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi wondered if the new approach was deliberate. "Was this wisdom or foresight? Did the president deliberately abandon his strong rhetoric to win the public opinion of the world… or was this to present himself and his country as the victim especially when he knows that [Israeli PM] Benjamin Netanyahu will deliver his speech later?"

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here

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