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Arab media react cautiously to American's beheading

CAIRO -- Arab news media reacted cautiously yesterday to the videotaped beheading of American Nicholas Berg in Iraq, with some newspapers conspicuously playing it down.

Some commentators condemned the slaying and lamented that it would draw attention away from US soldiers' abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Others said their opinions of the US government had fallen so low that they have difficulty speaking out against the beheading.

''In normal circumstances, I could condemn the slaughtering of the American, but we are living in abnormal circumstances. I cannot condemn it now," said Egyptian columnist Nour al-Huda Zaki.

''The country that advocates human rights principles is now violating them and taking us back to the Dark Ages."

Zaki, a senior journalist for the Cairo newspaper Al-Arabi, said she expected few Arab newspapers to cover the beheading extensively because reporting on it could be read as condemning it.

Across the Arab world there were few banner headlines or televised reports about the killing of Berg, the 26-year-old American shown beheaded in a videotape posted Tuesday on a militant website. The video claimed responsibility in the name of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, an associate of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Kuwait's Al-Siyassah daily ran a photo of a masked militant holding up Berg's severed head. Five of Kuwait's seven dailies published front-page reports on the killing.

Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya broadcast brief segments of the video Tuesday night and carried longer footage yesterday. Neither station showed the beheading.

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