Israel stirs up a storm in Mideast; ALSO OF NOTE IN THE MIDEAST
Tension is rising between Greece and Turkey and the main focus appears to be Cyprus, the eastern Mediterranean island half controlled by the Athens-leaning Greek Cypriots and half by the Ankara-leaning Turkish Cypriots. The Greek Cypriot press last week accused the Turks of beefing up troop strength on the side of the island they control. This week, the Turkish press accused Athens of landing Greek soldiers on the Greek side of the island.
Both accounts have been given little credence by Cypriot, Greek, Turkish, and Western officials. The island has been at peace for the past six years, and negotiations between the two ethnic communities are still being held. But Western officials are anxiously monitoring what they see as increasingly acrimonious statements by Greece's new prime minister, Andreas Papandreou, and responses from the military government in Turkey.
For the moment, moderate Tunisia has been blocked by Libya from joining the powerful Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries. But oil industry sources say Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are putting heavy pressure on Libya to relent. One way of doing so is by freezing all new OAPEC projects and activities until Libya accepts Tunisia's membership.
Arab moderates are puzzled about Libya's last-minute move to block Tunisia. During a meeting last July of seven OAPEC ministers, including Libya, there was no objection to Tunisia's membership. Mideast analysts believe Libya's Col. Muammar Qaddafi deliberately set up the snub of Tunisia because of poor relations between the two North African neighbors.
Revelations Dec. 16 of an apparent plot against the government of Bahrain are being seen by knowledgeable sources on the Gulf as a sign of increasing Arab apprehension over Iran.
Bahraini officials said 53 persons have been arrested for planning to take government ministers hostage, seize the island's radio and television stations, and declare a revolution. Officials said the coup attempt was coordinated with Tehran.
About half of Bahrain's population is Shiite, and a great many are ethnically Persian. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been concerned about similar plots in recent weeks. These developments come as fighting between Iran and Iraq is intensifying and as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are being pressed by Iraq to lend it more backing in what it sees as an Arab-Persian war.