Outrage in the Arab press at the death of more than 300 people, half of them children, also spurred some commentators to criticise Russia's handling of its conflict with Chechnya amid comparisons with the US-led war on Iraq.

  

"There is in the Arab and Muslim world a public opinion which approves (hostage-taking and attacks against civilians) without questioning rhetoric that seeks to distinguish between resistance and terrorism," Egypt's Al-Ahram daily said.

  

"A minority alone is concerned by the image the world will remember of Islam and Muslims because of these acts," the government newspaper said.

One paper said recurrent killings
are hurting the image of Muslims

  

For another Egyptian daily, Nahdat Misr, "what happened in Beslan was a carnage in every sense of the word".

  

The newspaper equally blamed Russian forces and the Chechen hostage-takers for the tragedy that repulsed the world.

  

"Some kill in the name of the nation's prestige and the others invoke Islam," the newspaper said.  

 

It also drew a parallel between Russian intervention in Chechnya and the US-led war on Iraq.

  

[US President George] "Bush went to Iraq under the pretext that the Iraqi people were hostages of Saddam Hussein but Saddam came out unscathed while thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed".

 

"Some kill in the name of the nation's prestige and the others invoke Islam"

Nahdat Misr, Egyptian daily

"[Russian President Vladimir] Putin decided to free (his) people by sending them to the hereafter," it said. 

  

The London-based Saudi dailies Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat and Al-Hayat covered closely the school hostage crisis at Beslan and noted that 10 Arabs were among a group of hostage-takers killed there.

  

"Putin is preparing a security system to confront terrorism, and Europe is calling for a political solution in Chechnya," Al-Hayat said in a front page report.

  

For the Egyptian magazine Rose al-Yussef, "beheading hostages and killings ... is uniting the entire world against Muslims and Arabs."