Wednesday, October 19, 2005

U.S., France Preparing U.N. Resolutions

Everyone is awaiting the results of the Mehlis report. As the West begins to plot out how it will use the report to shove the Syria question in front of the UN Security Council in order to get a sanctions regime imposed on Syria, Syrians are also focusing on the problem. Yesterday I interviewed six Damascene young men from prominent Sunni families. All took a surprisingly pro-Bashar line. Now that the choice has boiled down to either supporting Bush or Bashar, Syrians are choosing nationalism, which in this case means Bashar. There is not third option. All said that the lasts 6 months has been very sobering and given Damascenes a reality check. Democracy in Iraq means division and the triumph of sectarian politics over a strong national government. Syrians don't want that.

U.S., France to Introduce U.N. Resolutions Against Syria

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 19, 2005; A16

The United States and France are planning to introduce two U.N. resolutions next week aimed at holding Syria to account for meddling in Lebanon and for its alleged links to the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, according to several sources close to the diplomacy.

The moves would be the toughest international action ever taken against Syria and would be designed to further isolate President Bashar Assad, who for the first time is getting the cold shoulder from key Arab governments such as those in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Western envoys said.

The impending actions will be "the perfect storm for Damascus," said a Western diplomat at the United Nations, speaking on the condition of anonymity because planning is still underway. "It's pretty clear the Syrians don't have any friends left."

The resolutions may be introduced as early as Tuesday, he said. They would follow two reports on Syria expected to be submitted over the next two days to the U.N. Security Council.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan discussed the reports and plans for new resolutions during a working breakfast in New York, said sources familiar with the talks. Rice has been engaged in diplomacy on Syria over the past week during travels to France, Russia and Britain.

Rice requested the meeting, which was not announced until it was over. "The region and the world have a number of issues with Syrian behavior," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, adding that the Lebanese, Iraqi and Palestinian governments have all protested Syrian practices.

The most crucial report expected to be delivered this week is from German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, who will submit results of his U.N. investigation into the assassination of Hariri, who was Lebanon's leading reformer. Although the details of the report have been closely held, diplomats said they expect it to implicate Syria in the slaying of Hariri and 19 others in a Feb. 14 bombing, and to say that Syria has not fully complied with the investigation.

The U.N. envoy for Lebanon, Terje Roed-Larsen, is also scheduled to deliver a status report on Resolution 1559, which was co-sponsored by the United States and France last year. It calls for Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon and for the dismantling of militias. This report is expected to say that Syria has facilitated the flow of illicit arms and individuals into Palestinian camps in Lebanon, further undermining Lebanon's stability.

Syria says it has complied with the United Nations by ending its 29-year occupation and withdrawing about 14,000 troops from Lebanon in April. It also denies any links to the Hariri bombing.

"We have supported the Mehlis mission, and we have been cooperating with Mehlis," Imad Moustapha, Syria's ambassador to the United States, said yesterday. "We are absolutely categoric in saying we had nothing to do with Hariri. . . . If he does not reveal the truth, then this will allow certain people to point fingers here and there without any shred of evidence.

"President Assad has said that if any Syrian individual has been party to this crime or implicated in the assassination of Hariri, then he has committed a treasonous crime."

But key Security Council members have discussed extending the Mehlis mission until Dec. 15, which the U.N. chief can do without going to the Security Council. An extension could be used to continue probing or to provide a psychological boost for Lebanese authorities in persevering in the prosecution of Hariri's slaying, which unleashed the Cedar Revolution.

The scope of any punitive action against Syria is also under discussion, diplomats said. The Bush administration has considered language critical of Syria for support of terrorism that could also be used to punish or pressure Damascus for aiding extremists in Iraq, envoys familiar with the diplomacy said.

But France and other nations want the focus to be limited to Syria's intervention in Lebanon, mainly to prevent Arab backlash at a time of public anger over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Of particular concern is the position of Algeria, whose socialist government has been close to Damascus in the past. Also, Algeria is now the Arab representative on the 15-member Security Council.

But U.S., European and U.N. officials say Assad's government is facing bleak prospects even in the Arab world. Last month, Assad visited Cairo to win support from Egypt, a political trendsetter that accounts for more than half the Arab population. Instead, U.S. and Arab envoys say, President Hosni Mubarak told him to comply fully with Mehlis -- and not to expect help if Syrian officials are implicated.

After their first summit, held in Paris yesterday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora issued a statement condemning the movement of arms and militants into the Palestinian refugee camps. At a joint news conference, Siniora said he and Abbas are specifically concerned about Syria's role.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company
Nadim Ladki of Reuters quotes Patrick Seale on what is going on. He says:
"The death of Ghazi Kanaan shows there are severe tensions at the top, probably an internal power struggle," Patrick Seale, a British writer on the Middle East, told Reuters.

But he said that did not mean Assad's grip on power was necessarily weakening.

"We have to note that the regime continues to control the army and security services, the Syrian opposition is very weak and America is bogged down in Iraq," Seale said.

"I think the prospects for the survival of the regime are better than many people think."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last week the United Nations would need to act on Syria after Mehlis's report, signaling Washington wanted a tough international stance.

"The (U.N. Security) Council is going to have to be prepared to act in a way that ... allows the chips to fall wherever they may," Rice said after talks in Moscow about Syria.

Arab diplomats say a possible deal between Syria and the United States had been mooted in talks involving Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but the discussions had not borne fruit.

Any such agreement would be likely to guarantee the survival of Assad's government without Syria becoming a pariah state, in return for full cooperation with Mehlis, a crackdown on insurgents crossing into Iraq, and an end to Syrian support to Palestinian and Lebanese militants, the diplomats said.

Assad said last week any Syrian found to have been involved in Hariri's killing would be regarded as a traitor who should be punished, opening the door to a possible handover of any named Syrian suspects to international justice.

Sateh Noureddine, a columnist at Beirut's As-Safir newspaper, said there appeared be no international desire at this time for a regime change in Syria.

"Of course there is a list of demands but there is no intention to change (the regime)," Noureddine said.


Many analysts say chaos in neighboring Iraq and the absence of any obvious alternative to Syria's Baathist rulers have reduced U.S. appetite for an upheaval in which military officers or Islamist groups might struggle to fill the power vacuum.

Seale said Washington wanted to deal with Damascus rather than replace Assad and that tough bargaining lay ahead.

"The United States will be setting conditions to try and twist the arm of the regime -- conditions that are not acceptable to the Syrians because implementing them would mean the changing of the nature of the regime," he said.

Political sources said Mehlis was likely to complain about "insufficient" Syrian cooperation with his inquiry and might ask to interrogate more Syrian officials, possibly abroad.

Noureddine said Mehlis's findings would make it almost impossible for Lahoud, a staunch Syrian ally, to stay in office.

"There'll be no major earthquake in Lebanon. There'll be only one element: the presidency," he said, adding that the legitimacy of Lahoud had been already in doubt since Syria imposed an extension of his term last year.

"He is the last and worst symbol of the Syrian phase in Lebanon... The other (pro-Syrian politicians) have popular support, but not Lahoud. He's finished," Noureddine said.

Lebanon's government, dominated by anti-Syrian ministers, has asked Annan to extend Mehlis's mission to December 15 to help Lebanese prosecutors draw up indictments against the suspects.

Lebanese authorities have tightened security in and around the capital in case the Mehlis report proves explosive.

Regularizing borders:
Lebanese Premier Fuad Sanyoura has affirmed that relations between Syria and Lebanon could be could be good and solid if ties based on mutual respect. Sanyoura called for establishing Embassies in both countries in the near future. He also said that preparations are underway to draw borders. "We have asked specialized committees to handle this matter. We make contacts with Syria through the Syrian-Lebanese Council. This would clear up the question of Shabaa Farms.

Sunday, October 16, 2005
Bashar Assad is the problem, said Rafik Hariri
Al-Mustaqbal published Monday statements Rafik Hariri reportedly made off the record shortly before his assassination.

“Our problem is not with Emile Lahoud. Look how he recoiled when the orders came to [make Omar Karami Prime Minister]. And our problem is not with Rustom Ghazaleh who, as the Syrian leadership said, represents and implements what Syria wants in Lebanon to the letter. Our problem, actually, is with Bashar Assad.”

The paper claims Assad offered to exchange UNSC 1559 with Lahoud’s head but Hariri rejected, opting instead to up the ante with the Syrian regime.

“We will not be tools in Bashar’s hands,” he told reporters, apparently off the record. “One day he orders an extension and another a dethronement. He wants Lahoud changed now to impose someone else possibly worse for six years. What interests us is changing the methodology (Nahj), not changing masks.”

Hariri, in a subsequent meeting with Ghazaleh, informed the latter that there was no need for Syria to interfere in his choice of candidates for the parliamentary election. “If you view me as an opponent, you cannot demand political support from me,” he told Syria’s intelligence chief in Lebanon.


At 10/19/2005 02:48:00 PM, Blogger Nur-al-Cubicle said...

Oh dear. Condi is rattling a saber at Bashir again. She will not discount military action against Syria. But as one wit at one of the blogs I visit said...Would that be before or after she takes over Microsoft by pushing out Bill Gates?


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