Friday, March 03, 2006

News Round UP (March 4, 2006)

Is Syria wiggling its way out of isolation?
King Juan Carlos of Spain received Syria's Minister of Information Dr. Mohsen Bilal at the royal palace of Zarzuela on Wednesday. He said that Spain was ready to help Syria in its process of reform and modernization. The King and Queen sent thier best wishes to Bashar and Asmaa al-Asad.

The highest level EU delegation to visit Syria in many months has come to Syria to discuss what can be done to get the Partnership Association Pact finalized, that was intitialed in 2004, but halted due to the Hariri murder.

If promises are in the air, warnings are also clear:
French President Chirac in a press conference given during his visit to Saudi Arabia has said that any "Syrian Threats to Lebanon will Trigger International Response."

French President Jacques Chirac has warned Syria that the international community will take action against any perceived threat to Lebanon's stability through assassinations or supply of weapons.Chirac, in an interview with al-Hayat newspaper published Saturday, said that the murder of ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri will not go unpunished."Syria should understand that any act that encroaches upon the stability of Lebanon, through sending arms or (committing) assassinations, contradicts its standing in the international community," said the French President."This will surely lead to a response by the international community," he added.

Lebanon's top political leaders are holding roundtable discussions for the third day in an attempt to solve intractable issues that have escalated into a potentially explosive crisis over the past months. The unprecedented meeting between Muslim and Christian; pro-Syria and anti-Syria leaders has so far been described as positive by participants and reports in the media.

Lebanese Leaders at National Dialogue Agree that Shabaa Farms are Lebanese: "

All participants insist on their (the farms') Lebanese identity. However, no
final decision has been made yet," Berri said. He added that according to his
personal opinion, the Lebanese government should take the issue to the United
Nations, while continuing to support the resistance.

Some leaders of the anti-Syria majority, namely Druze leader Walid Jumblat,
have accused the Party of God of using Shabaa as a pretext to hold on to their
arms and use them to serve the interests of its allies Syria and Iran.The other
issue that has dominated the meeting is the country's embattled presidency. The
anti-Syria parliamentary majority has been seeking to oust President Emile
Lahoud, a close ally of Damascus. Its leaders are faced with the challenge of
winning over the support of Syria's Shiite allies, Amal and Hizbullah as well as
the consent of political rival Gen. Michel Aoun.

Newspapers reported that consensus has been reached on the necessity of
ending Lahoud's term. The president's mandate was extended for three years in
2004 when Syria pressured legislators to modify the constitution in order to
make the renewal legal.When Berri called for the meeting he set three items on
the agenda. They are the investigation into former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's
murder, relations with Syria and U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 that
calls for free and fair presidential elections and the disarmament of all
militias in Lebanon.The first issue was solved on the opening day when
politicians agreed unanimously to task the government with following up on the
creation of an international tribunal to try the suspected killers of the

An Nahar said after the consensus over removing Lahoud, the participants
agreed that Palestinian groups outside refugee camps should be disarmed and that
those inside the settlements should surrender their arms through dialogue,
without involving the Lebanese army.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem arrived in Cairo on Friday to take part in the 125th session of the Arab League Foreign Ministers Council scheduled to start here tomorrow. Among other things the council will discuss rejecting US unilateral procedures against Syria.

Syria closes EU-funded human rights centre: “A security force came and sealed the premises with red tape a few days ago. They have taken a decision not to tolerate anything,” human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni told Reuters. The government has not commented.

Syria is finally going to develop a public mail system!

U.S. military officials have been quietly assessing Lebanon's military capability, making a general inventory of its army, air and naval forces, and suggesting reforms following a request last year from top Lebanese government officials.

Here is a bit of a Robert Fisk interview:
TONY JONES: Unless the pressure from the United States ratchets up on Iran to the point where there are military threats against these nuclear facilities. Could it not therefore create havoc in Iraq?

ROBERT FISK: Well, you could say the same about Syria, too, couldn't you? And, of course the Americans are also accusing Syria of supporting the insurgents or letting them cross the border. But I think it it's much more complicated than that. For example, my sources in this area, who are pretty good, tell me that the Americans have already talked to the Syrians and are trying to do a deal with them to try and get the Syrians to help them over the insurgency and the price of Syria's help, I'm told, is that the Americans will ease off on the UN committee of inquiry into the murder of ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri, here in Beirut, only a few hundred metres from here, on the 14th February last year. You know, if the Americans are going to get out of Iraq - and they must get out, they will - they need the help of Iran and Syria. And I think you'll find that certain elements within the State Department are already trying to work on that. Now, we hear the rhetoric coming from Bush. I mean, he's got an absolute black-hole chaos in Iraq, he's got Afghanistan - not an inspiration to the world, it's been taken over effectively by narco warlords, many who work for Karzai, the man who's just been making jokes about the Afghan welcome for Bush - and Bush wants another conflict with Iran? I don't think the Americans are in any footing or any ability, military or otherwise, to have another war or to have another crisis in that region. They're in the deepest hole politically, militarily and economically in Iraq. The fact that the White House and the Pentagon and the State Department seem to be in a state of denial doesn't change that. We had Condoleezza Rice here - literally in that building behind me - a few days ago saying that there are great changes taking place in the Middle East - optimistically. Well, sure, there is a mosque war going on in Iraq with the Americans up to their feet in the sand, there's an Iranian crisis, or so we're told, the Saudis are frightened the Iraq war will spill over into Saudi Arabia, the Egyptians don't know how to reconcile Syria and Lebanon, there are increasing sectarian tensions here in Lebanon. You would think that someone is building what used to be called Potemkin villages, you know, these extraordinary things that Catherine the Great's court favourites use to build, facades of villages, so that everything looked nice in Russia even though things were barbarous behind the facades. I mean, this is a barbarous world we're living in now in the Middle East. It's never been so dangerous here, either for journalists or soldiers but most of all for Arabs. Hence the thousands of people in the mortuary.
Brammertz Expected to Issue Arrest Warrants for Syrian Officials
An Nahar newspaper reported Friday that Serge Brammertz is likely to issue
warrants for the arrest of Rustom Ghazaleh, who headed Syria's intelligence
operations in Lebanon and his deputy Jameh Jameh.
Asad has met twice with his cabinet ministers this week in order to get them to lay out clearly their objectives for the next two years in such a way that they can be held to account for their successes and failures. This is an important step. One of the major complaints of reformers has been that the government does not announce its plans such that it can be held responsible for them.

Le Président ASSAD a souligné la nécessité que chaque ministère présente
ses objectifs et le programme de son action pour cette année et l'année
suivante, en vue de réaliser ces objectifs à travers des programmes exécutifs
clairs, qui définissent les mesures à prendre et les milieux chargés de les
exécuter. Il a également appelé à adopter des mécanismes clairs de coopération
entre les différents ministères et les institutions publiques, à condition de
les appliquer conformément à un calendrier fixe.

Le Président ASSAD a enfin appelé à l'examen des programmes exécutifs
proposés par ordre de priorités. (Sources: Tichrine + As-Saoura + Al-Baas)

Kais, who is keeping tabs on Lebanon, writes about the Zaim meet on his "From Beirut to the Beltway:"
Lebanese are expecting the worst and hoping for the best today, as their leaders meet face-to-face for the first time in years to hash out differences over key national issues. There isn't a lot of optimism in the air, with commentators calling the conference the country's last shot at national reconciliation.

Writing in the leading An-Nahar newspaper Wednesday, analyst George Nassif said the leaders "will either lay down the foundations of a solid national reconciliation or (let the country) slide toward a confrontation."


At 3/04/2006 07:17:00 PM, Blogger t_desco said...

Robert Fisk probably got that information from his "little bird" (is it the same bird who just flew across the Atlantic ?). He told him that "the Americans ... have hatched a deal with the Syrians", but now the bird, perhaps challenged by continued hostility of US officials towards Syria, seems to have changed his tune to "certain elements within the State Department are already trying to work on that (deal)".

And perhaps the same bird is also responsible for the hysterical tone of Fisk's latest column, Setback for inquiry into Hariri assassination (access is limited to subscribers, but you can read what Roberto Fisk wrote in El Independiente here). The article is full of inaccuracies. He makes it sound as if Mohamed Zuhair Siddiq's release from prison meant the end of the Hariri inquiry.

"¿Será verdad que Brammetz está en camino rumbo a París para interrogar él mismo a Siddiq? ¿Podrá obligarlo a responder a sus preguntas? ¿Podrán hacerlo las autoridades francesas? Al parecer, no. Existe la sospecha cada vez mayor de que los cuatro funcionarios de seguridad libaneses involucrados en el asesinato podrían ser liberados debido a que el supuesto acusador está aparentemente a salvo de cualquier persecución judicial."

That is nonsense. Brammertz can still demand Siddiq's arrest, and France will be able to extradite him to an international tribunal because such a tribunal doesn't apply the death penalty.

At 3/04/2006 07:33:00 PM, Blogger t_desco said...

Oh, Jumblatt still hasn't "rediscovered" that the Shabaa farms are Lebanese:

Aridi dément un compromis autour de la libanité des hameaux de Chebaa contre la destitution d’Émile Lahoud

Le ministre de l’Information Ghazi Aridi a démenti hier les informations de presse selon lesquelles la majorité aurait renoncé à réclamer l’application de la 1559 et reconnu la « libanité » des hameaux de Chebaa, en contrepartie d’un soutien total du Hezbollah et de ses alliés pour la destitution du président Émile Lahoud.
Rappelons que le secteur de Chebaa est syrien tant que Damas ne produit pas de documents prouvant sa « libanité ». Le ministre Aridi a par ailleurs ajouté que « la “libanité” de ce secteur ne fait pas l’unanimité, contrairement à ce qui a été avancé ».
Ce compromis a également été démenti hier par le député Ali Hassan Khalil. Membre du Bloc parlementaire de Nabih Berry, M. Khalil a affirmé que le chef du comité exécutif des Forces libanaises allait soulever la question des hameaux de Chebaa et celle des armes du Hezbollah dans une intervention ultérieure lors des débats place de l’Étoile.
L'Orient-Le Jour

At 3/04/2006 11:33:00 PM, Blogger norman said...

I have a comment about the GDP in Syria ,i think it is under estimated as most transactions in Syria are made in cash and hard to track without a paper trail people do not use checks most Syrians who go to Syria to visit take cash exchange the dollars with Syrian mony from family members all is unreported and not counted .

At 3/05/2006 08:15:00 PM, Blogger majedkhaldoon said...

Many students graduate, but has no job,the lucky one ,he who leave Syria, come to USA, or go to europe or to gulf country, the unlucky one, and those are many, they go to military service,with low salary, then work in the goverment,for $150 a month, they cant buy a decent house, unless their parent help , cars are expensive,too,this is not what people expect from socialism, one of Baath party goals, all three, union,liberty,and socialism, never materialize, what a shame.


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