Monday, February 14, 2005

The Lebanese Battlegournd

It seems that the Western Powers and Syria are headed for confrontation. The Americans have already threatened added sanctions (stopping the use of bankcards and direct financial transactions with the Syrian Central Bank - not a biggie). The real question is whether the Europeans will begin a sanctions regime of their own. Much of Syrian trade and economic assistance are from Europe. It would be devastating for Syria to have it disrupted. So far there is no indication that Europe is willing to join the US in sanctions, but with France and Britain joining the US on its Lebanon policy, such a possibility is no longer unthinkable.

Terje Roed-Larsen, the U.N coordinator of Syria's departure from Lebanon under Resolution 1559, has reportedly asked that President Assad be given a 'last chance' to bow to the will of the international community or face a financial blockade by the United States and the European Union.

The London-based Al Hayat newspaper said Sunday that Roed-Larsen made the request during a 75-minute meeting with French President Jacques Chirac in Paris Saturday following 5-days of talks in Beirut and Damascus on ways to bring about an 'amicable' Syrian pullout from Lebanon.

Chriac responded by a reiteration that France wants complete compliance with U.N. resolution 1559, stressing that the Lebanese parliamentary elections set for May "represent a step that the international community will be very sensitive to," an Elysee statement said.

Roed-Larsen, in turn, told reporters after the Elysee meeting that the "situation is difficult, but I think there will be a solution for which we need the good will of all parties concerned to make progress in applying the resolution."

Al Hayat cited diplomatic sources in Paris for its 'last chance' report. It quoted the sources as also saying the international community had sent a clear message to the Assad regime to refrain from 'any bloodletting in Lebanon."

The message warned that assassinating ex-Premier Hariri or Druze leader Walid Jumblat would initiate a "total, final and irrevocable divorce with the international community," according to Al Hayat.
Beirut, Updated 13 Feb 05, 16:24

Meanwhile, the Lebanese opposition is preparing itself for state intimidation as elections draw nearer. These quotes arrived via Naharnet:
Harirists charged that President Lahoud's regime was using the judicial system to prevent the ex-Premier from repeating his sweep of 18 from Beirut's 19 seats in Parliament in the 2000 elections.

"They're stupid," Hariri told An Nahar in response to a question about the affair of the Charity organization, which was denounced by the opposition nationwide.

"This is just the beginning," said Walid Jumblat. "The talons of the police state are bared and more attacks on the opposition are in store, but we will fight them to the bitter end."

Beirut, Updated 13 Feb 05, 11:03


At 2/15/2005 09:04:00 AM, Blogger praktike said...

Creepy to read this post today, Josh.

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