Monday, April 18, 2011

In Syria, a new government is formed

  • A former Cabinet minister is now the prime minister
  • This comes as Syria grapples with discontent
  • The government says a soldier was killed in Banias
In Syria, a new government is formed
By the CNN Wire Staff
April 14, 2011 12:09 p.m. EDT
(CNN) -- Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, has announced the formation of a new government, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported Thursday.

The prime minister is Adel Safar, a Baath Party member who was the agricultural minister in the previous Cabinet, which resigned last month.

The announcement was made as Syria is overwhelmed by anti-regime protests and clashes between demonstrators and security forces, conflict that has caused scores of deaths. The Syrian government claimed Thursday that one of its soldiers was shot dead in the city of Banias.

Syria has retained its foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, and defense minister, Ali Habib. But there are new heads in other positions, including the key ones of interior, finance, and media affairs, Syria TV said.

Opposition forces demanded the lifting of the country's emergency declaration and the end of one-party rule in Syria, among other things, as the winds of change in the Arab world whipped through Syria over the last month.

Al-Assad has made some moves intended to placate opposition activists, such as studying whether to end the 48-year-old state of emergency and providing citizenship for stateless people in the Kurdish region.

However, activists say the government has cracked down violently on peaceful protesters. That claim is disputed by the Syrian government, which blames armed groups for attacking security forces and citizenship.

CNN's Tracy Doueiry and Rima Maktabi contributed to this report

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US secretly backed Syrian opposition

Leaked cable shows that the U.S. State Department funnelled as much as $6 million since 2006 to Syrian exiles in London, 'Washington Post' says.

WikiLeaks: US secretly backed Syrian opposition
By REUTERS/reprinted at The Jerusalem Post
Monday, April 18 2011 09:06
WASHINGTON - The US State Department has secretly funded Syrian opposition groups, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

The cables show that the State Department has funneled as much as $6 million since 2006 to a group of Syrian exiles to operate a London-based satellite channel, Barada TV, and finance activities inside Syria, the Post said.

Barada TV began broadcasting in April 2009 but has ramped up operations to cover the mass protests in Syria that began last month as part of a long-standing campaign to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad the Post said.

The US money for Syrian opposition figures began flowing under President George W. Bush after political ties with Damascus were frozen in 2005, the newspaper said.

The financial backing has continued under US President Barack Obama, even as his administration sought to rebuild relations with Assad, the Post said. In January, the White House posted an ambassador to Damascus for the first time in six years.

The article said it is unclear whether the United States was still funding Syrian opposition groups, but the cables indicate money was set aside at least through September 2010.

An uprising against Assad's authoritarian rule have spread across large parts of the country. Rights groups put the death toll at more than 200 people. Syrian authorities blame the violence on armed gangs.

The previously undisclosed cables show that US Embassy officials in Damascus became worried in 2009 when they learned that Syrian intelligence agents were raising questions about US programs, The Washington Post said.

An April 2009 cable signed by the top-ranking US diplomat in Damascus at the time read Syrian authorities "would undoubtedly view any US funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change," the Postreported.

"A reassessment of current US-sponsored programming that supports anti-[government] factions, both inside and outside Syria, may prove productive," the cable said.

The Post said the State Department declined to comment on the authenticity of the cables or answer questions about its funding of Barada TV.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Al Jazeera's live coverage of the continuing unrest in Syria

Here below, for the record, is a copy of Al Jazeera's live coverage of the continuing unrest in Syria, Friday, 25 March 2011.

Syria Live Blog - March 25
By Al Jazeera Staff in Middle East on March 25th, 2011 -

As the situation in Syria escalates, we update you with the latest developments from our correspondents, news agencies and citizens across the globe.

Al Jazeera is not responsible for content derived from external sites.

AJE Live Stream - Special Coverage: Syria Unrest - Region in turmoil

(All times are local in Syria GMT+2)
Thousands of supporters of president Bashar al-Assad flood the streets of Damascus tonight to counter demonstrations against his regime. Many people drive through town, chanting and honking in support of the president.

In this YouTube clip protesters in the central square of Daraa destroy the portrait of president Bashar Al-Assad:

More YouTube footage of demonstrations in Homs. The protesters in this clip rip a banner with the image of the late president Hafez Al-Assad to pieces:

A large crowd continues to surround the Al Jazeera bureau in Damascus. The pro-regime protesters are threatening to burn or storm it.

Alistair Burt, UK's Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, expressed concern about the ongoing violence in Syria:

I have been watching closely the situation in Syria, and am deeply concerned by the use of force against demonstrators. I condemn the violence that has resulted in a large number of deaths in Deraa. All Syrians have a right to express their views peacefully.

I call on the Syrian government to respect the people’s right to peaceful protest and to address their legitimate grievances. I call for restraint on all sides but in particular from the Syrian security forces. Violence is never the right answer to these situations.

I note the statement from the President’s Advisor, Butheina Shabaan, that the Syrian government is looking at political reforms. I call on the Syrian government to implement these proposals without delay and to engage peacefully on the legitimate demands of the Syrian people, who will be looking for action to back up such statements.

Ten people were killed today in clashes between protesters and security forces in the southern Syrian city of Sanamin, a high-ranking official told AFP news agency.

Anas al-Abda, the chairman of the Movement for Justice and Development in Syria, tells Al Jazeera that the pro-regime protests in Damascus are "most probably fabricated and organised by the regime of Bashar Al-Assad".

Maamoun Al-Homsi,a leading Syrian opposition figure, called on the international community to intervene to stop "the massacres against civilians by President Bashar al-Assad's regime" in protests across Syria.

"There are killed and wounded and those who are arrested in all the provinces," he told Reuters by telephone from Canada, referring to protests that spread beyond the southern town of Daraa on Friday challenging Assad's rule.

The United States calls on the Syrian government to stop violence against demonstrators and the arrests of human rights activists, White House spokesman Jay Carney says.

We strongly condemn the Syrian government's attempts to repress and intimidate demonstrators.

Some hundred pro-regime protesters are surrounding the Al Jazeera office in Damascus, asking Al Jazeera to air their support for president al-Assad live on TV. If not, they are threatening to storm the office.

Security forces killed three people in the Mouadamieh district of Damascus after a crowd confronted a procession of cars driven by supporters of president Bashar al-Assad, residents said.

"The cars entered Mouadamieh after a protest by residents to denounce the killings in (the southern city) of Deraa," one of the residents said.

A map of Syria showing all the cities that saw protests today:

This image comes from SyrianFreePress's Channel and is yet another reference to president Bashar al-Assad. It also reads. Your turn has come, doctor:

This photo of graffiti in Syria was posted on Twitter. It reads: "Your turn has come, doctor" - a reverence to president Bashar Al-Assad, who is also an eye-doctor.

First video of dead bodies emerges after Syrian security forces open fire on protesters near Daraa WARNING - images in this video might not be suitable for some viewers [Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the authenticity of this footage]:

Quick recap of the latest developments: Protests are spreading across Syria.

In the southern city of Daraa, which has been in revolt for a week, gunfire and tear gas scattered a crowd of thousands after people lit a fire under a statue of late president Hafez al-Assad.

Al Jazeera aired comments by a man who said security forces had killed 20 people on Friday in the nearby town of Sanamein.

In Hama, in the centre of the country, where Hafez al-Assad put down an Islamist revolt in 1982 at a cost of many thousands of lives, residents said people streamed through the streets after weekly prayers chanting "Freedom is ringing out!" – a slogan heard in uprisings sweeping the rest of the Arab world.

More YouToube footage of the protests - this latest one is from Latakia, where protesters claim at leats one person was killed by security forces [Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the authenticity of this footage]:

The Syrian Information Ministry claims that there were armed people among the protestors in Daraa. Security forces were shot at and returned fire, Reem Haddad, an Information Ministry spokesperson, told Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from Damascus, says:

It is escalating very quickly. The protests are spreading throughout Syria. There are several casualties, some people say eight, and some say 20. It is not possible to independently verify these numbers.

A witness and Deraa resident who was at the protest earlier tells Al Jazeera:

It was peaceful. Protesters tried pull down a statue of president Al-Assad, then the police opened fire on the protesters.

Syrian security forces kill at least 20 people in town of Sanamein, near Deraa, a witness tells Al Jazeera:

There are more than 20 martyrs .... they (security forces) opened fire haphazardly.

Syria's information minister seems to have missed something. He says the situation is "totally calm" throughout the country. Mohsen Bilal told Spanish radio Cadena Ser:

There is a totally peaceful climate in the Syrian towns and the terrorists have been arrested.

Several people were killed on Friday when a demonstration headed to the Syrian protest city of Daraa was raked by gunfire, a human rights activist told AFP news agency.

Several protesters were killed in a shooting in Sanamen as they were headed toward Daraa.

The activist requested anonymity. The news could not be confirmed by independent sources or hospitals in the area.

YouTube footage of demonstrations throughout seems to be flooding the web. This latest one is from Deraa [Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the authenticity of this footage]:

More YouTube footage of the demonstrations in Damascus in support for Deraa [Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the authenticity of this footage]:

France called for the "rapid and effective implementation" of reforms promised by Syria, including the lifting of the state of emergency in place for nearly five decades. Foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said:

France has taken note of the reforms announced yesterday by Syrian authorities. We call for the rapid and effective implementation of these measures, including the lifting of the state of emergency and the release of prisoners detained for having participated in protests.

On Thursday the regime of president Bashar al-Assad announced the release of all activists locked up sinceanti-government demonstrations began a month ago, and said it might scrap the 1963 emergency law.

More video is showing up on YouTube of after-prayer protests. This latest one is from Homs. The protesters march in solidarity with the people of Deraa [Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the authenticity of this footage]:

Protesters in Deraa are shouting slogans denouncing Maher al-Assad, brother of the Syrian president and head of the Republican Guard, a witness tells Reuters. As they headed to the main square in the city after the funeral of at least five protesters killed by security forces this week, thousands chanted:

Maher you coward. Send your troops to liberate the Golan

Israel captured the Golan Heights in a 1967 war.

About 1,000 people rallied in the town of Tel, just north of Damascus, in support of the city of Deraa, and denounced two relatives of president Bashar al-Assad as "thieves", witnesses said.

At least 44 people have been killed in Deraa in a police crackdown on protests by reformists that began a week ago.

More video of protests in Syria via Facebook - this time in Hama, a city just north of Homs. Hamah was was the scene of a 1982 attack by Syrian security forces that killed thousands. The protesters are chanting for more freedom [Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the authenticity of this footage].

Here is how the Syrian authorities ended a protest in the Grand Ummayad mosque in Aleppo today [Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the authenticity of this footage]:

Al Jazeera's special correspondent, reporting from among the pro-reform demonstrators in Daraa, said: "No one here is calling for a regime change".
"No one here is chanting slogans against the president Bashar al-Assad. The people here say they want freedom, they want reforms."

Human rights campaigners, Syrian intellectuals and other analysts agreed that today will give a clearer indication of whether the rebellion will spread or falter.
"When Friday is over, we'll have a much better idea what direction this is going in," said one political analyst, who works as an adviser to the government.

There were other, smaller-scale protests held for the first time in Homs, Banias and Deir Ezzor, but they were not dealt with so violently, with demonstrators arrested rather than shot.

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from the capital Damascus, said "it is a new Syria".

Hundreds of Syrian villagers march to Daraa in support of the city, chanting:

"Freedom is ringing".


- Syria's "Day of Dignity" is under way, despite a nationwide security clampdown and a reform pledge by the government suggesting some of the "just" demands by protesters could be met, including political reforms.

- In Daraa, at the funeral of six of the victims shot dead by police, protesters called for freedom and for political reform.

- No security forces were present at the funerals after an agreement was made with local authorities to stay away.

- A harsh response by security forces to anti-government demonstrations in Daraa, 100 kilometres south of Damascus, has so far failed to quash protests in the city despite a spiralling civilian death toll since demonstrations began there a week ago.

- At least 44 people are believed to have been shot and killed in Daraa by security forces backed by the military since last Friday, with scores more wounded, according to human rights activists and a city hospital official.
A counter demonstration took place by supporters of President Assad, who is facing an unprecedented challenge to his 11 year rule.

Syrian secret police broke up demonstrations in the centre of the Syrian capital and arrested dozens of people, according to witness reports.

At least 200 people marched in the centre of Damascus after prayers in support of Daraa, scene of protests against Baath Party rule, a witness said.
"We sacrifice our blood, our soul, for you Daraa," they chanted as they were met by Assad loyalists chanting in support of the Syrian leader.
Al Jazeera's correspondent said:

"About 100 protesters are marching in Mezze following Friday prayers, chanting freedom freedom, peaceful peaceful...".

Thousands of mourners chanting for freedom march in Daraa city behind coffins of dead protesters.

Syrian secret police arrest at least three people in Damascus among marchers in support of Daraa city.

Protesters shouting for freedom gathered in the capital and other areas around the country on Friday as security forces ordered journalists to leave the southern city where a brutal weeklong siege on demonstrations killed dozens of people.

Daraa, the main city of southern Syria's drought-parched agricultural heartland, has become a flashpoint for protests in a country whose leadership stands unafraid of using extreme violence to quash internal unrest.
On Thursday, Sheikh Morshed Mashouq al-Khaznawi, a cleric from the predominantly Syrian Kurdish town of Qamishli, described Bashar al-Assad as a "tyrant".
"People are rising up in the face of the tyrant of Syria, Assad, and his gang, who have oppressed, suppressed and become haughty," he said.

He called on the Syrian population (in this video message) to "march in support for the revolution of youth" during Friday's 'Day of Dignity'.
Security forces appear to be trying to reduce tension in the southern city of Daraa where authorities launched a deadly, weeklong crackdown on protesters.

Syrian troops have dismantled checkpoints in Daraa and there was no visible army presence on the streets for the first time since last Friday.
Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from the capital Damascus, said:
"We have to remember that the protests have been confined to Daraa, that despite seven days of very strong clashes that resulted in the deaths of dozens of people, the capital and other Syrian towns remain quiet."

But she stressed the importance of not undermining the planned 'Day of Dignity' protests, saying "Friday is going to be a challenge and a test for the activists and the government".

We are hearing reports that president Bashar al-Assad, who faces the most serious unrest of his 11-year tenure, will speak to his nation within the next few hours to try to calm the situation.

On Thursday, Assad's government pledged to consider lifting some of the country's most repressive laws in an attempt to stop the weeklong uprising in Daraa and prevent it from spreading.

But many activists rejected those promises and called for demonstrations around the country on Friday.
These were the scenes on the streets of Daraa on Wednesday, after security forces stormed a mosque in the southern city:

Haitham Maleh, a prominent Syrian opposition figure, says the country is "a bomb, ready to explode" as protesters demand freedom and an end to president Bashar al-Assad's "cancerous regime".

He told The World Today Thursday's concessions do not go far enough.

Maleh, who was released from prison earlier this month under an amnesty for older political prisoners, says his countrymen are ready for a revolution.

The 80-year-old lawyer is one of Syria's most prominent human rights campaigners.
Authorities in Syria are bracing for the possibility of further protests, following a week of unrest that has left dozens dead in Daraa city.

Protests have been planned in Daraa and in the nation's capital, Damascus for after Friday prayers. Organisers have dubbed it a "Day of Dignity".

A statement posted yesterday on the Facebook page "The Syrian Revolution 2011" called for demonstrations in all Syrian provinces.

Click here: Syria braces for 'day of dignity' rallies - for more on this story.

Good morning, welcome to Al Jazeera's live coverage of the continuing unrest in Syria.


Thousands March to Protest Syria Killings

Thousands March to Protest Syria Killings
Published: Thursday, 24 March 2011. Full copy:
DAMASCUS, Syria — Thousands of people gathered in protest at funerals in the southern city of Dara’a on Thursday, despite a major crackdown by Syrian security forces that suggested that leaders here would not tolerate pro-democracy protests like those that have swept other Arab nations.

An assault on the central mosque there early Wednesday, and subsequent attacks by security forces, left an unknown number of deaths, some of which appeared to be documented in bloody videos posted on YouTube. An American official who would speak only on background about intelligence reporting said that “about 15 people” were killed by forces of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. Reuters quoted an unnamed hospital official in the city as putting the death toll at 37. Various Web sites were collecting names of those believed to be killed.

No violence was reported in the huge gatherings around the funerals for the dead on Thursday.

Information has trickled out slowly and incompletely from Syria, one of the most closed and repressive nations in the Middle East, which is closely allied both to Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. But as the death toll from the Dara’a crackdown rose, Mr. Assad faced growing pressure both internally, as the protests spread around the south, and from other nations.

After calling the protesters’ grievances “justified,” one of Mr. Assad’s top advisers, Bouthaina Shaaban, announced a series of reforms that have been demanded by the protesters, including possibly suspending the long state of emergency rule, reducing corruption, establishing political parties and opening up the media.

Her statements came after Britain, France, Germany and the United Nations all condemned the violence.

Andrew J. Tabler, who spent a decade living in Syria and is now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said six days of protests of this size were unknown in Syria since at least 1982. In February of that year, Mr. Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, killed at least 10,000 people in an assault on the city of Hama to definitively end an Islamist uprising.

"The regime is under serious pressure, and it’s hard to predict where this may lead," he said.

The protests are in a Sunni area and the turmoil threatens to “crack the Sunni veneer” of the government of Mr. Assad, who is of the Alawite religious minority, said Mr. Tabler. But he said the protests have not so far taken on a strong sectarian character and are mainly a response to years of broken promises and delays in carrying out political reforms.

The crackdown in Dara’a began early on Wednesday after the Syrian Army reinforced the police presence in the city, near the Jordanian border, and confronted a group of protesters who had gathered in and around the Omari mosque in the city center. Activists and news reports said five or six people were killed after the forces tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas and then live ammunition.

Among the dead was Ali al-Mahameed, a doctor, who witnesses said was shot while tending to the injured. At least one person was killed after Dr. Mahameed’s funeral on Wednesday afternoon, attended by thousands of people, some of whom tried to return to the city center. Syrian state television said Wednesday that it was not security forces who that had killed people at the mosque but rather an “armed gang.” The broadcast showed guns, grenades, ammunition and money that was said to have been taken from the mosque after a police raid. The report acknowledged four dead.

The official SANA news agency reported that the “gang” had killed a doctor, a medical worker and a driver in an ambulance and “security forces faced down those aggressors and managed to shoot and wound a few of them.”

Despite emergency laws that have banned public gatherings for nearly 50 years, protests have grown in the last week in several cities around Syria. The largest have been in Dara’a, with thousands taking to the streets on Friday and again on Sunday, when protesters burned government buildings and clashed with the police. Several people were reported to have died.

The mosque’s imam, Ahmed al-Sayasna, told the news channel Al Arabiya that there were no weapons in the mosque, which he said was under police control.

A video posted on YouTube showed the mosque with a voice coming from the loudspeakers addressing the police: “Who would kill his own people? You are our sons, you are our brother.” Armed security forces could be seen running at a distance, amid gun shots and cries for help.

“Streets are full of scores of wounded and many dead, and no one can go to their rescue,” a witness said.

Scott Shane contributed reporting from Washington.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Global Voices Syria: Internet Users Race to Support Egyptian Protesters

Click here for Global Voices special coverage of Egypt Protests 2011.

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Iran and Syria express support for Sudan's unity and integrity

Iran and Syria express support for Sudan's unity and integrity
Source: Arab Monitor -
Date: Thursday, 02 December 2010
(Kuwait City, 2 December) - In a meeting between Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and his Syrian counterpart's deputy, Faisal al-Miqdad, on the sidelines of the International Donors and Investors Conference on Eastern Sudan, both officials expressed their countries' commitment to the unity and integrity of Sudan and their opposition to ongoing efforts to cut the African country into two parts. Mottaki and al-Miqdad pointed out to the significance and importance of the huge north eastern African country in and for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Non-Alligned Movement, the Arab League as well as the African Union.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sudan's Council of Ministers' Secretary General meets his Syrian counterpart

Council of Ministers' Secretary General Meets his Syrian Counterpart
Source: SUNA -
Date: Thursday, 28 October 2010
(Khartoum) - The Secretary General of the Council of Ministers, Dr. Omer Mohamed Saleh, has reviewed the spheres of cooperation between the Council of Ministers' Secretariats General in Sudan and Syria and for implementation of the agreements and protocols signed by the two countries.

The Director of the Decision-making Department at the Syrian Cabinet, Hussein Ibrahim, appreciated following his meeting with Dr. Saleh affirmed the deeply-rooted relations between Khartoum to Damascus in all domains. He said that the meeting came in the context of the efforts to consolidate the cooperation and exchange of experiences between the two sisterl countries.


Saturday, October 02, 2010

Sudanese delegation in Syria to sign cooperation agreement

Source: Arab Monitor - www.arabmonitor
Date: 01 or 02 October 2010
Title: Sudanese delegation in Damascus to sign cooperation agreement
Copy in full:
(Damascus, 1 October) – Syrian official sources informed of a meeting held yesterday between Vice President Farouk al-Sharra and Sudanese information minister Kamal Ebeid to discuss the latest political developments as well as means and ways to bolster bilateral relations.

Damascus shares Khartum's interest in maintaining Sudan's national unity and in protecting itself against the negative repercussions of foreign interference in domestic issues.

Khartum, for its part, sees its interests best protected within the frame of a consolidated Arab bloc. In this context Syrian information minister Mohsen Bilal discussed with his Sudanese counterpart the importance of establishing integrated work mechanisms and programs to implement cooperation between the various print and broadcasting media of both countries and their official news agencies.

Both countries' ministers agreed to exchange visits between working delegations with the aim to set up a daily press communication keeping the public in Syria informed about realities on the ground in Sudan, especially in the run-up to the referendum to be held in south Sudan.

It was also agreed upon to boost cooperation in the field of engineering and technical training and to set up a program for joint TV, documentary and drama production. Ministers Mohsen Bilal and Kamal Ebeid concluded the meeting signing an agreement of cooperation between the Syrian news agency SANA and the Sudanese SUNA.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Syria says it is ready to make peace with Israel if it fulfils UN resolutions

Walid Al-Moualem, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic, addresses the general debate of the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly.

Syria says it is ready to make peace with Israel if it fulfils UN resolutions
Source: UN News Centre - Tuesday, 28 September 2010:
Syria said today that it “has the will” to make peace with Israel within the framework of United Nations resolutions calling for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory, stressing that the return to it of the Golan Heights is non-negotiable.

“Syria wants "just and comprehensive peace achieved through the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242, 338 and the Arab Peace Initiative,” Foreign Minister Walid AI-Moualem told the General Assembly. “Our solemn position has been known for years. We have the will to make peace and we are the masters of our decision, which is unwavering. The Occupied Syrian Golan is not negotiable nor is it ? bargaining chip.

“Recognition of the fact that it must be returned fully is the basis on which peace making arrangements should be made,” he said, adding that Syria is ready to resume Turkish-mediated peace negotiations from the point where they stopped with the previous Israeli Government in 2008 if it finds in Israel ? partner committed to the terms of reference and with the necessary political will.

Turning to the Israeli-Palestinian talks, he said that there is much talk about peace in Israel “yet the drums of war continue to sound,” with land appropriation for settlement building going on unabated.

“Peace negotiations, we are told, are under way on the basis of the two-state solution but relentless settlement activities are about to make this two-state solution a dead letter that stands no chance of survival,” he said.

“Israel is feverishly pursuing its Judaization plans for Jerusalem which it has long sought to depopulate of its Palestinian inhabitants. Israeli actions threaten the safety of Jerusalem’s holy sites.

“Through settlement activities, actions and declarations relevant to Jerusalem, Israel pursues ? fait accompli policy on the basis of which it imposes its will regardless of whether negotiations continue or stall. Peace can be genuine only if there is ? genuine will to make peace. This is the litmus test. Political manoeuvres during negotiations under the umbrella of ‘the desire for peace’ strain and exacerbate the situation and may make it more volatile.”

Mr. Moualem said Israel must comply with international decisions calling on it to adhere to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and submit its nuclear installations to the international safeguards regime, declaring this “of extreme significance for the security and stability of the region.”

On Iraq, he said the war-torn country’s security is contingent upon its national unity based primarily on its Arab-Islamic identity, and on the participation of all the stripes of the Iraqi people in building their present and future.

Turning to Sudan, where a referendum on possible independence for the south is scheduled for 9 January, he said Syria follows developments there “because we are dedicated to Sudan's unity, sovereignty, security and stability.”

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

US keeps Syria on terrorism blacklist

Report by AFP - Thursday, 05 August 2010:
US declines to put NKorea back on terrorism blacklist

The Obama administration declined Thursday to put North Korea back on a blacklist of countries supporting terrorism despite pressure from lawmakers to do so.

In its report for 2009, the State Department kept the same countries on the list as it did in 2008 -- Iran, Sudan, Cuba and Syria -- with Iran again listed as the "most active state sponsor of terrorism."

Former US president George W. Bush de-listed North Korea in 2008 after it vowed to end its nuclear program, agreed to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and pledged to disable its nuclear plants.

The Obama administration has kept it off the list again after citing narrow legal definition for what constitutes support for terrorism.

In June 2009, 16 US Republican Senators urged President Barack Obama's administration to place the communist regime back on the US blacklist.

The North conducted its second nuclear test the previous month and defied international criticism by firing a volley of short-range missiles and threatening to attack the capitalist South.

Though the report does not cover events this year, Republican senators renewed their call for North Korea to be listed again after South Korea and the United States blamed it for sinking a South Korean warship in March.

In keeping four countries on the blacklist, the Country Reports on Terrorism 2009 said "Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism".

"Iran?s financial, material, and logistic support for terrorist and militant groups throughout the Middle East and Central Asia had a direct impact on international efforts to promote peace, threatened economic stability in the Gulf and undermined the growth of democracy," it said.

The US accuses Iran of actively supporting groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan, Shiite groups in Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

On Sudan, the report said the government was cooperating with US counter-terrorism efforts, but said "Al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist elements as well as elements of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and HAMAS, remained in Sudan in 2009."

The report said the United States disagrees with Syria's support for what it calls national liberation movements, groups Washington considers are terrorist.

"Syria continued to provide safe-haven as well as political and other support to a number of designated Palestinian terrorist groups, including HAMAS, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC)," the report.

The report complained that Cuba still gives safe haven and ideological support for three terrorist organizations.

"The Government of Cuba has long assisted members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army of Colombia (ELN), and Spain?s Basque Homeland and Freedom Organization (ETA), some having arrived in Cuba in connection with peace negotiations with the governments of Colombia and Spain," it said.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

US concerned about Syrian intentions over Hezbollah

According to the following report, Hezbollah is fiercely opposed to Israel.

US concerned about Syrian intentions over Hezbollah
From BBC News online by Kim Ghattas
BBC State Department correspondent, Washington
Thursday, 15 April 2010 03:27 UK - excerpt:
The White House has said it is increasingly concerned over reports that Syria is sending sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon, a day after the Israeli President Shimon Peres accused Damascus of supplying Scud missiles to the militant group.

The reports are a blow to the Obama administration's attempt to engage positively with the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad after years of tension between Washington and Damascus.

"We are obviously increasingly concerned about the sophisticated weaponry that ... is allegedly being transferred," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters. "We have expressed our concerns to [the] governments [of Lebanon and Syria]."

Mr Gibbs was responding to questions about the Israeli president's comments. He did not confirm that the transfer had taken place but warned it could have a potentially destabilizing effect on the region.

Israeli fears

Hezbollah is backed by Iran; both are Israel's arch enemies. If the militant group obtains medium and long range ballistic missiles, such as Scuds, this could alter the military balance in the region.

Hezbollah and Israel fought a war in 2006 during which Hezbollah fired rockets into northern Israel but Scuds would put all of Israel within reach.

Israel's president has said Syria is supplying Scuds to Hezbollah

Some military experts however believe Hezbollah already has longer-range missiles, in which case this latest development would be important because of the signal it sends at a time of simmering tension in the region.

Israel is worried about Iran's nuclear programme and has often warned it could strike Iran if it felt threatened.

Syria and Hezbollah would be likely to be immediately drawn into the conflict. But Iran's allies could also choose to strike pre-emptively at Israel.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Iraq Confronts Syria over Terrorism as U.S. Dithers

From Pajamas Media
Iraq Confronts Syria over Terrorism as U.S. Dithers
November 23, 2009 - by Ryan Mauro

The Obama administration could learn a lesson in fortitude from the Maliki government.
Iraq has had enough. Faced with ongoing attacks from forces supported by Syria, the Iraqis are taking an increasingly hard line and are refusing to back down. They are fully aware that a confrontation brings the risk of further instability, but the Iraqis recognize that the only way to ultimately stop the violence is to stop those enabling it. Already, their new stance towards Syria is bringing results, while the U.S. keeps rewarding Syria through inaction — a silent way of confirming to the Syrians that we understand that our security is dependent upon them.

This assessment of the impression given to Syria is not speculation, but is a summary of a thinly veiled, successful Syrian strategy. Take a look at the following words of Ahmed Salkini, a political advisor to the ambassador to the United States, regarding the current state of relations: “A previous administration did not want to cooperate, even if it cost American lives. This administration is realizing you have to cooperate in order to save lives, in order to advance U.S. interests, and that’s what we’re looking forward into the future.”

In other words: you need us and if we’re not happy, you’ll suffer. Supporters of the Assad regime will claim that Salkini was stating a simple fact that international cooperation increases security, but Syria has been directly supporting the insurgents in order to achieve the U.S. policy shift they seek. This is blackmail, pure and simple. The Obama administration apparently recognizes this and has reversed its previous plans by deciding not to send an ambassador to Syria.

The Iraqis are to be admired for refusing to be bullied. State sponsors of terrorism engage in such activity because they believe their involvement can’t be proven and that the victim won’t punish them out of a fear of escalating the conflict and not having the smoking gun proof to back up their assertions. The Iraqis have wisely responded by making their complaints public, rather than confining them to behind-the-scenes talks. They continue to demand that the United Nations establish a tribunal to prosecute those in Syria involved in the violence. Al-Maliki even hinted at supporting Assad’s own dissident elements in retaliation, saying, “Neighboring countries should behave like good neighbors because it is not hard for us to do the same things they did.”

The former Iraqi national security advisor is saying that they have evidence that Syrian intelligence officers are providing logistical support to al-Qaeda in Iraq, and following the October 25 bombings of the Justice Ministry and Baghdad government buildings killing 160 people, the foreign minister said they had “strong and tangible evidence” that those behind the bombings had safe harbor in Syria. It is unknown if the Assad regime had a direct hand in the attacks, but it is obvious that they at least did not stop acting as a safe harbor with the full knowledge of what it would result in.

The Iraqis previously accused Syria of having responsibility for the twin bombings in Baghdad on August 19, which really escalated the crisis between the two countries and resulted in the recalling of ambassadors. The Iraqis say they have wiretaps, confessions from captured terrorists, and photos of terrorist training camps in Syria to prove the Assad regime’s role in facilitating the attacks. They also have documents outlining the routes used by the terrorists to reach Iraq from Syria. On August 30, the Iraqis released the videotaped confession of a captured al-Qaeda terrorist believed to have led operations in Diyala Province, saying that he was trained at an al-Qaeda camp in Syria that “was well known to Syrian intelligence.”

The U.S. has disgracefully reacted to the crisis with neutrality. On August 26, a spokesperson for the State Department was asked about the tension between Iraq and Syria. He responded with: “We consider that an internal matter. We believe that, as a general principle, diplomatic dialogue is the best means to address the concerns of both parties.”

An Iraqi official has said that his country is experiencing major resistance from the U.S. in its push for an international tribunal to be created to target those in Syria involved in the insurgency. By failing to act against Syria or even provide political support for this move, the U.S. is helping the Assad regime and failing to understand that by waging war on Iraq they are waging war on the U.S. and its interests.

Al-Maliki now has to make a move. Some Iraqi politicians are accusing him of pointing the finger at Syria in order to distract from his own failure to establish security ahead of the elections. His government’s statements are failing to capture the attention of the world or convince the U.S. to modify its “engagement” policy to account for these transgressions.

After the threat to push for a tribunal, terrorist activity in Iraq dropped by three-fourths according to one Foreign Ministry diplomat. The October bombings obviously alter that statistic, but it is clear that al-Maliki made the right move in trying to remove the incentive for Syria to engage in covert support of terrorism by exposing it. More evidence should be released in a dramatic fashion, similar to Colin Powell’s 2003 presentation, albeit with more solid information. This will force America’s hand — and the Obama administration can’t accuse the Iraqis of disloyalty if they do so, considering their reaction to the Iraq-Syria crisis. It will also prove the credibility of the accusations and make the Assad regime think twice about putting its fingerprints on such violence.

The U.S. has complained about Syria’s sponsorship of terrorism for years and years, but for whatever reason has failed to make public the evidence to demonstrate how serious and deadly it is. The Iraqis have shown the way forward, not only in handling Syria, but in helping to deter state sponsorship of terrorism as a whole.

Ryan Mauro is the founder of and the director of intelligence at the Asymmetrical Warfare and Intelligence Center (AWIC). He’s also the national security researcher for the Christian Action Network and a published author. He can be contacted at


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sarkozy tries his hand at reviving Mideast peace

Report from AFP by Carole Landry – Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009:
Sarkozy tries his hand at reviving Mideast peace
PARIS — President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday stepped up French diplomacy in the Middle East, holding talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders ahead of an Elysee meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

With the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort in peril, Sarkozy spoke by phone with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas after meeting for nearly two hours with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris late Wednesday.

He "underscored the urgency of re-starting the Middle East peace process and discussed, in light of his recent international contacts, the conditions that would allow a rapid resumption of negotiations," said an Elysee statement.

While the French diplomatic efforts between Israel and the Palestinians yielded no concrete announcements, Sarkozy was also turning his attention to Syria after Israel said it was open to reviving talks with Damascus.

Sarkozy is to explore prospects for Israeli-Syrian talks during a luncheon meeting with Assad at the Elysee palace on Friday, the latest in a string of visits underpinning warmer ties between Paris and Damascus.

Facing a dead-end on the Palestinian track, an Israeli official travelling with Netanyahu held open a chance of progress on the Syrian track of the stalled regional peace plan.

"Mr Sarkozy raised the issue of the Syrian track," a senior aide traveling with Netanyahu said Wednesday.
"The prime minister said he is willing to meet with the Syrian president at any time and anywhere to move on the peace negotiations on the basis of no pre-conditions," he added.

Syria has repeatedly demanded the return of the strategic Golan Heights, which Israeli captured in the 1967 war and unilaterally annexed in 1981, as a non-negotiable condition for peace.

Assad on Wednesday told a meeting of Arab politicians that Syria would not "put forward conditions on making peace" but warned it had "rights that we will not renounce," according to the SANA news agency.

Turkish mediation between the foes broke off last year during Israel's offensive in Gaza, closing a promising diplomatic channel, but Ankara has said it was willing to resume its role.

The editor of Syria's ruling party newspaper Al Baath, Abdel-Latif Omran, told AFP that while Syria was sticking to its demands for the return of the Golan Heights, it was also ready to negotiate on parallel issues such as water, normalisation of ties and security arrangements.

"The Israeli side is trying to sabotage all international peace efforts," said Omran.

"We hope that the efforts put forward by the European Union and France will lead to true peace in the Middle East, but there is no Israeli willingness to make peace."

Relations between France and Syria have been warming since Assad paid a landmark visit to Paris last year for Bastille Day celebrations and Sarkozy visited Damascus two months later in September 2008.

The Syrian leader recently played a key role in convincing Iran to grant bail for French academic Clotilde Reiss on trial for "provoking rioters" after the June re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Keeping the pressure on Israel and the Palestinians, Sarkozy is dispatching Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to the region for talks next week.

Sarkozy outlined "important suggestions" aimed at restarting the comatose peace process during his talks with Abbas, according to a Palestinian aide.

A senior Palestinian official told AFP that Sarkozy's "suggestions" included holding a Middle East peace conference in Moscow, an idea Russia has been pushing for months.
- - -

From The Jerusalem Post Thur, Nov 12, 2009 21:27
Report: After meeting PM, Sarkozy calls Abbas to discuss renewal of talks
After discussing peace efforts with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Paris on Wednesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy phoned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in order to discuss conditions for the renewal of negotiations, according to an AFP report.

Quoting an Elysee statement, the report said that Sarkozy "underscored the urgency of re-starting the Middle East peace process."

Sarkozy - apparently wishing to assert his position as a Mideast mediator - is slated to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad on Friday.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Meme: Joe Trippi's Eleven-Eleven 1111Campaign - America's and Britain's Veterans have given so much. Now, you can give back.

Joe Trippi, one of America's greatest bloggers, has launched Eleven Eleven Campaign. The objective of the Eleven Eleven Campaign is simple: to get 11 million Americans to donate $11 to support America’s Veterans. Here is a copy of Joe's latest tweet on Twitter:
Tomorrow is Veterans Day, and now is our moment to encourage our friends, family members and colleagues to join us...
33 minutes ago from Facebook
Eleven Eleven
Hey Joe! Britain's Veterans have given so much too!

Stand with 11 million Brits and Give £11 to Support Britain’s Vets!

Take Action Today
Click here to support Britain's Veterans
November 11, 2009

Britain's Veterans have given so much.  Now, you can give back.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Turkey to host Sudan, Iran leaders at OIC meeting in Istanbul next week

* Bashir, Ahmadinejad to attend OIC meeting

* ICC arrest warrant, nuclear row could overshadow gathering

* Host Turkey's foreign policy fuels Western worries

From Reuters Friday 6 November 2009:
PREVIEW-Turkey to host Sudan, Iran leaders at summit
By Thomas Grove
(ISTANBUL) - A summit of Islamic countries in Istanbul next week will boost Turkey's quest to deepen ties with the Muslim world, but some of its new friends are not to the taste of its traditional ally, Washington.

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has an international arrest warrant against him for war crimes, and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, engaged in a standoff with the West over Tehran's nuclear programme, are among leaders who will attend an Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) meeting.

The one-day summit on Monday will add to growing concerns in some Western circles that Turkey, an OIC member which is seeking European Union membership, is shifting away from its pro-Western foreign policy and embracing countries such as Iran and Syria, while distancing itself from regional friend Israel.

"I think this summit will put Turkey again on the frontline, both in regards with Iran and Bashir," said Hugh Pope, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group.

"Engagement and cooperation can be a way to bring autocratic states into the international system, but the challenge for Turkey is that it needs to show results and that the behaviour of these states is changing," Pope said.

Although the 57-nation body's meeting has been billed as an economic summit to discuss trade and anti-poverty measures among members, the presence of Bashir and Ahmadinejad will likely overshadow its economic goals.

Western powers are seeking to exert pressure on Tehran for concessions on its nuclear programme, and Ahmadinejad could use the summit to undermine efforts to isolate the Islamic republic and to give one of his trademark anti-Western speeches.

The West fears Tehran's nuclear programme is a covert plan to develop nuclear weapons, but Iran has denied this and says it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity.

The visit by Sudan's Bashir, who has travelled to African countries since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued the arrest warrant against him in March for war crimes in Darfur, puts NATO member Turkey in an awkward position, but a Turkish Foreign Ministry official said there were no plans to arrest him.

"We have invited Bashir as one of the heads of state to the meeting and he will be treated as one," the official said.

Turkey, which has deepened commercial ties with Sudan, has not ratified the 2002 Rome Statute that established the ICC, but is under pressure to do so to meet European Union standards.


The attendance of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Syria's President Bashar al-Assad might also add weight to the summit of the OIC, which has little political power.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday he did not wish to run for re-election in January, voicing disappointment at Washington's "favouring" of Israel in arguments over re-launching peace talks.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in what would be his first trip abroad since his re-election was announced this week following a fraud-marred ballot, is also expected to attend.

Ahmadinejad's visit to Istanbul will follow a state visit last month by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to Tehran, in which the two countries signed trade and energy deals.

Ankara's growing attachment to Iran has fuelled worries that Turkey, a moderate Muslim democracy and a U.S. ally, is turning its back on Washington and the EU, something it denies.

"Policymakers in the West are getting worried that Turkey's growing ties with Iran -- by lessening that country's sense of isolation -- may frustrate diplomatic efforts to prevent Tehran from building a nuclear bomb," Katinka Barysch, of the Centre for European Reform thinktank, wrote this week.

Erdogan's AK Party government, which has roots in political Islam, has sought to expand Turkey's influence in the Middle East -- a process analysts say has run in parallel with Ankara's frustration at perceived EU misgivings over its membership bid.

During his warmly received trip to Tehran, Erdogan blasted Western powers for treating Iran "unfairly" and said the Islamic republic's nuclear programme was for humanitarian purposes.

Ian Lesser, from the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said that by inviting Ahmadinejad and Bashir, Turkey might deepen perceptions its foreign policy is ambiguous.

"It is an example of the risks that Turkey is running by trying to be too many things in too many places at the same time and without too much discrimination," Lesser said.

(Additional reporting by Zerin Elci and Ibon Villelabeitia in Ankara, Opheera McDoom in Khartoum and Peter Graff in Kabul) (Writing by Ibon Villelabeitia; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
Cross-posted to Sudan Watch and Tehran Watch

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Microsoft blocks MSN access for selected countries

Microsoft blocks MSN access for selected countries. List of those affected includes Syria, Cuba, Iran and North Korea.

Source: AJ-IT by Ben, Friday, 22 May, 2009:
Microsoft blocks MSN access for selected countries
Reports are surfacing online confirming that Microsoft has removed access to its Windows Live MSN services for residents in several embargoed countries, the full list of those effected includes Syria, Cuba, Iran and North Korea.

If, say, you’ve woken up in Cuba this morning and gone to log into your MSN account you would have seen this little error message pop-up, “Error 810003c1”, which, buried in Microsoft’s terms means “Microsoft has shut off the Windows Live Messenger IM for users in the countries embargoed by the US hence Microsoft no longer offers Windows Live Service in your country”.

The reasoning or logic behind which countries get denied access and which get allowed is undisclosed but could be considered more than a little confusing as other countries with sanctions against them remain unhindered in accessing the services.

The reason behind the timing of the decision is also unclear, but one thing is for sure, a simple IP-based blocking system won’t keep MSN users in those countries off of the service for very long.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Syria rejects ICC's warrant against Sudan's President

From United Nations in Syria website 30 March 2009:
President Bashar al-Assad Meets Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon (2009-03-30)
Doha, (SANA) – President Bashar al-Assad Received on Sunday at his residence in Doha Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, and discussed with him the regional situation and the role which can be played by the UN for establishing stability in the Middle East, praising the Secretary General's stance regarding the Israeli aggression on Gaza.

Syria rejects ICC warrant against Sudan president

President al-Assad pointed out to the danger of the warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, affirming Syria's rejection of this warrant.

He underlined that the problem is in the credibility of the UN and international bodies which claim caring for human rights in Sudan while remaining motionless towards the tragic humane situation in Gaza caused by the Israeli occupation crimes and siege imposed on the Palestinian people.

For his part, the Secretary General praised Syria's efforts to bolster positive atmosphere in the region, hoping that the Arab Summit 21st session will result in decision that will boost the positive atmospheres.

The meeting was attended by Vice President Farouk al-Shara, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, Presidential Political and Media Advisor Dr. Buthaina Shaaban, and Special UN Envoy to Lebanon Michael Williams.

In a statement following the meeting, Ban Ki-moon said the meeting with President al-Assad was useful, and that they discussed several issues related to peace and stability in the region.

He expressed appreciation of President al-Assad's role in achieving Arab reconciliation and his contribution to reaching a ceasefire in Gaza Strip, stressing the need for Israel to open the Sector's crossing points and contribute to a permanent peace process in the region.

Monday, October 27, 2008

US says Syria raid 'successful' as Damascus fumes - Syrians 'Clearly Have Harbored' Al Qaeda in Iraq, Says US General

Snapshot of Google's newsreel GMT 23:23 Wednesday, 27 October 2008:

US attack on Syrian border village fails to derail London talks
Times Online, UK - 51 minutes ago
The Syrian foreign minister’s trip to London had been planned for weeks, after he and David Miliband held cordial talks on the sidelines of the United ...

Syrian minister Walid al-Muallem denounces US raid during UK visit
Times Online, UK - 51 minutes ago
Syria’s foreign minister yesterday denounced the American military raid on a Syrian village as an act of “criminal and terrorist aggression” and gave ...

Syria fears damage to Europe ties
BBC News, UK - 1 hour ago
By Jeremy Bowen It was not the visit to London that the Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem was expecting. The plan was to meet Britain's foreign ...

US raid draws fire
Straits Times, Singapore - 1 hour ago
DAMASCUS: A stunning United States commando attack inside Syria has drawn flak from Syria as well as politicians in neighbouring countries. ...

Iraq hopes ties with Syria not impacted by US raid
Xinhua, China - 1 hour ago
BAGHDAD, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- The Iraqi government said Monday that it hopes the relationship with Syria will not be damaged by across-border air strike by ...

US says Syria raid 'successful' as Damascus fumes
AFP - 2 hours ago
WASHINGTON (AFP) — US forces in Iraq staged a "successful" raid into Syria against foreign fighters, an American official said on Monday, ...

Iran condemns US attack on Syrian soil
Tehran Times, Iran - 2 hours ago
TEHRAN– On Monday, Iran strongly condemned the US air raid on Syrian soil calling it “unacceptable”. “We condemn any military invasion and a violation of ...

US crossing more borders in terror war?
Christian Science Monitor, MA - 2 hours ago
By Gordon Lubold | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor Washington - In the name of protecting its forces in
Afghanistan and now Iraq, ...

Terrible crime, says Damascus
Times of India, India - 3 hours ago
DAMASCUS: Syria accused the United States on Monday of committing a “terrible crime” in killing eight civilians during a helicopter attack on a Syrian farm ...

Syria seethes at deadly US incursion, vows to resist further ...
Daily Star - Lebanon, Lebanon - 3 hours ago
By Agence France Presse (AFP) LONDON: Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem accused the United States on Monday of "terrorist aggression" over a deadly raid ...

Arab League slams US raid inside Syria
Xinhua, China - 3 hours ago
CAIRO, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- The Cairo-based Arab League (AL) on Monday denounced a US air strike on Sunday inside the Syrian territories that killed eight ...

Syria condemns US "terrorist aggression"
Xinhua, China - 3 hours ago
LONDON, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- Visiting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem on Monday condemned the United States for its "terrorist aggression" on Syria ...

Syria condemns American 'terrorist aggression'
ABC Online, Australia - 4 hours ago
By Europe correspondent Emma Alberici The Syrian Foreign Minister has condemned the US attack on its border with Iraq labelling it an act of blatant ...

In pictures: Grief and anger in Syria
BBC News, UK - 4 hours ago
Pictures have emerged of what Syria says is the site of a deadly strike by US helicopters on its territory. Syria says eight people, four of them children, ...

Syria hopes new US leader learns mistakes of Bush era
AFP - 4 hours ago
LONDON (AFP) — Syria hopes the result of next week's US presidential election can help restore the United States' global reputation, learning the "mistakes" ...

US Acknowledges Syrian Protest of Alleged Raid
Voice of America - 4 hours ago
By David Gollust The State Department says Syria has lodged an official protest with the United States over a reported US helicopter raid Sunday into Syria ...

Syria's Al-Moallem Calls on US to Investigate Raid (Update1)
Bloomberg - 5 hours ago
By Caroline Alexander and Thomas Penny Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al- Moallem called on the US to investigate and explain a ...

Syrian villager says 2 men grabbed in US raid
The Associated Press - 5 hours ago
SUKKARIYEH, Syria (AP) — A resident of the village that was the scene of a US raid says he saw at least two men taken into custody by American forces and ...

Damascus condemned a US helicopter attack inside Syria that killed ...
Jewish Telegraphic Agency, NY - 5 hours ago
The raid reportedly occurred Sunday afternoon in al-Boukamal, about six miles from the border with Iraq. An Iraqi government spokesman said Monday that the ...

Insecure border blamed for raid, Qatar - 6 hours ago
Syria has accused the US of being behind a deadly raid on a Syrian village lying close to the country's border with Iraq, a claim which so far has not been ...

Syria says raid is 'terrorist' act, Qatar - 6 hours ago
The Syrian foreign minister has described a deadly raid on a village near the border with Iraq, allegedly carried out by the US, as a planned act of ...

Syrians 'Clearly Have Harbored' Al Qaeda in Iraq, Says US General
U.S. News & World Report, DC - 6 hours ago
By Alex Kingsbury The US military launched its first known raid into Syria on Sunday after several years of frustration over Damascus's unwillingness—or ...

Iraq says raid on Syria targeted insurgents
Reuters - 6 hours ago
By Marwan Makdessi DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syria accused the United States on Monday of carrying out a "terrorist aggression" after a deadly raid near its ...

Russia says US fuelling tension with Syria attack
Reuters India, India - 6 hours ago
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia accused the United States of fuelling dangerous tension in the Middle East on Monday after Syria said that US helicopters had ...

Spokesman: Iran receives no secret letter from US
Xinhua, China - 6 hours ago
TEHRAN, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said Monday that Iran had received no secret letter from the United States to ...

Syria condemns US raid as 'act of terrorist aggression', UK - 6 hours ago
The Syrian foreign minister today condemned the killing of eight civilians in a US raid as an act of "criminal and terrorist aggression". ...

Syrians hold funerals for people killed in US raid
The Associated Press - 7 hours ago
SUKKARIYEH, Syria (AP) — Families in this village near the Iraqi border buried loved ones Monday who they said were killed when the US military launched a ...

Syria blasts US 'terrorist aggression' over village attack
AFP - 7 hours ago
LONDON (AFP) — Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Monday accused the United States of "terrorist aggression" over a deadly weekend raid on a village ...

Syria hits out at US 'terrorism'
BBC News, UK - 7 hours ago
Syria's foreign minister has accused the US of an act of "terrorist aggression" over what it says was a helicopter raid inside its territory. ...

Syrian minister accuses US of "terrorist aggression"
Reuters - 7 hours ago
LONDON (Reuters) - Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem accused the United States on Monday of carrying out a "terrorist aggression" on Syria after a ...


Monday, September 22, 2008

Further nuclear inquiry needed in Syria

Gulf News report (Agencies) September 22, 2008
Further nuclear inquiry needed in Syria:
Vienna: Further inquiry may be needed into suspected nuclear sites in Syria, diplomats said on Sunday, adding however, that the results did not rule out nuclear activity.

The International Atomic Energy Agency began investigating Syria in April based on US intelligence suggesting a remote desert complex targeted by Israel was a reactor almost completed with North Korean help and designed to make plutonium for atom bombs.

Preliminary results of environmental samples did not have traces of carbon or maraging steel that would have indicated a graphite reactor, diplomats familiar with the inquiry said.

Complete results are expected in November, but they may not be conclusive either, they said.

However, Syria may have buried traces of a suspected nuclear reactor at a site bombed by Israel a year ago, diplomats said.

“This doesn't mean there was nothing there, just that the inspectors did not (or could not) search the right places," a senior diplomat, who asked for anonymity due to political sensitivities, said.

"Syria laid a big slab of concrete over it (ground where the alleged reactor stood) after digging a hole. Ideally the IAEA should be able to examine the chunks of debris but the feeling is that the Syrians may have dumped all of it down the hole.”


Monday, September 15, 2008

Russian Ships in Syrian Port Soon

Russian Ships in Syrian Port Soon

September 13, 2008 //RPS Staff // - Three weeks after Assad visited Moscow in an attempt to bolster a new Cold war era, Itar-Tass, the Russian news agency announced yesterday that  it will station part of its Black Sea fleet in Tartous, in the Syrian coast of the Mediterranean.

Preparations at the port to welcome the ships have already started according to Itar-Tass. No mention of what types of ships will dock in Tartous or their load.

A warm water port has been a target of Russia going back to the Soviet Union. Unlike his father, who toyed with the idea as a playing card, Assad son, as he has shown he is capable with rash and impulsive decisions, has taken the plunge thus risking Syria’s future by framing its geography between two giants at odds in their foreign policy.

In an interview given to the Kommersant Russian newspaper prior to his meetings with Medevdev, Assad invited Russia to station its arsenal in Syria as a counter measure to the defense shield recently agreed upon between the United States and Poland. The US State Department was not happy by Assad’s interview and responded harshly to his lack of judgment.

Source: RPS Staff @ September 13, 2008

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Arab League summit faces a sea of troubles

FT report by Roula Khalaf March 26 2006:

Arab leaders who gather for yearly summits have enough trouble dealing with the Middle East’s running disputes. But this week’s Arab League meeting in Khartoum takes place amid a build-up of crises that have left the region even more turbulent than usual, and the search for a meaningful consensus among leaders more elusive.

“Normally you have one or two problems in the region that are complicating things – Palestine and another issue,” says a senior Arab official. “We’re now at a point where we have five big issues and we don’t know how governments can juggle them. The region has never experienced so many problems at the same time.”

Excluding the conflict in Darfur – which will have to be addressed at a summit hosted by Sudan – governments are grappling with the victory of the Islamist Hamas in the occupied Palestinian territories and the continued deadlock in the peace process with Israel; the sectarian bloodshed in Iraq; the deterioration in relations between Lebanon and Syria; the Iran nuclear crisis; and the continued threat of terrorism.

Many of the problems feed into each other. Trouble in Iran and Syria complicates matters in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon – countries where Tehran and Damascus can count on the support of radical groups.

The deepening Sunni-Shia divide in Iraq, meanwhile, is at risk of spreading to other parts of the region, including Lebanon, where tensions between the pro-Syrian Shia leaders and anti-Syrian Sunni have intensified.

Iraq has also become a breeding ground for a new generation of Arab jihadis, who governments fear will take their fight back to their home countries.

No one is under the illusion that an Arab summit can provide solutions to the region’s woes – rarely do the moderate and hardline states craft a consensus that survives beyond the day’s declarations. Some problems are too sensitive to even discuss.

For example, Arab governments are alarmed by Iran’s suspected ambitions to develop nuclear weapons, yet they hesitate to openly criticise Tehran when Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal escapes western scrutiny.

Starting tomorrow, the day of the Israeli elections, the Khartoum meeting’s most immediate concern is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In a strange coincidence, Arab League leaders met at Khartoum in the wake of the Arab defeat in the 1967 war. Then they issued the famous three “Nos” – no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel. This time, Arab leaders are looking for ways to convince Hamas to say yes to peace, negotiations, and recognition. Western governments, which have warned Hamas of a cut in international aid, want the summit to raise pressure on the Islamist group. Arab diplomats, however, say the meeting will call for continued political and financial support to the Palestinian Authority, of which Hamas is a big part.

At the same time, the summit will reiterate the commitment of Arab League members to the Beirut initiative, adopted in 2002 and calling for peace with Israel if it withdraws from land occupied in 1967.

Arab governments are hoping Hamas will sign up to the initiative, as a face-saving way of accepting a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and easing international pressure. Yet Hamas officials do not appear ready to embrace the peace plan.

The US and Britain are also looking for the summit to promote greater Arab engagement with Iraq and counter Iranian influence. The Arab League is planning a second national reconciliation conference, following up last year’s Cairo meeting between Iraqi factions. But, though desperate to contain a sectarian conflict that could drag in all the neighbours, Arab officials say it is not clear what more the region could do for Iraq.

With more problems flaring up than the Middle East can handle, Arab governments have been urging Syria and Lebanon to avoid confrontation, against mounting tension since last year’s assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister. A UN investigation is still looking into Syria’s alleged role in the killing but Damascus denies involvement.

The crisis has strained relations between Lebanese political factions, some of whom are still allied with Syria. Over the past month, political leaders have held a conference to defuse tension. But so far the talks have failed to resolve the key demand of anti-Syrian politicians – the removal of pro-Syrian president Emile Lahoud from office.

Now the anti-Syrian majority in parliament is looking to Egypt and Saudi Arabia for help. Little, however, is expected to emerge from the summit, where Mr Lahoud represents Lebanon.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Amarji - A Heretic's Blog

Amarji - A Heretic's Blog by Syrian author Ammar Abdulhamid located in Maryland, USA.

[via Captain Marlow's post on Iran and Syria]

Thursday, January 05, 2006

It is 'showtime' for Syria - UK

BBC report 4 Jan 2006 - excerpt:

The current international pressure on Syria is "entirely deserved" and it is now "showtime" for its president, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says.

He said a Syrian official's claims that President Assad had threatened Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri before his murder were "very serious indeed."

Mr Straw was speaking to the BBC as he started a visit to Lebanon, which has been dominated for decades by Syria.

He said Lebanon was now at a very important crossroads for its future.

A UN investigation into Mr Hariri's death in a massive car bomb in Beirut in February 2005 has implicated Syria, which denies involvement.

On Monday, UN investigators announced they wanted to interview the Syrian president about the assassination. There has been no official response so far.

At the weekend, former Syrian Vice-President Abdul Halim Khaddam alleged President Bashar Assad had made threats to Mr Hariri months before his death.

Mr Assad has pledged to co-operate with the UN investigation, and has allowed some Syrian officials to be questioned.

The murder caused such outrage that Syria was forced to pull all its troops out of Lebanon.

"The pressure on the Syrian regime now is much stronger now than it's been for decades," Mr Straw said.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Syria implicated in death of Hariri

A United Nations report that accuses Syrian and Lebanese officials of orchestrating an intricate plot to kill former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is expected to bring a swift call for action from the UN Security Council. Reuters reports that both Syria and Lebanese President Emile Lahood are trying to distance themselves from the UN investigation.

Full story (Instapundit) 21 Oct 2005.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Syria expects support at Arab summit

Regional leaders gather in Algiers amid Mideast uncertainty. The following report compiled by Lebanon's Daily Star staff Tuesday, March 22, 2005:

Syria expects Arab leaders meeting in Algiers to urge Washington to hold talks with Syrian leaders and to offer formal support against "American pressures" and sanctions, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Monday. Following an announcement that Syrian President Bashar Assad would attend the Algiers meet, Moallem said in an interview that he expects the Arab League summit opening Tuesday to endorse a draft resolution backing his country. Arab diplomats, he said, were circulating the draft ahead of the meeting.

The draft "expresses the solidarity of Arab countries with Syria in the face of American pressures as well as their rejection of the so-called Syria Accountability Act," Moallem said, referring to U.S. sanctions imposed on Syria last year.

It "also calls on the United States to engage in a constructive dialogue with Syria," he added.

Arab leaders began gathering in the Algerian capital Monday on the eve of the two-day summit, which is also expected to endorse a resolution to revive a three-year-old initiative for peace with Israel.

The summit will coincide with the 60th anniversary of the 22-member Arab League and comes at a time of continued violence, political tensions and uncertainty in the Middle East.

The U.S.-led occupation of Iraq has entered its third year as the first elected parliament in 50 years struggles to form a postwar government for the violence-riddled country.

The Palestinian-Israeli peace process is on a fragile track forward after the landmark summit last month between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during which they agreed on a truce.

Sudan has been put on notice by the UN to end the deadly civil war in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.

Relations between Iraq and its pro-Western neighbor Jordan are in crisis as both governments withdrew their envoys on Sunday following a wave of protests over the alleged involvement of a Jordanian in a deadly suicide bombing.

Globally the Arab countries are pressed by the West, and their own populations, to step up a commitment made last year to engage in a series of political, economic and social reform.

And Syria is facing huge international pressure to cease its domination over neighboring Lebanon and complete a troop withdrawal before legislative elections due there in May.

Backing from the Arab League would be a boost for Syria in the face of the mounting international pressure.

The U.S. economic sanctions were imposed because of Syria's alleged support of the insurgency in Iraq and of terrorism - both charges Syria denies.

Pressure for a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon has grown since the February 14 assassination of Lebanese former Premier Rafik Hariri in a massive bombing and subsequent anti-Syrian street protests in Lebanon.

Syria has denied any involvement in Hariri's murder but has pulled troops and intelligence agents back to Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley and to Syria.

Moallem said neither a Syrian troop withdrawal nor UN Resolution 1559, which called for a pullout, are on the agenda for the Arab summit.

"This is a bilateral matter that has been agreed on" between Lebanon and Syria, he said.

Lebanon's pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud will not attend the summit, citing the political turmoil at home.

He is one of several Arab leaders who decided to skip the summit, including Jordan's King Abdullah II, whose country has proposed the revival of the peace initiative with Israel.

Earlier this month the king told Israeli television that Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia would relaunch the plan to ensure that it was better received by Israelis.

The last Saudi-inspired initiative was rejected by Israel when it was first put on the table at the Beirut summit in 2002.

Arab League spokesman Hossam Zaki said that "Jordan presented a document aiming at reactivating, promoting and marketing the Arab initiative for peace, by submitting a precise and concise form."

"This document was examined by the delegates who introduced a few additions in a way to please everybody and this is what was adopted," he said.

The three-point draft offers Israel the chance to normalize ties with the Arab countries in exchange for a total pullout from land it conquered in 1967 and later annexed.

It also insists that an independent Palestinian state, a solution to Palestinian refugees and their right to return are among key Arab demands.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was the first leader to arrive in Algiers Monday, pitching a tent to receive guests outside a five-star hotel just outside the Algerian capital, followed in the afternoon by outgoing Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar.

The presidents of Sudan and Mauritania, Omar Bashir and Maaouiya Ould Taya, as well as Abbas were among those who also arrived Monday. - Agencies

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Syria to redeploy Lebanon troops

Syria is under unprecedented pressure to withdraw, says the BBC in a report March 5, 2005. Here is a copy:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has announced the phased redeployment of Syrian forces in Lebanon.

Addressing Syria's parliament, Mr Assad said troops would withdraw to the eastern Bekaa Valley and then to the Syrian border.

The US said Mr Assad's pledge was "not enough" and called for a full pull-out.

Syria has been under intense pressure to withdraw from Lebanon since the February car bomb death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Lebanon's main opposition leader, Walid Jumblatt, called Mr Assad's announcement a "positive start" but demanded a clear timetable for the withdrawal.

In the Lebanese capital Beirut, members of the public jeered as they watched the broadcast in a central square.

In the nationally-televised speech, Mr Assad said: "We will not stay one day if there was Lebanese consensus on the departure of Syria.

"Our way is a gradual and organised withdrawal."

He said after the redeployment, Lebanon and Syria "will have fulfilled our obligations under the Taef accord and under [UN Security Council] Resolution 1559".

The 1989 Taef accord, which ended the Lebanese civil war, calls for a phased withdrawal of Syrian troops, beginning with redeployment to the Bekaa Valley, while the 2004 UN resolution calls for foreign forces to leave Lebanon.

Mr Assad said Syria was not against a full withdrawal, declaring: "The natural place for Syrian forces is Syrian land."

The president called Mr Hariri's killing "an atrocious crime... against the unity and stability of Lebanon as well as Syria", and vowed to bring the culprits to justice.

The US, however, said Mr Assad's announcement was "not enough".

"As President Bush said Friday, when the United States and France say withdraw, we mean complete withdrawal - no half-hearted measures," the state department said in a statement.

But shortly after Mr Assad's speech, a senior Syrian minister said Syria would pull all its troops back into Syrian territory.

"The matter is very clear. When an army withdraws it withdraws to inside the country's border," Syrian Immigrant Affairs Minister Buthaina Shaaban told Lebanese television.

"The political decision has been taken for a complete withdrawal," she said, adding that it will take place "in the nearest possible time".

Mr Assad's hour-long speech was punctuated by cheers from legislators and thousands of flag-waving Syrians watching on giant television screens outside parliament.

In Beirut, about 1,000 Lebanese watching the speech in a central square shouted "Syria out!" and denounced the Syrian president.

The BBC's Kim Ghattas, who is in the Lebanese capital, says what has mostly upset people here is the tone used by Mr Assad.

She says opposition figures said there were many veiled threats in the speech and hints that Syria could still use violence to crush the anti-Syrian movement.

Exiled Lebanese Christian opposition figure Michel Aoun expressed scepticism about Mr Assad's intentions.

"I call on the Lebanese to be very careful about the wording and not to be happy over the general meaning," he told Al-Arabiya television in Paris.

Syria's arch foe, Israel, said Mr Assad's remarks "constituted an evasion" of the UN resolution.

Israeli Vice-Prime Minister Shimon Peres said Israel could open peace talks with Lebanon if Syria withdrew.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Aljazeera: U.S. intelligence sources say the Pentagon is in favour of air strikes on Syria

The following is a copy of editorial at 3/5/2005:

The American sponsored television station Al Hurra reported that the Pentagon is now convinced that air strikes on Syria have to be taken in order to overthrow the Assad regime, pullback Syrian troops from Lebanon and stop Damascus's alleged support of anti-occupation fighters in Iraq.

"Political action to deal with the problem of Syria's presence in Lebanon and its support of  (anti-occupation rebels)…in Iraq is no longer deemed effective," American intelligence sources are reported to have said, according to slain ex-Premier Hariri's Al Mustaqbal newspaper on Friday.

"Diplomacy as a means to deal with countries supporting (rebels) is over and out. The situation is now open to all eventualities as far as Syria is concerned."

"Resolving problems with Syria now requires changing the Syrian regime or mounting air attacks similar to those staged against Afghanistan and Sudan in August 1998 to wipe out terrorist centers once and for all," the U.S. intelligence sources were quoted as saying.

"The U.S. central command for Iraq and Afghanistan is closely following the situation in Lebanon and Syria and senior Pentagon officials are now convinced that hitting...targets in Syria is necessary," Al Hurra said.

Adding that "The elimination of Syrian-supported...groups is now deemed 'strategically vital' for stability in the Middle east, particularly Iraq, which is unattainable at present under the current Syrian regime."

Saturday, September 18, 2004

United in fear: a week of high-level inter-Arab meetings - Mauritania is current chair of Arab Council of FMs

Arab states are no longer fighting amongst themselves, they are just taking separate roads. Dina Ezzat reports on a week of high-level inter-Arab meetings, courtesy

Here is a copy, in full, for future reference [and for publishing a post at a later date on Mauritania, the current chair of the Arab Council of Foreign Ministers]

Unprecedentedly, the atmosphere at this week's meeting of Arab foreign ministers was non-confrontational. A notable departure from typical inter- Arab gatherings.

This time around there were no rows about the relations between the United States-imposed Iraqi government and its neighbours, or about the Palestinian attempts to pursue deals with Israel separately from Syria and Lebanon, or yet again about the military facilities that many of the Arab Gulf states have been generously providing for their American friends.

"This is really unusual. I have been attending Arab foreign ministers meetings for close to 20 years -- since the Cairo Arab League headquarters resumed operation in the early 1980s -- and I have never witnessed such a [none-contentious] meeting," said one Arab League official.

For this official and many Arab diplomats the pacific nature of this week's meeting of Arab foreign ministers, and of the meeting of Arab ministers of economy -- under the umbrella of the Arab Economic and Social Council -- which preceded it, should not be read as an indication of a new-found unity of purpose.

"Not at all. It is just that we have given up hoping to do anything, or for that matter to say anything," said one permanent representative to the Arab League. He elaborated that rather than attempt to bridge the deep chasms dividing them, the Arab states seem to have conceded that these are insurmountable.

The dividing line, he went on to explain, is delineated by the nature of relations with the US. "Some of us have more than strategic ties with the US while some others are still being viewed by the US as enemies. And at the end of the day we are all afraid of the US, either out of fear of military intervention and economic sanctions, or because of the military and security dependence that some Arab countries have on the US."

Such caving in to a regional Pax Americana is ominous, suggest a number of Arab diplomats, one described it as "disturbing and indicative of the disintegration of the Arab regional system".

The Arab foreign ministers meeting served as a venue for maintaining a semblance of agreement on the non- controversial issues.

The contentious issues, however, are being aired at sub-regional forums, especially the Gulf Cooperation Council (grouping Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman). Moreover, it appears that the Arab states are increasingly pursuing their strategic interests -- especially those related to overall regional security arrangements -- away from the umbrella of the Arab League.

On the eve of the Arab foreign ministers meeting Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Mohamed Al-Sobbah, speaking on behalf of the GCC, made an unprecedented call upon Syria to pull out its troops out of Lebanon.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Al-Moashar, whose country shares the GCC's close relationship with the US, took a similar line. In a statement he made before arriving in Cairo, he said Amman was expecting Syria to respond to the demands made by UN Security Council Resolution 1559. The resolution calls on Syria to pull its troops out of Lebanon.

For their part, neither the Syrian nor the Lebanese delegations asked for the Arab foreign ministers meeting to adopt a stance against this resolution.

The joint Syrian-Lebanese demand was for an Arab resolution that indicates support for both countries in the face of any potential aggression.

Syrian diplomats were "working very hard to structure a new relationship with the US on the basis of mutual cooperation on regional security matters in Iraq on one hand and Syria- Lebanon-Palestine, on the other" said one Arab diplomat. Damascus was not expecting Arab foreign ministers to take a stance against the harsh US anti- Syrian rhetoric.

Neither was Iraqi Foreign Minister Houchiar Zibari very insistent on having the Arab states meet his government's request for military, security and diplomatic support.

Implied criticism of the interim Iraqi government during the meeting failed to illicit a reaction from Zibari. At one point, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa remarked that the "the gates of hell have been opened in Iraq," pointedly looking towards Zibari. Visibly upset, the Iraqi foreign minister, nevertheless, did not respond.

Nor did he react much to statements made by Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit, during a joint press conference, in which he categorically denied that Cairo had any plans to send troops to Iraq. "Our forces [will not go to Iraq] to [shoot at] the Iraqi people, and we cannot accept our sons to be shot at in Iraq," said Abul- Gheit.

The Iraqi minister, however, seemed satisfied with the resolution adopted by Arab foreign ministers that calls for "a wider Arab presence" in Iraqi affairs.

Mauritania, the current chair of the Arab Council of Foreign Ministers, refrained from bringing up its dispute with Libya over an alleged attempt by Tripoli to overthrow the Nouakchott regime and publicly shrugged off a standing Libyan request for the Arab League to look into these claims.

Similar nonchalance with regards to a collective Arab position was shown by Sudan, over the crisis in Darfur, as well as by both the Egyptians and Palestinians over developments on the Palestinian-Israeli front.

Instead, on the fringe of the pan-Arab meetings, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit and Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath held separate meetings with European, US and UN officials, including US Under Secretary of State William Burns and UN Envoy to the Middle East Terry Larsen. Some Arab foreign ministers were briefed on the outcome of these meetings.

"We have said so much. The situation is very clear to everybody and we have so many plans, but what we need [now] is to get out of the current prolonged phase of Arab inaction," Shaath said.

The Americans and the Europeans urged the Arab states to take political reform more seriously. But neither of the two meetings introduced any collective Arab plans aimed at pursuing political reform.

"It is very obvious that Arab countries are not in agreement either over political reform or the notion of the Greater Middle East, as propounded by the US. It is also very clear that they do not want to argue much about it amongst themselves," said one Arab diplomat who attended the discussion on the Greater Middle East.

The few resolutions adopted collectively in relation to regional security were confined to coordination on preparations for the 2005 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty and on two conferences related to non-proliferation of small arms.

Prickly issues such as concerns over a possible US strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, threats of sanctions against Syria and Sudan, and the security implications of the expanding role of NATO in the region were not brought up.

Arab foreign ministers will start flying to New York for the General Assembly meeting as of early next week.

Additional reporting by Reem Nafie and Magda El-Ghitany. [Note photo appears in article: Clockwise from top left: Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Al-Shara; Libyan and Lebanese foreign ministers Abdel-Rahman Shalgam and Jean Obeid; Iraq's Houchiar Zibari ; and his Sudanese counterpart Mostafa Othman Ismail]

Syria tested chemical arms on civilians in Sudan's Darfur?

A while back, in my main blog, I published a post reporting that chemicals may have been dropped by air in the Sudan. If I recall correctly, the post was about a reporters interview with a Sudanese civilian who claimed to have knowledge of bags of white powder appearing on the ground that proved poisonous. When I find the report, I will link it here.

Last week, a rush of news reports appeared online, emanating the German daily Die Welt that claimed Syria tested chemical weapons on civilians in Darfur in June and killed dozens of poeple. Here is an excerpt, courtesy Sudan Tribune:

BERLIN, Sept 14 (AFP) -- Syria tested chemical weapons on civilians in Sudan's troubled western Darfur region in June and killed dozens of people, the German daily Die Welt claimed in an advance release of its Wednesday edition.

The newspaper, citing unnamed western security sources, said that injuries apparently caused by chemical arms were found on the bodies of the victims.

It said that witnesses quoted by an Arabic news website called ILAF [] in an article on August 2 had said that several frozen bodies arrived suddenly at the "Al-Fashr Hospital" in the Sudanese capital Khartoum in June.

Die Welt said the sources had indicated that the weapons tests were undertaken following a military exercise between Syria and Sudan.

Syrian officers were reported to have met in May with Sudanese military leaders in a Khartoum suburb to discuss the possibility of improving cooperation between their armies.

According to Die Welt, the Syrians had suggested close cooperation on developing chemical weapons, and it was proposed that the arms be tested on the rebel SPLA, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, in the south.

But given that the rebels were involved in peace talks, the newspaper continued, the Sudanese government proposed testing the arms on people in Darfur.

Details of what were in the weapons were not disclosed.

The Sudanese government has been accused of arming and backing Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, which have rampaged through the western Darfur region for the past 19 months.

An estimated 50,000 people have been killed and 1.4 million more uprooted in a campaign against Darfur's black African population, which began in February 2003 when Khartoum and the Janjaweed cracked down on a rebel uprising.

The United States has accused Syria of trying to acquire materials and the know-how to develop chemical weapons and claims that Sudan has been seeking to improve its capability to produce them for many years.
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Syria chemical arms tested on civilians?

Here is a copy, in full, of a report by Aaron Klein at

Syria, which has long denied maintaining a chemical or biological weapons arsenal, reportedly tested chemical weapons on civilians in Sudan's troubled western Darfur region in June, killing dozens of people.

Injuries caused by chemical arms were found on the bodies of the victims, according to unnamed sources quoted by the German daily Die Welt newspaper and witnesses who talked with the Arab news ILAF last month.

Several frozen bodies arrived suddenly at the "Al-Fashr Hospital" in the Sudanese capital Khartoum in June, reported ILAF.

Die Welt said its sources had indicated the weapons tests were undertaken following a military exercise between Syria and Sudan after a meeting in May between Sudanese military leaders and Syrian officers in a Khartoum suburb to discuss the possibility of improving coordination between their armies.

After the Syrians reportedly suggested close cooperation on developing chemical weapons, it was proposed that the arms be tested on the rebel SPLA, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, in the south.

The Sudanese government then allegedly requested testing the chemicals on people in Darfur since they were involved in peace talks with the rebels.

As WorldNetDaily reported, the U.S. declared last week the rape, pillaging and slaughter of blacks in western Sudan by the Islamist Khartoum regime and its Arab militia allies is genocide, under the 1948 U.N. convention.

The reports are extremely damaging to Syria's Bashar Assad, who has been under international pressure after the recent passing of the Syrian Accountability Act in Congress, which accuses Damascus of supporting terror groups including Hezbollah, failing to stop anti-U.S. fighters from crossing into Iraq from Syria and maintaining 25,000 troops in Lebanon.

The White House also has accused Syria of having one of the most advanced chemical weapons programs in the Arab world, with stocks of the agents Sarin and VX.

Assad has drawn the ire of Israel as well for allowing the top leadership of Hamas to live openly in Damascus. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon blamed Syria, which harbors the overall leader of Hamas, Khalid Meshel, for a recent suicide bombing that killed 16 people in a southern Israeli city, and several Israeli officials have said the Jewish state plans to send a strong message to Assad.

In a recent WorldNetDaily exclusive interview, Syria's Ambassador to the UN Fayssel Mekdad denied his country has chemical weapons. "These are mere allegations and they cannot be substantiated," he said.

Mekdad also denied allegations Syria is aiding the insurgency against American troops in Iraq by allowing terrorists to pass through the Syrian border.

"I mean, not a single proof was given to Syria that we have helped, aided or supported elements that are carrying out attacks, or even giving them information from the Syrian side. I would like to confirm 100 percent for this interview that Syria has done nothing at all, and not a single proof has been given to us, not a single one," said Mekdad.
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UPDATE: Sunday September 19, 2004:

Here is a copy of a post - from my main blog ME AND OPHELIA - dated Thursday, August 19, 2004:

Villagers in Sudan describe poisoning

On August 17, 2004, the Washington Times published a report by Levon Sevunts. Here is an excerpt:

SHEGEK KARO, Sudan — Inhabitants of this picturesque village in the Darfur region of western Sudan said the Sudanese air force sprayed them with a strange powder in an attack in May that killed two villagers and dozens of cattle.

Another bomb, dropped by a jet fighter on the same day, produced a poisonous smoke that injured about 50 villagers on the other side of the village, the villagers said.

A Sudanese air force Antonov plane dropped several rectangular plastic sacks containing a white, flourlike powder on a wadi — a dry riverbed — in the lower part of the village, they said.

"This is the first time I'm hearing about this," a spokeswoman for Ambassador Khidir Haroun Ahmed said. She promised the embassy would look into the matter.