Cablegate: Shara's "Le Monde" Interview, Mouallem's Cairo Visit,
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SUBJECT: Shara's "Le Monde" Interview, Mouallem's Cairo Visit,
Bilal, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestinian Territories, Golan, Iran (3/2-4)
1. Summary: Syrian papers featured VP Shara's interview with
French daily "Le Monde" published
March 2 in which he expressed Syria's relative optimism on the
success of an international meeting in Baghdad aimed at stabilizing
Iraq, saying that "much depends on the attitude of the United
States; I am optimistic, but in a measured fashion." He added that
Syria, as a key player, is ready to do its best to find a solution
to the current situation, as it is in Syria's interest to see a
peaceful Iraq. He warned that the situation could get even worse.
Shara called upon all parties to be prudent, for "the situation
there is chaotic and is slipping out of control. One must be very
prudent because important issues are at stake." On Syrian-French
relations, the vice president expressed hope that the crisis between
the two countries will end with the French presidential election,
whoever wins, because there is no reason for the continuation of
boycott between the two countries, and healthy normal relations must
be restored in the service of the two countries' interests.
Papers also reported FM Mouallem's arrival in Cairo to take part in
the Arab League Council meeting on March 4 that will decide subjects
for the agenda of the Arab summit in Riyadh on March 10. Mouallem
met on March 3 with Amr Mousa, SecGen of the Arab League, focusing
on the agenda, including rejection of US unilateral sanctions on
Syria. The Mouallem-Mousa discussions also dealt with developments
in the Palestinian territories, the Golan, Lebanon and Iraq.
Mouallem also held talks with Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner
for Refugees, on UN efforts to hold an international conference on
means of extending aid to Iraqi refugees. Guterres expressed deep
thanks to the Syrian leadership for efforts aimed to ease the
suffering of the refugees.
Papers also cited a statement by Minister of Information Dr. Mohsen
Bilal to Iranian al-Aalam Satellite channel on March 3 confirming
Syria's participation in the Arab Summit in Riyadh and saying that
Syria's participation would be "active and influential." Bilal
described Syrian-Saudi relations as "fraternal and friendly" since
they are two sisterly Arab countries working in the same Islamic
Arab arena for just Arab causes in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq and
for Islamic solidarity. Minister Bilal noted that Syria wants to
deal with Lebanon as a "sovereign sisterly Arab country represented
by a national government embodying the Lebanese people." Bilal
noted that "[Israeli PM] Olmert might think of an adventure against
Syria to save himself from the current impasse due to his defeat
before the Lebanese resistance." "Syria has never trusted the
Israeli government because it might begin an adventure at any
moment, and we are taking this into consideration," the Information
End of summary.
2. Selected Headlines:
"In an interview with French daily 'Le Monde', VP Shara expresses
relative optimism over the Iraq conference" (Independent Al-Wattan,
"FM Mouallem discusses agenda of the forthcoming meeting of the Arab
League Council and the Arab summit in Riaydh with League Secretary
General Amr Mousa" (Government-owned Tishreen, 3/4)
"Information Minister Dr. Mohsen Bilal: We strive for active,
unified Arab solidarity and we support everything the Lebanese agree
upon; Our relations with Saudi Arabia are fraternal"
(Government-owned Tishreen, 3/4)
"The EU discusses Israeli nuclear arms in Brussels tomorrow"
(Government-owned Tisrheen, 3/4)
"Growing condemnations of US policy and its Lebanese symbols.
Lahoud: I will take a constitutional step to save Lebanon"
(Government-owned Tishreen, 3/4)
"The deteriorating situation of injured US soldiers in Iraq and
Afghanistan results in the firing of US Army Secretary Francis
Harvey" (Government-owned Al-Ba'th, 3/4)
"A mortar attack against a British base in Iraq. The security
situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate. Bodies of 14 security
officers found. 3164 US solders killed in Iraq" (Government-owned
"Challenges for the new security plan in Baghdad increase. Three US
soldiers killed in various places in Iraq" (Government-owned
"Announcement of the Palestinian national unity government is
postponed. Nablus is hit by a calamity and Bel'in defies the
occupation" (Government-owned Tishreen, 3/3)
"US officers in Iraq: We are facing a collapse in Iraq on the
Vietnamese model" (Government-owned Al-Thawra, 3/2)
"A Conference is to be held in Cairo today to defend al-Aqsa Mosque"
(Government-owned Tishreen, 3/4)
"Israeli forces kidnap a Lebanese youth before the eyes of UNIFIL
forces. Lebanese forces: The US project will not be passed in
Lebanon. Former Lebanese Minister Wadee al-Khazen: The February 14
team works to stir up chaos" (Government-owned Tishreen, 3/3
"Lebanese opposition: Feltman has aborted a solution in Lebanon"
(Government-owned Al-Thawra, 3/2)
"A US study: War against terrorism has spread horror"
(Government-owned Al-Thawra, 3/2)
"US journalist Hersh: Israel's defeat in Lebanon has changed US
strategy" (Government-owned Al-Thawra, 3/2)
"Ahmadinejad is to visit Saudi Arabia next week" (Government-owned
3. Editorial Block Quotes:
"The Golan on the Road to Liberation"
Midhat al-Salih, a commentator in independent Al-Wattan, wrote
(3/2): "The victories of the Lebanese resistance against the
Israeli enemy, especially the latest victory in July, constituted a
new turning point in the region on the military and political
"The July victory proved once again that the Arab resistance is able
to stand fast and wage a confrontation. In fact, the victory of
Hizbollah and all those who supported the resistance in Lebanon
rekindled our hopes and made us think effectively of this sacred
right [resistance] as the only option that Israel understands....
"Moreover, it became clear after the July victory, even to Arab
moderates, that Israel will not allow any of the peace initiatives,
talks, and efforts in the region, whether proposed by the peoples of
the region or imported from abroad, to achieve peace unless this
peace is based on the expansionist Zionist vision....
"Syria, which has never spared an effort to achieve a just and
comprehensive peace that would bring back the Golan in full, never
abandoned the resistance option, especially since it knew that
Israel never wanted peace, and that it does not want peace today.
Israel has always ignored peace calls and plans, regardless of their
sources and forms.
"We today call for adherence to the Syrians' sacred right to armed
resistance for the liberation of the Golan, first because this is
the duty of every Syrian and second because the administration of
George Bush Junior and Israel, regardless of the government that
rules it, do not appear ready, in the foreseeable future, to give up
our Golan through negotiations and good relations, as some people
think. Israel has never done that. It has always rudely and
insolently rejected diplomatic means and international efforts that
began after its occupation of the Golan and the other Arab
territories in 1967...."
"What Are Arabs Waiting for to Lift the Siege?"
Ahmad Dawwa, an editorialist in government-owned Al-Thawra, wrote
(3/2): "It is noted that the broad international welcome that the
Mecca agreement received (only a few discordant voices rejected it)
has not been translated into support for Palestinians and pressure
on Israel, which is trying hard to move the Palestinians from one
trench to another and prevent them from implementing what they
agreed on. The pressure and the calls for respecting the agreements
must be directed toward Israel, which has never respected any
agreement, treaty, or international resolution....
"Arabs, who have collectively decided to break the siege and help
Palestinians, must immediately and unhesitatingly break the siege,
before all others, so as to serve as a bridge for the international
community, which is waiting to see what the Arabs are going to do in
"It would be sad and shameful for a non-Arab country to move toward
breaking the siege on the Palestinian people while Arabs are still
waiting and making calculations, and while Israel is engaging in
incursions and demolitions and working day and night to kill the
agreement on the formation of a Palestinian unity government before
it sees the light of day...."
"Epidemic of Terrorism"
Isam Dari, Chief Editor of government-owned Tishrin, wrote (3/3):
"The United States is spreading terrorism, death, and destruction in
the four corners of the globe....
"Acts of terrorism and the number of terrorism victims have
increased since Washington declared its war on terror.... Terrorism
came to the Middle East with the arrival of the Jewish gangs in
Palestine at the beginning of the 20th century.... Terrorism is
still an official policy for Israeli governments....
"The plague of terrorism is sweeping the whole world at the hands of
those who claim to be fighting terrorism and defending human rights.
We de not think we need evidence to prove that terrorism is a
Zionist industry par excellence, marketed by Americans par
excellence. The nations of the world know this fact fully.
"The US Administration must acknowledge shame and must stop making
false claims. Then we will accept any false justifications for the
destructive American wars. But we will certainly not accept the lie
of fighting terrorism. This is a big joke, not believed
even those who made it and who are trying to sell it to the world."
"Participation for the Sake of the Nation"
Samir al-Shibani, an editorialist in government-owned Tishreen,
wrote (3/3): "The news of the conference that Iraq's neighboring
countries will hold in Baghdad on Saturday is making the headlines
of the international print and audio-visual media....
"Dialogue is a required and necessary -- indeed inevitable --
language among parties and forces trying to reach a reasonable
formula serving as a common denominator and opening a genuine window
of hope that the directly concerned people might be saved from their
tragedy. This is all the more true when the talk is about the
tragedy of the Iraqi people. Millions of Iraqis have been displaced.
The best Iraqi scientists have been killed. The main wealth of
Iraq has been looted and its heritage stolen. Iraq has been placed
in an unusual prison whose brutality everyone has heard about
through the infamous Abu Ghraib....
Out of its concern for Iraq -- land, unity, sovereignty, and dignity
-- Syria announced that it will participate in the Baghdad
conference on Saturday. It is participating in the conference not
out of love for dialogue and meetings with the Americans and others
only. This is a new step to be added to the record of Syria, which
is open for talks with everyone without exception, but this will
remain based on the national and pan-Arab principles that Syria has
always championed. Iraq, like Palestine, is the door to every
agreement, harmony, and understanding. We note here that Baghdad's
upcoming meeting has great importance and that dialogue in general
is not an end in and of itself but a means to reach a solution to
all the problems of the region.