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Cablegate: Damascus Media Reaction, November 10, 2008: President

VZCZCXYZ0027
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0791 3151354
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 101354Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5548
INFO RUCNNAF/NORTH AF NEA AND SOUTH ASIAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000791

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/PPD, NEA/ELA, INR/NESA, IIP, PA, ECA, BEIRUT FOR
SISSON, GRANT, LENZEN

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KPAO SY
SUBJECT: DAMASCUS MEDIA REACTION, NOVEMBER 10, 2008: PRESIDENT
AL-ASAD'S NOVEMBER 9 SPEECH AND OBAMA'S ROLE IN RE-OPENING THE
AMERICAN CULTURAL CENTER AND SCHOOL.

-------------
News Reports:
-------------
1. Syrian papers dedicated their front-page headlines and editorials
to President al-Asad's November 9 speech at the opening session of
the Arab Transitional Parliament. He called on the United States to
pull its troops out of Iraq claiming, "The presence in Iraq of
American occupation forces is a permanent threat to neighboring
countries and an element of instability in the region." All papers
carried the speech's full text and the conference's final
communiqu, which condemned the alleged U.S. attack in Abu Kamal
describing it as "a flagrant violation of international law."
2. Sada Souria, an unofficial sounding-board for the SARG, and Damas
Post, a pro-SARG website, reported on FM Mouallem's interview with
Qatar's Al-Sharq Newspaper. FM Mouallem stated reopening the
American School and the American Cultural Center depends on the new
U.S. administration. He said the new administration must adopt a
"course that is completely different from the current U.S.
administration's; a course that relies on a serious and objective
dialogue with Syria. Only then we will witness an improvement in
Syrian-U.S. relations." When asked about the Obama administration's
role in the solving the Middle East crisis, he said "Obama's era
will be different from Bush's era for one reason that the failure of
Bush's domestic and foreign policies has caused Obama's victory."
He expressed hope that achieving a just and comprehensive peace in
the region will be one of Obama's priorities. He said that "Arabs
are ready for peace, but we must know Israel's intention on making
peace."
-------------------
Selected Headlines:
-------------------

3. Tishreen (SARG-owned newspaper, circ. 20,000)
"President Asad Inaugurates Opening Session of the Arab Transitional
Parliament: We Aspire for the Arab Parliament to be the Center for
Joint Arab Action"

4. Al-Thawra (SARG-owned newspaper, circ. 70,000)
"President Asad Addresses the Transitional Parliament Session: We
Persist in Our Rights and Building up Our Strength and Will Present
No Concessions to Israel ... The Security Agreement [between Baghdad
and Washington] Makes Iraq a Base to Strike at Neighboring
Countries"

5. Al-Watan (Private newspaper, circ, 25,000)
"President Asad Addresses the Arab Peoples through Their MPs ...
President Asad Calls for Arab Solidarity ... The Arab Parliament
Denounces the U.S. Aggression within Syrian Territories and Calls
for Addressing its Consequences"

--------------
Key Editorial:
--------------

6. Al-Ba'ath, "The Sublime Pan-Arab Voice"

Shawkat Abu-Fakhr, an Al-Ba'ath commentator, wrote: "President
Asad's speech was the sublime pan-Arab voice all over the Arab world
in defending legitimate Arab rights and just Arab causes despite
challenges and obstacles .... President Asad's speech confirms the
soundness of Syria's course despite the fierce and brutal campaigns
of aggression and allegations in the last few years. Syria did not
lose the compass and still sticks to its pan-Arab and nationalist
principles .... No concessions on rights and no bargaining .... As
President Asad confirmed, it is no longer acceptable for Arabs to
prove their readiness for peace as a strategic option while Israel
continues to occupy Arab lands, dispel its inhabitants, and commit
the ugliest massacres under the slogan of peace and security."

CONNELLY

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