Cablegate: Damascus Media Reaction: False Witness/Al-Hariri
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DAMASCUS 006254
DEPARTMENT FOR PA, NEA/ARN, INR/IC/CD, INR/S:STHIBEAULT
VOA NEWS CA, NEA/PPD:CBOURGEOIS, DBENZE AND AFERNANDEZ,
WHITE HOUSE FOR NSC
CENTCOM FOR CCPA
TAGS: KMDR PREL KPAO OPRC SY
SUBJECT: Damascus Media Reaction: False Witness/Al-Hariri
1. Summary: Syrian newspapers continued to focus on
revelations by the Syrian "masked witness," Husam Tahir
Husam, who gave false testimony to the international
investigation commission in the assassination of former
Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri. The papers view
Husam's account, as told in a television interview and a
news conference on 27 and 28 November, respectively, as a
condemnation of a group of Lebanese politicians and media
figures and as proof that the accusations against Syria in
connection with Al-Hariri's assassination are fabricated.
Headlines featured an official Syrian statement calling on
Lebanese judicial authorities and the IIIC to stop the
issuance of misinformation against Syria, saying that "Husam
cannot be truthful in Beirut and untruthful in Damascus."
Syrian papers also reported that Zalmay Khalilzad, US
Ambassador to Iraq, has been given permission to meet with
officials from Iran to deal specifically with issues related
End of summary.
2. Selected Headlines:
"Syria warns against misleading the investigation into the
Al-Hariri assassination. Seven items in the international
report were based on false testimony. An official source
calls for investigation of falsifications to unveil the
truth, and calls on Lebanese judicial authorities and the
IIC to stop falsification and blackmail: Husam cannot be
truthful in Beirut and untruthful in Damascus" (Government-
owned Tishreen, 11/30)
"Lebanese Interior Ministry confirms the meeting between
Interior Minister Al-Saba' and the 'masked witness' Husam
Husam. Lebanese As-Safir and Ad-Diyar newspapers call for
dealing seriously with Husam's confessions. Former Lebanese
Minister Wahab: Mehlis report has completely collapsed"
(Government-owned Tishreen, 11/30)
"After seeking Tehran's mediation, Washington seeks contacts
with gunmen and acknowledges failure of its military means"
(Government-owned Al-Ba'th, 11/3)
"Israeli and Palestinian security forces exchange fire in
the West Bank town of Bethlehem. Occupation forces attack
Ofar detention camp. Fifty Palestinian detainees injured in
tent-burning and clashes with Israeli forces" (Government-
owned A-Ba'th, 11/30)
3. Editorial Block Quotes:
"The Rope of Lies"
Umar Jaftali, an editorialist in government-owned Tishreen,
commented (11/30): "Hidden hands are behind the fabrication
of the trouble between Syria and Lebanon.... But the bonds
between the two countries are too strong to be harmed by a
group of rancorous people who shed crocodile tears over Al-
Hariri but have sought help from foreigners and have ridden
the wave of foreign schemes to serve their personal
interests. These people prepared witnesses to harm Syria's
reputation and implicate it in the Al-Hariri assassination,
deliberately ignoring the Israelis and the Americans, who
have a genuine interest in besieging and harming Syria....
"Syria, which is definitely innocent of the Al-Hariri
assassination, wants the truth more than any other party.
The truth is now a Syrian demand more than a Lebanese
demand. Syria is awaiting fair judgment on this sensitive
issue. In defense for its dignity and sovereignty, it has
cooperated and will fully cooperate with the United Nations
to anchor the values of justice and peace in our region
based on international law and the noble principles of human
rights and the rights of peoples and countries...."
"Truth for the Sake of Syria"
Isam Dari, a commentator in government-owned Tishreen,
commented (11/30): "The masked witness Husam offered
extremely important and serious information.... This time we
seek the truth not only for the sake of uncovering who
killed Al-Hariri but also for the sake of Syria, which some
Lebanese politicians and journalists wanted to implicate
forcibly in a heinous crime....
"Lies and ready accusations were fabricated against Syria to
neutralize it and force it by all available means to change
its national and pan-Arab positions....
"If the investigations take their normal course, Syria's
innocence will be declared and the planners and perpetrators
of the crime will be uncovered...."
"In the Name of the Lebanese People and their
Ahmad Dawwa, an editorialist in government-owned Al-Thawra,
commented (11/30): "Husam's revelations prove that a
political and media group exploited Al-Hariri's blood to
turn Lebanon into a base for hatching conspiracies against
Syria, against the will of the majority of the Lebanese
"Government and parliamentary parties are fully involved in
this, but without the knowledge of the Chamber of Deputies
and the government as official Lebanese establishments....
"Isn't the participation of a minister from Al-Saniora's
cabinet in pressuring a witness to give false testimony to
an international commission a serious conspiracy against
Syria? Isn't the supervision by the leader of the biggest
bloc in the Lebanese parliament of financing and fabricating
these conspiracies a kind of turning Lebanon ... into a base
for plotting against Syria?
"Husam made extremely serious revelations condemning those
who exploited Al-Hariri's assassination to ride on the
American political wave in the region, one seeking to force
Lebanon and Syria to surrender to Israel.... The revelations
have shown the truth about those who claim to be advocates
of freedom and independence and exposed all their slogans
and promises to the Lebanese people.
"The Lebanese judiciary must take legal action against these
people for misleading justice.... The ball is now in the
court of the Lebanese people and their nationalist forces,
and in the court of the government and the Chamber of
Deputies. We do not believe that many in the two
establishments will be willing to continue working
politically with a team that seeks to hatch plots against
Syria and to subjugate Lebanon."