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Cablegate: Damascus Media Reaction: Syria/Yemen, Syria/Italy,

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #5412/01 3511400
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 171400Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2634
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 6446
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 4236
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 2833
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 7413
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 1456
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 4795
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 1017
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL//CCPA//
INFO RUEHNC/AMEMBASSY NICOSIA 7145

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 005412

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR PA, NEA/ARN, INR/IC/CD, INR/R/MR:STHIBEAULT AND
JMCCARTER, VOA NEWS CA, NEA/PPD:CBOURGEOIS, AZAIBACK, AND
AFERNANDEZ, IIP/G/NEA-SA MDAVIDSON
WHITE HOUSE FOR NSC
CENTCOM FOR CCPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KMDR PREL KPAO OPRC SY
SUBJECT: Damascus Media Reaction: Syria/Yemen, Syria/Italy,
Syria/Greece, Syria/Iraq, Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Senator
Nelson (12/15-17)


1. Summary: Syrian papers on Dec. 17 reported President Asad's
visit to Yemen and his meeting with Yemeni President Ali Abdallah
Salih focusing on regional developments and bilateral relations.

Papers also reported President Asad's press interview published Dec.
15 in a Rome-based daily La Republica. Asad called on Israeli Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert to consider Syria's offer to discuss peace in
exchange for territorial concessions. "I say to Olmert: make an
attempt. Call our bluff," he was quoted as saying. "The Syrian
people are united on this: Reach peace to get back our lands," he
said. Despite his call for dialogue, Asad also said Syria expects
that Israel could launch a war against it "at any moment," according
to the interview. "War is always possible in our region. It is
natural to prepare (for it)," he was quoted as telling the
newspaper. However, he dismissed as "inexact" recent reports that
his country is massing missiles on the border with Israel, according
to the interview.

Asad also sought to downplay Syria's backing of Hezbollah guerrillas
in Lebanon, saying that his country holds influence on the Shiite
group, but doesn't interfere in Lebanese affairs. "Don't you see
that Hezbollah is backed by a large part of the Lebanese population?
It is wrong to portray it as a Syrian or Iranian puppet. Hezbollah
has its own interests, its own vision. They trust us, so we can
influence them," he was quoted as saying in the interview. "We never
lost our influence in Lebanon. But it is not interference."

Papers on Dec. 16 reported that President Asad received a phone call
from George Papandreou, Head of the Greek Socialist Party, focusing
on the situation in Lebanon.

On Syrian-Iraqi relations, papers reported the visit to Damascus on
Dec. 16 by Jawad Kazem Bolani, Iraqi Interior Minister of State for
National Security Affairs, who held talks with Syrian Interior
Minister, Gen. Bassam Abdul-Majeed. In a press statement, Bolani
indicated that he is focused on a number of issues related to
boosting cooperation between the Syrian and Iraqi Ministries of
Interior to expand prospects of future cooperation. For his part,
Abdul-Majeed underlined Syria's concern for the unity of Iraqi
people and land and stability and for supporting all efforts to push
the political process forward and achievement of national
reconciliation.

On Dec. 15, papers reported the visit to Damascus by Abdullat
Abdrasiti, Chairman of the delegation of the Chinese People's
Political Consultative Conference. In a statement at the end of the
delegation's visit to Syria, Abdullat Abdrasiti said Syria has made
big achievements in various fields, noting that Syria's decision to
adopt the social market economy and start the tenth five-year plan
of development provide a wide-range of fields for future cooperation
between Syria and China. Abdrasiti said that his talks also touched
upon all regional and international issues.

An editorialist in government-owned Tishreen on Dec. 16 criticized
remarks made recently by US Senator Bill Nelson after visiting
Syria, accusing him of spreading "a series of lies" about his
meeting with the Syrian leader.

End of summary.

2. Selected Headlines:

"President Asad holds talks with Yemeni President Salih. The two
leaders reiterate the importance of Palestinian national unity and
setting a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq.
President Asad calls for noninterference in Lebanon's internal
affairs" (Government-owned Tishreen, 12/17)

"In a statement to Italian Republica newspaper, President Asad:
Recommendations of the Baker committee are in harmony with our
views; Syria has interests in solving problems of the region"
(Government-owned Tishreen, 12/17)

"Egypt emphasizes deeply-rooted relations with Syria; Awad,
Spokesman of the Egyptian Presidency: Isolating Syria is


impossible" (Government-owned Tishreen, 12/17)

"President Asad receives a phone call from George Papandreou, Head
of the Greek Socialist Party, and visits Yemen today" (12/16)

"Vice President Shara meets a Chinese delegation which supports
Syria's right to restore occupied lands" (Government-owned
Al-Thawra, 12/15)

"Pope Benedict of the Vatican: Syria is an important country and we
bless its efforts to achieve peace" (Government-owned Al-Thawra,
12/15)

"Spanish FM Moratinos: Syria's role is pivotal. US Senator Kerry
calls for dialogue with Syria and Iran. A delegation from the
European Parliament visits Syria today" (Government-owned Al-Thawra,
12/15)

"Foreign minister Mouallem to former Iraqi PM Jaffari: Syria
supports scheduling occupation forces withdrawal from Iraq"
(Government-owned Al-Thawra, 12/15)

"A UN resolution calls on Israel to stop imposing its laws on
citizens of occupied Golan" (Government-owned Tishreen, 12/16)

"Palestinian President Abbas calls for early elections. The Hanieh
government rejects early elections. A Palestinian is martyred in
Nablus. A UNSC resolution to compensate Palestinians who are hurt by
the racial wall in the occupied territories" (Government-owned
Tishreen, 12/17)

"Israel regrets failure of the attempt on the life of Palestinian PM
Hanieh. Hanieh urges national unity and prevention of bloodshed"
(Government-owned Tishreen, 12/16)

"The Palestinian factions in Damascus denounce shooting at Hanieh
and reject early elections reiterating the importance of national
unity" (Government-owned Tishreen, 12/17)

"The conference of Iraqi reconciliation commences its deliberations"
(Government-owned Tishreen, 12/17)

"US Secretary of State Rice: We may finish our term before ending
violence in Iraq. Five US troops killed or wounded in Anbar and
Nineveh. An attack on two military bases in al-Ramadi"
(Government-owned Tishreen, 12/16)

"An Iraqi ministerial delegation is due in Damascus to discuss
cooperation between the Syrian and Iraqi Interior Ministries"
(Government-owned Tishreen, 12/16)

"The 15th day of the open sit-in. Nasrallah, SecGen of Hizbollah:
Israel will not be allowed to achieve any gains. Karami: Steps soon
to topple the government" (Government-owned Tishreen, 12/16)

"Mousa, SecGen of the Arab League quits Beirut: An Israeli force
violates the Blue Line before the very eyes of the international
forces" (Government-owned Al-Thawra, 12/15

3. Editorial Block Quotes:

-----------------------------

"Return to Yours Senses Now"

-----------------------------

Isam Dari, an editorialist in government-owned Tishreen, wrote
(12/16): "The February 14 forces in Lebanon are clashing with the
overwhelming majority of the Lebanese on behalf of others and in
defense of hostile plans....

"They take pride in their strong relationship with the US
Administration, which generously offers them unlimited support to
the point of issuing a presidential statement from the UN Security


Council backing Fouad al-Saniora government....

"Does this government need this UN support? Has the Security
Council accomplished all its missions in this troubled world and is
left with nothing else to do other than issuing a statement to
support a government facing unprecedented popular pressure demanding
not its trial for what it did during and after the recent Israeli
aggression, but only participation in making of the critical
Lebanese decisions so that a group connected with the outside world
will not remain the sole decision-maker, leading the country to a
certain position against the will of the Lebanese...?

"It is surprising that the February 14 leaders are not embarrassed
or ashamed to boast of American support for them although the US
Administration was a partner in the planning and implementation of
the recent Israeli aggression, where horrible massacres were
perpetrated against children, women, and old people.... Foreign
forces will not be able to protect the February 14 team forever from
the will of the people.... Therefore, this team must return to its
senses and listen to the pulse of the street, now rather than
tomorrow."

-----------------------

"A Witness from the US"

-----------------------

Ahmad Hamadeh, a commentator in government-owned Al-Thawra, wrote
(12/15): "Former US President Jimmy Carter's testimony regarding the
suffering of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, in his
book and a recent article in The Los Angeles Times, deserves all
praise although it has come too late....

"Carter's description of the Palestinian suffering at the hands of
the Israelis might not appear new or exceptional, but the new thing
about it is that it is made by an American citizen who was a
president of the United States.... He courageously describes the
pressure that the Zionist pressure groups apply on the
establishments in his country and the lack of any opposing voices
because they fear assassinations and political marginalization...."


-----------------------

"Un Unforgivable Crime"

-----------------------

Samir al-Shibani, a columnist in government-owned Tishreen, wrote
(12/16): "The inter-Palestinian clashes in the West Bank and Gaza
in the past two days are an unforgivable crime and a retreat from
ethics and the Palestinian national convention".

"All Palestinians must demonstrate a sense of national
responsibility.... There must be immediate Arab efforts to contain
the seeds of sedition which threaten a destructive civil war...."


--------------------------------------------- --------

"US Visitors and Required Credibility; How Do American Visitors
Reverse What They Say between Damascus and Beirut?"

--------------------------------------------- --------

An unsigned editorial in government-owned Tishreen, reads on
(12/16): "From time to time, US Senators visit the region on their
own initiative, perhaps for domestic American party purposes or out
of a desire to support their allies or those who follow their
policies in the region.

"To be honest, these Senators, in their meetings with Syrian
officials, are usually extremely polite, diplomatic, and good
listeners. What is strange, however, is that when they leave


Damascus, they make a 180-degree turn and fabricate stories that
exist only in their wild imaginations, so much so that they claim
they visited Damascus to 'rebuke Syria,' while the truth is
completely different.

"Visits and statements of Tom Lantos and former Secretary of State
Colin Powell are two of many examples. But the latest in this
series was a statement by Senator Bill Nelson in Beirut, in which he
went beyond all bounds.

"Nelson appeared in Beirut as if he was the guardian of Lebanon. He
issued a series of lies about his meeting with President Asad. All
his allegations are baseless; they never happened. He was a
skillful listener. He did not even 'advise' Syria to support the
Al-Saniora's government, for example.

"Senator Nelson's utterances have nothing to do whatsoever with the
political, diplomatic, and ethical traditions. They are surprising,
especially as they came from an American parliamentarian who is
supposed to be fair and objective, not a trumpet for the worn-out
February 14 team....

"Syria still welcomes interaction with the world and dialogue with
all countries provided that these contacts and dialogues observe the
principles of ethics, honesty, and accuracy, and avoid allegations
and lies that have nothing to do with the truth and that harm those
who make and fabricate them before anyone else."

Corbin

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