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Cablegate: Lebanon, Palestinian Territories, Syria/Iran,

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0639/01 1780431
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 270431Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3758
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 6907
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 4606
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 3256
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 7746
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 1837
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 5163
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 1369
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL//CCPA//
INFO RUEHNC/AMEMBASSY NICOSIA 7486

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000639

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: Lebanon, Palestinian Territories, Syria/Iran,
Syria/Europe, Syria/Italy (6/22-25)

1. Summary: Syrian papers on June 25 reported the car bomb that
killed six UNIFIL peacekeepers from a Spanish contingent patrolling
a road in the southern Lebanese village of Khiam on June 24, the
first such attack on the UN Interim Force in Lebanon since it was
reinforced last summer after the 34-day war between Israel and
Hizbollah. All papers featured FM Mouallem's phone call to Spanish
FM Moratinos condemning the crime, expressing his condol
ences for
the families of the victims and sending his best wishes to the
injured for a quick recovery. Independent daily Al-Watan pointed
out that Lebanese Forces Leader Samir Geagea had warned earlier
against targeting UNIFIL troops, implying he may have had a hand in
the attack.

As for developments in the Palestinian arena, papers on June 25
reported FM Mouallem's meeting on June 24 with Abbas Zaki, envoy of
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in which Mouallem reiterated
the importance of stopping the current deterioration in the
Palestinian territories and urging Palestinians to resort to
dialogue to solve the crisis.

Papers on June 25 also reported FM Mouallem's meeting on June 24
with Iranian Assistant Foreign Minister Mohammad Reza Baqiri
focusing on regional developments, mainly in Lebanon, Iraq and the
occupied territories.

Government-owned Al-Thawra, the only paper to appear on June 22,
reported President Asad's meeting on June 21 with Caspar Einem,
Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Austrian
Parliament. The meeting touched on the current situation in the
region, particularly in Iraq, the occupied Palestinian territories
and Lebanon, and on Syria's stances regarding regional issues.

On Syrian-Italian relations, papers on June 25 reported Speaker of
the People's Assembly Mahmoud al-Abrash's meeting on June 24 with
Lamberto Dini, Chairman of the Italian Senate Foreign Relations and
Expatriates Committee. Talks dealt with the situation in the region
and the Arab-Israeli conflict, in addition to the Italian role in
supporting the Syrian-European Association Agreement.

End of summary.

2. Selected Headlines:

"Eight Spanish troops of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)
killed and wounded in al-Khiam valley. Syria denounces the action.
Foreign Minister Mouallem calls Spanish FM Moratinos: We consider
this act a criminal act that aims to destabilize South Lebanon.
Hizbollah condemns the act" (Government-owned Al-Ba'th, 6/25)

"President Lahoud: Suspicious schemes to tamper with Lebanon's
security" (Government-owned Tishreen, 6/25)

"Intermittent clashes in Nahr al-Bared. The Lebanese Army
liquidates a sleeping cell in Abi Samra" (Government-owned Al-Ba'th,
6/25)

"Vice President Shara confers with Abbas Zaki, special envoy of
Palestinian President, and with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister
Mohammad Reza Baqiri. Talks focus on means to overcome the current
Palestinian crisis. Zaki: Syria has an accurate reading of the
Palestinian case" (Government-owned Al-Thawra, 6/25)

"Al-Abrash, Speaker of the People's Assembly, confers with an
Italian parliamentary delegation and Deputy President of the
European Parliament. Dini: Occupation is the source of the
problems in the region. Information Minister Bilal: Syria believes
in dialogue as the best means for understanding and finding an
atmosphere for peace and stability.

"One Palestinian martyred, 4 wounded in an Israeli raid on Gaza.
Palestinian PM Haniyeh warns against Israeli blackmail, renews
commitment to the Mecca Accord and confirms that the main battle is
with the Israeli occupation" (Government-owned Tishreen, 6/25)

"Events in Nahr al-Bared still enflamed. US Ambassador Feltman
foils the Arab initiative. President Lahoud will not turn authority

over to the governing team and preserves his constitutional options"
(Government-owned Al-Ba'th, 6/24)

"Palestinian Prime Minister Haniyeh calls for dialogue. Head of the
Palestinian Authority Abbas heads to Jordan before Sharm al-Sheikh.

Israel exploits its aid to the Authority to promote discord"
(Government-owned Tishreen, 6/24)
"The situation in Nahr al-Bared heads towards a decisive end. The
Lebanese opposition: The governing team has foiled Arab mediation.
Hizbollah SecGen Nasrallah to Arab League SecGen Mousa: We demand
partnership on basis of volume of representation. Mousa: We
offered constructive suggestions and we will return as we receive
positive signs" (Government-owned Tishreen, 6/23)

"Lebanese MP Zo'eter: The team in authority is driving Lebanon
towards the unknown" (Government-owned Tishreen, 6/23)

"Four demonstrators wounded in the Bel'in demonstration denouncing
the separation wall. Israel unveils its intentions towards
Palestinian Leader Abbas during the Quartet meeting"
(Government-owned Tishreen, 6/23)

"US President Bush at the bottom of the least popular presidents
list" (Government-owned Tishreen, 6/23)

"President Asad meets Austrian delegation: Europe's role is
important and effective in solving issues of the region. Einem,
Head of the Austrian Parliament Foreign Relations Committee,
describes his talks in Damascus as fruitful and very useful"
(Government-owned Al-Thawra, 6/22)

"A new bloody day for Americans in Iraq: 8 soldiers killed, raising
the death toll to 3554" (Government-owned Tishreen, 6/24)

3. Editorial Block Quotes:

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

"Late Awakening"

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

Marwan Qabalan, an editorialist in independent al-Watan, wrote
(6/24): "Egypt's pan-Arab role has greatly declined after the
signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in the late
seventies.... Egypt regained a proportional role in the nineties
but the past five years have seen an unprecedented decline in
Cairo's Arab and regional role, which did not go beyond what was
happening in Gaza....

"Last week we saw a sudden Egyptian awakening. Cairo, through its
foreign minister, discovered that what happened in Gaza threatens
Egyptian national security because Gaza is a stone's throw away from
Egypt. Likewise, the Iranian role in Iraq threatens Arab and
Egyptian security.... Recent statements by the Egyptian foreign
minister have come as a real surprise to the Arab media and
political circles, for they suggested that Egypt still thinks of
Arab national security and sees itself as part of it, as if
everything that has happened in the past five years was not linked
to the security of Egypt and its Arab environment...."

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

"Blair's Quartet"

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

Maha Sultan, a commentator in government-owned Tishreen, wrote
(6/24): "The appointment of Tony Blair as an envoy of the
International Quartet would only render this international body less
effective....

"Blair's positions toward Arab issues, such as his participation in
the Iraq war and his strong opposition to a cease-fire during
Israel's aggression on Lebanon last summer, made Blair unpopular in


the region.

"How, then, could he be a special envoy to the region for
negotiations to achieve peace there...? How could Palestinian and
Arab parties that know his biased positions sit with him at one
table? How could these parties trust his proposals when they know
full well that he is more of an American-Israeli envoy than a
spokesman for the international community...?

"The US Administration's desire to give Blair this job is part of
the American efforts to serve Israel's interests at the expense of
Arab rights...."

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

"Least Popular, Stupidest President"

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

Muhyi-al-Din al-Muhammad, a columnist in government-owned Tishreen,
wrote (6/24): "No one in the United States or abroad was surprised
that President Bush's popularity rating, as shown by a recent
Newsweek poll, has dropped to 26 percent....

"This is a natural result of reckless policies that Bush and his
extremist administration have pursued.... These policies, which have
relied on aggression, occupation, and preemptive strikes, have
reflected negatively on the United States' reputation, economy, and
the lives of its soldiers without fulfilling any of the attractive
promises that Bush has made since he declared his war on so-called
terrorism....

"The United States and the rest of the world are facing the
challenge of how to deal with the stupidest and least popular
American president during the remaining year and a half of his term
in office.... There is a glimpse of hope in the opposition to
President Bush's policies by Democrats and some Republicans..... We
wonder how some Arabs are still attached to Bush's policies,
promises, and plans, as if he were the wise man of his age!"

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

"Reshuffling of Cards"

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

Abd-al-Fattah al-Awad, Chief Editor of government-owned al-Thawra,
wrote (6/22): "Syria's position toward Palestinian developments was
expressed by Vice President Shara to foreign correspondents.... He
stated it very clearly: 'We will not support one party against the
other....'

"Syria, which does not absolve any of the parties, believes that
dialogue is the only way to solve the problem.... What happened in
the Palestinian territories was part of the sedition plan in the
region.... It is painful that Arabs are not doing anything to stop
it.... This is a serious and worrying Arab situation, and we have to
reexamine the inclinations of those who want to absolve Israel of
Arab blood.... Syria warns against the grave repercussions of this
Arab situation, where, as Shara said, we are witnessing an
unprecedented reshuffling of cards...."

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

"The Big Trick"

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

Isam Dari, Chief Editor of government-owned Tishreen, wrote (6/23):
"Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that US President Bush
wants a Palestinian state to emerge before the end of his term in
office....

"Olmert did not explain to us and the rest of the world how this
objective can be accomplished within this short period when it has
not been accomplished over 15 years....


"Neither Olmert nor Bush told us what shape this state will take....
Will Jerusalem be its capital or Israel's unified and eternal
capital...? What about the Palestinian right of return...? Will the
Western world recognize the democratic choices of the Palestinian
people?

"What Mr. Bu
sh offers cannot fulfill the Palestinian people's
national ambitions and aspirations.... The US Administration thinks
of a demilitarized non-sovereign mini-state fulfilling Israel's
ambitions and biblical dream."

"It would be a big tragedy to believe the Bush-Olmert lie. But the
bigger tragedy would be to promote this lie, absolve the killer, and
contribute to the satanic plan by delivering to Israel and the
United States some of the Palestinian people as terrorists and
handing them the entire Palestinian cause and all its rights in
return for a serious lie they called 'the Palestinian state'...."


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

"We Will Not Close Our Border"

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

Ahmad Dawwa, an editorialist in government-owned Al-Thawra, wrote
(6/22): "Vice President Shara said that Syria will not close its
border with Lebanon, although some Lebanese politicians are working
day and night to create the climate for such a step against the will
of the Lebanese people.... Many Lebanese politicians will not allow
this to happen because they stick to Lebanon's genuine interest and
realize the importance of relations with Syria....

"Syria can never take a step harmful to any Arab country, let alone
Lebanon, where any harm to the country affects Syria as well. This
is why VP Shara stressed that it is impossible to reach a point
where Syrian-Lebanese relations are beyond repair."

Corbin

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