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Cablegate: Syrian Coverage of Ambassador Schulte's Pan-Arab Media

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0890 3520651
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 170651Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5695
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 7471
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 5037
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 3777
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 8034
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 2260
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 5667
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 1623
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 1479
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA 0015
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0467
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL//CCPA//
INFO RUEHNC/AMEMBASSY NICOSIA 7646

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000890

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR PA, NEA/ELA, INR/IC/CD, INR/R/MR VOA NEWS CA,
NEA/PPD, IIP/G/NEA-SA MRUSSELL, IO/PPC, LONDON-SREENBY
WHITE HOUSE FOR NSC
CENTCOM FOR CCPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KMDR KPAO OPRC SY
SUBJECT: Syrian Coverage of Ambassador Schulte's Pan-Arab Media
Outreach

REF: 08 DAMASCUS 445

1. Summary: On Friday, December 12, U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA
Greg Schulte conducted a series of interviews on the nascent Syrian
nuclear program and related International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) actions with the pan-Arab media based in London. As part of
this, Ambassador Schulte appeared with Syrian Ambassador Imad
Mustafa on al-Jazeera's "Akthar Min Rai," hosted by Sami Haddad.
The Syrian media did not carry any of the Ambassador's remarks. End
Summary.

--------------------------------------------
IAEA IS A RED LINE FOR JOURNALISTS IN SYRIA
--------------------------------------------

2. (U) Ambassador Schulte's extensive round of pan-Arab media
interviews went almost completely unreported by the Syrian media
with the exception of two websites. The all4syria.info website,
which is run out of Dubai, carried the Sharq al-Awsat interview. We
have raised the Ambassador's al-Jazeera appearance with a few of our
best contacts, several of whom confessed they had not seen it.
Unfortunately, Ambasador Schulte's appearance on al-Jazeera
coincided with the end of the long Eid Al-Adha vacation when many
Syrians are out of the country.

3. (U) State-run media in Syria are strictly controlled, and the
SARG's sensitivity to the IAEA issue is well-documented. In advance
of the June 22-24, 2008 visit to Syria by the inspection team from
the IAEA, the Syrian government denied entry to some foreign
journalists and restricted journalists in Damascus from travel
outside the city. At the time of the visit, one journalist told the
IO that he had heard that the Syrians only agreed to the IAEA visit
on the condition that there would be no press.

4. (U) Our sources continue to remind us that the SARG issued
instructions for journalists not to report on this in June. As a
result, the bulk of the June reporting came out of Vienna and other
European capitals. There remains a lingering reluctance to engage
on this story given the SARG's earlier order.

5. (U) Post continues to flag the interviews and Ambassador
Schulte's statements on our website and with key contacts. We will
continue to make these points to lay the ground work for potential
backgrounders with the U.S. Mission in Vienna and journalists here.


CONNELLY

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