Initial syriapol Results Released

Posted by ALEX 

About a year ago, the polling site Syriapol was launched, created by George Ajjan, a Syrian-American Republican activist who has commented frequently on US-Syria relations here and elsewhere. Below is a press release that includes a summary of the first phase of the project, in which most of the 350 poll takers were expat Syrians. George hopes to get more participation from inside Syria in the second phase. Although online polls are usually not as reliable as properly designed polls which try to ensure that their samples are representative of the broader population, George managed to to get closer to the ideal case by targeting Syrians who held various political views by listing a link to syriapol on most of the popular Syrian blogs and sites. This ensured that the sample of participants was not drawn exclusively from Syrians with any specific political camp. 

Here is a graphic that shows typical results for one respondent (in Arabic), syriapol's press release follows.

 

syriapol.jpg

 

Initial syriapol Results Released
Syrians frustrated with regime, but strongly reject foreign invasion, Islamic governance

Clifton, NJ, USA – syriapol, a study of Syrian public opinion, today released the initial indications of the first phase of its data collection, in which an online audience composed primarily of Syrian expatriates bluntly rejected an overthrow of the current Syrian regime through foreign military intervention, and expressed support for a secular form of government.

The survey’s creator, Syrian-American political activist George Ajjan, anticipates the second, more substantial phase of the project, which would entail greater participation from within Syria, thus far limited due to compliance with US sanctions against Syria.  Ajjan, whose family emigrated to the US from the city of Aleppo in the early 20th century, says he created the project to offer more reliable information about Syrian public opinion to decision makers and activists across the globe than the biased propaganda spouted by political operatives, both pro-regime and pro-opposition.

syriapol, by contrast, uses a market research technique called conjoint analysis to extract the respondents’ preferences on a series of attributes related to regime change, form of government, economic reforms, democratic elections, as well as the Peace Process, and then immediately provides the results confidentially in a graphical format to the individual participant.  According to Ajjan, the survey’s format, in which a participant evaluates a series of 16 hypothetical scenarios, encourages a more honest assessment because it does not ask direct yes/no questions that almost always lead to jaded responses from participants fearful of government spying.

As for the results, Ajjan says that the initial indications are interesting, but far from conclusive because about 75% of the approximately 350 respondents thus far do not live inside Syria.  He further stipulates that online surveys could never provide a truly accurate picture of Syrian society on the whole, given the low rate of Internet penetration, with the caveat that the syriapol project at least provides some quantitative data to balance a political atmosphere currently filled with little more than spin.

Ajjan concludes, “From what I can see thus far, Syrians first and foremost want results:  maintaining a secular culture, promoting economic reforms, establishing democratic elections at administrative levels, and gaining back the Golan Heights.  The participants in general have little taste for violence and therefore still seem willing to offer the regime the chance to deliver on its rhetoric.”  Concerning the overwhelmingly negative attitude expressed by survey respondents towards a foreign invasion of Syria, Ajjan cautions, “President Assad and his Administration should nevertheless be paying close attention because some responses also indicate support for a domestic uprising.”

All Syrians are invited to participate and learn more about the syriapol project by visiting http://www.syriapol.com (English) and http://www.syriapol.org (Arabic).

for more information, contact george@ajjan.com or see http://www.ajjan.com.

Comments (49)


1. Enlightened said:

Alex welcome back!

First research Techniques ; Conjoint Analysis is a good way to get psychographic analysis from those interviewed ( We used this technique when i did undergrad studies using a now very outdated software called SPSS )

You have to be very wary of analysing the data and those ou interview ( There would be a massive skew in thought and feelings and attitudes between those expatriates living in the West and current respondents living inside Syria )

Two good things however: (Results)

1. maintaining a secular culture,
2. The participants in general have little taste for violence

This is a very good sign although I wouldnt be jumping for joy just yet as the sample size of the survey might just be too small ( at the moment)

I have one serious question however; regarding this statement

“President Assad and his Administration should nevertheless be paying close attention because some responses also indicate support for a domestic uprising.”

If this serious undertone is quite prevalent in Syrian Society what would be the catalyst to spark a non violent uprising similsr to the Ukranian Orange revolution and if Syrian society is capable to pull this off?

With all the activists like Bunni and Kilo in Jail is there a charismatic figure in Syrian society whose jailing might be the catalyst.

Those in the know please feel free to comment.

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May 31st, 2007, 5:06 am

 

2. Alex said:

Thank you enlightened!

I will disappear again soon ;) but since I am here, let’s talk!

First, please don’t depress me because I used SPSS for one of my graduate research projects, and… I still use it. Is it really outdated?! TO me SPSS is the modern upgrade … I used to use SAS before… on VAX computers .. the ugliest computing experience you can imagine.

You are right that there are probably serious differences between the set of Syrians living outside, and those living inside Syria. You can assume that the sampled population for this initial stage of the experiment is Syrian expats, and therefore we should discuss any conclusions keeping in mind that they apply mostly to Syrian expats.

I will add that the poll was taken over a relatively long period of time (a year+?) during which I believe there was a shift in the views of most Syrians. I wonder if, for example, those who a year or two ago favored US military intervention to help in removing the Syrian regime have changed their minds after the obvious failure of the Iraq operation… two years ago there was no clear conclusion that military force can not turn a dictatorship into a democracy, so I expect that if George looked at his earlier 50 respondents’ results he might find a clear shift in some of the rated variables.

But it was a good idea to rely on Conjoint Analysis because Syrians, and Arabs, do not like to answer direct questions about their political views. It will, however, remain a challenge for George to get those living inside Syria to participate.

As for the charismatic figures that you suggested as possible leaders of opposition to the regime … you picked two Christians (kilo and Bunni) … despite what many will claim, I don’t think today a Christian can “lead” a majority of Syrians to demonstrate in the streets against their regime.

Besides, why change the regime? .. it is perfect! and its very popular

: )

OK, I’m exaggerating a bit, I don’t want to get into that.

Cheers.

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May 31st, 2007, 5:41 am

 

3. Alex said:

PM mulls resuming Syria peace talks via 3rd party
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is exploring the possibility of resuming peace talks with Syria through a third party.

A government source said there was no direct contact between Israeli and Syrian officials, “but a very serious assessment is underway.”

What is being assessed is what Israel would get in return for pulling out of the Golan Heights, the nature of future bilateral relations and whether Syria would consider cutting its ties with Iran, Hezbollah and Palestinian terror organizations, Israel’s main enemies in the region.

Olmert has recently referred to the possible resumption of talks with Syria in closed meetings. “The price is clear. There may be a debate on the payment terms, discounts etc. but the main question is what Israel would receive in return. Will it receive peace like [the one it has] with Egypt, peace like Britain and France have, or a deception: Give us the Golan, and all you’ll get is an alliance between Syria and Iran and Hamas headquarters in Damascus,” he said.

Olmert was persuaded to reexamine the Syrian option mainly by the numerous warnings that Syria’s army was gaining strength and the danger of an eruption of hostilities in the North.

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May 31st, 2007, 6:10 am

 

4. Enlightened said:

Alex Sorry to depress you! I remember at Uni having to uplad Wordperfect from DOS mode. Maybe im showing my age of 37 years!

Anyway george needs to get on top of these issues! As far as I am concerned it is useless to skew the survey because id bet that over 95% of those that participated are expats, however george can elaborate on that , are the results available in english?

“you picked two Christians (kilo and Bunni) … despite what many will claim, I don’t think today a Christian can “lead” a majority of Syrians to demonstrate in the streets against their regime.”

Shame on you Alex, I am not Christian and i couldnt care less if these two led Syria, religion should not come into it, they have fine minds and are men of integrity something that is clearly lacking in ME politicians.

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May 31st, 2007, 6:42 am

 

5. Enlightened said:

Ps: A Christian was one of the early presidents of Syria? If it happened once it can happen again

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May 31st, 2007, 7:09 am

 

6. George Ajjan said:

Enlightened,

Thanks for replying.

From the outset, let me re-clarify, as I stated in the Press Release:

1) the results are based upon a small sample and of that, only 25% or so come from inside Syria. So right now, the task is to solicit more participation from inside Syria.

2) such a survey could never give us a true picture of Syrian opinion, because the internet does not sufficiently penetrate the society. However, the information we can obtain through syriapol is light years beyond what we currently have: A bogus referendum that tells us that 99%+ of the people love love love the government, and an opposition that holds demonstrations in DC at which a mere 75 people turn up, having the nerve to hold signs that say, “Bashar, 99.9% of the Syrian people reject your candidacy”.

However, I am firmly of the belief that using conjoint is the best way to get information of this type, because it obscures the emotional impact of direct questions, as Camille indicated above. The challenge is that approach is quite out of the ordinary and really pushes people to think in ways in which they may have not been accustomed.

I would also like to thank a certain SC reader who wishes to remain anonymous, for automating the analysis. Now, when someone spends 15 minutes to take the poll, he/she will immediately obtain his/her results in the graphical format displayed above, in Arabic or English.

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May 31st, 2007, 8:23 am

 

7. George Ajjan said:

Attention to any Washington insiders reading this:

The project encountered delays because, for many months, it was blocked from view inside Syria.

No, not because of the Syrian regime, but because of the idiotic sanctions compliance guidelines given to GoDaddy, from whom I purchased the domains http://www.syriapol.com and http://www.syriapol.org

They told me:

“The United States Government asks that we do not conduct business with [Syria]…if a person resides in [Syria], they will not be able to complete a purchase from our website or access our network…this means that people in [Syria] will not be able to access our services.”

So, in effect, it was American policy to “punish” the Syrian government by prohibiting its citizens from viewing a website called “A Syrian Democracy Project”.

I guess that’s what happens when you put qualified people like Liz Cheney in charge.

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May 31st, 2007, 8:32 am

 

8. youngsyria said:

the results of syriapol ware not accurate for my case..

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May 31st, 2007, 8:44 am

 

9. ausamaa said:

YOUNGSIRIA

Sorry, but what is your “case” exactly?

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May 31st, 2007, 10:14 am

 

10. EHSANI2 said:

Mr. Jay Solomon has had an excellent track record when it comes to the Hariri investigation. As the article below describes, his newspaper was allowed to review the transcripts of the conversation between UN officials and Bashar. I think the one on Iran’s capacity to cause disturbances is most interesting plus of course the caspian sea comment which has already been reported on by others

(From THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)
By Jay Solomon
The United Nations’ establishment of an international court to try suspects
in the murder of a former Lebanese prime minister could stoke more violence in
the already fragile country and across the Middle East.
The U.N. Security Council voted yesterday to unilaterally set up the
tribunal, after Lebanon’s Parliament failed to approve its establishment during
six months of political gridlock.
Initial U.N. investigations implicated senior Syrian intelligence officials
in the February 2005 murder of Rafik Hariri, a leading anti-Syrian politician.
Both Damascus and pro-Syrian politicians in Beirut had opposed moving ahead
with a court.
“I’m expecting more violence, knowing my neighbor [Syria],” said Walid
Jumblatt, a leading Lebanese politician who was a close ally of Hariri. “But at
least, finally, we’ve got [the tribunal]. We will start with a new momentum in
Lebanon.”
Mr. Jumblatt and other Lebanese officials, politicians and security officials
have accused Syria of spurring violent unrest in Lebanon, a charge Damascus
denies.
The Bush administration had pushed for setting up the tribunal as part of its
strategy to put pressure on Syria, which administration officials say supports
extremist groups in conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

The U.S. also hopes that trying the Hariri murder suspects will help tame a
political culture in Lebanon that has been afflicted by assassinations and
bombings for most of the past four decades.
“By adopting this resolution, the council has demonstrated its commitment to
the principle that there should be no impunity for political assassination, in
Lebanon or elsewhere,” said Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
But Arab diplomats said the court could doom hopes in Washington and Israel
that Syrian President Bashar Assad could play a constructive role in future
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Mr. Assad recently warned in a private conversation with U.N. officials that
moving ahead unilaterally with a court could spark more regional strife,
according to a transcript of the meeting.
Ten of the Security Council’s 15 members, including the U.S., United Kingdom
and France, voted in favor of setting up the court. Five abstained, including
permanent members China and Russia, which have said such a move could further
undermine Lebanon’s stability and sovereignty. Nonpermanent members Indonesia,
Qatar and South Africa also abstained.
The Lebanese Parliament has until June 10 to ratify the court. Under the
U.N.’s Chapter 7 resolution, the U.N. could enforce the court’s establishment
even without parliamentary approval.
U.N. officials said the start of the tribunal process could be a year away
because the investigation into the murders of Mr. Hariri and nearly a dozen
other anti-Syrian politicians is continuing. The U.N. also must raise funds to
pay for the administration of the court and find a secure country in which to
locate it, most likely Cyprus.
Many Lebanese and U.N. officials said they are girding for more unrest in the
country, following yesterday’s court vote.
Lebanon’s security forces have been engaged in almost-daily battles in recent
weeks against a Sunni militia in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli that has
left nearly 100 people dead. The leader of the militia, Fatah Islam, has said
that his group is aligned with al Qaeda. But many Lebanese security officials
said they believe Damascus had been arming and funding Fatah Islam in an
attempt to destabilize Lebanon and derail the establishment of the court –
charges Damascus denies.
Mr. Assad and other top Syrian officials have suggested in recent weeks that
the court’s establishment would sow more unrest across the region. In a meeting
late last month with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, the Syrian leader said
setting up a tribunal without the Lebanese Parliament’s approval could spark
civil war in Lebanon and increase Sunni-Shiite violence from the Mediterranean
to the Caspian Sea, according to the meeting transcript seen by The Wall Street
Journal.
Mr. Assad said the international community should support what he described
as the peaceful nuclear ambitions of Syria’s ally, Iran. “As someone from the
East, you should understand, Iran is a strong power and should be recognized as
such,” he told Mr. Ban, a South Korean. “They have the capacity to cause
disturbances throughout the Middle East and beyond.”
Both the U.N. and a Syrian diplomat said they couldn’t comment on any private
conversations between Messrs. Assad and Ban. The Syrian diplomat said Damascus
views the Hariri court as a matter between the international community and
Lebanon, not Syria.
Mr. Hariri’s death in 2005 ignited massive anti-Syrian protests that drove
Syrian troops out of Lebanon for the first time in three decades.
Since then, assassins have either killed or attempted to kill nearly a dozen
other anti-Syrian politicians and journalists, as well as some Lebanese
detectives investigating the Hariri murder.

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May 31st, 2007, 11:34 am

 

11. ugarit said:

Dear George Ajjan:

That’s why I use European hosting services instead of US ones.

In US on-line travel agencies I can’t even find a flight to Syria. Am I the only one having this problem?

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May 31st, 2007, 11:50 am

 

12. majedkhaldoun said:

I do not think Cyprus is a appropriate place for the tribunal,security is not adequate, better place is Austria.
Brammertz may leave the process,another one will be appointed in june.

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May 31st, 2007, 12:07 pm

 

13. idaf said:

Ehsani,

Didn’t you hear the speeches of China (biggest country of the world), Russia (biggest European country), Qatar (the representative of the Arab countries) and Indonesia (the representative of the Islamic countries) in addition to South Africa (representative of Africa in the UN)?

They all stressed that the reason for abstaining is that this resolution will undermine Lebanese sovereignty and increase violence and tensions “around the world”, not just in Lebanon.

So Bashar was not telling Ban some kind of a secret. And of course it was not “a threat” as the hysterical M14 bunch wants us to believe. It is simply common sense (similar to the warnings that Hosni Mubarak, King Abdulla of Saudi and Bashar himself gave to the US before invading Iraq: Terrorism will increase around the world). Any idiot can see that in a troubled country as Lebanon everything will be politicized, take a sectarian shape and eventually lead to violence (take for example, the sectarian demonstrations that took place just after the vote yesterday in Beirut). This is the history of Lebanon in the past 60 years. Any idiot that can read history would foresee regional trouble coming.

Outsourcing Lebanese sovereignty to the 15 SC countries (most of which have their own agendas for Lebanon and the region) will definitely increase tensions among the Lebanese themselves, on a regional level and globally. Two, three years from now, you’ll hear a lot of “I told you so”s directed at the US.. again.

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May 31st, 2007, 1:12 pm

 

14. idaf said:

George said:
“No, not because of the Syrian regime, but because of the idiotic sanctions compliance guidelines given to GoDaddy, from whom I purchased the domains http://www.syriapol.com and http://www.syriapol.org
They told me:
“The United States Government asks that we do not conduct business with [Syria]…if a person resides in [Syria], they will not be able to complete a purchase from our website or access our network…this means that people in [Syria] will not be able to access our services.”

WOW.. this is an eye opener! I knew that the sanctions were there, but I did not know they cover information and services online. This reminds me of a story that happened to a friend of mine (highly talented Syrian engineer) who recently was head-hunted by a leading American company in the gulf. After 2 months of negotiations he finally signed a contract with them and resigned from his excellent and secure job. When he showed up on the first day in office in his new job, the manager asked him to come to his office and instead of an orientation he was asked to leave the company because he is Syrian and that might get the company in legal trouble back in the US. The rejection for his hiring just came that morning from the US head office and it stated that the company “cannot hire a Syrian national”!

Another famous story that shows the US administration’s affection with the Syrian people is the story of professional certificates issued by US companies (such as Microsoft for example) which are increasingly becoming prerequisites in many jobs worldwide. Syrians can attend the courses in centers in the Arab world but will not receive a certificate from the companies even if they pass with flying colors, which is limiting their employability chances worldwide in many job fields.

Even the Syrian law does not explicitly deny Israelis the right to work for or access information or services by a Syrian company! And the US administration wants to convince Syrian people that it is on their side, what hypocrisy.

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May 31st, 2007, 1:35 pm

 

15. trustquest said:

Idaf,
“Any idiot that can read history would foresee regional trouble coming.”
I would say any idiot can read history would foresee that regimes have their limitation and when any regime sacrifices the people for his survival, he is the one to be blamed for the chaos.

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May 31st, 2007, 2:12 pm

 

16. LessThanExpert said:

“His positions..appear to be a collection of emotional impulses, not a coherent strategy for the region.”

First Reaction: Fred Thompson on the Middle East

Analysis on http://lessthanexpert.wordpress.com

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May 31st, 2007, 2:39 pm

 

17. idaf said:

Trustquest,

Violence will cause unimaginable human suffering (check out the news on Iraq), regardless of who causes the trouble or who is to be “blamed for chaos” (be it the Syrian regime, Lebanese Zu’ama, US administration or Israel). The resolution will cause more trouble in the region, and when that happens, the ordinary people will suffer not the regime in Syria, not the Zu’ama in Lebanon.

Try to justify to the Iraqis their suffering now by saying that it was Saddam’s “regime who sacrifices the people for his survival”! Would it comfort you or make you feel better if someone close to you was killed in violence in Lebanon or Syria if you were told that it is the Syrian regime’s fault?!

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May 31st, 2007, 2:39 pm

 

18. K said:

* Ehsani,

Thanks for posting the article. Prior to this, all we had was An-Nahar’s article on Bashar’s threat to Ban Ki-Moon.

* IDAF,

When a 3rd party or an ally warns of violence, that is a warning.
When the perpetrator himself warns of violence, that is a threat.

When Syria ‘warns’ Lebanon that a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon ‘would lead to violence’… that is a THREAT. When Syria ‘warns’ that ‘passing the tribunal would lead to violence’ that is a THREAT. When Bashar ‘warns’ that his patron, Iran, has “the capacity to cause disturbances” that is a THREAT.

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May 31st, 2007, 3:38 pm

 

19. K said:

* UGARIT,

Since you are so enthralled by the Angry Arab, As’ad AbuKhalil, please recall his typically eloquent reaction to the An-Nahar story on Bashar’s threat to Ban Ki-Moon. He wrote:

The March 14th people are so obsessed with Syria, that when they run out of things to use against Syria, they make things up, and run away with it. This one was clearly fabricated by An-Nahar newspaper (the right-wing, sectarian Christian, anti-Syrian (people), anti-Palestinian (people) newspaper). “Syrian President Bashar Assad has threatened to set the region on fire, from the Caspian to the Mediterranean, over differences with the United Nations regarding Lebanon’s stability. The independent daily newspaper an-Nahar quoted well informed diplomatic circles as saying Assad made the threat last Wednesday in a telephone discussion with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.” How dumb are those people? You think that Bashshar Al-Asad made those threats ON THE PHONE, and now knowing that his international phone calls to the UN secretary general no less, will not be discovered or revealed? How dumb are they? The lousy Syrian regime is really lucky to have those as its enemies. PS Don’t you like it how An-Nahar refers to itself as “independent.” Maybe An-Nahar also thinks that Der Sturmer was “independent.”

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May 31st, 2007, 3:40 pm

 

20. youngsyria said:

ausamaa,

my poll results were OK except for Islamic governance.I think it gave me 60% for islamic governance, and I really don’t think that is the case.

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May 31st, 2007, 3:42 pm

 

21. Observer said:

I am not sure any of these surveys have any meaning let alone any connection to the reality on the ground. The syrians that have access to the internet are a limited number. The vast majority of the people would not express their views freely. The expatriates have a vision of Syria that is not based in reality. As for the Hariri tribunal, another milestone on the mountains delivering mice. Once again the groups and individuals invloved in the lebanese feuds fall into three categories: the stupid, the traitors, and the stupid traitors.

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May 31st, 2007, 5:57 pm

 

22. EHSANI2 said:

The 5 countries who decided not to vote with the majority have now been mentioned repeatedly enough. For the record, the 10 countries that voted for the tribunal are:

USA, UK, France, Italy, Belgium, Slovakia, Peru, Panama, Congo and Ghana

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May 31st, 2007, 6:00 pm

 

23. Atassi said:

Ehsani,
As we read the lis of 10 countries that voted for the tribunal. We should realize and feel the flavor of a European resolution. this means, it will be much harder for the parties involved to avoid any requests by the courts and any future hints of a none compliance points in the directions of future sanctions by the EU!! Not a good picture.I am going to start calling it the “Libyan role”..

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May 31st, 2007, 6:18 pm

 

24. Ford Prefect said:

Ehsani,
Of the 10 countries who voted for this globally-critical resolution to preserve world peace (or is it piece?), Congo and Ghana are of course the most important. While their delegates were debating establishing a court system that will drive a permanent wedge between the Lebanese and will further distance them from one another, 16,000 children have died of hunger in Africa on that day, May 30, 2007. That is not to count those who died of preventable diseases.

I guess dead children don’t count because they never opposed “certain” moderate policies.

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May 31st, 2007, 6:47 pm

 

25. EHSANI2 said:

Atassi,

Since you thought that the EU’s participation is important, it is worth noting what Germany has to say also:

BERLIN (AP)–Germany, in its role as European Union president, Thursday
welcomed as an “important signal” the U.N. Security Council’s decision to
establish a tribunal to prosecute the killers of former Lebanese prime minister
Rafik Hariri.
In a statement on the 27-nation E.U.’s behalf, Germany called on “all states
and the parties in Lebanon to help ensure that the tribunal is established
quickly and to cooperate fully with the tribunal.”
“This U.N. Security Council resolution sends out an important signal from the
international community that politically motivated attacks and killings in
Lebanon must not go unpunished,” it said.
A suicide truck bomb in Beirut killed Hariri and 22 others in February, 2005.
A U.N. investigator has said the complexity of the assassination suggested
Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services played a role.
The issue of the tribunal has polarized Lebanon, feeding a deep political
crisis between the Western-backed government and the Syrian-backed opposition.
The U.N. resolution passed Wednesday gives the Lebanese parliament a last
chance to establish the tribunal itself. If it does not act by June 10, the
U.N. decision will automatically “enter into force.”

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May 31st, 2007, 6:51 pm

 

26. George Ajjan said:

Observer,

Again, I or anyone else would be a self-deluding fool to think that an internet survey could accurately measure grassroots Syrian public opinion. But at least it is a start and something quantitative, not to mention thought-provoking for those who take the syriapol survey honestly and carefully.

The alternative is pure spin from the regime and its opponents.

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May 31st, 2007, 7:05 pm

 

27. Atassi said:

FP,
16,000 children have died of hunger in Africa is an awful fact and must be addressed at the highest level; the world body and African representatives should allocate more time and resources to eradicate poverty and diseases out of Africa. But please keep in mind; yesterday session at the SC was for the establishment of the tribunal to prosecute the killers not to address the hunger in Africa.

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May 31st, 2007, 7:24 pm

 

28. ausamaa said:

OBSERVER, maybe you are right, but something is better than nothing. As a start, its great. By the way if someone wants to make money big time, they should start a Polling business in the Arab World. They have to do it in a smart way though, like starting the excercise as a “commercially oriented” (like which you like more Coke or Pepsi, Where do you shop for food.. you know stuff like that, then expand it a bit by bit. Lots of money to be made there, seriously. Across the whole area.

BTW A small correction to your remark, you will be surprised to know how many Syrians use the internet, but as far as run-of-the-mill-people are concerned, I would think that the English bit may be keeping them away from actively digging the non-arabic sites. Again, this is a guess only!

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May 31st, 2007, 7:32 pm

 

29. majedkhaldoun said:

As if Iraq did not have enough, Turkey now, is seriously thinking to punish Masood AlBarazani.
“الجيش التركي مستعد لتخطي الحدود نحو شمال العراق” BBC said

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May 31st, 2007, 8:36 pm

 

30. Ford Prefect said:

Atassi,
Is the international court set up really to prosecute the killers of Hariri or is it to humilate (capitulate?) regimes for their “non-moderate” policies towards this US administration and Israel’s Likud?

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May 31st, 2007, 8:42 pm

 

31. bilal said:

We all remember when then Minister of foreign affairs Farouk Sharaa said that 1559 resolution is ridiculous and Syria is not involved. Then few months later Syria had to fully obey it and adhere with it. We see the same scenario again with 1757.
As I said yesterday when a dictatorial regime is ideologically bankrupt, economically corrupt and politically unpopular as is the Assad regime it is only a question of times before it collapses. We actually see signs of collapse with these actions and with the shameful statement of the Syrian Ambassador to the UN yesterday.

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May 31st, 2007, 8:52 pm

 

32. Atassi said:

I would hope, It’s set-up to prosecute suspected outlawed institutions and individuals whom conceded to themselves of being untouchables and above the reach of the local and regional law.
I would speculate that any regimes, institutions and individuals involved, already very worried!!!

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May 31st, 2007, 9:39 pm

 

33. Honest Patriot said:

Professor Landis,

Why silent about the vote on the international tribunal? I understand the difficulty of your current geographic location and family relations, but are you able to, directly or indirectly, comment on Mr. Saad Hariri’s CNN interview in which he said that the strongest evidence of Syria’s involvement in Lebanon’s assassinations and recent trouble is indeed their very opposition to the tribunal? If they are truly innocent, what do they have to hide? Lebanon is made up of 4 million citizens in the country, but also of 16 million expatriates who uphold a higher ethics than the murderous, clan-based, ways of some of the middle east. We applaud you as a voice of reason and intelligence having taken not only interest but also family connections in the regions. Please put on back your genuine insight and common sense hat. Expose the horror of secret schemes in Syria.

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May 31st, 2007, 9:39 pm

 

34. bilal said:

I join Honest Patriot in his request. Why is Syria so afraid of the intl. tribunal?

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May 31st, 2007, 9:47 pm

 

35. trustquest said:

Idaf
“Would it comfort you or make you feel better if someone close to you was killed in violence in Lebanon or Syria if you were told that it is the Syrian regime’s fault?!”
No,
And do not forget I’m not advocating anything here and I’m not on the Security Council neither any Syrian is, I’m just an observer who is witnessing a mess made up by people who do not believe in transparency, they only believe in their own voice. I’m just trying show them there are other voices they should consult with, their civil intelligent people. I wonder if you have an opinion other than their opinion, because keep listening to oneself is not healthy.

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June 1st, 2007, 12:09 am

 

36. Ford Prefect said:

Bilal, I tell you why Syria is afraid of the international tribunal. Because of the very reason it was established and called for in the first place: destabilize Syria and turn it into another Iraq where sects are fighting each other and the Middle East is forever rearranged in favor of Israel. Or so the planners at the American Enterprise Institute thought. So far, their plans have failed, crashed, and fizzled miserably.

Who killed Hariri and the integrity of Lebanon is irrelevant. No one in this Administration or at Likud shed a tear for the murder of Hariri.

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June 1st, 2007, 12:24 am

 

37. ausamaa said:

BILAL,

Syria said that it was not concerned with the Tribunal!! And the US passage of the Tribunal is questionable and has many flaws and irregularities (international & Constitutional Lebanese) that no one should be afraid of it. A pain in the as perhaps, a pressure point as it is intended, but nothing more. Practically and leagally. Let them first finish this investigation and then issue the indictments and the findings, and then select the judges, establish the court, start the proceedings, and we will see. Al Haeieeea’a is nice to know after all. If it can ever be reached. I for one am relieved that this fiasco is finally over. Let us see what “new” things they can come up with now (I mean the Feb14, Supporters & Co.) since this card is “used” allready.

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June 1st, 2007, 2:15 am

 

38. ausamaa said:

Honest Patriot

Josh, “….Please put on back your genuine insight and common sense hat. Expose the horror of secret schemes in Syria.”

You may wanna tell Josh what to have for Breakfast on Saturday as well.

If you “know” what you want Josh “to say” why even bother? It is nicer to have a Second opinion from Josh. But does it have to be similar to the First opinion, or are you having doubts about this and want to be re-asuured by Josh?

Hazzullat!!!!!

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June 1st, 2007, 2:22 am

 

39. bilal said:

To Ford Perfect,
First, Syria is not afraid of the Tribunal. Bashar & company are. Second, the reason you gave about turning Syria into an Iraq is exactly what the regime is brainwashing Syrians so they would stand with the regime against the tribunal. A good majority of Syrians are not buying it and they know that Bashar is a criminal and do not mind prosecuting him. Who would defend a corrupt murderer? Syria definitely deserve better.
Then it is not who killed Hariri but who think he has the right to kill & conduct any policy and get way with it? Maybe in the past it was possible but today Syria has lost a lot of cards that cannot afford to do it anymore but Bashar is so inexperienced that he is not realizing this simple fact. That is why he is getting deeper & deeper in …..and still he does not realize where he has put himself.

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June 1st, 2007, 3:00 am

 

40. bilal said:

To Ausamaa,

It is not the US passage but the: US, France, UK, Italy, Germany, Belgium, and a lot of other Arab & world countries. Trust me if the investigation did not have enough evidence against Bashar & Co. the UNSC would not have done all of that in order to establish the tribunal. Remember that Jamil Alssayed who was the most powerful man in Lebanon is still behind bars for more than a year now. If there were not enough evidence do you think they can afford to keep him? Read all previous reports by Mehlis & Brammertz. Read between the lines. It clearly points the finger to Bashar & Co. in many points. There is no doubt they have all the evidence they need especially when Brammertz in his last report pleaded for the establishment of the tribunal ASAP. We are almost there and we have crossed the half way mark and the Al Haeieeea’a is at eye sight.

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June 1st, 2007, 3:11 am

 

41. Enlightened said:

George Ajaan:

Thanks for your response: the key I think is still to gauge Syrians residing in Syria, this is the key and crtical to know what the population wants and feels.

I admire the work that you are doing, it is progressive it is only through research and dialogue we can move forward. You will always get the KNOCKERS who disparage your work no matter what it is.

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June 1st, 2007, 3:12 am

 

42. SimoHurtta said:

Mr. Saad Hariri’s CNN interview in which he said that the strongest evidence of Syria’s involvement in Lebanon’s assassinations and recent trouble is indeed their very opposition to the tribunal? If they are truly innocent, what do they have to hide?

The tribunal has been advocated by USA which is fiercely against her citizens to be trialed in international courts. USA has taken big steps in undermining the international courts and making bilateral agreements with several countries (Micronesia, Romania, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, East Timor, the Marshall Islands, Afghanistan, Honduras, Uzbekistan, Mauritania, Dominican Republic, Palau, Tajikistan etc excellent archetype democracies) which guaranty impunity for United States (US) nationals who have been accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, including crimes committed on the territory of other states.

The valid question is what has USA to hide and for what is it afraid. USA advocating international tribunals for others (naturally) is mildly said hypocritical.

The Hariri case tribunal should be a future international standard for equal events, otherwise it is only a political crusade against a “suitable” target which has very little to do with justice. Next time Israel assassinates an Arab politician let UN put up a tribunal to check Israel’s evidence about the claimed “terrorism links”. The “tribunal justice” must equal to all.

On the other hand now when the tribunal is almost established it could enlarge its mandate also to inspect the events in Sabra and Shatila massacres. It would save costs and would also serve justice for Lebanese and Palestinians. The sad thing is that USA, Israel and portions of the March 14 movement are most certainly not wanting to find out the truth in that event.

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June 1st, 2007, 6:10 am

 

43. why-discuss said:

what a victory! a bitter victory for the 14 march group. They keep claiming that it is a victory for all, come on.. when this tribunal is put down the throat of 30 to 40% of the lebanese, how can it be a victory for all!! And now they expect that the opposition will come and sit with them , smiling, come on , Hariri wake up!

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June 1st, 2007, 8:02 am

 

44. t_desco said:

“It is said Fatah al-Islam is linked to Syria.

To Syrian intelligence. This is exactly what I have heard from the interrogators [of 20 arrested suspects]. That there are some connections with some Syrian intelligence. Now whether these Syrian intelligence [operatives] are working on their own, or guided by higher superiors, I don’t know. We’ll have to find out.

What was the connection?

In the way they were assembled, the way they came, the way they got their ammunition and arms, in the way they were discussing and developing their plans and so on. I’m not talking about a telephone call. I prefer not to get into more specifics than that.”

Lebanon’s Prime Minister: Syria is Threatening my Country
TIME

Muhammad Khalil al-Hakaymah Urges Muslims to Support Fatah al-Islam

Muhammad Khalil al-Hakaymah AKA Abu Jihad al-Masri, a prominent member of a faction of al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya in Egypt which aligned with al-Qaeda, issued a statement through al-Fajr Information Center and dated Sunday, May 27, 2007, urging Muslims to support the Fatah al-Islam Movement in northern Lebanon. Fatah al-Islam, a jihadist group based in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in this area has been under attack for the past week by the Lebanese army. …

Further, Hakaymah assures that the group seeks only the benefit of Muslims and “liberating” Palestine, and reports and rumors in the media that state otherwise are mere lies intended to deter Muslims from supporting Fatah al-Islam.
SITE Institute

“Saudi propaganda sheet, Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat admits that there are “tens” of Saudi members in Fath-Al-Islam members. Of course, the Lebanese state will not dare to put them on trial. They will be promptly delivered to the Saudi State … .”
As’ad AbuKhalil

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June 1st, 2007, 8:53 am

 

45. George Ajjan said:

Enlightened,

Thanks again.

I agree, the key is not expats but Syrians inside Syria (even though internet users do not represent the overall population, but something is better than nothing). So far expats account for over 75% of the responses, which is why I didn’t publish any hard numbers yet.

This press release marks the beginning of a push to get more coverage in the Arabic media and websites. If anyone wishes to help push the site on bulletin boards, news sites, etc. that are frequented by Syrians, please let me know – george@ajjan.com.

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June 1st, 2007, 9:20 am

 

46. EHSANI2 said:

http://www.annahar.com/content.php?priority=10&table=mahaly&type=mahaly&day=Fri

Also, from one of the favorites here:

Syria’s Useful Idiots
By MICHAEL YOUNG
June 1, 2007; Page A13

BEIRUT, Lebanon — On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council voted to
set up a tribunal that will try suspects in the February 2005 murder of former
Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Syria is the leading suspect in the case,
so the establishment of the tribunal serves as a step toward creating a stable
Lebanon. It also poses a clarifying question to the United States: What will
engaging Syria mean for building a liberal future for Lebanon?

At the moment, it is clear that Syria hasn’t stopped meddling in Lebanon’s
internal affairs. The Security Council only created its tribunal after efforts
to establish a similar tribunal within Lebanon were stymied by Syrian allies.
Indeed, to understand what is at stake in the Lebanese crisis today, flip
through the report released last April by the U.N. commission investigating the
Hariri assassination.

The commission, led by Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz, now assumes that
Hariri’s assassination was tied to his political activities, particularly his
preparations for the summer 2005 legislative elections. This sets up a key
passage in the report: “[A] working hypothesis is that the initial decision to
kill Hariri was taken before the later attempts at rapprochement got underway
and most likely before early January 2005. This leads to a possible situation in
the last weeks before his murder in which two tracks, not necessarily linked,
were running in parallel. On one track, Hariri was engaged in rapprochement
initiatives and on the other, preparations for his assassination were underway.”

Lebanese citizens celebrate Wednesday’s establishment of a U.N. tribunal for the
Rafiq Hariri murder.
For anyone who followed Lebanese politics at the time, this deceptively anodyne
passage says a lot. Hariri was hoping to score a victory against Syria and its
Lebanese allies during the elections, after Syria had extended the mandate of
his bitter rival, President Emile Lahoud. The Syrians felt that such a victory
would jeopardize their position in Lebanon and, although there was mediation to
patch up Hariri’s differences with the Syrians, the plot to eliminate him
continued. It is plain from Mr. Brammertz’s phrasing that those who were
planning the former prime minister’s elimination are the same ones with whom the
intermediaries were trying to reconcile him.

Mr. Brammertz is building a case that, from the information provided to date,
can only point the finger at Syria and its Lebanese supplicants. The Hariri
tribunal, now that it has been formally established, poses an existential threat
to the Syrian regime, and it is in Lebanon that the Syrians have and will
continue to hit back to save themselves.

The outbreak of violence in northern Lebanon between the Lebanese army and a
group calling itself Fatah al-Islam is the latest stage in such an endeavor. In
a BBC interview last week, Prime Minister Fuad Siniora openly linked Fatah
al-Islam to Syrian intelligence. The group has claimed to be an al Qaeda
affiliate, but observers in Lebanon, including Palestinian sources usually
critical of the Siniora government, qualify this, saying that Fatah al-Islam is
acting on Syria’s behalf. The daily Al-Hayat has reported that the group’s
weapons come from caches belonging to Palestinian organizations under Syrian
control, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General
Command and Fatah al-Intifada, from which Fatah al-Islam allegedly broke off.

Meanwhile, a more subtle battle is taking place over interpretation of what is
happening in Lebanon. This is especially important because there are those in
Washington who still insist that something can be gained from dealing with
Syria. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi thought so in April when she visited Damascus,
did the Gertrude Bell tour of the Hamadiyyeh souq, and capped it all with a
visit to President Bashar Assad, all for precisely nothing in return.

The Iraq Study Group also thought Syria could be a useful partner in Iraq, even
as all the signs suggest that Damascus has little real influence there and is
sowing dissension to compensate. That’s why understanding what is going on in
Lebanon is vital for a sense of what can be gained from Syria elsewhere. Yet
something is amiss when the most obvious truths are those the pundits won’t
consider.

For example, what did the former CIA agent Robert Baer mean in Time magazine,
when he wrote that the Lebanese government should “know better” than to believe
that Fatah al-Islam is a Syrian creation, because “at the end of the day Fatah
Islam is the Syrian regime’s mortal enemy”? Mr. Baer’s point was that a Lebanese
civil war might undermine Syrian stability, but also that Sunni Islamists
oppose the minority Alawite Syrian regime. He reminded us that “the Syrian
Muslim Brotherhood used northern Lebanon as a rear base to seize the Syrian city
of Hama in 1982.”

It is Mr. Baer who should know better. Syria has fueled a sectarian war in
neighboring Iraq by funneling Sunni al Qaeda fighters into the country, without
worrying about what this might mean for its own stability. Syria’s
vulnerabilities have not prevented it from hosting Khaled Meshaal, the leader of
Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. And Syria’s anxieties
notwithstanding, throughout its years in Lebanon it developed ties with many
Sunni Islamist groups and recently welcomed to Damascus a prominent Lebanese
Islamist it has co-opted, Fathi Yakan.

The point is that Syria will have no qualms about provoking sectarian discord in
Lebanon to ward away the menace of the Hariri tribunal.

And what are we to make of the journalist Seymour Hersh, now considered an
authority on Lebanese Sunni Islamist groups on the basis of a flawed article he
wrote for the New Yorker last March? In that article, and in a recent CNN
interview, he indirectly suggested that Fatah al-Islam had received weapons not
from Syria but from the Siniora government.

The only source Mr. Hersh cited in his article for the Fatah al-Islam story was
Alistair Crooke, a former MI6 agent who co-directs Conflicts Forum, an
institution advocating dialogue with Islamist movements. Mr. Crooke did not have
direct knowledge of what he was claiming, as he “was told” that weapons and
money were offered to the group, “presumably to take on Hezbollah.”

Mr. Hersh is wading into very muddy waters with very simple ideas. The
relationship of the Lebanese government and the Hariri camp with Sunni Islamists
is byzantine, but there is no evidence to date that the government or the
Hariris had any strategy to use al Qaeda against Hezbollah. In fact most
Lebanese Sunni Islamists are not linked to al Qaeda. And Mr. Hersh has provided
no proof that Fatah al-Islam received government assistance. Still, the Syrian
regime’s media has repeatedly used Mr. Hersh’s charges to discredit the Lebanese
government.

Then there are those with little patience for Lebanese independence. Arguing
that Syria is worth more to the U.S. than Lebanon, they advocate Washington’s
ceding Lebanon to Syria as a price for constructive dialogue. For example, Flynt
Leverett, a former National Security Council staffer now at the New America
Foundation, recently told National Public Radio, where he appears regularly,
that the Bush administration had “romanticized” the 2005 “Cedar Revolution.”
This was his way of implying that the latter was worth discarding. For Mr.
Leverett and others, a Lebanon free of Syria is inherently unstable, even as
they disregard Syrian responsibility for that instability.

In a March 2005 op-ed in the New York Times, as Lebanese took to the streets
demanding a Syrian pullout, Mr. Leverett urged the U.S. to abandon efforts to
establish a “pro-Western government” in Beirut. Instead, he proposed that “the
most promising (if gradual) course for promoting reform in Syria is to engage
and empower [President] Assad, not to isolate and overthrow him.”

This makes for restorative reading today, as Mr. Assad’s regime pursues its
destabilization of Lebanon, Iraq and Palestinian areas, ignores domestic reform
and continues to detain thousands of political opponents in its prisons.

There is nothing wrong with keeping an open mind on Syria. However, an “open
mind” can be shorthand for blindness or bad faith. Given the evidence, it makes
no sense to dismiss Syrian involvement in the Lebanese crisis, or to blame the
crisis on an al Qaeda affiliate allegedly financed by the Lebanese government.
Nor does it make sense to assume that Lebanon is a burden that the U.S. should
jettison in favor of a stabilizing Syria, considering the fact that al Qaeda
materialized from across the Syrian border. We’re asked to believe that a group,
said to be financed by the Siniora government, picked a fight with that very
government, and somehow innocently did so just as the U.N. prepared to establish
a tribunal the Syrians fear.

When Syria is systematically exporting instability throughout the region, you
have to wonder whether its regime can be a credible partner to the U.S.

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June 1st, 2007, 4:33 pm

 

47. t_desco said:

Some confusion:

According to Al-Hayat, the person arrested in a hotel in Ashrafiyeh is a Lebanese citizen, “Ahmad M.”.

Naharnet, quoting “reliable source”, had reported that the man is “a national of an oil-rich Arab country” who used “two forged Lebanese identity cards, one identified him as Hagop and the second identified him as Ahmed Merie”.

The same “Lebanese security source” is quoted by DPA confirming “that the arrested man is a Saudi national”.

In contrast, As-Safir had also reported the arrest of a Lebanese citizen.

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June 1st, 2007, 8:31 pm

 

48. G said:

They’re not talking about the same person. You misread it.

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June 1st, 2007, 9:25 pm

 

49. majedkhaldoun said:

the tribunal would be the talk of everyone,in Syria, and outside
Boomerang” wa ala albaghi tadoor el dawa-er”.

the difference between Bashar and Hafez,is not their atribute,AND PERSONALITY, BUT RATHER THE INTERNATIONAL ENVIROMENT.

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June 1st, 2007, 10:57 pm

 

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