Israel’s “Attempted Attack” Against Syria – the latest

I have tried to collect the latest views on the Israeli operation into Syria:

Yoav Stern in Haaretz

Syrian parliament member Muhammad Habash, who often expresses a hardline stance about Israel under the direction of the Syrian regime, said Sunday that the Israeli operation in Syria failed.

"What happened was an attempted attack, but it definitely failed and that is what led to the contradictions in Israeli declarations," he said.

Habash said that if Israel had succeeded, it would have rushed to announce the operation to the world, as Israel did immediately after bombing an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981.

IAF planes dropped live ammunition on Syria during flyover by Barak Ravid and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents, and the Associated Press

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Monday that Israel Air Force warplanes dropped live ammunition during an alleged violation of Syrian airspace in the early hours of Thursday.

Muallem, who was addressing a press conference in Ankara along with his Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan, was quoted Monday as accusing Israel of having carried out an intentional and hostile act.

Meanwhile, former MK Azmi Bishara said Monday he believes Israel carried out an operation in Syira. "Without getting carried away in speculation, this was an aerial operation, not an [airspace] violation in order to send a message," he wrote in an article published on the Syrian Web site Sham-Press.

Bishara wrote that the operation was extremely serious, and that it could become a pretext for certain Lebanese or Syrian officials to go to war.

The Balad chairman added that that Israel's silence on the issue is unusual. "Israel has wrapped itself in silence and imposed this path on even the most talkative politicians, as the quiet after the storm could become the quiet before the storm," he wrote.

Bishara listed several potential targets for the operation: arms smuggling, anti-aircraft systems, or missile systems. Alternatively, Bishara wrote, Israel may have been testing Syrian air defenses in order to map out a route for an air strike on Iran.

Why Did Israeli Planes Enter Syria? Time Magazine concentrates on the Iran bombing exercise hypothesis.

Al-Muallem informs European ambassadors of details of Israeli operation," by Ibrahim Hamidi, al-Hayat, Sept. 10, 2007. (Translation thanks to mideastwire.com)

Ibrahim Humaydi of Al Hayat, an independent Saudi owned newspaper, wrote on September 10: “The Syrian foreign minister Walid Al-Muallem revealed yesterday that the Israeli violation of Syrian airspace last Thursday came hours after the foreign affairs commissioner in the European Union Javier Solana told him that the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will start decreasing the number of troops deployed in the occupied Golan Heights because of the tension between the two countries. Western diplomatic sources announced to Al Hayat that Al-Muallem informed the ambassadors in Damascus of the details of the Israeli “aggression” and the path followed by the aircraft and showed them pictures of the ammunition that they dropped in the north eastern part of the country.

“Al-Muallem also told the ambassadors in his meeting with them before his visit to Turkey that Solana informed him in a “quick meeting” on the margins of the Arab ministerial conference held in Cairo last Wednesday that Olmert will start decreasing the number of troops and will withdraw all the troops deployed following the recent escalation last summer “while the Israelis were preparing all along for the aerial violations mere hours later”. It was learned that Al-Muallem called Solana last Thursday and informed him of the details of the Israeli information and that what happened contradicts what Olmert told him and what Israel is announcing about its desire for peace. Diplomatic sources announced to Al Hayat that Solana promises to call Damascus back.

Also see this general article that George Ajjan has a contribution to the British "Quarterly Review" opposite a neocon piece by Jillian Becker.  Have a look here.

Comments (17)


1. norman said:

Syria fumes as the rest of the Arab world stays silent

By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent

There is a joke in Damascus about a bus that carries passengers to distant parts of the country. In every town where the bus stops, the driver announces its name and opens the door to let passengers on or off. Between two villages, he stops and cries out: “Secret missile base.” At that point, two soldiers disembark.

Public opinion in Syria, and in the Arab world in general, is demanding detailed explanations. It is hard to gauge Syrian public opinion from a distance, but the Internet exposes some of what Syrian citizens are feeling.

“For 60 years, we have heard the slogan that a war will not be imposed on us at a time and place that is not suitable for us,” an Arab Internet surfer wrote last week, echoing analysts’ statements. On the web site of the official daily Al-Thawra, another wrote: “Would not the best timing and the most appropriate response be to shoot down one of the attacking aircraft?”

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Meanwhile, official Damascus is slowly preparing for a diplomatic offensive. Senior Syrian officials are counting their friends. The official Syrian news agency SANA is collating every condemnation: political parties from Yemen, individuals from Lebanon, the Arab League, some lukewarm statements from Egypt, Qatar and Turkey.

On Sunday, Libya joined in, with a Foreign Ministry source calling for a unified Arab stance – which seems to be more distant than ever. There is considerable frustration in Damascus that key Arab countries have not bothered to denounce Israel and express their support for Syria.

The editor-in-chief of the daily Tishrin, Isam Dari, reflected this frustration. In an editorial on Saturday, he wrote that what is disheartening is not what the enemy is doing, but the response of Syria’s Arab brothers. “They remain silent in face of Israeli piracy, as if this had happened on Mars or Jupiter,” he said.

The fact that countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf states and the Maghreb states have not expressed their support for Syria reflects its isolation in the Arab world. These countries, often termed “moderate,” have major differences with Syria – not only about Lebanon, but also about its strategic decisions, particularly its alliance with Iran, which they consider a threat to the Arab world in general.

Nonetheless, all the states in the region, including Israel, are still waiting for a clear Syrian response. Will it make do with a passive reaction through diplomatic channels, or will it opt for something else? Past experience suggests that Syria will avoid direct confrontation with Israel at any price.

The border between the two has been Israel’s calmest ever since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Syria’s advantage lies elsewhere: In recent years, it has put together a long list of dubious allies that serve as subcontractors for its military operations. Thus one possibility is that Syria’s response to the Israeli challenge will take a different form and come from in a different place.

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September 11th, 2007, 12:44 am

 

2. majedkhaldoun said:

I think M. Habash comment is logical, Israel failed, and I think that Syria is correct to complain that none of the arab countries condemn this aggression,specially that Turkey showed the evidence,I think most Arab know that their kings and presidents are worthless, and they really work against their people, not for them.

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September 11th, 2007, 2:53 am

 

3. Alex said:

Majed, you see why I like Turkey more than KSA?

Anyway, apparently Mouallem is going to meet the Saudi King and foreign minister in few days.

We’ll see.

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September 11th, 2007, 4:17 am

 

4. Richard Silverstein said:

I have a sense that this is a prelude to something big & bad. The Iran hypothesis holds some weight. One of Israel’s roles in the world seem to be to give bloggers like me (& the rest of the world) a big headache anticipathing where the next mischief is coming from.

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September 11th, 2007, 4:21 am

 

5. Tikun Olam-תקון עולם: Make the World a Better Place » Israel Prepares for War said:

[…] But against whom? Syria, which it attacked last Thursday dropping munitions either on a military installation or a “deserted area” depending on whom you believe; or Iran? When I noted the latter possibility yesterday, I did so with only the vaguest notion that there could be something to this hunch. But other journalists better informed than I have followed in these footsteps as Josh Landis notes at SyriaComment today. […]

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September 11th, 2007, 5:08 am

 

6. SimoHurtta said:

Syria: IAF planes fired 4 missiles at Syrian targets on the ground

Barak Ravid adds: At a joint news conference in Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni asked her Portuguese counterpart to refrain from commenting on the incident. After Minister Luis Amado, whose country currently holds the presidency of the European Union, was asked for the EU’s stance on the incident, Livni interrupted the discussion and signaled to Amado not to answer.

“I do not believe any statement by any party could help matters,” Livni explained before moving on to the next question. “I find it ponderous that you should expect me to comment on this. You already know our position on the subject.”

Interesting, Israel is now leading (also) EU and deciding what EU can say or not say.

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September 11th, 2007, 6:10 am

 

7. Akbar Palace said:

One of Israel’s roles in the world seem to be to give bloggers like me (& the rest of the world) a big headache anticipathing where the next mischief is coming from.

Dear “Richard Silverstein”,

Rest assured, “the next mischief” will never come from terrorists like Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Queda and their supporters in Tehran and Damascus.

BTW – We’ll be pausing today at work for those that fell 6 years ago.
Perhaps you “and the rest of the world” will remember…

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September 11th, 2007, 10:54 am

 

8. Akbar Palace said:

A “Blast from the Past” – The Clinton “Legacy” c. 1996:

http://www.state.gov/www/global/terrorism/960725.html

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September 11th, 2007, 11:44 am

 

9. norman said:

مصدر اعلامي ينفي ما تناقلته وسائل الاعلام عن زيارة للمعلم الى السعودية

نفى مصدر اعلامي ما تناقلته بعض وسائل الاعلام عن زيارة يقوم بها وزير الخارجية وليد المعلم اليوم الثلاثاء الى المملكة العربية السعودية.

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September 11th, 2007, 12:41 pm

 

10. norman said:

SEARCHIsraeli troops on high alert along Syrian border
The Associated PressPublished: September 11, 2007

JERUSALEM: Israel is keeping troops along the Syrian border on high alert amid allegations by Syria that Israeli aircraft entered Syrian airspace last week, military officials said Tuesday.

The officials said there have been no signs that Syria is preparing for war after the alleged incident. Nonetheless, the army will remain on high alert over throughout upcoming Rosh Hashana holiday, which begins Wednesday.

There were no immediate details on the high state of alert. But officials said the army carried out a previously scheduled military exercise in the disputed Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war, on Monday.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Syria has alleged that Israeli aircraft entered its airspace and dropped munitions last Thursday. “It was an intentional, hostile attack,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Monday during a visit to Turkey.

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Turkey has said it found fuel tanks allegedly dropped by the Israeli aircraft near its border with Syria. At a news conference Monday with al-Moallem in Ankara, Turkey’s foreign minister called the development “unacceptable.”

“All countries in the region must show respect to all countries’ sovereignty and carefully avoid acts that lead to tensions,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said . “Otherwise, tensions would be fueled and peace and stability in the region might be harmed.”

Israeli officials have remained silent about the alleged incident with archenemy Syria.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has repeatedly expressed willingness to restart peace talks with Syria, but said he doesn’t believe the country is serious about ending hostilities, citing its support for Hezbollah and Palestinian militant groups and close ties to Iran.

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September 11th, 2007, 1:11 pm

 

11. t_desco said:

A relatively quick reaction, favoring the “Korea” theory? —

DPRK slams Israel for intruding Syria’s air territory

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Tuesday lashed out at Israel for intruding Syria’s territorial air space last Thursday, the official news agency reported.

“This is a very dangerous provocation little short of wantonly violating the sovereignty of Syria and seriously harassing the regional peace and security,” a spokesman for the DPRK Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

“The DPRK strongly denounces the above-said intrusion and extends full support and solidarity to the Syrian people in their just cause to defend the national security and the regional peace,” he added. …
Xinhua

Btw, isn’t there a considerable semantic difference between “dropping live ammunition” in a “deserted area” and “firing 4 missiles at targets on the ground”…?

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September 11th, 2007, 2:18 pm

 

12. idaf said:

Syria and Israel flirt with war
By Sami Moubayed

DAMASCUS – During the Suez Crisis of 1956, Israel developed a regular habit of violating Syrian airspace to deter the Syrians from supporting the Egyptian army. The Syrians did not have radar at the time, so air force commander Wadih al-Muqabari developed a scheme whereby police stations around the country were linked by a 24-hour hotline to army headquarters in Damascus.

On spotting an Israeli warplane in Syrian skies, police personnel would phone their superiors and report its direction, elevation and
estimated speed. Army headquarters would immediately call the nearest police station to track it further, then send Syrian warplanes to bring it down or chase it away.

On one such occasion, five Syrian aircraft set out for an operation that included a young pilot, future president Hafez al-Assad. They were prevented from bringing down the Israeli plane, although Assad had it in shooting range, because it was flying over Turkish territory. The same plane violated Syrian airspace later in the day. Another five-plane team set out, and the Israeli jet was downed on the Lebanese border by an officer named Louis Dakar. The pilot ejected, and the co-pilot was killed. When interrogated by the Lebanese, the Israeli pilot said there was a 1% chance of his plane being downed by the Syrians. The fact that they had succeeded meant that the Syrian army was “dangerous” for Israel.

That was 51 years ago.
..
..
Finally, the Israelis are thinking twice about what it means to go to war with Syria. Although sometimes warfare with traditional bulky armies can be easier than with guerrilla groups like Hezbollah, the Syrian army is not an easy one to tackle. It has strong defenses, and a well-built missile system – not just Katyusha rockets – that could cause real pain within Israel.

Officials within the Israeli system say Syria will regret its actions if it goes to war against Israel. The Syrians are saying it is Israel that will suffer from war with Damascus. They seem confident that the myth of the IDF’s superiority was shattered by its poor performance against Hezbollah in 2006.

Although they may not win a war with Israel, the Syrians could certainly make Israel suffer. One thing is certain from all the talk coming out of Damascus: the Syrians do not want war.

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September 11th, 2007, 2:54 pm

 

13. Kamal said:

> the Syrians do not want war.

They will ‘respond’ through Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq – as usual.

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September 11th, 2007, 4:12 pm

 

14. tigermarks said:

I listened to your radio discussion on Sept10. I support your view that the US should definitely talk to Syria. However, I find it hard to understand your urge to defend Syria when you defend this view. Saying that the US needs to speak to Syria and give them a chance to make a deal with them does not mean one supports Syria’s policies. Nor should it mean that we have to insist that Syria did not partake of terrorist activities in Lebanon or anywhere else.

Permit me to say that this was clearly your weakness in teh discussion. In short, you should be focusing on why US policy should keep an open ear to Syria’s strategic needs without having to whitewash any of Syria’s activities.

Curiously, the discussion made me think of a reason why Israel is not eager to give Syria back the Golan Heights. Once they have it they will use it as leverage again to gain additional power in the region. Syria has not shown anyone that they are party that can be trusted and that they are not going to continue seeking to extort additional power.

Keep the debate alive.

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September 11th, 2007, 4:29 pm

 

15. norman said:

Sources confirm Israeli airstrike on SyriaStory Highlights
Israeli airstrike last week may have targeted weapons stores, sources tell CNN

Operation may also have involved ground forces, U.S. and regional sources say

Syria says Israeli bombs were dropped on its territory

Israel Defense Forces has made no comment

Next Article in World »

From Christiane Amanpour
CNN Chief International Correspondent

(CNN) — Israeli aircraft carried out an airstrike inside Syria last week, possibly targeting weapons that were destined for Hezbollah militants, according to sources in the region and in the United States.

Israeli soldiers deployed in the Golan Heights look toward Syria on September 7.

1 of 2 Syria reported that its aircraft fired on Israeli “enemy aircraft” that flew into northern Syria early Thursday. The Israel Defense Forces had no comment on the report, and have refused to comment further on the new revelations.

But the sources told CNN the military operation, which happened Wednesday into Thursday, may have also involved Israeli ground forces who directed the airstrike which “left a big hole in the desert” in Syria.

The strike may have targeted Hezbollah weapons coming into Syria or transiting through the country from Iran — a pattern over the past three or four years which has occurred without any retaliation or action taken against it — the sources said.

The Israeli government is very happy with the success of the operation, the sources said.

Sources in the U.S. government and military confirmed to CNN’s Barbara Starr that the airstrike did happen, and that they are happy to have Israel carry the message to both Syria and Iran that they can get in and out and strike when necessary.

Right now, diplomats are rushing around the region trying to ensure the incident does not escalate.

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Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem and other Syrian officials have been putting out their version of events. The Syrian government said Israeli bombs were dropped on its territory and fuel tanks from Israeli jets were dropped on the Turkish side of the border.

Al-Moualem was in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Monday protesting this action and trying to get Turkey to support its desire to take Israel to the United Nations Security Council for the airstrike.

Israel fought a war with Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon last year after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers who are still being held. E-mail to a friend

All About Syria • Israel

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September 11th, 2007, 4:32 pm

 

16. Majhool said:

Dear Mr. President,

Friends of Syria — and I count myself among them — have been puzzled and saddened by the lengthy jail sentences passed on Syrian political prisoners, human rights activists, and prisoners of conscience. These harsh punishments have attracted worldwide attention and done your country’s reputation great harm.

With the greatest respect, I urge you to review these cases and to grant an early amnesty to the prisoners.

Anwar al-Bunni is Syria’s leading defender of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. In March 2006, with funding and encouragement from the European Union, he created a Syrian human rights centre. Your security services closed it down almost immediately.

On 17 May 2006, Bunni was arrested and detained with common criminals at ‘Adra prison near Damascus where, according to Amnesty International, he suffered beatings and degrading treatment. He was not allowed to meet privately with his lawyers. I understand that he has written to you drawing your attention to the fact that some six thousand prisoners in ‘Adra are routinely subjected to beatings, insults and terror, and prevented from leaving their cells, watching TV, or listening to the radio. He has asked you to investigate prison conditions. I very much hope you will respond positively to this request.

On 31 December, Bunni was assaulted by a criminal detainee who pushed him down some stairs and then beat him on the head in the presence of prison guards, who failed to intervene. On 25 January 2007, he was severely beaten by prison guards who made him crawl on all fours and forcibly shaved his head. I feel sure that you are aware that he is a prisoner of conscience detained solely for the expression of non-violent ideas.

On 24 April, he was sentenced by the Damascus Criminal Court to five years’ imprisonment on the charge of “spreading false information harmful to the state” (Article 286 of the Penal Code). Foreign diplomats present in court were disturbed by this harsh sentence and considered the trial unfair. Such political trials before Syria’s Criminal, Military and State Security Courts have come under severe international criticism for the blatant influence of the security services on the proceedings.

I would suggest that prisoners like Anwar al-Bunni, a respected lawyer, are more damaging to you inside prison than at liberty.

According to Amnesty International, his ‘crime’ was to have raised the case of the death in custody of 26-year-old Muhammad Shaher Haysa, as a result of inhumane treatment, possibly amounting to torture. When Haysa’s body was returned to his family, it was said to have shown signs of torture. Amnesty says that torture and ill treatment are still widespread in Syrian prisons and that there has been no independent investigation into any of the cases of torture and suspicious deaths reported over the years.

I feel sure you will agree that it is of the utmost importance that Syrian prison guards comply strictly with the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment — to which Syria is a party.

Other recent cases are those of the prominent writer and journalist Michel Kilo and the English language teacher Mahmoud ‘Issa who, after long months of detention at ‘Adra, were each given three-year prison sentences on 4 May by the Damascus Criminal Court.

They were charged with “weakening nationalist sentiments” (Article 285 of the Penal Code), with “inciting sectarian strife” (Article 307), and with “publishing a political article or giving a political speech with the aim of making propaganda for a political party, society or a banned political association” (Article 150 of the Code of Military Procedures.). ‘Issa was also charged with “exposing Syria to hostile acts” (Article 278 of the Penal Code).

Their ‘crime’ was involvement in the so-called Beirut-Damascus Declaration, a petition, signed by some 300 Syrians and Lebanese and released on 12 May 2006, which called for the normalization of relations between Syria and Lebanon by exchanging ambassadors and defining their common border.

Another opposition figure, Kamal Labwani, founder of the Democratic Liberal Gathering, has suffered an even worse fate. He was arrested at Damascus airport in 2005 on his return from the United States, where he had attended a conference and met White House officials. This month he was given a shocking sentence of 12 years in jail on a charge of contacting a foreign country and “encouraging attack against Syria.”

Syria is, of course, not the only, or even the worst, abuser of human rights in the Middle East. Prison conditions in Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab countries are also said to be appalling. The United States set a terrible example by its torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and by its policy of extraordinary rendition — that is to say sending prisoners for interrogation to countries notorious for torture.

Israel, in turn, has regularly been accused of torturing some of the 10,000 Palestinian prisoners it is holding. One notorious Israeli method is to shake the prisoner, sometimes to death. A report by two Israeli human rights organizations published on 6 May revealed that many Palestinians were deprived of sleep, beaten severely, handcuffed until their wrists bled and bound in painful positions in order to break their spirit before interrogation.

Most experts agree that torture is almost always counter-productive. Information extracted under torture is seldom reliable. It creates hate and an unquenchable thirst for revenge.

In Syria, far from contributing to social peace, the ill-treatment of prisoners tends to sharpen hostility between communities and sects. Far from protecting Syria against foreign enemies, it provides them with a pretext for hostile propaganda and attack.

The punitive sentences of prisoners of conscience and other abuses of human rights are damaging to Syria’s foreign policy goals. I believe one of your primary goals is to win the recognition and respect of the international community, so as to strengthen Syria’s hand in negotiations, to attract foreign direct investment, to welcome tourists in ever greater numbers to Syria’s unique sites and to promote economic and social development in general.

Another important goal is to recover the Golan Heights by means of a comprehensive Arab peace settlement with Israel. A third goal is to secure ratification by all 27 EU members of the association agreement with the European Union, which has still not been put into effect.

A fourth crucial goal must surely be to put Syria’s relations with Lebanon on a healthy basis after the strains and quarrels of recent years. The two countries are cut from the same flesh. They are essential to each other. There can be no question of a permanent divorce.

Syria has certain vital interests in Lebanon: It cannot tolerate a hostile government in Beirut or the dominant influence there of a hostile foreign power, as this would be a threat to its national security. Lebanon, in turn, wants Syrian recognition of its independence and sovereignty. Surely a deal can be struck on this basis that would satisfy both parties.

Syria has come under great pressure from the United States ever since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. There was also a dangerous moment last summer when Israel seemed about to extend to Syria its aggression against Lebanon. The hostility of France was a further worrying factor.

These pressures now seem to be easing. The world is beginning to recognize the crucial role Syria could play in resolving some of the region’s conflicts, once its own interests are addressed.

Is this not the moment, Mr. President, to show the world a humane and generous face, and win international support, by turning your attention to the plight of prisoners of conscience, unfairly and cruelly punished by your courts?

Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and the author of The Struggle for Syria; also, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East; and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire.

Copyright © 2007 Patrick Seale

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September 11th, 2007, 4:32 pm

 

17. Nur al-Cubicle said:

Anyway, apparently Mouallem is going to meet the Saudi King and foreign minister in few days.

Visit cancelled.

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September 11th, 2007, 6:06 pm

 

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