Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, December 12th, 2006
Rice warns Syria and Iran over Lebanon protests, AFP 12.12.06
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Syria and Iran in an exclusive interview with AFP that the "future of Lebanon is not an issue for negotiation."
In an exclusive interview with AFP, Rice rejected mounting calls to deal directly with Damascus and Tehran as part of efforts to end the crisis in Iraq and said the two states should have no doubts about Washington's commitment to the embattled government of Lebanon.
"In no way is the US going to get into a situation where it is even a conceivable notion on the part of Syria or Iran that the future of Lebanon would somehow be compromised for other interests of the US," she said.
"I want to make it very clear that the future of Lebanon is not an issue for negotiation with anybody," she said.
Massive street protests organized by the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Shiite movement Hizbullah have been seeking to topple the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora for the past week.
The protracted deadlock has paralyzed the Western-backed government as opposition Shiite and Christian protesters have clogged the capital in an escalating campaign to force a new national unity administration.
"It's just extremely important that we be very clear: we understand who Lebanon's enemies are and those that are trying to bring down the Siniora government," Rice said.
"There is no way that the United States or the international community could ever countenance a reassertion of Syrian authority in Lebanon," she said
on Tuesday defended Germany's attempts to involve Syria in efforts to resolve conflict in Lebanon and argued that an end to the Iraq conflict cannot come at the expense of neighboring countries such as Iran.
She defended German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's recent visit to Damascus, which has been criticized by Israel.
Merkel told foreign journalists that she and Steinmeier "are completely of one opinion, Syria is simply there as a partner in the region, it is a country in the region, and it is important that one tells Syria what expectations one has of Syria."
At a later news conference alongside Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Merkel tempered that by emphasizing her dissatisfaction with Syria's current stance.
"The signals that we are getting from Syria are anything but ones I would rate as optimistic," she said. "I think that everyone who wants to make a contribution must accept certain principles; I don't see at the moment that those principles are accepted, and that makes the situation very difficult."
Prince Turki al-Faisal, abruptly resigned his post after 15 months on the job and left the country, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday, citing U.S. officials and foreign envoys.
Al-Faisal told his staff he was leaving to spend more time with his family, the newspaper reported, citing Arab diplomats. His predecessor, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, held the job for 22 years.
A Saudi Embassy spokesman said he could not confirm the report.
Saudi Arabia has been a key ally to the United States and is the world's top oil exporter.
Diplomats in Riyadh noted in recent days that the health of his brother, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, was not good and he appeared slow or ill in recent public appearances.
That has fueled rumors that Turki would succeed his ailing brother in the foreign minister position, The Post reported.
"Lebanon's War of Words," Time Magazine by Andrew Lee Butters: "On Scene: With Hizballah raising the level of its anti-government rhetoric and prime minister Fouad Siniora virtually under siege, any chance for compromise in Beirut looks increasingly dim"
Talking to Syria gives us an excellent opportunity to revitalize the Arab-Israeli peace process," Baker said. "The Syrians are the transit point for arms shipments to Hezbollah, and if you can flip the Syrians, you will cure Israel's Hezbollah problem. "
Baker went on: "The Syrians will tell you, as they told us, that they do have the ability to convince Hamas to acknowledge Israel's right to exist. . . . If we accomplished that, that would give [Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert a negotiating partner on the Palestinian track."
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, perhaps the single most powerful Shiite political leader in Iraq, had this to say to Bush, according to the Wash Post's Hoagland:
Hakim's soft words on Iraq's harsh realities the most important suggestions the president heard last week. As offered by the black-turbaned cleric in a series of public appearances in Washington and as supplemented by his aides, his view goes like this:
U.S. forces and the feeble central government do too little to protect Shiites. We can do that job ourselves if your troops get out of the way. That will clear the way for U.S. withdrawals while leading to the informal division of Iraq into three distinct autonomous regions. That is the only acceptable alternative to a strong central government controlled by the Shiites, which may no longer be in reach.
The Baker-Hamilton study group ruled out partition in any form. But the report trails events on the ground, as Bush is likely to have heard in his third high-level meeting on Iraq when he hosted British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday.
In recent weeks British commanders have reported to London that Hakim's Shiite political party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, has completed a gradual takeover of Iraq's south. That leaves British forces with little ability to influence events — or reason to stay on much longer in any large numbers — the commanders add pointedly.
Nationally, Hakim has watched patiently as his Shiite rivals in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party and in Moqtada al-Sadr's organization have been chewed up in the meat grinder of Baghdad's barbaric sectarian conflicts, rampant corruption and U.S. inconsistency.
Hakim gave the impression in Washington of a man riding a wave carrying him inexorably toward where he wants to go. No one could say that about Bush during his crucible week.
– By Anthony Shadid in Washington Post
BEIRUT, Dec. 9 — As morning clouds hovered overhead Saturday, Fadil Ayyash wiped eyes that were bleary from just two hours of sleep over two days in the city-within-a-city that Hezbollah's protests in downtown Beirut have become.
The Brammertz Report will go to Kofi Annan on Tuesday, according to a diplomat at UN headquarters in New York. "Brammertz is expected to brief the UN Security Council on his report on Friday."
The deadline for Brammertz to submit his third report on the assassination is Friday. He presented two reports in 2006, while his predecessor, German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, also presented two reports on the case in 2005.
A Lebanese judicial source said Monday that this week's report, like the two before it, "will be purely technical."
"This isn't the final report and Brammertz' mission has already been extended until mid-2007, so there will be nothing flashy in this report," the source added.