Sarkozy: “Your last opportunity is Saturday.” Assad: “I Said No to Nukes.”

Sarkozy gives Assad ultimatum on holding Lebanese elections
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent
Last update – 14:13 19/12/2007

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday called on Syria to push the Lebanese Parliament to appoint a new president by Saturday.

Speaking to Syrian President Basher Assad by phone Wednesday, Sarkozy gave Assad an ultimatum, telling him to "use all your means and influence to bring this about. Don"t waste time with talk. I am expecting actions, and your last opportunity is Saturday."

Sarkozy said he offered no diplomatic incentives to Syria in pushing for them to advance elections in Lebanon.

Lebanese elections are set for Saturday, December 22nd, after they were postponed nine times, mainly because of a lack of agreement between the different groups on a candidate.

A tentative solution the crisis has been reached wherein the parliament will be required to allow (ret.) General Mishal Suleiman to run on the ballot. Sarkozy stated that only after this is done can deliberations over swearing in a new government can begun.

The anti-Damascus governing coalition had previously opposed the
nomination of Suleiman, who was appointed army chief when Syria controlled Lebanon and has good ties with Hezbollah.

The presidency has been empty since Nov. 23 when pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud's term ended. A series of parliamentary sessions called to elect his replacement have failed because there has been no agreement between the rivals on a candidate.

Agreement on a new president would defuse Lebanon's worst political crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. Fears of a return to violence have eased since last week with both sides seeking to contain rather than escalate their standoff.

But the rivals have yet to agree on any of a number of possible compromise candidates, who must be Maronite Christians under Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system.

Syria spurned atom smuggler approach in 2001: Assad
Wed Dec 19, 2007

VIENNA (Reuters) – Syria rebuffed a possible approach in 2001 from Pakistani-led traffickers in nuclear arms technology, President Bashar al-Assad said.

In an interview with Austrian daily Die Presse, Assad said an unnamed person delivered to Syria a letter purportedly from A.Q. Khan, the now-disgraced father of Pakistan’s atom bomb who supplied Iran, Libya and North Korea with nuclear parts and know-how.

“At the beginning of 2001 someone brought us a letter from a certain Khan. We did not know if the letter was genuine or a forgery by Israel to lure us into a trap,” Assad was quoted by Die Presse on Wednesday as saying.

“In any case, we rejected (the approach). We were not interested in having nuclear weapons or a nuclear reactor. We never met Khan.”

In September, Israel bombed a Syrian site that Western analysts said might have been a covert nuclear reactor under construction. Damascus said it was a minor military building.

Western analysts who examined satellite imagery of the Syrian site targeted by Israeli warplanes on September 6 said it may have contained a nuclear reactor under construction similar to North Korean design. They found it suspicious that the structure appeared to have been razed by Syria after the air attack.

“This was a military facility under construction. Since it was a military facility, I can’t give details. But that does not mean that this was a nuclear facility…,” Assad said.

Syria has said it is hiding nothing from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors.

The IAEA has also studied before-and-after commercial aerial photos of the site and asked Syria for explanations. Diplomats close to the IAEA said Syria has not replied and the pictures alone were unlikely to yield conclusions.

(Reporting by Mark Heinrich; editing by Robert Woodward)

Comments (19)


1. ANNIE said:

Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday called on Syria to push the Lebanese Parliament to appoint a new president by Saturday

De quoi je me mêle ? Aren’t the Lebanese capable of doing this without being prodded by everyone?

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December 19th, 2007, 7:45 pm

 

2. Alex said:

So according to Sarkozy … Assad has until Friday to interfere big time in Lebanese affairs.

Oh well … At least Sarkozy’s warnings are different from Chirac’s warnings which were the old boring “you should not interfere in Lebanese affairs”.

Today on LBC one of Aoun’s people said “we really do not understand it when Sarkozy calls Assad to discuss Lebanon .. it is not their business, it is not France’s business and it is not Syria’s business.”

But he said later that all he is hearing from visiting French officials is that the Syrians are refusing to interfere … that they are telling the French “The Lebanese should go through this process alone. Syria should not put pressure on anyone”

In contrast to his apparent satisfaction with Syria’s approach, and to a lesser extent France’s approach, Aoun’s supporter was furious at David Welch.

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December 19th, 2007, 9:05 pm

 

3. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Sure, the Syrians are not interfering. They just arm Hizballah and make sure that if there is something they don’t like, the threat of civil war is in the air. Hopefully, March 14 will call their bluff becasue Hizballah is not in a position to wage a civil war now.

If the French fund a private army for March 14 would that be interfering or not? Of course it would. It is quite disingenius for Syria to say, after arming Hizballah, that the Lebanese should make decisions on their own. How about Israel arming the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and then letting it negotiate with Asad? Is that interference or not?

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December 19th, 2007, 10:36 pm

 

4. Wassim said:

Sarkozy is a funny little frenchman. Many Saturdays will come and go before Lebanon is allowed to have a President. Did those who knocked off Hajj really think that Syria would still put Suleiman as President but lose a head of the army? No, the President position can stay vacant until a suitable candidate is chosen for either of these positions. Pro-western forces in Lebanon haven’t a chance in hell of even smelling either of the two positions. Sarkozy, the party is over and everyone is leaving.

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December 20th, 2007, 12:00 am

 

5. Alex said:

AIG

And Qaddafi can go back to arming terrorists to blow up planes, and Iran can Get the Shiites in Saudi Arabia to create Chaos in that country … but that does not mean we need to discuss these, or your often bloody “what if” scenarios/ideas/dreams.

Hizbollah’s weapons did not stop Junblat from threatening Syria and insulting both Nasrallah and Assad on a weekly basis. The opposition’s power is mainly the result of adding up the number of their supporters … All the Shiites, Aoun’s Christian supporters … and all the other smaller groups.

Syria’s policy in Lebanon since the 70’s is not to allow one group to destroy another group … no winner and no losers. This is in Syria’s best interest as well.

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December 20th, 2007, 4:01 am

 

6. Alex said:

According to Ibrahim Hamidi (AlHayat), Syria’s foreign minister Walid Moualem will talk to journalists today about Syria’s role in Sarkozy’s efforts to mediate between the different Lebanese factions.

وعن عودة ولش الى بيروت، قالت المصادر نفسها انه ابلغ الأطراف المحليين بأن «القمة التي عُقدت اخيراً بين الرئيسين الأميركي جورج بوش والفرنسي نيكولا ساركوزي أعطت الأخير، بناء لطلبه، فرصة للقيام بمحاولة مع الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد علّه ينجح في إقناعه بتوفير التسهيلات السياسية لتأمين انتخاب الرئيس لا سيما انه الأقدر على التعاطي مع قوى المعارضة الحليفة له».

ونقلت المصادر عن ولش قوله ان «المشكلة المترتبة على عدم انتخاب الرئيس تتجاوز المعارضة الى الرئيس الأسد الذي لا يزال يرفض تقديم التسهيلات لانتخاب الرئيس».

وفي هذا السياق قال ولش، بحسب المصادر عينها، أن «واشنطن أفسحت المجال أمام باريس للقيام بمحاولة أخيرة لدى دمشق لكن تبين للرئيس الفرنسي أن نظيره السوري لم يف بتعهداته والتزاماته وأن دمشق تحاول الآن التلطي وراء حلفائها في المعارضة وتصويرهم وكأن لديهم شروطاً سياسية لا تتعلق بانتخاب سليمان وإنما في تشكيل الحكومة الجديدة».

وأوضح ان «واشنطن لم تتخل عن دورها في لبنان ولم تخل الساحة الى الأبد وإنما أرادت ان تعطي فرصة لباريس التي يبدو أنها اكتشفت أن دمشق لا تريد الاتفاق مع أحد ولا تريد اعادة النظر في مواقفها».

واعتبرت المصادر ان مجرد مجيء ولش الى بيروت هو «تأكيد أميركي على ان الولايات المتحدة لم تترك لبنان وأن واشنطن ماضية في التزاماتها وباقية على الوعد الذي قطعته على نفسها لجهة ضرورة إجراء الانتخابات وعدم السماح بجر البلد الى الفوضى».

ولفتت الى ان الذين التقوا ولش شعروا بأنه «أراد من خلال عودته المفاجئة توجيه رسالة الى إيران وسورية بأن واشنطن لن تترك لبنان ساحة لهما، خصوصاً ان أزمة الرئاسة ما هي إلا لحظة في مسار سياسي طويل».

وأكدت المصادر ان ولش أراد تمرير رسالة مفادها ان «المجتمع الدولي لن يقف مكتوفاً إزاء منع إجراء الانتخابات وأن لديه من الخطوات التي من شأنها ان تضغط على من يعرقل إنجاز الاستحقاق الرئاسي، لا سيما أننا نعرف من هي الجهة التي تعرقل الحل، إضافة الى أننا نعرف ما علينا من واجبات إزاء لبنان هذا البلد التعددي الديموقراطي الحر».

وكشفت المصادر أن ولش ابلغ قيادات في الأكثرية أن واشنطن «تدعم كل القرارات التي يتخذونها ويعتبرونها ضرورية لمنع استمرار الفراغ في رئاسة الجمهورية»، إضافة الى تأكيده أنه «سيكون للبنان أهمية خاصة في جولة بوش المرتقبة على عدد من دول المنطقة في الشهر المقبل»، مشيراً ايضاً الى ان بلاده «لم تبدل موقفها وهي ماضية في الضغط على سورية وأن الأيام المقبلة ستكشف ما إذا كانت الأخيرة جادة في تعهداتها أمام فرنسا في أنها ستسهل انتخاب الرئيس».

على صعيد آخر، قالت مصادر مطلعة في دمشق لـ «الحياة» ان وزير الخارجية السوري وليد المعلم سيعلن اليوم في لقاء مع الصحافيين تفاصيل الجهود السورية لحل الأزمة اللبنانية، وأنها ستتضمن رداً على اتهامات وجهت الى دمشق واستباقاً لأي حملة يمكن ان توجه إليها.

وسيكشف المعلم – بحسب المصادر نفسها – تفاصيل الاتصالات السورية الفرنسية في شأن الاستحقاق الرئاسي في لبنان في ضوء تسريب جهات فرنسية معلومات تميل الى تحميل دمشق مسؤولية عدم الوصول الى حل. وأوضحت بأن الاتصالات السورية الفرنسية شملت ثلاثة اتصالات هاتفية من ساركوزي الى الأسد واتصالات شبه يومية بين المعلم والأمين العام للرئاسة الفرنسية كلود غيان. ولاحظت ايضاً ان باريس تبحث عن كبش فداء عبر تحميلها دمشق المسؤولية متجاهلة العامل اللبناني – اللبناني والتدخلات الخارجية التي ساهمت في عرقلة الحلول بعدما كانت وصلت الى مرحلة متقدمة.

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December 20th, 2007, 5:31 am

 

7. why-discuss said:

I wonder how long the french will stand the recurrent humiliation of threatening, promising, giving deadlines and falling on their nose. Is Sarkozy testing in Lebanon a more verbally agressive style of foreign policy? Until now, it looks pathetic.

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December 20th, 2007, 7:04 am

 

8. offended said:

This Sarkozy dude is funny. He thinks he can handle the Lebanese crisis the same way he did with the northern suburbs riots.

My understanding of ultimatum is that when the time is up, there will be something grave inflicted upon the party that has fallen short of action. There isn’t such thing in this particular one.

What will Sarkozy do to Syria then? throw a tear-gas grenade?

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December 20th, 2007, 7:48 am

 

9. ausamaa said:

Sarkoz.. WHO?

Is this a serious news bit or is it a mere Joke? If it is, then, and out of mere curiosity, who leaked the content of this alleged telephone conversation and for what purpose?

“Speaking to Syrian President Basher Assad by phone Wednesday, Sarkozy gave Assad an ultimatum, telling him to “use all your means and influence to bring this about. Don”t waste time with talk. I am expecting actions, and your last opportunity is Saturday.”

And what did Assad tell him in reply if one may ask?

Go F… yourself, you too!!!???

Or was Assad so shaken by the “threat” that he went speachless ???

LOL..

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December 20th, 2007, 12:02 pm

 

10. Honest Patriot said:

Offended:

You ask “What will Sarkozy do to Syria then? throw a tear-gas grenade?”

Let’s see what happens once Saturday comes and goes and the opposition in Lebanon persists in its boycott. It’s premature to discount Sarkozy. France is NOT a third world country, nor is ruled by a feudal system perpetuating family dynasties through secret service control of the country and unprincipiled use of massacres and assassinations – as one can argue Syria tends to be.
There is a limit to the effectiveness of the “genius” of Bashar El-Assad, no matter how much adulation he enjoys from Prof. Landis and others on this forum. Human and civilization principles have a way of prevailing even if they take a long time to do so.

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December 20th, 2007, 12:07 pm

 

11. ausamaa said:

OK…

Let us wait till “Saturday comes and goes and the opposition in Lebanon persists in its boycott” and see what Sarkowho will have in store for Syria and the Lebanese Opposition!

However, suspending the exports of Evian water and Christian Dior neckties seems highly unlikely! Are those products still French anyway??

Come again. Sarko..who?

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December 20th, 2007, 12:56 pm

 

12. ausamaa said:

So, Elliot Abrams, the last of the neo-cons Jurasic Park dinasours, accompanied Welsh on his last visit to Lebanon Thursday. That IS news.

The Deathmaker himself, in person, no less.

Yeh, things are that serious, and the dam is about to break. Notice the new Welsh “variant” of Rice’s “Birth Bangs of the New Middle East”. So are we back to the Deivery Room for the next birth?

Hmmmm, but as we have seen over the few past years, whoever befriends the Bush Admin looses in the end. Watch out for some serious fireworks from all directions. But once again, who do you think will blink first?

Wanna bet?

Again?

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December 20th, 2007, 1:18 pm

 

13. fadal said:

“What will Sarkozy do to Syria then? throw a tear-gas grenade?”

i like this comment which made me laugh and comment again here. it is enough for Sar to tell that he would like to see the chair under somebody move a bit. this would be enough i would say. what do you think, mate? i like the cowboy way of understanding things in politics.

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December 20th, 2007, 2:16 pm

 

14. Nour said:

AIG,

The Resistance in Lebanon is recognized and sanctioned by the Lebanese government itself. That it receives arms from Syria and/or Iran is normal, as it has to receive such support from someone. If the government didn’t like it, then why accept the Resistance and give it official recognition. In addition, the Resistance weapons are aimed solely at Israel and have never ever been used against fellow Lebanese. The Resistance has no interest in initiating or participating in a civil war in Lebanon as that would make it lose all its credibility and effectiveness as a resistance against Israeli occupation and murderous thuggery. Therefore, Syria’s support of the resistance merely constitutes a support for Lebanon against Israeli aggression.

However, other groups inside Lebanon, who are loyal to March 14, have been recently getting arms themselves. Who do you suppose is arming those groups? It is the west who is doing so and it is the west who is in effect interfering in Lebanese internal affairs by propping up one group and pitting one side against the other. Syria has not been interfering, nor does it need to interfere, because the stances and positions of the opposition represents its own internal policy and strategy, and Syria has been happy with these positions. On the contrary, the US and France have been repeatedly and deliberately interfering in Lebanon’s affairs and pushing the loyalists to refuse all agreements with the opposition, as was clearly stated by Condoleeza Rice, who declared that no compromise between both sides would be accepted, as if Lebanon is her own personal playground.

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December 20th, 2007, 2:28 pm

 

15. norman said:

Print | Close this window

Syria says working for end to Lebanon crisis
Thu Dec 20, 2007 8:54am EST
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Syria is working to help resolve Lebanon’s presidential crisis, the foreign minister said on Thursday, responding to reports that France’s patience was wearing thin with Damascus over a stalled presidential election.

In a rare session devoted to Lebanon with journalists, Walid al-Moualem said Syria wanted an election as soon as possible to fill the presidency, empty since November 23 when the term of pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud ended.

Mualem said the United States was obstructing a deal by ignoring the principle of consensus, not majority rule, as the main factor in Lebanon’s sectarian political system.

“The American role in Lebanon should be sidelined because it is not balanced. Syria is playing a constructive role. We are facilitating a solution, but at the end the solution is a Lebanese one,” Moualem said.

Foreign powers have historically had interests in Lebanon and the latest crisis has seen several countries intervening to reach a solution.

France has been leading efforts to mediate a settlement between the Western-backed governing coalition and the opposition, led by groups with close ties to Damascus. French officials have also intensified contacts with Syria.

Arab media on Wednesday quoted French President Nicolas Sarkozy as saying he expected action and not words from Damascus to allow the vote to succeed on Saturday.

Responding to questions about the reports, Moualem said: “We are keen to continue coordinating with France to reach a common goal of a consensus president in Lebanon and the formation of a national unity government.”

Moualem said he was due later on Thursday to discuss Lebanon in a phone call with Claude Gueant, Sarkozy’s chief of staff, who visited Damascus twice since November.

The election in parliament has been postponed nine times by differences between Lebanese leaders. The next parliamentary session has been scheduled for Saturday.

Acknowledging that Syria wields influence over its Lebanese allies, Moualem said Damascus was helping relay the demands of the Lebanese opposition on the composition of a new unity government to foreign mediators.

“Every day carries new opportunity to hold the presidential election, as long as consensus is achieved,” he said.

“Syria does not exert pressure. It encourages and urges (its Lebanese allies),” Moualem said. “The position of the opposition groups is legitimate. They don’t demand seats in the cabinet more than their share in parliament.”

The camps have been unable to conclude a political deal expected to make army chief General Michel Suleiman president as there are differences over how to share seats in a new cabinet to be formed once he takes office.

(Writing by Tom Perry and Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

© Reuters 2007. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.

Reuters journalists are subject to the Reuters Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.

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December 20th, 2007, 2:37 pm

 

16. Nur al-Cubicle said:

Assad has until Friday to interfere big time in Lebanese affairs.

:0 I appreciated the irony as well. Don’t interfere ever, except on my instruction! –.

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December 20th, 2007, 3:32 pm

 

17. why-discuss said:

Honest Patriot

Human and civilization principles have a way of prevailing even if they take a long time to do so.

We see that every day in Gaza… Shall we wait 20 more years?

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December 20th, 2007, 4:13 pm

 

18. why-discuss said:

Nour

France and the US are terrified by the democracy in Lebanon because it may create an anti-US and anti-Israel governement. Democracy is acceptable only when it fits the big powers plans, otherwise autoritarism is a preferred path to remain “friends”: GCC countries, Egypt, KSA, boycott of Hamas are good example of the ‘democracy’ principles as interpreted by the Western powers.

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December 20th, 2007, 4:28 pm

 

19. offended said:

Honest Patriot,
If the Syrians are savage, venturous and opportune bunch of thugs as you’ve suggested, then why France is speaking to them from the first place?
Do you seriously think Syria will budge an inch by Sarkowho’s (courtesy of Aussama) ultimatum?
Again, what would he do? Give me something material, something solid that France can do to diffuse the stale situation. Don’t give me ‘France is a first world, permanent SC member’ kind of crap.
What has percolated form the phone call makes Sarkowho look like a jittery fool. He should know better than this.

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December 20th, 2007, 7:16 pm

 

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