What Kind of Deal Should Lebanese Make? Bush, Sarkozy and Mualem Face Off

Bush: No patience for Syria's Assad

US President George W. Bush on Thursday ruled out direct talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying "my patience ran out on President Assad a long time ago."

"So if he's listening, he doesn't need a phone call, he knows exactly what my position is," Bush said at a year-end press conference after being asked whether he would talk to Assad to work on ending Lebanon's political crisis.

"My patience ran out on President Assad a long time ago, and the reason why is because he houses Hamas, he facilitates Hezbollah, suiciders go from his country into Iraq, and he destabilizes Lebanon," said Bush.

Addendum: Qabalan for Election of Maronite President by The People, Naharnet

Lebanon's highest Shiite cleric called Thursday for the election of a president either on a consensus base, or directly by the people.
Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan, deputy head of the Supreme Shiite Council, made the remark after holding telephone consultations with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun and al-Mustaqbal Movement leader Saad Hariri, according to state-run National News Agency.

The presidential election, according to Qabalan, should be overwhelmed by "a spirit of consensus to find an exit out of the vicious circle."

"I am worried about the possibility of electing a president by simple majority, that is why I insist on a two-thirds quorum for the election session to safeguard the nation," Qabalan added.

"We want a consensus president and if direct election by the people is possible, then we support this option … and we do not object to having Maronite candidates so that the people can elect one of them as long as they have failed to agree among themselves," Qabalan added without further elaboration

Syria says working for end to Lebanon crisis
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
Thu Dec 20, 2007 11:37am EST

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)

The Hindu News gave a very different title to their coverage of the Mualem press conference:

Syrian Foreign Minister flays US stand in Lebanon's presidential vote crisis

Damascus (AP): Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem criticized on Thursday the United States in the Lebanese presidential crisis, accusing it of allegedly blocking Syrian and French efforts to end the deadlock that has paralyzed Lebanon.

Moallem said Syria and France, whose foreign minister has been mediating among the Lebanese, both support the choice for Army Commander Michel Suleiman as a consensus presidential candidate the rival sides agreed on.

He claimed Damascus and Paris had also agreed that Suleiman's election in parliament should be followed by the formation of a national unity government.

Moallem said Welch's comments earlier in the week in Beirut “confirm that America does not support consensus and instead wants there to be a conqueror and vanquished in Lebanon.''

Moallem also dismissed Welch's accusations that Syria was the one blocking the Lebanese presidential election. “This is nonsense, he knows exactly who is blocking the election,'' he said of Welch.

“We in Syria want there to be elections in Lebanon at the earliest time possible,'' Moallem added.

The anti-Syrian ruling coalition in Lebanon has accused the opposition of obstructing the presidential vote under orders from Syria and Iran. In turn, the opposition claims pro-government groups in the parliament majority follow U.S. policies.

The opposition has demanded the ruling coalition agree on the shape of the future government ahead of the parliament vote, including the division of the posts in the next Cabinet. The ruling coalition says the opposition is setting conditions which are rejected by pro-government groups.

Moallem on Tuesday also backed those Lebanese opposition demands, saying a national unity government should be agreed on before Suleiman is voted in.

A unity government “is as important as electing a new president,'' Moallem said.

Here is what Naharnet writes:

Al-Hayat quoted senior sources in the majority as saying Welch has outlined that Syrian President Bashar Assad "refuses to facilitate the election of a president in Lebanon."

Washington "gave Paris time to carry out a last attempt with Damascus, But French President Nicolas Sarkozy realized that his Syrian counterpart has not delivered on his promises and commitments and that Damascus is hiding behind its allies in the opposition by implying that they are not against electing Suleiman, but they have political demands related to the formation of the government" that should rule when a new head of state assumes power, Welch was quoted as saying.

He added that Washington "did not give up its role in Lebanon, but wanted to give Paris a chance and it appears that the French capital has found out that Damascus does not want any agreement and does not want to re-consider its stand."

Welch, by his unscheduled return to Beirut on Tuesday, wanted to "relay a message to Iran and Syria that Washington would not give them a free hand in Lebanon, especially that the presidential crisis is just a step in a long political march," the sources said.

Welch's message was that "the international community would not stand idly by regarding attempts to block the presidential elections and has steps capable of pressuring whoever is blocking the election," the sources added.

Washington, Welch said, "would back any steps taken by the majority to prevent continued void in the presidency," noting that Lebanon would be a topic of "special interest" during U.S. President George Bush's forthcoming tour in the Middle East.

Comments (37)


1. Christian » What Kind of Deal Should Lebanese Make? Bush, Sarkozy and Mualem … said:

[…] sandy123 wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptBush: No patience for Syria’s Assad WASHINGTON, Dec 20 (AFP). US President George W. Bush on Thursday ruled out direct talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying “my patience ran out on President Assad a long time ago.” … […]

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December 20th, 2007, 5:39 pm

 

2. Qifa Nabki said:

At this point, “what kind of deal should the Lebanese make?” is not the right question.

“What kind of deal can the Lebanese make?” has been the only real question on the books for the past several months.

The missing ingredient in Lebanon — in fact in the entire region — is … leadership. This is the essential political skill that cannot be taught. Other political skills (and there are many) can be learned through experience: survival (one thinks of Berri, Abu Mazen, Hafez, Jumblatt), self re-definition (Aoun, Jumblatt again, Geagea, others), stoking populist ire (Meshaal comes to mind), etc. But true leadership is something that is practically an inborn trait. I feel that only Hasan Nasrallah possesses anything close to what I’m talking about, a fact which has made him so valuable to Iran, and consequently so hamstrung for Lebanon’s own interests (at least in the short term).

Any “deal” the Lebanese make will come at the expense of solving the country’s more systemic issues. Sure, one needs a government in order to address systemic issues, but the trouble in Lebanon’s neo-feudal system is that changes are needed of such magnitude that they would threaten to undermine the entire political order, and the powers that be (i.e. the Chamber of Deputies, which is, per capita, the richest such legislative body in the world) has little incentive to change it.

That’s why the coils upon coils of Gordian knotted wire that surround the old Serail can only be cut by someone possessing true leadership; i.e. someone with the political vision that transcends petty local and short-term interests, and the persuasive skills to sell it to the existing powers. Rafiq al-Hariri, for all his warts, may have been such a man but he too (like Nasrallah) was co-opted, and eventually undone by his ambition.

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December 20th, 2007, 7:00 pm

 
 

4. offended said:

Well, it seems that Dubya has also lost his temper.

Bush ‘loses patience’ with Syria

While the US accuses Syria, Syria accuses the US
US President George W Bush says he has long since lost patience with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, and has ruled out opening a dialogue with him.
“He doesn’t need a phone call, he knows exactly what my position is,” Mr Bush said at a year-ending news conference.

The US and Syria have each accused the other of meddling in Lebanon, where repeated attempts to find a new president have failed.

Mr Bush also accused Mr Assad of supporting militant groups.

“My patience ran out on President Assad a long time ago,” Mr Bush told reporters at the White House.

“The reason why is because he houses Hamas, he facilitates Hezbollah, suiciders go from his country into Iraq, and he destabilises Lebanon.”


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7154473.stm

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December 20th, 2007, 8:49 pm

 

5. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Finally, a US president that is willing to stand up to Asad. I am slightly more optimistic about the future of Syria and Lebanon.

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December 20th, 2007, 9:46 pm

 

6. Losing Hope Quickly said:

I agree with Qabalan – Give the entire Lebanese population the right to directly elect their president using (first past the post majority) and be done with this seemingly never-ending problem!!

As for Bush – we have had to put up with an undemocratically elected half-wit for nearly 8 years so he should just keep that hole of his shut!

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December 20th, 2007, 10:10 pm

 

7. why-discuss said:

In the last 3 years Bush had repeated that his patience with Iran was runnning out and we don’t see much results. We have seen where Bush impatience has brought Iraq: hundred of thousands dead and displaced. We are the ones impatient that he leaves his place to someone less insane.

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December 20th, 2007, 10:13 pm

 

8. why-discuss said:

Losing hope quickly

The US will never accept an election from the people, because they know it will brng in someone who is anti-US and anti-Israel. They already have second thoughts about Suleimane who is openly anti-Israel, so they are pushing to garantee a pro-US governemnet that will paralyze Sleimane: that is the whole fight going on now in Lebanon. .

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December 20th, 2007, 10:17 pm

 

9. Peter H said:

A direct election for President of Lebanon has always made the most sense to me. Hoping to achieve a consensus was never very likely, with all the bitter disagreement on issues like Hizbollah, Hariri tribunal, etc. On the other hand, election by a bare majority is problematic, not only because it contradicts the Lebanese tradition of election by consensus, but also because the majority was (1) elected via a rigged & distorted system of electoral districts (2) only won in the 1st place because they got Hizbollah & Amal’s support, in exchange for promising not to disarm Hizbollah. So why not let the people choose directly?

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December 20th, 2007, 10:49 pm

 

10. ausamaa said:

US President George W. Bush on Thursday ruled out direct talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying “my patience ran out on President Assad a long time ago.”

And may President Bush enlighten us as to what he intends to do about the way he feels towards President Assad and Syria? Something original this time? Another Isreali campgain in Lebanon? Stealth fighters over Damascus perhaps? A Cuba-like blockade?

Or is he merely re-expressing his feelings in sympathy to the way Sarkowho feels? But sure enough, Syria can be really frustrating at times. Especially to directionless and confrontation-oriented amature cowboys.

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December 20th, 2007, 10:52 pm

 

11. Peter H said:

By the way, I’m sure this issue has been debated endlessly on this blog, but I still don’t understand what Syria stood to gain from assasinating Francois Al-hajj. Prior to the assasination of Al-Haji, there had a growing international support for engaging Syria, including from the Bush Administration. The probable election of Suleiman, considered to be pro-Syria, was an example of this development. Why would Syria endanger this growing international goodwill by assasinating al-Hajj, somebody who’s not part of March 14th and can’t considered to be anti-Syria by any stretch of the imagination?

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December 20th, 2007, 10:58 pm

 

12. offended said:

Why would Syria endanger this growing international goodwill by assasinating al-Hajj, somebody who’s not part of March 14th and can’t considered to be anti-Syria by any stretch of the imagination?

Peter, shut up!
The Assads have done it, they are the instigators behind all troubles of the world. Including the plunging of the US currency value, the plight of the Burmese monks and the dwindling sardine stocks!

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December 21st, 2007, 12:01 am

 

13. offended said:

Oh! Dubya’s patience is running out!

I am going to have to hunker in my bunker.

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December 21st, 2007, 12:08 am

 

14. Welcome | Project on Middle East Democracy said:

[…] Today Josh Landis at SyriaComment offers a compilation of remarks on the crisis from President George Bush, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, and Lebanese Shiite Cleric Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan. […]

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December 21st, 2007, 1:18 am

 

15. norman said:

This what Hariri wants for Syria , I say it is time for Syria to close the border with Lebanon and declare the freinds and foes of syria and open Syria’s borders to the freind and let America and KSA help the enemy ,

بيروت: الاكثرية تدعو للرد علي دمشق بفرض عقوبات واقفال الحدود

21/12/2007

بيروت ـ ا ف ب: رد النائب سعد الحريري ابرز اقطاب الاكثرية في لبنان، علي تصريحات وزير الخارجية السوري وليد المعلم حول لبنان الخميس، مؤكدا ان لبنان لن يعود الي الوراء وسيواجه من يريد له ان يعود الي ازمنة الوصاية والتسلط .
وقال الحريري بحسب ما جاء في بيان صادر عن مكتبه الاعلامي، ان المعلم يقدم دليلا جديدا علي تدخل النظام السوري في الشؤون الداخلية اللبنانية ومشاركته المباشرة في تعطيل الانتخابات الرئاسية .
واكد ان النظام السوري لن يرجع الي لبنان مهما حاول الي ذلك سبيلا ومهما استخدم من ضغوط وادوات (…) وعقارب الساعة لن تعود الي الوراء .
اما النائب انطوان اندراوس من الاكثرية فقال اتأسف ان كل الخطابات من امريكا وفرنسا لم تعد مفيدة. فالسوري لا يهمه كل ذلك .
واضاف هذا نظام لا يفهم الا باساليبه. نحن لا نفهم باساليبه وهي وضع سيارات مفخخة وقتل الناس لكن هناك اساليب اجتماعية واقتصادية نطالب بتطبيقها علي النظام السوري .
اما الوزير والنائب مروان حمادة من الاكثرية فقال كالعادة، غرق الوزير المعلم في مغالطات معتقدا انه لا يزال في ايام تشكيل الحكومات اللبنانية من عنجر ودمشق ، مضيفا لا هو يعين وزراء ولا هو يعين النسب في الحكومات .
واكد ان اللبــــنانيين سينتــــــخبون رئيسا بعيدا عن كل تدخل اجنبي، سوري او غير سوري، ولن يقبلوا قبل ذلك الدخول في اي صفقة تطال مؤسساتهم الدستورية وصلاحياتها وتعيد البلاد الي عهد الهيمنة ما قبل ثورة الارز .

——————————————————————————–

ارسل هذا الخبر الى صديق بالبريد الالكتروني
نسخة للطباعة
هل ترغب في التعليق على الموضوع؟

الأسم:

بريدك الألكتروني:

الموضوع:

التعليق:

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December 21st, 2007, 2:54 am

 

16. offended said:

yeah, the clock’s pointers aren’t going back. Hemade can look forward for a bright future of lebanon under the american hegemony.

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December 21st, 2007, 6:13 am

 

17. Wassim said:

Nobody has time for the president of what used to be a superpower.

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December 21st, 2007, 11:41 am

 

18. JimR said:

Maybe political victory will go to the patient, not to the impatient. GWB’s public petulance is amazing, given that he’s president of what is still — for the time being — the most powerful country on Earth. I suspect Asad will be dealing with his third American president while GWB peddles his wares to various corporate boards and pretends to be a “rancher” in his spare time.

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December 21st, 2007, 12:06 pm

 

19. Akbar Palace said:

Nobody has time for the president of what used to be a superpower.

Wassim –

Funny, that’s what Saddam used to say.

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December 21st, 2007, 2:22 pm

 

20. Honest Patriot said:

Althought it’s a bit dated, I was intrigued by the opinion below. The link is followed by the text of the article. I’d be interested in opinions on it from this forum.

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3478745,00.html

The Lebanese incentive

Instead of ceding Golan for peace, Israel could agree to Syrian takeover of Lebanon

Yaron London

Published: 12.04.07

Why did the Syrians come to Annapolis? Bush hinted that they arrived because the bombing of the site in northern Syria made them realize how weak they are. The weakness of an Arab opponent is advantageous to us, but experience taught us it doesn’t prevent war.

The Egyptians were perceived as weak, until they crossed the Suez Canal, exacted a terrible toll and forced us to return the Sinai to them. The Palestinians are also helpless, but they have been using the little power they do have to torment us for decades.

Syria will maneuver between Iran and the West but will not disregard its interests in Lebanon and on the Golan Heights. Sooner or later it will attempt to regain these territories, which it perceives to have been wrested away from it. Regardless of how big our military advantage is, a clash with Syria would be a heavy blow for us and it would be better to take advantage of the Syrian weakness, which may be temporary, in order to sign a peace treaty.

We know the price of peace, but Israel does not dare pay it, and the reasons for this can be justified. In the absence of an agreement, Iran will boost its influence in Syria and at this time it appears the only chance to sever the ties between Tehran and Damascus lies in a complete change in Iran.

There is no telling if and when such change would take place, and Israel has not come up with an alternative strategy.

If we are unwilling to withdraw from the Golan, what else can we tempt the Syrians with? This temptation is Lebanon. Israel¹s special attitude to its small northern neighbor was shaped even before the Jewish State’s establishment. Zionist Movement diplomats forged ties with the Christians in Beirut and Galilee farmers maintained good neighborly relations with the Shiites in the south of Lebanon.

Before we signed the peace treaty with Egypt we used to say that there is no telling which Arab country would be the first to make peace with us, but the second one would certainly be Lebanon. This statement was premised on the assumption that the Lebanese are not hostile to us and even view as us clandestine allies, yet their situation forces them to conduct themselves like Muslims Arab countries. This assumption has been refuted.

Christian hegemony won¹t last long Lebanon was separated from Syria upon the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The country’s establishment by imperial powers was meant to express the Christian uniqueness in the Mount Lebanon region, and a constitution like no other in the world guaranteed Christian-Maronite control.

However, constant immigration and different birthrates gradually changed the ratio of ethnic groups, and today Shiites comprise the majority. We can assume that in a few years the country’s constitution would give expression to the changed demographic reality. Either through arms or through the polls, Muslim Shiites will complete their takeover of Lebanon.

At this time, Lebanon enjoys the patronage of Western countries, but this is akin to artificial respiration. Christian hegemony will end in a few years.

The Christian population is split and is unwilling to fight to the death for the independence of its homeland.

Beirut’s Christian quarters flourish on the strength of Saudi money, but in a few years there will be only two regional powers that can make it difficult for Damascus to take over this asset: Israel and Iran. At that point, Israel and Syria will have a joint interest ­ preventing an Iranian takeover.

Upon the elimination of the Christian hegemony in Lebanon, the old Israeli interest in maintaining an independent Lebanon will dissipate. The real alternatives are an Iranian Lebanon or a Syrian Lebanon. We do not know the price Syria will be willing to pay for a secret pledge that Israel would not do a thing to prevent Lebanon’s annexation to Syria, but it is worthwhile looking into it ­ this price may be Syrian willing to renounce its claims for the Golan.

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December 21st, 2007, 2:26 pm

 

21. Wassim said:

Akbar Palace, I don’t know what you think is funny. I don’t see the Americans laughing – do you?

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December 21st, 2007, 3:31 pm

 

22. Welcome | Project on Middle East Democracy said:

[…] December 21st, 2007 by Celest Joshua Landis collected several articles that look at Syrian, French and US involvement (or lack there of) in solving the political crisis in Lebanon.  It includes an article stating, “Lebanon’s highest Shiite cleric called Thursday for the election of a president either on a consensus base, or directly by the people.” […]

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December 21st, 2007, 3:32 pm

 

23. Honest Patriot said:

Wassim said:

Akbar Palace, I don’t know what you think is funny. I don’t see the Americans laughing – do you?

Wassim: “Funny” is used in the sense of “interesting,” “deja vu.” Anyone who thinks the US “used to be a superpower” is not altogether with it. While one may argue that we should not make fun of intellectualy challenged folk it still gives a sense of “deja vu” when reality is obfuscated by one’s self-aggrandizing visions of self. So, Akbar Palace, cut the “funny” adjective in deference to the sensitivities of those deluded by how Iran and Syria are making the US a “used to be” superpower. (Silent and hidden chuckle 🙂 )

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December 21st, 2007, 4:07 pm

 

24. offended said:

reposted form syria news wire:

Three top ranking Syrian officers have been arrested on suspicion of being involved in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al Hariri.

The three men are Jamea Jamea, former Syrian intelligence official in Lebanon, Said Rabah, Syrian intelligence official in Mount Lebanon, and Ghassan Bilal, director of Maher al Asad’s (brother of Bashar al Assad) office.

http://saroujah.blogspot.com/

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December 21st, 2007, 6:50 pm

 

25. Alex said:

صرح المتحدث باسم الرئاسة الفرنسية دافيد مارتينون ان ساركوزي طالب الرئيس السوري بشار الاسد بالتزام موعد غد السبت لانتخاب رئيس للجمهورية اللبنانية. وقال أن ساركوزي “تكلم مع بشار الاسد هاتفيا وكرر له ان فرنسا متمسكة اكثر من اي وقت مضى بانتخاب رئيس لبناني يحظى بتوافق واسع، وأشار الى انه مصر على ان الالتزام بالتاريخ الجديد الذي اتفق عليه الاطراف في 22 كانون الاول لانتخاب رئيس وايجاد حل لهذا المسار الانتخابي”. ونفى المتحدث في الوقت نفسه ان يكون ساركوزي وجه اي “انذار” الى الاسد في هذا الشأن.

وأكد الرئيس الفرنسي للبابا بنيديكتوس السادس عشر خلال زيارته للفاتيكان “التزام فرنسا الحفاظ على معجزة التنوع لبنان، حتى اللحظات والدقائق الاخيرة”، مشدداً على أهمية ” اخراج لبنان من حالة اللا استقرار السياسي التي يعيشها”. وقال خلال مقابلة اجراها مع “راديو الفاتيكان” ووسائل اعلامية إيطالية: “تحدّثت مع البابا في الموضوع اللبناني بتفاصيله، وأبلغته مدى تعلقي بالتعددية والتنوع في لبنان ومنطقة الشرق الاوسط . وأبلغته كذلك بطبيعة المحادثات التي أجريتها مع الرئيس السوري بشار الاسد والافرقاء المعنيين بالأزمة الداخلية في لبنان، وعبّرت له أيضاً أن همّ فرنسا الآن هو اخراج لبنان من حالة اللا استقرار السياسي التي يعيشها، لكي يتوحد اللبنانيون حول رئيس توافقي. وأكدت لقداسته التزام فرنسا بالحفاظ على لبنان، معجزة التنوع، حتى الدقائق واللحظات الاخيرة”.

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December 21st, 2007, 8:05 pm

 

26. Alex said:

BBC discussion on president Bush’s last statement on Bashar Assad

http://newsforums.bbc.co.uk/ws/thread.jspa?forumID=4945

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December 21st, 2007, 8:10 pm

 

27. ausamaa said:

Labanese Parliment head Nabih Berry has cancelled SATURDAY’s Presidential Election session! So, no President by Saturday for Sarkowho…

Is he gonna send a new Jan Dark to Syria again or what?!

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December 21st, 2007, 9:59 pm

 

28. Qifa Nabki said:

Offended,

How solid is the source?

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December 21st, 2007, 10:18 pm

 

29. Alex said:

Israel, Syria message exchange ends in failure

By Barak Ravid

An attempt to exchange messages between Israel and Syria in recent months has failed. European diplomatic sources said that the reason for the impasse was the inability to reach an agreed-upon agenda for talks between the two countries. But in off-the-record conversations, several sources close to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert say that “the Syrian track still has higher chances of success when compared to the Palestinian track.”

In the past few months, Israel approached Syrian President Bashar Assad via a number of friendly states, in an effort to evaluate the possibility of renewing direct contact. The main interlocutor in these exchanges has been Turkey, but Israel also made use of the good services of Germany, which still holds an open line of communications with Damascus.

Following a series of exchanges, the view in Israel is that the seriousness of Syrian intentions is still questionable.

European diplomats updated on some of the exchanges noted that “the bottom line was a negative one.”

They pointed out that there was no agreement on an agenda for talks between the two sides, assuming such talks would actually take place.

“The Syrians wanted the talks to revolve only on the Golan [Heights],” the European diplomats said. “But Israel wanted to first talk about other issues that trouble it, such as [Syria’s] ties with Iran and the support for Hezbollah and Hamas, and Syria did not agree.”

Olmert may be interested in furthering the Annapolis process, but increasingly, senior officials feel that the Syrian track must be given a chance to move forward.

“It is a lot simpler and it is possible to achieve an agreement in a short time,” one of Olmert’s confidants said. “The only problem is that the Syrians are not sending positive signals.”

Another source close to Olmert was more optimistic. “The fact that they [Syria] came to Annapolis and canceled the conference of terrorist groups in Damascus were positive and encouraging signals.”

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said that Olmert “is carrying out an evaluation of the Syrian track and that is still ongoing.”

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December 21st, 2007, 10:56 pm

 

30. Shual said:

Qifa Nabki

this is old news: Tuesday, December 11, The Kuwaiti daily As-Siyassa said that the French-based Syrian opposition confirmed a report published by the daily claiming that three high-ranking Syrian officers suspected of involvement in the assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri were reported missing. According to the daily, the three men are Jamee Jamee, an intelligence officer who was the responsible in Beirut, Said Rabah, an intelligence officer responsible for Mount Lebanon, and Ghassan Bilal, director of the office of Maher al-Assad, brother of the Syrian president, who was involved in the Bank al-Madina scandal in Lebanon.

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December 21st, 2007, 11:16 pm

 

31. Joshua said:

Even Stratfor is marketing this silly report about Syrian arrests of Hariri suspects. Cannot believe that they bit on it.

Syria: Officers Arrested In Al-Hariri Case
December 21, 2007 16 48 GMT

Three ranking Syrian officers suspected of involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri are under arrest, Stratfor souces said Dec. 21. The officers are: Jamea Jamea, former Syrian intelligence official in Lebanon; Said Rabah, Syrian intelligence official in Mount Lebanon; and Ghassan Bilal, director of Maher al Asad’s (brother of Bashar al Assad) office. The three are believed to be in jail in Sahnaya, a suburb of Damascus in the Ghouta agricultural area. Muhammad Makhluf, a fourth officer accused of involvement in the assassination, is currently hospitalized in critical condition following a traffic accident. Rumors indicate that the accident was aimed at eliminating Makhluf.

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December 21st, 2007, 11:30 pm

 

32. Shual said:

And,

“Muhammad Makhluf, a fourth officer accused of involvement in the assassination, is currently hospitalized in critical condition.”

The first report confirmed his death. I love the miracles around christmas.

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December 21st, 2007, 11:49 pm

 

33. Honest Patriot said:

The further postponement of the legislative session in Lebanon to elect a new President – who ironically has been agreed upon – is nothing but another tactic buying time for the murderous Syrian regime to achieve either the surrender of the anti-Syrian majority or to wittle down its majority by a few more assassinations. Deny all you want, ridicule this claim all you want, and ask all you want for “proof.” The Syrian secret service knows what it’s doing and Bashar Machiavelli Assad enjoys dragging the French President into the confusing quagmire. Watch out Bashar, your end may be worse than Saddam. Pity the utterly stupid and naive souls led by His “Cowardency,” egotistical maniac Michel Aoun.

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December 22nd, 2007, 12:54 am

 

34. ausamaa said:

hmmmmmm!!

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December 22nd, 2007, 7:19 am

 

35. why-discuss said:

Honest Patriot

The anti-syrian majority is totally confused by the contradictory advices they are getting from their mentors: Bush and Sarkozy. It is high time they realize that lebanese expect more from a gang that took the parlement by cheating and relying on empty promises of support from pro-isrealis forces.
The trouble is that “machiavelli” Bashar has played his cards much better and that now France and the USA are begging Syria to do something about Lebanon, as they have failed to bring the lebanese to an agreement. What an irony.
Israel, conscious of the importance of the Syria track to peace are trying “soft stick and rotten carrots” with Bashar. In the meantime Lebanon is drifting in high waters.

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December 22nd, 2007, 8:12 am

 

36. GG said:

“Totally confused” = Honest Patriot.

A couple of days ago he was arguing that “His “Cowardency,” egotistical maniac Michel Aoun” had been co-opted by Hzballah and Syria and now he pities “the utterly stupid and naive souls led” by him. So which is he, a follower or a leader?

Why is he blaming Aoun? If M14 had any kind political support they would have gone for 50% + 1 a long time ago. The fact that they won’t reveals a realization that they have no ground roots support in the country. So what is he advocating?

You’ve crossed that line, haven’t you? You know the one I’m talking about: between reality and the “we all live in a yellow submarine” one.

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December 22nd, 2007, 10:04 am

 

37. ausamaa said:

The “Saturday” has come and gone and Syria does not seem to have acted “big time” to force its Lebanese friends to Elect a President as allegedly “threatened” to by Sarkowho!

Any new deadlines Sarko???

And as if to add insult to injury, the Feb 14 crowd are even refusing a direct “operations order” from Bush to elect a President by simple majority.

Can some one forward copy of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” to both Sarko and Dubbya? Or how about just sending them a small note saying: Wake up both and smell the Roses.

Double Cheers again!!!!!!!

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December 22nd, 2007, 10:13 pm

 

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