Al-Mu’allim to meet EU foreign ministers soon

Al-Mu'allim to meet EU foreign ministers soon
Translation thanks to

On November 23, Ibrahim Humaydi reported in the daily Al Hayat: "Informed sources told Al-Hayat yesterday that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mu'allim will take part in the meeting of the EU and Mediterranean countries' foreign ministers that is scheduled to be held in the Finnish town of Tampere on 27 and 28 November. These meetings are usually attended by the EU's 25 foreign ministers and their counterparts in Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Israel, Tunisia, Turkey and the Palestinian National Authority. Finnish Foreign Minister Errki Tumioja will chair this meeting before the EU's presidency is handed over to Germany at the beginning of next year.

"Diplomatic sources said the meeting "will discuss major issues related to the Mediterranean partnership and there will be a review of the developments taking place in the Barcelona process's five-year plan". They added that the ministers would also discuss at a working lunch "the situation in the Middle East" after discussing the cultural dialogue, Europe's new policy that is based on dialogue, and the process of financing projects south of the Mediterranean Sea. The Syrian minister visited Helsinki in August at his Finnish counterpart's invitation and the EU was informed of Damascus's agreement to receive technical assistance for the Syrian forces deployed on the borders with Lebanon. European ministers began contacting the Syrian foreign minister following the war between Hezbollah and Lebanon after the EU tried to follow America's policy of isolating Syria since the beginning of last year." – Al Hayat, United Kingdom

Comments (6)

norman said:

What are the benifit that Syria will get from the EU association?.

November 27th, 2006, 1:55 pm


norman said:

Assad: the man Bush must do business with
WHEN President George Bush meets Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki in Jordan this week in what could be the last chance to stop Iraq’s slide into civil war, a 6ft 3in former eye doctor will be top of the agenda.

Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who was supposed to follow a medical career as an ophthalmologist until a car crash killed his elder brother, catapulting him into the Syrian presidency, has emerged as the key player holding the fate of Iraq in his hands.

Indeed, so dramatic is the transformation in Assad’s position that he is seen as crucial not only to a solution in Iraq, but also in Lebanon, and even as a moderating influence on Iran.

It is not out of the question that he will be invited to attend in person in Amman, even though Bush is scheduled to stay in the Jordanian capital for only 12 hours.

Officially, the meeting is to review the “new political realities” facing Bush with a new Democratic Congress, many of whose members are calling for some sort of withdrawal from Iraq. But this is a code for the increasingly desperate search by Bush for a way out of the Iraqi quagmire. The background is the escalating sectarian carnage in which more than 7,000 civilians have died in the past two months, culminating in last week’s triple suicide bombing in Baghdad, which killed more than 200.

The Bush who meets Maliki is a very different man from the one who railed against the “axis of evil” and whose neo-con agenda was supposed to sweep away the totalitarian regimes of the Middle East.

As late as this summer, Washington wanted regime change in Damascus. In June, State Department officials attended meetings in Brussels and London of Syrian opposition leaders in exile as active participants. Now, humbled by the catastrophe in Iraq and facing the prospect of being a lame duck president because of the mid-term election results, Bush is executing a volte face.

Direct dialogue with Syria and Iran is likely to be one of the key items on the agenda next month of a heavyweight panel on future policy towards Iraq headed by former Secretary of State James Baker, long-time confidant of the Bush family.

Sensing a growing power vacuum with the waning of the Bush administration, the regional players have embarked on a flurry of diplomatic activity. Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, is due to fly to Tehran today to seek help in halting a descent into civil war. This follows a landmark visit to Iraq by Syria’s foreign minister to restore diplomatic relations after a 25-year rupture. At the same time, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, seeing a chance to become a regional power broker, has invited Syria’s president to Tehran.

But can Syria become the bridge that Washington is now seeking in the Middle East? On the one hand, Damascus does have significant influence. As a neighbour with a long land border with Iraq, it can choose whether to continue to allow its territory to be used for transiting terrorists on their way in and out of Iraq.

It has growing influence in Tehran. Threats of regime change from the US have thrown Syria and Iran together, and Iran sees Syria as “a sisterly and friendly country”, according to Iranian Supreme National Security Council secretary Ali Larijani.

Syria is also a key player in Lebanon. With Iran, it backs Hezbollah’s fight against Israel with money and weapons and has the capacity to destabilise Lebanon through its influence over Hezbollah members in the government.

Yet Tehran is interested only in a broader deal that links the US desire for help in Iraq with Iran’s desire to be allowed to enrich uranium. Negotiations to halt Iran’s nuclear programme remain stalemated, and President Ahmadinejad has just declared that “many countries have agreed to live with an Iran that has mastered enrichment.”

Moreover, Assad has yet to demonstrate that he is in total control of his own country. Ever since he succeeded his father as president, he has vacillated between endorsing reform and leading a new crackdown to purge his regime of the hard-liners. The slow progress on reform stems from the opposition of an “old guard” which drags its feet in protest against political liberalisation in order to maintain its privileged position within the government.

“Syria’s Ba’athist regime is among the most opaque on earth,” said British commentator David Hirst, “and an abiding uncertainty is just how much the young and inexperienced president Bashar al-Assad has ever really controlled the despotic apparatus he inherited from his father, Hafez.”

The regime is controlled by Alawites, a quasi-Shi’ite sect that accounts for about 11% of the population but dominates the army and the security forces.

Arab Sunnis, accounting for 60% of the population, believe they can form an alliance with Christians, Kurds, Turcomans and other minorities to challenge the Alawite hold on power.

Even so, if Assad is in control then he is playing a very strange game if he did indeed order the killing last week of Lebanon’s industry minister, Pierre Gemayel, who was gunned down in a gangland-style killing.

Immediately, many Lebanese pointed the finger at Syria, just as they believe that Damascus was behind a string of 15 car bombings and five assassinations, beginning with a massive truck bomb that killed former prime minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others on February last year.

“We believe the hand of Syria is all over the place,” said Saad Hariri, the son of the assassinated former prime minister.

Gemayel’s funeral turned into a massive display of defiance against Syria and its ally, Hezbollah, as tens of thousands of Lebanese paid tribute to the assassinated politician.

Lebanon’s government says its Syrian-backed opponents, led by Hezbollah, want to weaken it and to scupper an international tribunal being set up to try suspects in the suicide truck bombing that killed Hariri.

“The assassination is part of a series of actions that Hezbollah and the pro-Syrian camp are trying to carry out in an attempt to topple Fouad Siniora’s western-backed government, to put themselves in a position to form a new coalition government,” said Boaz Ganor, of the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel. “The Christian side has come to realise that it has few cards left to play. Hezbollah could be in power within five years.”

Even one of the US’s most senior diplomats yesterday warned that Lebanon’s future was at stake in a battle between “democracy and terrorism” following the killing of Gemayel.

John Bolton, the US ambassador to the United Nations,

said it would be a “serious problem” if an investigation into Gemayel’s assassination found Damascus was involved. “Then you have a further clear piece of evidence that Syria is not just a supporter of terrorism but is a state acting in a terrorist fashion,” he said.

Others, even in Israel, are not so sure that the Syrian government itself was involved, finding it hard to see how Syria could possibly benefit from the killing. Zvi Barel, Arab affairs analyst of the daily newspaper, Ha’aretz, said that Syria was in the midst of chalking up significant diplomatic points that could only be harmed if it were shown to be involved in another political assassination.

Damascus had just renewed full diplomatic relations with Iraq and was on its way to achieving a semi-official stamp of approval from Washington as a positive influence in Iraq. It was also on the verge of seeing the fall of Siniora’s anti-Syrian government in Lebanon.

“With three such achievements,” Barel wrote, “the last thing Damascus needed was a new accusation of political murder in Lebanon.” He suggested it might have been a rogue action carried out by one of Syria’s intelligence arms. “If that is true, it puts President Assad in an embarrassing position, with elements of his regime working behind his back.”

Yet the most significant reaction was that of Bush, who stopped short of accusing Damascus of killing Gemayel. The inside word from Washington is that Assad is at last enjoying the resumption of what Syrian embassy spokesman Ahmed Salkini calls “unofficial contacts” with the US administration.

According to Toby Dodge, Iraq political expert at Queen Mary University of London, one possible deal could be that Syria would tighten its border control and stop allowing insurgents to use Damascus as a safe haven. In exchange, the US would guarantee that it would not seek regime change in Syria.

The wider implications for the Middle East are that now that the US/UK invasion of Iraq and Israel’s actions in Lebanon have shown that the region cannot be reshaped by military force, there is a recognition that a settlement will have to be negotiated, and that Syria and Iran have to be involved, not just in negotiations but in underwriting peace in the Middle East.

Could the endgame now be in sight?

Related topics

This article:

Last updated: 26-Nov-06 00:15 GMT

Comments Add your comment1. The Horrible Mad Reality, >>>>>>>>> / 7:20am 26 Nov 2006 The very fact that there is pressure for USA to work with Iran and Syria shows that everyone is still blind to the real reason USA went into Iraq. It is also haunts me that people dont realise that USA wants to stabilise the region while Syria and Iran want to (or should I say are) destabilising the region.

Why would anyone think that Iran and Syria will help out Iraq for any other reason other than to braoden its power and therefore create an increased likelihood of serious destabilistaion in the Middle East with a view at complete occupation of Israel.

The republicans coming to power in the senate actually is the worst possible thing that could have happend at this time. Their actions have weakened the USA politicially. Syria and Iran are aware of this and have stepped up their secret war with USA in Iraq. You see thats what really happening USA is at war with Iran and Syria in Iraq. Why do you think there has been so many attacks recently. because Iran and Syria know that the USA is in a politically weakened position in the Senate and facing pressure by the Amercian People to pull out (lose the war). So what do they do? Back more of their army (did I say army sorry….) terrorists, send them over the boarder in the name of GOD.

Whether people like it or not – USA needs to have it bases in Iraq. This is the reason they attacked Iraq in the first place. They also need to send a lot more troops temporarily over to Iraq to stabilise the region. They also need enter in dialogue with Iran and Syria with the entire world to demand a stop to Irans Nuclear dreams and the joint countries financing, training, transportation, arming of their new powerful army (sorry did I say army…..)Militants in Iraq.

Europe needs to start working more with the USA. What needs to happen now is a power split between USA and Europe. The world cannot be run, nor have significant power influence from KGB agents,terrorists, asian communists.

It will be bad for USA first but shortly after that Europe will feel it to.

Please let us not kid each other about intentions of Terrorist countries. If they had capability of hitting the USA with a nuclear bomb they would. 911 – is a reality check on this issue.

If USA were not protecting Israel, Israel would be attacked in an attempt of a modern day holocaust.

The bottom line is America however evil in its attempt to control a major stake in power is the stabilising and protection force in the world.

However much you dont like America lets not forget that in reality a world without them regardless of what country you live in would be a lot lot more worse unless you a terrorist (not a muslim).

If Amercia was hit with a nuclear bomb, make no mistake the world would fall into a severe depression.

Report as unsuitable 2. The Horrible Mad Reality, >>>>>>>>> / 7:34am 26 Nov 2006 The financial infrastructure the USA has built in and out of the USA would fall, what would that do to the banking system of the world.

Also what would happen to all the debt the USA owes other countries (created through the issuance of Treasury notes)
China would be bankcrupted instantly on default of the debt they are owed. And their exports to USA would dissapear.

And our friends Australia – who would protect their country from being occupied.
Australia has so much natural resources that in reality it is the true rich country. How hard would it be to attack Australia, Australia is a sitting duck. Huge island that can be attacked by Sea/Air so easily.
How would it protect itself. Impossible…

The war on Terror really means:
We need to hold onto our power.

Who do you want running your world?

Report as unsuitable 3. Hex, Italy / 8:15am 26 Nov 2006 Well said.

The USA may not be perfect, but if you had to pick one country to be in power, which would you pick?

If you are a realist, anything other than UK or US would be a disaster on a grand scale.

Be careful what you wish for….

Report as unsuitable 4. hiwa, united kingdom / 9:39am 26 Nov 2006 well done guyes at last our voice is getting heard around the world! thank you very much indeed for USA and UK when they decided to get rid of Saddam! God may Ahmadi Najad and Assad follow as well. the simple fact is that, It is not USA and UK who are disdestabilistaion the Middle East, but it is Syira and Iran with the help of many rogue elements in the region who are working very hard to achieve that. let us make it very clear, if Europe and NATO are not sure yet who is causing the trouble in Iraq, then I am afraid the future is looking very gloomy!

Report as unsuitable 5. Media 1, Cape Town / 10:14am 26 Nov 2006 The truth of power is that America has little, hence the reasons she must fight to keep what she has.

China already owns over 1 trillion dollars..She could cash them in tomorrow for another currency and destroy America in one foul swoop. But if she did so there would be a world war which would last for many years.

America is a mere annoyance state!

Report as unsuitable 6. Sean G / 12:52pm 26 Nov 2006 The USA wishes to stabilise the region -that really takes the biscuit “cookie” for the most stupid remark I have read on here!

The USA ie Israel does NOT wish to stabilise the region exactly the opposite -and they are succeeding wonderfully!

Report as unsuitable 7. Sanny, In Portugal for the winter / 2:03pm 26 Nov 2006 1. The Horrible Mad Reality: –
I regret to say that the “Horrible Mad Reality” occupies the Whitehouse and is called Bush.
Whilst Saddam was, and is, a despicable man, it was nonetheless he who maintained Iran in check. In fact, that is why the US supported him with arms and – whether US citizen like it or not –chemical weapons. Had we kept out of Iraq then the US may have had more influence in Iran in persuading them not to continue with their undoubted programme to build Nuclear weapons. By their adventures into Afghanistan and Iraq the US have exposed how weak they are as a military nation. Small countries have now demonstrated that the might of the US is a myth.
Now the world has to suffer for the vanity of an idiot

Report as unsuitable 8. Media 1, Cape Town / 2:06pm 26 Nov 2006 Stabilise = Change to suit their needs
Collateral Damage = Another word for murder

Report as unsuitable 9. Sambo, The deep south / 9:10pm 26 Nov 2006 If you think America is a weak military nation then I’m not sure what planet your living on.

Report as unsuitable 10. monem, malaysia / 8:54am 27 Nov 2006 when would you all want to recognize, especially john bolton, that the insurgents, are infact nationalists, fighting such rough states like us and uk who plundered their countries to stabilize israel whose creation was itself illegitimate?
stop legitimizing us terrorist act in the name of democracy. if the intention is altruistic, bush would not have cheated about the wmd as in weapon of mass destruction which turned out to be weapon of mass deception due to naivete of the american public.
ask yourself, would these mass be around if the us did not meddle in the affairs of others as she has done in vietnam and as many latin american countries? when would america learn?

Report as unsuitable 11. Siroos / 9:12am 27 Nov 2006 #1,
Well put. What do you say about the course of action? I bet Assad – Mullah alliance wet their pants with laughter when they heard the news. THEY are the cause of the problem and NOT the Key to solve.
I bet this was another wet dream by Jimmy Carter and Co to influence this course of action.

Report as unsuitable 12. Siroos / 9:17am 27 Nov 2006 Send in more Troops and seal the borders with Iran and Syria. This will extinguish the insurgency.
Put Alsadr and other Sunni radicals in jail.
Iron Fist first. Law and order will follow soon after.

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November 27th, 2006, 2:13 pm


Ehsani2 said:

Ammar made it to the influential WSJ’S editorial piece this morning:

The New Middle East
November 27, 2006; Page A12
Last week’s murder in Beirut of Lebanese cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel was
followed by demonstrations by Sunnis and Christians denouncing the likeliest
culprits: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
This week, Hezbollah is expected to hold mass rallies of its own against the
anti-Syrian government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora. The stage is now set for
a showdown between the two sides, and perhaps civil war.

It’s worth recalling how we got to this point, and the role that Bush
Administration policies have played since the Cedar Revolution evicted Mr.
Assad’s army from Lebanon in the spring of 2005. President Bush withdrew his
ambassador to Damascus following the February 2005 assassination of former
Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri and later gave diplomatic support to the
anti-Syrian coalition that came to power three months later. The Administration
has also backed the U.N. investigation into the Hariri murder that implicates
Syria and which, if Mr. Siniora’s government can survive, will lead to a trial
sometime next year.

Those were the successes. The mistakes include a decision not to respond to
Hariri’s murder by seeking regime change in Syria, as none other than the French
were urging at the time. Mr. Assad has repaid this restraint by maneuvering for
nearly two years to overturn the results of the Cedar Revolution, and somehow
his opponents in Lebanon keep being murdered.

Nor were matters helped by the U.N. ceasefire resolution arranged by Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice that ended the war Hezbollah started against Israel
last summer. The war was incompetently prosecuted by the Israelis, but a few
more weeks of fighting might have destroyed the Shiite group as a military
organization and thus spared Lebanon its current predicament. Instead, Ms. Rice
intervened with a resolution that allowed Hezbollah to emerge claiming victory
while offering no real guarantees that it will ever be disarmed.

Worse, the Administration acquiesced in a deal arranged between Mr. Assad and
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan whereby Syria — hitherto the principal
conduit of arms to Hezbollah — is supposed to prevent the flow of weapons to
the group. The Jerusalem Post recently reported that arms are moving across the
Syria-Lebanon border “by the truckload.”

But the greatest failure is that the Administration has never really settled on
a policy toward Syria. Mr. Bush signed the Syria Accountability and Lebanese
Sovereignty Restoration Act in 2003 but opted to impose only the two weakest
sanctions on the list provided by Congress. The U.S. has repeatedly accused
Damascus of providing material support for the insurgency in Iraq, but it has
never acted in a way that would show Mr. Assad it is serious about stopping him.
Predator strikes against terrorist bases in Syria were ruled out.

The Administration has also failed to lend any meaningful support to the
National Salvation Front, the leading Syrian opposition group, apparently
because it includes members of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as former regime
elements. But as Ammar Abdulhamid, a leading member of the NSF who is also a
secular democrat, points out, “controversial figures will always be involved in
opposition work. You can’t look at [the NSF] as a change to the most wonderful
democratic system in the world. But you do need to break the stalemate and
introduce a new dynamic.”

Now the U.S. foreign-policy establishment is talking about the need to “engage”
Damascus, and a weakened Bush Administration might be tempted to appease the
Assad clan. The result is likely to be more of “the new Middle East” now on
display in Lebanon.

November 27th, 2006, 2:44 pm


Ehsani2 said:

The article below highlights how what the Syrian Government collects in taxes only amounts to 30% of its total revenues. This compares to 90% of other (non-oil) based countries.

Lebanon (a country of less than 5 million) collects 50% more tax revenues than Syria with four times the population.

The laws of economics cannot be avoided forever. New taxed will have to be imposed sooner or later.

Sadly, raising taxes in a low growth economy is going to cause further pain and contraction.

As I keep saying, when it comes to the prospects of the Syrian economy, the pessimists out there are not nearly pessimistic enough.

November 27th, 2006, 4:20 pm


simohurtta said:

Ehsani2 as an economist you know that the debts of a state are transferred taxes. Lebanon has every reason to collect all the taxes it is possible can lay its hand on without killing the milking cow. As you say: The laws of economics cannot be avoided forever. New taxed will have to be imposed sooner or later. In Lebanon and USA which are in debt up to ears.
Lebanon Debt – external: $25.92 billion (2005 est.)
GDP (purchasing power parity): $19.49 billion (2005 est.)
This doesn’t include the costs of the last Israeli “democracy teaching” lecture.

Actually Syria has better changes to develop economically as Lebanon. Lebanon’s present economical state makes the past situation of Argentine look good. By the way did you know Ehsani2, that 25 percent of Lebanon’s relative small export (1.8 billion) goes to Syria. Hmmmm seems that any Lebanese government must be rather polite to Syria or they must fast find a new big export partner…

November 27th, 2006, 9:57 pm


norman said:

Ehsani2, the problem in Syria collecting enough taxes does not come from lack of trying actualy they cut the rates to levels close to the US rates trying to make them more reasanble to pay,the problem in Syria is inabelity to collect the taxes and i beleive that comes from the way they collect taxes they do that by sending an employee of the finance minestry to asses the taxes, that employee is willing to get bribed and that is because of his poor gov sallary,what Syria needs is either to have what we have in this country ,pay estimated taxes evry three months certified by an accountant whos license on the line ,that will make it easier to pay the taxes and will make it difficult to avoid ,other option will be to have general sale tax with better assesing the financial status of the poor and provide subsidies to them .

November 28th, 2006, 1:18 am


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