Al-Waleed Bin Talal: “Assad… we are getting him back in the fold”

Alwaleed Bin Talal to Charlie Rose last night: (Start at minute 11 in the video)

“Let me assure you and let me give you a quote from my friend Bashar Assad that Bashar Assad has all intentions to have peace in the region with Israel and has all intentions to have the Palestinians have peace and live in peace with Israel. And, you know, in the past, you know, the US was against him, France was against him, Saudi was against him, Israel was against him. He was isolated. He had no choice but to go to Iran. Right now we are seeing his links now with the US, his links with France, with Saudi. He was in Saudi last Wednesday. So really we are getting him back in the fold. So I can assure you that Bashar is going to play a very big role in getting the peace process moving.”….

What is your assessment of something happening between Syria nd Israel? I believe that President Obama must focus more attention on the Middle East problem. He has focused a great deal on health care, etc… I think Israel can have peace in a month or two with the Syrians and Palestinians if it wants to. …. Israel is the power in the region….

The Lebanesee situation is over right now. … Saad al-Hariri has visited Syria. The issue is over right now…. Syria has influence over Hizbullah, but let’s be honest, it is really Iran that has power over Hizbullah….

With Iran, you have to engage with them…

The normalization of relations between Lebanon and Syria was a boon for the entire region, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Thursday.

Senior minister to Haaretz: Chances for renewing peace talks are slim
2010-01-22, By Akiva Eldar

Exactly a year after trumpeting the appointment of former senator George Mitchell as his special envoy to the Middle East, U.S. President Barack Obama is holding Israel and the Palestinians equally responsible for the stalemate in the peace process.

In an interview with Time magazine marking his first year in the White House, Obama said neither side has been willing to make the bold gestures necessary to move the process forward.

A senior minister told Haaretz Thursday that the chances of renewing the peace talks are “slim.” According to the minister, Mitchell’s present mission is not likely to succeed either, as he will probably not persuade Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to renew the negotiations over the permanent status settlement. Nor is he likely to receive from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a clear answer as to whether he is ready to adopt U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s formula to base Israel’s permanent borders on the 1967 lines.

The results of Mitchell’s meetings this week with Netanyahu and Abbas will determine whether Washington continues the efforts to bring the parties back to the negotiations table….

Diplomatic sources say that in view of the dead end in the Palestinian track and the American interest to stabilize the Iraq-Syria border, Obama may lend an attentive ear to Israeli figures Ehud Barak and Dan Meridor, who are trying to persuade the Americans to unblock the Syrian track….

MEPGS from Friday Lunch Club

….Some US companies are also beginning to look at investment in Syria. Once again to the chagrin, if not the surprise of US officials, the Baathist regime in Damascus has, in the words of one State Department veteran “…been successful in hunkering down and weathering the storm.” The announcement of the appointment of a new US Ambassador is expected any day now [Final approval awaits an OK from the White House]. Saad Hariri, the son of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who most assume was assassinated by the Syrians, has made what one State Department veteran calls “his pilgrimage to Damascus to kiss the ring” [of President Bashar al-Assad]. With the Saudis wooing Assad, Syrian rehabilitation is nearly complete, says US analysts.

Even US Special Envoy, George Mitchell, is about to make a stop in Damascus on his latest Middle East foray. Although he also visits Beirut [“You can never too often show the Lebanese how much you love them,” notes one State Department official wryly], the main objective continues to be his pursuit of progress in restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

These talks have been stalled, say US officials, on account of the unwillingness of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to reenter talks until Israel agrees to a complete settlement freeze, including new construction in Jerusalem. ….

Syria’s Lebanese return validates Bashar Assad’s waiting game
By Nicholas Blanford

Libya to lay off 400,000 employees

afrol News, 22 January – Libyan authorities in their preparations for this year’s national budget have decided to lay off more than one third of the country’s civil servants within the next few years. In a bid to ease budgetary strains and encourage private sector investments, authorities nevertheless offer to pay three years of salaries.

The decision to lay off an estimated 400,000 state employees and army staff was presented during the 2007 budget works this weekend. Libya has more than one million civil servants, totally dominating the national workforce in a country of only 6.5 million inhabitants.

The Secretary of the General People’s Committee – or Libya’s Prime Minister, as he is usually referred to – announced the plan on national television during the weekend. PM Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi said it was necessary to cut back on the dinar 4 billion (euro 2.5 billion) spent on salaries over the national budget each year.

While the radical reform would have a quick effect on the composition of Libya’s workforce, budget spending on salaries would not diminish within the short term. PM Al-Mahmoudi promised that authorities would be generous with the many affected of the labour cut-backs.

The Prime Minister in his speech emphasised that those thrown out of the government workforce “will be paid their full salaries for three years until they can ensure their own businesses without being funded by the Public Treasury,” Libyan state media reported. “They also can get loans to create their own economic business where each loan reaches up to 50,000 dinars,” (euro 32,000) he added.

According to the budget committee, the programme not only was aimed at cutting Libya’s galloping public wage bill. It is also a conscious attempt at diversifying the Libyan economy, which still is totally dependent on oil revenues…..

Indeed, for the many Libyan that will lose their formerly safe and secure government jobs, there is little hope on the small private employment market. Official figures put the unemployment rate in Libya at 17 percent, but the real figure is believed to be much higher.

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