LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 5,1-12. When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Where To After Nahr el-Bared-Elias Harfouch -June 12/07
An Israeli view: We want peace but oppose terrorism.By Shimon Peres. June 12/07
Latest News Reports
From Miscellaneous Sources for June 12/06/07
Lebanese Troops Demolish Abssi's Apartment At Nahr al-Bared-Naharnet
Saudi King Abdullah to Discuss Lebanese Political Impasse in Europe-Naharnet
Fath Al-Islam, Al-Qaeda, Syria Liaison Captured-MEMRI - Washington
Is it time for Lebanon to suffer tragedies?Yemen Times - Sana'a,Yemen
Casualties mount as violence continues in Lebanon camp-Ya Libnan
Heaviest Weekend Death Toll in Massive Army Operation Against Militant Hideouts-Naharnet
Yakan: Mediation Collapses as Camp Conflict Now In Qaida Hands-Naharnet
French envoy in Beirut to discuss Paris summit on Lebanon crises- Ya Libnan
Bomb Tossed at Army Checkpoint in Tripoli, Two Arrested-Naharnet
Hezbollah accused of stockpiling rockets-Washington Times
RPS leader: Don't make peace with Syria-Jerusalem Post
Peres downbeat on Syria talks-Gulf Times
Syria ordered its Lebanon cells to kill 4 prominent Lebanese-Ya Libnan
Lebanon army discovers about 40 corpses of terrorists-Ya Libnan
Siniora says Fatah al-Islam fighters linked to Syria-Daily Star
MP Kanaan calls on Syria to 'control its border'-Daily Star
Lebanon to propose list of 12 judges to the Hariri tribunal-Ya Libnan
Powell: US should talk with Syria, Iran-Monsters and Critics.com
Bombing in Zouk Mosbeh takes heavy toll on the struggling industrial sector-Daily Star
Proposed changes to electoral law are 'a start'-Daily Star
Army, security forces conduct raids on suspected militant hideouts in North-Daily Star
A multiplicity of Lebanese voices find an enclave in Italy-Daily Star
Sfeir hopes crises will 'teach us to live together'-Daily Star
Lebanon to propose judges for Hariri court-Daily Star
Lebanese Army death toll in North rises to 58-Daily Star
Social group seeks to keep young offenders out of jail-Daily Star
Bizri wants state to manage rebuilding of Ain al-Hilweh-Daily Star
Fadlallah accuses US of trying to ruin Lebanon-Daily Star
Lebanese Troops Demolish Abssi's Apartment At Nahr al-Bared
Lebanese troops demolished the Apartment of Fatah al-Islam's leader Shaker Abssi in Nahr al-Bared camp after his terrorists killed two Lebanese Red Cross rescuers Monday. Reliable sources told Naharnet Lebanese troops stormed Abssi's apartment in the Noras compound, in the center of Nahr al-Bared, confiscated a large quantity of documents from it and demolished the whole building. This, the sources explained, leaves Abssi's terrorists besieged in the three remaining buildings of the Noras compound. The state-run National News Agency identified the two LRC fatalities as Boulos Miimari and Haitham Suleiman.
The wounded LRC rescuer was not identified, and NNA said he was in a "critical" condition. Clergyman Mohammed Hajj Ali, member of the Palestine Ulema League, also was wounded by Fatah al-Islam sniper fire while inspecting the camp, security sources said. The LRC rescuers were the first relief workers hit since the confrontation first broke out on May 20 between the Army and Fatah al-Islam terrorists headed by Jordanian-Palestinian Shaker Abssi.
Meanwhile, army gunners manning 155-mm howitzers and mortar batteries pounded hideouts held by the terrorists in the camp, 12 kilometers north of the port city of Tripoli, provincial capital of north Lebanon. Smoke and dust billowed from the stricken targets as the thuds of exploding artillery shells echoed across the region, reflecting intensity of the confrontation.
Reliable sources said army shelling also covered the southern entrance to the camp, which indicates that Fatah al-Islam terrorists were trying to infiltrate out of the besieged shantytown to seek refuge in mountains overlooking Tripoli. A security source said Abssi followers have been trying in vain to infiltrate out of the region towards the mountainous range that abuts east Lebanon's Bekaa valley, where they apparently hope to be able to find safe exit to neighboring Syria or seek refuge at bases manned by Syrian-backed Palestinian guerrillas. Meanwhile, at least two gunboats from the Lebanese Navy were observed patrolling the Mediterranean off the Nahr al-Bared coast in an apparent effort to prevent the terrorists from escaping by boat to neighboring Syria.
The Lebanese government says Fatah al-Islam is a terrorist network affiliated with Syrian intelligence and launches attacks aimed at destabilizing Lebanon. Syria denies the charge. The ferocious confrontation Monday followed the deadliest weekend in the war between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army in which 17 people were killed, which brought to 125 the overall casualty toll since May 20. At least 58 soldiers have been killed in the confrontation. Beirut, 11 Jun 07, 17:47
Syria ordered its Lebanon
cells to kill 4 prominent Lebanese
Monday, 11 June, 2007 @ 12:29 AM
Beirut - The Syrian intelligence has already ordered its cells in Lebanon to assassinate the following prominent Lebanese leaders:
MP Saad Hariri, parliament majority leader and son of former PM Rafik Hariri
MP Walid Jumblatt, Druze leader and head of Democratic Gathering parliamentary bloc and PSP chief
MP Marwan Hamadeh, Minister of communications , who miraculously survived an assassination attempt in 2004, for which Syria was blamed , but denied.any role.
Fares Khashan- a prominent anti-Syrian journalist
Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in 2005 . The UN investigation pointed fingers at Syria for being responsible for his murder but Syria denied any responsibility
Al Seyassah newspaper also reported that the recent meeting between Italy's Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema and his Syrian counterpart Walid Mouallem in Damascus did not go well at all. There were many heated discussions during that meeting . D'Alema warned Mouallem that if Damascus does not help in stabilizing Lebanon then this should be considered his last trip to Syria and he will no longer be able to stop the European community from applying sanctions against Syria
D'Alema also told Muallem " we have proofs of your involvement in the murder of Hariri but we did not disclose them yet" . This apparently angered Mouallem who said " We the Syrians have not made any move yet but once we make our move we will not only set Lebanon on fire but the whole region"
Sources: Al Seyassah
Sfeir hopes crises will 'teach us to live together'
By Maroun Khoury -Daily Star correspondent
Monday, June 11, 2007
BKIRKI: Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir asked on Sunday whether Lebanon must be faced with instability before the people give their support to the Lebanese Army. "Must fighting erupt ... must bombings claim the lives of Lebanese and threaten the majority of people in order for us to stand behind our soldiers, who offer their blood for the sake of the country?" Sfeir asked, referring to ongoing fighting between the army and Fatah al-Islam militants in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in North Lebanon and to several bombings that have struck the capital and neighboring areas since the clashes erupted on May 20.
Speaking during his weekly Sunday sermon in Bkirki, Sfeir also voiced hope that the current "calamity" would allow the Lebanese to improve their ways of dealing with each other. "It is our hope that this tragedy will teach us how to live together in an atmosphere full of cooperation and solidarity," he said.
Following the service, Sfeir met with Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan.
Adwan praised the army and security forces for their efforts against the Fatah al-Islam fighters. "I hope the army will eradicate terrorism as soon as possible," Adwan said. He also made reference to a reported plot by Fatah al-Islam to launch a series of terrorist attacks beyond the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp.
"We will discover one day the size of the plot being prepared not only for Nahr al-Bared, but also for the entire country," he said. "It was a large plot meant at destabilizing Lebanon." Additionally, Maronite bishops conducted an annual closed-door meeting in Bkirki from June 3-9, ending the meeting with a public statement read by Msgr. Youssef Tawk. The bishops called for the formation of a national unity government "now that the dispute over the international tribunal to try suspects involved with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has come to an end - following the approval [of the tribunal] by the UN Security Council."
"It is necessary to establish a national unity government with a pre-set program," it said.
"We should also elect a new president on time," it said, adding that "the new president ought to be welcomed by the majority of the Lebanese and capable of unifying different parties and viewpoints."The bishops also condemned "mobile bombings" and "intentional" attacks on the army. "Officials' efforts to restore life to constitutional institutions will help Lebanon get out of its current crisis," they added. Regarding the issue of settling Palestinians in Lebanon, the bishops said the settlement of the Palestinians "is a trap that aims to ruin Lebanon and the Palestinian cause.""Due to its small area, Leba-non cannot accept settlement, especially since settlement will cause the majority of Lebanese to leave the country," they said.
Adwan reacted positively to the statement, saying that "Bkirki hit the nail right on the head. The bishops' statement gave a true reflection of the crisis we are experiencing."The statement also gained the support of several other officials in the country.Future Movement leader MP Saad Hariri said on Saturday it constituted a "real and appropriate framework" for resolving the six-month-old political deadlock. LF leader Samir Geagea also expressed support, describing the statement as "a clear stand." Former Premier Salim Hoss echoed Geagea and emphasized the need to create a national unity government. Speaking to Voice of Lebanon radio on Sunday, Hoss stressed the need to set up an agenda for the new government "without conditions."President Emile Lahoud also expressed "relief" over the statement, particularly the points dealing with the settlement of the Palestinians.
French envoy in Beirut to discuss Paris summit on Lebanon crises
Monday, 11 June, 2007
Beirut - French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran arrived in Beirut on Sunday to follow up an invitation by the French foreign ministry for leaders across Lebanon's political divide to attend informal fence-mending talks on the country's future later this month. "This French initiative is both simple and concrete. It aims to help politicians in Lebanon in establishing confidence and dialogue," Cousseran ( R) said after meeting Nabih Berri, the pro-Syrian opposition speaker of parliament.
On Monday he will meet Siniora and leaders of the anti-Damascus majority in parliament.
Hezbollah accused of stockpiling rockets
Published: June 10, 2007
BEIRUT, Lebanon, June 10 (UPI) -- Hezbollah has stockpiled as many as 20,000 rockets in underground bunkers in southern Lebanon near Israel's border, the Sunday Times of London reported. Hezbollah, an Iranian-supported militia, has rebuilt its fighting capability in Lebanon even as United Nations peacekeeping forces monitor the area, the Times said. "Hezbollah will never leave southern Lebanon," said former Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. "It's now armed with rockets that could hit central and even southern Israel." Hezbollah has returned by stealth since being forced to leave the border as part of the August 2006 cease fire.
"Since the Israeli forces left, Hezbollah has been building formidable military underground posts under the noses" of the United Nations, an Israeli intelligence officer told the Times.
Heaviest Weekend Death Toll in Massive Army Operation Against Militant Hideouts
Lebanese troops and diehard terrorists holed up in the northern refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared refugee camp fought fierce battles over the weekend, often at close quarters, inflicting the highest casualty toll since the army launched a fresh operation to finish off the al-Qaida inspired militants. The weekend of deadly gunbattles left 17 people killed when the army staged an operation to storm Fatah al-Islam positions inside the camp. Sporadic firefights continued on Monday between Lebanese soldiers and Fatah al-Islam militants.As the showdown entered its fourth week, the sound of assault rifle and machine fire interrupted long stretches of uneasy calm since late Sunday. The army, which has encircled the Fatah al-Islam terrorists in a tiny enclave within Nahr al-Bared, tried to push into terrain protected by fighters manning roof-top sniper nests. An army spokesman said 9 soldiers in total were killed in Saturday's clashes. He said 6 troops were killed on Saturday and the other three died of their injuries on Sunday, adding that 40 others were wounded.
"The soldiers were victims of booby-trapped bomb blasts and grenades thrown at them by Fatah al-Islam" as they tried to storm the militia's positions on the northeastern outskirts of the camp, said an army commander. The soldiers were "fighting from high-rise to high-rise but encountering fierce resistance from the extremists who have booby-trapped the buildings," he said. It was the highest casualty toll in a single day since fighting began May 20 -- the worst to engulf Lebanon since the 1975-90 civil war -- reflecting the tough challenge Lebanese troops face in efforts to crush Fatah al-Islam.
During brief lulls on Sunday, relief workers evacuated 250 people from the Nahr al-Bared camp where more than 3,000 inhabitants out of an estimated 30,000 residents are still trapped in precarious conditions. The rest have fled. The high casualties over the weekend were suffered in clashes -- often at close quarters -- when the army staged an operation to storm Fatah al-Islam positions inside the camp. As the army confirmed a push forward of 50 meters, Fatah al-Islam spokesman Shahine Shahine told AFP that four of its fighters had been killed and six wounded in beating back the army advance.
The weekend's bloodshed brings to 123 the number of dead since clashes erupted on May 20. They include 58 soldiers and 50 members of Fatah al-Islam.
Two Palestinian civilians, whose bodies were evacuated by the Red Crescent on Sunday, also died in the previous day's shelling of the mostly deserted camp, rescue workers said. Lebanese authorities say the fighting was sparked by raids on Fatah al-Islam hideouts in Tripoli following a bank robbery, after which the militants attacked army posts.
The renewed flare up came as Sunni cleric intermediate Fathi Yakan, shuttling between the two sides in a bid to broker a peaceful end to the siege, declared collapse of the mediation efforts. He said the conflict was now in the hands of al-Qaida with which he had no contact. "The issue is now very complicated after the Nahr al-Bared dossier has been handed over (by Fatah al-Islam) to al-Qaida worldwide," Yakan said. "We have reached a dead-end."
The mediators on Friday had already suffered a setback when they were able to see only Shahine, not more senior Fatah al-Islam leaders. However, another Fatah al-Islam spokesman, Abu Salim Taha, told AFP the mediation was not welcome as it required the Islamists to surrender as demanded by the Beirut government.
By longstanding convention the army does not enter Lebanon's 12 refugee camps, leaving security inside to Palestinian factions.(Naharnet-AFP)
Yakan: Mediation Collapses as Camp Conflict Now In Qaida Hands
Leader of the Islamic Action Front Fathi Yakan declared collapse of the mediation efforts to broker a peaceful end to the Nahr al-Bared confrontation as the conflict was now in the hands of al-Qaida with which he had no contact. Yakan, who is among a group of Muslim clerics shuttling between Fatah al-Islam and the army command, said on Sunday: "The issue is now very complicated after the Nahr al-Bared dossier has been handed over (by Fatah al-Islam) to al-Qaida worldwide."
"We have reached a dead-end," he added. The mediators on Friday already said they had suffered a setback when they were able to see only Shahine Shahine, not more senior Fatah al-Islam leaders. However, another Fatah al-Islam spokesman, Abu Salim Taha said the mediation was not welcome as it required the Islamists to surrender as demanded by the Beirut government. Ministerial as well as security sources ridiculed Yakan's announcement, accusing him of trying to distance Fatah-al-Islam from the Damascus regime in a move designed to "eliminate suspicion" of Syrian involvement in this direction.
Bomb Tossed at Army Checkpoint in Tripoli, Two Arrested
A concussion bomb was tossed at a Lebanese army checkpoint near the house of Internal Security Forces commander Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi in Tripoli late Sunday.
The bomb was tossed from a moving motorcycle, New TV reported. It said troops arrested the two assailants involved in the 10:30 p.m. attack.
On Monday, a man found a hand grenade near Zahrat al-Ihsan school in Beirut's Ashrafiyeh district, the National News Agency said. It said the man called internal security forces after finding the bomb lying on the street near the school.
Where To After Nahr el-Bared
Elias Harfouch Al-Hayat - 10/06/07//
It is rare in the countries of the Third World, including Lebanon, that the army plays a security role protecting the institutions of the State without having its eyes on a political role. In some countries the army plays this role directly, i.e. when the chief of the army becomes president; then the commander would take off the military uniform to wear civilian clothes instead. In other countries the military role gets mixed with the political one; then, the security instrument becomes the real ruler without taking over the seat of president.
Therefore, there are endless questions about the role that Gen. Michel Sleiman could play after the Nahr el-Bared operation which would, if ends in success as expected, be a precedent that would restore respect to the State in some other areas that represent security problems or where foreign plots are being prepared.
The reason for the questions about the role of the army commander is the nature of the current situation, where there is no hope for a compromise solution from now and until President Lahoud's extended term comes to an end in November. The questions could also be ascribed to politicians who had always resorted to the 'military' option when crises swept the country and led to the collapse of its political institutions. By a simple calculation one could deduct that almost half of the successive Lebanese presidential terms since independence were 'military' terms - i.e. led by commanders of the army - or were pro-army terms, like the term led by former President Charles Helou. If we take out the period of the Civil War, when the authority of the State was limited compared to the militias, we could say that most of the Lebanese presidents who had enjoyed real power came from the military establishment.
Is Gen. Michel Aoun likely for such a role? It is absurd for one to play down the impact of individual 'ambition' to reach the presidency. The man belongs to a sect that has been given the exclusive right by the norm to take this post. He also comes from an ancient city in Mount Lebanon where, historically, most of the presidents came from. Moreover, the army is currently carrying out a national project that extends form Nahr el-Bared to Naqoura on the hope to restore the ingredients of the Lebanese sovereignty that were taken out from it under the pressure of struggles and regional interests.
Before Nahr el-Bared, the army had successfully carried out an experiment in Beirut during the demonstrations orchestrated by the opposition in the winter and their subsequent clashes. These clashes could have become worse were it not for the wise role played by the army and the clear threat it made to the political milieus that they were 'exhausting' the army, whose resources or internal cohesion do not allow for a long-term mobilization along the lines of 'confrontation' in the capital city.
The same stance was adopted by Gen. Sleiman on the demonstrations that erupted in Beirut on February 28, 2005, calling for the resignation of the government of former Prime Minister Omar Karami following the assassination of ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Had the army obeyed the political decision back then and battered the protesters, as happened at similar times when the security services would shoot on orders from without, the consequences would have been far worse. The door would not have been opened for restoring the internal Lebanese decision, the way for which was paved by the parliamentary elections held in the spring of the same year. The slogan of the army commander in his neutral stance on the internal crisis was that the leadership that had not allowed opposing the Resistance in the South, when the Resistance had a national role, would not be an obstacle to the people's spontaneous flux to express their national sentiments.
What is more important, however, is what the army is doing near the southern border in the framework of its participation in the execution of Security Council resolution No. 1701 in collaboration with the international forces. Despite the difficulties facing the army's mission there, because of the ambiguous stances adopted by the influential Hezbollah on this resolution, what is important is that history would remember Gen. Michel Sleiman for returning the Lebanese national army to the border 30 years after withdrawing from there for reasons that had nothing to do with the sublime national interest. This pullout had cost Lebanon, particularly the people of the south, dearly.
Except for the distinct and historic experience of President Fouad Shehab, one has to admit that the history of 'military' presidents does not serve Gen. Sleiman much. The experiences of Gen. Aoun and Gen. Lahoud would definitely remain in the memories, but Sleiman, who was promoted by the incumbent president to command the army, has scored a very important position that is an addition to what we have just mentioned of his keenness on neutrality regarding the internal dispute. He had turned down an offer from President Lahoud to lead a caretaker government at the end of his term so that he is not 'used' in the ongoing dispute between the Lebanese. This rejection sends out many signals Beirut, 10 Jun 07, 22:49
An Israeli view: We want peace but oppose terrorism
By Shimon Peres - Daily Star
Monday, June 11, 2007
Forty years after the June 1967 war, peace between Israelis and Palestinians seems as distant as ever. Israel still refuses to accept the new Palestinian national unity government as a negotiating partner because Hamas is part of that government. What is the cause of this seeming paradox? Is there any hope?
The Palestinian government is united administratively, but divided politically. The Palestinians have one government with two policies. Politically, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh remains opposed to recognizing Israel and respecting the existing agreements. He declared that he is for the continuation of resistance in all forms. What kind of guarantee of a good faith effort to reach a peace agreement can come from such a stance?
That is the question the European Union needs to ask itself as it debates whether to resume providing financial aid to the Palestinian Authority. The EU should make it clear to Hamas that it is not going to finance terrorism and is not going to finance a refusal to make peace. If the Palestinians want to have European help - which I support completely - it must be ready to make peace, not break peace. After all, it is not Hamas as a party that is objectionable; what is objectionable are the politics and policies that Hamas pursues. Israel has nothing against Hamas; we are against their belligerent policies, which the movement's service in government has not changed.
There was a time when the Palestine Liberation Organization held positions that were the same as those of Hamas. Then the PLO changed. If the current Palestinian leadership changes its position, there will be no problem from the Israeli side. We will have nothing against negotiations. We are for negotiations. We are for the "two-state solution." We accept the Middle East "road map." What we are against is terrorism.
Where we cannot agree, however, is on a "right of return" for Palestinians. If such a right were recognized, there would be a Palestinian majority instead of a Jewish majority, which would mean the end of the Jewish state. This is a demographic, not a religious, question: an Arab state is where the Arabs are the majority, and the Jewish state is where the Jews are the majority. Indeed, the "right of return" contradicts the very idea of a two-state solution, as it would mean one state - a Palestinian state. Nobody in Israel will accept this.
But there are other problems in the region that Israel - and the world - must face. The Palestinians' current unity government resulted from Saudi mediation, which came in response mainly to Iran's ambition to increase its influence, not only in Iraq, but also in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank.
Of course, that issue is completely outside Israel's control. The ongoing fight in the Muslim world between Sunnis and Shiites recalls the struggle between Protestants and Catholics in 17th-century Europe. So it is little wonder that the Saudis, Jordanians, Egyptians and the Gulf states are seeking to resist Iran's hegemonic ambitions in the region.
Nevertheless, the stakes are far higher than in the 17th century, because Iran represents a threat that combines religion with a determination to acquire nuclear weapons. Indeed, Iran is the only country that openly declares its desire to destroy another member of the United Nations. That is a threat that every country must take seriously. When a country's president delivers threatening speeches, denies the Holocaust, and does not hide his ambition to control the Middle East, who can guarantee that the threat is not serious?
The issue is not one of restoring nuclear "balance" to the Middle East, as Iran's leaders maintain. First of all, Israel does not threaten anybody. Israel never said that it wants to destroy Iran; Israel never openly proclaimed that it would enrich uranium and build nuclear bombs in order to destroy another country. On the contrary, Israel has said that it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in the Middle East. But that does not mean that we can afford to ignore an obvious threat from countries that want to destroy us.
Despite the current unfavorable situation, the path to stabilizing the Middle East still leads through joint economic projects. Even now, Israel is planning to build a new "corridor of peace," which will comprise the Jordanians, the Palestinians and us. Within the framework of this project, we are seeking to halt the dehydration of the Dead Sea, build a joint airport and a joint water network with Jordan, and develop tourism infrastructure, at a cost of up to $5 billion. We have the donors, so there is no shortage of money to finance our efforts, which, I am sure, will be realized.
Israel wants - indeed, desperately needs - peace and stability in the Middle East, and we will continue to do everything in our power to achieve it. But we cannot reach that goal alone, much less negotiate with those whose idea of a stable and peaceful Middle East is one that has no place for Israel.
**Shimon Peres is Israel's deputy prime minister. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate-HVG (c) (www.project-syndicate.org).
'Don't make peace with despotic Syria'
By SHEERA CLAIRE FRENKEL
Entering into peace negotiations with Syrian President Bashar Assad would mean condoning dictatorships across the Middle East, Farid Ghadry, the exiled leader of Syria's opposition Reform Party, said Sunday. "Peace with Syria is important, but peace with Assad would be a disaster," said Ghadry during a conference at the Harry Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University. "Don't make peace with a dictator, or you will send a message to 19 million Syrians that you don't care about their freedom and their liberties." Israel should "be patient and wait for Syria to become democratic" before beginning peace negotiations, said Ghadry. "Syria will become democratic, have patience… how it will become democratic is the million dollar question," said Ghadry. He said that he envisioned Syria emerging as a pluralistic democracy through pressure from the US-led international community and pressure from within by the "Internet generation" - Syrian youths who use the Internet to expand their horizons beyond the state-controlled media.
Some 800,000 Syrians are on the Internet, representing less than five percent of the population, said Ghadry.
"Israel needs to ask itself: What happens when Internet penetration in Syria reaches 20% or 30%? What happens when those cynical young people are finding their own answers?" said Ghadry. "Peace with a non-democratic Syria ignores this force. This is perilous and short-sighted."
Ghadry founded the Syrian Reform Party while in the US in 2003 with the aim of bringing down Assad's regime. The 51-year-old left Syria in 1971 and became a US citizen in 1982. Though he last visited Syria in 1996, he said that he keeps in touch with the Syrian public through a network of contacts. He estimates that his party has "several hundred members, but is representative of much more."
On his second visit to Israel this week, he plans to warn Israeli officials not to be tempted by the recent calls for peace sounded by Syria.
On Monday, Ghadry will become the second Syrian expatriate to address the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Last month, the committee met with Syrian-American businessman Ibrahim Suleiman on a proposed Israel-Syria peace agreement.
Like Suleiman, Ghadry will tell the committee that Syria views the Golan Heights as Syrian territory.
Ghadry said, however, that he did not believe Assad would attack Israel because it would be a "fatal mistake" that would end Assad's rule.
On Tuesday, Ghadry will tour the Golan Heights with MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), the hawkish former Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee head.
Peres downbeat on Syria talks
Monday, 11 June, 2007, 06:28 AM Doha Time
JERUSALEM: Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres played down yesterday prospects for relaunching talks with Syria over a land-for-peace deal.
Israel has reaffirmed its readiness to talk with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but is seeking assurances in advance that Syria would distance itself from Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrillas and Palestinian militants, Israeli officials said. But after leaking the existence of secret channels via Turkey and Germany to ask Syria the price it would be willing to pay for the return of the occupied Golan Heights, Israel says it is still waiting for a definitive answer. Asked if the time had come to talk peace with Syria, Peres told reporters: “The problem is the Syrians are not ready and are unwilling to negotiate directly with Israel. They want to do it through the United States. “The United States said: ‘Gentlemen, if you want to negotiate, you have to stop being a supporter of terror and you have to stop supporting ... the toppling down of the prime minister of Lebanon – stop supporting the Hezbollah. And there is where it is stuck for the time being.’”
There has been no public response from Damascus to the news of the Israeli diplomatic approaches.
Israeli intelligence chiefs are divided, officials said, over whether Syria genuinely wants to talk about peace or is preparing for war to try to regain the Golan, a strategic plateau captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
Some Israeli political commentators have described the recent leaks about possible peacemaking with Syria as an apparent bid by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to show the Israeli public he had covered all bases should hostilities erupt. And while Israel and Syria came close in US-sponsored talks in 2000 to a deal on returning the Golan Heights, Olmert’s hands could be tied in any new attempt to negotiate a pullout.
Olmert’s approval ratings have plunged to single digits after last year’s inconclusive war against Hezbollah, which fired some 4,000 rockets into Israel from land that Israeli soldiers quit in a unilateral withdrawal in 2000. The conflict forced Olmert, who backed a 2005 troop and settler pullout from the Gaza Strip that has been followed by frequent rocket attacks on Israel, to abandon a peace plan envisaging withdrawal from some areas of the occupied West Bank.
Like Israel, the US is keen to loosen Assad’s ties to Iran, whose nuclear programme and influence in Iraq have caused the two allies concern.
Olmert is scheduled to hold talks with US President George W Bush at the White House on June 19 expected to focus on stalled peacemaking with the Palestinians.
Washington has made clear it wants Israel to make progress on the Palestinian track to strengthen President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah faction is locked in a power struggle with Hamas. – Reuters