Beirut (AsiaNews) Arab regimes' efforts to save Syrian President Assad and his regime are intensifying as a result of the probe into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and mounting Western pressure on Damascus to co-operate with the United Nations. Meanwhile, in Syria itself some voices are daring to oppose the all-powerful Baath Party.
For French President Jacques Chirac, the time of interference and impunity in Lebanon is over. Today, in meeting Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faysal he said that Syria must co-operate unconditionally with UN investigators who want to interview President Assad.
Also today, former Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam, whose statements led the UN's latest requests, reiterated "his profound conviction" that Assad instigated Hariri's murder. Talking on French radio channel Europe 1, he said that only Assad could order the murder of Hariri because "there is no security officer [in Syria] who could take such a decision".
The Saudi foreign minister's trip to Paris is the final leg of a diplomatic effort by the Saudi government. Before arriving in the French capital, Saud al-Faysal was in Damascus on Sunday.
The Syrian government rejected the UN demand to interview Assad the previous day, but according to Lebanonwire Assad himself flew the day before to the Saudi city of Jeddah after being "summoned" by Saudi King Abdullah.
Syria's official news agency SANA announced that the meeting was centred on "regional and international issues, especially Lebanon" and on "strengthening fraternal relations" between the two Arab countries.
The Mubarak-Assad meeting in Egypt on January 9 was instead unannounced. The tête-à-tête lasted an hour before Assad flew home.
Mubarak and King Abdullah met just a week ago, on January 3, in Jeddah. The meeting came the decision not to cut loose Assad on condition he comply with the UN requests to find the culprits in the Hariri assassination even among top Syrian officials; in other words, to quote Lebanese daily L'Orient Le Jour, on condition he "give up the guilty".
In Damascus, somewhere in the cacophony of "spontaneous" pro-Assad demonstrations and the hammering propaganda by the pro-regime press, Hassan Abd El Rahman El Azim, spokesman for the National Democratic Movement which some months ago released the 'Declaration of Damascus' that called for Assad's removal, was heard. Speaking to AsiaNews he said that Khaddam's statements are "part of the framework of a revolt that should be encouraged".