10/24/2005, 00.00
Send to a friend

All out barrage from Damascus against the Mehlis report

by Jihad Issa
On the eve of the Security Council meeting, street demonstrations 'break out' in Syria as local politicians vow their support for the Assad regime. In Beirut Siniora and Jumblatt "urge" Assad to cooperate.  President Lahoud's position is increasingly shaky.

Damascus (AsiaNews) – An all out barrage of attacks against the Mehlis report on Syria's involvement in the Hariri assassination has been pouring out of Syria on the eve of the report's presentation to the United Nations Security Council tomorrow.

Whilst the US, France and the UK seem bent on getting international sanctions against the Assad regime, the conclusions of the UN investigation are having an impact in Lebanon. Here, the arrest of Mahamoud Abdel-Al, the Lebanese man the Mehlis report named for his involvement in the Hariri assassination on St Valentine's Day, is making things increasingly difficult for pro-Syrian President Émile Lahoud. More and more voices are being heard calling for his resignation.

In Damascus street demonstrations have been organised against the Mehlis report, which the editor-in-chief of the state-owned al-Thawra (The Revolution) newspaper, Fayez el-Sayegh, has criticised for being full of errors, compromising the investigation and politicising the truth. "Syria won't bend to the table of American, French and British interests . . .," he said.

In a message to the leaders of the Security Council members (except for the US, France and the UK), Syrian President Assad answered the accusations against his country by calling them "unjust and false".

Deputy Foreign Minister Walid El Mouallem, who was given the responsibility of the Lebanon desk  a few months before Syrian pullout of the country, said in a statement that charges made against him in the Mehlis report, according to which he threatened Hariri with death if the latter did not accept the extension of President Lahoud's were false. Instead, he insisted that his relations with Hariri were based on friendship and respect.

Formally at least, Syria appears solidly behind the regime. In a statement released by the SANA news agency, the eight parties that belong to the El-Baath National Front have said the Mehlis report had destroyed the truth about the Hariri assassination because it was based on depositions by false witnesses who are hostile to Syria and not credible. They reiterated the view that the Syrian government answered all the questions made by the international commission, which, in their view, selectively chose the answers that would fit its own purposes. "All this shows is that the commission was influenced by outside forces that want to intimidate Syria."

In Damascus, the atmosphere is one of fear and apprehension. Yesterday many people went to church or to mosques to pray, urging God to spare the country from the threats that might jeopardise the country's peace and tranquility.
In the ancient church of Saydanaia, Archimandrite Nicolaos Loutfi raised a prayer that God might spare Syria from the suffering that is affecting everyone. "We want to live in peace with God, ourselves and our neighbours. We refuse injustice and everyone wants to know the truth," he said.

Hasakeh mosque's Sheikh Mouhsen Sakkal told AsiaNews that the people of Syria as a whole is going through a critical time in an atmosphere of neglect.

He asks why "so many have forgotten Syria" and said he was disappointed by the attitude of many Lebanese "who have forgotten Syria's role in bringing peace so many years ago".

Only in Tehran have Syria's protestations of innocence found an echo. The newspaper Al-Qods quoted Hussein Roioran, an Iranian expert on Syrian-Lebanese relations, saying that "countries that respect rights should reject the report to prevent the situation in the region from deteriorating". For another newspaper, Rissalat, the report will increase regional tensions and allow Israel to pursue its own plans. Finally, Syassat Rose claimed that the United States and Israel are trying to create tensions between Syria and Lebanon.

In Lebanon there have been reactions from all quarters concerning both domestic politics and relations with Syria. National Assembly Speaker Nabih Berry said the report was "good".

Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt urged the Syrian President to "cooperate in order to establish the truth" about the Hariri assassination.

"Tomorrow Syria will stand accused before the Security Council," said in its front-page the daily L'Orient Le jour. The French language newspaper also highlighted the increasing pressure on pro-Syrian Lebanese President Émile Lahoud, who is also mentioned in the report. Mahmoud Abdel-Al, the Lebanese man who was arrested for involvement in the Hariri assassination, is said to have phoned Mr Lahoud a minute before the explosion that killed the former Prime Minister.

Fuad Siniora repeated the call he made yesterday that "it would be better for Lahoud to take the initiative and resign."

Top Christian leaders Samir Geagea and Michel Aoun made a similar call.

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
Unless Syria co-operates the Hariri inquiry might last years, says Mehlis
Possible link between Hariri murder and 14 other attacks, says Brammertz
Mehlis report, right to the heart of Syria's regime
In Vienna Mehlis ready to interrogate Syrians involved in the Hariri assassination
Decision to set up international tribunal greeted with fireworks and bombs


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”