03/22/2006, 00.00
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Brammertz expected amid post-Assad speculation

by Jihad Issa

"Talks" between the head of the UN Commission of Inquiry and the Lebanese president are eagerly awaited. Members of the "Damascus Declaration" want "gradual" solutions to replace Assad.

Damascus (AsiaNews) – In Syria, there is the beginning of talk – even if still in whispers – about a possible post-Assad scenario. This is one of the most difficult moments in the recent history of the Syrian government. There is eager anticipation of the visit of Serge Brammertz, head of the UN Commission of Inquiry into the murder of the former Lebanese premier, Rafic Hariri, who will have meetings of an "informative" nature with President Assad, his deputy, Farouk El Chareh, and other officials responsible for the Lebanese portfolio throughout the Syrian presence in Lebanon. There is the conviction that the "talks" with the Commission chief could influence the future of the Syrian regime. Not by chance has the Syrian press today emphasized the need to defend the regime, despite "anomalous rumours" that purport to represent "Constitutional Reform".

It was in this atmosphere that members of the "Damascus Declaration" met today, to express their rejection of decisions taken by the National Salvation Front. In its meeting in Brussels last week, the front called for the overthrow of the Assad regime. The "Declaration" upheld the need to discuss the future of human rights in the country, without using force and opting for "gradual" solutions, to avert the danger of a blood bath. Members of the group, made up of people belonging to the "National Democratic Congress", said dialogue was a "necessary" path for "any changes". They called on the Salvation Front to ask the former vice-president Khaddam to respect his history and the interests of the Syrian people.

In a statement, Hassan Abd El Azim, Congress spokesman, emphasized the need to overthrow the regime without recourse to violence, indicating peaceful means as an "effective remedy". He expressed the group's backing for any initiative that could resolve the country's long drawn-out problems. The Congress refuted the idea spread by the Salvation Front of a "possible new Iraq if the regime is not deposed", and it called on Arab countries and the Arab League to fulfill their duty with regard to Syria.

The Syrian Foreign Affairs Minister, Walid El Mouallem, returned today from a visit to the Arab Emirates, where he had a meeting with Prince Hamad Ben Khalife II and with his counterpart Hamad ben Jasem Ben Jabr. He stressed the importance of these meetings, which provided an opportunity to evaluate developments in Syria in the light of pressure against his regime. He reiterated the government position banning any form of popular protest.

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