Syria tells Blair: Stop bombing civilians

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On this "Mother of All Halloweens" (1999 notwithstanding); another renewed scare . . .

URL: http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=102596

Syria tells Blair: Stop bombing civilians

By Paul Waugh in Riyadh and Andrew Buncombe in Washington

01 November 2001

Tony Blair's vision of a new world order in response to the events of 11 September came up against cold political reality yesterday when Syria's President condemned the military strikes on Afghanistan and hailed Palestinian terrorists as freedom fighters. In a diplomatic embarrassment for the Prime Minister, President Bashar Assad delivered a public rebuff and the first serious setback to Mr Blair's round of shuttle diplomacy, declaring that the "hundreds" of civilian casualties caused by the bombing in Afghanistan were intolerable.

And in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, Mr Blair's mission suffered a further blow when the Saudi Arabian government failed to pledge support for the US military campaign.

Earlier in the day, with Mr Blair standing uneasily alongside him, President Assad said: "We cannot accept what we see on the screen every day; hundreds of innocent civilians dying." The Syrian President also compared the "liberation struggle" of militant Palestinian groups to General De Gaulle's efforts to free France from the Nazis in the Second World War.

His remarks will ensure that Mr Blair will face an even frostier reception when he flies to Jerusalem today in a fresh attempt to restart the stalled Middle East peace process. Mr Blair is to meet Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, after a whirlwind tour of Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan in the past 24 hours.

Hours before Mr Blair arrived in Damascus the first visit by a British Prime Minister the Taliban claimed America had bombed an Afghan Red Crescent Hospital in Kandahar overnight, killing up to 15 civilians. The Taliban claimed 1,500 civilians had died since the start of the air strikes.

Syria is still on the US blacklist of nations accused of sponsoring terrorism and Mr Blair arrived with a plea for Mr Assad to use his influence to restrain groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which killed the Israeli Tourism Minister, Rehavam Zeevi, two weeks ago. Speaking after their 90-minute meeting, Mr Blair said that "violence from whatever quarter, in whatever form" had to stop to create space for peace negotiations in the Middle East. But President Assad defiantly suggested that groups such as the PFLP were fighting a war against Israeli terrorism. "Resisting occupation is an international right nobody can deny and, therefore, we have many organisations, many people in support of liberation and resistance fighters who seek to liberate their lands. "An act of resistance is very different from an act of terrorism. In France, one of the most important personalities was President de Gaulle, who fought for the liberation of French land. Can you accuse President de Gaulle of being a terrorist? No way."

The Syrian President also suggested America was wrong to focus solely on Osama bin Laden. "Terrorism works as a network. It doesn't have a certain person as its head." He said the present international consensus was a "golden opportunity" for the West to launch genuine action against all forms of terrorism, including Israeli terrorism. He also made it clear that Syria had not given its support for a "war" on Afghanistan. "We condemn terrorism, but we did not say we support an international coalition for war."

Mr Blair's entourage said Syria was more conciliatory in private. "I think there's a far greater understanding than many believe," Mr Blair said after appearing at the bruising press conference. Mr. Blair then flew to Riyadh to meet King Fahd where the Prime Minister appeared to confirm reports in The Independent yesterday that the Saudis had agreed to allow the use of an American air base to co-ordinate attacks. After a meeting with members of the Saudi parliament and talks with Crown Prince Abdullah, Mr Blair's spokesman conceded there had been no pledges of support for the Allied action. But he said the trip had been "very, very useful" and dispelled suggestions that the regime had snubbed Mr Blair after his trip to Oman three weeks ago. Mr Blair arrived in Amman, the capital of Jordan last night.

Meanwhile, in some of the heaviest pounding yet, planes carpet-bombed Taliban targets north of Kabul, and close to the strategic city of Mazar-i-Sharif. The munitions were dropped by B-52s. Witnesses saw bombs causing up to 100 explosions.

In New York, a fourth person died of anthrax, without any apparent connection to the sources that linked other cases

Copyright Independent Digital (UK) Ltd., Fair Use for Educational and Research Purposes Only

-- Robert Riggs (rxr.999@worldnet.att.net), October 31, 2001

Answers

Syria is certainly no one to talk about terrorism. Damascus is full of store front terrorist headquarters for a multitude of terrorist organizations.

-- Wayward (wayward@webtv.net), October 31, 2001.

Rise! Rise yee Taliban, and Brethren whom are blown from the earth. Rise... and show us what we dare not ever become...driven by hate, worshipping death it's self. The Germanic tribes convoluted into much the same mindset, and now even they fly the flag that means freedom. And even more important than flags, is the joy between people who are secure enough to be truely be themselves-without having to harm their neighbor. This is the beginning of a real one-world government; where there is no enemy. RISE-THE TALIBAN! As wretched as you are, and others like you may be. You call our spirit... our united spirit to defeat you. And... when you finally realize; ...oh! That glorious day...all would cheer and welcome you,...back into the fold. To know peace, as an innocent child would know the pleasure of a soft breeze... you surrender to the all.

-- jimmie-the-weed (thinkasur@aol.com), October 31, 2001.

REally, hmmm... I almost couldn't stop laughing! Syria! A little speck on the map like the size of what?...Isreal? Like the size of a little oasis in the sand! Give me a break! You better believe they must be consiliatory. Thee saber aint a raddl'in anymore. IT'S LASHING OUT! There is really no benifit to sticking you neck out on the chopping block. These guys are no dummies. They know--SOME HEADS ARE GONNA ROLL!

-- jimmie-the-weed (thinkasur@aol.com), October 31, 2001.

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