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2005-11-29 09:31:00
Embassy Damascus
Cable title:  

Damascus Media Reaction: Syria/Mehlis, Iraq (11/28)

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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 DAMASCUS 006223 



E.O.12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Damascus Media Reaction: Syria/Mehlis, Iraq (11/28)

1. Summary: The Syrian press reported President Asad's
meeting with Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, Secretary General of
the Saudi National Security Council, carrying a message from
King Abdullah to President Asad.

Syrian papers also carried the full text of the TV interview
broadcast by Syrian TV last night with the Kurdish masked
witness Husam Taher Husam, upon whose testimony German
prosecutor Detlev Mehlis had relied. Husam totally distanced
himself from his previous testimony and disclosed in detail
the way Lebanese intelligence used him as a fake witness
against Syria. He refuted Mehlis's report, which he said
included "groundless" accusations against Syria.

Husam added that the information branch of Lebanese
intelligence raided his house after the withdrawal of Syrian
forces from Lebanon and imprisoned him on a charge of
involvement in a bombing in Lebanon.

Husam went on to say that Fares Khashan, Hariri's advisor,
visited him in prison, offering to set him free and to
ensure him a luxurious life, plus a sum estimated at
millions of dollars, if he gave false evidence against Syria
and Syrian officers. The money was offered by Saad Hariri in
one of his meetings with him. Husam spoke in detail about
the plot already prepared to implicate Syria in the
assassination through fabrication of lies, under the
direction of Khashan.

Husam also spoke in detail about the story of the Mitsubishi
car which was used in the explosion that targeted President
Hariri. He said the story was created by Khashan and one of
the Lebanese intelligence elements. Husam said that Khashan
fed him the Mitsubishi and other stories, such as the
alleged phone call Husam received from one of the Syrian

Husam affirmed that all Lebanese politicians he met with,
such as Waleed Junbulat, Marwan Hamada, Ghazi Aridi, Gubran
Thweini and Saad Hariri, who took part in the game, offered
him large financial inducements, adding that he was
subjected to immense psychological pressures, including an
injection that paralyzed him for many days.

Husam indicated that the international commission received
the Hariri family and the Future Block, who are members of
the parliament, at its headquarters at Monte Verdi. The
commission also received reporters from Future TV and Al-
Mustaqbal paper.

Husam pointed out that the commission agreed, upon orders
from the Hariri family, to record his statements.

Husam said that he tried to escape from prison three times.
After each attempt he was tortured and intimidated to force
him to complete his false testimony.

Husam also spoke about the role played by Jubran Thweini in
introducing to the international commission another witness

by the name of Ziad Halabi.

He strongly attacked the Lebanese media for its role in
promoting lies, mentioning a number of Lebanese journalists
who have relations with the American Embassy. He also
mentioned visits paid by the French ambassador to the
headquarters of the international commission.

Husam expressed his readiness to give testimony before any
international court and to meet Lebanese politicians,
journalists and security officials who fabricated lies.
In Beirut, Al-Safir paper said that two different sources
confirmed that Husam is the same masked witness who appeared
before the international commission.

End of summary.

2. Selected Headlines:

"President Asad receives a message from King Abdullah of
Saudi Arabia. Prince Bandar: Syria's agreement with the
International Commission is a wise and brave decision that
serves the interests of the Umma" (Government-owned Al-
Thawra, 11/28)
"The masked witness exposes dangerous details about
misleading justice. Husam Taher Husam: They tortured and
intimidated me to make me give false testimony against
Syria. Strange roles played by rancorous Lebanese
politicians and journalists. Jamil Al-Saiyed and his friends
are innocent, because I was forced to give testimony against
them" (Government-owned Al-Thawra, 11/38)

"FM Shara represents President Asad at the Barcelona summit"
(Government-owned Al-Thawra, (11/22)

3. Editorial Block Quotes:
"Harmony over Righteousness"
Izz-al-Din al-Darwish, an editorialist in government-owned
Tishreen, commented (11/28): "Some people, in their comments
on or analysis of the agreement with Detlev Mehlis'
commission, tried to offend Syria and its central pan-Arab
role.... Those people are receiving guidance from foreign
embassies and from the US intelligence agency, which has
allocated huge amounts of money for the purposes of
deception and hostile propaganda in the region....
"These rancorous ones, who are basically merchants of
positions, brokers of votes, and sellers of media
interviews, know that Syria never said it would not
cooperate with the international investigation commission.
Had they not been blinded by falsehood and prejudgments,
they would not have fallen into the trap of denying Syria's
cooperation and fabricating stories about this subject....
"Syria, from the very beginning, announced that it wanted to
cooperate with the investigations because it serves Syria's
interests that the truth about Al-Hariri's assassination be
revealed. Time will prove how wrong those are who are
leveling accusations at Syria.
"Syria could not bargain over the rights of its citizens who
are wanted for questioning.... Syria obtained what it
wanted, namely, that the testimony be given under the UN
flag and that the witnesses return to their country after
giving their testimony. This is a Syrian right that
international legitimacy does not deny, and it does not
conflict with the spirit of Resolution 1636...."
"Confidence in Innocence and Wisdom of Decision"
Elias Murad, chief editor of government-owned Al-Ba'th,
wrote (11/28): "Famous foreign politicians and journalists
rushed to portray Syria's agreement with Mehlis as a Syrian
retreat. Syria has always expressed its desire to cooperate
with the international community so that the truth about Al-
Hariri's assassination can emerge.... The agreement fulfills
Syria's demand that the interviews be conducted under the UN
flag and that the rights of suspects be respected, including
their right to return to their country.
"Hence, it can be decisively said that the international
investigation commission responded to the Syrian desire,
contrary to the claims promoted by some....
"The agreement that Syria reached with the investigation
commission despite all the accompanying pressure was a
result of persistent political activity and many contacts
and visits by Arab and non-Arab officials, and the fruit of
intensive Syrian contacts with the world. We must also take
into consideration Arab solidarity with Syria and its
leadership. There was also the solidarity of the peoples of
the world, who feel that Syria has been wronged; that
Resolution 1636 conflicts with international law; and that
Syria, which has always respected international legitimacy,
is an important country and that any clash with it would
reshuffle the cards in the region and threaten international
security and peace. But above all, the agreement was a
result of the broad cohesion between the [Syrian] people and
their leader. That came as a surprise to many people,
especially those who wagered on seditions and pinned their
hopes on foreign pressure to accomplish their sick
"Syria, in all its relevant actions, proceeds with absolute
confidence that it is innocent of the crime of the Al-Hariri
assassination.... Syria knows that it is targeted, and that
whenever it overcomes an obstacle attempts are made to place
new ones in its path. But ultimately Syria knows very well
the price of its national and pan-Arab positions. It has
paid heavy prices in the past. And now, when it says that it
is ready for cooperation and confrontation at the same time,
it is because it believes that it seeks not a confrontation
but the implementation of international law, not only in the
case of a mysterious crime like the Al-Hariri assassination,
but also in the case of Israel's crystal-clear crimes in
Palestine, its occupation of Lebanese territories and the
Syrian Golan, and its continuous aggression against the
"Responsibility of the International Community"
Muhammad al-Khadr, a commentator in government-owned Al-
Ba'th, commented (11/28): "The world must deal positively
with the Syrian step and stop the misleading onslaught
against Syria. This onslaught is linked not to the Al-Hariri
assassination but to the US political agenda in the
region.... Syria has succeeded in explaining its
viewpoint.... The deal with the investigation commission
respects Syria's rights in the investigation process as
stipulated by international laws and resolutions....
"After this agreement, which was reached on the basis of
international guarantees and with Mr. Mehlis' consent, the
Syrians -- government and people -- are not waiting for
praise or welcome from US Ambassador John Bolton for their
cooperation with the investigation commission. There were
accusations, hatred, and threats of further pressure based
on the report of the investigation commission despite the
criticism that was leveled at the report by legal experts
not only in Syria but also in the rest of the world. This
campaign was harmful and it must stop...."
"What Is the Use? The Catastrophe of War still Exists"

Muhammad Ali Buza, an editorialist in government-owned Al-
Thawra, said (11/28): "Condaleeza Rice's statement about
gradual withdrawal from Iraq next year is most likely a
maneuver and an effort to improve the shaky image of Bush's
administration and the election positions of the Republican

"More importantly, the statement is linked to the pressing
situation on the ground and the growing and painful losses
that are striking the heart of America's prestige and
military doctrine.

"No one expects the conscience of the US Administration to
wake up, and even if it does that will not bring life back
to the thousands of Iraqis and others who have been killed
by American wars and policies that, to say the least, are
reckless, repressive, and highly threatening to the future
of humanity.

"The American people, who are plagued by the mentality of
their leaders, must create the required shock, correct and
rationalize the destructive policies, and lift the immunity
and protection of the traders in wars, chaos and fires, and
make them understand, before it is too late, that their
hands are not free and that there are red lines that cannot
be crossed if world security, stability, and peace are to be