Cairo, Riyadh scramble to diffuse tensions between Damascus and UN

Posted in Broader Middle East | 04-Jan-06 | Source: The Daily Star (Lebanon Edition)

Mubarak, abdullah to send high-level Saudi envoy to Syria

Egypt and Saudi Arabia agreed Tuesday to send a high-level Saudi envoy to Syria in an attempt to diffuse the tensions between Damascus and the United Nations over the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, diplomats said. Following talks in the Saudi city of Jeddah, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah agreed on the necessity of Syria's cooperation with the UN commission that is investigating Hariri's killing last February, an Egyptian diplomat said. The two leaders did not speak to reporters, but the diplomats from the two countries said the envoy would fly to Damascus on Wednesday.

Mubarak and Abdullah also believed the two countries' media should stop the press campaign each is waging against the other, said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was unauthorized to talk to journalists.

During the meeting, they discussed developments in the Palestinian territories in light of this month's parliamentary elections in addition to the situation in Iraq, the Saudi official news agency said without giving details.

The two leaders also reviewed ways to boost bilateral cooperation between the two countries, SPA said. The meeting was attended by Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdel-Aziz, Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdel-Aziz and Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, the agency said.

The talks After the talks, Mubarak and his foreign minister left to return to Cairo.

Middle East political heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Egypt are worried about the possible fallout of Syria's intransigence. They have frequently advised Syria on its relations with Lebanon and the UN probe, fearing stronger U.S. pressure on Damascus could destabilize the regime.

The U.N. commission has implicated Syria in Hariri's killing and has repeated a request to interview President Bashar Assad.

Syria has denied any involvement in the assassination.

The new request was disclosed after allegations by a former Syrian vice president that Assad had threatened Hariri several months before he was killed in a bombing in Beirut that killed 20 other people.

Syria has repeatedly pledged to cooperate fully with the UN commission, but the UN Security Council found last month that it had to failed to do so. The United States has warned Syria the council could take steps against it unless it complies fully with the commission.

The United States - which accuses Damascus of not doing enough to stop foreign fighters from crossing into Iraq and of supporting Palestinian and Lebanese militants - has also piled pressure on Assad's government to cooperate with the United Nations. - AP