An Event an a Regional Trend

The US administration is trying to change Syria’s invitation to the Autumn Conference into an occasion for making a bargain with Syria on its stand towards the Arab-Israeli conflict and all the area’s issues. What supports this conclusion is the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s declaration that he refuses to discuss the issue of the Golan at the conference, linking this to conditions that bring to mind Collin Powel’s list, which was rejected by Syria since the invasion of Iraq. Olmert immediately said this after the Jordanian call to abstain from discussing the Golan topic at the Autumn Conference under the title of focusing on the Palestinian track. Palestinian and Israeli information confirmed that moving in selecting expressions from a "framework" to "preliminary understandings" did not allow any of the sides to raise the level of anticipations. This means that talks revolve in a vacuum when the issue is related to what is called as the final solution since the Oslo Agreement.
Meanwhile, Israel continues the confiscation of lands and the expansion of settlements (Israel confiscated yesterday 300 hectares in the West Bank) and carries out arrest and killing operations in the West Bank on a grand scale and continues the siege on Gaza.
An Arab diplomatic source said that Damascus did not ask to be invited to the conference and clearly announced its stand; setting its conditions for participation.
Washington is the side that invited Syria to persuade it with direct negotiations, but it knows already that the Syrian stand is still based on Madrid’s understandings, and that the balance of powers in the area does not suggest that the US and Israel are able to force Syria to accept what it rejected after the fall of Baghdad, or since the seventies despite the generous offers.
The same source says that the Syrian leadership expresses a big relief in the calculations and options and will not hurry to any international meeting outside its known invariables, and the Arab states which are asked to recognize Israel, will be responsible for meeting the Israeli and US demands.

An Event and a Lebanese Trend

The Lebanese public opinion looks with anxiety and bewilderment at the contradictory indicators that surround the presidential merit. Despite stressing the continuity of communication lines between the house speaker Nabih Berri and representative Sa’ad al-Hariri to reach an understanding on the presidential merit, some believe that the coming parliamentary session will also be delayed. Some of the loyal representatives are also threatening to hold a meeting to name a president from the March 14 coalition. The circulated information said that this possibility was ruled out despite the violent political escalation which al-Hariri launched from the US through direct attacks on Hezbollah and all the opposition’s sides, in coordination with his two allies Samir Geagea and Walid Jumblatt.
Beirut looks forward to Bkerki meetings with the Christian leaders from the loyal team and the opposition, which will take place next Thursday and Friday and which were decided after consultations between Bkerki and the Vatican. But shadows of doubts surround all the conciliatory endeavors in the light of the loyalists’ political attacks despite Hezbollah’s extended hand as stressed by its representatives yesterday, and despite Berri’s optimism concerning achieving conciliation and the repeated calls for dialogue by the National Liberal Trend, which fell on deaf ears.
Informed political sources said there are attempts to internationalize the merit and the timing of prime minister Al-Siniora’s messages to the UN and al-Hariri’s meetings in Washington and New York, which will also host Walid Junblat later this month, prove that the US administration may adopt the option of internationalization in a way that leads to naming a president from the March 14 coalition. The corridors information said candidates from the loyal team reject such possibility, because Washington may select a candidate, who may surprise the local political calculations, like Samir Geagea, if the loyal candidates reject to move on a track that seems, to a number of Manorite politicians, and to some circles in the church, as a collective suicide.

Arab and International Press

Persia News Agency said that Iran announced yesterday that its military experts have succeeded to make a new smart bomb that weighs 2000 pounds.
German Press Agency said the Palestinian authority stressed that the US should offer strong and clear guarantees to the Palestinian side to secure the success of the coming peace conference.
The Emirate paper Al-Khaleej said in its editorial that when the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert calls the Palestinian people to give up their dreams to reach peace, this means that he calls them to give up their rights.
Arab and International Press Agencies said the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan gave the green light to the Turkish army to take all the necessary measures for intervention in north Iraq to confront the Kurdish rebels.
Arab and International Press Agencies said that the gap seemed deep between what the Palestinian delegation wants and what the Israeli negotiator can give and this will reflect on the Autumn Peace conference.
The Israeli paper Yidiot Aharonot said launching Katiusha missiles yesterday on An-Nagab western area and Natifot town is a turning point in the work of the Palestinian organizations and in the look of the Israeli army to the future military operation in Gaza.
Al-Bayan said in its editorial that the talk about massing weapons in Lebanon is disturbing and increases tension between Lebanese sides.
The Spanish paper El Pais said the energy security became more complicated and it is better to find new methods to confront this total dependency on energy.

Satellite Stations’ Interviews

Evening News
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said that the Autumn Peace Conference will be a rare chance, and that his government insists on making the roadmap and the Arab peace initiative a term of reference for this conference.

Lebanese Press

As-Safir said Bkerki has warned the Maronites from division, pointing out that Saad Hariri vehemently criticized the weapons arsenals while Hezbollah criticized Bush’s Lawyer referring to al-Hariri’s talk about him.
Ad-Diyar said withdrawing the authorities of the Maronite president and the half plus one means the end of al-Taif.
Al-Akhbar said the Vatican called for a Christian agreement on the presidential file.
An-Nahar said Patriarch Sfeir will urge all the Christian sides to participate in the presidential elections, adding that the governments sent two memos to the UN and the Arab league about Fatah Al-Islam’s connection with Syria and Hezbollah’s armament.

Television Stations’ News in Lebanon

Al-Manar said the security organs are unable to find any clue that gives credibility to the accusations of the ruling team.
The NTV said the word now is for Bkerki, while the NBN said Bkerki’s initiative faces the wall of conditions and counter conditions.
The OTV said there is no unified standard to measure the representation and Bkerki’s meeting became two meetings.
The LBC said the presidential merit became an international issue.
The Future said Saad Hariri said the international Tribunal is coming to put to trial the killers of his father, and that the dialogue is a decision not an option and there is no bargain on the martyrs’ blood.

Tendencies is a daily political watch newsletter about the Near East, issued by New Orient News agency in Beirut, Lebanon. It is available on in Arabic, English and French languages. Also worth a read is Indicators, the daily Near East economic watch newsletter, available in Arabic and English.