An Event and a Regional Trend

The preparations for holding The Annapolis conference continue today through the important station of the meeting between Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, while the possible tour of the US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was cancelled.
The available information in the Israeli press showed that there is no change in the Israeli stand which wants to limit the Annapolis conference to a general statement that does not include clear commitments to a timetable for implementing the agreement or to the establishment of the Palestinian state.
The endeavors concentrate on convincing Syria to attend the Annapolis conference without including the Golan Heights on its agenda and through the promise for calling to another conference on the Golan that deputy Russian foreign minister Sultanov will propose on Damascus, while the Syrian capital leads consultations on the topic with the Palestinian factions and the Iranian leadership.
The Jordanian king paid a surprise visit to Syria in the shadow of reports and information about Amman’s concern over big dangers that may cast their shadows on the condition in Jordan if the Annapolis conference dropped the right to return, which may lead to a new radical wave or anew Palestinian intifada as the Israelis anticipate.
Observers and analysts focused on the statements of the Israeli foreign minister Tzibi Levni about the Palestinian state, which seriously suggest Israel’s determination to carry out a collective transfer for the 1948 Palestinians to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

An Event and a Lebanese Trend

Lebanese press said today that pessimism dominates the track of the negotiations which aim at reaching an agreement on the president due to the contradictory and escalating statements of the Lebanese sides. But the return of the French foreign minister to Lebanon and the international and regional indicators suggest that there is an attempt to support the conciliation endeavors.
The main aspects of the Lebanese scene are the following:
- 1. A wave of opposition against the conciliation mechanism adopted by the loyal Christians under the pretext that it satisfies the opposition in the topics of the relation with Syria and the resistance.
- 2. General Aoun’s stand which clings to nominating himself gives a big weight to the idea of achieving a comprehensive national understanding in his current negotiations with international envoys concerning the government, the prime minister and the structure of this government;
- 3. Leading sources in the opposition have warned against attempts to divide the opposition.
- 4. Some sides of the loyalists continue their work to prepare alternatives for the conciliation and this was clear in deputy house speaker Fareed Makary’s statements about his readiness to call for a Parliamentary session to name a president.
- 5. The ambiguity of the US stand continues, but after delaying Welch’s visit, Rice’s phone call with the house speaker suggests that the US will support conciliation.
- 6. The sudden Syrian-Jordanian summit stressed Syria’s support for conciliation in Lebanon.
- 7. The condensed activity of the French envoys in the area concerning Lebanon. Jean-Claude Cousseran will visit Tehran and this will coincide with the visit of the Syrian foreign minister Waleed Al-Mullaem to Iran.
- 8. Riad Salameh and General Michel Suleiman are included again in the list as candidates while the sides started to discuss alternatives if agreement proved impossible.
- 9. The visit of the representative Saad Hariri to Moscow. The loyal sources say that this visit aims at supporting conciliation while the opposition says it is an attempt to see if the Russians will support a president outside the two thirds quorum.

Arab and Foreign Press

The Sunday Telegraph said the US and Israel secretly plan to deal with Iran, pointing out that Washington and Tel-Aviv prepare for what was considered as an unacceptable scenario, because the air strikes option is no loner proposed, and because Russia and China prevented imposing new sanctions on Iran.
The French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said in a talk to the Israeli paper Ma’ariv that France will never give up Israel’s security.
Thomas Friedman said in an article published in the New York Times Service that he does not have an idea about who will win in the presidential elections, but after Pakistan and Iran, the political case which will face the new president is how to deal with Iran.
He added that vice-president Dick Cheney is the hawk who leads the escalation against Iran, but Rice and Bush were unable to decide what Washington Policy towards Iran should be.
Al-Bayan said in its editorial the OPEC summit’s final statement calmed down the energy markets
The Syrian paper Tichrin said in its editorial the mot distinguished title of the Syrian-Jordanian summit was the necessity of joint Arab work and protecting the Arab nation’s higher interests.
The Emirate paper Al-Khaleej said in its editorial that the French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said that settlement in the West bank is the main obstacle to the peace process and contradicts the law.

Lebanese Press

An-Nahar said the current data and the collected information prove that there is no apparent solution on the level of the presidential file.
As-Safir said the scene reflects contradictory stands, and differences on the names of candidates continue amid condensed international and regional diplomacy.
The paper added that Bernard Kouchner said the condition in Lebanon has become more complicated.
Al-Akhbar said Rice’s phone calls with some Lebanese officials indicate that Washington wants to facilitate holding the presidential elections and does not oppose an approved resident.

Television Stations’ News in Lebanon

Al-Manar said the list of the candidates is gradually decreasing and is waiting for another meeting between Berry and al-Harri to make the final decision.
The NTV said the image is not clear and the reports about the final presidential candidate are contradictory.
The NBN wondered if the reasons that led to the return of the French foreign minister to Beirut, and to Arab league secretary general’s decision to visit Lebanon, are positive.
The OTV said their is nothing new on the level of the presidential file, while the LBC said that one of the candidates secretly visited Syria accompanied by a former minister, a former representative and a high ranking official from Hezbollah.
The Future said the unexpected summit meeting between the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and Jordanian king Abdullah focused on Lebanon and ways of enhancing this country’s stability and sovereignty.

Television Stations’ Interviews in Lebanon

Program: The Week in an Hour
Representative Gassan Tweni said we may elect a president, but we will not reach a solution but to the beginning of a solution.
He added that the new president should bring a neutral approved government, but the difficult mission that waits for the president is the economy in the shadow of the high prices of oil.

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.