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Syrian president names new defence minister
[Dawn] Syrian President-for-Life Bashir Pencilneck al-Assad
One of the last of the old-fashioned hereditary iron-fisted fascist dictators. Before going into the family business Pencilneck was an eye doctor...
on Monday appointed a new defence minister, state television
... and if you can't believe state television who can you believe?
reported, amid mounting Arab condemnation of nearly five months of deadly crackdown on dissent.

"President Assad has signed a decree naming General Daood Rajha as the head of the defence ministry," the television report said.

The 64-year-old Rajha, who was the army's chief of staff, replaces General Ali Habib who had been defence minister since 2009.

State television said Assad had decided to remove Habib and replace him with Rajha in line with decisions he took after meetings residents of protest cities to make changes in top state positions.

But the report also said that Habib "has been ill for some time and his condition has tanked." In April, less than a month after the start of pro-democracy protests in Syria, Assad ordered the formation of a new government after former premier Mohammed Naji Otri resigned on March 29.

Since the protests broke out in mid-March, the president has sacked several governors, namely from flashpoint provinces such as Homs and Hama in the centre, and Deir Ezzor in the east.

Assad's latest decision comes as oil kingpin Soddy Arabia and two other members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council recalled their ambassadors from Syria for consultations and condemned the violence.

The head of Al-Azhar, the top Sunni Mohammedan authority, also denounced the bloodshed from Cairo and urged the Syrian authorities to put an immediate end to the "tragedy" of the bloodletting.

The Cairo-based Arab League
...an organization of Arabic-speaking states with 22 member countries and four observers. The League tries to achieve Arab consensus on issues, which usually leaves them doing nothing but a bit of grimacing and mustache cursing...
on Sunday issued its first formal statement on Syria with Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi calling for an "impartial probe"into the bloodshed, and warning against "chaos" and "religious strife."

Syria leader dashes hopes of end to emergency rule
[Asharq al-Aswat] hereditary President Bashir Pencilneck al-Assad
One of the last of the old-fashioned hereditary iron-fisted fascist dictators. Before going into the family business Pencilneck was an eye doctor. Also head of Syria's Baath Party, an old-fashioned fascist operation that's seldom described as one in the press...
of Syria dashed hopes of an end to decades of emergency rule Wednesday in his first speech since protests erupted two weeks ago, instead blaming conspirators for the unrest.

Syria has been ruled with an iron grip by the Assad family for 40 years but has now been reached by the wave of popular demonstrations that have swept the Middle East.

In a highly anticipated address to parliament that lasted almost an hour, Assad warned that Syria's "enemies" were targeting its unity.

He failed to deliver the expected announcement that he was ending the 48-year-old emergency, prompting rights groups to express disappointment.

Washington said the speech lacked substance, and two senior US politicians urged President Barack B.O. Obama to get behind the opposition to Assad.

Following the speech, gunfire broke out in the Syrian port city of Latakia, with conflicting reports as to what was happening.

Syria's emergency laws authorise the arrest and interrogation of any individual and restrict gatherings and movement.

Key Assad aide Buthaina Shaaban had told AFP on Sunday that the government intended to lift the state of emergency, but she could not say when.

Assad, who appeared relaxed and exchanged jokes with parliamentarians, echoed that statement on Wednesday, saying that talks were underway on new laws on the media and political pluralism.

"The emergency law and political parties law have been under study for a year.

"There are more, unannounced reforms ... but giving a timeframe is a logistic matter. When we announce it in such circumstances, it is difficult to meet that deadline."

The president warned that Syria was going through a "test of unity". Its foes had taken advantage of the needs of the people to incite division, he said.

"This conspiracy is different in shape and timing from what is going on in the Arab world," he said. "Syria is not isolated from the region... but we are not a copy of other countries."

While acknowledging that the Syrian people had legitimate demands, Assad warned that people's desires had been used to "trick them into heading to the streets."

"We are all for reform. That is the duty of the state. But we are not for strife," Assad said.

"What we should watch out for is starting reforms under these circumstances right now, this passing wave."

But Amnesia Amnesty International said Assad had "missed a crucial opportunity" to lift the emergency laws.

Pinning the blame on a foreign "conspiracy" was a "dangerous diversion" Philip Luther, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa deputy director, said.

Nadim Houry, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, described the speech as "extremely disappointing."

"President Assad simply repeated the same vague promises of reform that he?s been uttering for over a decade," Houry told AFP.

US State Department front man Mark Toner said Assad's speech "fell short."

"It's clear to us that it didn't have much substance to it," Toner said, adding that he thought the Syrian people would be disappointed.

Republican Senator John Maverick McCain
... the Senator-for-Life from Arizona, former presidential candidate and even more former foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution...
and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman said Obama's effort to engage rather than shun Damascus
...The City of Jasmin is the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the world. It has not always been inhabited by the same set of fascisti...
had "little to show for it".

Now it was time to back protesters against Assad's rule, they said.

Gunfire broke out in the port city following Assad's speech, with state television blaming "gunnies" for opening fire in the southern neighbourhood of Sleibi.

City residents reported a drive-by shooting at a sit-in, while another eyewitness, contacted by telephone, said security forces had opened fire to disperse demonstrators disappointed by Assad's speech.

Syrian human rights
...which are usually entirely different from personal liberty...
activists have accused security forces of killing 130 people in their crackdown on the two weeks of protests. Officials put the toll at some 30 dead.

It is a period of unprecedented domestic pressure for Assad, who succeeded his father Hafez in 2000.

Demonstrators have defied the state of emergency with street gatherings, emboldened by the wave of dissent that has rocked the Arab world since December.

The protests were quickly contained in Damascus, but took root in the tribal region of Daraa, south of the capital, and in the confessionally divided city of Latakia on the Mediterranean coast.

The government of Prime Minister Mohammed Naji Otri tendered its resignation on Tuesday and a new cabinet is expected to be announced by the end of the week.

Facebook group The Syria Revolution 2011, an anonymous yet wildly popular page, has called for nationwide demonstrations on Friday.

Iran warns Israel against attacking Syria
DAMASCUS - Iran will “cut off Israel's feet' if the Jewish state attacks Damascus, Iranian Vice President Mohammad Rida Rahimi vowed on Friday at the end of a two-day visit to key regional ally Syria.

“We will stand alongside Syria against any (Israeli) threat,' Rahimi said at a news conference with Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otri. “If those who have violated Palestinian land want to try anything we will cut off their feet,' he said in reference to the Jewish state.
Must have some Paleo blood in him ...
Rahimi described Syria as a “strong country that is ready to confront any threat' and pledged that Tehran “will back Syria with all its means and strength.'

Iran’s Ahmadinejad calls for stronger alliance with Syria
TEHRAN - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday called for a stronger alliance with Syria in a bid to resist Israel and its allies over the Palestinian crisis.

In a meeting with visiting Syrian Prime Minister Mahmoud Naji Otri, Ahmadinejad praised the two countries’ position on the international and regional issues, particularly the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. ‘Recent developments in the world proved that Iran and Syria were moving on the right track insisting on the need of resistance against enemies,’ the Iranian leader said.

Tehran does not recognize Israel and is the main supporter of the Islamist Hamas movement which controls Gaza. Israel and the United States have accused Iran of training Hamas militants in Gaza as well as providing them financing and weapons. Tehran however insists it only gives spiritual and political support to anti-Israel militia groups both in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.

‘If Iran and Syria have an eminent position in the region, it is because of their resistance based on their correct decisions,’ Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the website of state television IRIB.

Iranian Vice President Parviz Davoudi, in a separate meeting with Otri, urged Damascus to be more on alert about their political enemies’ tricks, saying: ‘Both countries (Iran and Syria) should be active in supporting unity among all Palestinian groups and the reconstruction of Gaza.’

Syrian PM sacks a number of state employees on corruption charges
Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otri sacked on Friday 28 state employees on corruption charges. The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) said that the sacked employees were working in a number of public-related state departments in a number of governorates and the decision to sack them was related to impartiality. The Syrian government has pledged to fight corruption in state agencies and had previously issued several decisions to sack a number of employees in the country.

Ahmadinejad holds talks with Syrian PM
Tehran, Iran, Mar. 17 – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met and held talks with Syrian Prime Minster Mohammad Naji Otri, the official Syrian news agency SANA reported on Saturday. The two met in the north-eastern city of Mashad following the Iran-Syria Joint Higher Committee.

Syria arrests dissidents on anniversary of clashes
DAMASCUS — Security forces yesterday arrested a former opposition MP and several Kurdish demonstrators who were marking the second anniversary of deadly clashes in northern Syria, human rights advocates said.

Riad Seif was detained along with at least five members of the Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party during a sit-in near a Damascus government building, said a statement by the Syrian Organisation for Human Rights. Security forces beat and then detained some of the demonstrators, after three of those taking part in the sit-in attempted to deliver a message to Prime Minister Naji Otri, said human rights lawyer Anwar Bunni, adding that several demonstrators had been wounded.

The Syrian Organisation for Human Rights also said some demonstrators had been wounded by the security forces.

Khatami backs Syria and anti-Israel groups
President Mohammad Khatami, whose regime is in the US firing line over its nuclear activities, voiced Iran's support Thursday for Syria and radical anti-Israeli groups. "We respect the Syrians who are in the frontline in the fight against the Zionist regime and we salute their legitimate struggle to recover their occupied lands," he said after talks with visiting Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otri. "We support the resistance in Lebanon and all those fighting the (Israeli) occupation," he was quoted as saying. Otri on Wednesday said Iran and Syria should form a "united front" against threats from abroad, in an apparent reference to the intense US pressure against both regimes.

Syria warming to PLO after Arafat's death
The death of Yasser Arafat and the emergence of Egypt as a peace broker between Israel and the Palestinians has prompted Syria to drop its longtime antagonism toward Mr. Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization. The shift was on display last week when Syria welcomed PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the first official Palestinian delegation to visit Syria since 1996. They met President Bashar Assad, Prime Minister Naji Otri and leaders of Palestinian militant groups based in Damascus. "Syria fears that they will be alone while the Egyptians lead the Palestinians to peace and a homeland," said Palestinian columnist and activist Gaby el-Jammal. "This is why they are desperate to embrace the new PLO leadership and to enter into talks with the Israelis as well," he said.

More snatches in Iraq
Iraq's hostage crisis escalated with the seizure of a state company director and the apparent abduction of two Pakistanis, as Egyptian and Iraqi officials sought the release of a kidnapped Egyptian diplomat and a truck driver. The caretaker government in Baghdad said it was working closely with the Egyptians to free the diplomat, who was seized on Friday, two days after the trucker. "The government is working hard to get the release of the hostages. It is in constant contact with the Egyptian embassy," Deputy Foreign Minister Hamid al-Bayati told a press conference. "The government has had several meetings today to discuss the crisis."

At the same time, Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, on a visit to neighboring Syria, cautioned Egypt not to cave in to the kidnappers' demands, urging it not to follow the example of Manila, which withdrew troops from Iraq in exchange for the freedom of a Filipino hostage. "There is no way to give to terrorists what they want. It was regrettable that the Philippines (did so)," said Allawi. "We hope that the hostage is going to be released. The Iraqi government will do its best."

Allawi also said after meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that Iraq and Syria had set up a joint committee to oversee the security of their common border. Allawi's Syrian counterpart Mohammad Naji Otri told a joint press conference, "Syria is opposed to any infiltration across the border, whether towards Iraq or towards Syria."

Turkish Press News
These are some of the major headlines and their brief stories in Turkey’s press on December 9, 2003.
There are many Turks in Feth-ul Islam Institute in Syria, some students of which were detained after attacks in Istanbul. These Turkish students are generally having education in Islam Law Department which is named as ’’shariah’’ in Syria. A student named Murat Aykac aged 21 says that he is going to this institute to learn Islam better. A student named Bekir aged 22 says a link between Islam and terrorism cannot be established.
"Cuz I’m a Shariah lawyer and I say so!"

Iran told Turkey that it could consider KADEK as the terrorist organization. But, Iran wanted Turkey to send two delegations. One of the delegations was invited to Iran to take up cooperation in fight against terrorism and the other to discuss cooperation in energy. Ankara rejected this demand.
"Don’t call us, we’ll call you."

The new regulation in line with the law dated August 2002 which permitted teaching of mother tongues bore its first fruit. First permission to a Kurdish course is given in southeastern Sanliurfa province.
It’s a start

During a meeting with the Turkish Parliamentary Friendship Group, Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass said yesterday that his country was ready to cooperate with Turkey in the fight against terrorism.
Yeah. And the James Gang is ready to cooperate in the fight against bank robbers...
After completing its contacts in Syria, the Turkish-Syrian Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group delegation led by Yuksel Cavusoglu returned to Ankara. Cavusoglu visited President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and briefed him about the delegations’ meetings with Syrian officials.
They had a good laugh, then resolved to do something productive next week...
During the four-day visit, the delegations met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Prime Minister Mohammed Naji Otri, and Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass as well as the nation’s health, foreign and trade ministers. Expressing his sympathy over the recent terrorist attacks in Istanbul, Tlass vowed to cooperate with Turkey in the fight against terrorism. Following the attacks, Syria handed over to Turkey 22 terror suspects. In related news, al-Assad is expected to visit Turkey next month.

Russia is ready to cooperate with Turkey in fighting terrorism, said Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday. Putin condemned last month’s terrorist attacks in Istanbul, adding that international cooperation was needed to eliminate terrorism. “We will stand by Turkey,” he added.
Just don’t let Vlad behind you.

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