Rice Meets Syrian Envoy
Donors Cancel $30 Bn. in Iraq Debt
Warren Strobel and Miret el Naggar report on US Secretary of State Condi Rice’s meeting at Sharm El Sheikh with the Syrian foreign minister, Walid Moualem. She pressed him to have Syria close its borders with Iraq to infiltrators. US generals on the ground have recently reported that fewer infiltrators are getting through. The meeting represented an enormous turnaround for the Bush administration, which withdrew its ambassador from Damascus and hasn’t talked to directly the Syrian government for years. Condi even called Nancy Pelosi to consult with her, given Pelosi’s own recent talks in Damascus with Syrian president Bashar al-Asad.
Gee, all of a sudden meeting with the Syrian government is not an act of high treason.
I can only think that Condi’s meeting with Mouallem is a sign that Dick Cheney’s grip on power inside the White House is slipping badly, and that Condi has Bush’s ear on the need to engage.
‘”This is a marked improvement in the administration’s ostrich policy approach and a tacit admission of how wrong it was last month in criticizing the speaker of the House and congressional colleagues, including myself, for going to Damascus,” said Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., chairman of the House International Relations Committee. ‘
I detect some attitude here on Lantos’s part. You know the world is screwy when Lantos, among the most committed supporters of Israel in Congress, wants to see Condi talking to Syria. Wasn’t he involved in cutting Syria off in the first place, with the “Syria Accountability Act?”
Al-Hayat writes in Arabic that Mouallem called the meeting “frank and productive.” He said the two had not touched on the Lebanon issue.
Lending states agreed to cancel a whopping $30 bn. in debt owed them by Iraq. Saudi Arabia had announced two weeks ago that it would forgive 80% of the $15 bn. it says it is owed by Iraq, or about $12 bn.
The donors are discussing the Iraq Compact, a five year plan for the country.
On the civil war front, police found 25 bodies in the streets of Baghdad, 9 in Fallujah, and the corpses of 6 policemen in Baiji, north of Baghdad.
The Sharm El Sheikh conference , having dealt with economic issues, will now turn to security.