Syrian MP threatens Dimona

As Bush and Sarkozy lose patience with Assad, Syrian MP threatens Dimona

A Syrian member of parliament thought to be familiar with the thinking of President Bashar al-Assad is quoted in the London-based pan-Arab daily newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi on Saturday as saying that Syria could strike Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona as retaliation for any future forays into Syrian airspace and violation of Syrian “sovereignty”, Haaretz reports.

MP Mohammad Habash noted that Dimona is well within range of Syrian missiles, and that Damascus does not rule out the possibility of additional Israeli attacks against Syria. Though Habash said that Syria has no interest in escalating tensions between the two countries, he also said that no such contacts are currently being held between them.

An attempt to exchange messages between Israel and Syria in recent months has failed, Haaretz reports, citing European diplomatic sources as saying that the reason for the impasse was an inability to reach an agenda for talks and that “the bottom line was a negative one.” But in off-the-record conversations, several sources close to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are quoted as saying that “the Syrian track still has higher chances of success when compared to the Palestinian track” and needed to be given a chance.

“It is a lot simpler and it is possible to achieve an agreement in a short time,” one of Olmert’s confidants said. “The only problem is that the Syrians are not sending positive signals.”

“The Syrians wanted the talks to revolve only on the Golan [Heights],” the European diplomats are quoted as saying. “But Israel wanted to first talk about other issues that trouble it, such as [Syrian] ties with Iran and the support for Hezbollah and Hamas, and Syria did not agree.”

The U.S., however, appears strongly opposed to any gestures or concessions toward Damascus. President George W. Bush told a White House press conference last week that he was fed up with Syrian President Bashar Assad. “Syria needs to stay out of Lebanon,” Bush said when asked whether he would be willing to talk to Assad about stabilizing Lebanon, which is caught up in a political crisis over the election of a new president. “My patience ran out on President Assad a long time ago,” he said. “The reason why is because he houses Hamas, he facilitates Hezbollah, suiciders go from his country into Iraq and he destabilizes Lebanon,” the president said.

During last week’s foreign ministers’ meeting in Paris to donate to the Palestinian Authority, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attacked Syria for what she said was a missed opportunity at Annapolis. “Annapolis was a chance we gave Syria and its test were the [presidential] elections in Lebanon. So far, the Syrians have failed completely.” European diplomatic sources also said that “Syria is undermining any chance for an accord [in Lebanon] and is pushing Hezbollah and the rest of its allies in Lebanon to raise the bar on their demands.”

The same sources said that Assad is interested in giving the impression, whatever the cost may be, “that without him nothing will move in Lebanon,” and therefore the assessment is that the crisis there will continue.

In an interview published on Wednesday, 19 December 2007, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he told Assad that “Lebanon has a right to have an autonomous president who will have a national unity government,” adding bluntly: “You (Assad) must use all the means and abilities at your disposal to influence the attainment of this goal!'” He accused Damascus of using its influence over Lebanese opposition groups to perpetuate the crisis in Beirut.