- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2003

DAMASCUS, Syria, March 15 (UPI) — The Syrian ambassador to Egypt, Yousef al-Ahmad, said Saturday that the campaign launched by the Egyptian press on his country's position "lacked any sense of pan-Arab nationalist responsibility."

The official Egyptian press on Saturday blasted Syria and Lebanon for refusing to participate in an Arab foreign ministerial committee. Set up at this month's Arab summit in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, the committee was intended to visit and consult with U.N. Security Council members and leaders in Baghdad over Iraqi disarmament and the prospect of U.S.-led military action.

The committee was due to travel to Baghdad on Friday as a last-ditch effort to avert a possible war to force Iraq to disarm, but was called off by the Iraqis.

Cairo's official al-Ahram newspaper said in a front-page editorial signed by its chief editor, Ibrahim Nafe, that the position of "some Arab parties that called for not sending the delegation" — in reference to Syria and Lebanon — was a "stab for common Arab action that is seeking to stop the war on Iraq."

The two countries "have prepared for an atmosphere of war against Iraq and weakened the international camp led by France, Russia and Germany," which oppose a war on Iraq, the editorial added.

The Syrian ambassador, who is also his country's representative at the Cairo-based Arab League, said in a statement that Damascus was "committed to the resolutions of the Arab League to first visit the countries of the permanent members of the U.N Security Council."

He said that "some are not comfortable with the distinct conduct of Syria, whether at the Arab summit or in the Security Council," adding that his country "is always working towards averting a deadly aggression on Iraq."

The envoy insisted on "the need for a sense of pan-Arab nationalist responsibility in this crucial and historic phase, and to take this responsibility above other narrow considerations."

Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri has vowed that Lebanon and Syria would remain together especially "during the storm that is coming to the region."

He said both countries would be affected by "an attack on a brotherly country, but the effect on us is much less than others in the region."

Al-Ahram daily described the Iraqi, Syrian and Lebanese position as "childish and takes the region to an atmosphere similar to the one when the Iraqi regime refused to hear Arab advice to withdraw from Kuwait (which it invaded and occupied in August 1990) to avoid an international military operation."

The paper said those who obstructed the visit "should bear their responsibilities before their Arab people and before history. They should know that through this manufactured position, they stabbed the common Arab action in the heart and prevented a common Arab effort aimed at sparing Iraq and its people from the miseries of an American-British military act."

The Syrian ambassador, in an apparent response to the paper, said: "We don't think that those who used to market the American proposals to blame Iraq and prepare for the deadly aggression against it are really serious or concerned for common Arab action for Iraq."

Al-Ahmad added that Syria "does not regard the meetings that took place in corridors of the Security Council as official visits that translate the resolutions of the summit. Nor does it comprehend the meaning of the insistence by some to start the visit in Baghdad in violation of the spirit and text of the summit resolutions and the primary mission of the committee."

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