- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2012

The United States is blaming Syrian President Bashar Assad for the growing violence spilling across the border into neighboring Lebanon, which already is burdened with 90,000 refugees from the Syrian civil war.

Syrian rebels also have crossed into Lebanon, and last month Syrian warplanes carried out attacks near Lebanese villages.

U.S. Ambassador Maura Connelly this week told Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati that the responsibility for the repeated shelling and incursions into Lebanon by the Syrian military “falls squarely on the Assad regime.”

“The ambassador re-iterated the United States’ expectation that the Syrian regime respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Lebanon,” the U.S. Embassy said Thursday, announcing the details of Mrs. Connelly’s private meeting with Mr. Mikati earlier this week.

“The ambassador stressed that the responsibility for the violence in Syria and the violence that threatens to spill over from Syria falls squarely on the Assad regime.”

Pro- and anti-Assad civilian groups also have clashed in Lebanese cities. Dozens were killed and more than 120 injured in several confrontations in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.

The cross-border fighting has some worried that the 18-month civil war in Syria could further destabilize Lebanon, which was occupied by Syria for 15 years after the Lebanese civil war ended in 1990.

Mass protests drove out the Syrians in 2005, after the Assad regime was blamed for the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who had opposed the Syrian occupation.


The U.S. ambassador to Canada this week contradicted Foreign Minister John Baird by insisting that the Obama administration applied no pressure on the Conservative government in Ottawa to repatriate a Canadian-born terrorist jailed since 2002 in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Ambassador David Jacobson told reporters in the Canadian capital this week that the United States was anxious to extradite Omar Khadr to Canada, but claimed the White House did not force Prime Minister Stephen Harper to accept him.

“I’m not sure we’d use the word, ‘pressure,’ ” Mr. Jacobson said.

He added that extraditing Khadr to Canada was part of President Obama’s goal of closing the prison, which houses suspected terrorists.

“This is a step in that direction but you don’t pressure. That’s not how it works,” he said.

Mr. Baird on Sunday said Washington did, indeed, force Canada to take Khadr, who was born in Toronto into a family with links to al Qaeda.

Khadr, now 26, was 15 when he was captured in Afghanistan after killing Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, a Special Forces medic. He pleaded guilty in a 2010 plea agreement that gave him an eight-year sentence.

He was transferred to Canada over the weekend and sent to a maximum-security prison in Kingston, Ontario, to serve out his sentence.


Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou has appointed a longtime adviser who served as secretary-general of the Kuomintang ruling party to serve as his representative in Washington.

King Pu-tsung, 56, replaces Jason Yuan, 70, who now will serve as director of Taiwan’s National Security Council.

The United States and Taiwan have no direct diplomatic relations, but send special representatives to Washington and Taipei to maintain a special arrangement between the two countries.

Call Embassy Row at 202 / 636-3297 or email [email protected] The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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