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Tuesday, 17 December, 2002, 17:27 GMT
Arab media on Assad's UK trip
President Bashar Assad and Prime Minister Tony Blair
The visit has 'crucial importance', said a Syrian daily

The Arab media has given an overwhelmingly positive reaction to President Assad's meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair, with the official Syrian press, unsurprisingly, taking the lead.

Any military blitz against Iraq will trigger all sorts of convolutions... liable to shake peace and security in the region, if not the whole world

Teshreen, Syrian daily
The government daily in Damascus, Teshreen, says this first ever visit to the UK by a Syrian president is of crucial importance at what is an extremely sensitive time for the Middle East.

Teshreen has 'no doubt' that President Assad will plead the case for a diplomatic solution to the Iraq crisis.

"Any military blitz against Iraq will trigger all sorts of convolutions and a whole series of reactions and upheavals liable to shake peace and security in the region, if not the whole world", the newspaper says, stating the official Syrian line.

'Unapologetic'

A commentator in Bahrain's Akhbar al-Khaleej newspaper says Mr Assad deserves praise for a robust defence of the Palestinian cause he gave in an interview with The Times of London.
Palestinians demonstrating in a refugee camp in Syria
Asharq al-Awsat: Mr Assad could 'find solution' to the Palestinian problem

In that interview, the Syrian president said organisations such as Islamic Jihad and Hamas 'express the view of millions of Palestinians, who are supported by 300 million Arabs, and by over a billion Muslims'.

"It is impossible to describe all these people as terrorists or supporters of terrorism", the Syrian President said, re-stating the views which made Mr Blair's joint news conference with Mr Assad in Damascus earlier this year so uncomfortable.

But Akhbar al-Khaleej wishes that all Arab leaders were as frank and unapologetic in explaining Arab positions and in defending Arab rights.

Expectations

The pan Arab Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat speaks of an 'historic visit' to London by what it calls 'the man who could have a key responsibility in shaping Iraq's future and in finding a solution to the Palestinian problem'.

President Assad, the paper writes in its lead editorial, is expecting London to broker the removal of Syria's name from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.

At the same time, the Saudi newspaper adds, Britain can lend a hand to political and economic reform in Syria.

Clearly this is what Mr Blair's officials are hoping too.

See also:

16 Dec 02 | Politics
16 Dec 02 | Middle East
19 Dec 02 | Middle East
31 Oct 01 | Politics
13 Dec 02 | Middle East
05 Mar 02 | Middle East
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