THE U.S. THREATENS TO MAKE SYRIA THE NEXT TARGET ON ITS TERRORISM HIT LIST
FEB 3 2005
DAMASCUS SYRIA GETS DESTROYED THEN WE MEET OUR MAKER ISAIAH 17:1 AND 7
In his state of the union address Wednesday night, U.S. President George W. Bush singled out Syria
as one of the world's top terrorist sponsors.
Canada has a chance to play good cop in the Middle East as the United States threatens to make Syria the next target on its terrorism hit list, a Canadian-Arab organization and opposition critics say.
Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew will visit the region next week, in time for a critical summit being hosted by Egypt. He is scheduled to meet newly elected Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday.
"We realize that this will be a very timely mission," Pettigrew said Thursday outside the Commons.
"I think it is important that Canada plays a role (in the Mideast peace process)."
Egypt on Wednesday invited the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan to a summit next week. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan have all accepted invitations to attend.
One group watching the peace process unfold says Canada's role could be critical in bridging the gap between a tough-talking U.S. administration and militant groups in the region.
"Canada can play a very constructive role by bringing the different parties together for a peace process that will hopefully find an end to the current conflict," said Mazen Chouaib, director of the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations.
"We do believe that Canada is the only honest broker left in the world to take on such an initiative," Chouaib said in interview.
In his state of the union address Wednesday night, U.S. President George W. Bush singled out Syria as one of the world's top terrorist sponsors.
"We expect the Syrian government to end all support for terror and open the door to freedom," said Bush.
That kind of hard rhetoric won't help calm tensions in the regions, say critics.
"The concern is that at this very sensitive time, either George Bush's testosterone or a much more militaristic approach to the situation could really derail the possibility of genuine progress toward lasting peace," warned NDP foreign affairs critic Alexa McDonough.
"I think Canada has to be prepared to play a role in trying to keep everybody on that course as much as possible."
"The American approach as a whole has inflamed things in the region and put people against the wall," Chouaib added.
"I think Canada, having the United States as our best ally and friend, and through the relationship that has been struck between the prime minister and President Bush, can play a constructive role in mitigating any misunderstanding between the Americans and the Syrians."
However, an active Canadian role as a interlocutor between Syria and the United States is being dismissed by David Rudd of the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies.
"The notion is absurd," said Rudd. "I don't think (Canada) is going to want to wade into the issue of Iraq or the insurgency question at all."
The U.S. has accused the Damascus government of turning a blind eye to militant groups in Syria blamed for recruiting insurgents for anti-American activities in Iraq.
Canada shouldn't hold out hope of carrying a central role in the Mideast peace process, says Conservative critic Stockwell Day.
"I think we have to be honest with ourselves and realize . . . Canada has a very diminished role over the last few years on the world scene," said Day, who won't be travelling with the minister.
Still, he conceded Pettigrew's visit to the region could make a difference.
"For us to be there, even in a secondary role, to be available if somebody wanted some kind of intermediary, that's important."
Prime Minister Paul Martin also plans a visit to the Middle East in April, something Chouaib believes will only reinforce Canada's participation in the peace process.
"(Martin) has good relations with the Americans and I think that if Canada takes on this role we can definitely make a difference and a contribution to world peace, especially Middle East peace," Chouaib said.
"Through discussions with the prime minister, we believe he is ready to take on that role."
Martin is also scheduled to attend a NATO summit in Brussels Feb. 20-22, where the Mideast peace issue and the situation in Iraq are expected to top the agenda.
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