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  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 21,517 21,900  19,500 67
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,160 1,130     1,040 130
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Bashir al-Asad

Update No: 022 - (01/09/05)

Wherein Syria is the true Troublemaker in the Middle East…
If only everyone viewed the Middle East as succinctly and brilliantly as some members of the current US administration can, a solution to its many problems would be found promptly, especially when that view is unencumbered by colour and shade. Indeed, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in August, as the popularity of his president explored new depths, resumed his verbal attack against Syria. He repeated accusations, almost as old as the war in Iraq itself, that Syria was to blame for the armed activities in Iraq, alleging that Syrian leaders are acting unwisely and that Syria would remain on the list of terrorism supporting countries for years to come. Rumsfeld proffered his accusations at an address before the Foreign Relations Council in Los Angeles, where he described Syria as 'unhelpful' as well as a 'cause of harm to the situation in Iraq by providing shelter and hosting members of the former Iraqi, who fled to Syria from where they finance the armed fighters that cross the border from Syria into Iraq. Rumsfeld asked that the world community apply pressure on Syria for it to change this attitude. Syria, for its part has offered to help the United States to control the border and has actually placed over 7,000 of its own soldiers on patrol to address the very accusations so often launched by Rumsfeld and Condoleeza Rice.
In fact, The Syrian Foreign Ministry told heads of diplomatic missions in Damascus in a letter, said Reuters, that Syrian border troops had been subject to attacks "not only by infiltrators and smugglers but by the Iraqi and American forces". This is given credibility by US forces' growing interest in the western Iraq, where the US launched a massive attack near the city of Al-Qaim, in Iraq and very close to the Syrian border, in late August, during which it claims to have killed over 50 terrorists. Al-Qaim has become an ever more popular target of US forces, and the US is said to be building a military base, as noted in previous updates. In addition, as David Hirst, a former correspondent for the Guardian noted, a Syrian commander at the Syrian-Iraqi borders as saying "The Americans won't control their side of the border, accept our offers of collaboration, allow us the surveillance equipment we need, then accuse us of aiding a resistance that, they know, is basically Iraqi, even if some foreign fighters do get over our frontiers, which they also know cannot be sealed without investing resources way beyond our means." He added, "European diplomats tend to agree that an apparently systematic refusal to engage the regime at any level reflects the influence of neo-conservative hawks,"
More interesting is the fact that the 'Iraq' accusations come almost exclusively from the US occupation forces, as Syrian authorities have actually worked together with the current Iraqi government on security matters, including border issues. The Deputy Foreign Affairs minister, al-Muallem, said Syria wants stability and security in Iraq to prevent the spread of disorder to neighbouring countries suggesting a mutual Iraqi-Syrian agreement over security cooperation has also been proposed. As for instability, Syria risks some itself with potentially growing unrest from its Kurdish minority in view of the federal flavour of the new 'Iraqi Constitution' that was drafted, essentially, by Kurds and Shiites excluding the Sunnis. A Kurdish federal state could foment the Kurdish minorities in Syria as occurred in February and March of 2004. While, it is uncertain even if the Iraqi constitution will be tested in the planned referendum, as that country collapses further into chaos the Kurds will push for more autonomy and it is unlikely their demands are subject to compromise. 

Enter John Bolton
Moreover, Syria has been facing renewed international pressure concerning the ongoing investigation into the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri last February 14. The head of the UN investigation team into the assassination of al-Hariri, Detlev Mehlis met with Syrian diplomats in Geneva to discuss the matter. Syria's ambassador to the UN Faisal Miqdad said that Syria answered all questions and that it is in its interests to have all fact revealed over the assassination of al-Hariri, expressing hope that the few among days will conclude an agreement on ways of cooperation.
Miqdad stressed that Syria complied with all the international investigators' demands and that the current UN Security Council fuss on cooperation with the International Investigation Committee is intended to discredit Syria for obstructing the investigation. 
One likely possibility for the accusations, however, could be that the new US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, promptly and characteristically, targeted Syria for failing to respond to his demands. Bolton described Syria's position as unacceptable. For his part, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora expressed support for Syria in this regard telling BBC that the Syria has acted responsibly and that it is committed to the investigation. 
As for the investigation itself, three former Lebanese security services officers were detained at the end of August based on a request from the international investigators themselves. In what is an unprecedented case, the three have been detained but not arrested, the semantics being those of the Lebanese authorities, perhaps indicating their own open-mindedness about the accusations. The individuals have in common that they are all said to be very close to Syria. Lebanon's Prime Minister Siniora - who met Asad on at least two occasions to promote good relations -said the detainees would be interrogated and they include the commander of the presidential guard, who is still free. Another detainee, former parliamentary representative Nassir Qandil, was arrested as he returned from Syria where he spent his holidays to respond to questions by inquisitors and in an interview with Reuters described the Hariri murder and related investigation as an "international plot". Former justice minister Adnan Addoum has also been detained for questioning. While Saad Hariri, son of murdered Rafiq, expressed satisfaction for the arrests many Lebanese are perplexed, as they wonder why and how such people as those that have been arrested remained in the country without any concern after having been questioned on numerous occasions without trying to do anything to remove investigators' attention. Again, many suggest the influence of John Bolton - who while putting pressure on Syria also wants to challenge the United Nations Millennium goals angering even the UK ambassador - is behind the 'exceptional' arrests in Lebanon, which maintain the pressure on Syria.


Syrian signs oil and gas exploration contract with Canada and Kuwait
The Syrian State petroleum company inked the contract yesterday with the Canadian Stratic Energy Corporation as well the Kuwaiti Foreign Petroleum Explorations Company to explore west of Palmyra, an ancient city among the territories stretching between the Homs and Hama governorates, in central Syria. The two companies said in a press conference that, "investment atmosphere in the field of oil in Syria is very encouraging and the oil ministry is providing all facilities needed to these companies as to do their job in the best way." The contract will end 25 years after the start of commercial production. Moreover, testifying to the quality of Syria's capacity and infrastructure in oil production, Royal Dutch Shell judged the Syrian oil company Al-Furat ('Euphrates') as the best and first among companies sharing with Shell in the field of production and modern technology use. The evaluation of the Syrian company was based on 14 companies having joint projects with Shell. For his part, director of field operations at al-Furat company, Zouhair Bashour, said, "the result came due to the company superiority in rotational maintenance operations for oil equipments and its serious follow up and dependence on the local market in manufacturing needed spare parts. Syria is also relying more on its own personnel, and 1,300 Syrians have been internationally qualified enabling the country to start dispensing with foreign ones. 

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