Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad wont be attending the biggest gathering of world leaders at the UN next week.
Speculation about Bashar’s involvement in the Hariri killing has grown since UN investigator Detlev Mehlis announced he’ll be visiting Damascus on Saturday.
‘Doing an Arafat’
But the real reason for staying at home might be the frosty reception he’ll receive in New York. Condoleeza Rice said she’ll hold meetings about Syria on the sidelines of the UN gathering – all Arab leaders, plus EU heads of state would be involved. But Bashar would be shut out.
Opposition groups also planned to protest the visit, and he was likely to be vilified in the US media.
His decision not to attend was leaked in gossip rags Elaph, and As-Siyasiyah.
Syria has never sent anyone to similar gatherings, and it might have been a unique opportunity to bring Syria close to US officials for the first time since the Hariri killing. There are precedents – Bashar met and warmly greeted the Israeli President at the Pope’s funeral. And former Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad held behind-the-scenes negotiations on a peace deal during the Israeli-Arab Madrid Summit.
But not this time.