Arabian Business Weekly Update February 27, 2005

Regardless of who killed Rafik Hariri, it is time for Syria to leave Lebanon. IT IS NEARLY two weeks since the murder of Rafik Hariri, but time appears to be no healer. The accusations, allegations, threats and warnings continue to dominate relations between Syria and Lebanon. The biggest danger is that two completely separate issues, who killed Hariri, and whether Syria should pull out of Lebanon, have become one. They are not. Last week this column argued that in the aftermath of Hariri's death, there must be no “rush to blame Syria”. The mere suggestion that Syria may not have been behind the killing has inflamed and angered many readers.

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By  Anil Bhoyrul Published  February 27, 2005

Double dilemma for Syria|~||~||~|Regardless of who killed Rafik Hariri, it is time for Syria to leave Lebanon. IT IS NEARLY two weeks since the murder of Rafik Hariri, but time appears to be no healer. The accusations, allegations, threats and warnings continue to dominate relations between Syria and Lebanon. The biggest danger is that two completely separate issues, who killed Hariri, and whether Syria should pull out of Lebanon, have become one. They are not. Last week this column argued that in the aftermath of Hariri's death, there must be no “rush to blame Syria”. The mere suggestion that Syria may not have been behind the killing has inflamed and angered many readers. Our view remains the same: yes, Syria is among a list of prime suspects, but that list runs far and wide. Why not wait until the results of a current UN investigation into the death, led by Irish police commissioner Peter Fitzgerald? Why not wait until every possibility has been discounted, every motive explored and every suspect investigated? Why rush to judgement on an issue that could spark civil war in Lebanon? The final outcome may be the same, but in the bitter and painful history of the region, waiting a few weeks before making conclusions is a chance worth taking. Of course, on the second issue, there is no longer time to wait. Syria's president Bashar Assad must begin the withdrawal of his 17,000 troops from Lebanon. If the terms of the Taif Accord are not reason enough for Assad to act, then surely the popular uprising on the streets of Beirut will persuade him that the time to leave has come. Syrian troops played a pivotal role in keeping the peace when they first entered Lebanon. Now they are destroying it, and must go. ||**||Leave Alabbar alone|~||~||~|This has not been a good week for Emaar Properties chairman Mohammed Alabbar. His plans to buy up Jewish homes in the Gaza Strip from Israel has been met with a degree of outrage by some UAE officials. And as we also report this week, Alabbar is now at the centre of a new row, this one with Mishal Kanoo, over the two men's plans for rival television shows. Everywhere you look these days, you are likely to find Alabbar, be it on the world, political or business stage. An editorial comment in last week's UAE government-owned newspaper Ittihad suggests Alabbar's ego is “as big as Donald Trump's". But is that such a bad thing? The UAE, needs charismatic, high-profile figures like Alabbar. He is an easy target for the critics, but to coin a phrase from Emaar's arch rival Nakheel, at least he is putting Dubai on the world map. ||**||Private backing|~||~||~|At long last, the Middle East appears to be waking up to the most important economic issue on the table: the role of private equity. Next week's conference in Dubai on this subject, and the appearance of Dubai Holding chief executive officer Mohammad Al Gergawi as a keynote speaker, is a sign of positive change. If the region is serious about creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the coming years, the only way to do this will be through far greater involvement of the private sector. It is the best tool to develop emerging markets, to help drive corporate efficiency, boost entrepreneurship and deliver a decent return for investors. The creation of government-funded bodies such as Dubai Holding has been a great leap forward. But the door must open wider for the private sector. ||**||

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