Arabian Business Weekly Update 6 March, 2005

IN the final analysis, it is now likely that Rafik Hariri will have achieved in death what he failed to in life: the removal of 15,000 Syrian troops from Lebanon. Over the past week, people power has shown its force on the streets of Beirut, and that power is proving to be greater, more explosive and longer lasting than any car bomb this war-torn nation has ever seen. The 60,000 plus Lebanese people marching on the streets on Beirut each day have already seen off the pro-Syrian Lebanese government.

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By  Anil Bhoyrul Published  March 6, 2005

Assad must listen, learn and leave|~||~||~|Syria has no choice but to get out of Lebanon immediately. IN the final analysis, it is now likely that Rafik Hariri will have achieved in death what he failed to in life: the removal of 15,000 Syrian troops from Lebanon. Over the past week, people power has shown its force on the streets of Beirut, and that power is proving to be greater, more explosive and longer lasting than any car bomb this war-torn nation has ever seen. The 60,000 plus Lebanese people marching on the streets on Beirut each day have already seen off the pro-Syrian Lebanese government. They have brought the international community's focus firmly back on the country. The momentum behind the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, calling on Syria to leave the country, is now unstoppable. All of which leaves Syria's president Bashar Assad with increasingly fewer options. The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is now openly accusing Syria-based terror groups of being behind Hariri's death. Isarel is moving closer towards a military strike against Syria's nuclear facilities. Even long-time allies in France are losing patience with Assad. It is likely that in the coming weeks, a neutral transition government will be formed in Lebanon, in the run-up to full and fair democratic elections in May. Leading opposition MP Walid Jumblatt is already gaining credibility as a future leader of the country. Whoever it is that does come to power, it is almost certain they will kick out the Syrians. But Lebanon and its people cannot wait even two months for that. To avoid bloodshed and save dignity, Assad must first move his troops back to the eastern Bekaa valley. And he must do so immediately. ||**||People power strikes again|~||~||~|The events in Lebanon over the past week are not the only example of people power in the Middle East. In a way, the same could be said about the planned merger between Oman's BankMuscat and National Bank of Oman. This magazine has been a vigorous critic of that merger for the past two months. We have seen copies of documents that suggest many former clients at NBO would suffer serious financial loss if the merger went ahead. We have seen correspondence between lawyers and BankMuscat which raises serious questions about the lending policies of NBO over the past five years. But most of all, we have seen the perseverence and determination of several former NBO clients not to allow the merger to take place. It looks like they may well have succeded. ||**||Alabbar’s troubles|~||~||~|The appearance of Emaar chairman Mohammed Alabbar on Dubai Television, ranting about his mistreatment at the hands of the media, is embarrassing to say the least. It is not what is expected of one of the UAE's most respected business leaders. His recent trip to Palestine has stirred up unprecedented controversy. We take at face value his denial that he never met Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon. There is no firm evidence to suggest he ever did, although it is certain Alabbar did meet with with deputy prime minister Shimon Peres. Again, we accept his explanation that his visit was a private trip with good intentions. The problem for Alabbar is that since this whole episode began, Emaar's market value has fallen by nearly US$400 million. Shareholders may not be as tolerant. ||**||

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