Arabian Business Weekly Update March 13, 2005

Syria has begun to pull out of Lebanon. Its intelligence officers must go first. WHEN democracy comes, it comes quickly. The scenes in Beirut, with thousands of Lebanese people on the march, has had positive results. But, despite pressure from America and the rest of the world, Lebanon must not fall into the trap of too much, too soon.

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By  Anil Bhoyrul Published  March 13, 2005

The forces of tyranny still lurk|~||~||~|Syria has begun to pull out of Lebanon. Its intelligence officers must go first. WHEN democracy comes, it comes quickly. The scenes in Beirut, with thousands of Lebanese people on the march, has had positive results. But, despite pressure from America and the rest of the world, Lebanon must not fall into the trap of too much, too soon. A lot has happened since the death of Rafik Hariri less than a month ago. Syria's president Bashar Assad has, as called for in this column, begun the pulling out of his troops from Lebanon. In line with the Taif accord, they are returning to the Bekaa Valley after retreating from Northern Lebanon and Mount Lebanon. Of course, this is not in compliance with the demands of the international community or even United Nations resolutions, which call for a total withdrawal. President Bush has described the pull-out as “half-hearted". In the current political climate, half-hearted is a good start. Were the Syrian troops to completely leave before the May elections, the vacuum left could quickly be filled by the terror groups bent on instability. There would be a serious danger that May's elections in Lebanon would be marred by violence. Yes, Syria must leave Lebanon for good, but doing so by May would be good enough. In the meantime, what Assad must do immediately is withdraw the Syrian Intelligence officers from Lebanon, and in particular, from Beirut. Unlike the 15,000 troops, these officers are not visible, yet the fear they bring to the country is clear for all to see. No political meeting, no frank discussion, nor serious planning, can be made in Beirut while the shadow of these officers lurks in the background. They are the real forces of tyranny, and must go now. ||**||What a complete mess|~||~||~|Rarely in corporate history can there have been such a fall from grace as Boeing's. Last week, chief executive Harry Stonecipher was fired for misconduct, after the company claimed he had an affair with a female executive at the company. It's a farcical end to Stonecipher's reign, his second stint at the top. Where does Boeing go from here? The past is littered with a defence corruption scandal, stalled Pentagon contracts and a slump in sales to arch rival Airbus. Last year, Stonecipher told this magazine that he expected a 10% growth in Boeing's defence business over the next five years. He told us that the company would soon receive its first orders for the new long distance 7E7 due to be launched in 2008, as a rival to the new Airbus planes. We didn't believe him then. We certainly don't now. ||**||Calling on trouble|~||~||~|The UAE's telecoms giant Etisalat last week sacked 200 staff, mostly expatriates. The company claims this is in line with its emiratisation drive, which will bring the level of locals employed to 50% by the end of this year. Currently, only 43% are locals. The principle of this move is correct: UAE nationals deserve their chance to work at Etisalat. But the way the sackings have been handled, with long-serving and loyal expatriates, told to pack their bags and leave within a month, is nothing short of shabby. All this from a company that posted an income of US$2.8 billion last year, with net profits of US$930 million. The least chief executive Mohammed Omran should do, and can afford to do, is agree to decent compensation packages. Anything less is a disgraceful way to act. ||**||

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