Assad, Syrian leaders discuss regional developments

Assad, in apparent reference to Annapolis, says issues could have "grave impact."

Assad 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Assad 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Syrian President Bashar Assad convened a meeting of Syria's leadership Monday to discuss regional developments - an apparent reference to a US-sponsored Middle East peace conference and the presidential election crisis in neighboring Lebanon. Syria has repeatedly said it would only attend the conference expected later this month if discussions include the return of the Golan Heights. Although US officials have said the focus of the conference will be the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in recent days that he hoped Syria would take part. "The region is witnessing in the upcoming period political events," Syria's official news agency quoted Assad as saying. "These issues could have grave impact on the future of the countries and peoples if they are not dealt with in a logical way that fulfills the interests of the various parties without taking sides," Assad said. He did not elaborate, but his words were taken to mean the peace conference in the United States and the political crisis in Lebanon - the two major regional events. Lebanon's Parliament should pick a president by Friday, but political disputes between US-backed government and pro-Syrian opposition has held up agreement on a consensus president. Failure to elect a leader could further worsen the political crisis. Assad's convening of the meeting came ahead of a gathering of Arab foreign ministers in Egypt later in the week. The officials are expected to come up with a unified stand on the peace conference scheduled for later this month in Annapolis, Maryland.