Syria to make up with Lebanese critic

After apology, Assad will meet Druse leader who called him snake, tyrant.

walid jumblatt lebanon druse 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
walid jumblatt lebanon druse 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
BEIRUT — Syria is ready to meet with a Lebanese politician who was one of its harshest critics in the past years and open a new page in relations, days after he said his comments about Damascus were "improper," Hizbullah said.
A reconciliation between Walid Jumblatt, leader of Lebanon's Druse sect, and Damascus could boost Syria's role in Lebanese politics years after its troops were forced out of the country. It will also probably weaken the Western-backed coalition that Jumblatt once helped lead until he split with them in August.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has been mediating between the Syrians and Jumblatt for several months.
A Hizbullah statement released late Monday said Nasrallah informed Jumblatt that Syria "will overcome" what happened in the past and open a new page. It added that Syrian President Bashar Assad will receive Jumblatt in the near future.
Jumblatt's harshest verbal attack against Assad came on February 2007 when he told a crowd of tens of thousands of supporters that Assad was a "snake" and a "tyrant" and called for revenge against him.
The Hizbullah statement said the Syrian decision came after Jumblatt's "clear stance and courageous review" of his comments.
After the Hizbullah announcement, Jumblatt told Syria's Al-Watan newspaper, which is privately owned but guided by government policy, "the old page has been turned forever."
Jumblatt, 60, was the main force behind the creation of a Western-backed alliance that led massive street protests to demand the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon following the February 14, 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination. Many Lebanese blamed Syria for his death, a claim Damascus denies.
The Syrians pulled their army out of Lebanon in April 2005 ending nearly three decades of domination of their smaller neighbor.
Asked when he expects to visit Damascus, Jumblatt told Al-Watan that "there is no specific date yet but I am waiting to go to Syria because I have a lot to say to President Assad."
"The most important thing is to forget the past and open a new page," he said.