Syrian official press rebukes Rice Beirut comments

Syria through its official press on Saturday rebuked US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for her comments in Beirut this week, saying they were inflamatory. Rice's "orders were not welcome," the state-run Tishrin newspaper wrote in an editorial. In a surprise stop in Beirut on Thursday, Rice said she wanted to convey US support for the government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and Lebanese people as "as they work to have a fully sovereign, democratic Lebanon." While saying it was for the Lebanese to choose their president, Rice hinted her country would welcome pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud's departure and said Lebanon needs "a presidency that looks forward, not back, and that defends Lebanese sovereignty." Tishrin said the secretary of state's remarks aimed to "pour US hot oil on the Lebanese situation" while claiming she did not wish to interfere in Lebanese affairs. "We wish Rice would give herself a break, and give the peoples of the region a break, and stop igniting fire in the region," the newspaper said.