Massive crowds greet Venezuelan president in Syria

Chávez and Al Assad emphasize rejection of hegemony

DAMASCUS (31 August 2006) - VENEZUELAN President Hugo Chávez arrived in the Syrian capital to a massive welcome by tens of thousands who lined the streets of Damascus. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had greeted the Venezuelan leader at the presidential palace upon his arrival on Tuesday for a three-day visit.

President Hugo Chávez said on his arrival at the Syrian capital's international airport the governments of Venezuela and Syria were firmly united against the aggression and hegemonic intentions of the United States.

Both Syria and Venezuela have been under pressure from the US as Caracas has witnessed an attempted, US-sponsored coup d'état in 2002 and tense relations with Washington since Chávez took office in 1999, and Damascus has been always accused by Washington of supporting "terrorism" and thus under U.S. economic sanctions since May 2004.

On Thursday Associated Press published information on 132 contracts to anonymous groups in Venezuela since 2002 it had obtained through a Freedom of Information request. The contracts total more than $26 million provided by the US Agency for International Development (USAid) through its Office of Transition Initiatives - a "pro-democracy programme'' that Venezuela claims is a covert attempt to bankroll an "opposition" to defeat the government. Some $80 million has been earmarked for a similar venture of internal and external subversion against the Republic of Cuba. The recently issued report by the "Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba" is not only pointed at Havana, but is also directed against Latin American integration - with focus on one of its main exponents: Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. The 2006 version of the report - which adds millions of dollars for subversive activities to an already approved 2004 plan - repeatedly mentions Venezuela and its integrationist and humanitarian objectives. Along with Cuba, that South American nation is advancing those goals throughout the continent.

Chávez was also a fierce critic of Israel's month-long offensives on Lebanon, and Venezuela had recalled his ambassador to Israel after the war began, while Venezuela's embassy in Beirut provided emergency shelter to hundreds of the civilian refugees.

"We came here to work, to establish a convention, to sign a group of agreements, and to commit ourselves to opening channels of integration between Caracas and Damascus," Chávez said.

"Venezuela and Syria are two courageous nations; we are not afraid to tell it like it is," commented the Bolivarian head of state. "Today a new period of history is beginning," added the leader, who concluded an official visit to Malaysia on Tuesday as part of a tour that included China and will also take him to Angola.

Prior to the welcome ceremony at the People's Palace in Damascus Wednesday morning, Chávez laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Martyr Monument on Mount Qassyoun.

For his part, Syrian President Bashar Al Assa was pleased to receive "a great leader at international level."

"Before the arrival of the president, we were listening to his great stance of support for our causes and his sincere sentiments towards people whose rights and territories are occupied," indicated the Syrian leader. "We share many common positions, because our position on international issues is parallel to Venezuela's: we reject international hegemony, reject the unilateral power of the United States," he affirmed. "What we want to do during this visit is convert these perspectives into effective work and coordinate policies at a high level," he added.

Assad also criticized recent UN Security Council resolutions on the Middle East as "an interference in states' internal affairs" and "the result of American hegemony".

"If the United Nations adopts more resolutions based on the same principle, it will only crush optimism and might lead to further chaos and bloodshed," Assad said.

End Israeli air and sea blockade on Lebanon

At a press conference held Wednesday Chávez called for ending Israeli air and sea blockade on Lebanon and an Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab lands. He made the call with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after a plenary meeting of senior officials from the two sides and a closed-door meeting between the two presidents.

Chávez denounced the Israeli offensive in Lebanon as "Nazi crimes", calling on the Zionist state to withdraw forces from Lebanon and lift the blockade as well as end its massacres of the Palestinian people and withdraw from the Golan Heights.

"This territory (the Golan) does not belong to them (the Israelis). This is a flagrant theft carried out in front of the whole world," he added.

SANA Syrian news agency reports:

President Bashar al-Assad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez held a joint press conference following a plenary session of official talks on Wednesday which were attended by members of both official delegations. President al-Assad underlined President Chávez well known just stances toward the issues of peoples whose rights have been usurped particularly his stances.

Toward the issues of Palestine and Golan and toward the recent aggression on Lebanon. President al-Assad described his talks with Chávez as intensive, very important, successful and fruitful, saying that the paramount issue which was discussed during the closed and plenary sessions of talks was the standing bilateral relations that go back to four decades diplomatically, indicating that there were no agreements that would open the way for actual advanced bilateral relations. The president added that a number of agreements were signed today and there are others that have not been completed, but expected to be completed before the end of the year and will be signed accordingly. The president indicated that detailed ideas on cooperation in sphere of oil, joint building of refineries, agriculture, tourism, in addition to the export of the Syrian olive oil, were discussed.

For the political part, the president said that the focus was mainly made on the inflammable issues of the Middle East particularly recently and on the necessity to boost the Arab-Latin American relations in line with the Arab-Latin American summit which was held last year in Brazil. He pointed out to the well-known stances of President Chávez with regard to supporting Syria's stances for restoring her occupied territories, supporting the Palestinian people in restoring their rights and the establishment of a Palestinian independent state and the condemnation of the recent Israeli aggression on Lebanon, in addition to the Venezuelan stance that demand the occupation troops withdrawal from Iraq according to a time table and to help the Iraqi people restore stability.

On the international level, President al-Assad said that Syria supported the candidacy of Venezuela to UN. Security Council for the next 2007 and 2008 and view points were in agreement on the necessity to have multi-polar world that reflect the cultures and civilizations, and on the necessity for the UN. Security council to embark on its role according to UN Charter, and on the necessity for inter cooperation among the countries of the south.

The president added that visas between the two countries will be abolished to facilitate the movements of businessmen and other citizens between the two countries.

For his part, President Chávez expressed high appreciation over President statements which he described as courageous, noble and honorable, and over the attention he received in Syria. He said that Damascus carried very special and prominent position in his heart.

He added that Syria and Venezuela shared the same stances against imperialism and with regard to a world in which economy and trade are in the service of the interests of their peoples and not in the service of hegemony forces. He said that the signing of agreements between the two countries was only the beginning for future political, economic and social integration. He indicated that Venezuela can help Syria build a refinery that can make Syria export refined oil instead of crude oil in addition to other projects that will cover airlines, agriculture, industry, education and social security.

On the political level, President Chávez expressed his country's stance by Syria, rejecting the US-Zionist aggression on the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples, demanding the withdrawal of the aggressor troops from Lebanon, Palestine, and from occupied Syrian Golan.

On the standing bilateral relations between Syria and Venezuela and the means to enhance them, particularly that both have been exposed to US similar pressures, President Chávez said that both countries have begun developing economic relations in order to rise to the same political level between them. He added "we should work hard and as soon as possible to achieve this objective," referring to his countries' economic ties with China where trade volume reached at $ 2 billions between Venezuela and China. The Venezuelan President expressed hope the relations will be improved through cooperation between the two countries, including the governmental companies, business men in the private sectors and the Syrian and Venezuelan communities in the two countries." With all these big potentials we have in the economic, trade, industrial, agriculture, tourist, petroleum, and tourist sectors, I expect that the relations between us will be boosted further as from this moment to reach the level of our relations with China," President Chávez said.

Regarding means of facing the pressures against Syria and Venezuela, President Chávez added "we have the same way of confrontation and it is the same way that the Iranian President has." President Chávez asked: "The Iraqi people suffer from pressure because of the US armyŠ to whom they could complain? At any council could they lodge their complaint?' "Iran has repeatedly announced that it has no intention to produce nuclear weaponsŠ why didn't they ask Israel to cancel and remove its nuclear weaponsŠ is not it good for Mr. Bush to accept a discussion on this," President Chavez wondered. He underlined that he is confident that in this era the end of the US imperialism will come and this is a way to face this aggression and these pressures.

On the possibility of expanding agreements of cooperation between Syria and Venezuela and the expected visit of President Assad to Venezuela, President Assad said that of course there will be a visit to Venezuela and the two sides will prepare for it after the end of President Chávez visit to Syria, adding "as I said to President Chávez we will complete the unfulfilled agreements between the two sides until my visit to Venezuela."

"Cooperation between Syria and Venezuela should be part of the Arab-Latin cooperation Š it should be integrated with the cooperation of the south-south countries in generalŠ this cooperation aims at rejecting hegemony, achieving independence and giving possibilities to those countries to reject hegemony," President Assad said.

Regarding the summoning of the Venezuelan Ambassador from Israel in condemnation of Israeli aggression on Lebanon, the Venezuelan President said that "Israel is always an obstructive factor that hinders peace in the region through the imperialism orders which aims at achieving policy of expansion and settlement."

He added that the root of the problem is the United States, calling on all anti-imperialist governments and peoples in the world to be united in order to reflect this unity in the whole world and to leave our fear behind us when we want to save the humanity and encourage the others to be united with us.

Regarding the comments of the White House on his visit to Syria, Chávez said that he did not come to Syria to give advices to President al-Assad but strengthen bilateral relations and consolidate the stances against the American imperialism which is the cause of the Israeli occupation of Golan.

Regarding Syria's support to Venezuela to get a seat at the UN Security Council, President al-Assad said that Syria looked at Venezuela's role as very helpful to many countries that suffer from the policies of hegemony. He thanked Syria for her support to Venezuela in getting a seat at the UN. Security Council. President al Assad said that the UN Security Council resolutions issued recently are considered as an intervention in the internal affairs of countries due to the American hegemony and here comes the importance of having a country as Venezuela as a member of the security council.

Regarding the Venezuelan assistant in building an oil refinery, Chávez said that the two countries wanted to establish joint venture so that Syria can be able to produce and export oil and this need efforts and a work plan the basis of which was laid today.

Visits Umayyad Mosque

Visits Umayyad Mosque
President Bashar al-Assad accompanied his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chávez Thursday Morning to Umayyad Mosque in Damascus where they listened to a detailed view on the mosque's history, departments and its all restoration stages. They also visited he grave of John the baptized inside the mosque.

Chávez was then seen off at Damascus International Airport by President Bashar al-Assad. He was also seen off by Speaker of the People's Assembly and Ministers of Higher Education, Economy and trade, Foreign Affairs, Information, Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Telecommunication and Technology and Minister of State for International Relations affairs and Syria's Ambassador to Venezuela and Venezuela's Ambassador to Syria.

Prensa Latina reports that the leader of the Venezuelan Revolution will next travel to Angola, where he is due to meet with his Angolan counterpart, Eduardo dos Santos. Among issues on the agenda in the African country are: oil collaboration, South-South cooperation, ties between the South Market and the African continent, Petrosur possibilities, the signing of four agreements, and a joint release to strengthen relations.

Angola will be the last stop of the worldwide tour Hugo Chávez has been undertaking, which included visits to China and Malaysia. The Venezuelan president is accompanied by Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro, Planning and Development Minister Jorge Giordani and Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramírez.

Sources: Syrian Arab News Agency, Xinhua, Granma, Prensa Latina

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