Lebanon 2012 Olympics

The Lebanese Olympic Committee have confirmed that eight of their athletes will compete at the Olympic games.

Four athletes achieved the qualifying standards in their respective sports automatically qualifying them for the Olympics. They are runner Chirine Njeim, table tennis player Mariana Sahakyan, Judo player Naif Elias and finally fencer Mona Shaito.

The four other athletes, swimmes Gabriella Doueihy and Anthony Barbar, shooter Ray Bassil and lastly canoeist Richard Merjan all qualified through a wildcard system.

The International Olympic Committee offer wildcards to those athletes who have not met the needed entry requirement.

It is worth noting that in the London 2012 Olympic games sent ten athletes with the last Olympic medal coming in 1980 when Hassan Bchara won a bronze medal in the Men’s Greco-Roman Super Heavyweight wrestling.

by Joseph A. Kechichian, Senior Writer Gulf News

Beirut: Phalange Party leader Sami Gemayel pulled two ministers out of Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s cabinet, as Sejaan Qazzi (Labour) and Alain Hakim (Economy) joined Ashraf Rifi (Justice), who quit on February 21 to protest cabinet procrastination in referring the case of former Minister of Information Michel Samaha to the Judicial Council.

“The Phalange Party has decided to resign from the government because Lebanon needs a ‘positive shock’,” Gemayel affirmed at a carefully staged press conference, and rejected what he termed “cabinet mechanisms” that stifled objections, which apparently prevented classic deal-makings.

Flanked by Qazzi and Hakim, Gemayel attacked ministers who, he claimed, were not concerned with the protection of the banking sector against regular verbal attacks — presumably by Hezbollah officials against Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh — and showed little interest in the plan submitted by the Minister of Economy to revitalise the sector. Gemayel did not mince his words when he declared that ministers “are only concerned with passing suspicious deals,” which may have been in reference to the waste disposal solution that was agreed to after an eight-month-long ordeal that left Beirut and Mount Lebanon reeking in garbage.


(Beirut) – The authorities in Lebanon are failing to take adequate steps to prevent and to prosecute increasing violence by private citizens against Syrians following the outbreak of clashes in Arsal in August 2014 between the Lebanese Army and extremist groups the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra and the subsequent executions of three Lebanese soldiers by extremists. The attacks against Syrians, most of them refugees, are being carried out in a climate of official indifference and discrimination, with the violence appearing in some cases to be attempts to expel Syrians from specific neighborhoods or to enforce curfews.


Newly crowned Miss Lebanon 2012 Rina Chibany and her twin sister first runner up Romy Chibani




Rina Chibany holds her tiara after being crowned Miss Lebanon 2012 in Platea venue hosted by LBCI Lebanese Broadcasting 



Rina Chibany holds her tiara after being crowned Miss Lebanon 2012 as she poses with her twin sister







By Lee Smith

The uprisings sweeping the Middle East have started to blow down some very dark doors – the doors that lead to the dungeons and prisons where Arab security services do their work.

In Alexandria and Cairo, Egyptian protesters broke into the offices of state security, where they discovered some of the tools and torture devices used to make prisoners more pliant. Perhaps more important, they unearthed files detailing the nature of the work, and on whose behalf it was done. When the dust has settled, Washington may find its Arab allies much less willing to chase down and detain terrorist suspects, lest they be accused of collaborating with the Americans.

But what about the dark work Arab regimes do with the aid of other Arab states? Libyan rebels last week reportedly brought down two Syrian fighter pilots flying on behalf of Qaddafi’s besieged regime. Arab sources have told me there may be more than two dozen Syrian pilots flying planes in Libya — Qaddafi pays well and Damascus can use the money. Besides, the Syrian-Libyan relationship goes back several decades and the ties between their intelligence services are strong.

Those same sources explain that a delegation from Syrian intelligence services was recently dispatched to Tripoli to scrub the Libyan intelligence archives clean of all the records detailing past projects that the two countries had collaborated on, including terrorism. One Arabic-language website claimed that former Syrian vice president Abdel-Halim Khaddam was involved in these joint operations, including the “disappearance” of Moussa al-Sadr, the Iranian-born Lebanese cleric who went missing in Libya in 1978 and is presumed to be dead. A discovery that Syria really was complicit in Sadr’s death could cause Bashar al-Assad’s regime some trouble with Lebanon’s Shia community, which revered the cleric. With Syrian officials likely on the verge of being indicted in the assassination of a major Lebanese Sunni figure, the former prime minister Rafik Hariri, Syria can hardly afford to alienate the Shia, the one Lebanese sect still unequivocally supportive of Damascus.


UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- Lebanese President Michel Sleiman on Friday rejected "any form" of Palestinian settlement of refugees in Lebanon, saying that their "position will neither be compromised nor reversed."

    Addressing the general debate of the United Nations General Assembly, which entered its third day here Friday, Sleiman stated that "any solution for the Middle East crisis should be founded on a pre-determined and integrated scheme, the basic elements of which have been mapped out in the resolutions of international legitimacy ..."

    Reiterating the UN's resolution to "international legitimacy," he pushed in his speech for the withdrawal of Israel from Arab occupied territories.

    The situation of Palestinian refugees is "first and foremost a political situation," and the "Palestinian cause is at the heart of the Middle East crisis," Sleiman said, expressing his support for an independent and sovereign Palestinian state.

    "Until a just and final solution for their tragedy has been reached, we fully support all efforts aiming at reinforcing the UNRWA's (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) programs and capabilities, enabling it to improve the living standards and human conditions of the refugees, in collaboration with the hosting countries," Sleiman said.

    Also asserting Lebanon's commitment in the UN Security Council resolution 1701, which called for a cease-fire of hostilities in 2006, Sleiman called for the reinforcement by the international community "to continue its quest to compel Israel to implement all the provisions of resolution 1701."

BEIRUT: Future Movement leader MP Saad Hariri stressed on Monday that he was one of the biggest supporters of the formation of a national unity government, adding that he has the right to adopt a “different” negotiations approach. “I have kept my hand extended but they [the opposition] have always rejected our open approach,” he said during an iftar banquet in honor of Beiruti families at his residence in Qoreitem. 


“In face of such rigid stance, it then becomes my constitutional right to adopt a different strategy,” he said.


He said he would reveal such a strategy if he is re-appointed as prime-minister designate. 


Hariri said he had stepped down as a premier designate “not because I was intending to create a crisis but because I realized that there was no place for wise dialogue.” 


He added that his alliance had agreed to include Hizbullah in the cabinet, despite Israeli threats. 


“I have been patient for 73 days. Why should I keep patient?” he asked, adding that his national duties require him to adopt a patient and wise attitude for the sake of the country. 


Hariri stressed that he was ready to make sacrifices

Move could prompt Hariri to step down as PM-designate
By Elias Sakr
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, September 09, 2009


BEIRUT: Opposition groups informed President Michel Sleiman Tuesday of their rejection of the cabinet line-up proposal submitted Monday by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, raising the possibility that the latter would step aside. “We do not consider what happened to be appropriate, either with our democratic values or in how to deal with us. We were demanding from [Hariri] to present a draft that is acceptable to our demands in order to negotiate over it,” said caretaker Telecommunications Minister Jebran Bassil, a Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) official, after meeting Sleiman at his summer residence in Beiteddine. 


“We have informed [the president] of our rejection but at the same time, we have illustrated all the readiness to continue dialogue and negotiation.” 


The opposition delegation comprised, in addition to Bassil, the political aide of Hizbullah’s secretary general Hussein Khalil and Amal Movement MP Ali Hassan Khalil. 


Hariri handed Sleiman his proposal on Monday, a move quickly rejected by the opposition alliance because they had not agreed to the draft. 


Political sources said Hariri might react to the opposition’s categoric refusal by stepping down. Should he do so, Sleiman is expected to hold consultations with parliamentarians this week to designate a new premier. 




مخاطر تتخطى اصطفافَي 8 و 14 آذار

نشر هذا المقال في جريدة النهار في أول آب 2009

سجعان قزي


تجمُّع 14 آذار لم ينطلق للمطالبة بالانسحاب السوري والمحكمة الدولية وحسب، بل هو حركة وطنية واستقلالية تستكمل مشروع إعلان دولة لبنان الكبير وتنعش الميثاق الوطني. فالكيان اللبناني الذي تَمَّ الاعتراف دستورياً بنهائيته في اتفاق الطائف، ظل ينقصه اعتراف وجداني، فكانت ثورة الأرز تناضل لبناء دولة ديمقراطية مدنية حيادية لامركزية (وتبين لاحقاً وجود تباين بين أطراف 14 آذار حول مفهوم هذه الكلمات).

وتجمُّع 8 آذار لم يجتمع لرفض الانسحاب السوري والمحكمة الدولية وحسب، بل هو حركة سياسية وعسكرية تؤمن بوحدة لبنان واستقلاله، قاوم مكَـوّنها الأساسي (حزب الله) الاحتلالَ الإسرائيلي، لكنه يقوم اليوم مقامَ الدور السوري ويجسِّد امتداد الثورة الإيرانية شرقي المتوسط (وتبين أيضاً وجود تباين بين أطراف 8 آذار حول حدود هذا الدور).

لذلك إن الصراع بين التجمعين اللذين يحملان مشروعين متناقضين للبنان الوطن والهوية والنظام والمجتمع والإنسان، لن ينتهي إلا بغالب ومغلوب. لا أعني هنا أن فريقاً لبنانياً سيغلب فريقاً لبنانياً آخر، بل أقصد أن أحد هذين المشروعين سيغلب الآخر، إذ لا يمكن التسوية بين الاستقلالية والتبعية، بين الدولة والدويلة، بين الأمن والمربعات الأمنية، بين الحرب والسلام، بين الحداثة والجمود، بين الحياد والانحياز، بين السلاح الشرعي والسلاح غير الشرعي، وبين ولاية الفقيه والدولة المدنية.

إذا كان مشروع 14 آذار المعلن هو الحقيقي والنهائي، فمشروع 8 آذار المعلن هو مرحلي وتمويهي يُخفي مشروع حزب الله الأساسي بإقامة جمهورية إسلامية "تحترم" الخصوصية اللبنانية. وهذا لا ينفي وجود مشروع سُـنّي سلَفي ـ يرفضه تيار المستقبل ويكبحه ـ يحلم بإقامة خلافة إسلامية لا تحترم الخصوصية اللبنانية، لأنه فكر تكفيري خلافاً لفكر حزب الله.

Maghen-Abraham this February, before renovations began

Since Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, Beirut’s Maghen-Abraham synagogue sat empty as other buildings in the Wadi Abou-Jamil neighborhood were renovated into multimillion-dollar condos, offices or hotels. 

Last week, restoration began on the 84-year-old synagogue, Beirut's oldest remaining Jewish house of worship, launching what will be a yearlong, million-dollar undertaking. 

Private Jewish donors abroad, many of Lebanese descent, funded the project, along with a $150,000 donation from Solidere, Prime Minister-elect Saad Hariri’s company, according to the Lebanese Jewish Community Council


Lebanon's Jewish community once numbered 22,000, and Judaism is still recognized as an official religion in the country. But many Jews fled during the civil war, and now Lebanon is home to less than 200. A diaspora of 2,000 lives between Lebanon and other countries. Some of them are members of Maghen-Abraham's Facebook fan page.

Renovations Underway 
Maghen-Abraham’s renovation received the blessing of Lebanon’s religious communities, even the militant anti-Israel group Hezbollah. Last year a spokesman for the group said, “We respect the Jewish religion just like we do Christianity. The Jews have always lived among us. We have an issue with Israel's occupation of land.” 

The project has provided Hezbollah an opportunity to assert that it is anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic. Similarly, the PLO protected the area during Lebanon’s long civil war under the same stated purpose. While attempting to root out the PLO, Israeli artillery hit the synagogue’s roof, contributing to the damage already done by the civil war, some historians claim.

Despite the endorsement of Lebanon’s religious communities, the renovation project remains secretive. Since breaking ground at the site, the story has received little or no attention in Lebanese newspapers. The architect told the Global Post that he was advised to raise scaffolding only inside the building . 

At the site, a worker leads a visitor through the synagogue grounds to a group of men clearing shrubs. “No pictures, no journalists," he orders. "A woman came last week and took pictures, and the police came and arrested her.” 

So far, little renovation work has been done. The red tile roofing has been removed. Workers are scraping off paint from small buildings surrounding the synagogue. On a recent visit another group was seen removing a large palm tree with a small bulldozer.

“We’re removing the plants,” the impromptu guide says, gesturing to the massive overgrowth of the grounds and interior of the building, a symptom of decades-long abandonment.

"You need to go now," he adds, declining to give his name 
 Jahd Khalil in Beirut

By Tom Perry


BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri has taken a holiday to "think and reflect" after a once close ally quit his anti-Syria coalition in a move expected to delay the formation of a new government.


Druze leader Walid Jumblatt's departure from Hariri's "March 14" alliance this week has redrawn Lebanon's political map and undermined the coalition's June parliamentary election victory over rivals including the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah group.


Hariri, a Saudi- and U.S.-backed billionaire businessman, had been expected to conclude talks this week on the formation of a coalition government grouping his alliance with parties allied to Syria, including Hezbollah and the Amal movement.


But he left the country Monday night for a holiday, his media office said. The trip aimed to give Hariri a chance to "think and reflect calmly," according to a statement released after a meeting of MPs from his Future Movement.

BY ZEINA KARAM, The gowns are cut low in the front, slashing down to the navel, or low in the back, swooping below the waist, inset with delicate see-through fabric. They couldn't be further from the modest dress generally worn by women in the Muslim Arab world.

Yet these fashions come from Lebanon, a tiny Arab country of 4 million on the Mediterranean. This nation better known for military conflicts than the arts has produced an impressive crop of designers, including Reem Acra and Elie Saab, whose work is showcased at celebrity events such as the Oscars and the Golden Globes.

"Lebanon's name has always been synonymous with war, but when it comes to fashion ... these designers really make us proud," said Laura Seikaly, 39, who was among a recent crowd of bikini-clad sunbathers on a beach north of Beirut. "I guess it comes from the society itself, the way Lebanese women dress. They're very courageous, even more than Europeans."

BEIRUT: When Nadine Abi Nasr and her Italian fiance Marco decided to have a civil marriage, they turned to a travel agency for help to escape Lebanon’s tangled bureaucracy and strict religious rules. Nadia Travel provided them with a tailor-made package and return tickets for the 30-minute flight to the nearby east Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where the couple tied the knot.

Despite a long-running campaign by civic groups, civil weddings still have no legal basis in Lebanon, a tiny country of around four million people who belong to 18 different religious communities, mainly Christian and Muslim.

The Lebanese authorities recognize civil weddings only if they have been registered abroad, but such ceremonies are banned from taking place inside the country because of strong opposition from religious leaders.

Religious faiths have their own regulations governing marriage, divorce and inheritance, and mixed Christian-Muslim weddings in Lebanon are frowned upon and downright discouraged unless one of the potential spouses converts.

Here’s the full list of countries polled, accompanied by opinion results on whether Obama “will do the right thing in world affairs”: U.S. (74), Canada (88), Britain (86), France (91), Germany (93), Spain (72), Poland (62), Russia (37), Turkey (33), Egypt (42), Jordan (31), Lebanon (46), Palestinian territories (56), China (62), India (77), Indonesia (71), Japan (85), Pakistan (13), South Korea (81), Argentina (61), Brazil (76), Mexico (55), Kenya (94), Nigeria (88).

The Survey did not cover Syria, but in Lebanon there are some interesting trends. For one thing, the Favorability rating  here (now at 55%) for the United States has been steadily climbing, although not by much, which seems to support the notion that Lebanon has long been an outlying proponent of George W. Bush in the region. (In 2005, Bush helped encourage Lebanon’s effort to oust Syrian troops from the country.) Lebanon emerges as the only polled country which gave Bush a higher confidence rating than Bin Laden among its Muslim citizens in recent years, although this surely relates as much to Bush’s support for the anti-Syrian movement as it does to so much of the Muslim population’s support here for Nasrallah. No room for Bin Laden’s shenanigans here.

Other points:

-The Obama support is highly polarized: “Only 2% of Lebanese Shia express a positive attitude toward the U.S., barely an improvement from last year’s 0%. But a remarkably high 90% of Lebanese Sunni hold a positive view of the U.S., up from 62% in 2008. Sunnis now have more favorable views of the U.S. than the country’s Christian population – 66% of Lebanese Christians express a positive opinion of the U.S., down from 75% in 2008.”

-Lebanon shows some of the most dramatic change in its Muslim citizens’ response to a question about whether suicide bombing is ever justified. In 2002, 72% of the country’s Muslims answered yes; today that figure is 38%.

 'Some 30,000 tourists from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates arrived via Syria on Sunday,' an official at the Masnaa border checkpoint told the German Press Agency, dpa. The Ministry of Tourism  expects 2 million Arabs and other nationalities to come by the end of 2009. 'This will be a record,' said tourism ministry director Nada Sardouk. About 1.3 million tourists visited Lebanon in 2008, up 30 per cent from the previous year, the ministry's records show. An official at Beirut International Airport  told dpa that planes are arriving packed with tourists from Gulf states. 'I can say people are flocking into the country to spend their summer vacations, and our airport staff are working around the clock to speed up their entry,' he said. The tourism boom is visible in the capital's hotels, beach resorts  and restaurants.

Pierre Achkar, head of Lebanon's Hotel Association, said occupancy in most hotels  in Beirut reached to 90 per cent in mid-July. Car rental owners are also delighted with business. 'This is a season the likes of which we have never witnessed before,' said Ali Chabani, owner of a taxi and car rental firm. I can say Beirut is reclaiming its position as the Jewel of the Middle East for tourists from he Arab world and Europe,' Sardouk said. This year's summer festivals, which include famous names like rock group Deep Purple, have also added to the attractions for visitors. Nada Attayeh, a Jordanian national, said she came to Lebanon to see her favourite group perform in the ancient city of Baalbeck.

'I bought my tickets two months ago to watch Deep Purple play on July 25. At the same time I came to enjoy the nightlife in Beirut,' she said. Famous bars and restaurants are crowded with visitors who usually stay well into the night, dancing and enjoying the music. 'We are fully booked every day until the end of September,' a waiter at the famous open-air dance club Sky Bar told dpa. La Creperie restaurant located at the sea front of Kaslik overlooking the bay of Jounieh  is also receving many tourists daily from European countries, Arab, Americas and Australia has informed us their manager: "It is just different from any other previous year where tourists are not only the Lebanese from aborad but it is Arabs, Europeans Americans from all over"

US donates 30m dollars to reconstruction of Lebanon camp

BEIRUT — The United States has pledged another 30 million dollars to the rebuilding of a Palestinian refugee camp destroyed in a battle between Islamists and the Lebanese army, a UN refugee agency said on Monday.

"The amount of 25 million dollars (18 million euros) will be allocated towards the reconstruction of Nahr al-Bared camp and five million dollars (four million euros) towards the Relief and Early Recovery Appeal," said the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

The grant raises to 71.8 million dollars (51 million euros) the amount donated by the United States to the reconstruction of the camp in north Lebanon that was almost completely destroyed in a 15-week battle between the army and an Al-Qaeda-inspired militant group in 2007.

The UN refugee agency has collected over 92 million dollars (65 million euros) of the estimated 450 million dollars (290 million euros) needed to rebuild the camp and 15 nearby villages.

More than 400 people, including 168 soldiers, were killed in the Nahr al-Bared battles and the camp's 31,000 residents were transferred to nearby camps, some of whom have since returned.

BEIRUT, July 20 (Xinhua) -- Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said Monday that his ministry is cooperating with the army and the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to investigate Saturday's clashes in south Lebanon, local LBC TV reported.

    "The Lebanese Foreign Ministry is carrying out necessary contacts with army officers, while the investigation is still going on" about the incident between UNIFIL and the residents of Khirbet Selm village Saturday, Salloukh said.

    About 14 UNIFIL soldiers were wounded on Saturday when Lebanese Shiite protesters prevented them from searching a location suspected of containing arms.

    Salloukh said the "UNIFIL did not coordinate with the Lebanese army when it entered the village for search, thinking that the army was already deployed there," adding "but today coordination is present between them."

    Ammunition depot in an abandoned house in the village of Khirbet Selm, 20 kilometers from the Israeli border, exploded on Tuesday in an area widely seen under control of Shiite Lebanese group of Hezbollah.

    The UNIFIL patrols were attacked by around 100 protesters from Khirbet Selm village. They hurled stones to the windows of UNIFIL vehicles and the two sides were engaged in fistfights.

    However, military sources told As-Safier daily Monday that "UNIFIL had no right, under UN resolution 1701, to raid houses or set up checkpoints without prior coordination with the Lebanese army."

Sidon, a port city about 25 miles south of Beirut whose rich history dates to 4000 B.C., was among the most successful of the Phoenician city-states. In the fourth century B.C., it fell to Alexander the Great, entering a Hellenistic age that lasted for more than 100 years until the Romans took over. It changed hands several more times before becoming part of the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century.

So it is not surprising that when, in the mid-1800s, archaeologists started exploring Sidon, they found treasures. The French turned up (among other things) a sarcophagus that belonged to a Phoenician king named Eshmunazar II and sent it back to the Louvre. Later, a Turk named Osman Hamdi Bey, who had studied in Paris, became director of the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul and began leading his own excavations in Sidon. In 1887, his team hit upon more than two dozen sarcophagi. Many were stunning, including the Sarcophagus of Mourning Women, which shows 18 comely, elegant females in varying expressions of grief; it’s now in the Istanbul ­museum.



127 deputies convened on Thursday 25-2009 at Nejmeh Square at 10.00am and re-elected MP Nabih Berri for a fifth (4-year-term) as parliament speaker by 90 votes out of 127. MP Farid Mkari was also re-elected Deputy Speaker for a second term.

13 political blocs and 11 independent MPs -- took part in the vote on a Speaker, with the absence of MP Riad Rahhal.

Berri's re-election was settled after intensive political contacts, particularly within March 14 Forces and future parliamentary bloc.Moreover, Lebanese Forces, Kataeb and some March 14 independent MPs mostly from the  newly-formed Lebanon First Bloc have said  that they will caste  blank ballots rather than vote for Berri, the only candidate in the running.

Democratic Gathering bloc MP Marwan Hamadeh and Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra were elected parliament secretaries, while MPs Michel Moussa, Ahmed Fatfat and Serge Tor Sarkissian to the Office of Parliament.

The daily As Safir said that Future Leader MP Saad Hariri was Keen on re-electing Mr. Berri reminding the protestors within his bloc that he had paid a dear price for the May 7 events confirming that extending for Mr. Berri is to assure the coexistence in Lebanon.

Pan Arab al- Hayat said that MP Hariri heard quite bit of objections while meeting with his bloc. The meeting ended with an agreement that Hariri would put before Berri all the observations that was made under three headlines, guarantees that the Speaker would not shut the parliament doors, pledge for amending the law on Parliament’s inner-system and finally to speed up the presentation of the 72 frozen draft laws.

In return, Berri said that he also supports the latter to be appointed as the next prime minister, something that would ensure that the “March 8 and March 14 forces come together in national unity.”

The cabinet formation consultations are expected to speed up after the re-election of Berri, who will directly meet with President Michel Sleiman on Thursday to schedule the compulsory parliamentary consultations to choose the next prime minister.

Sources said that the Lebanon First Bloc is supposed to hold a meeting in order to announce the candidacy of its leader, MP Saad Hariri, for the next premier after he consulted with his allies within the March 14 alliance.

 Al-Akhbar reported that Hariri’s premiership appointment is “settled business” as he has already discussed the composition of the upcoming government with President Sleiman.

To sum up, a long parliamentary day has ended with the winning of Mr. Berri who will enter his 17th straight year as speaker. - Hala N.




Lebanese parliament speaker calls for maintaining stability
www.chinaview.cn 2009-06-25 19:46:07   Print

    BEIRUT, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Newly-elected Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called on lawmakers Thursday to take advantage of the positive regional and international atmosphere to work for maintaining peace and stability in Lebanon.

    During his address to parliament following his election, Berri stressed on "facilitating the formation of a national government to confront external challenges and threats."

    Berri was elected Thursday as parliament speaker for a fifth consecutive term since 1992 with 90 votes out of 127.

    "I remind you of the Israeli major military maneuver which represents preparations to revenge Lebanon for standing against Israeli aggression in July 2006, and the resistance which was able to defeat the strongest army in the region," Berri told the parliament.

    Israel and the Lebanese Shiite armed group Hezbollah fought a 34-day devastating war in July 2006.

    Berri, however, urged the reinforcement of the Lebanese army and the resistance which is "a necessity as long as Israel posses a threat and maintains its aggressive attitude against Lebanese territories and water."

    He pledged that the parliament would continue efforts to liberate the occupied Lebanese territories, namely the Shebaa Farms, Kfarshouba Hills and the northern part of Ghajar village, and work on removing mines, as well as implementing UN resolution 1701.


Berri Re-Elected Speaker by a Majority of Votes
Parliament on Thursday re-installed Nabih Berri for a fifth 4-year-term as Parliament Speaker and Farid Makari as Deputy Speaker for a second term.

Berri received 90 votes and 28 white ballots, while Makari got 74 votes and 25 white ballots.

The Phalange Party and the Lebanese Forces have openly objected to Berri's re-election for failure to provide guarantees beforehand that he would not shut doors of Parliament as he did during an 18-month political crisis that gripped Lebanon before a deal was cut in Doha on electing a new President. They have threatened to cast white votes.

127 of the 128-seat Parliament -- 13 political blocs and 11 independent MPs -- took part in the vote on a Speaker. Absence was MP Riad Rahhal.

Marwan Hamadeh and Antoine Zahra were elected Parliament Secretaries.

MPs Serge Tor Sarkissian, Michel Moussa and Ahmed Fatfat also got posts in new Lebanon Parliament.

"Those who cast blank votes today I am sure will re-elect me in four years," Berri said in his acceptance speech.

Celebratory gunfire could be heard across Beirut after Berri's re-election.

"I am responsible towards, and not for, Parliament and the Lebanese citizens and I am committed to the legislature's inner-rules," Berri said.

He pledged that parliament would continue efforts to "liberate Lebanese territories, work on removing mines and guarantee the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701."

Berri called for the consolidation of the army as well as supporting the resistance which he considered "a necessity as long as Israel continues to eye Lebanese land."

Berri's re-election was settled after intensive political contacts, particularly within March 14 Forces and Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc.

These contacts included detailed debate on the importance of voting for or against Berri.

The daily As Safir said Mustaqbal bloc leader MP Saad Hariri heard objections on Berri during the launch meeting Wednesday of "Lebanon First" parliamentary bloc in Qoreitem.

It said Hariri, however, warned the protesters that he had "paid a dear price" for the May 7, 2007 bloody events, adding that "if we are keen on coexistence, then we must extend our hand to Berri."

Pan-Arab al-Hayat, for its part, said Hariri even heard quite a bit of objections from his own bloc.

It said many MPs reminded Hariri of the previous era when Berri shut down Parliament during the 18-month crisis, refusing to open up the doors not even as a tribute to the memory of lawmakers who were assassinated during that period.

They also complained that Berri was known for his individual decision-making regarding dealing with the work of Parliament in addition to ignoring the powers of Parliament office, freezing around 72 draft laws related to economic and administrative reforms, and boycotting Prime Minister Fouad Saniora.

The meeting ended with an agreement that Hariri would put forth before Berri observations on behalf of "Lebanon First" under three headlines, including guarantees the Speaker would not shut Parliament doors, pledge for amending the law on Parliament's inner-system and speed up the presentation of the 72 frozen draft laws.


Beirut, 25 Jun 09, 07:53


BEIRUT – Lebanese parliamentarians elected on Thursday Democratic Gathering bloc MP Marwan Hamadeh (88 votes) and Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra (66 votes) as secretaries of the House. Change and Reform MP Alain Aoun was also a candidate to one of the two positions but only got 57 votes. House secretaries’ election was followed by the election in default of MPs Michel Moussa, Serje Tour Sarkissian and Ahmed Fatfat as delegates of the House

In fact, just before carrying out these elections, Speaker Nabih Berri was reelected as Speaker of the House for a fifth consecutive mandate (90 votes), followed by the reelection of Future Movement bloc MP Farid Makari as deputy Speaker (74 votes).

  • Lebanese lawmaker Setrida Geagea, center, wife of hardline Christian pro-government politician Samir Geagea, arrives at the Parliament for the election of the house speaker in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, June 25, 2009. Lebanese lawmakers overwhelmingly re-elected the pro-Hezbollah parliament speaker on Thursday despite the Iranian-backed militant group's recent election loss, signaling the political factions' determination to work together toward a unity government. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

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  • Lebanese majority leader lawmaker Saad Hariri leaves the Parliament after the re-election of pro-Hezbollah Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, June 25, 2009. Lebanese lawmakers overwhelmingly re-elected the pro-Hezbollah parliament speaker on Thursday despite the Iranian-backed militant group's recent election loss, signaling the political factions' determination to work together toward a unity government. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

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  • Lebanese majority leader lawmaker Saad Hariri gestures as he arrives at the

    Lebanese majority leader lawmaker Saad Hariri gestures as he arrives at the Parliament for the election of the house speaker in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, June 25, 2009. Lebanese lawmakers overwhelmingly re-elected the pro-Hezbollah parliament speaker Nabih Berri on Thursday despite the Iranian-backed militant group's recent election loss, signaling the political factions' determination to work together toward a unity government. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

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  • A Lebanese soldier, right, stands guard in front of the Parliament during the election of the house speaker in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, June 25, 2009. Lebanese lawmakers overwhelmingly re-elected the pro-Hezbollah parliament speaker Nabih Berri on Thursday despite the Iranian-backed militant group's recent election loss, signaling the political factions' determination to work together toward a unity government. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

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  • Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, right, reviews an honor guard as he arrives at the Parliament for the election of the house speaker in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, June 25, 2009. Lebanese lawmakers overwhelmingly re-elected the pro-Hezbollah parliament speaker Nabih Berri on Thursday despite the Iranian-backed militant group's recent election loss, signaling the political factions' determination to work together toward a unity government. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

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  • Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, center, reviews an honor guard as he arrives at the parliament for the election of the house speaker in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, June 25, 2009. Lebanese lawmakers overwhelmingly re-elected the pro-Hezbollah parliament speaker Nabih Berri on Thursday despite the Iranian-backed militant group's recent election loss, signaling the political factions' determination to work together toward a unity government. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

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  • Lebanese police dance as they celebrate the re-election of pro-Hezbollah Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri after he won 90 votes in the 128-member legislature, in front of Berri's residence in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, June 25, 2009. Lebanese lawmakers have overwhelmingly re-elected Berri despite the Iranian-backed militant group's recent election loss. The move to re-elect Nabih Berri signals the political factions' determination to work together toward a unity government. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

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  • Lebanese men carry the picture of re-elected pro-Hezbollah Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, right, as they celebrate with fire works in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, June 25, 2009. Lebanese lawmakers have overwhelmingly re-elected Berri despite the Iranian-backed militant group's recent election loss. The move to re-elect Nabih Berri signals the political factions' determination to work together toward a unity government. (AP Photo)

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  • Lebanese police dance as they celebrate the re-election of pro-Hezbollah Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri after he won 90 votes in the 128-member legislature, in front of Berri's residence in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, June 25, 2009. Lebanese lawmakers have overwhelmingly re-elected Berri despite the Iranian-backed militant group's recent election loss. The move to re-elect Nabih Berri signals the political factions' determination to work together toward a unity government. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

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  • A Lebanese woman celebrates the re-election of pro-Hezbollah Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, as she carries his picture, in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, June 25, 2009. Lebanese lawmakers have overwhelmingly re-elected Berri despite the Iranian-backed militant group's recent election loss. The move to re-elect Nabih Berri signals the political factions' determination to work together toward a unity government. (AP Photo)

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  • A group of dancers, in black, celebrate with Lebanese police the re-election of pro-Hezbollah Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri after he won 90 votes in the 128-member legislature, in front of Berri's residence in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, June 25, 2009. Lebanese lawmakers have overwhelmingly re-elected Berri despite the Iranian-backed militant group's recent election loss. The move to re-elect Nabih Berri signals the political factions' determination to work together toward a unity government. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

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  • Lebanese police dance as they celebrate the re-election of pro-Hezbollah

    Lebanese police dance as they celebrate the re-election of pro-Hezbollah Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri after he won 90 votes in the 128-member legislature, in front of Berri's residence in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, June 25, 2009. Lebanese lawmakers have overwhelmingly re-elected Berri despite the Iranian-backed militant group's recent election loss. The move to re-elect Nabih Berri signals the political factions' determination to work together toward a unity government. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

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Back last fall, when Barack Obama sprang his surprise about naming former rival Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state, many people assumed she would be the Cabinet's brightest star — a celebrity at large on the world stage, the face of American foreign policy while the president was consumed back home by domestic issues and a troubled economy.

Few commentators predicted the reality: an era of grindstone leadership at the State Department.

But that's exactly what Clinton has fashioned at Foggy Bottom. She has become a disciplined loyalist who jostles for White House influence just like any Cabinet secretary and who has advanced her cause by striking some key internal alliances.

Most surprisingly, she has about as low a news-making profile as is possible for someone who is arguably the most famous woman on the planet. When she slipped and broke her elbow last week, it was the most press coverage she had gotten in months. A Nexis database search showed she had fewer mentions last month than any time since she launched her presidential bid in January 2007.

The Lebanese side of the Lebanese-Syrian committee tasked with following up issue of missing and detainees in Syria has received a list of 23 Lebanese who were recently freed from Syrian jails, An Nahar daily reported Tuesday.
The newspaper said that the Syrian side handed over the names of the 23 whose names were on a list that the Lebanese side had given to Syrian members of the committee.

The committee informed Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar that among the 23 Lebanese, 16 detainees were released after a special amnesty, according to An Nahar.

Najjar told Future News on Tuesday the committee wasn't handed over any person. "We don't know yet to whom the released (Lebanese) where handed over."

The newspaper added that Beirut had asked Damascus to unveil the fate of eight of the 23 people thinking they were missing.

The eight prisoners had been subject to trials in Syria, An Nahar said.

The released detainees are the following: Abbas Mohammed Abou Hamdan, Massoud Mohammed Hassan, Ismail Jamil Kalash, Ali Mustafa al-Jammal, Nizar Ali Yaghi, Nayef Mohammed al-Abdi, Ismail Attiyeh Gharli, Hani Abdel Rahim Mustafa, Hassan Mohammed al-Hujairi, Mohammed Shehade al-Flayti, Siham Ahmed Murtada, Rashed Mustafa Karnabi, Nadwa Khalif al-Sayyed, Jihad Saleh Yaghi, Hisham Hassan al-Dirani, Mahdi Nour Amoun, Nicola Nakhle al-Tabbal, Mohammed Deeb Youssef, Hassan Youssef Nasser, Mohammed Mahmoud Qanso, Hassan Ali Jaafar, Ibrahim Mohammed al-Haq and Shehade Assad Wehbi.

Beirut, 23 Jun 09, 08:18

March 14 coalition retains majority after parliamentary elections
Opposition source concedes defeat, accepts 'will of people'
By Mirella Hodeib
Daily Star staff
Monday, June 08, 2009

BEIRUT: Lebanon's opposition conceded defeat against the March 14 coalition in pivotal polls Sunday after weeks of fierce campaigning. "We've lost the election," a senior opposition source, who declined to be identified, told Reuters. "We accept the result as the will of the people." "We'll go back to the way we were," the source added.

The opposition source said the March 14 coalition is expected to ensure between 69 and 70 seats in the 128 parliament.  The number matches figures predicted by the March 14 Forces.

Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt on Sunday warned the March 14 Forces against "isolating the other party."

The 2009 electoral battle centered in Christian districts, since the results of almost 100 seats of the assembly were decided in advance.

As The Daily Star went to press, unofficial results showed the March 14 Forces won by a clean sweep the districts of Beirut I, Batroun, Koura, and Bsharreh, and Tripoli.

According to unofficial results, Prime Minster Fouad Siniora won a parliamentary seat in the coastal city of Sidon. 


Preliminary results also showed the March 14 Forces as having a chance to win the Bekaa town of Zahle's seven seats.

According to unofficial results, the Free Patriotic Movement won all seats in the districts of Kesrouan, Jbeil, Baabda and Jezzine. 

The results of another decisive district, Metn were still unclear at dawn on Sunday. 



Kesrouaun turnout of 70 percent highest in country
By Therese Sfeir
Daily Star staff
Monday, June 08, 2009

KESROUAN: Kesrouan witnessed the highest turnout in the parliamentary elections on Sunday, with the participation rate in the district reaching 70 percent. Residents of Kesrouan-Ftouh started to gather at polling stations at 6 a.m. Sunday under tight security measures.

Two lists battled for the five Maronite seats in Kesrouan. The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) headed by retired General Michel Aoun ran against a list formed by the March 14 Forces and Independents.

The FPM list included Aoun, Farid Elias Khazen, Youssef Khalil, Gilberte Zwein and Neamatallah Abi Nasr, all of whom represented Kesrouan in the Parliament that was elected in 2005.

The March 14 Forces and Independents' list included former MPs Farid Haykal Khazen, Mansour Bon and Fares Boueiz, the president of the National Liberal Party Carlos Edde and journalist Sejaan Azzi.

Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud cast his ballot in the town of Jeita.

Addressing reporters afterward, he said that competition was a "sign of healthy elections."

After casting his ballot in the town of Mayrouba, Reform and Change MP Youssef Khalil expressed his satisfaction with the electoral process in general, but complained about delays and some obstructions facing voters.

He also urged Baroud to ask staff at polling stations to "speed up the electoral process, taking into consideration the massive participation of voters."

Khalil added that the election process would likely extend into the evening hours at "most of the stations as the participation rate is very high, which is very positive."

Lebanon Moderates Turn Attention

BEIRUT -- After widening its majority in weekend parliamentary elections, a Western-backed coalition here now must form a new government, a task almost a fraught as the election itself.

AFP/Getty Images

Lebanese Muslim women lined up to cast their votes at a polling station in the northern city of Tripoli.

The March 14 movement won 71 seats in Lebanon's 128-seat body, increasing its parliamentary hold by one. The opposition came away with 57 seats, according to official results released by the interior ministry Monday afternoon. Many pollsters had expected the opposition to make gains--if not capture an outright majority-- because of redistricting since the last polling in 2005.

From Washington and across the Middle East, the vote was seen as a proxy battle between the influence of the West and its Arab allies on one side, and Iran and Syria on the other. But the smooth formation of a new government here could be a more important test of March 14's political strength.

Saad Hariri, the son of slain Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and leader of March 14, has said he plans to invite the opposition into the next government. But he and his allies want to remove the veto power the opposition now wields over most government policy.

Reuters) - The economy of Lebanon, which held a parliamentary election on Sunday, has shown what the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has described as "remarkable resilience" in the face of the global financial crisis.

Following are some of the economy's main features:




The economy grew more than 8 percent in 2008 according to the IMF, despite a first half marred by the worst internal fighting since the 1975-90 civil war and the onset of the global financial crisis. Policymakers project growth of 4 percent or more in 2009.




Lebanon's public debt burden is one of the heaviest in the world at around 162 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), much of it incurred as a result of reconstruction after the civil war. The debt was measured at $47.21 billion in February, around 44 percent of it in foreign currency, according to the finance ministry. The government has cited progress in reducing the debt-to-GDP ratio to 162 percent from around 180 percent in 2006. Moody's recently upgraded Lebanon's sovereign ratings, citing a substantial improvement in its external liquidity and the proven resistance of public finances to shocks. The state's deficit for 2009 is projected at around 12 percent of GDP.

The final result in Sunday's knife-edge parliamentary election was expected to hinge on which way the divided Christian community votes in a few important districts.

Dozens of Lebanese voters thronged a polling station in this Christian town Sunday morning, waiting patiently in the brilliant sunshine to participate in an election that will have ramifications far beyond Lebanon's small borders.

Hundreds of voters, many of them clad in brightly colored clothes of orange, blue, red, and yellow reflecting their political affiliations, descended on the polls as they opened at 7 a.m. local time.

The election pits the Western-backed March 14 bloc against an opposition coalition. As voting began, it was impossible to predict the result of this knife-edge electoral race, with possibly as few as two or three seats in the 128-seat parliament deciding the outcome.

The final result is expected to hinge on which way the divided Christian community votes in a few key districts, including the Greek Catholic town of Zahle, tucked into a valley on the western flank of the Bekaa Valley. Many Christians, along with Sunnis and Druze, support the March 14 ruling coalition.

"I'm voting for March 14," says Paula Maalouf, displaying her purple-stained thumb indicating she had cast her vote. She listed the names of several prominent March 14 figures who were assassinated over the past four years, including Samir Qassir, a journalist who died in a car bomb blast in June 2005, and Gibran Tueni, the general manager of the leading An Nahar newspaper, who was killed by another car bomb in December 2005.

"They sacrificed their lives for our country and we should continue the road that they trod for their memory and for the sake of the Christians in the East," Ms. Maalouf says.

لبنان: انتخاب أم «تصويت»؟

وليد أبي مرشد
أول ما يتبادر إلى ذهن من يراقب الردح الانتخابي المتمادي في لبنان أنها المرة الأولى التي يمارس فيها اللبنانيون حق الاقتراع لمجلس نيابي.. فالخطاب الانتخابي لمعظم المرشحين لا يوفر ما يسمى، في القانون اللبناني، «قدحا وذما»، وفي الشارع شتما وسبابا، وفي أدب الحياة بذاءة وإسفافا.
مناسبة هذه الملاحظة هي التقرير الثاني الذي أصدرته هيئة الإشراف على الحملة الانتخابية في لبنان بعد تحليل 32 ألف تسجيل عائد لأنشطة وكلمات مرتبطة بالنشاط الانتخابي للمرشحين والسياسيين وفيه تخلص إلى الاستنتاج بأن الحملة الانتخابية عززت ما أسمته الهيئة بـ«خطاب الكراهية» المخل بإحكام المادة 68 من قانون الانتخابات النيابية ـ التي تنص على تأمين «التوازن والحياد والامتناع عن خطاب الكراهية» ـ ناهيك بإخلاله باللياقة السياسية وحتى بالآداب العامة في بلد لا يتحمل أمنه ولا اقتصاده لغة التحديات والشتائم.


Published: May 22, 2009

BEIRUT, Lebanon — When the Lebanese authorities announced the arrest of an Israeli spy ring late last year, the news aroused little surprise. It is no secret that Israel has long maintained intelligence agents here.

But in recent weeks, more and more suspects have been captured, including a retired general, several security officials and a deputy mayor. All told, at least 21 people have been arrested, and 3 others escaped over the border into Israel with the help of the Israeli military, Lebanese officials say.

The spying network’s extent has mesmerized the Lebanese and made headlines here. It has also infuriated Lebanese officials, who sent an official protest to the United Nations this week. On Friday, President Michel Suleiman complained about the matter in a meeting here with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The arrests appear to reflect a newly energized and coordinated effort by the Lebanese security agencies, which now cooperate far more effectively among themselves and with Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group based here, than they did in the past.

“New technologies have helped in catching them,” said Gen. Ashraf Rifi, the director of the Internal Security Forces. “But we have also had better cooperation with the army than we had before.”

By Brooke Anderson, JEZZINE, Lebanon (CNS) -- Sitting at an outdoor cafe on a mild spring afternoon, overlooking the town square of Jezzine, Samaan Dahir felt optimistic about Lebanon's June 7 parliamentary elections. "The resistance needs to win," said Dahir, referring to the so-called March 8 coalition led by Hezbollah, the Shiite political party credited for liberating South Lebanon from 18 years of Israeli occupation and subsequently helping to rebuild the war-torn region. "Let's give the opposition a chance and see the how they implement their reform programs. I'm definitely for March 8. I'm for change." Dahir, a Maronite Catholic from Jezzine, is optimistic about the election and is happy that the campaign appears to be giving more of a voice to Christians than in previous years.

The incumbent pro-Western March 14 coalition is composed by the Mustaqbal (Future) movement, made up mainly of Sunnis, but also various Christian groups (Lebanese Forces, Kataeb, Liberal Party, Quornet Chehwane, indpendants) and PSP . The opposition, is composed by Hezbollah,the Free Patriotic Movement of Maronite Catholic Michel Aoun, a retired army general, AMAL, MARADA, Tadamon and Democratic Party led by Arslan and other independants and smaller parties.

Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, compared the importance of Lebanon's Christian voters to a swing state in a U.S. election."It's an unintended consequence of the process," said Salem. "It doesn't mean Ohio is the most important state or Christians in Lebanon are more important."

By SAM F. GHATTAS, Associated Press Writer Sam F. Ghattas, Associated Press Writer –  BEIRUT – The Middle East's espionage wars are heating up after Lebanon's arrest of more than a dozen alleged Israeli spies, and dire warnings from Jerusalem that Arab groups are trying to use the Internet to infiltrate the Jewish state.

Officials in Beirut say they struck a strategic blow against Israel with the recent arrests of 15 people — 13 Lebanese and two Palestinians — who they contend were gathering intelligence on Hezbollah positions, leaders' movements and infrastructure targets. Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants and Israeli forces fought an inconclusive war in 2006 along the Lebanese-Israeli border and both sides have since been preparing for the possibility of another.

Although Israel and its Arab neighbors have for years spied on each other, the recent announcements have highlighted the secret war of espionage and the depth of the infiltration. Lebanese officials say the spies arrested there included a math teacher and housewife, and that they were equipped with sophisticated electronics.

Lebanon holds elections June 7 but the recent arrest announcements did not seem intended to influence the vote.

FACTBOX: Facts on Lebanon's economy


Reuters) - The economy of Lebanon, which is set to hold a parliamentary election on June 7, has shown what the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has described as "remarkable resilience" in the face of the global credit crisis.

Following are some of the economy's main features:




The economy grew by more than 8 percent in 2008 according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), despite a first half marred by the worst bout of internal fighting since the 1975-90 civil war and the onset of the global financial crisis. Policymakers are projecting growth of 4 percent or more in 2009.

BEIRUT, Lebanon, May 22 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited Beirut Friday in what U.S. officials said was a show of support for Lebanese independence prior to legislative elections. While in Lebanon, Biden was expected to announce U.S. military aid for Lebanese forces. He is scheduled to meet with President Michel Suleiman, pro-Western Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who is aligned with the Hezbollah bloc, the British broadcaster said.

In a ceremony at Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Biden presented tons of military equipment. "Mr. minister, general, it's a delight to be back in Lebanon, and thank you for the warm welcome," Biden said in opening his remarks. A transcript of his remarks did not identify who he was addrssing. "General, we're going to leave some of this behind," Biden continued, "but you cannot take my plane. Air Force Two I get to keep, and the helicopters I get to keep. Other than that, the rest is going to be yours." "I'm also here to assure you … the United States of America considers itself a partner in your effort to defend your sovereignty -- the sovereignty of the Lebanese state and the security of all the people of Lebanon," Biden said.

By Andrew Wander
Daily Star staff
BEIRUT: Almost half of Lebanese believe that US President Barack Obama will have a positive impact on the Middle East and have a favorable opinion of him, a poll has found. The IPSOS poll asked residents of six Arab countries what they thought of the new president, who completed his first 100 days in office earlier this month. In Lebanon, pollsters found that just 16 percent of those asked held a negative opinion of Obama, while 41 percent held an unfavorable view of the United States.

The poll's findings signify that Obama's conciliatory approach to diplomacy in Middle East may be paying dividends as he seeks to restore America's image in a region that suffered disproportionately at the sharp end of the policies of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

When asked their opinion of Obama, 43 percent of Lebanese respondents said they had a favorable view of him - 11 percent more than had a favorable opinion of the United States.

The poll shows that the president has maintained a high level of personal popularity since taking office in January, even in countries where the US is not looked kindly upon. In every country polled, Obama enjoyed a higher level of approval than the United States as a whole.

TEL AVIV, Israel (CNN) --

Pope Benedict XVI urged the Israelis and Palestinians to find a "just resolution" to their long-running conflict as he arrived in Israel Monday.

"I plead with all those responsible to explore every possible avenue," the pope said, "So that both peoples may live in peace in a homeland of their own, within secure and internationally recognized borders." He cited the biblical prophet Isaiah on the meaning of "security" -- a justification Israel often uses for its actions against Palestinians.

"Security -- batah [in Hebrew] -- arises from trust and refers not just to the absence of threat but also to the sentiment of calmness and confidence," he said in a speech at Israeli President Shimon Peres' residence.

Later, speaking to religious leaders at Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem, the pope called for interfaith understanding and cooperation.

"Since many are quick to point out the readily apparent differences between religions, as believers or religious persons we are presented with the challenge to proclaim with clarity what we share in common," the pope said.

By Gamal A. G. Soltan
The current tension between Egypt and Hizbullah is a crisis that has been waiting to happen for years. The causes of tension between the two sides are multifaceted. This is a conflict between nationalism and supra-nationalism, between Egypt and Iran, between moderation and radicalism, between Sunnis and Shiites and between status quo and revisionist forces in the Middle East. Hizbullah's ideology, its nature as a non-state armed actor and its strong alliance with Iran are sufficient to generate heavy doubts and concerns among mainstream Arab states regarding the movement.

Until the year 2000, Hizbullah's dedication to the mission of ending Israeli occupation in southern Lebanon helped offset these concerns. But since the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in May of that year, apprehension has been rising regarding the possibility that Hizbullah is redirecting its capabilities toward further destabilization of the region.

Hizbullah interference in other countries' internal affairs was bound to happen. Hizbullah successfully established itself as a Lebanese national resistance movement during the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. As such, it was able to conceal the other dimensions integral to its identity. The ideology of Hizbullah commits the party to the goals and strategies of the revolutionary Islamic movement: transforming the nature of Middle East political systems and societies and the liberation of all of Palestine.

Ironically, the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 was at the same time Hizbullah's greatest achievement and the development that denied the party the capacity to further conceal its supra-national identity. The partial stabilization of the situation in southern Lebanon in the aftermath of the 2006 conflict made a new Hizbullah adventure across the Lebanese-Israeli border unlikely. Hizbullah had to find other venues for demonstrating its hard-line anti-Israel stand. It was Gaza that gave the party a new opportunity to maintain its anti-Israel credentials.

By Anthony Elghossain
Special to The Daily Star
WASHINGTON: One year after the Lebanese clashed with each other in an eruption of violence that cost the lives of some 200 individuals, the country tensely awaits parliamentary elections on June 7. One month from now, the Lebanese will take to the streets again. This time, however, the battle is for ballots. Unfolding in a playground open to the ambitions of regional and international powers alike, the Lebanese election is likely to impact American policy with respect to Syria and Iran.

To make clear the consequences of a Hizbullah victory, some State Department officials have stated that American aid to Lebanon hinges on the election results, although there are some murmurs that Lebanon will not be isolated like Gaza, regardless of the electoral outcome in June.

The struggle in Lebanon has been framed as part of a regional stand-off pitting the United States, Sunni Arab regimes, and Israel against Syria, Iran, and various non-state actors (including Hizbullah). Much is true in this view the region, but the Lebanon's fate now lies elsewhere. For all the emphasis on democrats and despots, moderates and extremists, and Sunnis and Shiites, rival Lebanese Christian factions now hold the political cards in the Levant. Christians and Muslims receive equal representation in Lebanon's Parliament, making Christians politically significant even after relative political decline. In Lebanon, internal unity is a prerequisite for effective communal politics: Shiites have coalesced around Hizbullah and Sunnis have united behind the Hariri family, but the Christians remain divided. An ideological rift over Lebanon's orientation toward the West and the Middle East has combined with a barebones struggle for internal supremacy to severely hinder Christian cohesion in Lebanon.

BEIRUT -- Lebanon's central bank governor said economic growth in the country could exceed 6% this year if parliamentary elections next month go off smoothly.

The central bank has so far been forecasting "a very realistic" growth rate of 4% this year, down from last year's 8%, said Riad Salamé, governor of the Bank of Lebanon. The International Monetary Fund estimates growth this year of 3%. But in an interview Thursday, Mr. Salamé said the bank is now expecting a strong pickup in consumption later in the year.

"If you have a democratic election in June, you will see higher growth than 4% in 2009," he said. The summer months account for about 65% of Lebanon's economic activity, he said: "It's essential that this period be peaceful."

AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) -- On the second day of his visit to the Middle East, Pope Benedict XVI stressed the need for harmony and unity between Christians and Muslims.

"Muslims and Christians, precisely because of the burden of our common history, so often marked by misunderstanding, must today strive to be known and recognized as worshippers of God, faithful to prayer, eager to uphold and lift by the Almighty decrees," the pontiff said in an address at the King Hussein Bin Talal mosque in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

Often, "it is the ideological manipulation of religion, sometimes for political ends, that is a real catalyst for tension and division" between faiths, the pope said.

Pope Benedict also spoke about Iraq's Christians, asking the international community to "do everything possible to ensure that the ancient Christian community of that noble land has a fundamental right to peaceful coexistence with their fellow citizens." Video Watch how Jordanians feel about the pope's visit »

Toni Johnson, Staff Writer


The relationship between Catholics and Jews is marred by centuries of troubles, including doctrinal polemics, Crusade-era massacres, and forced exiles of Jews. The Vatican moved to improve relations with Jews in 1965, although it did not formally recognize Israel until 1993. Today experts say relations between the Vatican and Israel have never been better. Still, trouble spots remain. Lingering Jewish bitterness over the Vatican's posture during the Holocaust, the uncertain legal status of church property in Israel, and outstanding concerns about Christian religious sites in the Holy Land continue to be diplomatic sticking points.

Catholic-Jewish Relations

In 1965, the Second Vatican Council adopted the "Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions," called Nostra Aetate (in our time). The declaration addresses the church's relationship with all non-Catholics and, in particular, affirms the deep connection between Christianity and Judaism, rejecting anti-Semitism "any time and by anyone." In 2005, Eugene Fisher, associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, said the declaration marked "the end of one long era in the history of Catholic-Jewish relations."

All jazeera.net Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has criticised the international investigation into the 2005 asssassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, Lebanon's former prime minister. Nasrallah said on Friday that a decision by a UN-backed court to free Lebanese officers held over the murder does not mean the tribunal is "honest" and instead "is proof that...their detention was political." He also called on Lebanon to widen its investigation into the assassination to include the possibility of Israeli involvement.

"Whoever says that Israel did not have the motive or interest in killing al-Hariri would be killing al-Hariri a second time," he said.

By ROBERT F. WORTH BEIRUT, Lebanon — A judge ordered the release of four high-ranking Lebanese security officials on Wednesday, all being held here in connection with the 2005 killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The decision was seen here as a blow to the political movement led by Mr. Hariri’s son.

The judge, Daniel Fransen, said there was not enough evidence to keep holding the four men, who have been detained without charge since September 2005 and are widely believed to have had some knowledge of the killing or involvement in it. They were the only suspects in the custody of the international tribunal based in The Hague that was formed under United Nations auspices after Mr. Hariri’s death in a powerful car bombing on Feb. 14, 2005.

The announcement was met with wild volleys of celebratory gunfire from the generals’ supporters in Beirut and in the southern suburb that is the stronghold of Hezbollah, Mr. Hariri’s political adversary.

“Some Lebanese are not relieved by this decision,” said Saad Hariri, the former prime minister’s son, grim-faced during a news conference here after the decision. But he added that he welcomed any decision from the tribunal in The Hague. He also said releasing the generals would disprove recurring accusations that the tribunal was politicized in favor of Mr. Hariri’s allies.

By Sami Moubayed, DAMASCUS - Last week, one of America's top allies in Lebanon, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, caused a row when he made remarks - off the record - criticizing his allies in the pro-Western March 14 Coalition. Among other things, Jumblatt scoffed at his patron Saad al-Hariri, the head of the largest bloc in the Lebanese parliament, for having tried - and failed - to combat Hezbollah on the streets of Beirut last May.

Then, Hariri's armed men were round up and disarmed in a matter of minutes by the well-trained Hezbollah fighters. "We have seen the Sunnis in the field, huh!" he said, adding, "They didn't last for more than 15 minutes!” Jumblatt quickly apologized - but the damage was already done.

Shortly afterwards, when landing in Beirut, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not meet the Druze warlord - who had often played host to her predecessor Condoleezza Rice, and been received previously at the Oval Office by George W Bush.

Jumblatt is a symbol of a loud anti-Syrian and anti-Hezbollah stance in Lebanon. The fact that he has lost faith in his own allies - who have bankrolled him for years - and was snubbed by Clinton, are testimony to how much things have changed in Lebanon. This is the same man after all who called for regime change in Damascus, and betted on American and Israeli forces to disarm Hezbollah in 2006.


BEIRUT: The annual Progress Report of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) issued by European Commission in Beirut on Friday indicated that Lebanon has showed "very limited" progress during 2008. "This is a missed opportunity for Lebanon," said the head of the Politics Department at European Commission in Lebanon during a meeting with reporters.

Michael Miller explained that Lebanon was at the "bottom of the scale" in terms of asking for the help of the EU.

"It's a pity that Lebanon is one of our worst partners," he said, adding that while Morocco filed 44 project proposals since the partnership with the EU was established in  2007, Lebanon has so far submitted four proposals only.   

The document, which covers the period between January and December 2008 shows that the slowdown in development was caused by the recent state of political turmoil that the country faced since the 2005 parliamentary elections. The report cites the summer 2006 war with Israel, the delay in electing a president, and the May 2008 street conflicts between opposition fighters and gunmen from the March 14 Forces. 



President Barack Obama considers the choices to be made during a Thursday, Jan. 29, budget meeting in the White House Roosevelt Room, across the hall from the Oval Office in the White House West Wing.
Pete Souza/ The White House

By Linda Feldmann | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

On the basketball court, Barack Obama likes the old "up and under" move. When he has the ball, he'll fake one way, wait for the guy who's covering him to jump, then duck under him.

That observation from Denver sportscaster Vic Lombardi – who lucked into a game of pickup hoops last year with the future leader of the free world – is too juicy to pass up as a possible metaphor for the new president's governing philosophy: Barack Obama likes to keep people guessing.

Throughout his presidential campaign, Mr. Obama refused to embrace an ideology (though as a senator, he was a safe liberal vote). He called himself a "pragmatist," with an eye toward "what works." In January, when Obama introduced the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tim Kaine, he tiptoed a step further, saying that both he and the Virginia governor share a "pragmatic, progressive philosophy."

BEIRUT – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reassured the Lebanese people Sunday that Washington supports "voices of moderation" and will never make a deal with Syria that undermines the country's interests. Clinton spoke on a surprise visit to Beirut ahead of a critical June 7 election that could see the pro-U.S. Lebanese government ousted by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies, possibly paving the way for renewed Syrian influence over the country.

"The people of Lebanon must be able to choose their own representatives in open and fair elections without the specter of violence or intimidation and free of outside interference," Clinton told a news conference in Beirut after meeting with President Michel Suleiman.

"Beyond the elections, we will continue to support the voices of moderation in Lebanon and the responsible institutions of the Lebanese state they are working hard to build. Our ongoing support for the Lebanese armed forces remains a pillar of our bilateral cooperation," she added.

daily star, BEIRUT: The head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, will arrive in Beirut on Saturday for talks in the wake of an Egyptian security operation that has prompted Cairo to accuse Lebanese authorities of "conspiring" with a Hizbullah cell captured in Egypt. The arrest of 49 men accused of belonging to Hizbullah reignited a bitter war of words between authorities in Cairo and the group's chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. Now Cairo appears to be trying to draw Lebanese officials into the spat.

Egyptian security authorities have claimed that the Hizbullah member accused of running the group, known as Sami Shehab, was traveling on a false passport issued by the Lebanese Interior Ministry.

Cairo is demanding that Lebanon launch an investigation into what is being described in Egypt as a "conspiracy" aimed at helping the cell to carry out attacks in the country.

Egyptian sources say that the use of official Lebanese government stamps by the group are indicative of "grave breaches" and "serious deviations" that should be investigated, the Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Lebanese Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar pledged to investigate the matter but warned against jumping to conclusions. "This is very dangerous and it rarely happens," Najjar said. "Probably the passport was issued as a result of a fake ID." He added that it was "premature" to take an official position on the matter.

By ROBERT F. WORTH, It is election season in Lebanon, and Hussein H., a jobless 24-year-old from south Beirut, is looking forward to selling his vote to the highest bidder. “Whoever pays the most will get my vote,” he said. “I won’t accept less than $800.”

He may get more. The parliamentary elections here in June are shaping up to be among the most expensive ever held anywhere, with hundreds of millions of dollars streaming into this small country from around the globe.

Lebanon has long been seen as a battleground for regional influence, and now, with no more foreign armies on the ground, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region are arming their allies here with campaign money in place of weapons. The result is a race that is widely seen as the freest and most competitive to be held here in decades, with a record number of candidates taking part. But it may also be the most corrupt.

Votes are being bought with cash or in-kind services. Candidates pay their competitors huge sums to withdraw. The price of favorable TV news coverage is rising, and thousands of expatriate Lebanese are being flown home, free, to vote in contested districts. The payments, according to voters, election monitors and various past and current candidates interviewed for this article, nurture a deep popular cynicism about politics in Lebanon, which is nominally perhaps the most democratic Arab state but in practice is largely governed through patronage and sectarian and clan loyalty.

BEIRUT: Net capital inflows into Lebanon amounted to $2.036.4 billion in the first two months of 2009, up by 0.3 percent when compared to the same period of 2008. When compared to the same period of 2007, however, the rise was at a much sharper 77.5 percent. "The influx of capital into the country in the first two months of the year is deemed significant, even though the yearly increase was mild," Bank Audi's Weekly Monitor said.

It added that amount of capital inflow into Lebanon in the first two months of 2008 was a record high when compared to the same months of previous years back then, and now, in the first two months of 2009, capital inflows have maintained their record high level, rising slightly above their value in the same period of 2008.

Although the trade deficit contracted in the first two months of 2009, as compared to the same period of 2008, it remained relatively large. Capital inflows of the first two months of 2009 not only managed to fully cover the trade deficit, rather it resulted in the momentous cumulative balance of payments in the first two months of the year, which also hit peak levels when compared to the same months of previous years.

DAMASCUS: Lebanon's first ambassador to Syria took up his post in Damascus Monday in the latest sign of improving relations between the two neighbors after years of tensions. Career diplomat Michel Khoury assumed his duties as Lebanon's first ambassador to Syria, more than a month after Lebanon opened its first-ever embassy in Damascus. Syria has also opened an embassy in Beirut. The opening of embassies in both countries sealed the establishment of full diplomatic ties between the long-feuding rivals for the first time since they gained independence from France in the 1940s.

Relations between the two countries reached a turning point in August when they agreed to establish ties and demarcate their contentious border. The agreement marked a final break in Syria's longtime dominance over its smaller neighbor. Diplomatic ties with Syria have been a pressing demand by Lebanon's anti-Syrian factions, the US and other Western states. Syria had dominated its smaller neighbor since the 1970s, when it sent its army into Lebanon, then engulfed in Civil War.



Malek, Khazen; Reading the news these last 2 weeks in regards of the visit of His Holiness the Pope to Africa all what I find are extreme articles carrying hidden agenda against Catholics and clergy positions. You might be surprised and wonder is there new positions about condom use from the Catholics Church that we are not aware of? No they are not!! This is the disturbing part of it. These are ideological, spiritual believes that never changed and the Church has always argued against the use of condoms.

I will cite some titles of articles that were posted only during the days between Mach 26th and March 30th. The purpose of me citing these articles is to outline the extremism in most of the media thoughts:



النائب فريد الياس الخازن "للأنباء" :

ـ الإنفتاح على سوريا يشير الى بدء مرحلة جديدة في السياسة الدولية تجاه المنطقة

ـ المحكمة الدةلية أصبحت مستقلة ولن تتأثر بالمعطيات الإقليمية والدولية الجديدة

ـ مهما كانت نتائج الإنتخابات النيابية لن يكون بمقدور أي من الفريقين التفرد بالحكم دون مشاركة الفريق الآخر به

بيروت ـ زينة طبّارة

رأى عضو تكتل "التغيير والإصلاح" النائب د. فريد الخازن أن ما تشهده الساحة العربية من تحوّلات ومتغيرات إيجابية يأتي إستكمالا لمساعي المصالحات العربية ـ العربية التي بدأت في قمة الكويت إنما بوتيرة ملفتة بسرعتها في التنفيذ، معتقدا أن ما سبق يأتي بشكل خطوات إستباقية لمرحلة جديدة ستبدأ في السياسة الخارجية الأميركية بشكل عام وعلى مستوى المنطقة بشكل خاص، لافتا الى أن التوصيف بين ما يسمى بعرب الإعتدال وعرب الممانعة أو التطرف كان إنعكاسا للوضع المتأزم العربي ـ العربي خلال المرحلة السابقة وهو اليوم في طور فتح صفحة جديدة من العلاقات الإيجابية بين الصفين العربيين المعتدل والممانع .

ولفت النائب الخازن في تصريح "للأنباء" الى أن ما يجري على المستويين العربي والدولي من تطورات إيجابية والمتمثل بالإنفتاح على سوريا، يشير من جهة الى حسن تملص هذه الأخيرة من عزلتها العربية والدولية، وقد يكون من جهة ثانية ردّ إعتبار لها ولدورها وموقعها الإقليمي والعربي والدولي، وذلك مع إحتفاظ الدول المنفتحة على سوريا بأسبابها وإعتباراتها الخاصة التي أدت الى إرتسام الصورة الأقليمية الحالية والمسار العربي الجديد، مؤكدا أنه أيا تكن أسباب وأهداف الإنفتاح المشار اليه، فمما لا شك فيه أن تاريخا جديدا من المسارات العربية قد بدأ وقد ينعكس إيجابا على الداخل اللبناني .

وردا على سؤال حول إمكانية عودة الهيمنة السورية سياسيا على لبنان بناء على المعطيات العربية والدولية الجديدة أعلاه، أكّد النائب الخازن أن لبنان قد خرج نهائيا من دائرة المقايضات الداخلية والإقليمية والدولية، وذلك لإنتفاء عناصر تلك المقايضات التي كانت سائدة منذ منتصف السبعينات حتى العام 2005، حيث كانت هناك على المستوى العربي ـ العربي والعربي ـ الإسرائيلي حاجة إقليمية ودولية لدور سوري في لبنان لاسيما خلال الوجود الفلسطيني فيه حتى أوائل الثمانينات، وحيث إستمدت سوريا خلال التسعينات، أثناء الحرب الباردة وبعدها، غطاء أميركيا ودوليا حيال وجودها وهيمنتها على قراره السياسي، مؤكدا عدم رغبة كافة الفرقاء اللبنانيين وكذلك سوريا في عودتها الى لبنان بعد الحدث الكبير المتمثل بإنسحاب جيشها منه في العام 2005، معتبرا أن مرحلة جديدة من العلاقات اللبنانية ـ السورية قد قامت بعد ذلك الحدث وستُبنى ليس فقط على رفض عودة الوصاية وليس أيضا على النموذج الذي برز مؤخرا والداعي الى شن الحروب على النظام السوري، إنما على علاقات طبيعية ضمن إطار إحترام كل من الدولتين لسيادة الآخر .

Aoun: Election Going to be Head-to-Head Battle between 2 Schemes, 2 Ideas
Free Patriotic Movement leader Gen. Michel Aoun said Saturday that upcoming election is going to be a head-to-head battle between two schemes and two ideas.
"Upcoming election is going to be a head-to-head battle between two schemes and two ideas – one that calls for reforms and another which is corrupt," Aoun said in a speech during a dinner for Tayyar at Habtour hotel in Beirut.  "You have to exercise your rights and choose the reformist group," Aoun said.

He said the "battle now is aimed at putting an end to theft, and, God willing, the ancestry which began in 1992 will end on June 7."  "He who votes for a fine administration, is himself fine, and he who votes for a corrupt administration, is himself corrupt," Aoun believed. "You cannot have a corrupt administration and a good community at the same time."  He acknowledged that Lebanon is "split" between two political lines. "This is why a reformist force will be formed."  On the controversial issue of a parliamentary centrist bloc, Aoun said that when he criticizes the bloc "we are not attacking it as an idea of moderation." "We have to differentiate between white and black. There is no such thing as grey when it comes to values," he added.

The March 14 majority leaders held Saturday in Beirut their second annual conference set to launch the parliamentary elections campaign under the title "June 7 - crossing over to a state," Future TV reported. March 14 Secretariat General Coordinator Faris Soaid read the charter of the group which he said is "committed to protecting Lebanon from Israeli threats by fully implementing UN resolution 1701, ensure that only the state has the complete control over the arms in the country, adopt democracy as the system of governing under which violence is refused, and commitment to the UN charter and UN resolutions."

Soaid said that their basic objective is to impose the authority of the state on all its territories according to the Taef accord, "which states that there should be no arms out of the state control."  All rival Lebanese parties gave up their arms according to the Taef accord which ended the civil war in 1989, except the Shiite group Hezbollah, which is still keeping its arms to resist Israel.  The charter pointed out that the upcoming elections on June 7 represent a crossing road which will determine the future of Lebanon by choosing between a threatened state and a permanently secure one. The March 14 charter also called for ending dispute with Syria, "which means the cease of Syrian intervention in Lebanese affairs and completing the exchange of diplomatic ties between the two countries," as well as the control and demarcation of boarders between them.

By Daniel Bases, NEW YORK, March 2 (Reuters) - Lebanon's bank deposit base should grow by at least 7 percent this year despite a possible decline in remittances, central bank governor Riad Salameh forecast on Monday. The governor told reporters in New York that, even if in a "worst case scenario" remittances were to drop by 30 percent the impact in the banking system would not be "important." "I mean in the sense that the banks will still have growth in their deposits by around 7 percent, which is enough to finance the public and the private sector," he said. Remittances from expatriates have been a key support for the Lebanese economy and the government finances during the global credit and financial crisis. Such remittances boosted Lebanon's bank deposit base by 15 percent in 2008, while helping the country register a balance of payment surplus of $3.4 billion. "We are looking at growth in deposits that can range from 7 up to wherever. The high of 2008 is still possible to be repeated," Salameh said. Salameh estimated the balance of payments surplus could decline by 15 percent this year if the worst-case scenario for remittances materializes

If the global economy further deteriorates, however, Lebanon's balance of payments would be supported by lower price of commodities and oil, the governor argued. Salameh, citing World Bank figures for the total amount of remittances in 2008, said they were about $6 billion. He stuck to his 2009 gross domestic product forecast of 4 percent growth which is slightly more favorable than the 3 percent predicted by the International Monetary Fund and the government's own budget. (Reporting by Daniel Bases, writing by Walter Brandimarte; Editing by Diane Craft)

(Reuters) - A special United Nations tribunal set up to try suspects in the 2005 killing of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri began work in The Hague on Sunday. Here are some questions and answers about the tribunal:

HOW WAS IT SET UP? A suicide truck bomber killed Hariri and 22 others in Beirut on February 14, 2005. Anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians said Syria was behind the attack, a charge Damascus denies. An outcry over the killing forced Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon. The Lebanese government, led by an anti-Syrian alliance, asked the United Nations to investigate the crime, along with 20 other political attacks that may have been connected. The U.N. Security Council established the tribunal in 2007.

WHO ARE THE SUSPECTS? No indictments have been issued. The Lebanese authorities hold four generals in connection with the Hariri killing. A Lebanese judge freed three other detainees on bail last week. Detlev Mehlis, the first U.N. investigator, implicated senior Syrian officials whose names appeared in a draft report but were removed in the final version. Reports by Mehlis's successors, Serge Brammertz and Daniel Bellamare, who is now the prosecutor, have refrained from naming top suspects. "We will go wherever the evidence leads us," Bellemare wrote in an open letter to the Lebanese people last week.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Investigations will continue. Bellemare has 60 days to ask Lebanon to transfer people, such as the four generals, and evidence to The Hague. In theory, the tribunal is above politics, so indictments could come at any time. However, the court might decide to wait until after Lebanon's June 7 parliamentary election to avoid sparking instability.

WHAT ABOUT SUSPECTS NOT IN CUSTODY? If indictments are issued, suspects can surrender voluntarily, the tribunal can ask the Security Council to press states to hand them over, or it can try them in absentia. Syria has said it will not hand over any of its nationals to the court, but will try them and execute them itself if they are proven guilty. The tribunal is unlikely to accept this or to share its evidence with the Syrian authorities. Lebanon has cooperated fully with the tribunal, but an election win for Syria's Lebanese allies might alter its stance. Pro-Syrian groups such as Hezbollah say they back the tribunal, but fear it could be used politically against them and Syria.

HOW LONG WILL IT ALL TAKE? The tribunal's registrar, Robin Vincent, said last week he expected the court to complete its work in three to five years. It will employ seven international and four Lebanese judges, and will apply Lebanese law, excluding penalties such as death and forced labor. Life imprisonment will be the maximum sentence.

WHAT ARE THE DIPLOMATIC IMPLICATIONS?The United States, other Western countries and anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians initially viewed the tribunal as a potent weapon against Damascus. Syria displayed corresponding anxiety. But as investigations proceeded at a deliberate pace, the tribunal has appeared more independent and less politicized. U.S. President Barack Obama is exploring a possible detente with Syria, raising fears among anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians that the tribunal might lose its teeth as part of a deal with Damascus. However, Obama marked the anniversary of Hariri's assassination by reaffirming U.S. support for the tribunal in bringing justice to those behind "this horrific crime."

By Natalia Antelava
Roumieh Central Prison, Beirut

Magdi has spent 15 years on death row, waiting for his execution in an airless, overcrowded prison cell. The jail where his life is supposed to end is wrapped in miles of barbed wire, surrounded by checkpoints and perched on top of the mountain that overlooks the Mediterranean.  Roumieh Prison is Lebanon' s biggest high-security jail, notorious for bloody riots and terrible conditions, and home to some of the country's most dangerous criminals.  But Magdi, a thin, greying man, says he never committed the murder he was charged with, and that the trial that put him on death row was rushed and unfair.  Over the years, he says, he has written countless letters to the authorities begging them to review his case, but he never received a reply.  Then one February afternoon in 2009, he suddenly had a chance to tell his story face to face, to some of the country's most senior officials.  "I was so nervous," Magdi recalls. "Just imagine - the prosecutor general, the minister of the interior, high ranking generals - they were all right here."  Magdi, along with his fellow inmates, was on the stage while the officials were the guests of honour at the opening of the Twelve Angry Lebanese, a theatre play of a kind the Arab world has never seen before.

Role reversal  For two hours, seated just inches away from the improvised stage, the representatives of Lebanon's government listened as inmates questioned the country's judicial system, talked about prison conditions and told personal tales through their adaptation of Twelve Angry Men, a play by Reginald Rose in which a jury of 12 men meets to decide the fate of a boy who is accused of murder. The performance was, the prisoners recall, a mind-boggling role reversal.  For Zeina Daccache, a young Lebanese actress and director with a passion for drama therapy, it was also a real triumph. "The problem was that no-one believed in the project, in fact everyone thought I was crazy," she said.  Lebanese prisons are closed to the public and the media, and Zeina Daccache's proposal of drama therapy was turned down twice.  But eight months after being rejected she secured funding from the EU she managed to gain access to the jail.  Prison authorities agreed to turn a former prayer room into an improvised theatre, and soon the 200 prisoners who applied to take part in the project began attending daily drama therapy sessions.  Within months of workshops and play sessions the group shrank to 45 inmates with whom Zeina began working on the actual play.  "I picked Twelve Angry Men because it's the perfect play for this situation. It gives the inmates a chance to reverse roles, to be the jury, which is therapy in itself," she says.  The group was diverse. The crimes of the inmates ranged from drug dealing to rape and murder. The sentences varied from a few years to life, and death row.

A United Nations special prosecutor has pledged to find the truth behind the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Daniel Bellemare issued a statement Friday saying his team will do everything possible to ensure that justice is served. Bellemare is the chief prosecutor of a special U.N. tribunal that will begin trying the case in The Hague, Netherlands, on Sunday. The special court is tasked with investigating the massive truck bombing that killed Mr. Hariri and 22 others in Beirut on February 14, 2005. Its mandate can be expanded to related crimes only under strict conditions and within a set timeframe. U.S. President Barack Obama called Lebanese President Michel Suleiman on Thursday to express his support for the tribunal.

The rights group Amnesty International on Friday said the tribunal is a positive step, but its focus is too narrow to gain public confidence.  Amnesty said other measures are needed to "address the grave human rights abuses of the past, as well as those that continue in the present."On Thursday, Lebanon's justice minister said he is confident the tribunal will determine who killed Mr. Hariri. Ibrahim Najjar also said Lebanon will fully cooperate with the special court.On Wednesday, a Lebanese judge ordered the release on bail of three suspects held in connection with the assassination. The judge did not give any reasons for releasing the three civilians.  In a separate ruling on Friday, the same judge, Saqr Saqr, denied an appeal to release four other suspects, all former top security officials and Lebanese generals.

The unusual sound of a hip-hop beat and a funky bass line thudded out of a sandwich shop in a trendy Beirut neighborhood last summer. As one patron bobbed his head and a teenager with slicked-back hair flipped another piece of flatbread onto the sandwich shop's stove, a gravelly voice began rapping earnestly in Arabic. "Who is that?" a passing foreigner asked. "What's he saying?" "It's the rapper RGB," said the man in broken English. The song, he explained, was about the situation in Lebanon – the violence, the corruption, and the poverty.  RGB is one of several Beirut rappers whose discs are passed around among a visible segment of Lebanese youth. Unlike most of the flashy pop music that Lebanon exports to the rest of the Arab world – think singers like Haifa Wahabi and Nancy Ajram – these rappers' music usually comes with a social message. Their core fans in Beirut have adopted hip hop, from its music to its style of dress and graffiti, as their chosen mode of expression.

In Lebanon, foreign music is nothing new. The country's huge number of emigrants – far more people of Lebanese descent live outside the country than within – means that music from all over the world finds its way to Beirut, from salsa to samba, jazz, punk, and heavy metal.  But unlike much of Beirut's music scene that draws heavily on foreign influences, rappers like RGB are fiercely Lebanese in everything they do. They talk about personal experiences in which they see the same kinds of injustice, violence, and lack of forums for addressing social problems that were the impetus for early African-American rap groups with a political message, such as Public Enemy.

"It's black music, in my opinion," RGB said in an October interview posted to YouTube. "But I feel like it doesn't have to be specifically just for blacks.... It has messages, stories of using your smarts, and a people victimized. It has power."  "I take hip hop like it's a big school and I'm learning from it," he added. Rayess Bek, who is something like the father of Arabic-language Lebanese rap, helped start the trend of hip hop as social commentary. "I lived the war.... I've been taken advantage of.... I'm speaking in silence," he sang a few years ago over a beat every bit as ominous as the shell-shocked landscapes of some Beirut quarters. A newer music video features him rapping against the backdrop of buildings destroyed by Israeli bombs in 2006.

وليد أبي مرشد

أفضل ما كشفته سجالات المسؤولين اللبنانيين الأخيرة حول عمليات التنصت على المخابرات الهاتفية الاعتراف الرسمي بوجودها... وأسوأ ما أوحته أنها صارت جزءا لا يتجزأ من أمن لبنان الداخلي - وحتى الخارجي أيضا.
غني عن التذكير بأن لبنان ليس الدولة الوحيدة في العالم التي تحصي أنفاس العباد عبر نظام تنصت مركزي. والخلافات التي كشفتها سجالات الحوار الأخيرة توحي بأن مشكلته قد تعود إلى كون النظام اللبناني جديدا على مهنة التنصت بحيث فضح، بنفسه، تلبّكه في ممارسة هذه المهمة.
ولكن، رغم أن نظام التنصت في لبنان لا يزال رحوما مقارنة بأنظمة بعض جيرانه، ورغم أن الضرورات الأمنية تبرره إلى حد بعيد... يبقى الربط بين الأمن والتنصت غريبا في نظام ديمقراطي كغرابة الربط بين العدالة والتعذيب في دول الأنظمة الشمولية (ودولة جورج بوش البائدة في واشنطن).
من الطبيعي الافتراض بأن بلدا مثل لبنان، حدوده مستباحة، وأبوابه مشرعة لكل فصيل مسلح هلّ عليه من كل حدب وصوب، وساحته متخمة بالخلافات السياسية الحادة، بحاجة إلى توسل كل الأساليب المتاحة لحفظ أمنه من أخطار الداخل والخارج... شريطة ألا يستتبع ذلك التفريط في الحريات العامة وتجاوز حقوق المواطنين بوسائل قد تمهد لكبتها لاحقا... إذا سمحت بذلك الظروف السياسية. قد يبدو هذا التخوف مبالغا فيه. ولكن دواعي إثارته تمليها أي قراءة متأنية بين سطور السجالات التي كشفت، من جهة، عن معدات متطورة للتنصت كانت موجودة في قصر الرئاسة في بعبدا في عهد الرئيس السابق أميل لحود لا يعرف اليوم بعهدة من أصبحت، وأبرزت، من جهة ثانية، تسليم جميع المتحاورين بحق السلطة المركزية في التنصت لحفظ أمن لبنان... وكأن الوسائل الأخرى لضبط الأمن القومي لم تعد ضرورية في عصر الهاتف الأرضي والجوال.
إذا كان هذا هو مفهوم ضبط الأمن في لبنان فأضعف الإيمان تحديد الخط الفاصل بين التنصت «لضرورات أمنية» والتنصت الآخر الذي اصطلح المتحاورون على تسميته بالتنصت «غير الشرعي»، أي، بتعبير أوضح، تعدي بعض الجهات غير الشرعية والحزبية على خصوصيات المواطنين وحقهم الطبيعي في المحافظة على سرية شؤونهم العادية، سواء أكانت فردية أم مالية أم مصرفية أم تجارية.
لافت أن سجالات التنصت في بيروت لم تعط هذا الجانب من ممارساته حقه من الاهتمام بشكل يكفل طمأنة اللبنانيين على مستقبل حرياتهم الشخصية. وربما كان لتوقيت جلسات السجالات قبل أسابيع معدودة من بدء أعمال المحكمة الدولية دورا في تركيزها على جريمة العصر في لبنان، أي اغتيال رئيس الحكومة الراحل رفيق الحريري.

Neemtallah ABI NASR Naturalization

            استمعت بارتياح الى معالي وزير الداخلية والبلديات زياد بارود شارحاً عما تقوم به وزارة الداخلية من دراسة لملفات استعادة الجنسية التي يستفيد منها أكثر من سبعة آلاف عائلة بموجب القانون 68/67 كما استمعتُ إليه متحدثاً عن التدقيق في ملفات المجنّسين تنفيذاً لقرار مجلس شورى الدولة القاضي بنزع الجنسية من الذين حصلوا عليها بدون وجهِ حق .

      إنني أجدِّدُ التنويه بجديَّة الوزير بارود ، لكنَّني أسألُ نفسي لماذا تأخرت الحكومات اللبنانية في إنجاز هذه المعاملات بعد أن مضى خمسين عاماً على ورودها أي منذ 29 أيلول 1958 ، وماذا فعل أولئكَ الذين استمعوا بالأمس الى الوزير وقد كانوا قبله في سدَّةِ المسؤولية وتبوَّأوا وزارات هامة قبل الطائف وبعده بما فيها وزارة الداخلية ؟

      ولعلّهُ من المفيد أن نذكِّرَ أن المطالبة بتنفيذ هذه المعاملات بدأت في العام 1996 حينَ وجَّهتُ يومها بصفتي أميناً عاماً للرابطة المارونية كتاباً لوزير الداخلية ميشال المر أسأله عن السبب في عدم تنفيذ بيانات اختيار الجنسية هذه ، ولكنني لم أتلقَّ منهُ بالطبع أيّ جواب ، فالسلطة التي كانت قائمة آنذاك كانت مهتمَة بتجنيس الغرباء وليس باستعادة المغتربين الى وطنهم .

      لم أيأس بل رحتُ أوجِّهُ الرسائل الواحدة تلوَ الأخرى الى وزير الخارجية والمغتربين ليسأل هو بدوره وزارة الداخلية عن سبب التأخير في بتِّ هذه المعاملات دون أن يتلقَّى أي جواب لا من الوزير ميشال المر ولا من مدير الأحوال الشخصية آنذاك السيد غسان شحاده .

      ممَّا اضطرني في العام 2003 الى توجيه سؤالٍ الى الحكومة بواسطة رئيس مجلس النواب، وعندما تلقيتُ جواباً من الحكومة غير مقنعٍ طلبت تحويل السؤال الى استجواب ، وعندما أُقفلتْ كل الأبواب وتعطّل المجلس، تقدّمتُ في العام 2008 بشكوى أمام هيئة التفتيش المركزي مُطالباً بإجراء التحقيق اللازم حول سبب عدم تسجيل هذه المعاملات وتحديد المسؤولية ، فصدرَ عن الهيئة بتاريخ 17/7/2008 قرار بالإجماع قضى بوجوب الإستعجال في البتِّ بملف معاملات اختيار الجنسية .

قراءة سياسية لوقائع الاحداث ودعوة صريحة الى اصلاح القضاء والادارة

النائب فريد الخازن لـ

Dec. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Israel


ROUMIYEH, Lebanon (Reuters)

Ain Ibl, Lebanon

BEIRUT: Local parties reacted Wednesday to Russia's decision  to provide Lebanon with 10 MiG-29 fighter-bombers as the head of Moscow's defense cooperation body confirmed the planes would be free of charge. "Russia's Defense Ministry has decided to deliver to Lebanon, as part of defense cooperation, 10 MiG-29s from our existing contingent," the Interfax news agency quoted Mikhail Dmitriyev as saying. The planes will be modernized before delivery and the transport of the jets would be paid for by the Russian Defense Ministry, he added following a visit to Moscow by Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr.  "Military-technical assistance - this means assistance in budgetary funds," he said.  Dmitriyev said the warplanes would be covered by a limited warranty period and the parties would later have talks on a long-term maintenance agreement.  Parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri of the anti-Syrian March 14 Forces alliance welcomed the move as support for Lebanon's "legitimate institutions."  "Russia gives a good example of how to deal with Lebanon's cause, and we wish that all those calling for Lebanon's independence and sovereignty would do the same," he said.  Dmitriyev said Russia could also supply ground equipment for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). "

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman on Wednesday warned against efforts to "politicize" the international tribunal investigating the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, set to start operating on March 1.  Speaking at a joint press briefing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Suleiman said, "We are ready to do everything which will be of help to this tribunal."  "What is of importance to Lebanon is that the tribunal has to to be legitimate and well-balanced and should not be dealing with political questions," added Suleiman who is currently in Germany for a two-day visit.

Germany and Lebanon are working on a pilot project to improve security along Lebanon's border with Syria, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday.A bilateral commission was also looking into ways to promote economic prosperity for Lebanese in the border region, she said at a news conference after talks with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman. The two leaders discussed the new political situation in Lebanon following last May's Doha trade agreement, which ended a week of bitter fighting between followers of the anti-Syrian ruling majority and the opposition led by the fundamentalist Hezbollah. Suleiman said that his country hoped to exchange ambassadors with Syria by the end of the year. He added that Lebanon was willing to assist the international tribunal investigating the killing of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, which is due to start on March 1. "We are ready to do everything which will be of help to this tribunal," Suleiman said, adding that it should concentrate on legal issues and not become embroiled in politics. Merkel also expressed the hope that the new US administration of President-elect Barack Obama would help move forward the Mideast peace process by taking over from where last year's Annapolis conference left off. Suleiman has visited 11 states in the five months since taking office. The two-day trip to Berlin is his third visit to a European country participating in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon(UNIFIL).

Damascus - Syria and Lebanon can build a "bright future" together, Lebanese Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun said Wednesday after talks in Damascus with President Bashar al-Assad. Aoun said Damascus and Beirut were seeking to put aside their past differences and "turn a new page where there is no victor and no loser".  "This is a return to normal relations, of the past and build a bright future together," Aoun told a press conference after his meeting with Assad at the People's Palace.  "Talks with President Bashar al-Assad were frank, clear and touched many themes," the former army chief added.

Aoun's visit has garnered wide criticism from anti-Syrian Christian leaders. Shrugging off such criticism, Aoun said his mission was justified now that diplomatic ties have been established between the two countries. Last October, Syria and Lebanon opened diplomatic ties for the first time. On the Syrian side, Assad's political adviser Bussaina Shaabane said Aoun's visit represents "a new era between Syria and Lebanon that will serve the interests of the two countries and the two peoples."Aoun also told reporters that he hoped for a rapid solution to the issue of Lebanese "missing" in Syria, whom support groups in Beirut number at 650 but whom Damascus denies holding.On the political front, he said Syria was "supportive of the holding of legislative elections (due to be held in Lebanon in the spring) but without interfering" in the process. Shrugging off criticism of his visit from the anti-Syrian camp which holds the parliamentary majority in Lebanon, Aoun said his mission was justified now that diplomatic ties have been established between Damascus and Beirut.His critics accuse Aoun, a former Lebanese army chief, of being a turncoat and of kowtowing to his former adversaries for political gain.

He added: "I am a military man and I do not have hatred for any party with whom I fight. The reason is that wars always end in negotiations and agreements." "Today, we are opening a new page in history," he stated.Asked about the priorities to restore the Lebanese-Syrian relations, Aoun said: "We have exchanged viewpoints and showed good will, but there were no demands by any of the two parties and we did not set a schedule for priorities." On the political front, he said Syria was "supportive of the holding of legislative elections [due to be held in Lebanon in the spring] but without interfering" in the process. "Syria does not interfere in the elections; it does not send electoral money," he said, hinting at claims that Saudi Arabia was financing the March 14 Forces' electoral campaign.  Shrugging off criticism of his visit from March 14, the anti-Syrian camp which holds the parliamentary majority in Lebanon, Aoun said his mission was justified now that diplomatic ties have been established between Damascus and Beirut.  During his meeting with Assad, Aoun discussed the "positive developments in the Lebanese-Syrian relations" and the situation in Lebanon and the region, he said. A report by Lebanon's National News Agency said that both leaders agreed to establish future relations that "serve both countries' interests and that are based on mutual respect of their sovereignty and independence."  Aoun's critics accuse the  former Lebanese Armed Forces chief of being a turncoat and of kowtowing to his former adversaries for political gain.  a related development, Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea reiterated on Wednesday that he disapproved of Aoun's visit to Syria. Commenting on Aoun's statement that Syria would not interfere in the elections, Geagea said: "It is true that Syria does not send money; in fact, it sends weapons and militants and Iran takes care of the money."  In remarks delivered from his residence in Maarab, the LF boss added: "We all know that the Syrians receive regular visits from Lebanese politicians who are seeking Syria's support in the upcoming parliamentary elections."  a related development, Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea reiterated on Wednesday that he disapproved of Aoun's visit to Syria. Commenting on Aoun's statement that Syria would not interfere in the elections, Geagea said: "It is true that Syria does not send money; in fact, it sends weapons and militants and Iran takes care of the money."  In remarks delivered from his residence in Maarab, the LF boss added: "We all know that the Syrians receive regular visits from Lebanese politicians who are seeking Syria's support in the upcoming parliamentary elections." During Aoun's five-day visit to Syria, he is scheduled to hold talks with several officials and visit Christian holy cities.  Aoun visited Iran in October and held talks with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Beirut, Lebanon - As good as his word, Alemayehu Shumye of Ethiopia won the BLOM Beirut Marathon on Sunday morning (30), obliterating the course record by over four minutes in the process, with 2:12:47. Shumye won by over three minutes, with Michael Kipkorir of Kenya second in 2:16:15, and another Ethiopian, Hussen Adem third in 2:16:44. All three were inside the previous record of 2:17:04, set by Paul Rugut of Kenya, in the inaugural race in 2003. There was an Ethiopian 1-2-3 in the women


By Hussein Abdallah, BEIRUT: Former President Amin Gemayel called on Sunday for the disarming of Hizbullah and Palestinian factions inside and outside refugee camps. The Phalange Party leader issued the call during a speech at a memorial service to mark two years since the assassination of his son, MP and Industry Minister  Gemayel. "The state cannot allow any illegal military presence on any of its territories ... not the weapons of Palestinian factions ... not the weapons of Hizbullah," he told the party faithful and senior members of the March 14 Forces of which the Phalange is a part. " The time has come for all these arms to be handed over to the state."  He added that "illegitimate" arms in Lebanon have exposed the country to the threat of Israeli attack and reflected negatively on the economic situation.

"We can build our economy through Paris I, II, and III and not through Zelzal 1, 2, and 3," he said, referring respectively to international donor conferences to support Lebanon and some of the missiles believed to be in Hizbullah's arsenal.  The memorial service was held in Karantina, a northern suburb of Beirut, and included the swearing in of 4,200 new Phalange members.  Gemayel also said that talks on a national defense strategy should focus on finding ways to maintain peace in Lebanon. "We need a strategy for peace and not war," he said. "Lebanon's peace is its only defense."  However, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called Sunday for preserving Lebanon by preserving the resistance. "Resistance should remain in the heart of the South, which will always be in the heart of Lebanon," he said.  Speaking during a ceremony for his Amal Movement's Al-Resala Scouts, the speaker addressed the security situation inside Palestinian refugee camps.

"The camps, which were always a target for Israel, are becoming a target for terrorism," he said, urging Palestinian factions to develop a unified stance against extremism. Berri's remarks came as Palestinian groups at Sidon's  Ain al-Hilweh camp were considering ways to arrange the handover of a fugitive to the Lebanese Army.   Separately, President Michel Sleiman begins a two-day visit to Iran on Monday at the invitation of Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  "The president will discuss everything: political and economic issues, bilateral relations, the situation in the Middle East, the peace process," a government official told AFP Sunday on condition of anonymity.  Talks will also cover Lebanon's efforts to forge a national defense strategy - where Hizbullah's arsenal remains a thorny issue - the official said. Iran is a staunch supporter of the Hizbullah, which is also backed by Syria, but Tehran has denies Western and Israeli charges that it provides military assistance to Hizbullah.  Last May, the Shiite group and some of its allies staged a brief takeover of mainly Sunni parts of west Beirut, amid deadly clashes which brought the country to the brink of civil war and left at least 68 people dead.


Rome, 17 Nov. (AKI) - Pope Benedict on Monday urged national unity in conflict-scarred Lebanon. During an audience with Lebanon's new ambassador to the Holy See, Georges Chakib El-Khoury, Benedict said he hoped the Lebanese people "may courageously continue their efforts to build a united and solidary society."
"The millennial history of the country, and the place it occupies at the centre of a complex region, give it a fundamental mission to contribute to peace and harmony among everyone", Benedict (photo) continued. Describing Lebanon as a "treasure that has been entrusted to all the Lebanese people" the Pope urged the international community to "protect and value the country," preventing it from becoming a proxy battlefield where "regional and global conflicts are played out." The election of a new president of the Republic, the formation of a government of national unity and the approval of a new electoral law over the past six months "will favour national cohesion," Benedict stated. "I hope that, leaving particular interests to one side and healing the wounds of the past, everyone will make an effective commitment to the path of dialogue and reconciliation so that the country may progress in stability."

The Pope identified education as a key to this process. "It is necessary to promote and develop true education for peace, reconciliation and dialogue, directed above all at the young generations," he stated. Lasting peace, "is the profound aspiration of all Lebanese," Benedict said, adding that the Vatican "always follows events in Lebanon very closely." El-Khoury, a law graduate, was an investigating judge in Lebanon between 1993 and 2000 and headed the Lebanese army's information office from 2005-2008, the Vatican said.
By Nicholas Kimbrell, BEIRUT: Although Syrian-Lebanese relations appear to be improving, they have been complicated by the sparring between the Syrian government and members of Lebanon's ruling March 14 alliance over allegations about the funding of a militant Islamist group, analysts told The Daily Star Monday. Prior to President Michel Sleiman's landmark visit to Syria in mid-August, the two countries had agreed to establish diplomatic relations.  In October, Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh met with his Syrian counterpart Walid Moallem in Damascus to cement the formalization of ties. Interior Minster Ziyad Baroud traveled to Damascus last week, returning with a bilateral security agreement, and Information Minster Tarek Mitri was received in Damascus Sunday for a joint meeting of the Arab Information Committee.  Speaking from Damascus, Mitri called the Syrian-Lebanese relationship "strong," adding that the relationship was based on "mutual respect and common interests."

He noted that Sleiman's visit had paved the way for recent improvements in ties after "passing through a difficult phase."  However, residual tensions and recent accusations have led some to question the extent to which the Syrian-Lebanese relationship has improved.  Comments by Syrian President Bashar Assad in September warning of the growing extremist threat in Tripoli, followed by the deployment of 10,000 Syrian troops to the Lebanese border, stoked fears in Lebanon of a potential incursion in the North.  More recently, Syrian State Television aired a collection of "confessions" from members of the militant Islamist group, Fatah al-Islam, in which certain members claimed to have received funding from March 14 leader Saad Hariri and his Future Movement.

The Mustaqbal daily, a Hariri-owned paper, fired back Saturday with separate testimonies blaming Syria for sponsoring the group, which waged a fierce war against the Lebanese army in and around the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp during the summer of 2007. The battle left hundreds dead, including 168 soldiers, dozens of civilians and over 200 militants.

Malek el Khazen, November 2008 - Let us ask ourselves this first question: How did the Republicans fail? or did the Republicans really fail? Let me rephrase this question to what was different that made the Democrats win? The answer seems easy and yes it is logical, and the same process was applied in France, in Zimbabwe and many other countries during election within these last 2 years. What has made the difference in all of these elections are what we will call in this article the silent citizens but not so silent anymore. They are the new registered voters. There is also another variable that all of these candidates were successful enough in convincing their citizens on the ASSUMPTION of CHANGE, HOPE, TRUST and EXPERIENCE.

Why do I use Assumption? It is important to note that both Democrats and Republicans are well incorporated within the American political system. So whoever is the candidate representing this party is automatically part of the current system and he will have to follow the same procedure to decide and implement laws and lobbying that all of his predecessors has followed. So if these candidates are already part of the system we can ask ourselves how it will be change? from what?? In fact the Executive power in the US is not the only one that is in power, but you still have the Legislative and Judicial powers. And within the Executive power the same structure is set. Which is in other words the Capitalism system and inner circle, ie. Elitism representing 1% of the US population that controls Washington. So they may be change but it would be minimal and we should not expect any kind of change that was mentioned during the campaign.

We have mentioned Elitism representing 1% of the US citizen are the class that drive policies and prioritize issues. In fact, these elite groups control most of the money and the biggest corporations in the US. In result, it is very difficult to fight them. Most importantly these groups are the one that funds presidential campaign. President elect Obama was successful in creating an Assumption that his campaign was funded by people, regular citizens like me and you. But this is not the complete truth. Out of his 426.9 million 50% and more was funded by the same Elite groups and corporation that has funded previous campaign whether Democrats or Republicans. So it is very hard for me to believe that he will start fighting them. It is important to note he had a lot of individual contributions too but the perception that he has created where it seems he had only personal contribution from regular citizen is incorrect. This perception had a lot of positive for his campaign since it has increased in the mind of the US voters that he is an outsider of the system which is not true.But has benefited him and gained support from the new voters.

توقع عضو تكتل التغيير والاصلاح النائب فريد الخازن ان يحصل بعض التغيير، أقله في الاسلوب ومقاربة الملفات في السياسة الاميركية في حال فوز باراك اوباما في الانتخابات الرئاسية الاميركية، معتبرا ان الامور ستظهر بعد استكمال الادارة بأشخاصها وملفاتها.

كلام الخازن جاء في حديث صحفي عن الانتخابات الاميركية وموقعها في الميزان اللبناني فقال: بالنسبة الى المرشح ماكين وعلى رغم تشديده على ان السياسة الخارجية او السياسة بشكل عام ستكون مختلفة عن سياسة بوش، الا ان رئيس الجمهورية الجديد سيكون أسيرا ولو بشكل او بآخر للسياسات السابقة ولا سيما السياسات التي ادت الى فشل في عدد من الملفات سواء في منطقة الشرق الاوسط او في افغانستان وتحديدا موضوع محاربة الارهاب. اما المرشح الآخر ويبدو انه سيفوز اي اوباما فعلا هناك امكانية في التغيير اقله في الاسلوب ومقاربة الملفات وهناك صدقية اكبر لأنه مرشح جديد ورئيس جديد يأتي من حزب آخر.  
وفي موضوع الازمة المالية الكبيرة اعتبر ان هناك ثقة اكبر بإمكانية التصدي للمشكلة اذا اتى اوباما وهذا رأي صدر في الولايات المتحدة واوروبا وعدد كبير من الدول. اما الموضوع اللبناني فهو جزء من موضوع اوسع وهو السياسة الخارجية الاميركية في منطقة الشرق الاوسط وطبعا نتأثر بهذا الامر ولكن برأيي هناك مبالغة في الكلام بأن الامور ستنقلب رأسا على عقب او سيكون هناك تغييرات جذرية في المنطقة سواء اتى هذا المرشح او ذاك. واعتبر ان مقاربة اوباما والاسلوب والمستشارين كلها مسائل سيكون فيها تغيير لكن في بعض الملفات الاساسية مثل النزاع العربي الاسرائيلي او الفلسطيني - الاسرائيلي تحديدا الوضع سيئ الى درجة انه قد يستحيل إحداث التغيير الايجابي للوصول الى حل وهو دولة فلسطينية قابلة للحياة لأن الموضوع هنا مرتبط بالموقف الاسرائيلي خصوصا اذا ما اتى الى السلطة بنيامين نتانياهو.  
وخلص الى القول انه ما من شك بأن هناك بعض التغيير لكن لا ارى امكانية حدوث تغيير جذري.  
وعما يُطرح عن ان اوباما سيكون رئيس الانفتاح على ايران وسوريا في مكان ما اشار الى ان هناك مقاربة مختلفة لكن الى اي مدى ستؤتي بثمار، هذا موضوع ليس واضحا وهنا اريد ان اقول بأن شخصية وشخص وزير الخارجية والمستشارين الاساسيين في السياسة الخارجية لأوباما هذه مسألة مهمة، وهذا الامر غير واضح حتى الآن، لكن من دون شك ستكون هناك مقاربة مختلفة للمواضيع المأزومة في العلاقات الاميركية - الايرانية والاميركية - السورية، وفي ما يخص لبنان هناك مسائل حسمت في الموضوع اللبناني ومن دون شك لن تعود عقارب الساعة الى الوراء في المواضيع الاساسية المرتبطة بالمواضيع السيادية وغيرها.

Written by Ray Hanania, Various sources estimate that there are between 3.5 and 4.5 million Arabs in America, with Christians a slight majority over Muslims. There are 7.5 million Muslims in America, but only about 22 percent are Arab and the largest segment are African American and Asian. There is little diversity in terms of their national Arab origins. The vast majority of Arab American officeholders are of Lebanese heritage. There are many reasons for this. The Lebanese were among the first to settle in the U.S. in large numbers. They are almost all Christian, allowing them to assimilate more easily into American society. Although there is a theoretical separation of church and state in America, oftentimes the fastest way to elective office is through church-supported political organizations. But other Arab nationalities are slowly winning office as more and more seek office. The common denominator seems to be that those succeeding in elections are trading-off ties to their home countries of origin with more local activism and community involvement. Some of the better known officeholders include U.S. Senator John Sununu (Palestinian origins and Lebanese heritage), and Congressmen Darrell Issa (California) and Ray LaHood (Illinois), all Republican.  Arab Americans are represented in both parties, but the majorities tend to swing back and forth depending on the candidate and the issues in the Middle East. In 2000, for example, Arab Americans overwhelmingly voted Republican to support George W. Bush. In the election contest between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, there seems to be a split with a majority of Christian Arabs supporting McCain and a majority of Muslims supporting Obama. Arab American voters share the same concerns as other Americans, from education to jobs to improving the economy. But they also have a special interest in American foreign policy towards the Middle East, and on that criteria, they share an overwhelming disappointment. They often base their choices in national elections, such as for president, on which candidate is "the lesser of two evils."  Yet, when Americans across the country flock to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 4, Arab Americans will be standing with them side-by-side in line to vote.  There are more than 13 other Arab Americans who held office including four former U.S. Senators (all Lebanese), and nine congressmen including two women, Mary Rose Oakar, now national president of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), in Ohio's 20th district, and Pat Danner of the 6th District in Missouri.

DAILY STAR - By Ghenwa Yehia,  BEIRUT: Lebanese citizens are responding positively to the outcome of the US election, although some remain skeptical about Barack Obama's promises to change American policy, The Daily Star learned after speaking to locals from Beirut. The shared opinion of many Lebanese is that Obama's passion and personality offer hope for the future.  Sanaa Itani, 40, followed the election closely as it played out over the past months. She instantly took a liking to Obama because he seemed genuine in his desire for change.  "Every time I saw him on television I became more and more convinced of his genuine passion," she says. "Whether it is where he stands on certain issues or his policies I just intuitively feel like he means what he said. I think America made a good choice."

Like Itani, Hadi Haddad, a 51-year-old sewing supply store owner, says that Obama has an authentic spirit and truly believed in what he was campaigning for. The end result obviously reflects that he connected with the American people, Haddad says.  "I heard a story of an 80-year-old American woman who waited hours in line to vote for Obama just because she really believed in what he was saying," Haddad explains. "You can't fake that kind of passion. Obama would only be able to evoke that kind of passion in people if he himself believed in what he was saying."   Other people think that despite all of Obama's promises during the campaign, it is still much too early to tell whether he will make good on his promise for change.  "We haven't seen anything of him yet," says Jamal Hussein, 50. "For example, he said in his campaign, in regards to foreign relations, that he will be the friend of any country that is a friend to America. Now this is what he says, but we haven't seen him in action yet to see if he spoke the truth."  Kamil Harb, a 70-year-old owner of a laundromat, agrees with Hussein. "Right now all of these are just words," he says of campaign promises. He even goes a step farther to categorize Obama among the ranks of all other politicians: liars.

إعــادةُ هَـنْـدَسة الـ 10452 كـلم

Muhamad Mugraby is a Lebanese lawyer, human rights defender and president of the Center for Democracy and the Rule of Law. He wrote this article for THE DAILY STAR.

By Muhamad Mugraby, There is little doubt that Lebanon has no future as an independent and democratic political entity without the establishment of, and full respect for, the rule of law. The question is: Which rule of law? A rule of law on the legal tradition which Lebanon borrowed from Western Europe, which may be referred to as the "civil rule of law," or a rule of law based on Lebanon's pre-statehood and original tradition of Islamic law, which could correctly be called the "Islamic rule of law?" The failure of the civil rule of law to take hold would make it inevitable for the Islamic rule of law to take over.   Among the most elementary requirements for the civil rule of law which Lebanon had to observe is the development of a body of statutes sanctioned by a legitimate legislature, constitutionally established (i. e. a duly elected parliament). This task has been mostly fulfilled by borrowing and Arabizing text from French law. But so far many other necessary requirements have not been met, such as, by way of illustration:

A. The existence of one legitimate constitutional government, recognized by the people as legitimate and sovereign, with all three branches constituted as per the constitution: the executive (Cabinet), the legislative (Parliament) and the judicial (courts of law), governed by law and accountable in accordance with the law with honor and integrity.

B. Equality under the law with no discrimination for reasons such as religion or gender, already provided under Article 7 of the Constitution.

C. Equal application of the law, which requires consistency in interpretation of the rules and in their application to citizens.

D. Respect for human rights, particularly in the prevention of arbitrary detention and all forms of torture, safeguarding the rights of defense and avoidance of denial of justice.

Lebanon's dismal failure on all these fronts flagrantly and flatly contradicts its subscription, in its statute book, to the West European legal model. Hence, a full and candid diagnosis is urgently called for.

It would not be an exaggeration to recognize that the entire modern political history of the Republic of Lebanon revolves around the open issue of maintaining Maronite Christian political supremacy, or at least parity, vis-

BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea asked Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a visit to Cairo to help Lebanon re-establish its sovereignty over the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms.  Geagea, who headed a delegation which also included former Minister Joe Sarkis, MP Antoine Zahra, and LF official Joseph Nehme, asked Mubarak to utilize Egypt's friendly relations with the United States in pressuring Israel to withdraw from the occupied territory.  Geagea also asked Mubarak to play a role in convincing Syria of the necessity to sign a joint document with the Lebanese government to emphasize the Lebanese identity of the area.  "Signing such document would obligate Israel to withdraw under United Nations Security Council Resolution 425, which it had already implemented in May 2000," he said.  "But Israel is still arguing that the Shebaa Farms are part of Syria's territory and is backing its claim by resorting to the UN ... Signing such a document is the fastest way to liberate the remaining part of Lebanon's occupied territory," he added.  The LF leader also discussed with Mubarak the recent Syrian troop build-up along Lebanon's northern border.  He argued that the Syrian move was not aimed at preventing border smuggling, as asserted by Damascus.  "The troop reinforcement aims at reminding the Lebanese that Syria is still present ... It also aims at putting the residents of the North under pressure ahead of next year's parliamentary elections," Geagea said.

Also on Tuesday, Aoun said after meeting a number of Iranian MPs in Tehran that Lebanon would live in peace and unity if the "opposition wins the majority of seats in the 2009 polls." Aoun, who started a visit to Tehran on Sunday, met on Tuesday with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, who praised the retired general for "preserving national unity in Lebanon and supporting the resistance in confronting Israel."  Aoun met on Monday with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

In another development expected to give pace to the ongoing reconciliation efforts in the country, Future Movement leader Saad Hariri returned to Beirut Tuesday after spending two weeks in Saudi Arabia.  Hariri's return may pave the way for holding a reconciliation meeting between himself and Hizbullah's leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

The intra-Christian reconciliation is expected to kick off with a meeting between Geagea and Marada leader Suleiman Franjieh. The meeting, to be held at the Presidential Palace, will be attended by Aoun. The Marada Movement on Tuesday described as "positive" Geagea's approval of Aoun's participation.  "Although three years late, Geagea's decision is a step in the right direction," a Marada statement said, adding that Phalange leader and former President Amin Gemayel was also welcome to attend the meeting.

Lebanese Christian majority leader MP Michel Aoun left for Tehran Sunday on his first official visit to Iran, local Ad-Diyar daily reported Monday. Friendship with Iran is not an accusation," Aoun, a former Lebanese army commander and prime minister, said.  Asked whether he was seeking money and weapons from Iran, Aoun said that such possibility would only be true if it "balances the cash and arms that other parties are already receiving," hinting to pro-government groups accused of being financed by Saudi Arabia.  He said he was "surprised and astonished" at criticism from Lebanese factions about the visit. Aoun said Iran and Lebanon are going through "similar difficulties that they have to overcome."  Aoun, who arrived in Tehran on Sunday, is due to hold talks with Mottaki, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and parliament speaker Ali Larijani. After the meeting, Mottaki stated that Lebanese-Iranian relations are based on common concerns, stressing that anyone trying to control the Iranian people will fail. Reminding the press of Teheran

Lebanese President Michel Sleiman on Monday urged Saudi entrepreneurs to invest in his country during his first visit to oil-rich Saudi Arabia since his election in May. Addressing business leaders at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sleiman urged them to "boost their investments" in Lebanon, which offers "guarantees and facilities" for investors, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported. Lebanon has formed a committee to assess the losses incurred by Saudi investors during the political crisis his country went through in the past few years, Sleiman said, thanking Saudi Arabia for what he described as its constant support for Lebanon.  Sleiman, a former commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces, was elected president in May after Lebanon's rival political factions struck an Arab-brokered deal in the Qatari capital, Doha, to end an 18-month political crisis that had brought the country to the brink of civil war.

The president of the Saudi-Lebanese Business Council, Abdel-Mohsen al-Hakir, was quoted by SPA as saying that "many Saudi investments will start flowing back to the Lebanese market."  Saudi investments in Lebanon are estimated at nearly 5 billion riyals ($1.3 billion) and are expected to increase, Hakir said.  Sleiman told the businessmen that the end of terrorism in the Arab and Islamic worlds was not far away.  The president also described media attacks against Saudi Arabia as a blow to Arabism.  "Any Lebanese individual who attacks any of his Arab brothers in the media, particularly Saudi Arabia, is moving away from his Arabism," he said.  Before heading to Tehran on Sunday, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun said on Saturday that some Lebanese Christians were being swayed by Saudi petrodollars.

Saudi Arabia is a main financial backer of Lebanon, and Saudi King Abdullah reportedly told Sleiman that it was not true that the kingdom supports only one camp in this country.  "I hear that we are accused of being with some people and against others ... We are with all sides, and we do not pursue any private interests" in Lebanon, Abdullah told Sleiman, according to a Lebanese official.  The official, who requested anonymity, said the Saudi monarch made his remarks when he met Sleiman Sunday after the Lebanese leader arrived in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.  "Lebanon must be respected; all countries must respect Lebanon," Abdullah said, stressing that Saudi Arabia was prepared to "help Lebanon in whatever it demands," according to the official.

Pope Benedict XVI condemned on Sunday violence perpetrated against Christians in India and Iraq. "I invite you to pray for peace and reconciliation as situations cause concern and great suffering.... I think of violence against Christians in Iraq and India," he said after a ceremony in which he canonised India's first woman saint. The pontiff addressed Indians who made the trip to Vatican City for the canonisation of Sister Alfonsa, who died in 1946 aged 36. India's Christian minority, making up little more than two percent of the population, has felt particularly threatened in recent months. Attacks by Hindu extremists on Christians in the eastern Indian state of Orissa have left 35 people dead since August "As the Christian faithful of India give thanks to God for their first native daughter to be presented for public veneration, I wish to assure them of my prayers during this difficult time," Pope Benedict said. "I urge the perpetrators of violence to renounce these acts and join with their brothers and sisters to work together in building a civilization of love," he said.

In Iraq, the government said it dispatched nearly 1,000 police to the northern city of Mosul on Sunday to protect Christians fleeing the worst violence perpetrated against them in five years. Nearly 1,000 Christian families have fled homes in the city since Friday, taking shelter on the northern and eastern fringes of Nineveh province after at least 11 Christians died in a spate of attacks in recent weeks. At least three homes of Christians were blown up by unidentified attackers on Saturday in the Sukkar district of Mosul, which is regarded by US and Iraqi security forces of one of the last urban bastions of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Mosul's provincial governor said hundreds of Christian families had fled the city in the past week to seek refuge in outlying villages.  Sunni militants have been blamed for the murders of 12 Christians over the past fortnight.  After talks with Christian Iraqi officials, the Shia prime minister said in a statement: "We will take immediate action to resolve the problems and difficulties faced by Christians in Mosul."  An AFP correspondent said police had set up checkpoints at churches in Mosul's four largely Christian areas and were patrolling the streets on foot.  A major operation by the security forces aimed at displacing insurgents has been under way for months in Mosul, which is considered by US and Iraqi commanders as the last urban stronghold of al-Qaeda in Iraq.  But the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says that, unlike similar campaigns in the Iraqi capital and Basra, the situation in Mosul seems to be getting worse.

BEIRUT (Reuters Life!) - Lebanese food makers aim to prove that dishes including hummus originated in their country in a campaign to stop Israeli manufacturers from using the names to market the same foods."Our battle is to prove that all these names and specialities and foods are Lebanese, as Greece did with feta cheese," said Fadi Abboud, president of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists. EU feta producers other than Greece have been forced to call their cheese something other than feta after a court ruled in 2005 it was a protected designation of origin for Greece. "Go to the exhibitions. You see that our entire kitchen has become an Israeli kitchen, being produced in Israel," said Abboud.

It was not clear how the Lebanese manufacturers planned to pursue the claim targeting Israel -- which has invaded its northern neighbor numerous times since the Jewish state was established in 1948. The Lebanese claim is also likely to face complications because dishes including the chick pea-based hummus and tabbouleh, a salad, have long been consumed across the Middle East. "The row with Israel is very easy (to win), because clearly Israel did not have a common food culture before it was formed," said Sami Zubaida, an expert on the history of Middle Eastern food. "What is a problem is to say that they are specifically Lebanese as opposed to Syrian, or Palestinian or southern Turkish," he said.

American journalists Taylor Luck and Holli Chmela, who were reported missing in Lebanon, are safe and sound in Syria

WASHINGTON: Lebanese President Michel Sleiman emphasized on Thursday the need to liberate Lebanese territories occupied by Israel and told US President George W. Bush that the future of Palestinian refugees was in their homeland, not in Lebanon. Bush welcomed Sleiman for talks Thursday to underline US support for democratic rule in Beirut free from any undue foreign influence. Lebanese-Americans "want Lebanon to be free and sovereign and independent, and so do I, and so do you," Bush told his guest during a brief joint public appearance as they met in the Oval Office for the first time.  "We are here, also, to reaffirm our right to have a prosperous, Lebanon, a democratic Lebanon, a country that is diverse in its nature and through its people," Sleiman said.  Bush praised Lebanon's ongoing national reconciliation talks, which bring together rival political leaders in a national dialogue that will set the tone for parliamentary elections due next year.  "We're most impressed by the national dialogue that you're holding in an attempt to seek reconciliation. The US is proud to stand by your side. Our mission is your mission: a country that is strong, and capable, and a country where people can live in peace," said Bush.  "It's been a long time since the president of Lebanon has been in the Oval Office. And it is my honor to host you for this occasion," said Bush.  "I am delighted to be here," said Sleiman. "I am here to thank you for all the efforts you have undertaken to support Lebanon, particularly the Lebanese military institutions."

"We are also here to reaffirm the need to liberate all Lebanese territories, and also to make it very clear that the future of Palestinian refugees is in their homeland - not in Lebanon," the Lebanese leader said.  "We believe that this is in the interest of Lebanon as well as it's in the interest of the Palestinian people themselves," the Lebanese president told Bush through a translator.  An estimated 400,000 Palestinian refugees live in 12 camps in Lebanon. According to the United Nations agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, there are around 4.6 million Palestinian refugees worldwide.  Most of the Palestinian refugees came to Lebanon when the state of Israel was created in 1948. Others fled to the country during the 1967 war. There are fears among the Lebanese that their settlement will be permanent, shifting the country's delicate sectarian balance.  Neither leader specifically mentioned Syria, which withdrew its forces from its smaller neighbor after the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri in 2005, a killing that was widely blamed on Damascus. Syria denies involvement.  Deep-seated divisions over Hizbullah's arsenal fuel widespread skepticism that the national dialogue will yield a defense strategy for Lebanon. A first session was held on September 16 and another has been set for November 5. - AFP, with The Daily Star

Naharnet, President Michel Suleiman said that Lebanon was fully committed to the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 and added that the nternational community should urge Israel to stop its threats against Lebanon.  "Lebanon reiterates its full commitment to Resolution 1701," Suleiman said in a speech Tuesday before the 63rd U.N. General Assembly session in New York. "Lebanon is facing a series of dangers and challenges which require the international community to compel Israel to implement Resolution 1701

BEIRUT: Reform and Change  bloc leader MP Michel Aoun said Monday that he might walk out of the national dialogue because he could no longer deal with "corrupt people." At a news conference following his bloc's weekly meeting, Aoun said that a conspiracy was being waged against the Lebanese "to buy their votes." Aoun added that the March 14 Forces' suggestion to have mayors resign six months rather than 24 months prior to running for parliamentary elections constituted "a serious breach of the Constitution."  "A mayor who resigns six months before running for elections can still make use of municipal funds to sponsor their electoral campaigns," Aoun said.  Aoun also reacted to Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea's speech on Sunday in which the LF leader apologized for "mistakes" committed by his militia during the 1975-1990 Civil War. Aoun said Geagea should have apologized "to [former Prime Minister Omar] Karami, the Chamoun family and [Marada Movement leader Sleiman] Franjieh."  Aoun added that Geagea's speech "influenced only those who are of marginal importance in the Christian community."

Franjieh on Monday accepted the apology made by Geagea, but challenged the LF boss to accept reconciliation.  "The apology made by Geagea is accepted although it was not addressed to us," Franjieh told a news conference, adding that he would deal "positively" with it.  Geagea is accused of playing a leading role in the assassination of Franjieh's father Toni Franjieh and dozens of other people in 1978.  Addressing Geagea, Franjieh said: "Election results will show who enjoys wider popularity."  Franjieh also criticized Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, calling on him to "refrain from dealing with Christians in a biased manner."  Responding to Franjieh, LF MP Farid Habib said even after Geagea had declared his openness to other parties and apologized for abuses, Franjieh "is still attacking him and trying to distort the LF's image." Habib told the reporters on Monday that he was not surprised by Franjieh's verbal assaults "because anyone who dares to attack the Maronite patriarch will not hesitate to attack any political party.

Meanwhile, Karami said that the LF boss' speech was important because it "proved that Geagea is a killer, criminal and liar, because he had previously announced that the Syrian regime was responsible for all the crimes." Geagea is also accused of assassinating Karami's brother, then-Prime Minister Rashid Karami, in 1987. After meeting British Ambassador Frances Mary Guy on Monday, Karami said Geagea was trying to sway public opinion for electoral purposes. He said Geagea was not interested in reconciliation and wanted only to impose himself by force

By Hussein Abdallah, BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea apologized on Sunday for "mistakes" committed by members of his party during the 1975-1990 Civil War. "I fully apologize for all the mistakes that we committed when we were carrying out our national duties during past Civil War years," he said. "I ask God to forgive and so I ask the people whom we hurt in the past," he added.  Speaking before tens of thousands of his supporters who gathered in Jounieh, north of Beirut, for a memorial ceremony for LF members killed during political violence in Jounieh, Geagea accused his political rivals of "exploiting past mistakes" that were committed by the LF.  "I want to tell those who are exploiting our past mistakes to stop doing so because only God can judge us," he said.  Geagea said that Christian unity was not possible in light of sharp differences over political principles and values among Christian leaders, hinting at his main rival, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun.  "I know that every one of you is longing to see Christian unity and reconciliation," he said. "This is also our aim, but the question: Over what values shall we unite?"  "Shall we unite over Hizbullah's possession of arms at the expense of the Lebanese state?"  "Shall we unite over investigating the Lebanese Army command for sending the helicopter in which First Lieutenant Samer Hanna was shot in the Sejod Hills?"  "Shall we unite over changing Lebanon into the only battlefield in the Arab-Israeli conflict while many others are negotiating with Israel?" Geagea asked as the crowd chanted anti-Aoun, anti-Hizbullah, and anti-Syrian slogans.

However, the LF chief added that Christian unity was the key to saving Lebanon, urging all Christians to take the right decision in next year's parliamentary elections. "I call on the Christians who are against the Lebanese Forces or against me personally, to put Lebanon's interests ahead of personal interests," he said. "We can only save Lebanon when the people of Lebanon as a whole and Christians in particular unite over the historic principles of Christians in Lebanon."  He accused Christian members of the March 8 alliance of dropping the slogan, "my nation is always right" and replacing it with a slogan that says "Syria and Hizbullah are always right." Geagea said that both the Doha Accord and the ministerial statement of the new government stipulate that the state was the sole authority on defense issues. "We cannot accept that Hizbullah wants to maintain its arms until the liberation of Palestine and the resolution of the Middle East conflict," he said.  Geagea also argued against Hizbullah's claim that it should maintain its arms until the state acquires the necessary capabilities to defend Lebanon.  The event was attended by several senior officials, including Finance Minister Mohammad Shatah, representing  Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, and former President Amin Gemayel.  President Michel Sleiman, who left for New York Sunday, contacted Geagea to offer his condolences. Parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri also congratulated him for the "success" of the memorial ceremony.

BEIRUT (AFP) Lebanon's rival factions launched national reconciliation talks on Tuesday to resolve lingering disputes after a crisis that brought the nation to the brink of civil war, with the thorny issue of Hezbollah's weapons topping the agenda. The talks bring together 14 political figures from the country's pro- and anti-Syrian camps who agreed to try to mend fences following a Qatari-brokered deal in May that put an end to a damaging 18-month political crisis.  "Agreeing to dialogue in and of itself means that all subjects are open to discussion," President Michel Sleiman said as he opened the talks. "The only thing banned here is failure or a reaching a dead-end."

The main focus of the dialogue will be on forging a defence strategy for Lebanon but there is widespread scepticism that an agreement can be reached given deep-seated divisions over Hezbollah's weapons arsenal. The Shiite Muslim group, considered a terrorist organisation by the United States, has refused to disarm arguing that its weapons and guerrilla army are essential to defend the country against neighbouring Israel.  However members of the Western-backed majority in parliament argue that Hezbollah's weapons undermine the authority of the state which should be the sole decision-maker on matters of defence. 

"All Lebanese are hoping that the dialogue will be successful but a real solution will only be found when Hezbollah stops using its weapons to serve regional interests and stops imposing its hegemony by force on the local scene," said an editorial in An-Nahar newspaper, which is close to the anti-Syrian ruling coalition in parliament.  Newspapers close to the rival camp backed by Syria and Iran said those taking part in the dialogue face an arduous task given their differences.  "The various political camps believe the discussions on the national defence strategy will get bogged down into futile debate and no one will see any results for a long time," the As-Safir newspaper said.  The independent Al-Anwar said the closed-door talks were taking place "in a minefield called Lebanon, with the mines produced locally and abroad."  The dialogue follows on from a 2006 initiative in which the same 14 factions held several round-table meetings in a bid to forge political unity.  But there have been heightened security concerns in the country following the killing last week of a pro-Syrian politician in a car bombing and a number of violent incidents.  Six makeshift bombs exploded early on Monday in a mixed Sunni-Shiite area of west Beirut and two similar bombs were defused by the Lebanese army near a church north of the capital.  Tuesday's talks are to set the agenda and timetable for talks, with the next session set to take place after Sleiman returns from a visit to the United States later this month. 

كلمة النائب نعمة الله أبي نصر التي ألقاها

في المؤتمر الذي نظّمته اللجنة اللبنانية الأميركية لإحياء الشراكة LARP

بالتعاون مع الغرفة اللبنانية للتجارة في فندق فينيسيا

بحضور ممثل فخامة رئيس الجمهورية الوزير محمد الصفدي


    حَضرَة مُمثِّل فَخامَة رئيس الجمهورية معالي الوزير محمد الصفدي المُحتَرَم،

            أيُّهـا الحَضُـورُ الكِـرام ،

بادِئ ذِي بِدْء ، أوَدُّ أن أشْكُرَ مُؤسَّسَةَ LARP رئيساً وأعضاءَ ، والغُرفَةَ اللبنانية الأميركية للتِجارَةِ ، لِتنظيمِهما هذا المُؤتَمَر الذي أفْسَحَ لَنا المَجالَ لنُناقِشَ سَويَّةً السُبُلَ الآيِلَةَ الى اِلتضامُنِ والتواصُلِ بينَ لُبنانَ المُقيمِ والمُغتَرِب .

لا حاجََة للتَّذْكِيْرِ كَمْ أنَّ لُبْنانَ اليَوْم هُوَ بحاجَةٍ إلَى أبْنائِهِ المُغْتَرِبِيْنَ ولاسِيَّما في هَذِهِ المَرْحَلَةِ بالذَّاتِ، حَيْثُ أنَّ الأنْظارَ جَمِيْعَها تَتَّجِهُ نَحْوَكم مِنْ أجْلِ اجْتِذابِ أولادِنا في الإغترابِ نَحْوَ وَطَنِهم الأمِّ ، وتَشْوِيْقِهِم للعَوْدَةِ إلَيْهِ ، وتَرْغِيْبِهِم في اسْتِثْمارِ طاقاتِهِم السياسيَّة والمادِيَّة والفِكْرِيَّة والروحِيَّة والعِلْمِيَّة والمِهَنِيَّة في مُخْتَلَفِ قِطاعاتِ المُجْتَمَعِ اللُّبْنانِيِّ ، بُغْيَةَ المُساهَمَةِ في إعادَةِ إحْيائِها وإنْعاشِها ، لأنَّ إعادَةَ البِناءِ لا تَتِمُّ ، ولُبْنان لا يُبْنَى إلاَّ عَلى سَواعِدِ أبْنائِهِ أنْفُسِهِم مُقِيْمِيْنَ ومُغْتَرِبِيْنَ ، مسيحييِّنَ ومُسلِمينَ .

لَنْ أتوَسَّعَ في تبيانِ أهميَّةِ الإغتِرابِ اللُبنانيِّ وعَظَمَتِه وتفَوُّقِهِ في العالَم في كُلِّ المَجالاتِ السياسيَّةِ والإقتِصاديَّةِ والإجتِماعيَّةِ والفكريَّة والمِهنيَّةِ وغيرِها .

ولَنْ أتوقَّفَ حولَ إهمالِ الإغتِرابِ اللُبنانيِّ من قِبَلِ الحكوماتِ التي تعاقَبَتْ على الحُكمِ في لُبنان منذُ الإستِقلالِ حتى اليوم، هذا الإهمالُ الذي يكادُ يكونُ متعمداً لولا لَفتَةٍ كريمَةٍ جاءَت بالأمسِ من قِبَلِ فخامَةِ رئيسِ الجُمهوريَّة حيثُ تَعَهَّدَ في خِطابِ القَسَم تعزيزَ التواصُلِ بينَ لُبنانَ المُقيمِ والمُغتَرِبِ بُغيَةَ الإستِفادَةِ من طاقاتِ أبنائِنا في الإغتِراب، حيثُ هُم أحقُّ بالجنسيَّةِ اللُبنانيَّةِ مِنَ الذينَ أخذوها على غيرِ وجهِ حَقٍّ .

وإنّي أرى في اجتِماعِكُم هذا ، بُزوغَ أملٍ جديدٍ للتواصُلِ الفعليّ بينَ لبنان بجناحّيهِ المُقيمِ والمُغتَرب . ولَكِن كَيْفَ السبيلُ لِتحقيقِ هذا الأمَل ؟!

إنَّ الرابِطَ الأقوى الذي من شأنِهِ أنْ يَشُدَّ المُغتَرِبَ الى لُبنان هوَ رابطُ الهويَّةِ وما يَنتُجُ عنها من مَجالاتٍ على كافَةِ الصُعُد ، كحقِّ التمَلُكِ والإرثِ ومُمارَسَةِ المِهَنِ ، والتمتُعِ بالحُقوقِ السياسيَّةِ والإقتِصاديَّة  والدُخولِ في الوَظيفَةِ العامَّةِ ... ألخ . وباختِصار: فالهُوِيَّةُ اللُبنانيَّة تُمكِّنُ المُغتَرِبَ من وَضعِ كافَةِ طاقاتِهِ الفكريَّة والتقنيَّة والعلميَّة والماديَّة في خِدمَةِ لُبنان والإسهامِ في تَطَوُرِهِ وتقَدُّمِهِ ورُقيِّهِ ، وصولاً الى مصافِ الدُولِ المُتطوِّرَة الحديثَة

By Agence France Presse (AFP), BEIRUT: Lebanese and international leaders urged calm on Thursday as they condemned a political assassination that threatened to undermine efforts to reconcile rival factions in Lebanon. Saleh Aridi, a senior member of the Lebanese Democratic Party, was assassinated in a car bombing late on Wednesday in his hometown of Baysour, southeast of Beirut.  A security official said the bomb, made of 700 grams of explosives, was placed under his car. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.  United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday condemned the car bombing and urged rival parties to show "restraint."  "This violence only underscores how important it is for dialogue and reconciliation to move forward," the UN chief told a news conference.  Six people were also slightly wounded in the attack, which was also condemned by both Washington and Damascus.  "The United States is deeply concerned about the latest violence in Lebanon," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement.  "Our support for the Lebanese government and its democratic institutions is unwavering," he added.  The Syrian Foreign Ministry said that Damascus "firmly denounces the criminal and terrorist act," adding that Syria was "convinced that such crimes that target security and stability in Lebanon will not achieve their objectives."  The European Union also condemned the crime and called for an investigation into the killing.  Speaking on behalf of the EU, a French Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the EU supported Lebanon's efforts "to stop terrorism."

Lebanese President Michel Sleiman warned against any attempt to derail efforts under way to achieve national reconciliation, with the attack taking place just a day after he announced the start of a multi-party dialogue next Tuesday.  "We must beware of conspiracies aimed ... at scuttling efforts toward reconciliation and preparations for national dialogue," the president said in a statement.  Aridi, in his 50s, was a top adviser to pro-Syrian Druze leader and Youth and Sports Minister Talal Arslan, a rival to Druze anti-Syrian leader Walid Jumblatt. Aridi's father is also a leading Druze religious figure.  Jumblatt denounced the attack as a bid to sow violence between his party and Arslan's, after the two had reconciled in May following fierce clashes between rival clans. The slain adviser had played a key role in the reconciliation effort.  Aridi, who was married and had five children, is scheduled to be buried in his hometown at 1 p.m. on Friday.  "Message received," said Arslan, who rushed back to Lebanon from abroad on hearing of the killing.   He refused to speculate as to who was behind the attack.  Arslan, who offered his condolences to Sheikh Farhan Aridi, Saleh's father, told reporters in Baysour that the mountains would stay united despite attempts to sow discord. "What you and I have started together on May 7 shall continue for the sake of the mountains and the nation," Arslan said in reference to Aridi's efforts to reconcile Druze factions. The Democratic Party leader also stressed that "while political differences are legitimate, unrest and divide are forbidden." He added that the crime would be referred to the Judicial Council, the country's highest judicial authority.

By Hussein Abdallah,  BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman was quoted by his visitors on Sunday as denying that his Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, asked him during their recent bilateral summit in Damascus to send the Lebanese Armed Forces' 10th Brigade to "fight extremism" in Tripoli. The visitors said that Sleiman also denied that he made any commitments to Assad regarding Lebanon's joining of peace negotiations between Syria and Israel. Assad said last week that he had asked Sleiman, who visited Damascus in August, to "urgently send more troops" to North Lebanon to combat what he called "extremism."  "Anything positive in Lebanon would be worthless without a solution to the problem of extremism and Salafists in North Lebanon who are officially supported by some countries," he said, without identifying them.  "We are worried about what is happening in Tripoli," he told  a four-way summit that grouped French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.  The Syrian head of state also said that he had discussed with Sleiman the need for Lebanon to take part in negotiations with Israel when such talks reach the stage of direct negotiations. Syria and Israel are engaged in Turkish-sponsored indirect peace talks.  Sleiman's visitors quoted the president as saying that he was not planning to respond to any of Assad's remarks during the four-way summit.

Also on Sunday, news reports quoted diplomatic sources as saying that Assad's remarks on Lebanon annoyed both Sheikh Hamad and Sarkozy.  The reports said that the Qatari emir expressed reservations over Assad's assessment of the situation in Lebanon, which the latter had described as "fragile."  A senior French source was also quoted by the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat as saying that Assad had complained to Sarkozy that some Lebanese factions were not ready to establish normal relations with Syria.  The source said Sarkozy had told Assad that Syria needed to implements its commitments toward Lebanon in order to build confidence.  On Saturday, Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar described Assad's remarks as "insulting" for Lebanon's president and government. He told Voice of Lebanon radio that Sleiman had not informed Cabinet of any such  comments by Assad during the summit in Damascus.  "I don't think that our president was hiding this information ... He is definitely not a keeper of Assad's secrets," Najjar added, implying that the Syrian leader's claims were untrue. - With AFP

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- It's the Mideast version of a sordid soap opera. A Lebanese pop star is brutally slain in her luxury Dubai apartment, her throat slashed. Arrested in her death: One of Egypt's most politically connected businessmen, accused of paying $2 million to have her killed.The killing of Suzanne Tamim has gone beyond a lurid crime story to something more serious -- a glimpse into the close links between Egypt's government and powerful business tycoons long viewed as above the law. It is also exposing strains between societies like Egypt's, where wealth and political power increasingly go hand in hand, and Dubai, which recently launched a high-profile push against corruption. People in the Arab world have long followed with fascination and moral clucking the tales of businessmen and politicians cavorting with actresses, belly-dancers and singers -- a sort of Hollywood Babylon in the conservative Muslim Middle East. But even by those standards, the Tamim drama is a stunner. The 30-year-old singer, famed for her striking green eyes, was found dead in her Dubai apartment in July, with multiple stab wounds and a 20-centimeter (8 inch) slash across her throat.  This week, Egyptian authorities arrested real estate mogul Hisham Talaat Moustafa, said to be Tamim's former lover. For many, the surprise wasn't Moustafa's alleged involvement -- but his arrest. Egyptians are widely convinced their government won't touch influential businessmen. When Moustafa's name first appeared in media reports weeks ago, he denied a role and complained on Egyptian television that the rumors hurt the economy. The government promptly banned press reports on the slaying, suggesting that Moustafa was off-limits.  The tycoon is a top ruling party official close to President Hosni Mubarak's powerful son, Gamal. In the past 10 years, he has become one of Egypt's top billionaires, the owner of luxury hotels and beach resorts and a leading force in building Western-style suburbs ringing Cairo for the upper-class.But on Tuesday, Egypt's public prosecutor accused the tycoon of contracting for the singer's killing by paying $2 million to Mohsen el-Sukkary, a former Egyptian state security officer.

BEIRUT (AFP) - Anti-Syria parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri has accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of trying to use unrest in north Lebanon to engineer a return to military control of the country, a statement received by AFP on Saturday said. "Those who export terrorism to north Lebanon do not have the right to fear the rise of extremism in Lebanon," Hariri said during Friday's Ramadan meal."(The Syrians) want to use the situation in Tripoli as a pretext to involve themselves in Lebanese affairs and use it as a means for their military and security return to Lebanon," the Future Movement chief said.Assad said on Thursday he had asked Lebanese President Michel Sleiman to urgently send more troops to northern Lebanon to combat what he called "extremism." "The Lebanese clearly remember who sent Fatah al-Islam to Nahr al-Bared and to the north and who has -- and continues to -- finance terrorist activities in other regions," Hariri's statement added. The Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp north of Tripoli was the scene of a deadly 15-week battle last year between the army and Fatah al-Islam, which adopted an ideology inspired by Al-Qaeda.

A statement issued by the ruling majority on Thursday night said Assad has no right to ask the Lebanese president to send Lebanese army units to northern Lebanon, and such a request is an "interference in Lebanese internal affairs, and result from non-recognition of Lebanon's sovereignty and independence."
The statement also said such an request is "an insult to Lebanese president."  Assad Thursday said at a press conference that he had told the Lebanese president during the latter's visit to Damascus to send more troops to northern Lebanon to stop clashes between Sunnis and Alawites in Tripoli and some villages of Akkar province.  During the past three months, clashes between the two sects in northern Lebanon have left more than 23 people killed and hundred others wounded.  Meanwhile, Assad's invitation for talks with Israel was also rejected by the Lebanese ruling coalition, saying "Lebanon will be the last country to sign settlement agreement with Israel after reclaiming Arab rights."

Daily Star - BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Sleiman and newly appointed commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces General Jean Kahwaji offered condolences on Saturday to the family of First Lieutenant Samer Hanna, who was killed when his helicopter was hit by Hizbullah gunfire on Thursday. Hanna's helicopter was shot at during a training session in the Sejod Hills in Southern Lebanon, a region known to be a Hizbullah stronghold.  Sleiman and Kahwaji paid separate visits to Hanna's family at their residence in the northern town of Tannourine.  The army officer was laid to rest on Friday.  Meanwhile, judicial authorities on Saturday continued to investigate the Thursday's incident after Hizbullah handed over the assailant and said that the incident had been the result of "confusion."

News reports Sunday quoted Defense Minister Elias Murr as telling a Cabinet session on Friday that Hizbullah fighters could have mistaken the Lebanese helicopter for an Israeli one.  The reports quoted Murr as saying the helicopter's ID plate had a different color than the plates of the army's traditional helicopters, adding that Hizbullah fighters had rushed to help Hanna and his wounded comrade when they realized that the targeted helicopter belonged to the Lebanese Army. The helicopter had recently been donated by the United Arab Emirates to the Lebanese Armed Forces, the reports added.  Hizbullah's second in command, Sheikh Naim Qassem, told Al-Manar television on Friday that the incident was surrounded by confusion.  Qassem said that Hizbullah would abide by whatever the army and judicial investigators said in the matter.  Meanwhile, Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud told Voice of Lebanon radio on Saturday that he wanted to hear an explanation rather than a justification for Thursday's attack. "We are seeking an explanation not a justification for what happened ... such explanation will be provided through judicial investigations and not political interpretations," the minister said.

The new chief of the Lebanese army, Jean Kahwaji, has been promoted to general in a ceremony attended by his predecessor, President Michel Suleiman.  Gen Kahwaji was appointed to the post at a meeting of the national unity government on Friday evening.  The 54-year-old Maronite Christian had been a brigade commander since 2002.  Many Lebanese regard the army as one of the country's few neutral institutions, and say it plays an important role in preventing sectarian conflict.

"The Council of Ministers decided to appoint General Jean Kahwaji to the post of chief of the Lebanese army," Mitri told reporters at the end of a cabinet meeting at the presidential palace. Kahwaji, 54, joined the army in 1973. He has undergone specialised military training abroad, including in the United States and Italy, while in 2006 he went to Germany for intensive anti-terrorism training. Decorated on several occasions, he has occupied the post of commander of the second infantry division since 2002. He is married with three children. General Shawki al-Masri, the army's chief of staff, had been acting as head of the army since Sleiman was elected president of Lebanon on May 25, ending a drawn-out political crisis in the country. Observers say the 60,000-strong majority Shiite Lebanese army is these days more of a peacekeeping unit than an offensive force. At the end of 2006, Sleiman claimed that the army was "unified" -- unlike it had been during the 1975-1990 civil war when it was bitterly divided along confessional lines.

BEIRUT (AFP) - Several thousand people joined a rally in Lebanon on Sunday to mark 30 years since Shiite leader Mussa Sadr vanished without trace in Libya, with the circumstances of his disappearance as mysterious as ever. Sadr, who founded the opposition Amal movement now led by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berre would have been 80 this year and is still regarded by the Lebanese Shiite community as their key spiritual guide. Lebanon last week issued an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi over the disappearance of the imam on August 31, 1978 while he was in Tripoli with two companions, who vanished with him. "We tell the leader of the Libyan regime Moamer Kadhafi: you are personally responsible for the disappearance of Imam Mussa Sadr," Berri said in a speech to the crowds in the southern town of Nabatiyeh."Let no-one think that we will forget or make any compromise," said Berri, a leading figure in the Syrian-backed opposition in Lebanon spearheaded by the powerful Hezbollah movement. Libya has denied involvement in Sadr's disappearance, saying he left Libya for Italy. But the Italian government has always denied he ever arrived there. However, in 2004 Italian authorities returned a passport found in Italy belonging to the imam.

Sunday marked 30 years since the disappearance of Imam Musa al-Sadr, a Lebanese icon who put his country's Shiite community on the road to sociopolitical revival long before the 1979 Islamic Revolution In Iran brought a more radical flavor to the phenomenon on the regional level. The details of Sadr's fate remain a mystery, but all signs point to the government of Libya, which is the last place where he was seen alive. Tripoli has staunchly - but not very convincingly - denied any involvement, preventing the two countries from improving their bilateral relationship and foiling any form of "closure" to many Lebanese Shiites who still believe that their hero continues to languish in captivity. As it happens, the anniversary followed just a day after visiting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi performed a remarkable act of contrition in Benghazi, apologizing to all Libyans for his own country's colonial-era atrocities and pledging billions of dollars in investment as a mechanism of indirect compensation. But Moammar Gadhafi's regime need not look to Rome for an example of how to properly turn the page: In the past few years, his own government has closed several embarrassing files, including its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction and the involvement of its intelligence officers in the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing.  Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hizbullah, has invited the Libyans to come clean on Sadr's disappearance as well, and Tripoli could do itself a favor by accepting it. As demonstrated by last week's filing of charges against Gadhafi by a Lebanese prosecutor, this issue will not go away - particularly when Hizbullah and Amal, two Shiite parties that form a large part of Sadr's legacy, remain in ascendance.

TYRE, Lebanon (Reuters) - Many of the 44 teams clearing cluster munitions scattered by Israel in south Lebanon during its 2006 war with Hezbolah will have to stop work this month for lack of funds, a U.N. spokeswoman said on Friday Donors have failed to come up with a promised $4.7 million needed to fund the program in 2008, according to Dalya Farran of the U.N. Mine Action Coordination Centre (UNMACC). "A very large number of the clearance teams will be stopping by the end of this month if we don't get funds before that," she said, adding that some donor countries had not kept their promises and others had lost interest two years after the war.

UNMACC has led efforts to clear thousands of unexploded cluster bomblets left over after Israel's war with Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas. Israel fired or dropped most of the munitions in the last 72 hours before an August 14 ceasefire. Since then 27 civilians have been killed and 234 wounded by unexploded ordnance, mostly cluster munitions, while 13 bombs disposal experts  have been killed and 39 wounded, Farran said. Any reduction in clearance work would lead to a higher accident rate because past experience shows that villagers will attempt to deal with the bomblets themselves if they believe that no disposal teams will do the job, Farran said.

DAMASCUS (AFP) - Syria and Lebanon agreed on Thursday to take formal steps to demarcate their borders as part of a string of decisions to normalise their relations for the first time after decades of tension. The announcement came as President Michel Sleiman wrapped up a landmark two-day visit to Damascus -- the first by a Lebanese president since Syria ended almost 30 years of military domination over Lebanon in April 2005. The two countries also pledged to examine the fate of hundreds of people missing since the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war -- amid claims by rights groups that around 650 people who vanished during the war are being held in Syria. Syrian foreign minister also has noted in a press conference that we need to differentiate between lebanese that has vanished and lebanese held in Syrian jail. In reagards of Lebanese detainees he has pointed that this will need a deal between the Ministry of Lebanese and Syrian Ministry of justice. Sleiman and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also agreed to control their borders and curb "trafficking," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and Lebanese counterpart Fawzi Salukh told a news conferenceAssad and Sleiman agreed "on setting up diplomatic relations between the two countries at the level of ambassadors," the statement said, reiterating an announcement made at the start of Sleiman's visit on Wednesday. Salukh said both countries will take steps next week to implement the decisions. The United States cautiously welcomed the establishment of diplomatic ties. "One of the steps that has long been required is the establishment of a proper embassy for Syria in Lebanon and vice versa," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday. "Now, if the Syrians will go ahead and demarcate the border between Lebanon and Syria, and respect (Lebanon's) sovereignty in other ways, then this will have proved to be a very good step," she added. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted "positively" the decision, his press office said. Lebanon and Syria said they agreed "to reactivate the work of the joint committee to demarcate the Lebanese-Syrian borders within a mechanism and a set of priorities" and would take  Fariz Suaid, from the anti-Syrian "14th March group", said the summit yielded much less than expected. Syria, he suggested was not engaging fully in some issues"administrative and technical steps." the summit was welcomed by  Hezbollah. Its leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, said the visit marked a qualitative change in the relationship.

by Roueida Mabardi, DAMASCUS (AFP) - Lebanese President Michel Sleiman was heading to neighbouring Syria on Wednesday for landmark talks with his counterpart Bashar al-Assad aimed at establishing diplomatic relations for the first time. But hours before Sleiman was due to leave for the two-day visit, a bomb exploded in the northern port city of Tripoli, killing at least 18 people, nine of them soldiers, and wounding 40 others. The Syrian foreign ministry condemned the attack as a "criminal act" and expressed support for Lebanon  "in the face of all those who are manipulating its security and stability." Syria's official Tishrin newspaper hailed the summit and said it expected "past mistakes to be overcome... by establishing diplomatic relations" which it said must be based on "respect, friendship and coordination." Government newspaper Ath-Thawra said: "Syria will listen carefully to Michel Sleiman. There will be a dialogue capable of solving all pending issues." Syria and Lebanon have not had diplomatic ties since independence from French colonial power 60 years ago. Assad and Sleiman agreed to establish them during talks last month in Paris. Former army chief Sleiman is the first Lebanese president to visit Damascus since Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon in April 2005 ending almost three decades of military domination of its "sister" nation.

Sleiman's visit aims to redefine ties between Beirut and Damascus which have been on the decline since the Hariri murder. It comes a day after Beirut's Western-backed national unity government won a much-delayed parliamentary vote of confidence after stormy debates among rival MPs on the thorny issue of weapons held by Hezbollah.   The agenda in Damascus features prickly issues such as a border demarcation, a review of longstanding accords, Lebanese detainees in Syria and the presence of radical pro-Syrian Palestinian groups in Lebanon, diplomatic sources said. A Lebanese official said the opening of embassies will also top the agenda. Sleiman was elected in May as part of an agreement struck in Doha between the pro- and anti-Syrian camps in Lebanon after an 18-month political crisis which degenerated into deadly factional violence. The deal led to the formation of the new unity government, a development which would have been impossible without Syrian consent. "Syria wants a stable, united and Arab Lebanon which does not serve as a trampoline for hostile activities," Elias Murad, editor-in-chief of the ruling Baath party's newspaper, told AFP.

TRIPOLI, Lebanon (AFP) - The Lebanese army on Thursday held an emotional ceremony for nine soldiers who were among 14 people killed in a bomb attack the previous day that targeted the military in northern Lebanon. But even as the ceremony was underway in the tense northern city of Tripoli a man was shot and wounded near flashpoint neighbourhoods where 23 people were killed in sectarian fighting in June and July, a police official said. Thunderous applause broke out as nine coffins draped in Lebanese flags were carried shoulder high by comrades of the dead soldiers into a sports stadium in the port city. Another group of soldiers carrying wreath composed of white, red and green flowers -- the colours of the Lebanese flag -- preceded the pall-bearers into the stadium.Interior Minister Ziad Baroud and acting army chief Shawki al-Masri attended the ceremony alongside relatives and friends of the soldiers, who wept as the coffins were brought into the stadium to a full military salute. The soldiers aged between 21 and 32 were killed when a bomb hidden in a bag exploded near a bus stop during morning rush hour on Wednesday. A shoeshine boy was among the five other civilians killed in the attack.  The attack was the deadliest in the troubled country in three years and came only hours before President Michel Sleiman, the former army chief, was due to begin a visit to neighbouring Syria to launch first ever diplomatic ties. President Suleiman held a meeting with security officials in the presence of Defense, Interior and Finance minister to direct the investigation. Forty people were also injured in the attack. Masri denounced what he called "cowardly terrorism which targets the Lebanese army" and said that the attack "will not deter the army from its duty to defend the nation." Shawki has been at the helm of the army since Sleiman was elected president on May 25, after rival politicians reached a power-sharing agreement in the Qatari capital of Doha to end 18 months of political crisis. Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, whose recently-formed cabinet was confirmed by parliament just a day before the attack, called for three days of mourning across Lebanon from Thursday. Siniora had also called for a one-hour work-stoppage across the country at midday Thursday. The call was heeded throughout Tripoli where residents also observed five minutes of silence at the request of the prime minister, while black flags decked Lebanon's second city in sign of mourning. Funerals for the soldiers will be held privately.

By Nazih Siddiq , TRIPOLI, Lebanon (Reuters) - A bomb killed at least 14 people, including nine soldiers, at a bus stop in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Wednesday, security sources said.  The bomb, which also wounded at least 45 people, was the deadliest attack on the army since its battle with al Qaeda-inspired Islamist militants in the north last year. It had been placed in a bag at the bus stop where soldiers usually gather, the army said in a statement, describing the attack as a "terrorist bombing" -- a phrase used in the past by the military when it suspects militant Islamist involvement.  The army put the initial death toll at 11 but other medical and security sources said it had risen as casualties died from their wounds. The blast struck at 7.45 a.m. (5:45 a.m. British time) as people made their way to work. Red Cross workers ferried casualties to hospital. The ground was spattered with blood and covered in shards of glass, television pictures showed.  There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack in Lebanon's second largest city, which has been the scene of fighting between security forces and Islamist militants and sectarian violence linked to political tension in Lebanon.  "The army and security forces will not yield to attempts to terrorise them with attacks and crimes," said President Michel Suleiman, who had been army chief until his election in May.

(AFP) by Omar Ibrahim, A child who was polishing shoes on the street was among the 14 dead, the official said, adding that nine of those killed and many of the wounded were soldiers. "My son! My son!," screamed one mother striking her chest at a Tripoli hospital after learning that her 22-year-old soldier son was dead. It was the deadliest attack on the army since a 15-week battle last year the Al-Qaeda inspired Fatah al-Islam militia in an impoverished Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli that left 400 people dead, including 168 soldiers. The army said the bomb was planted in a bag at a military gathering point in the Masarif Street commercial district of Tripoli and exploded near a public bus carrying soldiers from the northern region of Akkar. "The terrorist explosion directly targets the army and peaceful co-existence in the country," it said in a statement. The attack also came just a day after a national unity government formed by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora following 18 months of deadly tensions with the Hezbollah-led opposition finally won a vote of confidence in parliament. The crisis had pushed the country to the brink of a new civil war and was only ended by an Arab-brokered power-sharing agreement in May.

Sleiman, who was army chief until his election as president by MPs in May, condemned what he called a "terrorist crime," a sentiment echoed by Syria. "The army and security forces will not be terrorised by attacks and crimes that target it and civil society, and the history of the army attests to that," Sleiman said in a statement. The security official said the bomb was packed with 20 kilogrammes (44 pounds) of explosives, and the force of the blast blew the remains of some of the dead on to the roofs of nearby buildings. The Mediterranean port city has been rocked by deadly violence between anti-Syrian supporters Siniora and his Damascus-backed rivals amid a long-running political crisis. In Tripoli, desperate families gathered at four hospitals to check on the fate of their loved ones but were blocked by security from entering. One hospital official said identification was delayed because some bodies were mutilated beyond recognition. "The hands of the criminals have hit in Tripoli," said Information Minister Tareq Mitri. "The investigation has begun and there are many interpretations, political interpretations."

كلمة النائب الدكتور فريد الياس الخازن

في جلسة مناقشة البيان الوزاري (حكومة الرئيس السنيورة الثانية)


انه بيان حكومة في دولة كأنها في طور التأسيس. لا عجب في ذلك بعد المخاض العسير الذي سبق ورافق تشكيل حكومة جامعة انتظرنا ولادَتها قبل ثلاث سنوات, والتي نطمح ان تكون فعلا حكومة الارادة الوطنية الجامعة. 

الى اليوم, وللاسف, لم تكن الارادة الوطنية جامعة سوى في الازمات والانقسامات. الازمة السياسية البالغة التعقيد التي مرت بها البلاد انتجت تسوية سياسية تبلورت في اتفاق الدوحه, وهو الاتفاق اللبناني

المسيحيون بين حقوقهم ودورهم وصلاحياتهم

جريدة النهار في 07 آب 2008

    بقلم سجعان قزي

      يمزج المسيحيون اللبنانيون، لاسيما الموارنة منهم، بين حقوقهم ودورهم وصلاحياتهم. حقوق المسيحيين هي نفسها التي يتمتع بها أي مواطن لبناني. ولأنها كذلك يحفظها الدستور والقانون، ولو أصبح عددهم واحداً فقط (قاعدة المساواة). غير أن دور المسيحيين هو المميز. ولأنه كذلك فلا يضمنه سواهم، ولو اعترف به ألف ميثاق وألف عُرف؛ وضمانته سلوك مسيحي خلاّق وطنياً وحضارياً وأخلاقياً (قاعدة الاستحقاق). أما صلاحياتهم فهي مُحَـصِّلة دستورية لمجموعة عناصر تاريخية ومشرقية وغربية، ولمجموعة موازين سياسية وعسكرية وديمغرافية. ولأنها كذلك فهي عرضة للتقييم حسب تطور مجموعة هذه العناصر والموازين، ولكن مهما تعدّلت هذه الصلاحيات، لا يجوز أن تمس دور المسيحيين السياسي والوطني، أو حقوقهم الإنسانية والطائفية في لبنان (قاعدة التعددية الحضارية).

مسؤولية ضعف الدور المسيحي

      لذلك، حريّ بالمسيحيين أن يَشْكوا من ضعف دورهم لا من افتئات حقوقهم، ومن تساهل عدد من قادتهم لا من تقليص صلاحياتهم. فحقوق كل المواطنين مهضومة بحكم تقصير الدولة وعجزها البنيوي والمادي. وصلاحيات كل الطوائف معطلة مع تغييب الدولة، أو تُمارس خارج الشرعية.

      كانت الدولة اللبنانية تشبه سيارة يقودها ماروني بصلاحيات تسمح له التحكّم بالمِقْـوَد وعُلبة السرعة والفرامل. جاء دستور الطائف فأبقى المِقْـوَد بيد الماروني، وانتزع منه السنّي علبة السرعة والشيعيّ الفرامل، فتوقفت السيارة لأن كل طرف استعمل الجزء الذي استولى عليه باتجاه معاكس للجزأين الآخرَين. واليوم الدولة اللبنانية في المرآب، وغداً قد تُباع قِطعَ غِيارٍ مستعملة لدويلات ناشئة (مشهد مبكٍ)، لكن الماروني والسني والشيعي سيحتفظون بالمقود وعلبة السرعة والفرامل من دون سيارة (مشهد مضحك).

By Tom Perry , TRIPOLI (Reuters) - In Tripoli's most deprived areas, Lebanon's lingering political troubles are being fought out in a sectarian conflict that threatens to cause more bloodshed.Scorched building facades indicate the frontlines of heavy battles between gunmen in the Sunni Muslim Bab Tibbaneh district and fighters in Jabal Mohsen -- a neighboring hill which is home to Tripoli's Alawite minority."After the battles, there is blood on the ground. Things will get worse," said Mohammed al-Saloum, one of hundreds of Bab Tibbaneh residents forced from their homes by fighting which has killed 22 people in the past two months. "There is fear."The battles have underlined the risk of more volatility in Lebanon, which was pulled from the jaws of a new civil war in May by a Qatari-brokered deal. The country's rival alliances are far from full reconciliation.

Residents in Tripoli, where Hariri has wide influence, say they are paying the price through a conflict between an Alawite faction linked to Hezbollah and an array of Sunni groups. "This struggle calms down for a while, then it opens up again," said Bilal Matar, a Sunni figure from Bab Tibbaneh. "The open wound is still there."

MUTUAL FEAR - The latest round of fighting, which lasted for two days, ended when the army deployed to stop battles between Alawite gunmen who belong to a pro-Syrian party and Sunni fighters. All Sunni leaders, even those allied to Syria, have been forced to take sides or risk losing popularity among Sunni constituents ahead of elections next year, explained Matar. "It's these cheap electoral calculations," he said. In Bab Tibbaneh, fear has spread of sectarian massacres, said Matar. Alawites in Jabal Mohsen are concerned, especially by the appearance of gunmen in the garb of Islamist militants. The Alawite faith, an offshoot of Islam, is regarded as heretical by Muslim hardliners. Its followers in Tripoli say they fear for their very survival.

By Hussein Abdallah, BEIRUT: The ministerial committee in charge of drafting the new government's platform finally thrashed out a policy statement late Friday, with the council of ministers expected to ratify the draft on Monday before presenting  it to Parliament later next week.  Information Minister Tarek Mitri walked out of the committee's 14th and final meeting to tell reporters at the Grand Serail that the committee has finally reached an agreement over the ministerial statement despite some reservations by Minister of State Nassib Lahoud.  Mitri said that the reservations, which were later clarified by Lahoud, would hopefully be dropped after further consultations between the ministers and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora ahead of an expected cabinet session on Monday.

Regarding the controversial issue of how to refer to the resistance in the ministerial statement, Mitri said that the committee agreed on a phrase that speaks about the right of the Lebanese people, army and resistance to use any legal means to liberate the remainder of the Lebanese territories that are occupied by Israel, namely the Shebaa Farms, the Kafar Shuba Hills and the border village of Ghajar.  Mitri explained that some committee members wanted the phrase on liberating Lebanon's remaining occupied territories to include a clause stating that such activities should be carried out under the guardianship of the Lebanese state.  Mitri later gave the floor to Lahoud, who told reporters that he was still insisting that the statement should mention that the right to liberate the occupied territories should be exercised under the guardianship of the state.  The issue of the resistance was reportedly the main hurdle that was causing the delay in issuing the draft statement.

Telecommunications Minister Jebran Bassil also spoke to reporters after Friday's meeting, outlining his position on the new ministerial statement.  Bassil, a senior member of MP Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement, said that his party has succeeded in making some achievements through the ministerial statement.  Bassil said that the FPM has succeeded in including in the statement a number of issues which were referred to as taboos in the past. Among such issues was the fate of Lebanese citizens who were reported missing in Syria or Lebanon following the end of Lebanon's 15-year Civil War, he said.  Another issue raised in the draft, according to Bassil, was the fate of some Lebanese nationals who fled to Israel following Israel's withdrawal from South Lebanonin May 2000. "The state's duty is to urge these people to return to Lebanon," he said.  He added that another achievement was the inclusion of a clause clearly rejecting the resettlement of Palestinians refugees in Lebanon.

BEIRUT (AFP) - Firemen battled a forest fire in Lebanon on Tuesday, amid exploding cluster bombs and the danger of mines left over from the country's 1975-1990 civil war, a civil defence official told AFP.  Flames swept near the summer resort town of Aley, east of Beirut, after breaking out overnight in the mountainous region of Bmikin, between Souk el-Gharb and Aley. "Firefighters are having a hard time extinguishing the flames because the region is full of Israeli cluster bombs and landmines left over from the 1975-1990 civil war which are exploding and making the situation worse," said the official who asked not to be named. "At least eight landmines exploded and two of them were large bombs causing huge explosions," he added. The official said the fire had been contained from most sides and they were close to containing the last section. "It is a very large, steep, wooded area that is hard to get around and we can't send our men through due to the bombs," the official said. The region where the fire broke out used to be a front line during the war. Emergency crews and an army helicopter were fighting the fire. Flames destroyed several hectares (acres) of pines and oak trees during the night and the fire spread during the day. The official suggested the blaze may have been set deliberately. "We have a witness who saw someone throw something out of a car near the woods," he said, adding that no homes were threatened.Forest fires in 2007 devastated hundreds of hectares (acres) of woodland in Lebanon.
By Jessica Naimeh, BEIRUT: Parents of Lebanese held in Syrian prisons went once again to the streets on Monday morning protesting against the detention in Syria of their relatives. The demonstration took an unfortunate turn of events as the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) violently forced the protesters to move away as they were trying to intercept Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem's convoy to the presidential palace in Baabda. The protest was organized with the help of the civil society representatives, human-rights associations and local and international NGOs. The groups have held similar demonstrations in the past, but this time, the protest was called to coincide with Moallem's visit to Lebanon. 

"We, as civil society organizations, want to confirm the existence of Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons," said Ghazi Aad, founder of Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile (SOLIDE), an NGO which has longed worked to uncover the fate of Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons.  Parents and relatives of Lebanese citizens who disappeared between 1975 and 2005 gathered around 10:30 a.m. next to the presidential palace in Baabda, where Moallem was expected to arrive.  Many protestors held pictures of their detained or lost relatives as well as banners with slogans written in Arabic such as "no [diplomatic] relations before the return [of the Lebanese held in Syrian prisons]" or "not only are there [prisoners] in Israel, but in Syria as well."  As Moallem's convoy was about to reach the presidential palace, demonstrators tried to block the road and were aggressively pushed and beaten up by LAF forces. Some demonstrators suffered wounds as a result.  In a news conference after his parliamentary bloc's meeting on Monday, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun said clashes between demonstrators and the LAF "were truly unfortunate," adding that the new government would "double efforts" to uncover the fate of detainees in Syrian prisons issue as "the fate of these missing people could not be ignored."  According to a researcher with Human Rights Watch, Nadim Houri, who took part in Monday's protest, the demonstrators were "violently pushed by the LAF who used the bottoms of their rifles" to move the crowd away. He said that none of the protesters was armed, so there was "no need to resort to such kind of violence." Houri told The Daily Star that mothers of detainees were violently pushed in the process, saying that the "LAF ought to adopt strict guidelines that ban the use of violence to disperse demonstrators." Meanwhile, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun said after a meeting of his Reform and Change parliamentary bloc on Monday that a Lebanese minister of state should be assigned the duty of following up on the issue of Lebanese detainees in Syria.

by Rouba Kabbara, BEIRUT (AFP) - Visiting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said on Monday that Damascus was keen to open a new chapter in its relations with Lebbanon and to delineate the border between both countries.  "Our relations today are on an equal footing," Muallem told a press conference after meeting with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman on the first such visit by a high-ranking Syrian official in more than three years. "There is a new consensus president (in Lebanon) who has trustworthy ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and this can help resolve a lot of outstanding issues," he added. Lebanon and Syria said earlier this month that they had agreed to establish diplomatic relations and planned to open embassies in both capitals for the first time since independence from French colonial rule more than 60 years ago. Muallem during his hours-long visit handed an invitation to Sleiman from his Syrian counterpart to travel to Damascus, a trip the Lebanese press said would take place within a week or 10 days. The two men also discussed the issue of the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms, the delineation of the border between both countries and the fate of hundreds of Lebanese who vanished during Syria's rule in Lebanon. "There is nothing to prevent the demarcation of the borders but we must take into account the fact that many Syrian and Lebanese villages are intertwined and whether this would harm residents," Muallem said. "Still, if we must delineate the border, we are ready." He added that placing the disputed Shebaa Farms in southern Lebanon under UN administration would in no way signify an end to Israel's occupation of that area. The Shebaa Farms, a mountainous sliver of land rich in water resources measuring 25 square kilometres (10 square miles), are located at the junction of southeast Lebanon, southwest Syria and northern Israel. Israel seized the Farms from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war when it captured the neighbouring Golan Heights which it later annexed. Ever since, the Farms have been caught in a tug-of-war over ownership. Lebanon claims them, with the backing of Damascus, while Israel says they are part of Syria. On the missing Lebanese, Muallem said a committee set up to deal with the issue was advancing in its work but more time was needed before a final resolution. "Those who have waited more than 30 years since the start of the (Lebanese) civil war can wait another few weeks," he said, referring to families of the disappeared and rights groups pressing for answers about their fate. Families of the missing and supporters organised a protest along the road leading from Beirut airport to the presidential palace to coincide with the Syrian minister's visit.

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a member of the anti-Syrian majority in parliament, said he hoped Muallem's comments were not just "empty promises". "The minimum acceptable would be to cancel the Syrian-Lebanese Higher Council as well as unfair accords involving Lebanon that must be reconsidered from scratch," Jumblatt said in a statement as the foreign minister left. The council was born from a 1991 "friendship and cooperation" treaty which effectively formalised Syria's role as powerbroker in Lebanon. The plans to establish ties were announced at a summit in Paris on July 13 that marked Assad's return to the international stage after several years of diplomatic isolation over the Hariri assassination.

AIN EL-HELWEH, Lebanon (AFP) - Three Palestinians have been killed after an argument between rival factions in a refugee camp in south Lebanon turned violent, a Palestinian official said on Sunday. The fighting broke out late on Saturday in Ain el-Helweh camp, the largest in Lebanon, between Islamist group Jund al-Sham and a joint force of Palestinian factions which polices the camp. Those shot dead were Walid Sallum, an Islamist member of a committee formed to resolve differences between rival factions, a Jund al-Sham leader, Shehade Jawhar, and Abed Jawali, a member of the same group. Jawhar, who was wanted in Lebanon for murder and who had fought in Iraq, died on Sunday from gunshot wounds, the Palestinian official told AFP. The funerals of the three men took place under heavy Lebanese army security in Taamir, a district adjoining the camp where tensions remained high but efforts were under way to prevent a further outbreak of violence. The factional force tasked with security is dominated by the Palestine Liberation Organisation, of which Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah movement is a principal member. "All the parties are committed to preventing the camp from sliding into violence," the force's head, Munir Maqdah, told AFP. Last year, more than 400 people were killed in a battle last summer in the Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon before the Lebanese army expelled Islamists holed up in the camp. Ain el-Helweh, near the southern port city of Sidon, has in recent months become the theatre of clashes between Fatah and Jund al-Sham, a Sunni group comprising mainly Lebanese without a clear hierarchy. Members of extremist groups believed to have links with Al-Qaeda have settled in Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps, especially in Ain el-Helweh, which has a population of more than 45,000. The camps are outside the control of Lebanese authorities, with Palestinian factions in charge of security.

(AFP) - Israeli security officials warned on Thursday that Lebanese murderer Samir Kantar, who was freed in a prisoner swap after nearly three decades behind bars, should now fear for his own life.  "Every terrorist who committed an act of terror against Israel, especially someone like Kantar, who killed a little child and two other people, is a target," one of the officials told AFP. "If there is a chance for Israel to close the file on Kantar, Israel won't hesitate," he added, speaking on condition of anonymity. Kantar, who turns 46 next week, was just 17 when he was sentenced to five life terms for a 1979 triple murder in one of the most notorious attacks in Israeli history. He was convicted of killing a police officer, a civilian and a four-year-old girl, whose skull he was accused of crushing with his rifle butt, in a raid in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya. Kantar, the longest-serving Arab prisoner in Israel, was freed on Wednesday along with four Hezbollah fighters captured in the 2006 war between Israel and the Lebanese Shiite guerrilla group. Another security official said Kantar "has become a target for killing." "Now that he is out of jail, we have no obligation towards Kantar, a loathsome murderer whose accounts will be settled in the end," the unnamed official told the top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper.

AABEY, Lebanon (AFP) - Samir Kantar said on Thursday he had no regrets over the triple murder three decades ago that put him behind bars. I haven't for even one day regretted what I did," he told AFP as he arrived at his family home in the Druze village of Aabey, southeast of Beirut, where he was given a hero's welcome. "On the contrary I remain committed to my political convictions." Kantar, who turns 46 on July 22, was just 17 when he was sentenced to five life terms for a 1979 triple murder in one of the most notorious attacks in Israeli history. I feel enormous joy because I have returned to the ranks of the resistance and to my family," he said with defiance, dressed in a Hezbollah  military uniform. People showered Kantar with rice and flower petals as he neared his humble home, where two men sacrificed a lamb in his honour. "A 16-year-old is different to a 46-year-old but his facial expressions and his smile are the same," his step-mother Siham Kantar, 71, told AFP. Druze leaders Walid Jumblatt and Talal Arslan as well as Labour Minister Mohamed Fneish, a member of Hezbollah, took part in the ceremonies in Aabey, lauding Kantar as a hero of the resistance. He was released by Israel along with four Hezbollah fighters on Wednesday in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured in a deadly cross-border raid by the Shiite guerrilla group two years ago. Funerals were held for the two soldiers on Thursday. Their capture sparked a 34-day war between Hezbollah and Israel in which more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and over 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, were killed. "We are very happy on this beautiful day, this is a victory for Lebanon and the national resistance," said Yusra Khaddaj, 39, as she stood with her three young daughters on the road leading to Aabey. "Samir Kantar is the son of all the Lebanese," she added. One banner along the road leading to Aabey read: "From Palestine, to Iraq to Lebanon, the resistance is victorious." Israel on Wednesday also handed over the remains of 199 Lebanese and Palestinian fighters killed in recent years. Hundred of supporters threw rose petals and rice and some cheered as four tractor-trailers carrying the bodies arrived in Beirut from the border town of Naqura where Wednesday's swap took place. The mothers of some of the Palestinian fighters killed in battles with Israeli troops during Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war wept and tried to touch the coffins draped in Lebanese or Palestinian flags.  Other family members carried pictures of their missing sons, as the bodies of the fallen fighters were unloaded from the vehicles into a schoolyard where a communal prayer was to be held for them.  Hezbollah has dubbed the swap "the Radwan operation" after the alias used by notorious Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughnieh, who was killed in a bombing in Syria in February blamed on Israel.  Kantar visited Mughnieh's tomb in Hezbollah's stronghold in the southern suburbs of Beirut before heading to his village.  His release and return to a jubilant hero's welcome in Lebanon drew condemnation in Israel, where security officials warned he was now a target for killing.  "Every terrorist who committed an act of terror against Israel, especially someone like Kantar, who killed a little child and two other people, is a target," one official told AFP.

BEIRUT Middle east online - Lebanon's new telecommunications minister on Thursday accused Israel of bombarding Lebanese people with threatening phone calls, a day after a prisoner swap between Israel and Hezbollah.  "Hundreds of people throughout Lebanon received threatening phone calls on their landlines from Israel," Gibran Bassil said.  "The phone would ring, the person would answer and they would hear a message saying, 'This is from the state of Israel. Abandon Hezbollah or there will be another war, like there was in 2006,'" he said.  Bassil, a member of the Free Patriotic Movement, the main Christian party in the opposition, said he has written a letter of protest to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.  "We consider this to be a clear violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701," Bassil said, referring to the resolution which ended the devastating 34-day war in 2006 between Israel and Hezbollah.  No comment was immediately available from Israel.  Many Lebanese had received similar phone messages urging them not to support Hezbollah during the course of the war which killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.  The news comes a day after the bodies of two Israeli soldiers were exchanged for five Lebanese prisoners and the remains of almost 200 Lebanese and Palestinian fighters.

Five Lebanese prisoners freed by Israel arrived to a hero's welcome in Lebanon Wednesday, hours after Hizbullah handed over the bodies of two Israeli soldiers seized two years ago.  They were then flown by helicopters to Beirut, where they were accorded a red-carpet welcome by Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, the entire Cabinet and a host of lawmakers and religious leaders.  The five - Kontar and Hizbullah fighters Khaled Zidan, Maher Kourani, Mohammad Srour and Hussein Suleiman - stood on a platform as Sleiman spoke before shaking hands with politicians lined up to greet them.  "Your return is a new victory and the future in your presence will be a path in which we will realize the sovereignty of our territory and the liberty of our people," Sleiman said.  "I tell Samir and his companions that they have a right to be proud of their country, their army and their resistance."  Kontar kissed his mother, Siham, 71, after the meet and greet with the politicians as crowds and the media swarmed around him.  His mother had burst into tears earlier while waiting at the airport when she was told her son had arrived in Naqoura and was indeed free after more than 28 years in jail. "I never gave up hope for a day," she said, choked by emotion.  "This moment makes up for 30 years of waiting. I want to hug and kiss him. My only wish is to see him."  The four freed Hizbullah fighters were captured in the July-August 2006 war. They and Kontar were the last remaining Lebanese prisoners in Israel.  "This new victory completes the victory of the July war," Kontar told Hizbullah television Al-Manar.  Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech in Beirut's southern suburbs, where tens of thousands of people gathered Wednesday evening to hail his success in emptying Israeli jails of Lebanese prisoners.  The five prisoners were released in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, captured on July 12, 2006.  The fate of the two soldiers was not known until their bodies were returned to Israel Wednesday morning.  "Today we hand over Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev," Hizbullah official Wafiq Safa said in Naqoura, as men placed two black coffins on the ground amid a crowd of onlookers.  The mood in Israel had been sombre as it waited to learn the fate of Goldwasser and Regev.

LEBANON/ISRAEL BORDER (Reuters) - Israel  handed over five Lebanese prisoners to Hezbollah via the Red Cross on Wednesday after the group returned the bodies of two Israeli soldiers seized in a cross-border raid in 2006.  Among the men who arrived at the border in an International Committee of the Red Cross convoy was Samir Qantar, Israel's longest-serving Lebanese prisoner. Wearing jeans and a grey sweater, he was mobbed by reporters and well-wishers on arrival. Hezbollah has prepared a triumphal welcome for the five men freed under a deal seen by many Israelis as a painful necessity, two years after the two soldiers' capture sparked a 34-day war that killed about 1,200 people in Lebanon and 159 Israelis. Israel retrieved the corpses of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev only after agreeing to release Qantar, who had been serving a life term for the deaths of four Israelis, in a 1979 Palestinian guerrilla raid on an Israeli town.

Hezbollah also received the bodies of almost 200 people, including the body of Dalal al-Maghrebi, a female fighter with the Palestinian Fatah movement. Before the exchange there had been speculation that at least one of the Israeli soldiers had been alive, but Hezbollah TV confirmed that both were dead. Two coffins containing the bodies were taken in Red Cross vehicles across the border from Lebanon into Israel to be identified. 'Difficult decision' The prisoners were brought across the border in a convoy of four International Committee of the Red Cross vehicles and were greeted by Wafiq Safa, Hezbollah's chief prisoner swap negotiator."The Israeli cabinet agonised over it [the exchange] and voted in favour of it against the advice of the Israeli intelligence service ... which thinks it will only encourage kidnappings," David Chater, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Israel, said. "But the bulk of Israeli public opinion is behind this deal," he said, reporting from Rosh Hanikra - the Israeli side of the border - where he said there was a strong military presence ahead of the exchange. Miri Eisin, a former aide to Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, said Israel found the release of Kuntar an "incredibly difficult decision". "Today in Israel we are mainly reflecting on the price we pay in our country to defend our borders," she told Al Jazeera. At the family home of reservist Regev, a crowd of about 50 mourners gathered and his family wept, seeing their son's coffin displayed on television for the first time. "Eldad! Eldad! What have they done to you?" Hana, Regev's aunt, said.

The four others are Hezbollah fighters captured in the 2006 conflict. All five were to be flown to Beirut ahead of a huge Hezbollah rally to welcome them in the evening. President Michel Suleiman, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri were all expected to greet the former captives at the airport in a show of unity in Lebanon, which marked the occasion with a public holiday. The ICRC drove the five released men to the headquarters of U.N. peacekeepers at the border village of Naqoura, where Hezbollah earlier handed over two black coffins containing the Israeli soldiers. The Israeli army later said forensic teams had identified the cadavers as those of its missing men. Hezbollah had never disclosed whether they were alive or dead. It has not been clear how they met their deaths. "The Israeli side will now hand over the great Arab mujahid (holy warrior) ... Samir Qantar and his companions to the ICRC," Hezbollah official Wafik Safa said after delivering the bodies.

PARIS (AFP) - Lebanon and Syria have agreed to establish diplomatic relations, opening embassies in each others' capitals for the first time since their independence from colonial rule.  French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced the landmark decision Saturday following talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, whose election in May ended a drawn-out political crisis in Lebanon. "For France, this is historic progress," Sarkozy told a press conference. "Of course there are a number of legal questions that have to be settled... but for us... this announcement is absolutely historic. It is great news for all those who love Lebanon and are concerned by developments there," he said. Presidents Assad and Sleiman confirmed the news at a joint press conference later on Saturday. "Our position is that there is no problem for the opening of embassies between Syria and Lebanon," said Assad. "If Lebanon is willing to exchange embassies, we have no objections to doing it," he added. For Lebanon, Sleiman confirmed that the two governments were going to "work together to put everything in motion as soon as possible."

According to Suleiman, the legal and administrative arrangements needed to implement "this agreement would be taken as soon as possible in coordination between the two capitals," Beirut and Damascus. "We look forward to tackling the topic of demarcating the Lebanese-Syrian borders through the required mechanism based on the brotherly relations between the two sisterly states," Suleiman said. He said Lebanon is "committed to regaining its full sovereignty over the Shebaa Farms," an area occupied by Israel since 1967.  Answering reporters' questions as to whether Lebanon would go into peace talks with Israel, Suleiman said: "We expect Israel to implement international resolutions, especially UN Security Council Resolution 1701 that was adopted two years ago and Israel has not pulled out of the Ghajar (village) Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shouba hills."  On May 24, 2000, Israel withdrew its troops from a large territory in southern Lebanon, which it had been occupying since 1978.  A significant issue relating to the withdrawal remains unsettled. This relates to the status of certain villages and adjacent land on the eastern side of Alsheikh Mountain, known as the Shebaa Farms. The Lebanese government advised the United Nations that it considers the area to be Lebanese territory and that, as such, the withdrawal must encompass it.  Israel insists that the land was captured from Syria in 1967 and its fate should be discussed in future peace talks between Israel and Damascus.  Meanwhile Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a key member of Lebanon's ruling majority, lashed out at France for receiving the Syrian president.  "Receiving the head of the Syrian regime by the French leadership is a clear disrespect to the feelings of the Lebanese people and its prisoners who are still held in Syria," Jumblatt told a group of his followers on Sunday.  No-one knows exactly how many Lebanese political prisoners are in Syrian jails. Syria and Lebanon's former pro-Syrian president Emile Lahoud have denied there are any. They claim all political prisoners were released in December 2000.  But Ghazi Aad, head of a group called SOLIDE (Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile) said he has been working with the families of detainees for 15 years.  He added that his organization has files on 176 known detainees in Syrian prisons and there could be more.

by Rana Moussaoui AYTARUN, Lebanon (AFP) - The large building near the border with Israel was already earmarked to be a green pioneer in Lebanon when it was blown apart by two missiles during the short sharp summer war of 2006. Now the demolished building has been rebuilt -- and with it a ground-breaking environmental project has risen from its own ashes. In a country with serious waste management problems, the war-ravaged small town of Aytarun in the south lies in the vanguard of recycling, setting an example it is hoped will be followed by others. Located just metres (yards) from the frontier, Aytarun was devastated by the 34-day war two years ago. On the village's edge is the Centre for Solid Waste Management  a 700-square-metre (875-square-yard) structure rebuilt with Italian assistance after the conflict.

The centre refuses to dump any waste at all. "Everything is recycled, nothing is thrown away," says Ziad Abichaker of Cedar Environmental, a group that specialises in recycling technology. "We wanted to create the example of a rural town which not only gets rid of its waste but also uses it to benefit organic agriculture. "Some things are stored as we research and develop outlets for them," Abichaker adds, saying shoes can be used in a special cement for the manufacture of public benches. The facility's five employees patiently sort through potato peelings, plastic bottles and old clothing before recycling proper can begin. In many rural areas of Lebanon municipalities burn solid waste, causing an unbearable stench and often sparking wildcat forest fires. "People did not like the smell of burning rubbish. This project is a blessing for them," Abichaker says of the traditional method of incineration. Sawsan Bou Fakhreddine of the Association for Forests, Development and Conservation says domestic waste forms 90 percent of all the country's rubbish.

By Hussein Abdallah,  BEIRUT: Lebanon announced a 30-member national unity government on Friday after almost five weeks of disputes over the distribution of portfolios. The lineup was announced in a decree signed by President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora following a short meeting between them and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.  The formation of the Cabinet came in line with the accord sealed in Doha on May 21 which allocated 16 cabinet seats to the parliamentary majority, 11 to the opposition, and three to the president.

The opposition took the coveted posts of foreign minister, telecommunications minister and deputy premier in the new Cabinet, while the ruling bloc kept the Finance Ministry.  The president, who himself only took office four days after the Doha accord, filling a post left vacant since November, made three appointments, including Elias Murr, who kept the defense portfolio despite opposition reservations.  He also appointed lawyer and electoral law expert Ziyad Baroud to head the Interior Ministry, which will be responsible for organizing legislative elections next year.  Finance Minister Mohammad Shatah, who was appointed by the ruling bloc, served as Siniora's senior adviser in the previous cabinet.  The government includes one woman, MP Bahia Hariri, sister of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. She is to head the Education Ministry.  Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, whose party had not been represented in the previous government, took four posts in the new one, plus the deputy premiership.  Hizbullah was allocated three seats in the Cabinet, but only one of them went to a Hizbullah member - Labor Minister Mohammad Fneish.

by Omar Ibrahim TRIPOLI, Lebanon (AFP) - Deadly gunbattles between rival sectarian factions in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli  ended Thursday as the army reinforced troop numbers to shore up a fragile ceasefire, an AFP correspondent said.  Fighting that erupted late on Tuesday in the northeastern Bab al-Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen districts of the port city died down early Thursday when dozens of army vehicles moved into the flashpoint areas. The fighting, which claimed the lives of four people and left 58 wounded, had raged into the flashpoint areas. The fighting, which claimed the lives of four people and left 58 wounded, had raged into the night despite a ceasefire that was supposed to come into effect at 8:00 pm (1700 GMT) on Wednesday "In order to put an end to the breach of residents' security, the army command has announced that it is reinforcing its presence in the sensitive areas," an army statement said. "The army will confront those who fire first and calls on all parties to show calm and allow the military to take control of the situation," it added.

Militants armed with rockets, sniper rifles and grenades fought in the streets on Wednesday, causing panicked residents to flee and shops and schools to close. The dead included two brothers killed by snipers, a Palestinian nurse and a resident of the Jabal Mohsen district which is dominated by members of the Alawite community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, which support the opposition. The latest unrest followed the eruption of similar battles two weeks ago in Tripoli, Lebanon's second largest city after the capital Beirut, that left nine people dead and dozens wounded.

by Omar Ibrahim TRIPOLI, Lebanon (AFP) - Four people were killed and dozens wounded in street battles between rival sectarian camps armed with rockets, sniper rifles and grenades in the north Lebanese city of Tripoli on Wednesday.  Panicked residents were fleeing the scene of the fighting which first erupted late on Tuesday in two districts of northeastern Tripoli, while several roads were blocked and local shops and schools were closed, an AFP correspondent said. A security official said four people were killed and another 58 were wounded in the violence, which followed the eruption of similar battles two weeks ago in the port city that left nine people dead and dozens wounded. The latest fighting comes amid continued efforts by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora to form a national unity government which have been hampered by bickering between rival factions over cabinet posts. Fighting raged on a main road separating the areas of Bab al-Tebbaneh -- where most residents are Sunni supporters of the Western-backed premier -- and Jabal Mohsen, which is dominated by members of the Alawite community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

The two sides announced that they had agreed to observe a cease-fire from 8 p.m. and allow the deployment of the army in the two neighborhoods affected by the fighting.  "The army will deploy to maintain security and prevent any armed presence," said a statement released after indirect negotiations between the two sides held under the auspices of the Sunni mufti of North Lebanon, Sheikh Malek al-Shaar.  Later on Wednesday, the Lebanese Armed Forces warned gunmen on both sides that soldiers would fire on them if they were seen on the streets after 9 p.m., security officials said. The army was sending reinforcements to the area.  President Michel Suleiman and other officials have been consulting with Shaar, who has acted as a mediator between the two sides since the fighting broke out several weeks ago.  Panicked residents were fleeing the scene of the fighting which erupted again late on Tuesday in two districts of northeastern Tripoli, while several roads were blocked and local shops and schools were closed.

هل تخفق النخبةُ كما فشِل السياسيون

النهار في 30 حزيران 2008

سجعان قزي

حين يتحدّث البعضُ عن الـنُـخبة يظـنّها جنساً مُجتمعـيّـاً ممـيَّـزاً، ويَضعُها آلـيّـاً في مواجهةِ الشعب (متفوِّقـة عليه) والطاقمِ السياسيّ (أكفأ منه)، في حين أنّ الـنـخبةَ تنتمي إلى كلّ فئات الشعبِ وطبقاته. ولا قيمةَ إضافية للنخبة إلا مِقدار ما تساهمُ في التقدِّم العام وتلتزمُ مسؤوليةَ نهضةِ المجتمع. الـنُـخبةُ ليست طبقةً بل نوعـيّـة، والـنُـخبويّ ليس مُبشِّراً بل قُدوة. 

بين أفضلِ عشرِ شخصيات نُخبويّـة اختارها الفرنسيّـون العامَ الماضي، لم يَرِد اسمُ أيِّ شخصيّـة سياسيّـة مع أنّ السياسيّين الفرنسيّين، عموماً، نخبويّون بامتياز. بَرز طاهٍ وكاتبٌ وموسيقار وتقنيّ ومهندس معماري وفـنّـانٌ تشكيلي ومُخرج سينمائي. وعام 2006، صنّـفت مجلةُ فوربس Forbes العالمية الطاهي الفرنسي ألان دوكاس Alain Ducasse ضُمن أهمِ مئةِ شخصٍ مؤثّرين في العالم.

النخبة إذن متعدِّدةُ الطاقاتِ والمستويات وعابرةُ كلّ المهن: هناك النخبُ الفقيرة والغنـيّـة، الأكاديمـيّـة والنقابيّـة. هناك النخب التقليديّـة والتجديديّـة، الدينـيّـة والعَلمانـيّـة. هناك النخب الشعبيّـة والبورجوازيّـة، المدينيّـة والمناطقـيّـة. هناك النخب اليمينـيّـة واليساريّـة، العسكريّـة والأمنـيّـة. هناك نخبٌ تَستهويها السياسةُ سبيلاً إلى عملٍ وطنيّ، وأخرى تتلـهّـف إلى السياسة شَغفاً بوجاهة. هناك نخبٌ تحبّ الشأن العامَّ كجُزءٍ من عملٍ اجتماعيٍّ وإنساني، وأخرى تُفضِّل الشأن الخاص رافداً يَصبُّ في الازدهار العام. وهناك "نخبٌ" تَجـتَـرُّ أنانـيّـتَها ونرجسيّـتَها وتعيش في عالمٍ آخر: نيرفانا التفاهة.

BEIRUT: Lebanon expects over 1.3 million tourists this year thanks to the positive political atmosphere following the election of a new president, outgoing Tourism Minister Joe Sarkis said Friday. The minister made the remarks during a tour of Rafik Hariri International Airport, adding that most of the hotels in Beirut and the mountain are fully booked.  According to the figures released by Rafik Hariri International Airport, arriving passengers totaled 598,392 in the first five months of the year, while departing passengers amounted to a higher 633,255.

The minister said Lebanon is heading toward a promising tourism season, adding that the Tourism Ministry plans to launch widespread media campaign to encourage foreigners and Arabs to visit Lebanon.  "Once a new government is formed, I expect Lebanon to experience a steady rise in the number of visitors," he said.  In 2007, less than a million visitors arrived in Lebanon and authorities said most of the arrivals were Lebanese working in oil rich Gulf states and Africa.

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel received a report from Hezbollah hat an Israeli airman reported missing in Lebanon since 1986 has been dead for more than 10 years, the Haaretz daily reported on Friday.  Israel had demanded that the militia provide a report on the fate of navigator Ron Arad as a precondition for a prisoner swap expected to take place in about 10 days. In the report Hezbollah describes its efforts to locate Arad, says it failed to find him but concludes he has been dead for more than a decade, the daily said. The report was passed to Ofer Dekel, the Israeli negotiator in the prisoner swap talks that are being held through a UN mediator.

As part of the deal Israel delivered a report on the fate of four Iranian diplomats who disappered in 1982 during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, saying that the men were dead. It said they were killed by a Christian militia in Lebanon after being stopped at a roadblock, and that it was unclear where their remains are. Iran's embassy in Lebanon insisted on Thursday that the four are still alive and being held in Israel. The exchange of reports was the first step in a deal under which Hezbollah will hand over the remains of two Israeli soldiers in exchange for prisoners. Hezbollah is to release the remains of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev whom the Israeli authorities say died after they were captured by Hezbollah in a July 2006 cross-border raid that sparked a 34-day war in Lebanon. In exchange Israel will free five jailed Lebanese prisoners, among them Samir Kantar, a Palestine Liberation Front militant serving a 542-year sentence for the brutal killing of two men and a four-year-old girl in a 1979 raid on northern Israel.

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman has set July 9 as a deadline to conclude the formation of a new government in the country, well informed sources were quoted by Xinhua news agency. The president is due to leave for Paris on July 12 to participate in the international conference on Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, the report added, hinting that a new government should be formed before the president leaves. Over five weeks have passed since designated-Prime Minister Fouad Seniora was assigned by the president to form a national unity government, but all efforts were fruitless as Lebanese leaders were unable to reach an agreement on the cabinet line-up.

Sources close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who is in the opposition camp, told a local daily Star that "Prime Minister Seniora' s performance with respect to forming the cabinet lacks transparency." Meanwhile, the ruling majority is accusing Christian opposition Leader MP Michel Aoun of being responsible for the cabinet deadlock because of his demands to get certain key portfolios. The Doha agreement reached on May 21 resulted in the election of a new president after six months of vacancy in the seat.
 The second phase of the agreement called for the formation of a national unity government, a step that is not implemented yet.

KFAR ZABAD, Lebanon (AFP) by Jocelyne Zablit  - A decade ago, it was a glittering vision -- a scheme to lure nature lovers to the Lebanese highlands, providing income to local people, nurturing the country's damaged environment and cementing national unity in one stroke.  Today, after a war, a political crisis and flareups of sectarian violence, Lebanon's brave experiment in eco-tourism is battered and bloodied but defiantly soldiers on. In the eastern Bekaa region near the Syrian border, financial help from the United States and Europe helped establish a project for encouraging families to come and enjoy the wildlife, staying in local hostels and employing local guides. Ravaged by hunters, the countryside around the village of Kfar Zabad, which straddles the main migration route for African-Eurasian water fowl, was declared a protected area and now teems with birds, along with wildcats and a few river otters. "Before, this place was filled with hunters in the afternoon and all you heard was the sound of gunfire," Mayor Qassem Choker says proudly, pointing to fields near the entrance to the village. "But since the village was designated a protected area in 2004, we can hear the birds chirping again and enjoy our surroundings." The wildlife has emphatically returned. But since the 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri that marked Lebanon's new plunge into turmoil, the tourists have become an endangered species.

Foreign tourists and even expatriate Lebanese have been discouraged by fears about safety. The main visitors to the Bekaa are hardy people from Beirut and other regions, who in periods of relative calm grab the chance of a countryside break. "We keep trying to tell people it's safe but the simple mention of the name Bekaa scares them away," said Dalia Al-Jawhary, of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon, which is heavily involved in the Kfar Zabad project. Faisal Abu-Izzedin, director of the Lebanon Mountain Trail project, a 440-kilometre (275-mile) path that cuts through 75 villages, many of them in remote areas stretching from the north to the south, says Lebanon offers unique treasures. "Nowhere else can you see this diversity," he said. "Our aim was to revive an ancient heritage which was a trail that connected villages. We hope that the trail and people who walk the trail will shine a light on the importance of keeping Lebanon beautiful." From the beaches along the Mediterranean, to mountains, forests, wildlife, Roman ruins and gorges -- all within a few hours' drive or walk -- the country of 10,425 square kilometers (4,170 square miles) indeed has much to offer. "Lebanon has been classified among the 25 top countries in terms of biodiversity," said Pascal Abdallah, who heads Responsible Mobilities, an eco-conscious tour company. "We have 40 kinds of wild orchids, two or three of which are endemic to Lebanon. "We still have wolves in this tiny country, we have a type of hyena that only exists in the eastern part of the Mediterranean -- and of course we have the cedars."

BEIRUT (AFP) - The Ottoman-style mansions, with Venetian windows, arches and lavish gardens that once epitomised Beirut are being levelled one after the other as high-rises mushroom across the capital.  "Now everyone is looking for towers, because they realise that above the tenth floor you can see the sea," says Mona Hallak, an architect and an activist with the Association for the Protection of Sites and Old Buildings. "In 20 years' time, this won't be the case because you will have lots of towers everywhere." As a result, landlords are rushing to take advantage of the high prices now being offered for the land on which their ancestral homes are sitting. The pattern is set: the home is demolished, its traditional garden destroyed and the land sold and developed. "Every time an old house goes, a green pocket goes and with it go trees that are often hundreds of years old," says Hallak.

"It's not only the house. It's the tree. It's the bird that follows the tree. It's the quality of life." The only law on the books that protects old homes in Lebanon dates back to 1933 when the country was under French mandate. It mainly protects buildings constructed before 1700 although younger buildings can be placed on the list of protected sites either by government directive or private initiative. "The law basically focuses on the protection of archaeology and antiquities," Culture Minister Tarek Mitri told AFP. A survey commissioned by the government in 1997 identified about 250 buildings in Beirut that cannot be demolished. "The list is outdated now," Mitri said. "Plus it was done hastily. Some buildings that should be on it aren't." The list is of little consolation to activists like Hallak, who say the issue is more about preserving the country's heritage than merely saving a building or a mansion. "It's important to save an entire street, what we call a cluster... there is a social structure that is completely tied to these buildings," Hallak says.

TRIPOLI, Lebanon (AFP) - Tension ran high in north Lebanon's capital of Tripoli on Sunday even as the army was deployed in force a day after a man died in an apartment block explosion.  A security official told AFP that a tobacco shop run by an Alawite was set ablaze in the mainly Sunni district of Bab al-Tebbaneh, the scene of Saturday's blast in which 20 people were also wounded and several homes damaged. Civil defence workers put out the fire before it could spread to other businesses, the official said, declining to be named. The latest incident took place despite the deployment over the past week of army and interior ministry forces in the port city since deadly clashes between Sunnis and members of the Alawite community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Armoured vehicles were posted at entrances to Bab al-Tebbaneh and two other densely populated districts, Jabal Mohsen and Al-Qobbe, where nine people were killed in sectarian clashes on June 22 and 23. It was still not publicly known on Sunday what caused Saturday's explosion which killed a local resident with no known political affiliation. Almost 500 people went to the victim's funeral which was also attended by dozens of armed militants, some wearing black headbands and chanting Koranic verses in praise of martyrdom. Lebanon's Sunni mufti, Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, condemned the explosion as a "criminal act aimed at spreading sedition," and urged all politicians to help Prime Minister Fuad Siniora in his protracted efforts to form a new government. Residents of Bab al-Tebbaneh who support the Western-backed majority in parliament have clashed repeatedly with Alawites in the nearby Jabal Mohsen district who backs hizbollah. Later on Saturday, three grenades exploded in Bab al-Tebbaneh over a half-hour period but no one was injured and no buildings were damaged, security officials said.

And two men were wounded on Friday night in Tripoli when a grenade went off, an army spokesman said, adding that one lost a leg in the blast. The Tripoli clashes have raised fears of a nationwide security breakdown amid protracted efforts by Siniora to form a national unity cabinet since a Qatari-brokered deal in May to end an 18-month political crisis. Rival factions continue to bicker over the distribution of key portfolios in a new 30-member government. The deal was struck after at least 65 people were killed in May in sectarian clashes that saw Hezbollah stage a spectacular takeover of mainly Sunni areas of west Beirut.

BEIRUT (AFP) - Two years after the worst oil spill in the east Mediterranean left thousands of tonnes of crude over three-quarters of Lebanon's coast, the beaches are almost all clean but the troubles continue.  In July 2006, in the midst of the month-long war between Israel and Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah fighters, Israeli aircraft bombed a coastal power plant at Jiyeh, 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Beirut.Around 15,000 tonnes of oil flooded into the sea and was carried by the current, leaving 150 kilometres (95 miles) of coastline covered with thick black residue.

The once glitzy tourist beaches were covered with a film of filthy discharge and the breathtaking azure sea left blackened with oily deposits. Now after two years' work dedicated to it, the Mediterranean has recovered its blue and the white sandy beaches are back to their sparkling former glory. Only the Jozor al-Nakhel, or Palm Tree Island, nature reserve, west of the northern town of Tripoli is still being cleaned. But the impact of the spill remains a headache for Lebanon. At Jiyeh beach, more than 800 tonnes of oil-covered rocks and sand sit it huge heavy-duty plastic bags, only metres (yards) from the water's edge waiting for someone to work out how to get rid of them.

President General Michel Suleiman spoke at a meeting of Lebanon's top 15 Christian and Muslim religious leaders, who convened at the presidential palace after two days of sectarian clashes in the northern city of Tripoli left eight people dead and 40 wounded. Suleiman said the country's political and religious leaders must find a starting point to solve the crisis and heal the wounds. It was not immediately clear whether the Tripoli clashes

Daily Star - BEIRUT: Miraculous, perhaps. Tens of thousands of Lebanese gathered in Martyrs Square in Downtown Beirut on Sunday to witness the beatification of Yaaqoub Haddad, the late Capuchin priest who gained fame for his prolific work in founding an order of nuns, expanding the Capuchin school network and conceiving or establishing a number of religious and social institutions, some of which have gained iconic status in Lebanon.  Haddad, who died more than 50 years ago, took a step toward sainthood in the first beatification ever to take place outside the Vatican - and people flocked to the capital to observe the ceremony.

The service itself was presided over by a representative of Pope Benedict XVI, and the head of the Vatican's office for sainthood, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, in tandem with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir.  Attended by a litany of Eastern Christian prelates, other clerics, international envoys and local political figures, the event also included the Lebanese political troika of President Michel Sleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.  Thunderous applause greeted Sleiman as he arrived minutes before the Mass, and ovations were repeated many times during the ceremony, which bestowed one of the highest honors in the Christian tradition upon a Lebanese priest mere meters away from an Ottoman-era mosque in the heart of the capital. Indeed, while respectful or appreciative clapping often arose, the loudest rounds of applause came after "the nation" or the "Lebanese cedars" were mentioned in one context or another.  A procession of the cross was held before Western Catholic - Latinized - renditions of Syriac and Arabic Christian chants held the massive gathering rapt. As Cardinal Martins read out a message from the pope, "hoping that this beatification will lift Father Yaaqoub of Ghazir as a happy servant of the Lord," a white veil cloaking a portrait of the late priest was lifted, symbolizing recognition of Haddad's beatification.

"The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father," the Maronite patriarch said as he took the pulpit, evoking reverent silence through the assembled thousands. "The hope of so many Lebanese was realized today - that hope was the raising of Father Yaaqoub's portrait above the altar of the Catholic Church."  Sfeir then outlined how Haddad "passed through the narrow door leading to sainthood," attributing the priest's ability to walk "the difficult road of a saintly life to three virtuous practices: surrender to the will of God, Christian modesty and the work of mercy."  "Father Yaaqoub would say that 'All God has given me belongs to Him and the poor of Lebanon," added Sfeir, in reference to his first point regarding the late pastor. "He built hospitals, schools and took care of the sick, yet he was a man of simple means - Father Yaaqoub put his trust in the grace of God."  Sfeir, describing the four "pillars of modesty" that characterized Haddad's life, again quoted the priest, saying: "Do not bestow virtue upon yourself that is not present within you; credit the Lord for that which is good in us; do not praise yourself in the presence of others; and do not count the shortcomings of those close to you in order to raise yourself."

by Omar Ibrahim, TRIPOLI, Lebanon (AFP) - Four people were killed and at least 33 others wounded in north Lebanon on Sunday in clashes between armed opponents and supporters of the parliamentary majority, security officials said. After a lull of several hours, the two sides traded fire with Kalashnikov assault rifles and rockets in the Bab al-Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen districts of Tripoli, said an AFP correspondent in the port city. A security official said Hassan Khalil and Ibrahim Sleiman Ibrahim were killed in Jabal Mohsen, adding to the casualty toll of two dead and 33 wounded in earlier clashes. Also among the dead, policeman Samer Rashid was hit by a stray bullet inside his home in the Al-Qobbe district of Tripoli, security officials said. Another man, Bourhane al-Khatib, died after being hit by a bullet in the heart during clashes at Jabal Mohsen, said a medic after the 22-year-old was taken to a hospital in the nearby Palestinian refugee camp of Beddawi.

According to security officials, many of those wounded were caught in the crossfire and hit by stray bullets while inside their homes. Calm had been restored in the afternoon as representatives of the feuding parties met in Tripoli and agreed on the Lebanese army taking charge of security and for gunmen to keep off the streets, said a participant.  Before the fighting resumed, Education Minister Khaled Kabbani said end-of-year exams would take place as scheduled in Tripoli's schools on Monday. The fighting initially broke out at 4:15 am (0115 GMT) in Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, both northern districts of Tripoli, a security official told AFP. He said pro-majority Sunni militants fought with a group of Alawites, a dissident branch of Shiism which however supports the Shiite opposition movement Hezbollah. The fighting spread to Al-Qobbe in eastern Tripoli.

By Michael Bluhm, BEIRUT: Israel's Wednesday offer of direct peace talks with Lebanon amounts to little more than a ploy in domestic Israeli politics and a sop to US interests in the region without any hope for success, a number of analysts told The Daily Star. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has undertaken a flurry of diplomatic activity recently, with the disclosure last month of indirect Israeli-Syrian negotiations brokered by Turkey and the announcement on Tuesday of a six-month cease-fire with Hamas in Gaza, but his approval ratings have been at historic lows since Israel's debacle in the summer 2006 war here. Olmert's political epitaph may well have been written by the court testimony last month of an American businessman who said he loaded Olmert with cash-stuffed envelopes totaling more than $150,000 when the prime minister was mayor of Occupied Jerusalem.  With Olmert's political fortunes nearly bankrupt, Wednesday's invitation for direct talks with Lebanon aims partly to deflect attention from his domestic difficulties, said political analyst Simon Haddad.

"First of all, it's something that has to do with Israeli internal politics," Haddad said. "Olmert is in a difficult situation. He's trying to cover for his failure by having [peace talks] with Syria and Lebanon, knowing in advance that nothing will result from these talks." By extending his hand to Lebanon - and Syria - Olmert is angling to keep himself relevant by scoring points at home and with his United States allies by showing his ostensible engagement for peace, said Oussama Safa, executive director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies.  "The Israelis are benefiting from what is happening with Syria through Turkey," Safa said. "They're good points for the Olmert government. They are taking advantage of this ... to throw the ball in Lebanon's lap." In addition, Olmert is endeavoring as well to burnish his credentials as premier before the bribery scandal possibly brings him down, Safa added.  "He's trying to stay afloat a little bit," Safa said. "The scandal has really dragged Olmert beyond repair. He's been a lame duck since the 2006 war."  Wednesday's move also could represent an Israeli bow to US wishes to help out Prime Minister-designate Fouad Siniora, whose March 14 coalition has been a favorite of the administration of US President George W. Bush, said Fadia Kiwan, director of the school of political science at St. Joseph University.

by Hassan Jarrah   SAADNAYEL, Lebanon (AFP) - Three people were killed in armed clashes between supporters of Lebanon's rival factions in the Bekaa Valley overnight, the deadliest fighting since a political deal reached last month. Three people were killed and four wounded in the fighting," a security official told AFP. An AFP correspondent in the Bekaa area of eastern Lebanon said machine-gun fire, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades could be heard from midnight on Monday and continued sporadically until dawn.

Two of the victims died in a drive-by shooting thought to have sparked the clashes in the villages of Saadnayel and Taalbaya in the largely Shiite area, medical and security officials said. "There was an exchange of fire in mixed (Sunni-Shiite) areas. We sent in a large force and the situation is now under control," an army official told AFP. The toll was the highest since rival factions reached a deal in Doha last month aimed at ending a tense 18-month political crisis which drove it to the brink of civil war.

Saadnayel and Taalbaya were also the scene of fighting earlier this month between supporters of the pro-government  and anti-government.  There was little traffic in the area on Tuesday and most stores remained shut, with residents fearing the fighting might resume, an AFP correspondent said. Meanwhile, Sleiman is to host a meeting next Tuesday of Lebanon's highest ranking clergymen from all sects in an effort to "encourage national reconciliation," an official from the presidential palace said.

By Mike Sergeant,  They call it the "miracle of Lebanon" - the ability of this country to bounce back after a devastating war or political crisis.  Only last month, violence erupted on the streets of Beirut. Lebanon seemed to be bracing for another civil war.  But within weeks of a peace deal being signed in Doha, a president has finally been elected and tourists are returning to the Lebanese capital.  Once again, the evenings are filled with the sound of young people having fun and music blaring from Beirut's numerous bars and cafes.  In some countries, it would take years for confidence and optimism to return after such a period of intense uncertainty. Not here.  The Lebanese take huge pride in their ability to be crying one minute, and laughing the next.

"The mood is good," says one man in a bright pink T-Shirt. "There is peace and love here between people." A visitor from Kuwait tells me: "Nothing is miserable over here. It's a peaceful and beautiful place. It's coming back to life very quickly. In fact it's back already."  The Corniche - Beirut's famous seaside promenade - has already returned to its former vibrancy.  Fisherman perch on the rocks, young boys jump into the sea, men sit smoking their water pipes, little children toddle and run around, and youths on roller skates perform their stunts.  "It's very nice. The atmosphere feels safer now," one woman tells me.  "You enjoy going out because you feel relaxed. I am very optimistic about the future."

BEIRUT (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unannounced visit to  Lebanon on Monday to bolster the troubled country's new president, as rival politicians still struggle to form a new government.  Rice said she made her lightning trip to "express the United States' support for Lebanese democracy, for Lebanese sovereignty." After talks with parliament speaker and opposition stalwart Nabih Berri, Rice said that she hoped the disputes over nominations for the key defence, interior, finance and foreign affairs portfolios which have delayed the new cabinet's formation would be swiftly resolved. "We hope that the composition of the government proceeds and proceeds rapidly," she said.

Earlier she met Sleiman and told him Washington was very supportive of his presidency, describing him as a "very fine man." She also met Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri. "We talked of ... the United States' commitment to a Lebanon that is truly sovereign and independent where foreign interference and foreign intimidation should never be permitted," she said after that meeting. She rejected accusations of US interference in Lebanese politics saying: "We support the democratically elected government of Lebanon, that is what we support." Rice, who was in Beirut after a two-day visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank, rejected charges that the Doha deal was a slap in the face for US policy in the region as it had given the Iran- and Syrian-backed opposition veto power over government decisions. "Obviously in any compromise there are compromises," she said. "But this was an agreement that I think serves the interest of the Lebanese people and since it serves the interest of the Lebanese people, it serves the interest of the United States."

The top US diplomat called for UN action on the disputed Shebaa Farms, a district that remains occupied by Israel but  "The United States believes that the time has come to deal with the Shebaa Farms issue... in accordance with (UN Security Council Resolution) 1701," Rice said after discussing the issue with the Western-backed premier. She told reporters Washington intends to press Ban to "lend his good offices" to resolve the dispute over sovereignty over the district at the meeting place of the borders between Israel, Lebanon and Syria. "The secretary general should intensify his efforts," she said. Resolution 1701 brought an end to a devastating 33-day war between Israel and Hezbollah in summer 2006 and called for the UN secretary general to propose a border demarcation for the Shebaa Farms.

المؤتمر الوطني من اجل قانون انتخاب على قياس الوطن


النائب فريد الخازن 

في العقدين الاخيرين, ما من فكرة او رأي او موقف مرتبط بقانون الانتخاب ان بالنسبة الى حجم الدائرة الانتخابية او نظام الاقتراع الا وطرح في دراسات وندوات, لا بل ان النقاش حول قانون الانتخاب كان من اغنى النقاشات السياسية التي عرفها لبنان واكثرها دقة وشمولية, وتميز بمشاركة هيئات المجتمع المدني والخبراء والسياسيين. 

تشكل الدوائر الانتخابية الجانب الاهم في قانون الانتخاب لانها الاكثر ارتباطا بتكوين السلطة. في مرحلة ما قبل الحرب, لم يثبت قانون الانتخاب الا في العام 1960, اي في الانتخابات النيابية السادسة بعد الاستقلال وعلى اثر ازمة 1958. وثَبُت القانون على اساس دوائر انتخابية تعتمد القضاء مع بعض الاستثناءات. والواقع ان للقضاء في لبنان شخصية تاريخية وسياسية وعصبية مناطقية, ذلك ان الانتماء المناطقي هو بالدرجة الاولى الى البلدة او القرية والى القضاء. ويعود اعتماد القضاء كدائرة انتخابية الى مرحلة ما قبل الدولة في زمن المتصرفية, وتحديدا منذ العام 1864, بعد ادخال تعديلات على بروتوكول 1861, والاقضية شملت آنذاك زحلة, جزين, الشوف, المتن, كسروان, الكوره والبترون.  

لا تكمن اهمية قانون 1960 فقط في توزيع الدوائر الانتخابية بل ايضا في ثباته وفي مراعاته لقاعدة اللاغالب واللامغلوب بعد ازمة 1958, خلافا للقوانين الانتخابية السابقة التي وضعت لاغراض سياسية لاسيما في عهد الرئيس شمعون. كما ان قانون 1960 ساهم في تعزيز التنافس السياسي داخل الطوائف وبين القوى السياسية, الحزبية وغير الحزبية. فالاداء الانتخابي في لبنان ما قبل الحرب شهد تطورا وتحسنا على المستويات كافة, الى ان وصلنا الى انتخابات 1972, وهي الاخيرة قبل اندلاع الحرب, فكانت الاكثر نزاهة والاكثر تنافسا والاكثر حيادا من قبل السلطة, بالمقارنة مع الانتخابات السابقة. هذا فضلا عن ان الترابط كان قائما بين الانتخابات النيابية والانتخابات الرئاسية في اطار ما كان يعرف بالعهد الرئاسي بأركانه الثلاثة: رئيس الجمهورية, رئيس مجلس النواب ورئيس الحكومة, وهذا ما افتقده النظام السياسي في مرحلة ما بعد الحرب. 

اعترى النظام السياسي اللبناني شوائب عديدة, الا انه كان الاكثر انفتاحا وحرية وديمقراطية من الانظمة السياسية في بلدان الجوار العربي, حيث قوانين الانتخاب والانتخابات والقرار السياسي من صنع السلطة التي لا ينافسها احد. وجاءت الحرب في لبنان لتقضي على الرابط بين الحياة السياسية والمجتمع ولتعسكر السياسة بكل تفاصيلها. اما الانتخابات النيابية الاولى بعد الحرب في 1992 فسجلت انقلابا في الممارسة السياسية عبر فرض القانون وتوقيت الانتخابات, اضافة الى نتائجها المعروفة سلفا. وجاءت الانتخابات النيابية من 1992 الى 2000 في زمن الوصاية لتلبي وظائف تشبه وظائف الانتخابات في الانظمة السلطوية عبر ادارة مركزية للانتخابات, وكانها استحقاق اداري لا بد منه اما لمعاقبة هذا الطرف السياسي او لمكافأة ذاك. 

Lebanese author Rawi Hage has won the 100,000 euro ($165,000) International Dublin Literary Award, the world's richest prize for a work of fiction. Canadian-based Hage scooped the award for his book De Niro's Game, about best friends from childhood who have grown to adulthood in war-torn Beirut. His book describes the agonising choice they must make between staying in the city and consolidating power through crime; or going into exile abroad, alienated from the only existence they have known.

The judges described it as "an eloquent, forthright and at times beautifully written" first novel. "Ringing with insight and authenticity the novel shows how war can envelop lives - how one doesn't have much choice in such circumstances," said a statement from the judging panel, who chose it from a shortlist of eight books.

"It's a game where there are no winners, just degrees of survival. His unflinching gaze pours the blood-red sands of our moral dilemmas over every page. It's a wonderful debut and a deserving winner."Hage was born in Beirut and lived through nine years of civil war before emigrating to Canada. "I am a fortunate man," he said after he was presented with the award by Dublin's Lord Mayor Paddy Bourke.

Ain al-Hilweh camp, Lebanon - Tension was obvious at the entrance of the Palestinian refugee of Ain al-Hilweh camp between the Lebanese army and members of fundamentalist groups holed inside the camp after repeated clashes for the past two days. Lebanese army soldiers wearing helmets and bullet-proof vests were on full alert at the entrance of the Palestinian camp in southern Lebanon that houses around 75,000 refugees. The latest clash took place late Wednesday when a fundamentalist gunman was killed and a Lebanese army officer wounded in a shootout near the entrance of the camp which is located at the outskirts of the southern port city of Sidon.

Security sources in south Lebanon said the incident occurred when three assailants in a white Renault Rapid opened fire on the soldiers as they tried to make their way through an army checkpoint at the western entrance to the camp.  They said army troops returned fire wounding one gunman, Issa Qiblawi. The second gunman was arrested while the third fled, the sources said. But Qiblawi died of his wounds soon afterwards.  "The vehicle drove past the checkpoint and when troops fired warning shots, they were shot at and an exchange of fire developed," a witness said.

A Palestinian official at Ain al-Hilweh said the three attackers were members of the Islamic grouping Jund al-Sham and Issa Qiblawi was the brother of Sheikh Qiblawi, killed in 2004 in Iraq while fighting for al-Qaeda.  The shootout came almost two weeks after a would-be suicide bomber was shot and killed by Lebanese soldiers as he tried to detonate an explosives belt at a checkpoint on the edge of Ain al-Hilweh.

Beirut - Lebanon's newly-elected President Michel Suleiman has said Lebanon will present new documents to the United Nations proving that the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms area is Lebanese, a move that could initiate diplomatic efforts aimed at finding a solution to the issue. According to Lebanese radio reports, Suleiman made the announcement to British Foreign Secretary David Miliband who was visiting Lebanon Monday.  Media reports on Tuesday said the president stressed to Miliband Lebanon's right to regain its sovereignty over the Shebaa farms zone, a tiny enclave, located where the borders of Lebanon, Israel and Syria meet.  It has been controlled by Israel since its withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.

On Monday, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper quoted Lebanese security sources as saying that the Shebaa Farms issue was also discussed during talks between Suleiman and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who visited Lebanon last Saturday.  The sources said that in Suleiman's view an Israeli withdrawal from the area "would pave the way for a defence strategy agreement among the Lebanese and a settlement of the (Hezbollah) arms issue."  An-Nahar daily on Tuesday quoted diplomatic sources as saying that the British Foreign Secretary promised Lebanese leaders during his visit to Beirut that he would discuss the Shebaa issue with UN chief Ban Ki-moon in London next week.  The sources said that Miliband would talk with Ban on ways to convince Israel to withdraw from the farms area after Suleiman revealed that Lebanon had new documents proving the ownership of Shebaa.  Miliband asked Suleiman to send copies of the documents to the British government, according to the sources.  "As a member of the UN Security Council, we are fully committed to playing our part and to urge others to do so in ensuring that all of Resolution 1701 is put into practice, including the Shebaa Farms issue," Miliband said Monday.  Resolution 1701 brought an end to a devastating 33-day war between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 and called for the UN secretary general to make a proposal for the delineation of the disputed Shebaa Farms area. 

The United Nations has said in the past that Shebaa is Syrian territory, captured by Israel in the 1967 war: Syria and Lebanon maintain that it is Lebanese land.  Earlier this year, UN mapping experts have determined that the farms are Lebanese territory and that international law requires Israel's withdrawal, according to a well-informed UN source in Lebanon. According to a Lebanese government source, the UN suggested earlier this year, that the Shebaa Farms be placed under UN jurisdiction once agreement is reached with Jerusalem. The UN's former Lebanon envoy Geir Pederson is said to have informed Israeli officials that "that the UN believes that there is merit in the Lebanese claims of sovereignty over Shebaa Farms."

Four people were wounded in armed clashes in eastern Lebanon overnight between supporters of the ruling majority and the Hezbollah opposition, security sources said on Monday. Armed men opened fire with machine guns, mortar rounds and rockets in the village of Saadnayel in the Bekaa Valley in the east of the country during the night and the tension lasted until dawn despite army intervention, the sources said.

Reports say fighting in the villages of Saadnayel and Taalabayeh was sparked by arguments among residents, which escalated into gun battles.  The army says it is looking for those involved in the weekend's violence.  Sporadic fighting has broken out in Lebanon despite May's peace deal which ended the 18-month political stalemate.  The army moved into the Bekaa Valley villages on Monday to quell fighting between pro-and anti-government supporters.  A local radio station reported that mortar rounds and rockets had been used but the army is said to have restored calm in both villages.  The army says it has also carried out raids in the mountain village of Majdelbanna, in the Aley region, and has detained several people suspected of involvement in clashes there over the weekend.

Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president, is visiting Lebanon as part of efforts to support national unity. The visit comes two weeks after Lebanese leaders sealed a power-sharing deal and elected Michel Sleiman as the country's president, ending an 18-month political standoff which had erupted into deadly clashes.  Sarkozy was greeted at Beirut airport on Saturday by President General Sleiman, Fouad Siniora, Lebanon's prime minister, and Nabih Berri, the parliament speaker. Sarkozy's delegation includes Francois Fillon, the prime minister; Bernard Kouchner, the foreign minister; and Herve Morin, the defence minister. Sarkozy, heading a large delegation, arrived in Beirut for a one-day state visit. He became the first Western leader to visit the Lebanese capital since the election of President Michel Suleiman last month.  Sarkozy was accompanied by Prime minister Fillon, senior ministers and leaders of all the main French political parties. He said his "exceptional" delegation reflected the strong bond between both countries.
Sarkozy held talks with Suleiman before a lunch at the presidential palace attended by leaders of the main Lebanese political parties. Later, at a luncheon hosted by President General Sleiman attended by Siniora and Berri, Sarkozy stressed his country's support for Sleiman and Lebanese national unity. Sleiman had "a great responsibility to drive this national reconciliation forward", he said. "It is essential that all Lebanese political forces display their commitment to dialogue."
Reforms urged Sarkozy said that "once the institutions have stabilised, [Lebanon] must address the reconstruction of the state and the economy's dynamism to open up to reforms". Sarkozy added that "once the institutions have stabilized, (Lebanon) must address the reconstruction of the state and the economy's dynamism to open up to reforms that will allow Lebanon to benefit from what was acquired in Paris III." Turning to security issues, Sarkozy said France remains "committed to strengthening the capacities of the Lebanese army within the framework of a national defense strategy to be established through sincere dialogue among the Lebanese that can no longer be delayed."For his part, Suleiman said the "Doha agreement, in which France took part, has regenerated long-awaited and desired political stability". He said that Lebanon is reforming its constitutional, judicial and other institutions in order to regain its role in the world. Sleiman stressed Lebanon's commitment to fight "terrorism and all forms of extremism". He said that any internal disagreement will be resolved through dialogue.
Military assistance Sarkozy said France remained "committed to strengthening the capacities of the Lebanese army within the framework of a national defence strategy to be established through sincere dialogue ... that  can no longer be delayed". Sarkozy's office said France would provide training to the Lebanese army as part of its economic assistance programme. A planned visit by the delegation to the French contingent of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon was cancelled, however, to keep the visit "a purely political" one, according to the Elysee. Instead, Morin was to visit the French contingent of 1,800 soldiers, which is the second largest contingent in the south Lebanon-based peacekeeping force.
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By Ferry Biedermann in Beirut   Last month, Beirut

Malek Fady el Khazen founder of khazen.org on behalf of himself and his direct family convey their happiness  and congratulates his Excellency President Of Lebanon General Michel Suleiman and wishes his success in the presidency and prosperity of Lebanon. 

BEIRUT (AFP) - Lebanon's ruling parliamentary bloc on Wednesday threatened to walk out of talks aimed at forming a national unity government, an official from the Future Bloc told AFP. The warning came as Prime Minister Fuad Siniora continued efforts to form a new government after a deal last month between rival politicians and as newly elected President Michel Sleiman admitted some complications. The Future Bloc official said the group threatened "to suspend its participation in the consultations to form a government" after one of its supporters was shot and wounded, allegedly by a supporter of the opposition. Tuesday night's attack "is a violation of the Doha accord," he said. The agreement which was struck May 21 in the Qatari capital between rival Lebanese politicians, ended an 18-month crisis that erupted into street battles that killed 65 people.

According to Lebanese television, parliament speaker Nabih Berri  who is also a member of the opposition, has pledged to "solve the problem" after Siniora told him of the Future Bloc's plan to suspend talks.After talks with Berri, the prime minister said he was "taking small steps" towards forming a government. "We are on the right track," he said, but gave no date for a new line-up. Sleiman acknowledged that "complications" had emerged but stressed that they will be solved by dialogue. Siniora wrapped up two days of talks with leaders of rival parliamentary blocs on Saturday but gave no date for a new line-up. He has since been holding talks with the main players from the opposition and majority camps.

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said his country will consider opening an embassy in Lebanon for the first time once its smaller neighbor forms a government able to foster good ties with Damascus.  Assad said Syria had raised the issue in 2005, when Syrian troops left Lebanon after a 29-year sojourn, but decided against opening an embassy as ties with Lebanon deteriorated. "Our conditions were that there should be a national unity government firstly and that there be good ties with it.... Obviously, if there is a unity government that represents all the Lebanese parties then our ties with it will be good," he said in comments carried on Kuwait's state news agency KUNA. "When these conditions are provided for then we will exchange soon, God willing, embassies with Lebanon after studying the situation of the Syrian-Lebanese Supreme Commission." Ties between the two countries have so far been governed by a joint commission in what many Lebanese consider a reluctance on Syria's part to recognize their country's sovereignty.

(MENASSAT) -- Syrians are paying increasing attention to Lebanon

SIDON, Lebanon (AFP) - Lebanese soldiers shot dead a man carrying a hand grenade outside the Palestinian refugee camp  of Ein el-Helweh on Saturday, an army spokesman said.  "The man was carrying a hand grenade and we are also investigating whether the belt he was wearing contained an explosives charge," the spokesman said, refusing to provide any further details. The man's body was still at the scene and soldiers prevented journalists and photographers from approaching it, the spokesman said.

Security forces told an AFP correspondent at the scene that they would carry out a controlled explosion involving the body. Eyewitnesses said the man was shot close to an army checkpoint in the Taameer Ein el-Helweh zone, which is controlled by the military, except for a southern part which is considered a bastion of the Islamist group Jund Al-Sham. It was not immediately clear where the man had come from. The incident came just hours after a Lebanese soldier was killed in a blast at an army intelligence post near the northern city of Tripoli and another explosive device was defused, a security official told AFP.

Israel released from prison on Sunday a Lebanese who had completed a six-year jail term on espionage charges and took him to the border with Lebanon  for repatriation.  Nissim Nasser's release, announced by Israeli authorities, has raised speculation that it is linked to German mediation efforts to secure a prisoner swap between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah group. Nasser, who was born in Lebanon to a Jewish mother and a Muslim father, was sentenced in 2002 to six years' imprisonment after being convicted of spying for Hezbollah. "The prisoner was released from Nitzan Prison near Ramle (in central Israel) and is being escorted by police up north to Rosh Hanikra (on the Lebanese border)," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. "Later in the day he will be transferred to the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) and then to Lebanon," he said.

Simultaneously Hezbollah handed over to the ICRC on the Lebanese side what it said were the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in the summer 2006 war. A senior Israeli official confirmed that the army had received a coffin but said tests had to be carried out on the contents to confirm whether the remains were those of Israeli soldiers. "A coffin apparently containing body parts of soldiers killed during the Second Lebanon War has been transferred by Hezbollah to the IDF (Israeli army) as a gesture for the ongoing negotiations on a prisoner exchange," the official said. "The coffin will be examined and the body parts will be examined to determine whether they indeed belong to Israeli soldiers." Israel and Hezbollah

By Hussein Abdallah, Daily star. BEIRUT: Prime Minister Fouad Siniora paid a number of customary visits on Thursday, one day ahead of the mandatory parliamentary consultations that will precede the formation of Lebanon's new cabinet. Siniora met former premiers Omar Karami, Salim Hoss, Najib Mikati, Rasheed Solh, Amine Hafez and Michel Aoun.  After a 45-minute meeting Aoun, who is also the leader of the opposition Free Patriotic Movement, Siniora told reporters that the talks were positive. Aoun became Lebanon's only Christian prime minister in 1988 after he was asked by former President Amine Gemayel to head an interim government as a result of the Parliament's failure to meet and elect a new president at the end of Gemayel's term.

Siniora also contacted Muslim and Christian spiritual leaders on Thursday in advance of the consultations that are due to start on Friday afternoon.  The next cabinet will include 16 ministers for the parliamentary majority, 11 for the opposition and three for the president.  In a statement on Thursday, the opposition said that the Sunni opposition in Beirut should be represented by a minister in the new cabinet.  "The Sunni opposition in Beirut should be represented as it is not acceptable to cross out a big portion of the capital just because one party has managed to monopolize Beirut's seats in Parliament as a result of an unfair electoral law," the statement said, referring to parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri's sweeping victory in Beirut in the 2005 elections.

BEIRUT (AFP)  Summer festivals music in Lebanon , which usually attract visitors in their thousands, are back this year after being silenced by war and political instability, organisers announced on Thursday. "What we are seeing today is an expression of the true face of Lebanon after this difficult period and after the dark cloud has passed," Tourism Minister Joe Sarkis said at a press conference unveiling plans for the Beiteddine Festival, one of the most prestigious. "Today we are facing a new future for Lebanon... and a promising summer that expresses our love of culture and our love of life."

Several festivals were forced to cancel in 2006 because of the devastating July-August war between Israel and Hezbollah and again in 2007 over the protracted political crisis and a deadly standoff between the army and Islamist militiamen in a Palestinian refugee camp "The Beiteddine Festival has been held for more than 26 years," festival committee vice president Wafa Saab told AFP. "In that time, we have only had to cancel the last two years though there have been times in the past that we had to cancel particular shows but not the festival as a whole." Other music extravaganzas are also set to return this year, including the Baalbek festival which is held in the shadows of the ruins of an ancient Roman temple near the border with Syria, according to one of the organisers. The Beiteddine shows run from July 11 to August 12 in a palatial 19th century residence in the Shouf mountains southeast of Beirut, an area of green hills and traditional villages that is a popular tourist attraction. Among those set to take the stage are Brazilian singer and culture minister Gilberto Gil, as well as Iraqi, Lebanese and Moroccan musicians. In previous years, Beiteddine has hosted the likes of Elton John, opera singer Andrea Bocelli and tenor Placido Domingo. Beiteddine and Baalbek organisers are also co-sponsoring a concert by Lebanese-born pop sensation Mika in Beirut on July 27.

BEIRUT  - For three consecutive seasons tourism revenue, once Lebanon's lifeblood, was reduced to a trickle by violence and political uncertainty.  Reservations have begun pouring into this land of sun, sea and mountains, and a bumper tourism season is predicted after years of instability. There was a collective sigh of relief as calm returned last week after Lebanese leaders came to an agreement in Qatar that ended a long-running political crisis. "The ink on the Doha agreement wasn't dry yet and the phones were ringing off the hook. From the Gulf, from Europe, from everywhere, we're booked up until the end of the summer," said Mary Shwairy, head of public relations at the upscale Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut. "Tourism is bouncing back in a big way -- short stays, long stays, conferences, weddings of returning Lebanese who live abroad," she added.  Caretaker Tourism Minister Joseph Sarkis said he expects this year's figures to be the best for years. Since the Doha agreement there has been "a 30 percent increase in the number of expected tourists compared with last year. Hotels are hiring extra staff and the airlines are adding extra flights," Sarkis said. "Forty percent of the tourists are Arab, 25 percent are European and the rest are of various nationalities," he added. "Of the Arabs, 40 percent are Jordanian who come in large numbers since visa requirements were waived three years ago. They are followed by Saudis, Kuwaitis, Iraqis and Emiratis," he said.  Sarkis said Lebanese expatriates spend large sums of money when they return to the homeland.  "Nature and a love of life are Lebanon's greatest attractions. The Arabs come for the refreshing climate, night clubs and restaurants... Europeans for the archaeological sites" such as Baalbek or Tyre.  In another sign of recovery kicking in, the popular Beiteddine and Baalbek music festivals, silenced for the past two summers, will return this year in July.  The Beiteddine and Baalbek festival organisers are also co-sponsoring a concert by Lebanese-born pop sensation Mika in Beirut on July 27.

By Yara Bayoumy Thu - Just a week after feuding Lebanese leaders sealed a political deal to end 18 months of conflict, restaurants have re-opened, hotel bookings have soared and tourists have replaced gunmen on the streets of Beirut.   "The deal has had an excellent impact. We've had a flood of reservations and we're expecting a very good season," said Nizar Alouf, a member of the Lebanese Hotel Owners Association. It took months of agonizing negotiations -- punctuated by bouts of violence that many feared would trigger civil war -- to install a new president and form a government, but record time for Lebanon  to regain its standing as a top tourist spot. Now where an opposition tent city occupied large squares, paralyzing central Beirut and turning it into a ghost town, restaurants are bustling, open-air concerts are being held and gridlock traffic is back. It's good to be back" and "It finally feels like people are living" are common utterances among the droves of Lebanese and tourists crowding the Parisian-style pavement cafes. Tourism Minister Joseph Sarkis said he expected between 1.3 million to 1.6 million visitors to Lebanon this year compared to around 1 million in 2007 and 2006 -- violent years plagued by political assassinations, bombings and a war with Israel.

نِعمَـــة الله أبــي نصـرْ





      بعد أن تضمَّن خطاب فخامة رئيس الجمهورية في جلسة القسم وجوب إعطاء المغتربين حقوقهم خصوصاً لجهة تعزيز تواصلهم والتصاقهم بالوطن الأم والإستفادة من طاقاتهم ، حيث هم أحقُّ بالجنسيَّة اللبنانية من الذين أخذوها على غير وجهِ حقّ ، ولما كان في ذلك إحقاقاً للحقِّ والعدالة

وبما أن فخامة الرئيس بموقفه هذا أظهر جرأة ورؤية مستقبلية غير مسبوقة من أيِّ رئيس قبله

      وبما أننا أحوجُ الدول لأولادنا في الإغتراب وأكثرها إهمالاً لهم ، ولأنَّ سياسات التغيير الديمغرافي والجغرافي التي اعتمدت في السابق من خلال التجنيس الإعتباطي ، والتهجير ، والهجرة ، وإهمال أولادنا في الإغتراب

وبما أنّ هذه السياسات في السابق أدّت الى ما نحن عليه اليوم من خلل خطير في توازنات تكوين العائلة اللبنانية

فلكلِّ هذه الأسباب نتمنى على النوادي والمؤسسات والمرجعيات الإغترابية اللبنانية المنتشرة في العالم التضامن والتضافر من أجل دعم توجّه فخامة الرئيس ومساعدته على تنفيذ ما تعهد به في خطاب القسم خصوصاً لجهة المطالبة بحقوق المغتربين .


                                          النائب نعمة الله أبي نصر

Lebanon's new president General Michel Sleiman has asked outgoing Prime Minister Fuad Saniora to form a new Cabinet despite reservations by the opposition. Lebanon's president appointed Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Wednesday to head a national unity government agreed under a deal ending 18 months of political conflict.  President Michel Suleiman asked Siniora, who has enjoyed strong U.S. backing, to form the cabinet that is set to govern until a parliamentary election in 2009.  "I call on everyone to take part in treating the wounds and moving beyond the divisions ... and violence we have known," Siniora said after meeting Suleiman. The constitution requires the president, who was elected by parliament on Sunday, to appoint the candidate backed by the largest number of lawmakers. MPs informed Suleiman of their preferences earlier on Wednesday.  Siniora, who won the backing of 68 of parliament's 127 members.  But the opposition controls 58 seats in the 128-member legislature and cannot outvote the majority's candidate, which practically ensured that Saniora would get the post. Suleiman reappointed Saniora after 68 of the living 127 members of parliament he polled Wednesday said they supported him for the post. "We did not nominate Prime Minister Siniora as a challenge, but for reconciliation and to turn the page," majority leader Saad al-Hariri, Lebanon's strongest Sunni politician, told journalists after informing Suleiman of his choice. The opposition, however, made clear that it was not satisfied with the choice of Siniora, saying he did not reflect the spirit of national unity called for in last week's Arab-brokered accord reached in Doha. "His nomination is a recipe for conflict rather than reconciliation," Christian opposition leader General Michel Aoun said. "It seems the ruling bloc, rather than battling for a new Lebanon, is seeking to unleash a new conflict."  He added however that the opposition would not stand in the way of forming a new government. Their bloc have nominated  Layla Solh or Mohammed Safadi or Bahij Tabbara and said Saniora was a continuation of the past."  While Hezbollah's and Berri's blocs didn't propose any candidates, Aoun nominated three other former ministers as compromise candidates to head the government, including a Sunni woman. The candidate to head the national unity government should have characteristics that reflect this title," said Mohammed Raad, the head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc.

BEIRUT - Lebanon's new President Michel Sleiman began consultations on forming a government of national unity on Wednesday after the paliamentary majority chose Fuad Siniora to reassume the post of premier. Sleiman met members of the various blocs in parliament and was set to formally appoint Siniora to head a 30-member. Lebanon's parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri -- also tipped as a possible prime minister -- said his bloc had decided to nominate Siniora again as he was the best man for the job. "We didn't name Siniora as a challenge (to the opposition) but as a move toward real reconciliation and to turn over a new page," he told reporters after meeting Sleiman.  Lebanon's parliamentary majority coalition agreed on Tuesday to nominate Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to form the country's first government under newly elected President Michel Suleiman. The nomination, agreed at a late-night meeting of coalition leaders, means that U.S.-backed Siniora will be appointed to head the new cabinet  The 'March 14' coalition will officially inform Suleiman of its choice when he consults parliament on Wednesday. The president has to appoint the prime minister  nominated by a majority of MPs. The prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim under Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system.  "March 14 leaders agreed unanimously to nominate his excellency Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to form the new government in line with the Doha agreement," the coalition said in a statement. Majority leader Saad al-Hariri thought of getting the post himself but opted to keep on his close ally Siniora, mainly because the new government will stay in office only until the 2009 general election, politicians said. Siniora, 65, has been prime minister since July 2005. Siniora had told AFP at the weekend he was no longer interested in the job but would stay on if asked.  "I served for three years and I believe it is somehow time for a change," he said. "I've had enough, it's time for me to go and seek other matters that have to do with public affairs."  Observers said the parliamentary majority decided to keep Siniora in his post to allow Hariri, son of Rafiq Hariri, to prepare for a legislative election next year.

The Lebanese interior ministry Tuesday announced an indefinite ban on motorbikes, provocative convoys, slogans or flag waving in the capital Beirut. "Motorbikes will be banned in Beirut effective at 1800 (1500 GMT) on May 27, 2008, until further notice," a statement said. The statement said that politically charged demonstrations such as "marches, regardless of their nature" and convoys "will be prohibited in Beirut" and sanctions taken against anyone breaking the law. It is common practice in Beirut for supporters of rival political factions to drive around the city waving party flags, blaring slogans on loudspeakers and shooting in the air.

The new bans came after clashes in Beirut between rival factions Monday night after a speech by Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah. The measures have been taken to "strictly control the security situation in the capital," the statement said. A security official told AFP motorbikes used for food delivery would also be affected by the ban. Hezbollah and its Shiite ally Amal issued a joint statement Tuesday calling on their supporters to put an end to the practices targeted by the new bans, saying they would "not provide political cover for them." They also urged security forces to take the necessary measures to enforce the bans.  Beirut - Supporters of Hezbollah fought with followers of Lebanon's ruling majority near Beirut on Tuesday, leaving one Hezbollah follower and a Lebanese soldier dead, Lebanese security sources said. The army intervened after a private dispute escalated into an armed clash in the area of Armoun, 12 kilometres east of Beirut.

(RTTNews) - A Lebanese soldier was killed on Tuesday after being caught in the crossfire between Hezbollah supporters and pro-government loyalists in the village of Aramoun, south of Beirut, Lebanese security officials said. The soldier, identified later as Hussein Mohammed Janadin, was killed after Hezbollah supporters opened fire at two pro-government loyalists who sought refuge at the military post, where he was posted. The officials said that the soldier died on the way to the hospital and added that the two pro-government loyalists suffered fractures after being beaten up by the Hezbollah activists. Soon after the incident, Lebanese army arrested the people suspected of involvement in the gunfight, which led to the death of the Lebanese soldier, reported the local Al Bawaba news agency. Earlier on Monday, at least 16 people were injured in clashes between the Hezbollah and government supporters, which erupted after some Hezbollah supporters, cheering the Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah' s speech, fired into the air injuring local people.

Lebanon's new President, Michel Suleiman, has arrived at the presidential palace to begin his first full day in office. A military band played the national anthem as Suleiman, who headed the army for a decade, walked on a red carpet into the Baabda Palace which has been empty since Previous President Emile Lahoud left office. Army cannons fired 21 shots to salute Suleiman, 59, as a brass band played Lebanon's national anthem. Dozens of his staff members erupted into applause. After surveying the republican guard and listening to the national anthem, a smiling Sleiman took his seat in the presidential chair. Earlier Monday, Suleiman bid farewell at Beirut's airport to the emir of Qatar, who brokered a deal among Lebanese politicians last week which led to the election. Parliament had failed to elect a new president 19 times in the past six months. "I call on you all, people and politicians, for a new beginning," Suleiman said after he was sworn in Sunday. "Let us be united." He set to work immediately, scheduling consultations with lawmakers on Wednesday to begin forming a new governent, an official in the president's office said on condition of anonymity pending a formal statement. Once parliamentary leaders name a new prime minister, that person would then present a Cabinet lineup for the president's approval. The cabinet then needs to draft a policy statement to present to parliament for a vote of confidence. The majority is expected to choose the prime minister from its ranks. Saniora or majority coalition leader Saad Hariri are among those mentioned in the media as candidates.   Siniora said earlier that he did not want to head the next cabinet, but acknowledged that the parliamentary majority had the final say on this issue.  Cabinet posts will be distributed according to the Doha agreement: 16 for the majority, 11 for the opposition and three for the president, who heads the cabinet. The group must also respect an equal split between Christians and Muslims, as required under Lebanon's power-sharing formula.

US President George W. Bush Monday invited incoming Lebanese President Michel Sleiman to Washington for talks after congratulating him on taking office, Bush's spokesman said.  "The president invited President Sleiman to come to Washington so the two leaders can meet to discuss issues of strategic importance to both the United States and Lebanon," said national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe. Bush called Sleiman to congratulate him on becoming president and "reiterated his commitment to the government of Lebanon and to a strong and modern Lebanese Armed Forces. The Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak also called President Sleiman to congratulate him and invite him for an official visit. "On the other side of the political divide, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad telephoned Sleiman to congratulate him and had promised that Damascus was "at Lebanon's side," according to a report on Lebananese television. The President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad telephoned Sleiman to congratulate him and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, also welcomed Sleiman's election. Syria and Iran back Hezbollah, the Shiite group which spearheads the Lebanese opposition. "All countries in the region, be they Arab or Islamic, are overwhelmed with joy and pride at this glorious and blessed agreement," Mottaki said Sunday. UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he hoped the "historic" vote would lead to the "revitalization of all of Lebanon's constitutional institutions and a return to political dialogue." The Slovenian presidency of the European Union also welcomed Sleiman's election and pledged its support for Lebanese "unity and stability." "The Presidency of the EU reaffirms its support for Lebanon's sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, unity and stability," a statement said.  Moscow also welcomed the swearing in of Suleiman, who served as Lebanon's army chief for the past 10 years.  "Moscow sincerely welcomes the election of Lebanon's president and we hope ... that Lebanon will leave behind it this period of crises and blows, [and] find the path to domestic peace and stable democracy," a statement from the Russian Ministry of Foreign affairs said.  Former colonial power France was more guarded, saying the arrival of Suleiman would constitute a major change in Paris' relations with Lebanon's neighbor, Syria.  President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged full support for Suleiman and said he hoped the election would allow Lebanon to take a significant step forward and "confront the challenges that await."  But Suleiman's election constitutes a "new act" and "we are in the process of examining the consequences to be drawn from the situation," the spokeswoman for the French Foreign Ministry, Pascale Andreani, said, when probed by reporters about French-Syrian relations.  British Prime minister contacted Sleiman to congratulate him on the new post. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the election was "an important step forward," adding: "We look forward to President Suleiman working with a unity government to bring Lebanon out of its current fragility."  German President Horst Koehler said he welcomed "this bold step" toward resolving Lebanon's political crisis and wished Suleiman "good luck in the big challenges that lie ahead of you."  Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his country "stands ready to assist the Lebanese government in any way possible," adding that Suleiman had "tremendous experience and the confidence of the Lebanese people."

In another event on Monday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said his group wasn't seeking to control Lebanon or impose its views, in a speech Monday marking the eighth anniversary of Israel's pullout from the south of the country."Hezbollah does not want power over Lebanon, nor does it want to control Lebanon or govern the country," Nasrallah said via video link to tens of thousands of supporters gathered in his stronghold in southern Beirut. "For we believe that Lebanon is a special, pluralistic country. The existence of this country only comes about through coexistence, and this is what we are demanding," said the leader of the militant Shiite group. Lebanon's Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said Monday that Lebanese prisoners held in Israel jails would soon return home. "Samir Kantar and his brothers will soon be home among their families," Nasrallah said during a speech to commemorate the eighth anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon on May 2000.  Releasing the prisoners is our duty and it is our holy mission," Nasarllah said without providing any further details.  A Lebanese official close to the negotiations said earlier that another prisoner, Nessim Nisr, was expected to be released soon. He did not give further details. I reaffirm the Doha agreement clause that prevents the use of arms to attain political goals," Nasrallah said. He has also added,  "The resistance's arms are to fight the enemy, liberate lands and prisoners, and defend Lebanon and nothing else," he pledged, referring to his Shiite group's enmity with Israel which pulled out of south Lebanon in 2000. Nasrallah also ruled out the state's weaponry being used to settle domestic accounts. "The government's arms or those of the army or armed forces are to defend the nation, the people and their rights, the government, and to maintain security," Nasrallah said. "The government's arms cannot be used to settle accounts with a political opponent. The government's arms cannot be used to target the resistance and its arms," he added. "All arms must remain in the service of the goal they were created for," Nasrallah said. Nasrallah spoke to a crowd of tens of thousands the day after army chief Michel Sleiman was elected Lebanon's president, ending a long-running political crisis that left the country without a head of state since late November.

For pictures of President General Michel Sleiman please click read more

Malek Fady el Khazen founder of khazen.org on behalf of himself and his direct family convey their happiness in this great day and congratulates his Excellency President Of Lebanon General Michel Suleiman and wishes his success in the presidency and prosperity of Lebanon. 

Lebanon's Parliemanet elected army chief General Michel Suleiman as the country's 12th president, filling a post left vacant for six months by a political crisis that threatened a new civil war. He was elected with a total of 118 votes and 6 blank copies. He won 118 votes of the 127 living members of the legislature on Sunday. Six cast blank ballots and one voted for slain ex-premier Rafiq Hariri and several MPs killed in Lebanon since 2005. One MP also voted for former MP Jean Obeid and another voted for majority MP Nassib Lahoud.   After Suleiman was sworn in, the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora resigned in line with the Constitution but will stay on in a caretaker capacity.  Suleiman arrived at Parliament shortly after the election accompanied by Speaker Nabih Berri, who left the Parliament building after the vote and returned with the newly elected president in line with protocol.  Lebanon's newly-elected President Michel Suleiman took his oath of office. "I pledge to respect and protect Lebanon's independence, sovereignty and its constitution," Suleiman, who was greeted with heavy applause from lawmakers and guests, said.President Michel Suleiman's inauguration speech was very positive. After taking the presidential oath, Suleiman delivered an inaugural address that dealth with several contentious issues. Previous addresses of this sort have tended to be vague, but this one was both comprehensive and specific in detailing the numerous daunting challenges facing this country. It was also forthright in acknowledging the issues that have recently divided Lebanon's political parties. Perhaps most importantly, the new president clearly indicated - by both his choice of words and his tone of voice - that he intends to take charge of the reconciliation process. In short, Suleiman's term in office has the potential to be the most important Lebanon has ever seen. The country has just passed through a long moment of high drama and mortal peril, and he will preside over a transition to the next phase. How he does so will help to determine what that phase looks like - and so whether Lebanon can begin at last to provide all of its citizens with the homeland they deserve. Tackling relations with neighbouring Syria, one of the many challenges his presidency will face, Suleiman called for the establishment of formal diplomatic links with Damascus.  "We look strongly to brotherly ties between Lebanon and Syria in the context of mutual respect of the sovereignty and borders of each country and diplomatic ties which will bring good for both of them," the new president declared. "Let us unite... and work towards a solid reconciliation," the former army chief said after being sworn in before lawmakers. "We have paid dearly for our national unity. Let us preserve it hand-in-hand." "I call upon all of you, politicians and citizens, to start a new phase called Lebanon and the Lebanese... in order to achieve the interests of the nation," he said. He also added "On this path to salvation, some valiant resistance and some courageous soldiers also offered their lives in order to defeat terrorism, Israeli aggression from south Lebanon to its north," he said. "The achievements of the resistance should not be exploited in internal disputes."  In an indirect reference to the recent clashes between opposition and pro-government supporters, Suleiman said Lebanon's weapons should only be directed at the Israeli enemy.  He has also added his dedication to Hariri Tribunal. The onus is on President Suleiman to help politicians of all stripes rid themselves - and Lebanon as a whole - of their fractious ways. A unity government is about to be formed, one whose missions will include establishing more permanent rules for the conduct of political competition in a legitimate manner that seeks solutions to problems instead of exacerbating their effects. No Lebanese Cabinet has ever embarked on so ambitious and necessary a project, and since this one will be in office for less than a year, it cannot be expected to undo several generations' worth of poor statecraft and poorer leadership. It can, however, lay down a new course toward a more productive brand of politics, a more sensible ordering of national priorities, and a brighter future for all Lebanese.

House Speaker Nabih Berri congratulated Suleiman and said "Reconciliation is an essential step for the revival of Lebanon." He also thanked Qatar for its efforts toward ending the Lebanese crisis. It is today a great day of hope for Lebanon, starting a new process of consolidation of democratic institutions,"   But he took a swipe at Washington, saying: "I thank the United States nonetheless, seeing that it seems to have been convinced that Lebanon is not the appropriate place for its New Middle East plan." He was referring to comments made by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who described the plight of Lebanon during Israel's 2006 war against it as part of the "birth pangs of the New Middle East"  Addressing the Lebanese parliament after the election, Al Thani said that Sleiman's election was part of a process towards a lasting peace in Lebanon."The Lebanese [leadership], with its variety and diversity, acknowledged that there is no alternative but to reach an entente that will safeguard Lebanon's security and interests," he said."All Arab nations will feel reassured that the dearest countires will be able to embark on a new era based on freedom. "Lebanon is the victor, Lebanon's crisis is the vanquished." Members of parliament from the ruling majority and the opposition attended a parliamentary session at 5 PM  to elect Suleiman as president, as stipulated by the Doha agreement. The vote had been postponed 19 times because of the crisis. It defuses a conflict that has stoked sectarian tensions, paralyzed government and battered the economy. Parliament has not met for more than a year and a half.  Sunday's vote was attended by Qatar's emir and his prime minister,  -- the driving force behind the Doha agreement -- It was also attended by the Prime minister of Turkey and a host of foreign ministers including those of arch-rivals Syria and Saudi Arabia, Foreign Minister from France, Spain, Iran, Italy,  Turkey, Oman, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuweit, Jordan, Egypt, United Arab Emirates. A U.S. delegation of congressmen

Daily star BEIRUT: As municipality and Sukleen workers removed the remaining concrete barriers and swept the streets in Beirut Central District (BCD), restaurant and shop owners in this fancy commercial area slowly opened their business Thursday. The opposition decision to end the 18-month sit-in near the Grand Serail brought a near immediate boost to the private sector. Stocks in the Beirut bourse climbed to record levels for the second day in a row on Thursday. Tour operators said they already expected Arab tourists to flock Lebanon in big numbers this summer. But for many business owners in the BCD, the problems have just started. "Don't expect all restaurants to resume operations any time soon. Many of these restaurant owners cannot afford to open their doors for customers," Paul Aryss, the head of the Restaurant Owners Association, told The Daily Star. Aryss said around 30 to 40 restaurants have apparently decided to stay closed this summer because the financial losses they incurred during the 18-month sit-in have been quite heavy. There are a little more than 100 restaurants in the BCD.

"Most of the businesses in the BCD have to pay taxes and municipality fees that accumulated over the past two years. In addition, Solidere will ask the restaurants, shops and offices located in this area to pay all outstanding rents since the opposition pitched their camps," Aryss said. Restaurant rents in the commercial district ranges between $150,000 to $200,000 a year. "These rents are piling up and of course Solidere is going to ask for their money now that the sit-in is over," Aryss said.  The government of outgoing Premier Fouad Siniora promised last year to offer relief to businesses in the BCD affected by the long sit-in. Among the promised measures were tax and municipality-fee exemptions to businesses in the BCD.

JERUSALEM (CNN)  21 may 2008-- Israeli and Syrian officials confirmed Wednesday they are indirectly negotiating a possible peace deal under Turkish mediation.


A U.N. soldier looks out from an observation tower in the largely abandoned city of Quneitra in the Golan Heights.

At a speech in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday night, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the disclosure of the talks was the end of a phase that had been going on for over a year.

He also said that he has no illusions and that the negotiations will be difficult, lengthy and will require difficult concessions.

Earlier, Olmert's office issued a statement saying: "The two sides stated their intention to conduct these talks in good faith and with an open mind."

It was the first official confirmation of the indirect talks between Israel and Syria. Turkish and Syrian officials also confirmed the talks.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War, and the area has been a source of contention since.

The last round of peace negotiations between the two countries broke down in 2000, after Syria demanded a full return of the Golan.

For its part, Israel wants Syria to abandon its support of Palestinian and Lebanese militant groups as part of any peace agreement.

The United States has been informed about the indirect talks, according to Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, who praised Turkey for playing "a good and useful role."

Welch noted that the United States is not playing any role in those talks, adding that President Bush is focused on getting an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal by the end of this year.

"The expansion of the circle of peace would be a good thing and it would be helpful if that includes an agreement with Syria," Welch said.

Wednesday's announcement comes about a month after Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad admitted his country has been indirectly negotiating with Israel for about a year under the auspices of Turkey.

His admission last month, in an interview with a leading Arabic language newspaper, confirmed long-standing rumors that the two countries were discussing the Golan Heights.

A week after the interview, senior Israeli officials met with their Turkish counterparts and agreed to publicly announce the year-long talks.

الاتحاد المسيحي الديمقراطي اللبناني


       علـم وخبـر 262 / أ.د.

        ت 20/9/1988

            إستقبل النائب نعمة الله أبي نصر رئيس الإتحاد المسيحي الديمقراطي اللبناني في مكتبه السفيرين ؛ غابريال كيكيا سفير إيطاليا وميغيل بنزو سفير إسبانيا بحضور الأمين العام للإتحاد الدكتور عبده جرجس ، تأتي زيارة السفيرين ضمن جولاتهما على بعض الأحزاب والفعاليات المسيحية لاستطلاع رأيها في الأوضاع وموقفها من التطورات ، وتكملة لما سبق واتفق عليه معهما في الإجتماعات السابقة التي أجرياها مع الإتحاد .

      على أثر الإجتماع شكر أبي نصر الدول المشاركة في قوة الأمم المتحدة في لبنان لاسيما إيطاليا وإسبانيا ليس فقط لمشاركتهما في هذه القوة بل لما سبق وقدَّمتاه وتقدّمانه حالياً للبنان في كافة المجالات الإجتماعية والإقتصادية لاسيما في المضمار الأمني بغية المحافظة على السلام .

      حول الوضع السياسي السائد حالياً في البلاد شدّد أبي نصر على وجوب المحافظة وإحياء المؤسسات الدستورية في لبنان وتفعيل عملها ، بانتخاب رئيسٍ للجمهورية ، وتشكيل حكومة وفاق وطني ، ومعاودة مجلس النواب عمله فوراً ، والإتفاق على قانون إنتخاب جديد يُتيح تمثيلاً صحيحاً لكافة فئات الشعب ، كما وجوب العمل على إعادة الوحدة الوطنية وترسيخها .

      وأنَّه لا حل للأزمة التي يتخبط فيها لبنان ما لم يُحيَّد عن نزاعات المنطقة وصراعاتها والكف عن التدخل في شوؤنه الداخلية مؤيداً استمرار الحوار بين اللبنانيين توصلاً لمشاركة حقيقية في صياغة القرار الوطني من قبل كل الطوائف اللبنانية بحيث يجد اللبنانيون أنفسهم حيث يجب أن يجدوها ، في وطنهم لبنان .

      خلال الإجتماع قدّم أبي نصر تعازيه للسفير ميغيل بنزو بمناسبة مرور سنة على استشهاد الجنود الإسبان العاملين في جنوب لبنان ، كما قدّم للسفير غابريال كيكيا نسخة بالفرنسية عن كتاب حياة الأمير فخر الدين وعلاقته بإيطاليا . بدورهِ قدّم سعادة السفير كيكيا لأبي نصر نسخة عن القانون المعمول به حالياً في إيطاليا والصادر في 27 كانون الأول 2001 والذي ينظِّم ويرعى حقوق الإيطاليين المنتشرين في العالم وكيفية ممارسة حقهم في الترشح والإقتراع .

      اتَّفق الجانبان على استمرار التواصل بينهما لمتابعة الأوضاع الصعبة والبالغة الدقَّة ، وأبدى السفيران تفهماً للهواجس التي سمعاها من رئيس الإتحاد بالنسبة الى هجرة الشباب اللبناني.

      جونيه ؛ في 21/5/2008    مكتب الاتحاد المسيحي الديمقراطي اللبناني

مع شكرنا لكلّ الدول التي سعت وساهمت في إنجاح اجتماعات الدوحة وبصورة خاصة دولة قطر بشخص أميرها ؛ يمكننا أن نستخلص العبر التالية :

      أثبتت التجارب أننا عاجزون عن الإجتماع والحوار وإستنباط الحلول بدون وسيط أو رقيب أو وصي ؛ إن أسوء ما وصلنا إليه اليوم هو اعتراف اللبنانيين وعلى رأسهم السياسيِّين بعجزهم وتسليمهم بمقولة أنَّ حلَّ الأزمات اللبنانية لم يعد بيد اللبنانيين بل بيد الدول الأخرى .

      صحيح أن سوريا تتدخل في شؤوننا كذلك إيران والسعودية وأميركا وغيرها من الدول ، وكل دولة تبحث عن مصالحها ولا تتردد في إستخدام لبنان ساحة لتحقيق مكاسبها أو تصفية حساباتها ولكننا أمام هذا التدخل أثبتنا عجزنا كلبنانيين عن إدارة شؤوننا وقدرتنا على بناء دولة مستقلة ذات قرار حر ، سيشمت بنا وبقياداتنا كل الطامعين في لبنان .

      حان لنا أن نحزم أمرنا ونكف عن التطلع والإرتهان للخارج ، سواء جاء هذا الخارج من الشرق أم من الغرب ، حان لنا أن نجد أنفسنا حيث يجب أن نجدها لا في الشرق ولا في الغرب بل في وطننا لبنان . من أجل ذلك ، لا بد من تحييد لبنان عن صراعات الدول ونزاعاتها لا سيما صراعات المنطقة ، وحدها سياسة الحياد تبدو اليوم الضامن الوحيد لمستقبل الشعب اللبناني بتعدديَّة انتماءاته وولاءاته ، وهذا لن يتحقق ما لم يكن مطلباً لبنانياً يصدر عن سلطة لبنانية محايدة تجسدها حكومة وفاق وطني فلا تنحاز الى فئة على حساب فئة أخرى ولا الى طائفة على حساب طائفة ، بل يتمثل فيها الجميع على قدم المساواة .

      إنَّ الظروف تبدو اليوم مؤآتية لإيجاد صيغة لتحييد لبنان وإبعاده عن الصراعات والمحاور الإقليمية والدولية .

      هكذا حكومة بإستطاعتها إذ ذاك ان تعلن حياد لبنان تجاه المعسكرَين اللذين يتقاسمان العالم العربي اليوم ؛ فنحن مع العرب إذا اتفقوا ، وحياديين إذا اختلفوا . هكذا حكومة بإستطاعتها أن تطلب وضع نظام دولي يضمن ويكرس هذا الحياد كما هو حاصل في النمسا . فتعترف وتضمن هذا الحياد الدول التي تتزاحم على التدخل في الشأن اللبناني ، وفي ذلك مصلحة لنا ولها .

جونيه ؛ في 21/5/2008        النائب نعمة الله أبي نصر

DOHA - Rival Lebanese leaders signed a deal on Wednesday to end 18 months of political conflict that had pushed their country to the brink of a new civil war. The deal, concluded after six days of Arab-mediated talks in Qatar, paved the way for parliament to elect army chief General Michel Suleiman as president, filling a post vacant since November because of the political deadlock. Lebanese Parliament speaker Nabih Berri said Suleiman would be elected president this week most likely on Sunday May 25th. The deal between the ruling coalition and the  opposition resolved a dispute over a parliamentary election law and met the opposition's long-standing demand  to obtain 11 Cabinet seats under the deal.  In fact lin a ate night meeting on Tuesday of a six-member committee to discuss the electoral law finally achieved a breakthrough. Following a short session, opposition MP Ali Hassan Khalil told NBN television that a settlement was in the offing.  The feuding parties have finally managed to agree on dividing Beirut into three balanced constituencies. The first constituency is a Christian one with five seats, the second is a mixed one with four seats, and the third is a Sunni-dominated one with 10 seats.  On the other hand, Reform and Change bloc leader Michel Aoun will have to fight to win the five seats in the Christian district as the Armenian vote will be a deciding factor in the mixed constituency. Up until the last minute, Aoun was reportedly fighting to put six seats in the Christian district, but ended up accepting the 10-5-4 formula. The current ruling coalition will get 16 seats. The remaining seats will be distributed by the incoming president, in the 30-member cabinet.   Under the deal, the two sides also agreed on an electoral law, which divides the Mediterranean Sea country into smaller-sized political districts. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri also will call parliament to session to elect army chief, Gen. Michel Suleiman, as the country new president in the next 24 hours, the Qatari prime minister said.

"The parties agreed that the speaker of parliament will call within 24 hours for the election of General Michel Suleiman as president of the republic," Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani said, reading from the agreement at the signing ceremony in Doha.  A few bursts of celebratory gunfire broke out in Beirut's after the announcement. Lebanese television stations showed Lebanese politicians and their Arab hosts congratulating and hugging one another.

Speaking in Doha at the ceremony, Berri said opposition supporters would also dismantle their "tent city" protest camp.which the opposition has started immediately. The opposition has been camped out for more than a year in downtown Beirut across from the prime minister's office. Berri said this would be a "gift" from the opposition, hailing the Doha agreement. Saniora, also addressing the ceremony, called on the Lebanese to reject violence and asked Arab states to help support Lebanon's army, which kept a neutral role during the latest clashes. "We must ... pledge never to resort to arms to resolve our political differences," Saniora said. "We should accept each other and hold dialogue to solve the problems. We want to live together and we will continue that. We have no other choice." The Doha-based negotiations came after the Arab League mediated a deal to end the week of deadly violence that paralyzed parts of the country. The Qatar negotiations hit snags from the very start, with neither side willing to give concessions.  The agreement was reached after host Qatar stepped up the pressure Tuesday with Qatari Emir Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani personally intervening.  "There are no losers," said Lebanese Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh, "Lebanon is the winner."

Daily star: Lebanese lawmakers are set to elect the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces, General Michel Suleiman, as president on Sunday after rival political leaders clinched a deal in Doha on Wednesday to end an 18-month feud that exploded into deadly sectarian fighting and threatened to plunge the nation into all-out civil war.  The deal that was reached at Doha after four days of intensive talks will lead to electing Suleiman, forming a national unity cabinet, and drafting a new electoral law for the 2009 parliamentary elections.  The agreement was announced by Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani at noon Wednesday as the rival leaders gathered at a roundtable.  "Some of you took to the streets asking your leaders not to return to Lebanon without reaching an agreement ... I would like to tell you that your leaders have finally agreed and they will shortly be on their way back," Sheikh Hamad said, addressing the Lebanese people.  The rival leaders officially signed the agreement shortly after it was announced.  They arrived in Beirut later in the day.  As the good news reached Beirut, people in the capital and in different areas of the country could not help but show their content and relief.  The feeling of relief was followed by instant action as opposition supporters began to remove tents at the site of their 18-month sit-in in Downtown Beirut after Speaker Nabih Berri declared an end to the protest.  Berri said that ending the sit-in was a gift from the opposition to the Doha agreement.    The speaker also thanked Qatari and Arab mediators for their role in helping Lebanese parties reach an agreement.  The long-awaited deal addressed two key issues of contention between the opposition and ruling majority.  As far as forming a national unity government is concerned, the opposition has managed to get its long-demanded veto power.  The new cabinet will be made up of 16 ministers for the parliamentary majority, 11 for the opposition, and three for the elected president. The 11 ministers (one third plus one of the 30-member cabinet) are all that it takes for the opposition to block any government decision to which its is opposed.  However, the next cabinet is not due to last long as it will resign by default when the parliamentary elections are due next spring.  Meanwhile, the most important deal of all was the agreement reached on drafting a new electoral law for the 2009 parliamentary elections.  The issue of the electoral law was the major hurdle to the success of the Doha talks after the rival sides, which approved adopting the qada (smaller district) as an electoral constituency, appeared at odds over how to divide seats in Beirut.  As the Doha talks were moving close to failure, a late night meeting on Tuesday of a six-member committee to discuss the electoral law finally achieved a breakthrough. Following a short session, opposition MP Ali Hassan Khalil told NBN television that a settlement was in the offing.  The feuding parties have finally managed to agree on dividing Beirut into three balanced constituencies. The first constituency is a Christian one with five seats, the second is a mixed one with four seats, and the third is a Sunni-dominated one with 10 seats.  The formula is likely to secure for parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri at least 10 out of Beirut's 19 seats.  On the other hand, Reform and Change bloc leader Michel Aoun will have to fight to win the five seats in the Christian district as the Armenian vote will be a deciding factor in the mixed constituency. Up until the last minute, Aoun was reportedly fighting to put six seats in the Christian district, but ended up accepting the 10-5-4 formula.  As for other parts of the country, the two sides agreed on adopting the divisions of the 1960 electoral law.  Prime Minister Fouad Siniora described the agreement as a "great achievement in ... the history of Lebanon."  Speaking shortly after the Qatari emir announced the agreement, Siniora called on all Lebanese parties to condemn violence and pledge not to use arms to settle political disputes.  The Doha agreement has committed all parties not to use violence and stated that security was the exclusive responsibility of the Lebanese state.   Under the agreement, a dialogue is set to begin in Beirut to address the issue of the state's relations with political groups in the country. Such dialogue is to be held under the auspices of the new president.  The issue of Hizbullah's possession of arms was not discussed at the Doha talks or mentioned in the agreement as the Arab committee decided to make do with banning the use of violence, a clear reference to the recent clashes in Lebanon between opposition and pro-government militants.  The clashes left up to 65 dead and 250 wounded.  Hariri also praised the deal.  "Today, we are opening a new page in Lebanon's history," he said

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DOHA  - Arab mediators gave Lebanon's  opposition a Wednesday deadline to respond to proposals aimed at resolving a political crisis which brought the country to the brink of civil war. Delegates said the proposals called  for the immediate election of a president, a cabinet in which the opposition had veto powers, a pledge to avoid violence (In which the ruling coalition and opposition has already agreed), and two alternative solutions to the election law impasse. The only disagreement is the electoral law. The new proposal suggested by Qatar are mainly in regards of the division of Beirut. The division of Beirut into three subscriptions as followed 7, 7, 5 and /or the second proposal is to discuss Boutros proposal during their return in the Lebanese parliament.  Qatars minister of state for foreign affairs Ahmad Abdullah al-Mahmood said the mediators had put forward two proposals to break the deadlock between the U.S.-supported ruling coalition and the opposition. "One of the sides asked for one extra day to respond to these proposals ... and the committee agreed to give a one day deadline till tomorrow," Mahmood told reporters on Tuesday. General Aoun in a personnal interview with New TV has confirmed that he has offered as much as he could in regards of the overall plan. He has added that it is the right of the voters in Beirut to have each circomscription divided in a fair manner which is following the 1960 law division of Beirut. He has also reminded that he decided to support General Sleiman and decided not to run for presidency  eventhough he has the support of the overwhelming numbers of Lebanese chrisitians and is the head of the biggest Christian coalition in the Lebanese Parliament. By supporting General Sleiman he had already backed up a lot of his demands and cannot continue backing up without having the ruling coalition takes its responsability and divide Beirut circumscription in a fair way as he has stated.

Delegates in Qatar said the governing coalition accepted both proposals to overcome disagreements on sharing power in a national unity government and changes to an election law. "We are not the party that asked for the postponement," government minister Ahmed Fatfat told Al Jazeera  television. Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani spoke by telephone with officials in Iran and Syria, Agreement on the election law and power sharing in cabinet -- where the opposition has demanded a veto -- would pave the way for parliament to elect army chief General Michel Suleiman as president, a post that has been vacant since November.  The rivals were at a deadlock on Monday over the electoral division of Beirut -- the bedrock of support for Saad al-Hariri,  The division of electoral constituencies will help shape the outcome of parliamentary polls in 2009.  Analysts said the Qatari-led Arab mediators still held out hopes of success, but that their 24-hour deadline might simply be postponing failure. "It seems the Arab committee sees itself halfway between both," political columnist Abdel Wahab Badrakhan said. "For the first time in the conference the opposition finds itself cornered and having to respond clearly."

Rival leaders appeared back at square one on the fourth day of intense bargaining in Doha but mediators managed to get the talks going and maintained hope that a deal could still be reached to pull Lebanon back from the brink of a civil strife. Government and opposition leaders have been in Qatar for several days amid heightened tension following violence in Lebanon earlier this month.  The two sides were considering a plan proposed by Qatar to form a unity cabinet and postpone talks on a controversial draft election law.  Qatari leaders suggested postponing a decision over disputed election legislation and moving directly to a parliamentary vote to name army chief Michel Suleiman as president.  They also proposed forming a unity government of 30 ministers, with 13 ministers from the parliamentary majority, 10 from the opposition and seven to be chosen by the elected president.  Rival factions are agreed on electing Mr Suleiman as a president to succeed the President Emile Lahoud, whose term ended in November.  But they have fallen out over power-sharing in a unity government.  Parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri announced on Monday that he would not return to Beirut until a settlement is reached.  Opposition leader Michel Aoun told Lebanon's Orange TV. that the government side was offering the opposition veto power in a future national unity government, as long as the Hezbollah-led side agrees to a government-drafted election law. Aoun called the suggestion "childish" because the national unity government would only rule Lebanon until the next parliamentary elections in May 2009.  "They wanted to share a government with us for 11 months, then take the state and presidency for four years," Aoun said. Lebanese state-run National News Agency said a "declaration of intentions" is expected later Monday

 Rival Lebanese leaders made progress on issues at the heart of their political crisis on Sunday but Qatari-mediated talks face major hurdles to a deal to pull Lebanon back from a civil war. Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani met with members of th epro-government and opposition  end a crisis that has paralyzed the government and left Lebanon with no president. But delegates said Sheikh Hamad had yet to win final approval on one of the prickliest issues on the agenda -- the shape of a new government -- after making several proposals including one to split seats three ways equally among rivals.  A six-member committee created on Saturday to lay the framework for a new election law has made progress and was now working out the details of how to divide Beirut electorally.  Delegates said Sheikh Hamad brought together Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a senior opposition leader, for the first time in 18 months as part of efforts to solve the crisis that has left Lebanon with no president and taken it close to civil war.  Delegates said the differences were slowly narrowing over the two key issues on the agenda -- a new election law and power-sharing in the government.

The 14 political leaders in Qatar did not meet again after a first session on Saturday. Instead, a joint committee tasked with addressing an electoral law for a parliamentary poll due next year began work. "We are trying to resolve differences," opposition MP and committee member Ali Hasan Khalil told reporters.  The factions differ on the delineation of constituencies, fearing they would lose parliamentary seats due to demographic changes which would follow any alteration of boundaries. Election laws have always been a sensitive subject in Lebanon, a patchwork of religious sects where redrawing constituencies can have a dramatic impact on voting results.  A deal would lead to the election of army commander General Michel Suleiman as president. Both sides have accepted his nomination for a post reserved for a Maronite Christian in Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system.  "We are still leaving an opportunity because we still see the chance of reaching an understanding and this is what we came for," Hezbollah MP Mohammed Raad told his party's al-Manar TV. Former President Amine Gemayel said to reporters: "I think we have resolved 90 percent of the hurdles facing the new election law. We have some obstacles left regarding some electoral constituencies," said Amin Gemayel, a former president and member of the ruling coalition.  "Hopefully, by evening we will have published a joint vision. We have to reach a solution in the end." Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani had yet to win final approval on the shape of a new government but had made several proposals, including one to split seats three ways equally among rivals, delegates said.  Secretary General Amr Moussa told Free Lebanon radio he expected "today to be a decisive day" at the Qatar talks that seek to end the 18-month political stalemate and facilitate the election of a president after a 6-month vacuum.

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DOHA  - Rival leaders tackled divisive issues at the heart of Lebanon's political crisis on Saturday at Qatari-mediated talks aimed at pulling their country back from the brink of civil war. Government and opposition leaders left a conference room separately in the morning, after 90 minutes of tense talks. Delegates said a six-member committee established at that session and asked to create a framework for a new election law had already made progress. Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani is holding consultations to bring rival leaders closer to a deal on the framework for a new government. "The impression, thank God, from the session, shows the desire among all the factions to reach an understanding ... that will bring us to the beginning of a solution to this crisis," Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told Voice of Lebanon radio.  "We have to have faith and trust that we will do the impossible until we find solutions to this difficult stage that Lebanon has faced the past two weeks."

Host Qatar offered to come up with a compromise after leaders of the pro-government March 14 parliamentary bloc insisted on listing Hezbollah's arms on the agenda of the dialogue, said the delegate, requesting anonymity. Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani "offered to come up with a proposal on the Hezbollah weaponry issue and present it to the two parties," a Lebanese delegate told AFP. "The two sides have agreed to that," he added following the first session of Arab-mediated talks by 14 leaders. The Qatari hosts will be working against the backdrop of two United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for the disarmament of all militias in Lebanon. Despite disagreement over the arms question, the delegates did agree to form a committee of three members from each side to address the issue of a new electoral law for parliamentary polls due next year, the delegate said.In addition to the electoral law, the leaders are expected to discuss a proposed unity government.Both sides have already agreed on army chief Michel Sleiman

DOHA (Reuters) - Rival Lebanese leaders flew to Qatar on Friday aiming to end a protracted political conflict that has pushed the country to the brink of a new civil war.Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani was due to open the talks in a Doha hotel at 9:00 pm (1800 GMT).  "Let us deal with matters calmly at the dialogue table. Each one of us and them must offer concessions to bury strife," Walid Jumblatt said during a tour of Druze villages. We are going to the dialogue with a great political wound," said Jumblatt, who later flew to Doha in a Qatar Airways plane along with both his allies and rivals. Lebanese forces leader Samir Geagea, former president Amin Gemayel and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt of the ruling coalition boarded a Qatari aircraft  along with opposition member and parliament speaker Nabih Berri and the Free Patriotic  leader Michel Aoun. The leader of the militant Shiite Hezbollah movement Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah did not go to Qatar, apparently for security reasons, but was to be represented by Hezbollah MP Mohammed Raad.

Arab mediators, led by the Qatari prime minister, concluded a deal on Thursday to end the fighting which killed 81 people and exacerbated sectarian tensions between Shi'ites loyal to Hezbollah and Druze and Sunni followers of the ruling coalition. "We are going to Doha .... to come back, God willing, with an agreement that will allow Lebanese to look forward, benefiting from the past and its bitter experience," Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said before leaving for Qatar.In another concession to the opposition, the ruling coalition also appears to have dropped its demands that the election of a new president precede discussions on a new cabinet and a new parliamentary election law -- the two main issues on the agenda of the Qatar talks. "The atmosphere is excellent and we will put our efforts into reaching a solution which is in the interest of all Lebanese," parliament speaker Nabih Berri, an opposition leader allied to Syria, told as-Safir.

The feuding Lebanese politicians agreed on Thursday to launch a dialogue as part of a six-point plan, following Arab League mediation led by Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani. Under the deal the rivals undertook "to shore up the authority of the Lebanese state throughout the country," to refrain from using weapons to further political aims and to remove militants from the streets. It also called for the removal of roadblocks that paralysed air traffic and closed major highways, and for the rivals to refrain from using language that could incite violence. Life began returning to normal in Beirut on Friday as the port, businesses and many schools reopened. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told Beirut's pro-opposition daily As-Safir that "Syria supports the agreement." He called it "a real opportunity to save Lebanon from the dangers it faces," but warned against "international interference that could have negative impacts." Lebanon's pro-government daily An-Nahar described the deal as "an achievement bordering on a miracle," although the country still remained on the brink. "Beirut's streets and airport returned to what they were before May 5, but this return does not mean the retreat of the explosive political situation." The pro-opposition newspaper Al-Akhbar said: "Those going to Doha today carry an immense patriotic duty in their hands. "Lebanon will be relieved of its leaders for a few days, but people are still worried about picking up the pieces of their lives as they are still under threat in the event the Doha meeting fails to bring a comprehensive solution." A group of disabled people, some bearing injuries from Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, gathered on the Beirut airport road bearing signs for the leaders: "If you don't agree, don't come back."

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                              دعا النائب نعمة الله أبي نصر المسيحيين في لبنان وبالتحديد الموارنة الى أن يستعيدوا دورهم الحقيقي في لبنان والمشرق لأنهم أصحاب رسالة عنوانها الحرية والإنفتاح . وقال :

      في ضوء الأحداث الخطيرة التي شهدها لبنان أظهر المسيحيون درجة من الوعي تبشّر بالخير ، لكنها غير كافية إذ أنَّ عليهم أن يبادروا فوراً لطرح حلول جذريَّة لمجموع القضايا اللبنانية تقوم على وصلِ ما انقطع بين الطوائف اللبنانية وبالتحديد بين السُنَّة والشيعة والدروز.

      وأضاف: لقد سبق وحذّرنا مراراً من خطورة إنتقال الصراع السياسي الى الشارع ، أما وقد وقع المحظور وانفجر الصراع المذهبي في الشارع يهدّد كيان لبنان ، فإذا سقط الكيان خسر الموارنة مبرِّر وجودهم وفقد المسيحيون عموماً فرصة الإستمرار الحرّ في هذا الشرق. ولذلك تتحمَّل القيادات السياسية المارونية مسؤوليةً كبرى في بلورَة الحلول وتعزيز فرص الحوار والتواصل بين مختلف الفئات وإفهام الجميع أن تعزيز الموقع المسيحي في الدولة اللبنانية هو لمصلحة المسلمين قبل المسيحيين وإلاَّ فقَدَ لبنان معناه .

      وتوجّه أبي نصر بنداء الى الذين سيجتمعون حول طاولة الحوار ، فدعاهم الى تصحيح الأخطاء المميتة التي ارتُكبت في الطائف والتي أرست قواعد مناقِضة لثوابت التاريخ ، فسلبت لبنان ذاتيَّته وقراره طيلة عهد الوصاية السورية ، وحرمته فرصة بناء دولةٍ حقيقيَّة بعد انتهاء الوصاية . مطلوب من المتحاورين إبتكار حلول تُعيد لبنان الى المنطق اللبناني ، وللوطن معناه الكياني الذي نُشاهد اليوم تخريبه المأساوي .

      وقال : إنَّ الدستور المنبثق من الطائف تنكَّر لدور المؤسس الفعلي لدولة لبنان الحديث ، وتغاضى النظام السياسي عن هويته اللبنانية ، فسقط الهيكل فوق رؤوس الجميع ودخلنا في صراعات طائفية ومذهبيَّة ارتبطت بصراعات إقليميَّة أكبر من لبنان ، وعندما وقعت الأزمة السياسية تعطّل مجلس النواب ، وشُلَّت الحكومة وفَرَغَت رئاسة الجمهورية التي لم تتمكن من لعب دور الحَكَم القادر بين المؤسسات ، لأنها جُرِّدَتْ من صلاحيات أساسيَّة في حلِّ الحكومة ومجلس النواب ، فانقلبت الأزمة من المؤسسات الى الشارع وكبرت حتى صارت تُهدِّدُ بحربٍ أهليَّة . هذه هي الحقيقة التي لا بدَّ للمجتمعين أن يَدرُكوها ليستعيد النظام السياسي اللبناني قدرته على تداول السلطة ديمقراطياً بوجود رئيسٍ يحكم فعلاً ويكون بالإمكان محاسبته إذا أخطأ . وأي بحثٍ دون هذا المستوى هو مجرَّد مسكِّنات لأزمة مطروحة قد تنفجر كلَّ حين .

            جونيه ؛ في 16/5/2008       مكتب النائب نعمة الله أبي نصر  

Loyal to Lebanon's opposition on Thursday began removing roadblocks on the highway leading to Beirut's international airport, paving the way for commercial flights to resume, an AFP correspondent said.  A MEA plane was set to arrive in the early evening, the first commercial flight since incoming and outgoing services were suspended a week ago. "An MEA flight from Paris is scheduled to arrive from Paris at 7:00 pm (1600 GMT) and will depart to Larnaca, Cyprus at 8:30 pm," an airport official said.  Crowds of people gathered on a bridge overhead to watch as tractors piled sand and rock into trucks as they dismantled the roadblocks."The airport is the pulse and life of the country," said Samih Karneb, 45. "At least now there won't be any more shows of force. Each side knows their size." Abbas, 26, said that opening the airport motorway was "a beautiful sight," while a soldier standing nearby disagreed, telling AFP that "it shouldn't have come to this in the first place. "Are we supposed to be happy about this?" he asked.

 Arab mediators unveiled a deal on Thursday to defuse a long-running feud between rival political factions. Under the agreement announced after two days of intensive talks, the factions agreed to relaunch a dialogue to end a paralysing political crisis that boiled over into six days of deadly sectarian gunbattles last week.  Under a six-point plan announced by Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, the rivals agreed to go to Qatar on Friday to begin a national dialogue to try to elect a president and form a national unity government. "May 15 is normally a day we consider a sad one because of the memories it evokes," said Arab League chief Amr Mussa, referring to the creation of the Jewish state 60 years ago which is regarded as a "catastrophe" by Arabs. "But this May 15, 2008 was witness to an important step forward on the Lebanese scene because of the success towards relaunching dialogue and a return to normal life and an accord between all the parties." Under Thursday's deal, the rivals agreed to launch a dialogue "to shore up the authority of the Lebanese state throughout the country," to refrain from using weapons to further political aims and to remove armed militants from the streets. It also called for the removal of all roadblocks that have paralysed air traffic and closed major highways, and for the rivals to refrain from using language that could incite violence. Hopes of a deal were raised after the government, in a major climbdown, on Wednesday cancelled controversial measures against Hezbollah that had triggered the latest unrest  in the counbtry. Parliament is scheduled to convene on June 10 for its 20th attempt to elect a president.

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The security outlook in Lebanon continued to improve on Wednesday, amid a tumultuous political situation and a whirlwind of mediation efforts. Southeast of Beirut, the Lebanese Aarmed Forces (LAF) detonated unexploded hand grenades in Choueifat as part of a deployment to the Aley and Chouf districts, which were the scene of intense clashes over the weekend between Progressive Socialist Party and opposition fighters.  The Zahle district in the central Bekaa region also saw a relative return to normalcy, with the reopening of several roads shut off last week by government supporters. Despite clashes and reports of brutality in Tripoli during the past few days, a security source told The Daily Star that the security outlook in and around the Northern port city has improved markedly, with LAF deployments resulting in a citywide clamp-down on violence. An overnight explosion was reported, but it appears that this was due to an overloaded electricity generator. In a measure aimed at easing the burden of citizens affected by the violence, the Internal Security Forces released a statement Tuesday announcing that "all ISF bureaus and stations" will be open for the airing of complaints and assuring citizens that "appropriate and necessary measures will be taken to mitigate any existing difficulties."  In other security-related news, the LAF's commander, General Michel Suleiman, met with US Charge d'Affaires to Lebanon Michele Sison and a US Central Command (CENTCOM) delegation headed by acting CENTCOM commander Lieutenant General Martin E. Dempsey in order to discuss a possible shoring up of the Lebanese military's capabilities.

An Arab League delegation late Wednesday continued talks with Lebanese rivals in a bid to reach a settlement to deadly sectarian clashes that have driven Lebanon close to civil war. "The delegation is continuing its talks with the Lebanese rivals with optimism," a member close to the Arab delegation told Deutsche Press-Agentur dpa.  The team, headed by Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani and Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa, held talks with Lebanon's House Speaker Nabih Berri, premier Fouad Seniora, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, Opposition leader Michela Aoun,  Lebanese Armed Forces chief General Michel Suleiman, Majority Leader Saad Hariri, former president Amin Gemayel and Lebanese forces'  leader Samir Geagea.  The delegation had issued no statements since their arrival in Beirut.  By late evening, there was no apparent breakthrough as the cabinet of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora gathered to decide on the next step. Several officials close to the majority and the opposition said the government would likely cancel measures against Hezbollah on Thursday as part of a "package deal" following further meetings. "The government is unlikely to announce any decisions tonight," one official told AFP. "It will probably do so tomorrow as part of a package deal," he added, without elaborating. The cabinet decided to agree on the suggestion of the army commander... which includes the cancellation of the two decisions," the statement, read by Information Minister Ghazi al-Aridi, said. It is also a first step towards easing the broader standoff between Siniora's government and opposition forces that has left Lebanon without a president since November.

Meanwhile, sources close to Berri told The Daily Star that he told the Arab delegation that the opposition was not trying to realize any political gains from the recent clashes in the country.  The sources added that Berri did not mind holding talks between rival leaders in Doha.  Later on Wednesday, Gemayel said after meeting the Arab delegation at his residence in Sin al-Fil that the first item on the agenda of any dialogue should be Hizbullah's arsenal.  "We welcome Sheikh Hamad's proposal to hold dialogue in Doha," Gemayel said. But "before taking part in any dialogue, we need guarantees after Hizbullah's using of its arms against other Lebanese parties."  "People are worried as a result of Hizbullah's actions and we need reassurances," he added. "What Hizbullah did left a big bruise in the hearts of many people ... A great effort should be made to heal this bruise."  Meanwhile, Aoun said after meeting the delegation at his residence in Rabieh that he will not spare any effort to facilitate the success of the Arab mission.  "I also hope that other parties do all that is necessary to help the Arab delegation," he said. "The current circumstances are very tough and could be even tougher unless some concessions are made." Aoun blamed the recent escalation on the government.  "We have been warning against such behavior for three years," the former army commander said. "A new approach in rule should be adopted."  After meeting Aoun, the delegation headed to meet Geagea at his residence in Zouk Mosbeh. Geagea said after the meeting that any talks between the rival parties should tackle two issues: Hizbullah's relations with the Lebanese state and a new electoral law for the 2009 parliamentary elections. He said that although he did not mind holding dialogue in Doha, he preferred holding the talks in Lebanon: "I appreciate what our Qatari brothers are doing, but I personally prefer inter-Lebanese dialogue in Lebanon."  Geagea also said that the government did not need to cancel its decisions regarding the airport security chief and Hizbullah's private telecommunications network.  "The government has referred the decisions to the army, which in turn is in charge of tackling this issue," he said before the moves were rescinded. Wael Abu Faour, a parliamentarian in the ruling coalition, told Reuters after Siniora met the Arab mediators ."The general direction of the Lebanese government is ... to put civil peace above all else, including the latest (cabinet) decisions," 

 Lebanon has been largely calm for two days and Hezbollah activists removed some roadblocks on the airport road on Wednesday to give the Arab mediators passage to the city . In what they described as a reciprocal move, pro-government Sunni forces partially lifted their border blockade on the main road link between Beirut and Damascus. Syria threw its weight behind the mediation effort on Wednesday. A foreign ministry statement in Damascus urged all Lebanese parties to cooperate constructively with its proposals. If it succeeds in easing tension, the delegation is expected to invite the rival leaders to Qatar  for talks aimed at resolving their protracted political conflict.  Another political source, speaking before the talks, said the pro-government leaders wanted guarantees Hezbollah would pull out of the streets and vow not to use its guns against its foes before any dialogue.  The recent fighting raised concerns Lebanon was edging towards wider civil strife among Druze and Sunni supporters of the governing coalition and Shi'ites who back Hezbollah.  Saudi Arabia, a backer of the governing coalition, has said Hezbollah's actions, if backed by Iran, could threaten Tehran's ties with Arab states. Iran has blamed the United States for the violence in Lebanon. No commercial flights have been scheduled from the country's only international airport for the seventh straight day, an airport official said.

U.S. President George W. Bush, in Jerusalem to celebrate the anniversary of Israel's founding in 1948, accused Iran on Wednesday of using the Islamist Shi'ite Hezbollah to destabilize Lebanon. He said: "This is an Iranian effort to destabilize their young democracy." He said the United States stood by Lebanon, a parliamentary democracy since independence from France in 1943. Iran has rejected accusations from Washington that it is meddling in Lebanon and has blamed the violence on the United States and Israel. "Iran is the only country not interfering in Lebanon," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad    said on Tuesday.  Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the acting commander of U.S. Central Command, spent Wednesday in Beirut, Lebanon, to discuss the security crisis with officials there and assure them that U.S. military aid will continue, a U.S. military official said. He met Defense Minister Elias Murr and Lt. Gen. Michel Suleiman, the commander of the Lebanese armed forces in the wake of the Lebanese government losing control of part of its capital to the militant group Hezbollah. The trip had not previously been scheduled. It is not clear when it was added to the agenda of the top U.S. military commander for the region.  Discussions centered on continued U.S. military assistance to the Lebanese armed forces in light of the ongoing crisis. "The U.S. government will continue to support the legitimate institutions of the Lebanese government and the Lebanese people as they seek to preserve their independence and security," the military official said. For the last several years, the Defense Department has supplied Lebanese armed forces with ammunition, armored vehicles and weapons.

 Lebanon's cabinet is likely to cancel measures on Wednesday that angered Hezbollah movement and triggered the worst internal conflict since the country's civil war, political sources said. You can say it's a done deal, but we're waiting for the cabinet meeting," one political source said shortly before Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who is supported by the United States, convened his ministers for talks at 11:30 a.m. EDT. Rescinding a ban on Hezbollah's communications network and the sacking of Beirut airport's security chief, who is close to the group, is one of Hezbollah's demands to lift its blockade of the airport and its campaign of civil disobedience. It would also be a first step towards easing a broader 18-month-long standoff between Siniora's government and opposition forces that has left Lebanon without a president since November. At least 81 people have been killed since violence broke out on May 7 following the cabinet decisions against Hezbollah.

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BEIRUT, Lebanon - The Lebanese army expanded its troop deployment to several tense areas around the country Tuesday, saying its soldiers would use force if needed to impose order. The army has played a central role in defusing the violence that started last Wednesday by calling on armed supporters from both sides to leave the streets. But it has remained neutral in the conflict and did not intervene. The army's announcement signaled that it could step up its involvement to bring an end to the country's worst internal fighting since the end of the civil war. Army units will prevent any violations, whether by individuals or groups, in accordance with the law even if this is going to lead to the use of force," said an army statement released late Monday. One reason the army had largely stayed out of the fighting was the fear that its forces could break apart along sectarian lines as they did during the civil war. The army statement said troops would prevent armed civilians from roaming the streets and called on all groups in the country to cooperate. Streets in the capital were busy as more businesses opened, but schools and universities remained closed. Also, many roads were still blocked including the highway leading to the country's only international airport. The tense areas where troops deployed early Tuesday included the northern city of Tripoli that witnessed heavy clashes the day before. The army also continued its deployment in the mountains overlooking Beirut and several neighborhoods in the capital.

President Bush expressed his support for the Lebanese army on Monday during an interview with Al-Arabiya television, saying Washington would continue to supply and train the country's forces. "We want to make them better so they can respond," Bush said. The president confirmed that the US military  has moved the destroyer USS Cole  off the coast of Lebanon but said it was "part of a routine training mission that had been scheduled a long time before." Army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman is the consensus candidate for president and the army's success in calming violence in the country could enhance his chances of being elected. Bush said in his interview that the U.S. would continue its support for the Lebanese government and keep up pressure on Iran and Syria,  The president also called on Arab nations to support Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. Arab foreign ministers met in Egypt on Sunday and pledged to send a delegation to Beirut to help find a solution. The delegation was expected in Beirut on Wednesday. Lebanon's Sunni Muslim leader Saad al-Hariri pledged on Tuesday there would be no political surrender to what he called a bid by Hezbollah and its Syrian and Iranian backers to impose their will on the nation by force. They simply are demanding that we surrender, they want Beirut to raise white flags... This is impossible," Hariri told a news conference in his first public appearance since Hezbollah swept through Sunni-dominated areas of the capital last week. "They will not be able to obtain Saad al-Hariri's signature ... on a deed to surrender to the Iranian and Syrian regimes." Lebanon experienced its calmest day since violence broke out on May 7 after U.S.-backed Prime Minister Fouad Siniora outlawed Hezbollah's communications network and fired Beirut airport's security chief.  Hezbollah said this was a declaration of war and swiftly took over much of Beirut, crushing pro-government Sunni Muslim gunmen. It then handed over its gains to the army.  Saudi Arabia said that if Iran endorsed Hezbollah's actions it would affect the Islamic Republic's ties with the Arab world. "Of course, for Iran to back the coup that happened in Lebanon ... will have an impact on its relations with all Arab countries," said Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.  said al-Faisal 's claims of Iranian support for Hizbullah's recent actions in Lebanon were made in anger. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied his country was meddling in Lebanon. According to Ahmadinejad, the Saudi Foreign Minister was not following the orders of Saudi King Abdullah. The Iranian leader conveyed Iran is the only country that does not interfere in Lebanon's internal affairs.French Foreign Minister hinted at a possible U.N. Security Council resolution on Lebanon.  "A resolution, which is still not entirely complete, could be proposed to the Security Council," Kouchner told parliament.

There is no civil authority in the country now, so the army is under tremendous pressure," said Timor Goksell, a security expert and former spokesman of UN peacekeeping forces who coordinate with the military in south Lebanon.  "If they had used their weapons during the clashes, tomorrow there would be no army and no country." But Goksell said the army's pledge as of the morning of 13 May to "halt violations

- Lebanon was on a knife-edge on Monday . Pro-government gunmen and supporters loyal to Lebanon's Hezbollah battled with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades in the northern city of Tripoli on Monday. Security sources said six people were wounded when Sunni government supporters in Tripoli's Bab Tebbaneh district exchanged machine gun and grenade fire with Alawite militiamen Mohsen area. The fighting later gave way to the occasional crack of sniper fire, witnesses said. A security official said three cars with Syrian licence plates came under fire on Monday, leaving three people wounded. Such incidents have raised fears the situation could escalate again against the backdrop of seething hatred between Sunnis who support the ruling bloc and Shiites who back the opposition.The Masnaa border crossing with Syria was also blocked.  Such incidents have raised fears the situation could escalate again against the backdrop of seething hatred between Sunnis who support the ruling bloc and Shiites who back the opposition.  Sunni Islamist groups in Tripoli loyal to the pro-government on Sunday declared that they were launching their own resistance to defend the country.

At least 36 people had been killed on Sunday in fighting between Hezbollah and its pro-government Druze opponents east of Beirut. A precarious calm prevailed in Beirut, where politicians prepared to meet Arab League mediators. "What has been happening is negotiations by fire," a political source said. "Now everyone is waiting for the Arab committee to come for the political negotiations to start."  Officials could not immediately provide casualty figures from other mountain towns where fighting also raged a day earlier.One source said the dead in Sunday's battles included 17 Hezbollah fighters. Hezbollah-led forces overran several posts held by gunmen loyal to Walid Jumblatt in the Aley district before the Druze leader agreed to hand them over to the army. Jumblatt had authorized Talal Arslan his rival  Druze leader, to mediate with Hezbollah. Arsalan said Jumblatt's men had handed over most of their offices and strongholds in Aley to the army, but said he was still waiting for them to turn in heavy weapons and arms depots. This is what is causing the delay and unrest. He has also suggested that these heavy arms to be handed to his party who in return will hand them,to the Lebaneese Army. The latest fighting in  Lebanon, which began on May 7, has killed 81 people and wounded 250.

Former President Amin Gemayel of the pro-government Christian Phalangist Party insisted Monday that the ruling majority will not engage in dialogue with Hezbollah without a pledge that it will stop using its weapons inside the country. Hezbollah has for years vowed its weapons would only be used for resistance against Israel and would never point them toward internal disputes.  The events since Wednesday, however, have sharply reduced the group's credibility as a purely anti-Israeli resistance organization and apparently given more reason for parties seeking to disarm it, according to independent analysts.  "They cannot come to the negotiating table with their artillery," Gemayel said, describing Hezbollah's power gains as an "illusionary victory."  that was taken by them which in return has cause the Lebanese situation to explode in certain regions in Lebanon. On the other hand General Aoun has declared that the there will be no fight between the Christians and that the situation  is safe in the Christian regions,  because of their accord with Hezbollah. He has also added that the Government is the only one that is responsible  to the current situation because of the two decision (outlawing Hezbollah communications network and sacking the airport security chief .) He has also declared that the current uncertainty  and continuous violence can be solved only by clearly rejecting these 2 decisions and not the uncertainty and hesitation of the government and also the only solution is the government resignation through the Parliament and electing a new national unity government. From another stand Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea declared after visiting Prime Minister Senioura that the government is very unified and calm and standing behind all of their decisions and there is no plans of any backing up . Meanwhile, shops began opening in the capital and more civilians were seen emerging from their homes, though traffic was lighter than usual. Many schools and universities were still closed.  A minor clash broke out at dawn between government supporters and supporters allied to the opposition gunmen in the busy Hamra district, security officials said on condition of anonymity, also because they were not authorized to speak to the media. Two cameramen for Al-Jazeera television, who arrived at the scene to cover the shooting, were lightly wounded and briefly hospitalized, the channel said. Most gunmen have withdrawn from Beirut

BEIRUT, May 11  -- Pope Benedict XVI condemned the sectarian fighting. "I beg the Lebanese to end clashes which are leading this country" to the point of no return, he said.

The army deployed across much of Lebanon on Sunday after Hezbollah ceded control of west Beirut but clashes raged on in the north and in the Druze mountains as Arab foreign ministers held crisis talks. Lebanese troops patrolled Beirut on Sunday after Hezbollah fighters pulled back from areas they had seized in deadly gunbattles with supporters of the U.S.-backed government. Heavy clashes between pro and anti-government supporters broke out Sunday in mountain areas in central Lebanon, local New TV reported.  The violence started in mountain village of Aytat in Aley area, and expanded to other villages and then spread out to Chweifatcity where heavy gunfire exchange is taking place, according to the report. The report said automatic rifles and RPGs were used in the battles, and huge sound of explosion could be heard in the area. The fighting was reportedly between the supporters of pro-government Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and Druze opposition leader Talal Erslan's gunmen.  local LBC TV reported that  after a phone conversation between Jumblatt and Arslan  came in agreement to hand the control of mountain area over to the army to end the current violence. Civil peace and halting the destruction are paramount," Jumblatt told Lebanese television. He also asked his supporters to lay down their weapons. Arslan also called on opposition fighters to halt the fighting . Shortly after the appeals the army began deploying in the area.  Earlier on Sunday the army had moved into the northern city of Tripoli where fierce overnight sectarian clashes had left one woman dead at at least five wounded. So far, 38 people have been killed in clashes that began Wednesday, the worst sectarian violence since the civil war. Overnight, there were fierce clashes in the north, particularly in the city of Tripoli where pro-government supporters exchanged rocket propelled grenades and heavy machine gun fire with opposition followers, security officials said. One woman was killed. The clashes were over by morning when the Lebanese army deployed on the streets to separate the warring factions.

Calm returned a day after Siniora placed the implementation of two government decisions in the army's hands: to shut down Hezbollah's electronic surveillance operation at Beirut's international airport and a vast land-line telephone network. The military, in a statement, overturned the government's plans. It reinstated the head of airport security fired over the existence of the spy system and left the phone lines under Hezbollah's control.  ``This was probably an inevitable moment, when Hezbollah felt it had to show the government the real balance of power between them,'' Rami Khoury.  Beirut's streets were largely deserted Sunday, a day off in Lebanon. Many roads remained blocked, including the one to the airport, by the ongoing civil disobedience campaign of the opposition . In the western Beirut neighborhood of Karakol Druse, which saw heavy fighting Thursday, a man swept glass outside his shop. A gaping hole from a rocket propelled grenade and bullet holes marked the facade of a normally busy bakery, now closed.  There were few signs of gunmen openly carrying weapons, save for small knots of Hezbollah allies from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party sitting outside the Economy Ministry in one seaside district.  On Beirut's normally bustling seaside corniche, workers outside five-star hotels cleaned blackened streets scarred by burning tires.

Arab League foreign ministers meanwhile held emergency talks on Lebanon in Cairo in the absence of Syria's top diplomat, Arab League urged: "In view of the danger of the situation in Lebanon, the council of ministers sends out an urgent appeal for an immediate end to violence in Mount Lebanon (Druze regions) and other areas,"  Dijbouti's Foreign Minister Mahmud Ali Yussuf, who was chairing the session, told fellow ministers that "a number of steps and measures to resolve the situation in Lebanon have been put forward." He urged the different factions in Lebanon to "exercise restraint and cooperate with Arab endeavours," stressing that an Arab plan to resolve the crisis "is the only initiative on the table." That initiative calls for the election of Lebanese army chief General Michel Sleiman as president, the establishment of a national unity government and the drafting of a new electoral law. The opposition pulled back its militants from Beirut after the army revoked the government's decisions and deployed in the affected areas. Many Lebanese, including cabinet ministers, observed a minute of silence on Sunday for the victims of the violence, heeding a call by embattled Prime Minister Fuad Siniora who described Hezbollah's power grab as an armed coup. Syrian official daily Al-Baath said on Sunday that Hezbollah had foiled a US-planned coup to seize control of Lebanon.  "The Americans launched a pre-emptive strike against opposition nationalist forces, starting with the (Hezbollah) resistance, and attempted a Washington-planned coup but were taken aback by the opposition, which restored order in Lebanon," it said.  The White House welcomed the lessening of violence in Beirut but warned that "our concerns regarding Hezbollah are unchanged."  "They continue to be a destabilising force there with the backing of their supporters, Iran and Syria," US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

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Hezbollah and its allies began withdrawing their gunmen here in the capital on Saturday evening, raising hopes for a political settlement after four days of street battles .Hezbollah and its allies will end all armed presence in Beirut after the Lebanese army overturned government measures against the group, an opposition statement said on Saturday. "The Lebanese opposition will end all armed presence in Beirut so that the capital will be in the hands of the army," the statement said. - Earlier The Lebanese army overturned on Saturday two government measures against Hezbollah that had triggered the group to take control of Beirut, and the military urged gunmen to withdraw from the streets.  The army said in a statement it was keeping the head of the security at Beirut airport in his post and that it would handle Hezbollah's communications network in a way "that would not harm public interest and the security of the resistance". Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said earlier on Saturday that he was putting the two issues to the army for them to decide. They have also requested from the government to cancel these 2 decisions taken.

On Saturday afternoon, after another day of sporadic violence, the army offered to broker a face-saving solution by promising to "investigate" Hezbollah's controversial private telephone network without harming the group's integrity. It also proposed to retain the current chief of airport security, a Hezbollah ally whom the government had tried to fire. That proposal

ديانا سكيني, يرى النائب في كتلة الاصلاح والتغيير فريد الخازن، ان قرارات مجلس الوزراﺀ الاخيرة التي فتحت المواجهة مع حزب الله في هذا التوقيت لا تؤدي سوى الى استثارة الأطراف والهروب الى الامام وعدم البت في الملف السياسي المتجسد بالوصول الى اتفاق سياسي. اتفاق بدا شكله مسهلا جدا في الايام الاخيرة حيث كان قانون الانتخابات مطروحا "على نار حامية"، فهل تلك القرارات ارادت تمويه تلك المشهدية وتغيير مسار الازمة؟ "، ذلك أن شيئاً جديدا لم يطرأ على الملفات الإقليمية لربط التطورات بها.

يعيد الدكتور فريد الخازن مشهد الأزمــة اللبنانية الحالية الى جذوة الــصــراع القائم منذ الــعــام 2005 والمتمثل بــعــدم إيــجــاد الاطـــراف اللبنانية لنقطة تــــوازن جــديــدة يرتكز عليها النظام السياسي.

وتبدأ المعضلة من غياب المرحلة الإنتقالية الــتــي تهيئ الساحة اللبنانية للإنتقال من عهد الوصاية السورية الى مرحلة سيادية جديدة.

فجأة أعيد الاعتبار للطرح السيادي وحدثت تطورات متسارعة ادت الى تدويل الازمة ورفع الغطاﺀ الاميركي والاوروبــــــي والــعــربــي عــن الــوجــود السوري في لبنان من خلال القرار 1559. تصاعدت وتيرة التطورات مع اغتيال الرئيس رفيق الحريري والاغتيالات اللاحقة التي أدت الى إنشاﺀ المحكمة الدولية.

وجدت الأطراف اللبنانية نفسها أمــــام مــلــفــات كــبــيــرة ومــتــغــيــرات السياسة الدولية، فللمرة الأولــى طرح ملف سلاح حزب الله بجدية وشهد الميدان في الجنوب تغيرات جوهرية بعد صدور القرار 1701. لكن الاستحقاق الأبرز تمثل بلعبة السلطة الداخلية التي حاولت الاستمرار بوتيرة فترة الوصايا ذاتها. اعتبر الجنرال ميشال عون المستهدف الوحيد من التحالف الرباعي، واستمر الاستهداف اثناﺀ تشكيل الحكومة حيث فضلت قوى الاكثرية التعامل مع الرئيس السابق اميل لحود على اعطاﺀ اربعة مقاعد وزاريــة للعماد ميشال عون. وعليه فان استهداف العماد عون سابق لتحالفه مع حزب الله الذي كان له ثمنا دون شك في الساحة المسيحية.

HEZBOLLAH  took control of large areas of Beirut last night, tightening their grip on the city in a major confrontation with the Government. Security sources said at least At least 18 people have been killed and 38 wounded in three days of battles between pro-government gunmen and fighters loyal to Hezbollah in the worst internal strife since the 1975-90 civil war. Hezbollah and its allies controlled all of mainly Muslim west Beirut, except in one district, Tarek al-Jadidi, where pro-Government gunmen laid down their arms late yesterday and allowed the army to move in. Witnesses in the neighbourhoods of Zarif, Corniche Mazraa and Ras al-Nabi said of Hezbollah and its ally Amal were out in force. Fierce gun battles were raging in the mixed Sunni-Shiite-Christian neighbourhood of Hamra, where Hezbollah appeared to be gaining ground. Beirut's port was shutting down because of the conflict, port official Elie Zakhour said.Gunmen loyal to the Islamist movement, and Iran, forced the pro-Government Future News television off the air, said a senior official at the Beirut station. Future News is owned by Saad al-Hariri, a Sunni politician who leads the governing coalition known as the March 14 Alliance, which enjoys backing from the US, France and Saudi Arabia. Gunmen had also taken over the offices of Mr Hariri's al-Mustaqbal newspaper. A rocket had hit the outer perimeter of Mr Hariri's house in west Beirut, a source close to the Sunni leader said.

The gunmen later handed over several seized posts, including the Hariri media outlets and homes of some of his deputies and ministers, to the army without clashes.Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut, said the events of the past few days "certainly leaves the Government weaker and the Future movement weaker."But Hezbollah did not want to be seen as an occupier by keeping its fighters in areas whose residents' political loyalties lie with Mr Hariri, Mr Salem said. Handing control to the army appeared the most likely exit. Despite its military dominance, Hezbollah is unlikely to attempt a full takeover of government in the manner that Hamas secured control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Hezbollah's chief, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has said the group will not use its weapons to bring about such a change. The violence was triggered by the Lebanese Government's decision to declare Hezbollah's phone and internet system

Machine gun-fire and explosions could be heard coming from West Beirut, where masked gunmen were seen standing on street corners, occasionally opening fire with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. No clashes were reported in predominantly Christian East Beirut. At least five people have been killed in fierce fighting between supporters of Lebanon's government and the opposition in Beirut, officials say. Television showed gunmen firing rifles and rocket-propelled grenades in central and southern areas of the city.

After the news conference, Hezbollah's leader Sheikh Nasrallah, says a Lebanese government decision to declare the telecommunications network illegal amounts to a declaration of war.  Those Cabinet decisions sparked two days of sectarian clashes between Hezbollah and government supporters. "The decision is tantamount to a declaration of war ... on the resistance and its weapons in the interest of America and Israel," Hassan Nasrallah said in a news conference aired live on television Thursday. "We are now embarking on a totally new era," he told a news conference in Beirut.  He offered a way out of the latest crisis, saying the "illegitimate" government must revoke its decisions against Hezbollah. Hezbollah runs its own secure network of primitive private land lines. Nasrallah confirmed the network was essential for the  fight Israel's high-tech army in the 2006 summer war. He said the telecommunications network was "the most important part of the weapons of the resistance" and added Hezbollah had a duty to defend those weapons. He and other Hezbollah leaders have suggested they are regularly targeted by Israel and they need secure communications, and also added this communication line helped a cease-fire in July 2006 War. "I am not declaring war. I am declaring a decision of self-defense," he said. The government has "crossed all the red lines. We will not be lenient with anyone." "Those who try to arrest us, we will arrest them," he said. "Those who shoot at us, we will shoot at them. The hand raised against us, we will cut it off." He said Maj. Gen. Wafiq Shukeir, the airport security chief that the government decided to remove, will stay in his post, rejecting any replacement. Sheikh Nasrallah criticised the suspension of the head of security at Beirut airport, Brig Gen Wafiq Shuqeir, because of his alleged closeness to Hezbollah.  The government also accused him of failing to deal with a secret camera allegedly set up by Hezbollah to monitor the movement of aircraft and VIPs.  But Sheikh Nasrallah insisted Gen Shuqeir was not a member of any opposition group, merely a neutral member of the armed forces.  The Hezbollah leader's remarks came after the people of Beirut awoke for the second day running to find their city largely brought to a halt by roadblocks of burning tyres and bulldozed earthworks.

Lebanese governing coalition leader Saad al-Hariri appearing to row back on government decisions which the group had viewed as a declaration of war. After the speech Of Hezbollah Leader, Hariri stated that  he would consider the government decisions a "misunderstanding".  He was referring to a cabinet decision this week to declare illegal Hezbollah's communications network and remove the head of airport security, who is close to the group, from his post. Hezbollah says the communications network is part of its military infrastructure but before any steps taken would like a direct election of the vacant seat of Presidency and then they could resume dialogue. Hariri added "This is a crime that must stop immediately. We will not accept for Beirut to kneel before anyone. Beirut will not kneel," he added. Hariri said Hezbollah had "misinterpreted" the government's decision earlier this week to probe a private communications network set up by the group and to reassign the airport security chief over allegations he was close to Hezbollah. He said the measures were aimed at protecting the army and did not target Hezbollah. Hariri said the two decisions should be put in the hands of the army, which both sides see as a neutral institution. Hariri also urged the opposition, backed by Syria and Iran, to agree to the immediate election of consenus candidate and army chief Michel Sleiman as president and to engage in an national dialogue under the auspices of the new president. "The Sunni-Shiite dissension has already been ignited and we must put out the fire," Hariri said.

General Aoun,  suggested for an immediate debate  and understanding between all parties and hoped for a cease-fire and described the violence and riots as politically motivated and not a Sunnite Shiite clash, "This is not a sectarian dispute, it is political," Aoun said. Aoun praised the role of the army, and said "The army has been playing a proper role and should intervene in the event the fight is one sided." Aoun defended Hezbollah and placed the  blame on the government triggering these events, urging them to surrender to Hezbollah's demands by revoking prior decisions. Aoun added that blocking the road to Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport was the result of Lebanon's deepening economic crisis and called on the government to revoke its latest decisions.

On the other hand Progressive socialist Party (PSP) leader MP Walid Jumblatt called Hezbollah leader's comments "silly". He said Hezbollah made a big deal over the government decision. He added, "I didn't know General Shuqair is so important to disrupt the lives of the Lebanese and destroy the country."Jumblatt added: "Lebanon is much more important than my party or Hezbollah."

Hizbullah's paramilitary infrastructure across Lebanon contributes to the erosion of the state's monopoly on the use of force and represents a "threat to regional peace," a U.N. envoy warned Thursday. U.N. Middle East envoy Terje Roed Larsen told the Security Council that Hizbullah "maintains a massive paramilitary infrastructure separate from the state."  He added that this had "an adverse effect" on the Lebanese government's monopoly on the use of force and "constitutes a threat to regional peace and security."  Briefing the 15-member council on Hizbullah's anti-government protests over the past two days, Roed Larsen said "these developments give rise to growing fears among the Lebanese that Hizbullah is building parallel institutional structures distinct from, and in competition with, those of the state."  "It is believed that this contributes to the erosion of the state's institutions of its monopoly on the use of force," he added.  Roed Larsen said the government had informed the United Nations that Hizbullah had its own, separate, secure communication network which "connects to a Syrian network beyond the border." Hizbullah argues it needs its arsenal to deter Israeli attacks. The White House on Thursday demanded that Hizbullah "stop their disruptive activities" as fierce gunbattles raged in Beirut. "Hizbullah needs to make a choice: Be a terrorist organization or be a political party, but quit trying to be both. They need to stop their disruptive activities now," said U.S. national security council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.  U.S. President George Bush looks forward to discussing Lebanon's political crisis when he meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Saniora next week at Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh, said Johndroe.

A careful analysis of what Nasrallah and Hariri both said suggests that they are speaking the same language that has always defined Lebanese politics and politicians: Act tough, show that you are a real man who is prepared to fight, and then offer a deal in which nobody loses face, manhood, or their privileged access to shared incumbency and the assets of statehood. Hariri's specific offer in reply to Nasrallah's suggestions seems reasonable, and in line with what Nasrallah said he had told the Iranian ambassador: that we can find a solution to this problem. The points each man made - basically to review the government's two controversial decisions and immediately restart the national dialogue - indicate a middle ground where the concerns of all parties can be taken into account. The fact that all agree on General Michael Suleiman as the next president is also a good sign.  The question is not whether these and other political leaders in Lebanon will ultimately agree on a comprehensive compromise that they can live with. That is as certain as the breeze. The unknown factor is only about how much more suffering, death and political mediocrity all Lebanon must suffer before the politicians actually make the compromises. Their commitment to the discipline of a purposeful and practical national dialogue remains unclear. Both major camps engaged in a fruitless dialogue two years ago, and there are few signs that they would do any better now.

Clashes between government supporters and the opposition escalated in Lebanon on Thursday, with gunfights in several parts of the country, roads blocked and the international airport virtually shut down. At least eight people were reported wounded in the east and the north as a general strike took on a sectarian tone, pitting mainly Sunni Muslim supporters of the  government against Shiite followers of the opposition.  All eyes were on Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who hold a rare news conference via video link later in the afternoon in response to government moves against his militant group.The army and riot police spread out in Beirut while many schools and businesses in the capital remained shut for the second straight day. The army command warned that "if this situation continues, everyone will lose and this will affect the unity of the military." Armed men, some hooded or masked, were seen in several mixed Sunni and Shiite neighbourhoods. In a tersely worded statement, the army command warned that "if this situation continues, everyone will lose and this will affect the unity of the military." And newspapers drew parallels with the lead-up to the devastating 1975-1990 civil war. Troops and riot police spread out in Beirut, with many schools and businesses remaining shut for a second straight day. Armed men, some hooded or masked, were seen in several mixed Sunni and Shiite neighbourhoods.

Protesters burned tyres and lit fires inside large metal rubbish bins along the airport road, which remained blocked by large mounds of earth dumped by Hezbollah supporters on Wednesday when a strike over wages degenerated into sectarian violence. An airport official told AFP that all incoming and outgoing flights had been cancelled until at least 4:00 pm (1300 GMT), but it was unclear whether normal traffic would resume after that. One flight to London did leave Beirut early on Thursday. Government loyalists burned tyres and set up road blocks along various point of the main highway in the east of the country leading to Syria, forcing travellers to find alternate routes, an AFP correspondent witnessed. Five people were wounded, four of them women, a security official in the eastern town of Chtaura told AFP.

Three people were also wounded in the northern city of Tripoli in a shootout between rival factions. The highway between the capital and the southern coastal city of Sidon was also closed by government supporters who burned tyres and dumped piles of earth on the road. The road blocks by the government loyalists appeared to be in response to the shutdown of the airport by the opposition. An official with the opposition movement Amal warned that the situation could get out of hand, and accused the majority of pushing the country toward a civil war. "It is clear the majority is seeking an escalation and wants to push the country toward a civil war," the official, who did not want to be named, told AFP. "What we are trying to do is calm down the situation."

The Lebanese army command issued a call for calm, saying that if the violence continued it would affect the unity of the military. Saudi Arabia warned the opposition against an escalation of the situation. "The kingdom urges the groups behind the escalation to reconsider their position, and to realise that leading Lebanon towards turmoil will not bring victory to any party except extremist external forces," the state news agency SPA quoted an official as saying.  The opposition has vowed to keep up the protests until the government cancels decisions taken earlier in the week.  On Tuesday the government said it was launching a probe into a private telephone network set up by Hezbollah, and accused the group of placing surveillance cameras around the airport to monitor the comings and goings of pro-government politicians.  The cabinet also reassigned the head of airport security over allegations that he was close to Hezbollah.  The clashes erupted on Wednesday during what was supposed to be a general strike called by the main labour union over price increases and wage demands.

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النائب نعمة الله أبي نصر ضيف برنامج

BEIRUT:The usually  bustling streets of Beirut were almost deserted but tense on Wednesday as tire-burning protesters blocked roads for a general strike in which economic and political woes collided. Soldiers, many dressed in riot gear, were deployed in force throughout the Lebanese capital where protesters burned tires and overturned garbage bins in the streets barring traffic from passing through. The road to the airport was blocked impeding travellers from making their flights. Three army tanks and several army vehicles stood in between supporters of rival camps along the Corniche al-Mazraa thoroughfare, as groups of youths from the ruling bloc.  Protesters from the Hezbollah and Amal, clashed with supporters of Lebanon's government. Wednesday as a strike paralyzed large parts of Beirut. Explosions and gunfire rang out across Lebanon's capital. The cause of the explosions was not immediately known and there was no word on casualties.The clashes began when government and opposition supporters in a Muslim sector of Beirut exchanged insults and began throwing stones at each other. Witnesses said security forces intervened. A cameraman for Hezbollah's al-Manar television was beaten by a soldier, the station reported. The state-run National News Agency reported that he was struck in the forehead during the clash. Bystanders wrapped a shirt on his head to stop the bleeding before he left on his motorcycle.

At least 10 people, including two soldiers, were injured on Wednesday after a General Labor Confederation (GLC) strike which was meant to protest the government's economic policies turned violent, leading to the blocking of roads and armed clashes in several parts of Beirut. One of the roads blocked by protesters was the main artery to the capital's international airport, causing dozens of flights to be delayed or cancelled. Three arrivals came in in the early afternoon, but a statement from the national carrier, Middle East Airlines, announced that all departures between midnight Wednesday and noon Thursday had been scrubbed. About 200 passengers were stranded at the airport by early evening, an aviation source told AFP.  Some arriving travelers could be seen walking outside the airport, past burning tires and mounds of earth, as they tried to make their way home.  Security sources told The Daily Star that in addition to the berms, opposition supporters have started setting up tents in the vicinity of the airport in a bid to stage an open sit-in similar to the one in place in Downtown Beirut since December 2006.  The 10 people were injured during clashes between Hizbullah and Amal supporters and pro-government Future Movement supporters in the Beirut areas of Corniche al-Mazraa, Ras al-Nabeh, Wata al-Mosseitbeh, Cola, and others. The security sources also said that a Future Movement office in the Ras al-Nabeh neighborhood was hit by several rocket-propelled grenades. Three Future supporters were injured as a result of the attack.  However, Hizbullah's Al-Manar television accused militants affiliated with the Future Movement of hiding in the office and opening fire on demonstrators, adding that army soldiers broke into the office and arrested the militants.

A soldier was hit in the mouth by a stone and two other news photographers also were hurt by stones, according to witnesses and television reports. Earlier in the same area, a stun grenade thrown into a crowd lightly injured three protesters and two soldiers, the state news agency reported. It was not immediately clear who threw the grenade. The clashes spread to several mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods, with Sunnis backing the government and Shiites supporting the opposition. Armed civilians appeared on some streets.Troop reinforcements raced in armored carriers from one neighborhood to another to contain the disturbances. Around the city, protesters blocked roads with burning tires, dirt, old cars and garbage cans to protest against government economic policies and demand pay raises.

An opposition source said the protest campaign, including road blocks, would be extended until the government rescinded decisions taken on Tuesday affecting Hezbollah. A well-informed opposition source told The Daily Star on Thursday that the opposition would not stop its protest action unless the Western-backed government reversed its decisions. "Our movement will not stop and will change to become civil disobedience until our demands are met," the source added. "After rejecting Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri's call for dialogue, the government made a number of provocative decisions. Our movement is the result of these decisions."  After an Amal Movement meeting that was headed by Berri later on Wednesday, the party held the Lebanese government responsible for the current escalation.  Hizbullah's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, is due to hold a new conference on Thursday to react to the government's recent decisions.  Youth and Sports Minister Ahmad Fatfat told The Daily Star that the Lebanese Army and security forces would not hesitate to open the airport road in a timely manner.  "Hizbullah's actions are an open attack against the state," he said. "What Hizbullah is doing reminds the Lebanese people of what Israel did to the airport in the summer 2006 war," he added, referring to the Jewish state's bombing of runways and fuel tanks.  Meanwhile, Sunni Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani lashed out at Hizbullah.  "We thought that Hizbullah was dedicated to fighting Israel, but we were surprised to see Hizbullah change to an armed force that is trying to occupy Beirut," he said. "Hizbullah is kidnapping the airport to blackmail the Lebanese government in a bid to force it to accept the setting up of cameras to monitor the airport and the establishment of a private phone network for Hizbullah."  Qabbani also said that Lebanon's Sunni community was fed up with Hizbullah's actions. He also lashed out at Iran for its financing of what he called "Hizbullah's violations."  Also on Wednesday, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea accused Hizbullah of being a "Mehdi Army" in the streets on Beirut, referring to Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia, which has recently come under heavy attack by US and Iraqi forces. He also accused Hizbullah of wanting to control the airport.  "Hizbullah is telling the Lebanese government: 'If the airport is not under our control, there will be no airport at all," he said. Geagea also said after meeting Prime Minister Fouad Siniora later on Wednesday that the Lebanese government was capable of unblocking the roads leading to the airport. "They think that we cannot reopen the roads. I assure them that we are capable of doing that," he said.  In an interview with Future Television, Siniora said Hizbullah's actions were "worse than what Israel did during the 1982 invasion" because the resistance is not a foreign force.

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RTTNews) - Lebanon's government said on Tuesday that it would close down the telecommunications network used by Hezbollah for military purposes, as it was illegal and a danger to state security.Hezbollah argues that the telecommunication network is an integral part of its armory to fight Israelis. It says that the telecom network was used extensively in the group's war against Israel in 2006, which lasted over 3 months. Though Hezbollah maintains that its arsenal will only be used to defend against Israeli attacks, the Lebanese government sees the group's paramilitary capacity as a threat to its own authority and has consistently called on the Hezbollah to disarm.

At the end of a marathon 11 hour cabinet session, Lebanese Information Minister Ghazi Aridi also announced on Tuesday that Brig Gen Wafiq Shuqeir, who was removed earlier for sympathizing with Hezbollah, would rejoin the army. Brig Gen Wafiq Shuqeir was earlier removed from the post of the commander of security at Beirut international airport for failing to detect spy cameras set up at the airport, allegedly by the Hezbollah, to monitor the movement of anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians and foreign dignitaries.  Top Shiite cleric, Sheik Abdul-Amir Kabalan, had dismissed allegations of Shoukair

BEIRUT (AFP) - A leading member of Lebanon's Western-backed ruling coalition called on Saturday for a ban on flights from Iran to Beirut airport, saying the Hezbollah could be flying in arms fand money rom Iran. Walid Jumblatt called for the expulsion of the Iranian ambassador, Mohammad Reda Shibani, and "a ban on the arrival of Iranian planes to Beirut because, maybe, they carry money and weapons" for Hezbollah. Jumblatt also demanded, at a news conference, the "sacking of airport security chief" General Wafik Shqeir, over alleged links to the Shiite opposition group.The official ANI news agency quoted a Hezbollah statement as calling Jumblatt's comments "mad," and accusing him of "stoking the fires of discord" in the politically divided country.

The Druze chief showed reporters what he said was an exchange of mail between Lebanese Defence Minister Elias Murr and army intelligence services, about the discovery of surveillance cameras near the airport, which is close to Beirut's southern suburbs where Hezbollah has its headquarters.Jumblatt said that Hezbollah, which is backed Syria and Iran, put the cameras there "to monitor the arrival of Lebanese or foreign leaders, to kidnap or assassinate (people) on the airport road." He charged that Shqeir allowed the cameras to be placed in the area because of alleged links with Hezbollah. Prosecutor General Saeed Mirza instructed military examining magistrate Jean Fahed to investigate with all military and security personnel the case of the Hizbullah affiliated camera that had been surveying Beirut airport.
Mirza referred to Fahed all documents issued by the military intelligence directorate, the airport security department, Defense Minister Elias Murr and Interior Minister Hassan Saba'a related to the wireless surveillance of Beirut airport's runway no 17 which is exclusively used by executive jets.

In its statement Hezbollah called the accusation that the cameras were used to target people a figment of Jumblatt's imagination. They have also added that these accusations is to increase international pressure against Hezbollah to benefits American Interest in the region. They have also concluded that these statements is to prepare and allow an international strike against the group this summer.

BEIRUT, May 2 - Profits at Lebanon's largest company Solidere for this year should remain near 2007 levels of $22 million, although political instability remains a threat, the company's general manager said on Friday.The profits are likely to match last year's levels. The political situation remains tense but no ongoing project in central Beirut has been cancelled," Mounir Doueidi told the Arab Economic Forum, a business gathering, in the Lebanese capital.

The real estate company , which owns most of the property in downtown Beirut, reflects the state of the Lebanese economy, which is officially forecast to grow at 4 percent this year, similar to 2007.Doueidi said the Souks shopping mall, a high-profile 100,000 sq metre project in the city centre being built by Solidere, will be completed in 2009. Solidere's assets are worth some $8 billion, with 50 projects being developed by private investors who had bought land from Solidere, he added.

"This is a conservative valuation which will rise if the political situation improves," said Doueidi, referring to a protracted power struggle between the pro-American government and the Hezbollah-led opposition. Iran and Syria back the Shi'ite movement. Former premier Rafik al-Hariri founded Solidere in 1994 to rebuild downtown Beirut after the 1975-1990 civil war and gave it a monopoly over most of the 1.8 sq km (20 million square feet) that form the centre.

EARTHtimes - Beirut - Three Iranians and a Lebanese man who reside in Beirut's southern suburbs, a hotbed of Hezbollah militant activity, were arrested last week on charges of monitoring the residence of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, security sources said Friday. Geagea's home is in Meerab, northeast of Beirut. The sources said the four men were spotted in a rented car near Geagea's residence last week. Upon checking the plate number of the red-painted car it was found owned by a car rental company based in south Beirut and it had been rented to three Iranians and a Lebanese man. Police interrogated the four who claimed to have lost their way as they were on a trip along the "Jesus Trail" and ended up in Meerab. The four were set free, but due to contradictions in their testimonies, a judicial source said they might be interrogated again. The sources said the interrogators were wondering how two of the arrested claim they do not speak Arabic while they go to an Arab university, where courses are taught in Arabic.

Beirut - Lebanon's Druze  leader Walid Jumblatt Thursday warned ruling majority leaders to exercise extra caution when travelling to and from the Beirut airport, noting reports that Hezbollah was monitoring one of the runways. "I have received information through security channels that Hezbollah has a surveillance point with cameras in the Ouzai district which overlooks the runway 17 at Beirut international airport where most planes land," Jumblatt said. Jumblatt accused Hezbollah, a close ally of Syria, of preparing what he described as a "strategic operation " against leaders in the anti-Syrian ruling majority. The Druze leader warned all majority leaders to exercise "extra caution" in the coming weeks during their travel in and outside the country. 

Hizbullah labeled the recent accustions of Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt against the group as "fiction," in a statement sent to The Daily Star on Friday. Hizbullah described Jumblatt's charges of setting up cameras near Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport aimed at conducting surveillance operations as "nightmares and police fiction stories."  "Jumblatt's accusations come in line with the US-led campaign against the resistance in Lebanon and other parts of the world," the statement from Hizbullah's media office said.  "Jumblatt is simply repeating the words of US President George W. Bush," it added.  Hizbullah also criticized Jumblatt and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea for predicting assassinations against politicians affiliated to the anti-Syrian March 14 Forces.  "When we hear people like Jumblatt and Geagea predicting the occurrence of assassinations, it becomes much easier for us to know which parties are behind such suspicious scenarios," the statement said.

سر اللقاء الثقافي انطلياس

دعوتكم الى حوار مع 

النائب الدكتور فريد الخازن 


الازمة السياسية في لبنان وافاق الحلول

يدير الحوار: روبير الهاشم 

الزمان: السابعة والنصف من مساء الجمعة 2 ايار 2008  

المكان: قاعة الكنيسة الجديدة - دير مار الياس انطلياس

المطران رحّو" أو العراق الجديد

المستقبل - السبت 5 نيسان 2008 - العدد 2924 - شؤون لبنانية - صفحة 4

الأب يوسف مونّس(*)

محمد السمّاك وميثاق الرسول
أثار صديقي الدكتور محمد السمّاك بغضب مقدّس، كما عادته في كل مرة يُساء إلى المسيحيين
والمسلمين، في جريدة المستقبل 17 آذار 2008 في عنوان صارخ "اغتيال المطران رحّو اعتداء
على الإسلام" وأشار إلى العهد النبوي الداعي إلى الذود عن الأساقفة والرهبان والسوّاح
والكنائس وبيوت العبادة والحفاظ على هذا الميثاق "من خالف عهد الله واعتمد الضد من ذلك
فقد عصى ميثاقه ورسوله" وإن جريمة القتل تعتبر انتهاكاً ليس فقط لحق إنساني مقدس في
الحياة إنما انتهاكاً لنص إلهي مقدّس أيضاً واعتداء على حرمة الإسلام وإساءة إليه تستحق
كل إدانة وكل الشجب والاستنكار". هذا الاستنكار أكد عليه الأمير حسن بن طلال.
الأمير حسن وأصالة المسيحيين
الأمير الحسن بن طلال، رئيس مجلس أمناء المعهد الملكي للدراسات الدينية في عمّان أعلن:
"ان اختطاف رئيس الموصل للكلدان المطران بولس فرج رحّو وقتل ثلاثة من مرافقيه يُعد
عملاً خارجاً على كل مبادئ الإنسانية المشتركة، ويسيء إلى قيمنا الدينية، وميثاقنا
السلوكي". ويُضيف: "إن المجتمع المسيحي الضارب الجذور في تاريخ هذا البلد المنكوب يقف
شاهداً منذ القدم على الاحترام المتأصل لإخواننا في الدين أهل الكتاب الذين استحقوا
حبنا وحمايتنا منذ أيام الرسول صلّى الله عليه وسلّم". وقد صدر في هذا المجال وفي
النهار مقال صارخ هام للشيخ محمد بشير الفقيه تحت عنوان: "مسيحيو العراق هم ضمانة
العراق الحرّ المنسي" (الشيخ محمد بشير الفقيه، النهار 15/3/2008).
الاستنكار شامل
الاستنكار كان واسعاً في السابق مثلاً في 16/10/2004 حين فُجرت 5 كنائس.
وتلا ذلك عمليات قتل وخطف وترويع. بين بغداد والبصرة والموصل جنون أصولي راح يطاول
كرامات الناس وحرية المعتقد وحرية المرأة المسيحية وكرامتها بالضغط عليها لارتداء
الحجاب ومنع العديد من الطلبة والطالبات خاصة في الموصل من متابعة الدراسة بسبب
المضايقات العدوانية والممارسات الإرهابية. فما هو تفسير هذه الأحداث؟ (الشيخ محمد بشير
الفقيه، النهار 15/3/2008). فهل يفلت المتزمتون ويعرضون على العراق شريعة القتل والذبح
وحرق دور العبادة في موجة من الكراهية لا تليق بهذا البلد الكبير الذي فتح قلبه وذراعيه
للجميع. ومنه كان حمورابي وابراهيم واشور بينيبال ونوبخذ نصّر والخلفاء الراشدون وأمراء
الترجمات المسيحيون. وجذور العراقيين ضاربة في أعماق العراق كما يقول الدكتور سيار
الجميل (جريدة الاتحاد، الأحد، أيلول 2003) وكما قال الرئيس نبيه بري: مسيحيو الشرق لا
يُكافأون بالقتل (السفير 18/3/2008).

BKIRKI: Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir lashed out on Thursday at some MPs refusal to perform their duty of electing of a new head of state, adding that this plunged Lebanon "deeper into political crisis." "This is due either to foreign or internal influences" Sfeir said after meeting with a delegation from the Journalists Union in Bkirki. "There is no way to find a solution but through being loyal to Lebanon first, and electing a president in accordance with the Constitution," he added. Sfeir said that during the first round of the presidential election, the two-thirds quorum should be used, but if in the second round there are two-thirds or a simple-majority of votes available, then the elections could be held.

"If two-thirds of votes are not ready, but there is a simple majority, the opposition can say that the Constitution was not respected and could elect a second president, in which case, we would end up with two presidents, which is something the Lebanese and non-Lebanese do not accept," Sfeir said.  He added he had discussed the electoral law and electoral constituencies in Beirut with leader of the parliamentary majority MP Saad Hariri "in vague terms, not in detail," during the latter's visit to the prelate  "Bkirki is not taking sides with anyone. We have our own path that we follow, and this path serves the interests of the church and Lebanon," Sfeir said.  "Without a president, the country cannot be revived, and the government cannot replace the president," he said, adding that all politicians are responsible for the presidential vacuum.  "The issue of me potentially visiting Syria has not yet been raised. I haven't been invited and probably will not be," he added.

إلى سفّــــــــاكي الــــــــدم في العـــــــراق
إلى أيـــــــن تهربــــــون يـــــا "أولاد الأفـــــــاعي" ؟

الأب الدكتور يوسف مونّس


الى اين تهربون يا قتلة الكاهن عادل يوسف في العراق وانتم تتكلمون على الاسلام الرحمن الرحيم ووجه عيسى منوّر في القرآن، كما وجه امه مريم النقية المصطفاة؟ دماء الابرياء النقية تنتصب امامكم كأشجار النخيل في سهول العراق. انها تسيل كنهري دجلة والفرات ولن يوقف مجراها لا رصاصكم ولا خناجركم تدعون باسم الله عليها وتذبحون وتعتقلون والله منكم براء. أصدق الحجاج عندما قال فيكم يا اهل العراق يا اهل الكذب والنفاق؟
صراخ الابرياء الذين غسلوا ثيابهم بدم الحمل، كما يقول كتاب الرؤيا، يسألكم "ماذا فعلت بأخيك"؟ انه دمه يصرخ الي الى السماء؟ "وملائكتهم يعاينون وجه الله"! "وهم مولودون من الله" وانتم من "الوحش ولدتم" كما يقول الكتاب، وستذهبون الى "النار" الى "الجحيم" الى "الهاوية" الى "جهنم" ولا سماء لكم ولا اله. انتم كما يقول يسوع "الحيات اولاد الافاعي، وقبور مكلسة". وانا غاضب اليوم، انا الذي كتبت لاجل طفل اسمه "علي صلب في العراق"، وقد تُرجم هذا النص الى الفرنسية والانكليزية والالمانية... انا غاضب قلق، ودمي ينزف ودموعي وانا اصلي. لكن صراخ اليهود ضد يسوع، يضج في اذني: "ليكن دمه عليكم وعلى اولادكم" وهو يقول "اغفر لهم يا ابتاه لانهم لا يدرون ماذا يفعلون". لينزل عليكم غضب السماء ولعنة الارض كما قال الكتاب "ستكون ملعوناً بسبب الدم الذي سفكته، سيأكل السرطان والوباء والبرص والطاعون عظمكم ولحمكم وتقتلكم جريمتكم، لاجل الاثم الذي صنعتم. "الا تخافون الله"؟
ستلحس الكلاب دماءكم في الساحات، كما لحست دم نابوت اليزرعيلي ودم المطران رحو ودم الكاهن عادل وكل الابرياء والانقياء والشهداء. الكاهن الرقيق الرهيف اللطيف يقف هنا مع يسوع يغفر لكم مع بقية الكهنة والاساقفة والرهبان والراهبات والمسيحيين المؤمنين الذين سقتموهم "كشاة الى الذبح" امام الكنيسة او في الاقبية او على الطرقات. رمال بوادي بغداد تزهر عقيقاً احمر ينشد للقيامة والحب والرجاء والسلام. ماذا فعل الاب عادل لتذجوه بالرصاص امام مذبحه وكنيسته ورعيته؟ ماذا فعل الا انه صلّى باسم الله؟ واحب اله المحبة حتى انه بذل نفسه، كما يسوع، عن احبائه؟ الا انه تعمد باسم يسوع ولبس المسيح وقام كاهناً امام الرب وامام الناس؟ هزّتني مشاهد موته ودفنه وحزن اهله وعائلته ووجهه البهي الشاب المنذور لحب كل اهل العراق وكنيسته المشرقية السريانية الارثوذكسية وخدمة كنيسة الرب.

by Rita Daou, AYHA, Lebanon (AFP) - As night falls on remote villages in eastern Lebanon that border Syria streets and alleyways bustle into life as a small army of pick-up trucks, mules and cars are readied for action. Loaded up with whisky, bread, metal and other goods, drivers head for the dirt roads that zig-zag through nearby hillsides and valleys to deliver loads to fellow smugglers across the border before returning with staples such as heating oil, laundry detergent and vegetables.

"We work from around 9:00pm until dawn," said one 46-year-old smuggler who asked to be identified only by his initials of M.Z. "We leave home in our pick-ups, cars and even mules loaded with alcohol and other products." M.Z., who has plied the trade for decades, said smugglers from both sides have specific meeting points along the mountainous border. "Once we get to a meeting place we wait for Syrian vehicles loaded with products and we make the exchange very quickly," he added.

Smuggling between Lebanon and Syria goes back to when both countries became independent in the 1940s, sharing a 170-kilometre (105-mile) long border that has never been officially delineated. "The Lebanese economy has depended on a parallel economy for ages," said Fares Ishtay, political science professor at Lebanese University. "Salaries in both countries are very low and people depend on undeclared goods to survive." He said that although hashish used to be the main contraband, other products, not considered illegal as such, have now become hot items.

BEIRUT (AFP) - A mutiny at Lebanon's largest prison in Rumieh during which prisoners took seven warders hostage ended peacefully early Friday, a security official told AFP. "The prisoners handed over the seven warders they were holding hostage and returned to their cells after having negotiated and handed over demands to the chief of internal security, Antoine Shakuri," the official said requesting anonymity.

The prisoners at Rumieh, eight kilometres (five miles) northeast of Beirut, were calling for an improvement in their prison conditions and a reduction in their sentences, he said. Most of the inmates were serving long sentences, or were on death row."General Rifi promised to examine ways of replying to these demands in the framework of the law," the official said. Earlier he said that the rioters had set fire to their cells in the block holding convicted inmates. An AFP photographer saw a plume of smoke billowing over the prison and troop transporters deployed inside the compound.

The mutiny broke out after a quarrel between a warder and a Palestinian prisoner got out of hand. Academic Omar al-Nashabi, who has carried out a study on the prison, told AFP that more than 4,000 prisoners were being held in the jail which was originally designed in 1971 to hold a maximum of 1,500.

By Ferry Biedermann, The Lebanese, styling themselves as born traders, have made a selling point out of the country

By Alistair Lyon, Special Correspondent, BEIRUT (Reuters) - Empty seats are proliferating in Beirut's political theatre of the absurd, symptoms of a deep malaise that has crippled Lebanese government institutions, damaged the economy and fuelled fears of renewed civil war.

The president's chair has been vacant since November. There is no sign the palace in Baabda will get a new occupant soon.Lebanon's parliament, whose own benches have been deserted since October 2006, failed for the 18th time on Tuesday to meet formally to elect a president -- although rival factions agreed months ago that the army chief should be the next head of state.

Last week Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri installed a table with 14 empty chairs in the assembly building to accommodate a "national dialogue" he argues is the best way out of the crisis."He is willing to hold a marathon dialogue after which everyone moves straight from the room to the general assembly to elect (a president)," Berri's media adviser Ali Hamdan said. However, aware that anti-Syrian factions dominating the government have rejected his proposal, Berri has yet to issue invitations to politicians to fill those neatly arranged seats. Outside the building are yet more desolate chairs in the once-crowded bars, cafes and restaurants of downtown Beirut. Many are shuttered. Those that have hung on rarely have more than a few customers to reward their fortitude."Downtown we are making only 7 percent of our past revenue," Michel Ferneini, who runs Medi Resto, an Italian restaurant and food business with outlets in the area, told Reuters.

by Hassan Jarrah Mon Apr 21, 9:16 AM ET  ZAHLE, Lebanon (AFP) - The Lebanese town of Zahle observed an official day of mourning amid tension on Monday, with political leaders trading blame after two activists were shot dead at the opening of a Phalange party headquarters. Funerals for Nasri al-Maruni and Salim Assi, whose son was among three people wounded in the Sunday evening attack, are planned for Tuesday.

Both Assi and al-Maruni were supporters of the Christian Phalange party, a member of Lebanon's ruling coalition.Police named a suspect in the shooting as Joseph Zouki and said they had launched a manhunt for him. He is thought to be a supporter of Zahle MP Elie Skaff, a Christian who backs the opposition.

Security sources in Zahle said that they were also looking for Zouki's brother, Toni, who they suspect was with him at the time of the shooting. A security official on Monday said Walid Zouki, a relative of Joseph, had turned himself in to the police. Although he was not an initial suspect "he seems to have had a role" in the crime, the official said. Phalange leader and former president Amin Gemeyel called the incident a "premeditated act" in an interview on the LBC television channel. He accused the assailants' "leaders of knowing full well where they are and what they need to do to turn them into the authorities". Gemeyel held "the leaders of the opposition responsible" for the act and slammed "Christian leaders of covering up an obvious terrible plot to spark divisions and ignite a war" in alluding to what his coalition identifies as a Syrian plot to destabilize Lebanon.

Skaff rejected Gemeyel's accusations and told AFP that this was an "isolated act" and that he would "not provide protection for the assailants."He accused the Phalangists of "threatening Zouki and shooting at him. He took a bullet to the hand and his car has bullet marks on it.""His brother Toni came like a madman to his rescue. This was a question of self-defense where it was kill or be killed," he added.

Please click read more for more pics of this horrific crime that we reject.

Two members of the Christian Phalange Party in Lebanon have been shot dead at the opening of a new office in the town of Zahle. It is not clear who was behind Sunday's shooting, which injured three others. The Lebanese army has been heavily deployed in the town, and funerals are to be held on Tuesday.

Zahle, Lebanon - The town of Zahle, eastern Lebanon, was gripped Monday by tension as residents observed a day of mourning following the deadly shooting of two Christian Phalange party members a day earlier. The funerals for Nasri al-Maroni and Salim Assi, who were shot dead by gunmen on Sunday while inaugurating a new office for their party in Zahle, have been scheduled for Tuesday. According to initial police investigations, one of the gunmen was identified as Joseph Zouki. Police said they had launched a manhunt for him. He is believed to be a supporter of Zahle MP Elie Skaff, a Christian who backs the pro- Syrian opposition. Security sources in Zahle said that they were also looking for Zouki's brother, Toni, whom they suspect was with him at the time of the shooting. Police sources said Monday Walid Zouki, a relative of Joseph, had surrendered to police. While Walid was not a prime suspect, "he had some role" in the crime, they added.

Phalange leader and former president Amin Gemayel called the incident a "premeditated act" to incite civil strife and held "the leaders of the opposition responsible." The former president's son Sami Gemayel had just left the inauguration at the time of the shooting. Gemayel's son Pierre, former industry minister and also an MP, was assassinated in November 2006. MP Elie Skaff, whom the assailants support, rejected Gemayel's accusations and said his men were attacked by the Phalange party members first. This was an "isolated act", he said that he would "not provide protection for the assailants," adding, "I would say the incident took place as a self-defence act." Meanwhile, security was tight as police had set up checkpoints across the town and searched the homes of suspected assailants.

By Zeina Daccache, Two condemned prisoners residing in a high security Lebanese prison and participating in the drama therapy sessions taking place inside the facility since February 2008 recently described their experiences with the following metaphors: "Prison is a microcosm of the outside world; it holds all kind of people, from differing religious communities and from differing regions throughout Lebanon and consequently belonging to different political parties. In prison, absurdly as it sounds, one learns how to reconcile with the other before returning to the biggest prison: the Lebanese society, (IF, we ever return to it)" - E.F., a Lebanese Christian from Mount Lebanon.

"Prison is a train station. You are forced to wait. You wait along with different people that you never chose willingly to spend time with outside the station ... However, you start socializing with them and plan together future travels" - G.I., a Lebanese Muslim from the Bekaa Valley.  With any publicly funded project, one typically goes through an exercise beforehand of setting objectives and goals to be presented to concerned authorities. It has long been a dream of mine to implement a drama therapy program in Lebanese prisons. More precisely, this became my goal in 2002, when I had the chance to work in the Volterra Prison in Italy and I have since then wanted to do the same thing in my own country, Lebanon. I applied for a grant from the European Union to implement a Drama Therapy Project inside the biggest detention center in Lebanon: the Roumieh Prison, where condemned men from different regions of Lebanon reside.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice  on Friday joined fellow US diplomats in marking the 25th anniversary of the bombing at the US embassy Beirut which killed 52 people on April 18, 1983. "Even when the tragedy of April 18 was followed by further attacks on our Marine barracks later that year, on our embassy annex in 1984, and still others beyond that, the terrorists never broke our will," Rice said during a ceremony at the State Department. "It is in continuing to champion the cause of a democratic Lebanon  that we pay greatest honor to those who died and those who suffered on that day." The attack by the Islamic Jihad Organization, which US officials have said was a forerunner of Hezbollah  the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Shiite militia, was at the time the deadliest attack ever on a US diplomatic mission.

Rice used the commemoration to hint at Washington's accusations of interference by Syria into the affairs of neighboring Lebanon, with politicians in Beirut"afraid for their very lives" as the embattled government remains locked in a long-running standoff with the opposition.  With "fellow members of parliament, journalists and, of course, Prime Minister rafiq Hariri... gunned down in the streets or claimed by terrorist bombs, who can blame them?" the top US diplomat said.

BEIRUT (AFP) - Lebanon's parliament speaker Nabih Berri on Saturday moved a table with 14 seats around it into the building to try to bring rival political leaders to start talking and end a prolonged deadlock, his spokesman said. This step is a reaffirmation that Berri is more steadfast today than at any time before. . . that there is no alternative to dialogue as a way out of this political impasse," Ali Hamdan, the speaker's adviser told AFP.

Lebanon has been in a political deadlock which has left the country without a president for more than four months.Although the wooden round table has been set up on the second floor of the parliament building, Hamdan said that none of the feuding political leaders has been invited yet as he is awaiting "receptiveness" from the ruling coalition to his proposal.Berri's calls for inter-Lebanese talks has already been rebuffed by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, who has called for an urgent meeting of Arab foreign ministers and Beirut's strained relations with Damascus. Lebanon's parliament has been paralysed for over 16 months and sessions planned to elect a president have been postponed 17 times. The next session is scheduled for Tuesday, but is unlikely to take place.

Thu Apr 17, 8:35 PM ET , WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President George W Bush on Thursday accused Iran and Syria of undermining democracy in Lebanon and renewed his support for the embattled government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora. The United States will continue to stand with the Lebanese government and the Lebanese people as they struggle to preserve their hard-won sovereignty and independence, endeavor to provide justice for victims of terrorism and political violence, and continue to seek the election of a president committed to these principles," Bush said in a written statement.

Washington has accused the Hezbollah-led opposition and Syria of trying to scuttle Lebanon's efforts to elect a head of state to replace pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud, who stepped down at the end of his mandate in November."The people of Lebanon have spent the better part of three decades living under the threat of violence, assassinations, and other forms of intimidation," said Bush. "Despite this, they and their leaders continue to work for a peaceful and democratic future, even as Syria, Iran, and their Lebanese proxies seek to undermine Lebanese democracy and institutions," he said.

by Rita Daou, BEIRUT (AFP) - Loretta Beayni works 10 hours a day, six days a week in a Beirut  beauty salon, earning a mere 400 dollars a month, which goes in the blink of an eye on household bills and helping out her parents. Like many Lebanese, she has a hard time making ends meet in a country where inflation is hefty and where many are forced to take on two jobs to survive.

Beayni, 40, has been working at the beauty salon for 15 years, and says she manages to stay afloat largely thanks to tips."But once I pay all my bills, I have nothing left," she says. "I haven't purchased any new clothes for two years and even had to borrow money to buy a black outfit so I could go to my uncle's funeral."Last month, she was even forced to cancel a doctor's appointment because she did not have the money

By Maroun Khoury and Nafez Qawas, BKIRKI: The Council of Maronite Bishops called on Wednesday for the immediate implementation of the Arab initiative to solve the deadlock in Lebanon, while sounding the alarm concerning "strenuous" economic conditions faced by the Lebanese. The Maronite bishops said it was unfortunate that a Lebanese president was not able to participate in the recent Arab summit, especially after the Arab League had stressed the need to elect a president in Lebanon.  "We call for internal and external cooperation to implement the Arab initiative to solve Lebanon's crisis," the bishops said after their monthly meeting in Bkirki.

The three-point Arab initiative calls for the election of the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces, General Michel Suleiman, as a consensus president, the formation of a national unity government and the drafting of a fair and representative electoral law.  "The situation in Lebanon is preventing the country from recovering on the economic level, and this pushes economic sectors and the working class to complain of declining living conditions and to threaten strikes," the bishops said.

"The present situation could damage summertime tourism. This requires the government to take steps to facilitate the arrival of tourists to Lebanon," they added.  The Maronite bishops said that the government must deal with the problems regarding the standard of living "in a responsible manner."

By CLAUDE SALHANI, UPI Contributing Editor, WASHINGTON, March 31 (UPI) -- As expected, there were no surprises at the Arab summit in Damascus that ended Sunday without any breakthrough regarding the Lebanese presidential crisis. If anything came out of the summit -- boycotted by 11 of the 22 members of the Arab League -- it is the obvious and deep divisions that remain between what is perceived as the pro-Washington countries and Syria. Supporting the Beirut government -- and the U.S. position -- are primarily Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, whose leaders did not attend the summit in Syria, preferring to be represented by lower-ranking ministers in protest against Syria's role in Lebanon.

Perhaps the one surprise, strange as it might appear, is that the voice of reason from the Damascus summit was none other than that of Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi, who warned his fellow leaders that they risk being deposed much like former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "One day, you will see yourselves in a similar situation and at that time no one should blame (anyone) but himself because we did not work sincerely to build a strong and unified Arab nation," said the Libyan leader. "Each one of you hates others. Syria is not on good terms with its neighbors, while Libya has stronger ties with Italy than it has with Tunisia or Egypt," Gadhafi said at the opening of the two-day summit. "No notable development has come out of this summit, as has always been the case with previous summits," said Gadhafi to journalists covering the event.  "The most important point of the summit is the fact that we have recognized the existence of divisions, problems, and animosity between Arab countries and that we have to find the means to overcome these problems," he said.

BEIRUT (AFP) - Lebanese authorities reversed on Thursday a decision to ban the prize-winning animated film "Persepolis," following an outcry and claims the measure was aimed at pleasing Iran and Shiite clerics.  The general security department, which initially prohibited the film, said the ministry of interior, of which it is a part, had "decided to authorise the film's distribution in Lebanon".

It said "personal, political or confessional motivations" had nothing to do with the original banning. On Wednesday, general security chief General Wafiq Jizzini, whose agency handles censorship, told AFP he had decided to ban the film after Shiite officials expressed concern that its content was offensive to Muslims and to Iran. "The office that handles censorship matters informed me in their report that the film attacks Islam and the Iranian regime, and this could spark tension with Iran," Jizzini said. "I can go back on my decision, I respect freedom of expression," he said. "But given the current political crisis in Lebanon , this is not the time to add fuel to the fire."

Jizzini said Hezbollah had not influenced his decision to prohibit the film.The ban drew condemnation in many circles, with some saying it smacked of hypocrisy and showed that some within the government were kowtowing to Iran. Culture Minister Tareq Mitri said he saw no reason why the film should be banned and that he had urged the interior ministry to rescind its decision.

Lebanon's prime minister accused Syria on Friday of blocking the election of a new Lebanese president and deepening the country's 16-month political crisis through its interference in the country's internal affairs. Fuad Saniora said Lebanon decided earlier this week to boycott this weekend's Arab summit in the Syrian capital of Damascus because Beirut is usually represented by its president.

"The direct reason for not attending this summit is to assert that Lebanon is naturally represented, at any Arab summit, by its president," Saniora said in a televised speech addressed to the Arab leaders on the eve of their two-day summit that begins Saturday. Lebanon has been without a president since pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud's ended his term last November without a successor elected. Lebanon's sharply divided parliament has failed to elect compromise candidate army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman as president because the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority and the Syrian-backed opposition remain deadlocked over the shape of the future government.

United Nations, Former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated by a criminal network that is linked to some other terrorist attacks in Lebanon, the chief investigator said Friday.\In his first report to the U.N. Security Council, Daniel Bellemare said the first priority of the investigating commission he heads is to gather more evidence about the "Hariri Network," its scope, the identity of all its participants, their role in other attacks and links with people outside the network.

Bellemare said the commission would not disclose any names to preserve confidentiality. "Names of individuals will only appear in future indictments filed by the prosecutor, when there is sufficient evidence to do so," he said.Four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals have been under arrest for almost two years for alleged involvement in the murder. Syria denies any involvement in Hariri's assassination, but the furor over the attack forced Syrian troops to withdraw from Lebanon after a 29-year presence. Bellemare said Syria's cooperation with the commission "continues to be generally satisfactory."

DAMASCUS (AFP) - Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad denied on Saturday meddling in Lebanon as he hosted an Arab summit boycotted by half of the region's leaders, many of whom blame Damascus for the political crisis in Beirut. I would like to make a point with regards to Syrian interference in Lebanon. It is the contrary which is true because pressure has been exerted on Syria for over a year to interfere in Lebanon's affairs" but we have refused to do so, Assad said.

"They have their nation, their institutions, their constitution," he said in an opening address to the leaders of Algeria, the Comoros, Kuwait  Lybia, Mauritania the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Sudan, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.The Saudi, Egyptian and Jordanian leaders stayed away after Washington urged its allies to think twice before attending the summit of the 22-member Arab League, accusing Syria of blocking the election of a new president in Lebanon.

The seat earmarked for Lebanon itself was left vacant, but Syria trumpeted the absence of US allies as a triumph over Washington's influence. "They (the United States) did their best to prevent the summit but they failed," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told reporters ahead of the two-day gathering. "Their aim is to divide the Arab world."Several Arab officials have expressed frustration at the West's "interference" in Arab affairs.

"There has been US pressure on Arab countries to reduce their participation," Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgham told reporters in Damascus on Saturday."We as Arabs do not interfere in European summits. It has become a farce and this situation must be remedied by a joint Arab effort," he said. Egypt sent a junior minister, while powerhouse   Saudi Arabia and Jordan were represented by their ambassadors to the Arab League.

Daily Star. BKIRKI: Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir said on Monday that he hoped the 15-month-old deadlock in Lebanon would be resolved, "and the general mood of pessimism will soon evaporate." "We urge all local, regional and international groups to adopt a wise and calm attitude when dealing with Lebanese affairs," he told a delegation from the French Embassy headed by charge d'affaires Andre Parant. Parant, meanwhile, said France was determined to help Lebanon overcome the continuing standoff. "France will always stand by Lebanon," he said.

Sfeir said Sunday the persisting and widening divide had stripped Easter of its festive atmosphere. Sfeir made the remarks during his Easter sermon in Bkirki, the seat of the Maronite church north of Beirut. The patriarch also offered prayers for peace in Lebanon and the Middle East. Sfeir asked that "God remove this black cloud that lingers over us ... and bring home the people who migrated to distant lands."

Speaking to a delegation from Caritas headed by Father Louis Samaha on Saturday, Sfeir said he hoped that Lebanon would return "to days of good, affluence and happiness." He added that he hoped the Lebanese diaspora would return to their homeland as one family of different religious affiliations living "in a nation of faith, love and peace." Sfeir said nearly one million Lebanese have left Lebanon since 1970, and Lebanon was left with only four million of its children, a number equivalent to a small street in Cairo or New York. "Yet people continue to migrate," he added, "and migration is not categorically negative, especially if the migration is to Arab countries in order to support one's parents, but migration to Australia or Canada or the United States has slight hope of return to Lebanon."  Meanwhile, the vice president of the Higher Shiite Council Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan on Sunday spoke with Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir and Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani about the need for Lebanon to be represented at the forthcoming Arab summit in Damascus.
Daily star. BKIRKI: Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir expressed pessimism over growing divisions among the Lebanese on Friday, a day after he compared Lebanon to the Palestinian territoriees. In a speech on Good Friday, Sfeir urged the Lebanese to "overcome disagreements and return to their conscience." "Rifts and divisions that have hit Lebanon do not lead to optimism," he said, adding that "persistent efforts [by some parties] to overtake the country's main arteries are not comforting."

A parliamentary session set for Tuesday to elect a president has been re-scheduled for April 22, Speaker Nabih Berri's office announced.
"Parliament speaker Nabih Berri has decided to postpone the session to April 22 at noon (0900 GMT)," his spokesman, Ali Hamdan, told Agence France Presse.

The postponement is the 17th such decision by Berri since September when the house was supposed to elect a successor to pro-Syrian head of state Emile Lahoud.

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's parliament speaker said on Sunday he would invite rival Lebanese leaders for direct talks if an Arab summit in Syria this week failed to find a solution to the country's political deadlock. Nabih Berri, also a leader of the Syrian-backed opposition, indicated he would postpone for the 17th time a parliament session to elect a new president from Tuesday due to a lack of progress towards ending the crisis.

A delay would mean that there would be no Lebanese president to attend the March 29-30 Arab summit in Damascus. Lebanon has been without a president since Emile Lahoud's term ended in November. Arab divisions over Lebanon have cast a shadow over the meeting with several key leaders expected to stay away, blaming Syria for blocking an election in Lebanon. The crisis, Lebanon's worst since the 1975-90 civil war, has paralyzed the government and led to bouts of deadly sectarian violence. It has also strained ties between Syria and regional Arab power Saudi Arabia, which back opposing sides in the conflict. Speaking in a live interview with Lebanon's New TV, Berri said he would consult Arab and foreign leaders on his next steps if there were no breakthroughs at the Damascus summit.

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hezbollah said on Monday talks for a prisoner swap with Israel were continuing despite the killing of its top military commander in an assassination the Lebanese guerrilla group blamed on the Jewish state. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah reiterated his pledge to take revenge for the February 12 assassination of Imad Moughniyah. "We shall pick the time, the place, the punishment and the means and method," Nasrallah said.

Moughniyah commanded Hezbollah's  forces during the 34-day war with Israel in 2006. The war was triggered when Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, raided Israel and captured two soldiers, saying it wanted to use them to negotiate a prisoner swap. Moughniyah was killed by a car bomb in Damascus. "Among his hopes was the liberation of the prisoners and we will continue this work despite the fact that the Israelis killed (Moughniyah)," Nasrallah said in a speech to commemorate the 40th day since his death. "We did not halt the negotiations for the exchange of prisoners. Meetings happened recently and we will not halt the negotiations," he said. Nasrallah's own movements are kept top secret. He delivered his address to thousands of supporters via a videoscreen.

أكمل وديع الخازن دروسه الابتدائية والثانوية في معهد الفرير في الجميزة في بيروت.

- حاز على شهادة الماجيستر في إدارة الأعمال من جامعة جورج واشنطن العام 1968

- انضم إلى حزب الكتلة الوطنية اللبنانية العام 1968

- عين عضوًا لمجلس الحزب العام 1969

- تولى منصب نائب رئيس المجلس الماروني العام بين العام 1988 وحتى 1996

- عين وزيرًا للسياحة في شباط 2005 حتى نيسان من العام نفسه

- حصل على العديد من الأوسمة والجوائز الدولية ومنها : الجائزة الإنسانية الفرنسية الكبرى العام 1973

وديع الخازن

Clashes have broken out between Palestinian factions in a refugee camp in southern Lebanon. The fighting was between members of the Fatah faction and an Islamist group called Jund al-Sham. It took place in the densely populated Ain al-Hilwe refugee camp, which is located on the outskirts of the southern city of Sidon.  Fighters launched rockets and exchanged gunfire in the middle of the camp, causing dozens of civilians to flee. Lebanese and Palestinian officials said one Fatah member was killed and four others wounded, the Associated Press news agency reported.

إن المعلومات المبينة أعلاه هي عن المناطق الممسوحة ولا تدخل فيها الملكية في المناطق الخارجة عن السجل العقاري وكذلك المناطق التي لم تصدق من قبل القضاة العقاريين
ولا تدخل فيها المبيعات الحاصلة قبل 1969/1/4 تاريخ صدور قانون تملك الأجانب وتلك الحاصلة بعد تاريخ2007/6/30
هذه المعلومات أخذت عن إحصاءات وزارة المالية
زيارة سلطان ودور قطر الرائد            مع مودتي

                                في المصالحات العربية

منذ إندلاع الأزمة الرئاسية في لبنان وضعت دولة قطر ثقَلها في الميزان العربي لرأب الصدع ما بين المملكة العربية السعودية والجمهورية العربية السورية حول القضايا الشائكة في العراق وفلسطين ولبنان. فكانت زيارات مسؤوليها الجوالة على وتيرة شبه دائمة إلى أن أوتيت ثمارها أخيرا في زيارة ولي العهد السعودي الأمير سلطان بن عبد العزيز إلى قطر وأدت إلى التصافي بين أهم دولتين خليجيتين كمدخل إلى التصافي العربي بين سورية والسعودية.

وكان من بوادر هذه الزيارة وبواكيرها إعلان سعودي رسمي على لسان الأمير سلطان بالمشاركة الأكيدة في قمة دمشق في 29 الجاري والقول " إن السعودية ستكون أول المشاركين فيها".

لم يكن الخلاف السعودي


النائب نعمة الله أبي نصر ضيف برنامج

د. فريد الخازن : الفراغ مرحلة انتقاليّة لا نعرف متى تنتهي

رأى النائب الدكتور فريد الخازن أنّ الفراغ في لبنان ليس فراغ مؤسسات سياسيّة ودستوريّة فقط، بل هو فراغ في المساحة المشتركة بين اللبنانيين، لأنّنا في مرحلة انتقاليّة لا نعلم متى تنتهي او اذا كانت ستنتهي، وكذلك فان الفراغ يصيب العمل الحزبي والثقافة والاخلاق.

" همزة وصل " حاورت الدكتور الخازن على الشكل التالي:

- يبدو ظاهريّاً انّ الفراغ هو فراغ سدّة الرئاسة الاولى، ولكن الواقع أنّه فراغ يصيب كلّ شيء في البلد. ما رأيك؟

* صحيح. الفراغ الظاهر هو في المؤسّسات الدستورية، وبالتالي في الحياة السياسية، ونحن الان في مرحلة اعادة تكوين البلد. اي انّنا في مرحلة انتقالية لم تنته بعد وقد لا تنتهي. نعرف انّ الدولة كانت معطّلة وغائبة في مرحلة الحرب 1975


Persepolis, the graphic novel turned Oscar-nominated movie by Marjane Satrapi, has been shown in two cultural centers in Tehran but it will not be seen any time soon in Lebanon, where the censor fears its critical portrayal of Iran's Islamic revolution might upset the Shia population.  By RITA BAROTTA and GERT VAN LANGENDONCK BEIRUT, March 13, 2008 (MENASSAT)

Beirut - Lebanon's anti-Syrian ruling "March 14 Forces coalition" started Friday its first official convention with the aim of declaring a comprehensive political platform for the country. The convention also marks the third anniversary of a massive demonstration often credited with stoking the international pressure that brought an end to Syria's 29-year military presence in Lebanon following the assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri in 2005.

The grouping's secretary, former MP Fares Soueid, said the coalition would extend its hand to all other parties in Lebanon in a bid to overcome differences and unify national ranks. Speaking on behalf of the ruling coalition's different parties, Soueid announced the March 14 Forces' first "political declaration." "Together for the salvation of Lebanon, together for defending our right to live, together for living peacefully in a sovereign, democratic, and modern state," read the declaration's opening lines.  The declaration focused on four major points; national unity as a precondition to true independence, protecting state sovereignty through restructuring state institutions and restricting the possession of arms to the state exclusively, protecting independence through redefining the concept of resistance in a way that conforms with national criteria, and safeguarding independence by restructuring Lebanon's role and relations in the Arab world.  Soueid stressed that national unity could only be achieved by creating a civil state that develops the idea of true citizenship at the expense of clientalism and sectarianism.  Soueid said Lebanon's sovereignty could not be protected without restricting the possession of arms to the state.  Damascus must stop treating Lebanon as if it is a district of Syria," Fares Suaid, a key coalition figure, told around 2,500 people at a conference in Beirut to mark the anniversary.

According to organizers, the convention entitled "Spring of 2008" will try to define the coalition's political objectives, a feature that has been largely absent from Lebanese politics - both before and after the Syrian withdrawal. The March 14 coalition came into existence in the wake of the assassination of Hariri, who was killed in a massive bomb blast at a seafront area of Beirut along with 20 other people on February 14, 2005.

by Khalil Fleyhan, BEIRUT (AFP) - Syria on Thursday officially invited Lebanon to the Arab summit, a move seen as a bid to ease tensions with Arab countries who had hinted they might boycott the meeting should Beirut be excluded. The Syrian invitation was addressed to Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, but there were doubts on whether he would accept.

Some cabinet ministers criticized Damascus for not following standard protocol in extending the invitation and said Lebanon should boycott the meet because of Syria's role in the country's protracted presidential crisis. The invititation was submitted by Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmed Arnous to Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh. "I have received an invitation from Syrian premier Mohammad Naji Otri's envoy for Prime Minister Fuad Siniora to attend the 20th Arab summit," said Salloukh, one of six opposition ministers who resigned from the government in November 2006 but who has nonetheless still been fulfilling some of his official duties. "My ministry will submit the invitation to the prime minister when he returns from the Organisation of the Islamic Conference summit being held in Dakar " he added. The Syrian foreign ministry issued a statement quoting Arnous as saying that it would be up to Lebanon to determine at what level it will be represented at the summit.

"Due to the presidential void, Lebanon will choose the person who will represent it at the summit and Syria will receive them cordially," the statement quote Arnous as saying.The Arab summit is scheduled for March 29-30 in Damascus. It has been mired in controversy over Lebanon's participation and the presidential crisis it is facing because of a standoff between the opposition, backed by Syria and Iran, and the majority backed by the West and many Arab states.

By Mike Sergeant, Their faces are covered in dirt. Their hands are tough and grimy. Their eyes have been hardened by years of adult labour. Lebanon's child workers lost their playfulness a long time ago. According to some estimates, up to 100,000 children - some as young as eight years old - work in Lebanon. The problem is getting worse because of the long-running political crisis in the country, and growing economic uncertainty here.  Stroll down some of the inner city streets in Tripoli and you can see young boys sawing, painting, hammering and welding.  During what should be school time, there are children hard at work in almost every workshop, garage and cafe.

Necessity: Mahmoud, 14, lives in a world of machines, tools and dirt and spends his days cutting wood and making furniture.  He tells me he last went to school three years ago. Studying is no longer an option. His family needs the money, so he puts in 12-hour shifts for couple of dollars a day.  Lebanon signed an international convention in 2001 which included a series of measures to curb the worst forms of child labour.  But - due to total political deadlock here - nothing has been implemented.  The children don't complain about their situation. For many, school was just a brief interlude before the real business of life began.  Some say they are still ambitious to become doctors, lawyers or bankers. Few seem to realise those avenues are probably already closed.

You are cordially invited to attend the conference (program attached) on Development in Kisrwan on 7 and 8 March, 2008-03-04 - hosted by MP Dr. Farid Elias el Khazen

Please clck Read More for more details!

March 2008 (IRIN) , According to a December 2007 report by the Lebanon government in conjunction with the World Health Organization, of the over 1,500 beds in some 15 state hospitals, just 300 are functioning. By comparison, Lebanon has 175 private hospitals with around 14,500 functioning beds. They are generally considered to have more modern facilities and provide a higher standard of healthcare.

Abed Akkawi and Salah Eddine Azawi talk about their experiences of Lebanon

BEIRUT: The Association of Lebanese Industrialists (ALI) plans to file a lawsuit against the government for failing to protect local industry against unfair foreign competition, the head of the group said on Monday. "We have had enough. The government must understand that local industry can no longer stay in business if the free trade agreements are not respected by Arab countries," Fadi Abboud told The Daily Star.Lebanese industrialists argue that most Arab states that have signed free trade agreements with Lebanon subsidize the cost of energy, which is essential for the manufacturing sector.

In addition, the industrialists say that the government is not overly keen to press Arab states to remove the subsidies on manufactured goods that are exported to Lebanon. Abboud said that the association is very serious about the lawsuit, after having exhausted all means to solve the issues of unfair competition."Our lawyers will send these charges to the Shura Council, which in turn will issue a final verdict on this matter," Abboud told The Daily Star.

Economy and Trade Minister Sami Haddad could not be reached for comment. Several Lebanese factories which rely heavily on fuel oil and gas have been forced to close their business and relocate to other countries, while others laid off most of their staff and reduced production. The Lebanese industrial sector, which employs a large number of people, incurred heavy losses after Lebanon inked free trade agreements with Syria, Jordan, Egypt and other Arab countries which provide full support to their local industries.

CAIRO (AFP)--U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended the deployment of a U.S. warship off the coast of Lebanon, saying it was designed to show Washington's readiness to defend its allies' interests."As to the American military presence, the U.S. exercise a military presence in the region and it has for a very long time," Rice told reporters in Cairo at a news conference with her Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Abul Gheit. "It is simply to make very clear that the U.S. is capable and willing of defending its interests and the interests of its allies. That is really all that is happening there," she said.

Rice was responding to a question on the deployment of the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole to waters off Lebanon, amid concern over regional stability and Lebanon's protracted political crisis. She said the United States defended the right of the Lebanese to elect their own president. "They have lived too long under the shadow of foreign intimidation and foreign presence," she said. Lebanon has been without a president since last November.

The MP majority accuses Syria of blocking efforts to elect a new president in Lebanon. The opposition last week slammed the presence of USS Cole as military interference, while the government said it didn't ask for the warship to be sent.

"المبادرة باتت كأنها لإدارة الازمة فيما المطلوب ايجاد حل" 
الخازن: لا امكان لإيجاد حل سريع لكن لا نية للتصعيــد

رأى عضو كتلة التغيير والاصلاح النائب فريد الخازن ان لا امكان لإيجاد حل سريع للازمة الا ان لا نية عند اي طرف لإحداث اي تصعيد. واسف لكون المبادرة العربية باتت راهنا وكأنها تساعد على ادارة الازمة فيما المطلوب ايجاد حل لها.
 وقال في حديث إذاعي: "نحن اليوم في لبنان في وضع المراوحة ووضع عنوانه ليس هناك من إمكان لإيجاد حل سريع للأزمة وفي الوقت نفسه ليس هناك نية عند أي طرف لإحداث اي تصعيد، اذا وضع المراوحة مستمر، هذا لا يعني ان المبادرة العربية لن تستمر لكنها تتأثر بالاجواء العربية والدعم العربي والخلافات او التضامن العربي المفقود اليوم لإعطاء المبادرة العربية الزخم المطلوب. هذا الأمر ليس هو الوضع الذي ننشده لإيجاد حل ومخرج للأزمة ونذكر بأن الأزمة طويلة وهي تمتد الى اكثر من سنة لكن عنوان المرحلة برأيي هو الابقاء او المراوحة من دون حدوث اي مشكلات. المبادرة اصبحت راهنا وكأنها تساعد على إدارة الأزمة في لبنان وهذا أمر مؤسف والمطلوب هو إيجاد حل والخروج من هذا المأزق الذي نعاني منه. 
وأوضح الخازن ان "المطلوب هو تفاهم لبناني وهذا أمر متاح والمطلوب لبننة الحل وهذا برأيي أمر متاح ويعني التفاهم بين الطرفين وما عرض في الجلسة الأخيرة مع أركان الموالاة والمعارضة هو طرح متوازن اي موضوع الـ 10/10/10 هذا الأمر يبني لوضع جديد ولإيجاد حل مرحلي، فنحن لا نتحدث عن حلول لكل جوانب الأزمة، لكن هناك مرحلة إنتقالية لا بد منها من اليوم حتى الإنتخابات النيابية المقبلة، وهذا الطرح يساعد على البدء بإيجاد حلول للمسائل المطروحة والمعلقة منذ الحوار الوطني".
وعما اذا كان يتوقع استئنافا للحوار الداخلي قبل موعد الحادي عشر من آذار، اعتبر النائب الخازن بأنه أمر مرتبط بالمبادرة العربية نفسها فإذا عاد عمرو موسى الى لبنان لمتابعة الحوار، لأنه ويا للأسف هناك حالة إنعدام ثقة كاملة بين الأطراف اللبنانية وهناك جوانب داخلية للأزمة لكن هناك جوانب أخرى مرتبطة بالوضع الإقليمي والدولي. وعلى الرغم من هذا الأمر الوضع اليوم يختلف عن المراحل السابقة وهناك إمكان فعلي لإيجاد الحلول، لكن حتى اليوم لم نعثر على هذا الحل مع العلم ان الطروحات الأخيرة التي وصلنا اليها هي طروحات متوازنة وقابلة للترجمة بمعنى أنها تشكل ارضية لإنطلاقة جديدة خلال مرحلة إنتقالية لا بد من المرور بها". 
واسف لكون الحوار يبقى في انتظار الوسيط الخارجي وقال: "لبنان لا يزال اليوم يتعرض لعملية تخريب كبيرة جدا سواء في خلال سنوات الحرب او ما بعد الحرب، ولليوم لم نجد نقطة توازن جديدة لإيجاد الوسائل المطلوبة لإدارة الحكم في لبنان بشكل صحيح وعلى أسس ديموقراطية وبعيدا عن التسلط أو الحد من لعبة السلطة المتمادية، وهذه اللعبة بدأت منذ أكثر من سنة مع أزمة الحكومة وإستمرت بعد موضوع الرئاسة".



    النائب نعمة الله أبي نصر 

 الـى أيـن يأخذنـا السياسيـون ؟ سؤالٌ يتردد على لسان كل مواطن يشعر أن أوضاع البلاد تتردَّى يوماً بعد يوم سياسياً واقتصادِياً ومَعيشياً ، كما يشعر أن الأمنَ مهدَّدٌ بالخطب الناريَّة والشَّحنِ الطائفيّ والمذهبيّ ، وأنه مهددٌ بالإرهابِ الذي يَضربُ بين الحينِ والآخر فيَنجوَ منه الناس بالصدفة على بركة الله .

         إن أسوأ ما وصلنا إليه اليوم ، هو تسليم اللبنانيين وعلى رأسهم السياسيين بمقولة أنّ حل الأزمة اللبنانية لم يعد بيد اللبنانيين ، بل بيد الدول الأخرى ويدلّ على ذلك ما قاله الأمين العام للجامعة العربية عمرو موسى من أن زعماء لبنان قدَّموا آخرَ ما يمكن أن يُقدموه ، وأنَّ مفاتيح حل الأزمة اللبنانية أصبحت خارج لبنان وأنه لا تزال هناك ابواب لا بدّ من فتحها وأهمها العربية والإقليمية .

         إنّها شهادة مؤلمة من أمين عام الجامعة العربية ؛ فهي من جهة تحمّل الخلافات العربية والتدخل الإقليمي مسؤولية ما يجري في لبنان ، ولكنها من جهة ثانية تفضح عجز اللبنانيين عن إدارة شؤونهم وقلّة إيمانهم بقدرتهم على بناء دولةٍ مُستقلةٍ ذات قرار حر . إنَّها الفضيحة الكبرى منذ انسحاب السوريين الذين يقولون اليوم للعالم؛ أنظروا الى اللبنانيين العاجزين عن انتخاب رئيسٍ لهم لأنهم لم يبلغوا بَعد سِنَّ الرشد والنُضج السياسي !!!

         نحن نعلم أن سوريا تتدخل وكذلك إيران والسعودية وأمريكا وأوروبا وغيرها من الدول .

         وكلُّ دولة تبحث عن مصالحها ولا تتردّد في إستخدام لبنان ساحةً لتحقيق المكاسب أو تصفية الحسابات ، ولكن أين مسوؤليتنا نحن كلبنانيين ؟ وما هي حساباتنا ومصالحنا ؟ ولأن الإستحقاق المطروح هو رئاسة الجمهورية المخصصة حصراً للموارنة من حقِّنا أن نَسأل أين نحن كمسيحيين وكموارنة بصورَة خاصة ولماذا نتفرّج على وطنٍ ينزلق أمام أعيُننا الى الخراب بعدما دفع آباؤنا وأجدادُنا على مدى أجيالٍ وأجيال ، دماً وتعباً وفكراً لتكوينه وبنائه ؟

         هل كان أسلافنا سيصدقون أن يوماً سيأتي نَنحدر فيه كطائِفةٍ وسياسيين ومجتمعاً الى هذا الدرك ؟!!

         لقد صار ماضينا المشرِّف ، يخجل من حاضرنا ، ومستقبلنا المجهول ، يخاف ممّن يتولون المسؤولية .

by Sylvie Briand, Mariam Saidi spends her days creating clay busts of her beloved son who vanished without a trace 26 years ago, aged only 16, in the midst of the savage civil war which tore through Lebanon. Sitting in her little apartment on the outskirts of Beirut, the mother of five clutches a faded photograph of Maher Kassir and recalls how he disappeared after becoming embroiled in the sectarian violence which blighted the country.

Maher is only one of an estimated 17,000 people who vanished during the brutal 1975-1990 conflict which claimed the lives of more than 150,000 at the hands of Lebanese militias or the Syrian and Israeli armies.For this 59-year-old Shiite, the civil war has still not truly ended and all she can do now is sit in her home in the popular Sfeir district and pray that one day she will discover what happened to her boy. Maher had joined the fight against Israeli forces who entered Lebanon and on June 17, 1982, he was barricaded in a science university building alongside other communist party fighters. The building, also in the Sfeir district, was attacked by Israeli troops, backed by Lebanese Christian militants and her son was captured, Saidi said.

The head of the Arab League has failed to break a deadlock between Lebanese political factions on the distribution of cabinet posts, which is holding back the election of a new president. Amr Moussa met Saad Hariri of the majority March 14 camp, his ally Amin Gemayel and Michel Aoun, from the opposition, for a second day in Beirut. "It is a given that the opposition will have 10 ministers in the new government, but the question is how to split the remaining 20 portfolios," Moussa said on Monday before leaving the Lebanese capital. The opposition wants enough seats in the new government to give it veto power over cabinet decisions, a plan rejected by the March 14 bloc. He said that both sides shared broad agreement on the need for changes to the country's electoral law. Lebanese deputies were due to hold a session on Tuesday to elect a new president. But the parliamentary speaker announced on Monday that the vote had been postponed - for the 15th time - to March 11.

The lengthy meeting did not result in a breakthrough, but certain conditions were set between the rival parties for consideration ahead of Monday's meeting. According to Ghattas Khoury, a close aide of Hariri, "there are still no positive signs." Khoury did not, however, rule out that the ongoing talks "are constructive in a way to remove some obstacles."  The so-called quartet talks are taking place at the Lebanese parliament in downtown Beirut, amid tight security. Mussa also held talks with Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, Hariri and Prime Minister Fouad Seniora on Sunday.  Mussa's latest attempt at mediation in Lebanon focusses on efforts the implementation of a three-point Arab plan to solve the deepening political crisis.

New York times, Robert F Worth, Imad Mugniyah was killed in a mysterious car bombing in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Tuesday, a storm of accusation and counteraccusation quickly arose back here in Lebanon. Hezbollah, blamed Israel. Some Western-allied political figures blamed Syria. their own favorite nemesis. Still others saw the killing as the first part of a sinister deal between Syria, Israel and the United States, in which Lebanon would be the loser.

It is a familiar ritual in the Middle East, and especially here in divided Lebanon. No one here can point to any real evidence in the death of Mr. Mugniyah, a famously ruthless and elusive figure. No one has taken responsibility for killing him. But the accusations proliferate. And while they may look to outsiders like plausible explanations, they are often seen here as something different: a kind of road map to the accusers

Adam Mynott found quiet pistes, friendly locals and great cuisine, Risk-averse skiers; surely an oxymoron? But no, they must exist
BEIRUT (AFP) - Twenty people were injured in street clashes between rival political factions in Beirut, which saw shops and cars set ablaze as rioters fought each other with stones and clubs. "Eighteen people were wounded by stones and baton blows and two others were lightly wounded from shots fired during the clashes," a senior security official told AFP on Sunday. Soldiers and police were out on patrol on Sunday in the Ras al-Nabah district where the fighting took place but the situation was calm.

The army issued a statement calling on all Lebanese not to take part in such gatherings which "each time end in arrests being made," but it did not say how many people were detained on Saturday. Similar clashes in recent days between supporters of the Western-backed government and the Shiite-led opposition have raised tensions in a country already embroiled in its worst political crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. The security official had said the fighting involved supporters of ruling majority leader Saad Hariri and rivals in the opposition Shiite movement Amal, whose leader is parliament speaker Nabih Berri.

Fri Feb 15, 1:12 PM ET TYRE, Lebanon (AFP) - An earthquake measuring 5.0 on the open ended-Richter rocked Lebanon on Friday, injuring 10 people and sending panicked residents out into the streets in the south of the country. The quake, which was also felt across the border in Israel and in the Gaza Strip, caused damage in a number of villages in southern Lebanon while buildings shook in the capital Beirut.

In the southern coastal city of Tyre, residents ran toward the seashore and began reciting verses of the Koran after the tremor struck, an AFP correspondent said. Lebanon's National Centre for Scientific Research said the quake had an intensity of 5.0 on the Richter Scale, with its epicentre located 17 kilometres (10 miles) northeast of Tyre, adding that 10 people were slightly injured. "We expect another quake of similar magnitude or stronger in the next 24 hours," said centre director Mouin Hamzeh. The tremor -- the second in the region this week -- hit at around 1030 GMT.

"Several abandoned homes collapsed and some buildings suffered cracked walls and balconies," Hamzeh told AFP. Local television said some villages in the south experienced power cuts. The chimney on one building in Tyre came tumbling down, crushing several vehicles.

 (Middle East Times, with agency dispatches) By SANA ABDALLAH , Rival political leaders and tens of thousands of their supporters ignored heavy rains in Beirut Thursday to mark two assassinations with fiery speeches that are expected to deepen divisions in Lebanon and sharpen bitterness with Israel.

Thousands thronged Martyrs' Square in central Beirut to commemorate the third anniversary of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination in a massive explosion that marked the start of the worst crisis to besiege Lebanon since the end in 1990 of its 15-year civil war.

In the Shiite southern suburbs of Beirut, thousands of other mourners converged under umbrellas to bury Imad Mughnieh, a top Hezbollah commander who was assassinated in a car bombing in Damascus Tuesday night.  While some of the pro-Western March 14 ruling coalition leaders at Martyrs' Square lashed out at the Syrian and Iranian backers, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki were attending the funeral ceremony for Mughnieh in the southern suburbs. Accusing Israel for the assassination of Mughnieh, and by doing so taking its battle with Hezbollah outside Lebanon, Nasrallah vowed to fight back anywhere. Addressing the Israelis, he said: "O Zionists, if you want this kind of open war, then let the whole world listen: Let this be open war."  Israel has denied involvement in the car bomb that killed Mughnieh, but welcomed his assassination.  Middle East analysts had anticipated that the place of the killing and method used on Mughnieh, who had managed to operate underground for more than 20 years, would prompt Hezbollah to expand its confrontation with Israel beyond Lebanon's borders. The Shiite guerilla group was widely hailed in the Arab world for "defeating" Israel in its 34-day war on Lebanon in summer 2006, and its guerillas were credited for ending Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000.

Please click on read more to view all pictures of BOTH EVENTS

13 February 2008 BEIRUT - A Hezbollah official said on Wednesday that one of it's top commanders, Imad Mughnieh, had been killed in Syria and blamed Israel for the attack. The official said Mughnieh was killed in a car bombing in the Syrian capital late on Tuesday.
By Mike Sergeant, BBC, Beirut's legendary nightlife has survived wars, invasions and assassinations.

But the bars and clubs are slowly being strangled by the ongoing political crisis. This city used to be the unambiguous "party capital of the Middle East". Now a chorus of depression seems to be drowning out Beirut's famous hedonistic vibe.  Mohammed Chehab - a regular in Monot Street's once-teeming RAI club - said: "Before, it was very good. The nightlife was on fire! "Now, because of the unstable situation in Lebanon, people are afraid to come out. They are scared of explosions." 'Nothing left'

Monot Street, a narrow avenue which snakes down to the centre of town, had an international reputation among clubbers in its heyday. At night, it was virtually impossible to drive through the crowds of party-goers and the rows of gleaming BMW and Mercedes cars.  There were about 100 bars and clubs in the area.  Now, locals say the number is down to about 50.  "Half of the business has gone," laments Mazin Moughrabi, a manager at one of the clubs.  "I will finish my studies and travel abroad. There is nothing left for me in Lebanon."

BKIRKI: Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir said Tuesday a new president should be elected "as soon as possible," reiterating his support for the head of the Lebanese Armed Forces, General Michel Suleiman. "We support Suleiman because the country needs a president who is for all the Lebanese and who does not distinguish between one party and another," Sfeir said.  "The Lebanese are now divided, some are with the East and some with the West," the patriarch added, urging them to be only Lebanese.

"We are the ones responsible for our country. We have to stand united in order to preserve our country's past, present and future," he said.  MP Robert Ghanem said after meeting Sfeir: "We hope to put an end to the presidential election because the latter constitute the starting point to ending all other problems." Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani called on the Lebanese on Tuesday to participate "massively" in Thursday's rally to commemorate the third anniversary of former Premier Rafik Hariri's killing.

BEIRUT (AFP) Feb 10- At least two people were wounded in an exchange of fire between supporters of rival political factions in Lebanon, a security official said, further heightening tensions in the troubled country. The incident occurred as a convoy of supporters from the Progressive Socialist Party of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt was driving past the local headquarters of the rival Lebanese Democratic Party in Aley, about 15 kilometres (eight miles) east of Beirut the official told AFP. "Shots were heard and a passer-by was wounded by a stray bullet," he said, describing his condition as serious. He said a girl who was travelling in the party convoy was slightly injured. An official from Jumblatt's party -- which is part of the ruling anti-Syrian coalition -- told AFP that four people were injured when the convoy came under fire.

But a statement from the Democratic Party said its Aley headquarters had come under fire from PSP "militia members", triggering an armed confrontation. It warned that the incident could spark civil strife among the Druze population and said Jumblatt would be held responsible.Several similar incidents have occurred recently in Beirut, with tensions running high because of a long-running political crisis pitting the ruling coalition against the Syrian-backed opposition.

(AFP) 10 FebShots were fired in an altercation on Sunday between supporters of Lebanon's parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri and speaker Nabih Berri's security services in Beirut, a security official said. "A convoy from the Future movement was driving by Berri's residence. Apparently some heated words were exchanged with Berri's security service and shots were fired," the official told AFP. He said there did not appear to be any injuries. Several similar incidents have occurred recently in Beirut, with tensions running high amid a long-running political crisis

Jumblatt had earlier launched an outspoken assault on the opposition, warning his side was ready for war.

 Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a key figure in Lebanon's ruling anti-Syrian majority, on Sunday launched a verbal assault on the opposition, warning his side was ready for war. "You want disorder? It will be welcomed. You want war? It will be welcomed. We have no problem with weapons, no problem with missiles. We will take them from you," Jumblatt told a news conference.

Speaking four days before the third anniversary of the assassination of former premier Rafiq hariri, Jumblatt warned against a spiral dragging everyone into unrest. "If the political vacuum continues, if arming and training continue... if the charge of treason and assassinations continue -- and it seems that will be the case -- we will all be dragged towards disorder," he said. But Jumblatt added: "If they (the opposition) want peace, the Forces of March 14 (the parliamentary majority) are ready for it also."

By Borzou Daragahi
Los Angeles Times / February 5, 2008 BEIRUT - In a nation shaken by war, divided by religious strife, and paralyzed by political feuds, Lebanese actor-director Nadine Labaki found the perfect subject for her first film: a hair salon filled with chatty women obsessed with sex and looks.more stories like this "Caramel," the 33-year-old Labaki's bittersweet film of love, heartache, and friendship, has quickly become one of the most successful Lebanese films ever, scooping up awards, breaking sales records, and earning kudos on the international film circuit. It will begin showing in US art houses Friday, including at Kendall Square in Cambridge.

"It was not easy because I made a film that was talking about life and colors and people and love and everyday life when my country was at war again," Labaki said during a recent chat over mint-flavored lemonades at an old-fashioned cafe on Beirut's Gemayzee Street. "I think I dealt with it, and I understood that maybe that's the way it was supposed to be; that it's my mission to show a Lebanon that has nothing to do with war and this negative image that people have."

"Caramel" follows a group of women, mostly played by amateur actors, whose lives revolve around a Beirut hair salon. Layale, played by Labaki, is tangled in a steamy romance with a married man. Shiite Muslim Nisrine reveals to co-workers that she's not a virgin, a fact that could complicate her upcoming marriage. Rima, a lesbian, falls in love with one of her glamorous clients. Middle-aged Jamale struggles to maintain her acting career while Rose must decide between pursuing an autumn romance or caring for her deranged sister Lili.


"Under the Bombs" is not just set during the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war

BEIRUT (AFP) - Lebanon's anti-Syrian parliamentary majority called on its supporters on Wednesday to join a mass rally next week to mark the third anniversary of the assassination of former premier Rafiq Hariri. The March 14 forces call on all the Lebanese to gather at Martyrs' Square (in central Beirut) on February 14," to mark the 2005 car bombing that killed Hariri, former president Amin Gemayel said.

The rally is also intended as a protest against the protracted political deadlock that has left Lebanon without a president since November 23, Gemayel said after a meeting of the ruling coalition."The Lebanese will descend on Martyrs' Square to tell the world, both friend and foe... that the presidency will not remain vacant. Lebanon will have a president and we will use our constitutional rights to achieve this goal," he said. "On February 14, the Lebanese will say out loud that they will not allow the failure of the Arab initiative," Gemayel said.

Majority leader Saad Hariri blasted Syria and Iran on Thursday for interfering in Lebanese politics and urged a massive turnout for a rally on the third anniversary of his father's assassination."On Feb. 14, we will all go down to Martyr's Square to speak in one voice...to say that the Lebanese are united, that they reject terrorism...and that all attempts to intimidate us won't succeed," Hariri said in a fiery speech to a packed audience of party members and supporters."On Feb. 14 we will converge on Martyr's Square from all corners of the country to speak out loud in one voice that we want a president...to say that the road to the presidency cuts through Beirut and the parliament building, not through Damascus or Tehran," he added.  Syria has denied any involvement in the killing.

Mona Alami , Inter Press, BEIRUT: A bomb tears through the bustling Chevrolet area on the outskirts of Beirut. Bad news travels fast: Captain Wissam Eid from the Internal Security Forces has been killed in the blast. This is a typical day for Lebanese citizens. The past year has already been grim for most Lebanese businesses. Crisis after crisis has weighed down heavily on the land of the cedars. A permanent protest movement, security problems, a summer war in a Palestinian refugee camp, and sporadic bombings have brought Lebanon to its knees.

But as the political situation tips further in the direction of widespread insecurity, Lebanese businesses around the country are clinging to the motto, "the show must go on." Expansion seems to be the word on the street in Beirut, no matter what the uncertain future may hold. Retailer ABC, a major department store and mall with seven outlets, two main flagship stores and a staff of over 1,000 is currently revamping one of its main branches in Dbayyeh.

"In March, we are also launching a new section extending over an entire floor of 8,000 square meters dedicated to children, dubbed Kidsville. It will also include a 500 square-meter playground, an array of kids' accessories and a coffee shop, La Mie Doree," says Robert Fadel, ABC's general manager. A second big store in the Achrafieh suburb of Beirut is adding an 800 square-meter extension for a playground. The Johnny R. Saade group is also jumping on the expansion bandwagon. Its travel and tourism arm, Wild Discovery, will be setting up shop in Kaslik in a few months.

"We decided to push forward with the opening of new branches in Lebanon despite the prevailing situation, following the simple strategy that one has to invest and position oneself in times of relative crisis to prepare for the inevitable economic and political recovery that can be foreseen," says Sandro Saade, one of the company's owners. "This opening is also justified by a strategic objective to cover the northern Beirut area, where there is a demand for high quality travel services."

BEIRUT (AFP) - Lebanese Shiite opposition chief Hasan Nasrallah and Christian ally Michel Aoun on Wednesday demanded veto power in a future government to solve the country's protracted presidential crisis. In a rare joint television interview on the second anniversary of their controversial alliance, Nasrallah and Aoun also insisted that their union helped spare Civil War.

We cannot give up veto power because we cannot be mere spectators within the government," Aoun said in the three-and-a-half-hour interview broadcast on his Free Patriotic Movement's Orange TV."It would spell our destruction.""Any attempt to evict the opposition from decision-making is unacceptable," Aoun added.Nasrallah for his part insisted that veto power "is the mechanism that guarantees building trust" with the ruling majority, "The problem today is the loss of trust and any political solution demands trust," Nasrallah said.

So far 13 sessions of parliament called to elect a new president since September have had to be scrapped A new session is scheduled for February 11. Arab League chief Amr Mussa was due to return to Beirut on Thursday after two previous mediation trips last month during which he proposed a three-point rescue plan.

النائب فريد الخازن لـ

by Jocelyne Zablit, BEIRUT (AFP) Lebanon's army arrested 17 people on Saturday, including several soldiers, over the shooting deaths of seven people during protests in Beirut that raised fears of civil unrest in a country already gripped by political crisis. "In light of the events that took place on January 27 in the region of Mar Michael and Shiyah and that led to the deaths of seven civilians and left a number of people injured, including soldiers, the military police ordered these arrests," a statement said.

Those detained included three officers, two non-commissioned officers, six soldiers and another six civilians. The statement said some were arrested for causing public disorder and several for illegally carrying weapons. It said 29 civilians, including five minors, had been released after questioning, while the identities of another three suspected of having incited violence were being checked.

The statement said 85 civilians and 120 soldiers had been questioned, and that weapons seized were being tested to see if they had been fired. Sunday's violence broke out after youths protesting power cuts in the Shiite district of Shiyah entered the nearby Christian area of Ein el-Rommaneh and began throwing stones and setting cars on fire. The situation quickly escalated after a member of the Shiite party Amal was shot in the back.

Daily star, By Hani M. Bathish 
 BEIRUT: The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) refused to give any details about its investigation into Sunday's riots before its conclusion, as the death toll from the clashes rose on Tuesday to nine after Jihad Rashid Munzir died in hospital of injuries sustained in Mar Mikhael. The army refused to confirm the identities or political affiliations of those arrested or whether they were detained for sniping at protesters. Amid the official silence, however, media speculation remained rife concerning the presence of snipers and their political affiliations.

Lebanese Forces (LF) boss Samir Geagea, who met Premier Fouad Siniora Tuesday, denied that LF members were arrested in connection with alleged sniping activities aimed at protesters in Mar Mikhael. "These rumors are false. There were members of the Lebanese Forces as well as people from Ain al-Rummaneh that the army rounded up. Some were carrying guns without a permit, but it has nothing to do with [Sunday's riots]. No one was sniping," Geagea said following his meeting with Siniora.

Also Tuesday, the LF accused some media outlets and opposition politicians of launching a campaign aimed at "distorting facts" and laying blame for Sunday's events on the Lebanese Forces. The LF said it has taken steps to file lawsuits against those who take part in this campaign or contribute to it.

DAMASCUS (AFP) - Lebanese diva Fairuz has taken to the stage to perform in the Syrian capital for the first time in more than 20 years to the rapt delight of her fans. The singer, 73, electrified her audience with a host of favourites on Monday night, including the operetta Sah al-Nawm which tells the story of a village chief who is always sleeping and fails to address the needs of villagers.

"That was marvellous," enthused young doctor Lina after the performance. "I'm in a state of excitement. I feel reborn." Fairuz is widely considered the greatest Arab singer, following the death of Umm Kalthoum, and is hugely popular throughout the Middle East and has performed around the world.

She is to give eight concerts, each time playing to sold-out theatres, but has frustrated more fans than she has pleased, with thousands of Syrians trying in vain to buy the sought-after tickets. "All Syrians want to go and see Fairuz, but there are only 10,000 tickets available," said one fan. Dozens of VIPs, including Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Shara, scooped places for the opening night

Jan 27- Seven people have been shot dead in Lebanon's capital after protests over power cuts. At least five of the dead in Sunday's clashes in Beirut were supporters of the opposition, opposition sources said. At least four of the dead were close to the Hezbollah, which together with Amal has the support of the country's Shia population. Security sources said 22 people were also wounded. The violence came two days after a car bombing killed a senior intelligence officer and four others involved in investigations into assassinations blamed by many Lebanese on Syria.

Sectarian tensions
The deadlock has fuelled sectarian tensions between Shia Muslims loyal to the opposition Hezbollah and Amal factions, and Sunni supporters of Saad al-Hariri, who leads the governing March 14 coalition. Amal, which is led by Nabih Berri, the parliament speaker, called on its followers to halt the protests. "We have no link to this action. We call on people not to react. We call on them to pull out of the streets," Ali Hassan Khalil, a senior Amal official, told the Reuters agency. Hezbollah members used loudspeakers to urge calm.  The violence escalated after an Amal activist was shot dead when the army moved to break up a demonstration against power cuts.
Opposition supporters say their strongholds are unfairly targeted by electricity-rationing practices. The Lebanese army, seen as neutral in the crisis, had fired in the air to disperse the initial protest. It said it was investigating who was behind the shooting, which it said killed two people. Heavy gunfire was heard and fighters were seen in nearby Shia Muslim and Christian streets. Cars were set ablaze in Beirut and protests spread beyond the capital to Shia villages in the south and the Bekaa Valley to the east. Protesters used blazing tyres to block several main roads, including the highway to the airport.
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By Yara Bayoumy, BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's police chief vowed on Saturday to confront those who "terrorize this nation" at a memorial service for a police intelligence officer killed in a car bomb attack the previous day. Captain Wisam Eid, who helped investigate assassinations in Lebanon, and his bodyguard were killed when a car bomb ripped through a Christian suburb of Beirut on Friday. Police said the death toll in the attack had risen to five, from four, and there were 42 wounded.

Eid's assassination was the latest in a series of bombings and political killings over the past three years. The turmoil has fuelled the worst political crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. "They thought that with their crime, they can affect our commitment and will, but they are really delusional," said police chief Brigadier General Ashraf Rifi at the memorial service at the internal security forces' headquarters in Beirut. "We pledge to you that the internal security forces will continue to confront those who wanted to terrorize this nation with their crimes ... our decision is to ... confront the empire of death and terrorism," Rifi said.

President Bush offered his condolences. "This bombing, the latest in a series of terrorist attacks targeting those who are working to secure Lebanon's independence and sovereignty, is a part of the continuing assault on Lebanon's institutions," Bush said in a statement.

Red Cross ambulances evacuated at least a dozen casualties, after a powerful explosion tore through rows of parked cars, near a major highway overpass, targeting a top Lebanese police investigator.Firefighters worked feverishly to douse the blazing wreckage of twisted automobiles, as thick plumes of acrid black smoke choked the air. Lebanese security officials say top police investigator Wissam Eid, the apparent target of the blast, died immediately.

Charles Ayoub, the Editor of Lebanon's Ad Diyar newspaper told al Arabiya television that at least 30 to 40 kilos of a TNT were used in the bombing.Lebanese investigators, using sniffer dogs, combed through the rubble of the explosion, looking for clues, but sources say that water used to douse the blaze was making the search extremely difficult.

BEIRUT, Lebanon

"البطريركية هي المرجعية الوطنية والروحية في اوقات الازمات الحادة" 
الخازن: التاريخ سيذكر بعض الموارنة الذيــــن اضاعوا البوصلة

المركزية - اسف النائب الدكتور فريد الخازن لانحدار السجال السياسي في لبنان الى هذا المستوى، معتبرا ان التاريخ سيذكر ان بعض موارنة هذا الزمن اضاعوا البوصلة في معمعة مشكلاتهم الضيقة وتناحرهم المدمر. 
وأكد ان بكركي وعلى رأسها البطريرك الماروني الكاردينال مار نصرالله بطرس صفير هي المرجعية الروحية والوطنية في اوقات الازمات الحادة. 
صدر عن النائب الخازن البيان الآتي: من المؤسف والمحزن ان ينحدر السجال السياسي في لبنان الى هذا المستوى من الاسفاف. فالضغائن لا تبني اوطانا ولا تصنع امجادا، بل تزيد الناس ضياعا وتخدرهم موقتا فيستفيقون متأخرين لمواجهة حالهم السيئة. 
المؤسسة التاريخية الوحيدة عند الموارنة هي الكنيسة، وعلى رأسها راعيها، غبطة البطريرك، وهي المرجعية الروحية والوطنية خصوصا في اوقات الازمات الحادة، كما هي الحال اليوم، ولبنان لم يتعافَ من جراح الماضي ومآسي حروب الداخل والخارج ومن السيطرة والوصاية على انواعها. وفي ما عدا ذلك فجميعنا الى زوال. فبدل من ان نتلهى برمي الاتهامات وتسجيل النقاط للاستهلاك الاعلامي، وبدل من ان يتحول كل حدث او سجال مادة للاستغلال السياسي الرخيص، فلمَ لا نوحد صفوفنا على اساس ثوابت تجمعنا، ثوابت بكركي التاريخية وهي التي كانت في اصل نشوء لبنان. 
اضاف: سيذكر التاريخ ان بعض موارنة هذا الزمن اضاعوا البوصلة في معمعة مشكلاتهم الضيقة وتناحرهم المدمر للذات في وطن منكوب سياسيا واقتصاديا واجتماعيا وفي دولة معلقة ومجتمع منقسم. عندئذٍ، ويا للاسف، لن يبقى حجر على حجر لكي تبنى كل الامجاد.

"لبنان دخل مرحلـــــة التدويل منذ سنوات عدة" 
الخازن: صدور قرار دولي غير وارد ولا آلية لتنفيذه

المركزية - رأى عضو تكتل "التغيير والاصلاح" النائب فريد الخازن ان لبنان دخل مرحلة التدويل منذ سنوات من خلال القرارات الدولية ذات الكم الهائل وتاليا ما يحكى عن تدويل راهنا في حال فشل المبادرة العربية عبر قرار يصدر عن مجلس الامن امر غير وارد وغير مطروح ومن دون جدوى، ملاحظا ان لا طرح جديا في هذا الخصوص ولا آلية لتنفيذ هكذا قرار في ما لو صدر. 
وقال الخازن في حديث الى "المركزية": "هناك تدويل بمعنى ان ثمة اهتماماً دولياً بالشأن اللبناني وصدور قرارات عن مجلس الامن بهذا الموضوع. هذا النوع من التدويل حاصل في لبنان منذ صدور القرار 1559 وصولا الى القرار الاخير 1701 الذي يشمل القرارت السابقة كافة. اذاً فلبنان دخل عمليا في زمن التدويل لناحية اتخاذ قرارات في مجلس الامن في مسائل الانتخابات الرئاسية والمحكمة الدولية ونشر قوات دولية في الجنوب وغيرها". 
اضاف: "الكلام الذي نسمعه اليوم عن التدويل يأتي في سياق فشل المبادرة العربية ومن ثم اللجوء الى التدويل. ان المبادرة العربية تلقى دعماً دولياً وتحديدا من الامم المتحدة لأن امين عام جامعة الدول العربية عمرو موسى سيرفع تقريراً بنتائج مهمته الى امين عام الامم المتحدة بان كي مون وكذلك الى الاوروبيين. اذا فهذا التحرك العربي مدول اما ما يتم تداوله عن انه في حال فشل المبادرة العربية فإنه سيتم اللجوء الى التدويل فهذا يعني صدور قرار عن مجلس الامن ينص على وجوب انتخاب رئيس وتشكيل حكومة ووضع قانون انتخاب وفقا للمبادرة العربية فهذا امر غير مطروح وغير وارد وغير ممكن تحقيقه اولا لأنه سيكون من دون جدوى، لا بل جدوى سلبية تسهم في تدهور الاوضاع وتفاقم الازمة وازدياد الشرخ وثانيا لأنه لا يمكن التوافق عليه في مجلس الامن اضافة الى عدم وجود طرح جدي من قبل اي طرف في هذا الموضوع، كما ان ليس هناك من آلية لتنفيذ القرار في ما لو اتخذ، فالقرارات الدولية كافة وعددها غير مسبوق التي اتخذت بشأن لبنان لم تنفذ حتى الساعة، كل ذلك يجعل الامر غير وارد وغير منطقي. 
يضاف الى ذلك ان المعطيات في لبنان لا تخوله ان يصبح تحت الوصاية الدولية على الرغم من بعض الشلل في المؤسسات الرسمية. فهذا امر وهمي وغير مطروح جدياً. 
ولاحظ الخازن ان المسار راهناً يتجه نحو المكان الذي يمكن ان يؤدي الى نتيجة من خلال المبادرة العربية.

daily star BEIRUT: Several pro-government delegations visited Bkirki  Thursday to express solidarity with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir after Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh launched a verbal attack on the prelate. "Father forgive them for they don't know what they are doing," Sfeir said Thursday in an apparent response to Wednesday's attack on him by Franjieh.

Late Wednesday Franjieh lashed out again at Sfeir and urged him to resign. He told NBN television he was expressing the thoughts and opinions of most Christians, "including bishops close to the prelate." "Sfeir is changing his positions very often. First he was against amending the Constitution, but he suddenly changed his mind after meeting with US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman ... One day he speaks of sovereignty and independence and another day he speaks about internationalization," Franjieh said.

"The patriarch should have resigned at the age of 74. He is 90 now and whenever he is told something, he forgets about it after one hour. The clerics around him ask us to be patient with him, but I think it is about time he gets some rest," he added. The Marada leader criticized Sfeir for saying that Syria had its "tools" in Lebanon. "We are not tools. The patriarch is repeating what the ruling coalition says about us and for this he deserves to be criticized," Franjieh said.  The opposition leader asked why parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri's adviser Daoud Sayegh visits Sfeir only at the beginning of every month, indirectly accusing the patriarch of being employed by Hariri.

Top leaders from Lebanon's parliament majority and the opposition met for the first time in three months Thursday as part of efforts by the head of the Arab League to end Lebanon's 15-month-old political crisis. Majority leader Saad Hariri and opposition leader Michel Aoun met Thursday at the parliament building in downtown Beirut. They were joined by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa and former Lebanese President Amin Gemayel.  Hariri and Aoun held several meetings last year, including one in Paris in October. The opposition recently named Aoun as its representative in any meetings with the majority - a move that was rejected by the anti-syrian group for weeks.

The two leaders met in Parliament Thursday afternoon in the presence of Phalange Party president Amine Gemayel and Moussa himself. "I am optimistic. Holding the meeting is a success. There is still room for agreement, but there are some issues that need to be discussed extensively," Moussa said after the meeting which lasted for almost three hours. "We will meet again when I return from Damascus," he added.  Moussa is expected in Damascus on Friday.  The Arab chief league refused to discuss the details of the meeting, saying "the crisis will not be solved on newspaper pages," adding: "I will not speak in detail now. The crisis is very complicated and requires more discussions."

Asked about differences over interpreting the second item of the Arab initiative, Moussa said "the second item, relating to the formation of a unity government, is clear. It denies the opposition veto power, while denying the ruling coalition absolute majority in the Cabinet."  Asked about his view on internationalizing the Lebanese crisis, Moussa said he preferred "solving the Lebanese crisis on the Arab level."

The three-point Arab plan adopted by Arab foreign ministers during a meeting in Cairo earlier this month calls for the election of the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) General Michel Suleiman as president, the formation of a national unity government, and the drafting of a new electoral law for the 2009 parliamentary elections. The ruling coalition and the opposition are at odds over the interpretation of the Arab plan, namely the item on the formation of a unity government. The plan said the government should be formed in such a way that prevents any party from imposing or blocking Cabinet decisions.

The U.S. State Department says a bomb blast that struck a U.S. Embassy vehicle in Lebanon's capital, Beirut, has killed four people. Lebanese security officials put the death toll lower, at four. Speaking in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed outrage at the blast and called it a terrorist attack.  She said the U.S. will not be deterred in its efforts to help the Lebanese people and the democratic process in that country.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says no American diplomats were in the U.S. Embassy vehicle at the time of the blast, but that the Lebanese driver was slightly injured. At least 16 people were wounded in the blast. McCormack says an American was among those injured but was not in the U.S. embassy car. There has been no claim of responsibility. Television footage showed damaged cars on streets in a mainly Christian suburb of north Beirut (Qarantina), and smoke rising over the city.

Wearing tatty green Israeli army webbing over his black leather jacket, Walid shoulders an M16 rifle and squints down the barrel.

Lebanon's politicians on Sunday welcomed the decision by Arab nations, including Syria, to back the head of Lebanon's army as the next president, expressing hope the move would help end the country's political crisis. Arab foreign ministers issued the endorsement of Gen. Michel Suleiman on Saturday after meeting in the Egyptian capital of Cairo.  The opposition requested that it receive representation in the governement porportionally to the distrubution of the parliamentr before allowing Suleiman to be elected.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who is allied with the opposition, thanked the Arab ministers for their call, saying "we hope that it will be translated on the ground to ward off any strife and end the current crisis.""I tell the Lebanese that we can start with the Arab resolution to ... confirm our unity," Berri added in a statement released by his office.

Saad Hariri, head of the parliamentary majority, echoed Berri's endorsement, describing the resolution as a "historic stance that expresses the real Arab will in rejecting all kinds of pressure on our country." "It also gives the Lebanese people moral, political and national support that will enable them, God willing, to overcome the current period," he added.

The ruling coalition has accused the opposition of obstructing the election of a new president under orders from Syria and Iran. In turn, the opposition has claimed pro-government groups in the parliament majority follow U.S. policies.

naharnet, Hayek Projects a Little Bad News, a Lot of Good for 2008
Michel Hayek, Lebanon's most famous psychic, predicted that the year 2008 will generally bring good news, but warned of some bad news.
Hayek said obstacles that faced the election of a new president for Lebanon will "soon disappear," but warned that a "spell" will continue to prevail at the Baabda Palace and its environs. He did not elaborate.

He predicted that the next 18 months will be influenced by prosperous banking system, new investments, building of dams and tourist projects along the Lebanese coast.

Hayek, however, warned that the Lebanese Forces as well as its leader Samir Geagea will be targeted in 2008.

He also pointed to "negative intentions" against Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra and former MP Faris Soeid.

Hayek predicted that Free Patriotic Movement leader Gen. Michel Aoun and a number of his aides will be subject to "vicious operations." He did not reveal the nature of these actions.

Politically, Hayek spoke about historic hand-shakings that could bridge the gap among some Lebanese figures.

Hayek expected Hizbullah to achieve an additional success in swapping prisoners with Israel, though at a "high cost."
 A country going through crazy times, it should have come as no surprise that Lebanon's real estate prices doubled. "It's completely ridiculous and against all forecasts of a difficult political situation. No one wants to sell at normal rates, everyone has now doubled their price," said Patrick Geammal, chairman and managing director of ASCOT. Whether real or imagined, such predictions have made their mark on sellers' expectations and deals have stalled.

"If before the price of land was $2,000, they now want $4,000, but if you are willing to pay $4,000, they want $8,000," Geammal laughed.

Guillaume Boudisseau of Ramco Real Estate Advisors said he faced the same problem but believed that sellers cannot dictate prices. "They just don't understand that they can't set their own price," he said, adding that, "it's mathematically based on the value of surrounding land."

Land scarcity is also a factor in pricing. In prime locations such as Ashrafieh, Hamra, Verdun, and Ramlet al-Baida, plots of land could be found two years ago. Today, however, there are only a few remaining plots, which is putting pressure on prices. "So those that held on to their lands are now asking ridiculous prices and making the market grow," said Geammal.

Prices have increased by 20% since March, prior to the clairvoyant's prediction. "Growth is everywhere," said Nabil Gebrael, chairman of Caldwell Banker. He further stated prices only plateau during tough times for the market and resume to a steady increase once the market returns to normal. This phenomenon is due to two important factors: First, Beirut as a capital city is still inexpensive per square-meter compared to neighboring capitals such as Damascus and Amman. Second, building materials -- steel, concrete, tiles, and fixtures -- have increased due to the declining dollar against the euro. "In Lebanon, real estate is determined by cost, not market demand," insisted Gebrael. Bank Audi reported that the Construction Cost Index from end-2006 to end-June 2007 increased by 9.4%.

Multiple attempts failed to resolve stalemate between rival politicians, By Hani M. Bathish, Daily Star,

BEIRUT: Politically, 2007 was a year of intense activity in Lebanon, but with few tangible results. It was a year of looming constitutional vacuums, incessant political bickering, and near total legislative inertia, as the doors of Parliament remained shut, and the country was left without a head of state, just a Cabinet whose own legitimacy was questioned.  An encampment of opposition supporters in Downtown Beirut laying siege to what they saw as the ruling coalition's "monopoly on power" is what many will remember of the past year. What began as a resignation of opposition ministers in protest over the path the government was taking snow-balled into a major political crisis as 2006 came to a close. Little did anyone know that the sit-in near the Grand Serail would last for more than a year.

The start of the year also saw an economic reform plan unveiled to cut public debt and revitalize the crippled economy. The opposition viewed the plan as a new edifice of the hated government to tear down. Each component of the plan was met with outright rejection by the opposition and protest rallies led by the opposition-aligned General Labor Confederation.

The logjam persisted right up to and beyond the end of former President Emile Lahoud's term  on November 23.  Throughout the year, the governing coalition and the opposition traded accusations, recriminations and even expletives. It was a year of crisis milestones, from the ratification of the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon to try suspects in the slaying of former Premier Rafik Hariri, to disagreement over a consensus presidential candidate and the distribution of Cabinet posts in a new government.

The Council of Maronite Bishops warned early in the year that the situation had become "unstable" and that "Lebanon's salvation should emanate from inside the country not from outside it." The warning went unheeded as old demons from the 1975-90 Civil War were roused.

By Robert F Worth, Lebanon may seem an unlikely holiday spot: the government has collapsed, car bombs go off periodically and foreign envoys warn of an impending civil war.And yet, so many people have been streaming into this tiny, embattled country in recent days that the flights are all overbooked, and some well-heeled travelers are driving 18 hours from the Persian Gulf. Beirut's restaurants, bars and malls are all packed with revelers.

Why? The answer is that the Lebanese diaspora reverses itself on holidays, as the migrants who sustain the war-shattered Lebanese economy all year return from jobs across the globe to spend time with their families. Nothing will deter them

By Ferry Biedermann in Beirut , "What most Lebanese people want for Christmas is a president," jokes a comedian dressed up as Santa Claus on the stage of an upmarket nightclub in a Christian suburb of Beirut. It is comedy night and the country's convoluted political deadlock is an easy target for the performers. The audience seems to be grateful for every bit of comic relief. "We need to laugh because the situation is so tense," says Antoine Geagea. The show must go on, even after the killing last week of Fran

In his annual Christmas message on Friday, influential Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, head of the Maronite Catholic community from which Lebanon's presidents are drawn, urged all parties to unite and end Lebanon's political vacuum. "We have to reject hatred... and stop seeking personal interests at the expense of national interests," he said.  "The presidency has been vacant for more than half a month, parliament has been paralysed for about a year and our government is limping with some cabinet members pursuing a strike," he said.

On Thursday, US President George W. Bush accused Damascus of seeking to destabilise Lebanon despite having withdrawn troops from its smaller neighbour in April 2005 after 29 years of military domination."It is very important that Lebanon's democracy succeed. I worked with the French to get Syria out of Lebanon, and Syria needs to stay out of Lebanon. Syria needs to let the process in Lebanon work," Bush said. US President George W. Bush on Thursday ruled out direct talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying his "patience ran out" on the Syrian leader "a long time ago.""So if he's listening, he doesn't need a phone call, he knows exactly what my position is," Bush said at a year-end press conference, after being asked whether he would talk to Assad to work on ending Lebanon's political crisis."My patience ran out on President Assad a long time ago, and the reason why is because he houses Hamas, he facilitates Hezbollah, suiciders go from his country into Iraq and he destabilizes Lebanon," said Bush. The president said he was particularly vexed by what he said were Syria's continued alleged efforts to foment instability in Lebanon, despite having withdrawn troops from there in April 2005. He also has suggested for the Parliament to go ahead with the vote without the votes of the opposition, and informed them that the world will support them even if there is no 2/3 of the votes.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem accused Washington of blocking what he called Syrian and French efforts to end the Lebanese deadlock. "They want the majority to monopolise the political decision-making process, instead of, as we and the French believe, all the parties being treated equally," he said. They want the (parliamentary) majority to monopolise the political decision-making process, instead of, as we and the French believe, all the parties being treated equally."He said a proposed Damascus-Paris solution aimed to agree a declaration of three principles; election of the army chief, General Michel Sleiman, after amending the constitution; formation of a national unity government and a fair rewriting of the electoral law.

In reaction,  " Sarkozy said that he wishes that this date be respected and that a solution on the electoral process be found," presidential spokesman David Martinon told a news conference. "(Sarkozy told Assad) again that France was more than ever committed to the election of a Lebanese president, a president of a broad appeal," Martinon said.

the opposition in Lebanon, accused Bush of "using its tools" -- the majority coalition -- to thwart attempts to reach a compromise over the presidency. "No, Bush, your orders cannot be implemented in Lebanon and your tutelage is rejected," Hezbollah number two Naim Kassem said in a statement on Friday. Lebanon's  leader Michel Aoun said Friday that a parliamentary session scheduled for Saturday with the purpose of electing a new president will not go ahead, as no agreement had been reached between rival political factions. "There will no session but we hope for something positive after the holidays," Aoun said during a press conference.

Lebanese Information Minister Marwan Hamadeh said Muallem's remarks were "deceptive." "As usual, the Syrian minister is fooled by his own deceptiveness, believing that it is still the era when Syria formed Lebanese governments," Hamadeh said in Beirut.Majority MPs Nayla Moawad and Elias Atallah told AFP on Friday that their camp was not seeking to impose a president, preferring to pursue efforts for a compromise accord with the opposition.But Moawad warned that "after the recent remarks by Muallem and Syrian Deputy President Faruq Shara, it is clear that the Syrian regime has taken the decision to block the presidential vote. "They want to create a crisis to prevent Lebanon from having a strong and independent state. They want to cause chaos to be able to use Lebanon as a negotiating card for their own interests," she said.

BEIRUT (AFP)--Lebanon's presidential election was postponed for a ninth time Monday, to December 22, despite intense international efforts to convince rival parties to strike a deal and end a dangerous political vacuum. "The parliament session that was scheduled today has been postponed to Saturday December 22 at 12:30 p.m. (1030 GMT)," Mohamed Ballout, spokesman for parliament speaker Nabih Berri, told reporters.

Simon Abi Ramia, an adviser to Christian opposition leader General Michel Aoun, told AFP earlier that Monday's session would not go ahead as no agreement had yet been reached on a mechanism to amend the constitution. Mustafa Alloush, a deputy with the majority, told AFP that political negotiations had reached a dead end. "We're back to square one," he said.


Lebanon - Lebanese politicians and military officers bade a mournful farewell to the martyr one of the top generals' Francois el Hajj and his bodyguard Khairallah Hadwane Friday in a funeral that briefly united the deeply divided country. Hundreds of grieving Lebanese stood in a downpour along the route of Maj. Gen. Francois Hajj's flag-draped casket from his home in a Beirutsuburb to the Maronite Catholic basilica in the Christian mountain heartland north of the capital.

"Their bloody message will not scare us," read one banner, refering to the still unknown killers, along a road also hung with Lebanese flags. An elderly woman threw rose petals in front of the procession as it passsed through the port of Jounieh/. "They killed Hajj because he was a clean leader, a poor and wise man with foresight," said Kafa Makhlouf, a 45-year-old Christian homemaker who drove an hour to Harisa, the mountain town overlooking the Mediterranean where the funeral mass was held.

On Thursday, security agents in the southern city of Sidon detained four Lebanese in whose names the car used in the bombing was registered. The men were detained from a neighborhood near the Ein el Helwee refugee camp, where Islamic militant groups are known to operate. But Defense Minister Elias Murr, speaking on Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. television late Thursday, said he would not limit the suspects to just "criminal terrorists"


The Khazen family offers its deepest condoleances to the families of the martyrs General Francois Hajj, and Khairallah Hedwan . BEIRUT -- A car bomb attack killed one of Lebanon's top generals and at least two other people Wednesday, the military and state media said, putting even more pressure on the country's delicate political situation. The target of the attack, Brig. Gen. Francois Hajj, a top Maronite Catholic in the command, was considered a leading candidate to succeed the head of the military, Gen. Michel Suleiman, if Suleiman is elected president. Hajj, 55, also led a major military campaign against Islamic militants over the summer. The blast is the first such attack against the Lebanese army, which has remained neutral in Lebanon's yearlong political crisis and is widely seen as the only force that can hold the country together amid the bitter infighting between parliament's rival factions. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem denounced the "criminal attack" on Hajj. "We condemn any action that threatens Lebanon," he said. Hajj helped lead an army onslaught on al Qaedainspired militants at the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon this year in which 168 soldiers and about 230 Fatah al-Islam fighters were killed.

The main Christian opposition leader, Michel Aoun told reporters that he had supported Hajj to succeed Suleiman as army commander. Aoun, a former head of the military, praised Hajj and said it was "shameful" for political forces to take advantage of the crime. "We are facing a security catastrophe today," said Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun, calling on the interior minister to resign. Visibly shaken, the former army chief told reporters Hajj had been his preferred candidate for the top military post. Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh, speaking to AP Television News, accused the "Syrian-Iranian axis" of hitting the military, "the only body in Lebanon who can balance the power of Hezbollah and other militias in the country."  But the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah, which has good relations with the army, denounced the killing. It called Hajj's death a "great national loss" and praised the military's "great national role" in preserving security. The White House denounced the killing. "We strongly condemn the assassination of Brig. Gen. Francois Hajj. This is a crucial time as Lebanon seeks to maintain a democratically elected government and select a new president," said National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe. "President Bush will continue to stand with the Lebanese people as they counter those who attempt to undermine their security and freedom." Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem denounced the "criminal attack" on Hajj. "We condemn any action that threatens Lebanon," he said.

"Once he was nominated for the leadership (of the army), they killed him," Hajj's father Elias told reporters in the slain officer's village of Rmeish in southern Lebanon. Villagers raised black flags and army emblems in Rmeish, where schools closed for three days of mourning. Hajj came from a family of tobacco farmers and was the eldest of 12 children.The blast wrecked Hajj's car, set others on fire and damaged nearby buildings. Charred metal littered the blackened streets. The slaying of Hajj and its timing amid the deadlock over the presidency raised immediate speculation over who was behind the bombing, which blasted Hajj's SUV as he drove through a busy street of Baabda district. Security sources said 35 kg (77 lb) of explosives packed into an olive-green BMW car were detonated by remote control as Hajj's four-wheel-drive vehicle drove by. The army and the Lebanese people will not succumb to terrorism," Suleiman was quoted as saying in a statement. "(Hajj's) martyrdom strengthens us and reinforces our belief in victory and confidence in Lebanon's future." Arab and Western states fear a prolonged vacuum in the presidency could further destabilize Lebanon, where rival camps have accused each other of rearming and training fighters. Hajj, a father of three, will be buried at his hometown on Friday.

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BEIRUT,  2007 (IRIN) - Rebuilding Nahr al-Bared, the northern Palestinian refugee camp devastated by a three-month conflict between the army and Islamist militants, will be one of the largest humanitarian projects ever undertaken by UNRWA, the UN
By Alistair Lyon, Special Correspondent, SIDON, Lebanon (Reuters) - Every day bulldozers pile more garbage on to a mountain of waste on the Sidon seafront in a symbol of Lebanon's environmental problems, aggravated, activists say, by politics, mismanagement and greed. The dump, towering about 20 meters (60 feet) high near schools, hospitals and apartment blocks in Lebanon's third biggest city, has partially collapsed into the Mediterranean at least twice, prompting complaints from Cyrpus, Syria and Turkey after currents swept rubbish on to their beaches.

Last year, an oil spill caused by Israeli bombing of fuel tanks at the Jiyyeh power plant south of Beirut during a 34-day aroused international concern. However, most of Lebanon's environmental blight is home-grown. Almost all its sewage is pumped untreated into the sea, with some chemical effluent from relatively small industrial clusters along a 225-km (140-mile) coastline disfigured by uncontrolled land reclamation and haphazard private construction. Lebanese boast of their country's natural beauty, but many dump litter at roadsides and picnic sites without a second thought.

BEIRUT - The World Association of Newspapers on Sunday awarded the Gibran Tueni prize, named after the martyr MP and newsman, to a Lebanese journalist for writings focused on the freedom of expression. The award went to Michel Hajji Georgiou, senior political analyst at the French-language daily L'orient-le-jour, at a ceremony ahead of the second anniversary of Tueni's assassination.

The coming second anniversary of the assassination of journalist and MP Gebran Tueni was commemorated on Sunday with the announcement of this year's Gebran Tueni Award at the Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure Center. The ceremony was marked by a series of passionate and often emotional speeches given by members of the Tueni family, although the highlight of Sunday's event was singer Majida al-Roumi's riveting speech "Enough," which prompted a standing ovation from the audience of roughly 1,500.  "Are we not all Lebanese? Did all those who fought in the North and South, did they not all fight because they are Lebanese?" asked Roumi. She was referring to the soldiers of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) who died in the three-month conflict this year against Fatah al-Islam militants at the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in North Lebanon, as well as the Hizbullah fighters who died in the summer 2006 war with Israel. "Many may criticize me for expressing my thoughts on politics here today, but I do not care," she said. "I am here today to say: enough." "We are the ones who have to die for everyone else's causes and everyone else's wars," added Roumi.

Beirut - Rival Lebanese leaders strived on Thursday to finalise a deal to have the army chief elected as president, but problems over amending the constitution persisted, despite the intervention of the French foreign minister. Parliament is due to convene Friday to elect a president. Army commander general Michel Suleiman has emerged as a candidate acceptable to the rival camps.

opposition leader General Michel Aoun,wants guarantees that his share of seats in the new cabinet will reflect the size of his parliamentary bloc - the biggest of any Christian faction. Aoun said Thursday that "the political vacuum in the country does not scare us" and reiterated that he wants political understanding before amending the constitution. Aoun reiterated he would only endorse Suleiman for two years until the 2009 parliamentary elections, and blamed the ruling majority for the deadlock. "I have made enough compromises and I will add a new demand every day," Aoun told a news conference. The ruling majority "led us to the void. They thought that the void would scare us...but it does not scare us and the presidency will always be there," he said. "If not now, in a week, if not, in a month or in a year. The country will not be destroyed, more than this current government has been destroying it," said Aoun. Kouchner met separately with Aoun, opposition-aligned Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and legislator Saad Hariri, who leads the parliament majority. The diplomat discussed "the current political crisis ... and efforts to complete the presidential election," state-run National News Agency said.

Another leading member of the anti-Syria coalition, former President Emile Gemayel, also indirectly blamed Aoun for the latest haggling, saying that "some have almost brought us back to square one with impossible conditions."Gemayel, whose Christian right-wing Phalange Party backs Suleiman for president, urged a speedy presidential vote.

BEIRUT (AFP) - The Lebanese army on Thursday banned civilians from wearing military-style clothing amid fears of unrest in the country facing political and security instability. Lately, citizens and party members have been wearing clothes similar to military fatigues," a military statement said on Thursday. "The current circumstances in the country require that we put an end to this phenomenon."It said "all civilians are forbidden from wearing any kind" of military clothes, to prevent people from using them to carry out acts that breach security

BEIRUT, 3 December 2007 (IRIN) - Radwan was fast asleep when three men broke down the door of his flat. They beat him. They broke one of his ribs. Then two held his arms while the third slashed his head with a knuckleduster. His crime, they told him, was to be a Syrian working in Lebanon.
After Radwan - who like all Syrians interviewed by IRIN gave a false name for fear of retribution - went to the police, the thugs came back.

Last Christmas, the Maronite Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir told Lebanese Christians, "Do not be afraid." At first glance, the Lebanese did not seem afraid, not a bit. Despite all the turmoil they were going through, they still managed to put up their Christmas trees, go to nightclubs, dine at fancy restaurants and attend Fayruz. At second glance, however, the Lebanese had every reason to be afraid back then, and even more so today, one year later. Lebanon continues to suffer from the Israeli war in 2006, and the continued assassinations that have badly hit Lebanon's economy -- and tourism -- since 2005 Then came the massive sit-in starting 2 December 2006 which at the time of writing, continues, with the aim of bringing down the cabinet of Prime Minister Fouad Al-Siniora. Now comes vacancy at the Presidential Palace.

On 23-24 November 2007, Beirut seemed divided between those rejoicing at the exodus of President Emile Lahoud and those paying homage to a man whom they considered a great struggler. Lahoud left a vacant post at Baabda Palace. After weeks of negotiations, the Lebanese were unable to agree on a replacement. Neighbourhoods loyal to parliamentary majority leader Saad Al-Hariri celebrated with fireworks and young people dancing in the street.Syrian television aired a special documentary about him, saying that he was the man who helped unite Lebanon, in his capacity as army commander, in the 1990s. He helped liberate South Lebanon in 2000, and prevented Lebanon from becoming a satellite state of the United States and Israel. Other strong examples are Maronite chief Suleiman Franjiyeh, former prime ministers Omar Karameh and Najib Mikati, parliament speaker Berri, and Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah. All of them upheld Lahoud as a constitutional president, after the Syrians departed in April 2005.

01 December 2007BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir urged the opposition to end its boycott of the presidential election and elect a successor to former President Emile Lahoud. He warned the vote must be held "before it's too late.""The present situation is dangerous and we wonder if any of those in charge, and those who avoid going to Parliament when an electoral session is called, appreciate the seriousness of the situation," Sfeir said in a statement issued Friday.

Sfeir said those who have closed Parliament "bear a huge responsibility," in clear reference to Speaker Nabih Berri, pointing to Parliament as "the natural place for MPs to gather to discuss national issues and take the necessary decisions." Sfeir further chided the opposition's resigned Cabinet ministers who boycott Cabinet sessions while continuing to run their respective ministries."The Lebanese people are sick of these acts that contradict reason and law, and they wait for their representatives whom they elected to focus on people's daily concerns, provide jobs for people so they can take care of their families and provide them a secure and dignified life," Sfeir said.

Sfeir said politicians' commitment to one foreign power or another has made them all prisoners of their fixed positions and has paralyzed their capabilities. Quoting the late former US President John F. Kennedy, Sfeir said "do not ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

"No one can ask of their country security, stability and peace as long as they do not give their country what it asks of them, absolute loyalty and sacrifice. What is required now is electing a president before it's too late," Sfeir said, adding that all MPs are responsible to ensure such an election takes place.

Sfeir, pressured into drafting a list of suitable candidates for the presidency, expressed frustration that political opponents could not agree on a candidate from his list which he reluctantly produced following pressure from France. Lebanese Armed Forces head General Michel Suleiman's name has emerged as a suitable presidential candidate, a name that was not on the patriarch's list.

New york times, The political logjam over Lebanon

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Nov. 30 Lebanon's parliament has postponed until Dec. 7 a session to select the country's next president, the sixth time the election has been pushed back.
In a statement issued by his office, Lebanese Speaker Nabih Berri said he took the action to permit further efforts to reach consensus on the election, The Lebanon Daily Star reported.It was the sixth time a parliamentary vote has been postponed but the reason for the delay this time had nothing to do with selecting a candidate.

Politicians from various factions have expressed their willingness to back Gen. Michel Suleiman of the Lebanese armed forces. Observers told the Daily Star the focus has shifted to finding the best means of amending the country's constitution which prohibits senior state employees from running for president while in office. Lebanon's presidency has been vacant since Nov. 23 when incumbent Emile Lahoud's term expired.

BEIRUT Lebanon's opposition on Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of its sit-in in central Beirut, vowing to stay on for years if need be to force the resignation of the government. "The sit-in began because there is a government that we consider illegitimate, and as long as our goal has not been achieved we will stay there indefinitely," Hezbollah spokesman Hussein Rahal told AFP. The continued protest comes as the country grapples with a dangerous political vacuum that has left the presidency vacant because of a standoff between pro and anti government forces.

Groups of young men mill outside the tents at night, some smoking w