LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/The Example
of Christ's Suffering
01 Peter 02/18 -25: "You servants must submit yourselves to your masters and show them complete respect, not only to those who are kind and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. God will bless you for this, if you endure the pain of undeserved suffering because you are conscious of his will. For what credit is there if you endure the beatings you deserve for having done wrong? But if you endure suffering even when you have done right, God will bless you for it. It was to this that God called you, for Christ himself suffered for you and left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no one ever heard a lie come from his lips. When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God, the righteous Judge. Christ himself carried our sins in his body to the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. It is by his wounds that you have been healed. You were like sheep that had lost their way, but now you have been brought back to follow the Shepherd and Keeper of your souls.
If we see someone who needs help, do we stop? There is so much suffering and poverty, and a great need for good Samaritans.
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For December 10/13
Analysis: A stronger Iran, a weaker America and a region teetering on the
ZVI MAZEL/J. Post/December 10/13
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For December 10/13
Lebanese Related News
Sleiman says no reason for Cabinet meeting
Suleiman Urges Formation of Govt. to Hold Presidential Elections Even if it Doesn't Enjoy Confidence
Saudi envoy slams Hezbollah’s accusations as baseless
Aridi Lays Flood Blame on Safadi, Accuses him of Committing Violations
Lebanon to Pay STL Share in Three Installments
Bassil Meets Berri: Oil File Will Only Be Tackled when Mustaqbal Decides so
Rifaat Eid to 'Comply' with Search Warrant when 'Security Circumstances Ripe'
Report: Investigations Reveal Identity of New Suspect in Iranian Embassy Attack
Asiri Shrugs Off Criticism against Riyadh, Praises Suleiman's Rationality
Miqati Seeks to Revive Cabinet, Says Oil Exploration is Top Priority
Berri Supports Decision for Cabinet to Meet to Tackle Vital Issues
Lebanon gearing up for snowfall
Lebanese host breaks world record for on-air time
Maronite Church leading efforts to avoid vacuum
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Iran report: Saudi intelligence chief met Israeli officials in Geneva
Fars report: Saudi intelligence chief met with Israeli counterpart
Hagel says US 'clear-eyed' on Iranian support for terror as Washington tests Tehran's intentio
Netanyahu says military option 'necessary' on Iran
Israel, Gulf in 'strange alliance' against Iran
Israeli DM, Ya'alon: Every Iranian embassy in the world is a base for terrorism
Israel’s best friend: Stephen Harper
France's Fabius Doubts Breakthrough at Syria Talks
Jihadists Execute Syrian Man for 'Blasphemy'
OPCW: Hard to remove all chemical weapons from Syria by December deadline
Syria Army Secures Damascus-Homs Highway
Syria Opposition Leader Says to Visit Russia
Watchdog Warns of Delay in Moving Syria Chemical Weapons
Palestinians: US ideas for security will lead to 'total failure' of talks
PLO: Palestinians won't accept current proposals from Israel
Analysis: A stronger Iran, a weaker America and a region teetering on the brink
By ZVI MAZEL 12/09/2013/J. Post
Agreement appears to be another step in America's flight from the Middle East rather than a genuine effort to stop Iran's rush to nuclear weapons. Three years ago, in May 2010, the Islamic Republic News Agency of Iran – IRNA – published a stern, if flowery, warning following a series of incidents involving the Gulf states. “There is no lion in the region save the one crouching on the shore opposite the Emirates states,” IRNA said. “He protects his lair, the Persian Gulf. Those who believe that there is another lion in the area [the United States], his claws and fangs have been broken in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine.
No good can be expected from him or from his hunting forays. He is merely counting the days until he can find a way to escape when he still can. Iran, the Emirates and the others countries of the region will forever be neighbors because of their geographic situation.”Today, those words have become reality. The Geneva agreement appears to be another step in America’s flight from the Middle East rather than a genuine effort to stop Iran’s rush to nuclear weapons.
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries are still reeling.
The special relationship between Washington and Riyadh had been the cornerstone of America’s policy in the Gulf and the Middle East for nearly a century. The United States needed Saudi oil and secure export routes through the Gulf. It supplied the kingdom with sophisticated weapons. The Gulf states believed themselves safe thanks to this special relationship, which endured for decades.
With the fall of the Shah and the rise of Khomeini in 1979, Iran became the main threat to the safety of the Gulf while America stood firm against Iranian subversive activities. That era appears to be coming to an end.
What happened in Geneva came after a series of steps that can only be seen as demonstrating the overwhelming will of the American president to distance himself from the region: getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan, with no tangible success; abandoning Mubarak, backing the Muslim Brothers and even turning his back on the new Egyptian regime battling radical Islam; zigzagging about Syria; and recently rumored to be conducting secret talks with Hezbollah and radical Islamic factions in Syria.Taken together, these steps point to a deliberate strategy and game changer. The anti-Iranian pragmatic front that united Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Egypt – with Israel as a silent partner – is no more. It was already seriously weakened when Obama deserted his old ally Mubarak in January 2011 and hastened his fall.
Geneva was its death knell.
Iran is no longer the enemy of America, which views it as a potential partner in reshaping the Middle East.
Moreover, the Geneva agreement appears to be the outcome of secret talks between Teheran and Washington, with the mediation of Oman, leading the Iranians to grasp that Obama is even more eager to get rid of the issue and distance himself from the Middle East, something they had long suspected. They were therefore able to achieve remarkable results. Their nuclear infrastructure remains intact; the West acknowledges their right to enrich uranium – in stark contradiction with the six Security Council resolutions in the framework of Article 7 of the UN Charter – that is, binding resolutions assorted with the threat of sanctions, including the use of force should they not be acted upon. Considering the spotty record of Iran in implementing those resolutions, it is doubtful whether it will do better with the Geneva agreement. That this “preliminary” agreement will be followed by a final settlement is no less doubtful. In fact, in exchange for practically no concession from Iran, the United States and the European Union agreed to unravel the fabric of sanctions that was strangling the Iranian economy. Had the sanctions been maintained, they might have brought results. Instead, international companies are eagerly planning their reentry to Iran. It is a process that will be hard to stop and impossible to reverse.
For Saudi Arabia, the agreement also means that Iran has been given a tacit nod to pursue its subversive activities in the Gulf. This is a direct threat to the stability of the kingdom. At home, the opposition that has long been calling for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy will step up its pressure, while the Shi’ite minority will clamor for an improved status.
And al-Qaida will renew its attacks.
It must be remembered that Saudi Arabia, being the bulwark of Sunni Islam, is facing Shi’ite Iran not only in the Gulf states, but in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. This was brought painfully home a few weeks ago when a pro-Iranian Shi’ite Iraqi militia opened mortar fire on the Saudi border. Riyadh also has not forgotten the failed assassination attempt of its ambassador to Washington by Iranian agents.
In addition, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are no longer sure that America will maintain its military presence in the area to secure the flow of oil.
Iran is already building on what it sees as a victory of the first order. It immediately turned to its Gulf neighbors, which are aware of its military and technological superiority and now feel more exposed than ever.
Teheran hosted the foreign minister of the Emirates while its own foreign minister, Jawad Zarif, went on a much-publicized tour of the Gulf states. He has been so far to Kuwait, Qatar, the United Emirates and Oman, and is due to visit Saudi Arabia. As a peace offering, he stated that his country was ready to discuss the fate of one of three disputed islands in the Straits of Hormuz, for years a bone of contention with the Emirates.
However, Zarif did not withdraw another threat, that of invading Bahrain. Nor did he assuage the fears of the Gulf states concerning its subversive activities through their Shi’ite minorities. Iran has very much the upper hand in the area.There could be attempts at dialogue in the coming months, but Saudi Arabia may be left with no alternative but to start its own nuclear program. At the same time, the monarchy has had preliminary talks with Russia on the basis of shared interests, such as fighting the Muslim Brothers and supporting the new Egyptian regime. Others might develop. As to Egypt, the largest Arab country, it will in all likelihood also feel it has to develop its own program of nuclear energy. The new rulers have already stated that they were going to issue a tender for a first nuclear plant in the Dabaa area, where Mubarak had laid the cornerstone for four such plants to produce electricity.
The fact that the United States is no longer a stabilizing factor in the Middle East is preoccupying. It appears to favor subversive radical elements – from Iran to the Muslim Brotherhood, and even Salafi movements – which detect a growing Western weakness in this trend. As a result, America’s traditional allies are deeply worried in spite of US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s efforts this week in Bahrain to pledge continuing military support.
Russia is making a spectacular comeback in the region while a new race for nuclear weapons is about to begin.
Israeli DM, Ya'alon: Every Iranian embassy in the world is a base for terrorism
By JPOST.COM STAFF 12/09/2013/Defense Minister says
Iranians have built a terror infrastructure in South America, designed to target
Jews, Israelis; warns that Tehran's ambitions for hegemony in the world make it
doubly important to prevent a nuclear Iran. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon
warned Monday that every Iranian embassy throughout the world also serves as a
base for gathering intelligence and planning terror activities.
Speaking during a meeting with visiting Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, Ya'alon said that Israel was "following with concern all of Iran's activities in the world, because we have been hit by their terror in Argentina, Bulgaria and India."Ya'alon accused the Iranians of using the diplomatic mail service to transfer bombs and weapons. He said that Israel knows of Iranian terror bases in Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia, both at their embassies and among the local Muslim Shi'ite They have built this infrastructure for potential attacks against Jews, Israelis and Israeli interests, but it is also important to them as an infrastructure for possible action in the United States, the defense minister said. Ya'alon charged the Iranians with using drug smuggling channels to smuggle weapons into the United States, citing the planned assassination of the Saudi ambassador to Washington two years ago. "This all points to the intentions of the Iranian regime. The terror infrastructure they are building throughout the world is giving them ambition for their goal to export their Shi'ite revolution to the entire world," Ya'alon said.
The defense minister stated the Iranians were involved in every conflict in the Middle East, as well, and were lending support to every group fighting Israel and the West. Ya'alon said that the Iranian ambition for hegemony in the region and in the world makes it doubly important that they not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon. "It's a threat against the stability of the entire world, and therefore we are insisting that, one way or another, they must never have a bomb," he added.
Iran report: Saudi intelligence chief met Israeli officials in Geneva
Ynet Published: 12.08.13/Iranian news agency cites reports that Israeli officials met with director general of Saudi Intelligence Agency in order to discuss 'containing Iran by any possible means, exercising stronger control over Syria’s Jihadist forces, sidelining Muslim Brotherhood' Director General of Saudi Intelligence Agency Bandar bin Sultan met several times with Israeli officials in Geneva, Iranian news agency Fars reported. The report is based on a Saudi Twitter account that is "well connected with the inner circles of the Saudi secret service". According to the tweet, the sides have agreed on a number of crucial issues, including “containing Iran by any possible means, exercising stronger control over Syria’s Jihadist forces, sidelining Muslim Brotherhood and stopping the waves of the Arab spring. Last month, it was reported that Israel and the Gulf Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia are increasingly finding common ground – and a common political language – regarding both nations' dismay over Iran's history-making overtures to Washington and the nuclear talks in Geneva.
"The adage about 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' is playing out over Iran," said Theodore Karasik, a security and political affairs analyst at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. "This situation opens up some interesting possibilities as it all shakes out." Saudi Arabia, which generally sets the political tone for the rest of Gulf, also sees Iran as a dangerous neighbor. The Sunni-ruled Gulf states routinely assail Shiite power Iran for allegedly backing revolts such as Bahrain's Arab Spring-inspired uprising or supporting coup plots – although no clear evidence has ever been made public.
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf partners are deep-pocket customers of US weapons and aircraft, but also allow the Pentagon extensive footholds in the region, including the headquarters of the Navy's 5th Fleet in Bahrain. The arrangement is meant to buy protection from Washington and intimidate Iran.
Israel, Gulf in 'strange alliance' against Iran
Associated Press Published: 11.21.13, 07:/Ynetnews
Talks of emerging deal between Iran, West bring unprecedented public ties between Israel, Gulf; J'lem sees nuclear Iran as existential threat, Sunni Persian Gulf find Shiite republic dangerous to region
When US Secretary of State John Kerry made another stop in the Middle East this month, he received an expected earful over Washington's outreach to Iran: Don't trust Tehran, tighten sanctions even more, anything short of complete nuclear concessions is a grave mistake. Kerry's meeting wasn't in Israel, though. It was in Riyadh, listening to Saudi leaders. In one of the region's oddest pairings, Israel and the Gulf Arab states led by Saudi Arabia increasingly are finding common ground – and a common political language – on their mutual dismay over Iran's history-making overtures to Washington and the prospect of a nuclear deal in Geneva that could curb Tehran's atomic program but leave the main elements intact, such as uranium enrichment."The adage about 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' is playing out over Iran," said Theodore Karasik, a security and political affairs analyst at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. "This situation opens up some interesting possibilities as it all shakes out."
There seems little chance of major diplomatic breakthroughs between Israel and the Gulf's array of ruling monarchs and sheiks. But their shared worries over Iran's influence and ambitions already has brought back-channel contacts and "intimate relationships" on defense and other strategic interests through forums such as the UN, said Dan Gillerman, a former Israeli ambassador to the world body.
The stepped-up anxieties on Iran could bring new space for the Gulf-Israel overlap.
Egypt's military-backed government, which ousted the Iran-friendly Muslim Brotherhood, could be an easy fit into a regional bloc standing against Iran and demanding tougher lines from Washington, which has been roundly criticized by some for abandoning its longstanding allies in favor of trying to settle the nuclear standoff with Iran. Egypt's leadership depends on Gulf money as a lifeline and seeks to rebuild its ties with Israel, whose peace treaty with Cairo was considered a historical annoyance by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Saudi and other Gulf states are critical money-and-weapons pipelines to Syrian rebels in a proxy war with Iran, the main Middle East backers of Bashar Assad's government. Iran's other loyal force, Lebanon's Hezbollah, is also in the mix in Syria. On Tuesday, an al-Qaeda-linked group claimed it carried out a pair of suicide bombings at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut that killed 23 people, including an Iranian diplomat, in an attack that was widely seen as retaliation against Hezbollah and Lebanon's role in Syria. Israel may now be able to look more to Saudi assistance and intelligence in efforts to undercut Hezbollah, which has fired rockets into Israel and waged a 2006 war. Saudi Arabia also gave important backing the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 with Israel and could assume an even greater role in future Israel-Palestinian talks
"A nuclear deal… is likely to intensify behind-the-scene political cooperation between the Persian Gulf states and Israel, especially when it comes to lobbying in Washington and in Brussels," said Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born political analyst based in Israel. Already, there have been some curious cross currents by foes viewing Israel and Saudi Arabia as being on the same page.
After the Beirut bombings, Iran's foreign minister blamed Israel for the attacks. Hezbollah and Syrian officials, however, indirectly pointed the finger at Saudi Arabia, which is a leading backer of Syrian rebel factions along with Gulf ally Qatar. On Monday, the official Saudi Press Agency put out a statement categorically denying a report in Britain's Sunday Times that the kingdom and Israel were making "contingencies" for an attack on Iran if diplomacy fails to make deep cuts in Tehran's nuclear program. It's not difficult, though, for Middle East commentators to speculate on the meeting of minds between Israel and Saudi Arabia. The roots of their shared fears over Iran are so similar. Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran – or even if it is near that capability – as a direct threat to its survival after decades of anti-Israel remarks by Iranian leaders and attacks by Iranian-backed groups such as Hezbollah. Israel also worries about shifts in the regional balance of power. Israel is believed to have a nuclear arsenal, but neither confirms nor denies its existence.
Iran denies it seeks nuclear weapons. But any deal with world powers seen as easing concerns could later be used by Iran to boost calls to ban nuclear arms across the region – and put pressure on Israel over its presumed nuclear warheads.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that his country was ready to "defend itself" if Iran appeared on course to develop a nuclear weapon. Saudi Arabia, which generally sets the political tone for the rest of Gulf, also sees Iran as a dangerous neighbor. The Sunni-ruled Gulf states routinely assail Shiite power Iran for allegedly backing revolts such as Bahrain's Arab Spring-inspired uprising or supporting coup plots – although no clear evidence has ever been made public. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf partners are deep-pocket customers of US weapons and aircraft, but also allow the Pentagon extensive footholds in the region, including the headquarters of the Navy's 5th Fleet in Bahrain. The arrangement is meant to buy protection from Washington and intimidate Iran.
During Kerry's visit this month, he assured Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal that Washington's "deep relationship" is solid and enduring. But there was no mistaking Saudi Arabia's lingering anger over the US decision to back off on possible military strikes on the Iranian-backed Syrian government over its suspected use of chemical weapons in August. Instead, Washington sided with a Russian-drafted plan to collect and dismantle Assad's chemical stockpile. Saudi Arabia is a main backer of the Syrian rebels fighters through aid channels believed overseen by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Shortly before Kerry's trip, Saudi Arabia snubbed a seat on the UN Security Council in an unprecedented protest mostly aimed at US policies in the Middle East. "We have a common enemy, Iran, and we have shared disappointments from our allies, mainly the United States, something that created a somewhat strange alliance between Israel and the Gulf states," said Gillerman, the former diplomat. Gulf leaders keep a cool distance in public from Israel, but it's not been a total separation.
The boldest link so far has been from Qatar – home base of the influential pan-Arab network Al-Jazeera – that allowed an Israel trade office until it was closed after Israel's attacks on Gaza beginning in late 2008. Israeli passport holders are generally banned from entering Gulf countries because of no diplomatic relations, but exceptions have been made for athletes and selected international conferences. Still, there are sensitivities. Last month, Israeli flags were edited from some TV coverage of World Cup swimming competition in Qatar. Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, said Israelis seeking to travel to the Gulf are likely to rely on a second passport if they are dual nationals. Uzi Dayan, a former Israeli deputy chief of staff and national security adviser, said Israel is singled out as the main alarmist over Iran's nuclear program, but the Sunni Arabs in the Gulf, Egypt and elsewhere are just as galvanized in opposition. "There are more actors and participants than what you hear. We choose to do it from the main stage in a loud voice," Dayan told Israel's Army Radio.
Funeral for top Hezbollah commander marches in Sidon
December 09, 2013/ By Mohammed Zaatari The Daily Star /SIDON, Lebanon: Hezbollah held a funeral procession in the suburb of the coastal city of Sidon Monday for a top military commander who was killed in Syria a day earlier. The procession was led by Hezbollah MP Ali Fayyad, the Imam of Haret Sayda Sheikh Abdel-Hussein Abdallah and a Hezbollah Commander, Ali Daoun. Ali Bazzi's coffin was carried on the shoulders of Hezbollah members as the commander's friends fired shots in the air. The large procession prompted the Lebanese Army to deploy at the northern entrance of the city and in several neighborhoods leading to Haret Sayda.
Sidon is the home of fugitive Salafi-labelled Sheikh Ahmad Assir who was a staunch critic of Hezbollah and its involvement in the Syrian crisis. Assir and his supporters were engaged in deadly armed clashes against the Army in June.Bazzi is originally from the southern town of Bint Jbeil but his family moved to Sidon decades ago. His father owns a shoe shop in the area. A Lebanese security source told The Daily Star Sunday that Bazzi was killed in a combat zone. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Hezbollah fighters were killed during battles in Nabk, one of the last rebel-held areas in the Qalamoun region bordering Lebanon.
Hezbollah-backed regime forces have launched a military campaign to root out rebel forces in Qalamoun, near the border with Lebanon. Residents of southern Lebanon said Sunday that two other Hezbollah fighters – Ali Saleh and Qassem Ghamloush – were also killed in Syria Sunday and buried.
Lebanon to Pay STL Share in Three
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 December 2013/Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati said on Monday that cabinet will pay Lebanon's share to fund the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in installments. “The exceptional approval came in light of our commitment to the STL,” Miqati said in comments published in As Safir newspaper. A ministerial source told the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat that President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Sir Judge David Baragwanath agreed with senior Lebanese officials during his recent visit to Beirut that the state will pay it's share in three installments. Miqati said in May that his cabinet cannot pay Lebanon's share of the STL funding. He had continuously argued that a caretaker cabinet can not take such a decision, however, the funding “ exceptional approval” was taken after talks with President Michel Suleiman. Miqati told As Safir that “when the STL sent the request, the matter was referred to the finance ministry that said payments will be met but in installments.”“The President and I endorsed the finance ministry's request and it is carrying out the necessary measures to pay Lebanon's share,” Miqati told the newspaper. The daily quoted him as saying: “The matter is over and took its normal course.” Lebanon is obligated to pay around $33 million, which is 49 percent of the STL's budget. The tribunal was formed in 2009 to investigate the suicide attack that killed Hariri and 22 others in Beirut in February 2005. For his part, Finance Minister Mohammed al-Safadi said in comments published in An Nahar newspaper on Monday that Lebanon will transfer its share during the upcoming week. In October, al-Safadi called on Miqati to “exceptionally” approve the funding of the STL despite the resignation of the cabinet.
Suleiman Urges Formation of Govt. to
Hold Presidential Elections Even if it Doesn't Enjoy Confidence
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 December 2013/President Michel Suleiman stressed on Monday that the presidential elections will be staged as scheduled in spring 2014.He therefore demanded the “formation of a government that can hold the elections, regardless if it does not enjoy parliament's confidence.”He rejected however the formation of a “de facto government.”Suleiman's six-year term ends in May, but there are fears that the differences between the March 8 and 14 camps would lead to a vacuum in the country's top post. Addressing demands to hold a cabinet session to tackle the petroleum file, Suleiman said: “This issue alone is not enough to convene government.”
“I have not yet received a request from caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati to call cabinet to session,” he revealed. Moreover, he remarked that convening parliament to extend the term of any official “is not justified.”
Speaker Nabih Berri expressed on Monday all-out support for the cabinet to hold a session to tackle the delicate situation in the country and the petroleum file. Miqati had told several newspaper on Monday that he is mulling to hold a cabinet session after Lebanon remained without a new government for more than seven months, and he did not rule out putting two controversial oil decrees on its agenda. He added that oil and gas exploration was at the top of the priorities list. Caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil had been urging him to invite ministers for a session to approve two decrees that call for demarcating 10 maritime oil exploration blocks and setting up a revenue-sharing model. Delays in issuing the decrees could postpone offshore drilling and exploration. The main point of contention lied in Miqati who argued that the constitution did not authorize him to hold a session for that purpose and insisted that it lacked political consensus.
Sleiman says no reason for Cabinet meeting
December 09, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: President
Michel Sleiman said Monday there was no reason to hold a Cabinet meeting and
called for the speedy formation of a government to elect a new head of state.
“I don’t yet see a need to convene a Cabinet session,” Sleiman told reporters at Baabda Palace. Sleiman's remarks come days after caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said he was mulling the possibility of convening a Cabinet session to address people's growing needs. A ministerial source told The Daily Star Sunday that Mikati was consulting with the president over the issue which was staunchly opposed by the March 14 coalition.
The source also said that it was too early to say whether the resigned Cabinet, dominated by the March 8 group, would convene. Sleiman also dismissed as “unconstitutional” a legislative session to extend the mandate of the president’s term. “Presidential elections will take place and there will be a new head of state,” the president whose term expires in May 2014 said. Lebanon has been crippled by a political stalemate linked to the Syrian crisis as Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam struggle to form a new Cabinet in light of conditions and counter-conditions. Sleiman also called for the formation of a government that would oversee presidential elections “even if it [the new Cabinet] wasn’t granted a vote of confidence."In separate remarks Monday during a meeting with a delegation from the Press Association, Sleiman stressed the need for lawmakers to attend a Parliamentary meeting to elect a new head of state.
Asiri Shrugs Off Criticism against
Riyadh, Praises Suleiman's Rationality
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 December 2013/Saudi Ambassador Ali Awadh Asiri shrugged off the criticism against Riyadh over its stances from the region's turmoil, and praised President Michel Suleiman over his keenness on Lebanon's relations with Arab countries. Suleiman's stances “come out of his keenness on Lebanon's historic ties with its Arab neighbors and Saudi Arabia,” Asiri said. Suleiman has on several occasions emphasized the need to distance Lebanon from the conflict in Syria and halt the involvement of Lebanese fighters in the unrest due to its heavy repercussions on Lebanon. Asiri described the president's stances as “patriotic and rational.” “The media campaign and fabrications that were launched by some sides to attack the kingdom are not based on political evidence,” Asiri told pan-Arab daily al-Hayat in remarks published on Monday. “We know that some of them participated in that campaign out of fear from their allies and not out of conviction,” he said. Asiri reiterated that Riyadh's ties with Beirut stem from the brotherly relations between the two countries' peoples. Saudi Arabia is also keen on the stability and security of Lebanon, he said. “No one can tarnish the truth behind its role or harm its ties with Lebanon to serve a foreign party." The ambassador was referring to Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who last week said militants linked to Riyadh were behind the deadly attack on the Iranian embassy. Nasrallah said that militants with links to the Saudi intelligence were involved in the double suicide bombings that targeted the mission in Beirut's southern suburbs last month. The attack, which was carried out by a Lebanese and a Palestinian and which left scores of casualties, including an Iranian diplomat, was linked to Riyadh's hostility to Iran, he said. Asiri regretted that such accusations were the result of “divisions within the ranks” of certain parties. He advised them to “avoid the embarrassment” they caused to themselves due to their campaigns.
Berri Supports Decision for Cabinet to
Meet to Tackle Vital Issues
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 December 2013/Speaker Nabih Berri expressed all-out support for the cabinet to hold a session to tackle the delicate situation in the country and the petroleum file.
“I don't want to precede the matter before I hold talks with (Caretaker Prime Minister Najib) Miqati, but in principle, I support the holding of a cabinet session,” Berri told As Safir newspaper on Monday.
He noted that any extraordinary cabinet session should tackle the petroleum file and the security situation in an attempt to eliminate the tension and maintain stability, in particular, in the northern city of Tripoli. Concerning the cabinet formation process, Berri told the newspaper that the 6-9-9 formula is in favor of the March 14 alliance. “It's enough that (Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam) sympathizes with them, which is an enough guarantee for them to convince them to participate in any cabinet line-up,” Berri said. Premier-designate Tammam Salam was appointed in April but has so far been unable to put together a government over the conditions and counter conditions set by the rivals parties. “They have no excuse to reject the this formula unless they don't have the freedom to take a decision,” Berri added. Asked about Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea's statements that the speaker is demanded to hold a parliamentary session to ensure that a new president is elected within constitutional time-frame and to call on his Development and Liberation bloc lawmakers to attend the session, Berri said that his “MPs participate in all the session that he calls for.” He wondered why the other blocs don't attend the sessions that he had called for, expressing hope that they would attend the session set to be held on December 18. Suleiman's six-year term ends in May but there are fears that the differences between the March 8 and 14 camps would lead to a vacuum in the country's top post. The session that Berri has been calling for for the past few months is set to discuss 45 items on its agenda, the same session that has been boycotted for six times since July over differences on whether the parliament can convene amid a resigned government or not.
Miqati Seeks to Revive Cabinet, Says Oil Exploration is Top Priority
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 December 2013/Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati is mulling to hold a cabinet session after Lebanon remained without a new government for more than seven months, and did not rule out putting two controversial oil decrees on its agenda. In remarks to several local newspapers published on Monday, Miqati said: “A caretaker (cabinet) usually stays for a short time. But we have entered the eighth month and nothing indicates that we wouldn't stay in a resigned status for the ninth and 10th month and maybe more.”“This requires certain steps and initiatives,” he said. Miqati has launched a series of consultations with top officials to find the appropriate time to hold a cabinet session in a way that would not provoke any party. The caretaker PM had been refusing to hold sessions, stressing that such a move was unconstitutional. But he seems to have shifted from his stance, saying “I am very serious in reviving cabinet sessions and I don't think that there is any legal or constitutional hindrance to (exercise) my full authorities.” “Let the government play its role and take the appropriate decisions on all necessary and urgent issues pending the formation of a new cabinet,” he said. Premier-designate Tammam Salam has so far failed to come up with a line-up, blaming the rival March 8 and 14 camps that are putting conditions and counter-conditions on his proposals. Miqati also told the newspapers that oil and gas exploration was at the top of the priorities list. Caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil had been urging him to invite ministers for a session to approve two decrees that call for demarcating 10 maritime oil exploration blocks and setting up a revenue-sharing model. Delays in issuing the decrees could postpone offshore drilling and exploration.
The main point of contention lied in Miqati who argued that the constitution did not authorize him to hold a session for that purpose and insisted that it lacked political consensus. But in his remarks to the dailies, Miqati did not rule out putting the decrees on the agenda of a session and “hoped for a consensus on the vital issue” because “it requires more consolations” among the different parties. “I don't think anyone is against oil (exploration) … but I want to study the issue from all its aspects because some (parties) have (expressed) reservations,” he said.
Report: Investigations Reveal Identity of New Suspect in Iranian Embassy Attack
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 December 2013/Investigations in the double suicide attack on the Iranian embassy in Bir Hassan in the southern Beirut suburbs unveiled the identity of a new suspect, who allegedly is said to be the connection between the suicide bombers and the plotters. According to al-Akhbar newspaper published on Monday, 24-year-old Sheikh Bahaa Eddine H. is suspected to be the link between the two suicide bombers and the side that planned the explosion. The whereabouts of Sheikh Bahaa is unknown and investigators believe that he has close ties with Sheikh Sirajeddine Zuraiqat, the leader of the Abdullah Azzam brigades, an al-Qaida affiliate that claimed responsibility for the suicide attacks. The group said group it was targeting the Iran-backed by Hizbullah, which is fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's troops against Sunni-led rebels in neighboring Syria.
The report also said that Sheikh Bahaa had close ties with Moein Abu Dahr, one of the two suicide attackers behind last month's explosion that hit the Iranian Embassy. Sheikh Bahaa, hails from the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp. Gen. Sobhi Abu Arab, the head of the Palestinian National Security Forces in Lebanon, expressed surprise in comments published in al-Akhbar that Sheikh Bahaa is allegedly involved in the attack on the Iranian Embassy. Abou Arab said that he received phone call s from Lebanese security agencies calling for his cooperation to hand over Sheikh Bahaa. He stressed that the father of Sheikh Bahaa stressed that his son is innocent but contacting him to convince him to hand himself over to the security agencies. Sources told the newspaper that Sheikh Bahaa is still at the Ain el-Hilweh camp. Lebanese authorities had identified the two men who launched the double suicide attack on the Iranian embassy in Bir Hassan in the southern Beirut suburbs in November. The southern city of Sidon was the home of Moein Abu Dahr, the Lebanese bomber in the deadly attack in the Bir Hassan neighborhood of Beirut's southern suburbs. Abu Dahr's father told authorities he believed his son was involved after the army released a photograph of one of the suicide attackers. A DNA test identified his son as the bomber. The other is Adnan Mohammed, a Palestinian from the Ain el-Hilweh refugee camp. Mohammed lived in Zahrani near Sidon. Both men are staunch supporters of Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir.
Rifaat Eid to 'Comply' with Search Warrant when 'Security Circumstances Ripe'
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 December 2013/Arab Democratic Party politburo chief Rifaat Eid has said he would comply with a subpoena over recent warnings he made against members of the Internal Security Forces Intelligence Branch. In remarks to As Safir daily published on Monday, Eid said he “will comply” with the search and investigation warrant issued against him and face the court when the circumstances allow him to do so. “I know that his warrant has been issued under a very huge political pressure. But when the security circumstances are ripe, I will head to Beirut to give the judiciary all the information I have.” First Military Examining Magistrate Riyad Abu Ghida was handed on Monday the file of charges made against Eid by State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr. He will study them to take the appropriate measures. Eid's party takes the Jabal Mohsen district of the northern city of Tripoli as its stronghold. During a news conference last month, Eid said the Information Branch has made the shedding of the blood of the Alawites permissible, therefore it is also allowed to shed their blood. Lebanese authorities have arrested several members of the pro-Assad Arab Democratic Party on suspicion they were involved in the August bombings of Sunni mosques. They have summoned the group's leader and Rifaat's father, Ali Eid, for questioning. But he has refused to go to the Intelligence Branch, saying he did not trust it to be impartial.
Aridi Lays Flood Blame on Safadi,
Accuses him of Committing Violations
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 December 2013/Caretaker Public Works and Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi accused the caretaker Finance Minister on Monday of obstructing the allocation of funds for public works throughout the country, including the cleaning of sewers ahead of the winter season. “I reiterate that I assume responsibility for anything related to the public works ministry,” Aridi said during a lengthy press conference he held at his office after being criticized of neglect when roads were swamped with rainwater last week. “I am in the service of the people and no matter what is said (about me), I will not change,” he said. Aridi apologized from the people who spent hours on the roads when several Beirut neighborhoods and the capital's suburbs were flooded because drains were not cleared. He also thanked journalists, reporters, photographers and their media outlets for following up what happened, saying “I accept from you everything even if they are harmful or are not right.” Aridi apologized for not answering his phone when roads were blocked with rainwater. But he said that he hadn't been making appearances for a long time.
He stressed however that the public works ministry had no ties to the latest floods. Aridi said that he asked caretaker Finance Minister Mohammed Safadi on May 3 for the appropriation of funds that had already been approved by the cabinet in 2012, before its resignation. “Safadi reacted positively to my request,” he said, adding the minister approved them a few days later. But on Sept. 2, Aridi claimed that he received a notice of non-approval. He showed reporters at his office the documents proving his claims. “During the period between May and September, we had already called in contractors” to begin works throughout Lebanon, he told reporters.
Aridi said his ministry has until now been allocated in 2013 more than LL3 billion only despite its request for LL61 billion. Aridi also said that he had asked the cabinet for the renewal of contracts to deal with rainwater on the streets. But during a session, the finance minister objected, saying there had been a 2 billion embezzlement in the public works ministry. “At that point, I asked Safadi if he was the thief or he was covering up for the thieves,” Aridi said. “Safadi later apologized to me,” Aridi added, but he accused him of committing a series of violations when Safadi was public works minister before him. But Safadi told al-Jadeed TV that the accusations made against him by Aridi were not true. The campaign against me is political, he said.
Bassil Meets Berri: Oil File Will Only
Be Tackled when Mustaqbal Decides so
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 December 2013/Caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil stated on Monday that the possibility of holding a cabinet session to address the oil and gas exploration file lies in the hands of the Mustaqbal Movement. He said: “This issue will only be addressed when the March 14 camp, mainly the Mustaqbal Movement, decides so.”He made his remarks after holding talks at Ain el-Tineh with Speaker Nabih Berri. Moreover, the minister accused caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati of seeking to appease the March 14 camp through refraining from calling cabinet to address the pending issues. “Miqati, first and foremost, caters to his interests with the Mustaqbal Movement,” explained Bassil to reporters. “We no longer need President Michel Suleiman and Miqati to tackle the oil file because it is in the hands of the March 14 camp,” he lamented. “We have grown bored with repeating these demands and we leave it up to the people to judge the officials,” he added. “I leave it to the president and caretaker premier to judge how important it is to tackle the oil and gas exploration file, which will help ease the burden off the people's shoulders,” said Bassil. Earlier on Monday, Berri had expressed support for the cabinet to hold a session to tackle the petroleum file. Miqati had told several newspaper on Monday that he is mulling to hold a cabinet session after Lebanon remained without a new government for more than seven months, and he did not rule out putting two controversial oil decrees on its agenda. He added that oil and gas exploration was at the top of the priorities list. Bassil had been urging him to invite ministers for a session to approve two decrees that call for demarcating 10 maritime oil exploration blocks and setting up a revenue-sharing model. Delays in issuing the decrees could postpone offshore drilling and exploration. The main point of contention lied in Miqati who argued that the constitution did not authorize him to hold a session for that purpose and insisted that it lacked political consensus.
Israel’s best friend: Stephen Harper
The Prime Minister’s support seems less strategic than a reflection of his deeply held personal beliefs
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey | Maclean's/Stephen Harper looked ever so relaxed, standing among friends, as he spoke to thousands assembled for a glitzy annual gala at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Dec. 1. He strode across the stage in an untucked black shirt and slacks, a wardrobe giveaway that he would perform with Herringbone, the Harper-led musical act that informally serves as the Conservative party’s house band. Harper spoke for several minutes without notes—a relative rarity for the Prime Minister—and the crowd reciprocated with an immediate, and prolonged, standing ovation. Then, the Prime Minister played a few tunes. The warmth in the room was palpable as the Jewish National Fund feted Harper at its Negev Dinner, as thanks for his long-standing and unapologetic defence of the Israeli cause.
Conservatives won the support of 52 per cent of Jewish voters during the last federal election, a departure from prior elections stretching back for decades. Conservative politicians have coalesced behind the Prime Minister, and now stand in lockstep with his stridently pro-Israel agenda. Tim Hudak, Ontario’s Opposition leader, leapt to his feet when Harper announced that he would visit the Middle East in 2014. Julian Fantino, the veterans affairs minister, beamed as the Prime Minister belted out the words to the Who’s restless hit, The Seeker. Karen Stintz, a Toronto mayoral candidate set to take on Ford Nation, soaked in the festivities. Harper, who almost never pours his heart out in public, acknowledged that the affair was “a show of affection and love,” and assured the crowd the feeling was mutual. The people behind the gala made one thing clear: No longer are Jews nervous about voting Conservative.
Palestinians: US ideas for security
will lead to 'total failure' of talks
Published: 12.09.13 / Ynetnews/Senior PLO official slams US secretary of state's suggestions for Israel's security, claiming Kerry 'only wants to win over the Israelis and allow settlement expansion at our expense' US proposals for Israel's security presented by Secretary of State John Kerry will lead to the "total failure" of peace talks with Israel, a senior Palestinian official told AFP on Monday. "These ideas will drive Kerry's efforts to an impasse and to total failure because he is treating our issues with a high degree of indifference," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top official with the Palestine Liberation Organization, referring to the US diplomat's proposals on future security arrangements in the Jordan Valley. "(Kerry) only wants to win over the Israelis and (allow) settlement expansion at our expense, under the guise of Israel's security by placing the Jordan Valley under Israeli control." Abed Rabbo charged. "There is also talk of a framework agreement," said Abed Rabbo, secretary general of the Executive Committee of the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine (PLO).
"Who said we wanted a framework agreement? We want complete independence and to resolve all final status issues, under the (previous) agreements and international law," he said, noting that Kerry is committed reaching a final agreement.His remarks were made just days after Kerry's latest visit to the region, which focused squarely on Israel's security needs in any future peace deal.
Proposals laid out by Kerry and his security adviser General John Allen were reportedly welcomed by the Israelis but were coldly dismissed by the Palestinians, with one official describing them as "very bad ideas which we cannot accept". Acknowledging Israel's concerns that handing over territory to form part of a Palestinian state could make it vulnerable to attack, Kerry said at the time he had offered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "some thoughts about that particular security challenge" but did not elaborate. Commentators said the proposals would allow Israel to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley, which runs down the eastern flank of the West Bank, a move completely rejected by the Palestinians. Israel currently has military control of the West Bank and does not want to give it up. But a possible part of the US plan could call for stationing international forces along the West Bank border with Jordan, although officials on all sides have refused to discuss the details. It's also possible that Israel would be in control of the international forces, in an uneasy compromise to try to appease both sides.
Saban Forum: Speaking at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum, Kerry said General John Allen – who is the US Middle East security envoy – was working closely with Israeli security officials.“He is helping us make sure that the border on the Jordan River will be as strong as any in the world, so that there will be no question about the security of the citizens, Israelis and Palestinians, living to the west of it,” Kerry said.
“Never before has the United States conducted such an in-depth analysis of Israel’s security requirements that arise from a two-state solution,” Kerry said. Also speaking at the Saban Forum, US President Barack Obama said that he and Allen had spoken and agreed that “that it was possible to create a two-state solution that preserves Israel’s core security needs.” But Obama noted: “That’s his conclusion, but ultimately he’s not the decision-maker here, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli military and intelligence folks have to make that determination.”Kerry said more than 160 US experts were coordinating with the Palestinians and the Jordanians as well as Israelis and running multiple scenarios, including future border issues and terrorism, to pinpoint Israel’s needs.He described the process as a “critical threading of the needle that needs to happen. What we put on the table is deadly serious, real.”