December 12/2013


Bible Quotation for today/When Someone Sins
Matthew 18/21-35: " “If your brother sins against you, go to him and show him his fault. But do it privately, just between yourselves. If he listens to you, you have won your brother back.  But if he will not listen to you, take one or two other persons with you, so that ‘every accusation may be upheld by the testimony of two or more witnesses,’ as the scripture says.  And if he will not listen to them, then tell the whole thing to the church. Finally, if he will not listen to the church, treat him as though he were a pagan or a tax collector.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For December 121/13

Lebanon: Comatose nation/The Daily Star/December 12/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For December 12/13
Lebanese Related News

Snow Blankets Lebanon's Mountains amid Plummeting Temperatures

GCC Condemns Terrorist Bombings, Urges Hizbullah 'Militias' to Pull Out of Syria

Berri: 6-9-9 Cabinet Formula Still Reasonable and Acceptable

Heads of State Stress to Miqati Keenness to Maintain Stability in Lebanon

Snow, Rain Lash Syria Refugees in Lebanon

Snow covers Lebanon at low altitudes

2 Jabal Mohsen Residents Shot in Sectarian Attack

Miqati Tackles Possibility of Reviving Caretaker Cabinet with Various Sides

Report: Teenager Tasked by Jund al-Sham with Monitoring Hizbullah Mosque

Financial Prosecutor Mulling to Summon Aridi, Safadi over Violations

Geagea Says Hizbullah Appointed Itself 'Custodian of Univsersal Declaration of Violating Human Rights'

Saniora Rejects Nasrallah's Claims against Saudi Arabia: We're Accustomed to such Baseless

Names, but no consensus for new president


Miscellaneous Reports And News

Pope Francis is Time's 'Person of the Year'

Peres: New Pope brings spirit of hope and peace

Gulf States Urge Militias to Quit Syria, Hail Iran Shift

Syria regime slams Gulf interference in conflict
Iran commander criticizes government over influence from West

World leaders bow, pray at Nelson Mandela's casket
Mandela's Casket Lies in State for Three Days

Jarba Takes Part in GCC Summit, Accuses Regime of Arming Qaida-Linked ISIL

Lavrov Urges 'Responsible Countries' to Back Syria Talks

U.S. Suspends Non-Lethal Assistance into Northern Syria

Syria Regime Closes in on Yabrud, Last Rebel-Held Town in Qalamoun

Newly-Formed Islamic Front Seizes Syria-Turkey Border Crossing

Church warns of 'foreign intervention' in Sri Lanka

Congress supports boosting aid to Israel

Kerry says Iran deal 'hinge point in history'
Ex-army chief Halutz: Israel prefers Assad over Islamists in Syria


Pope Francis is Time's 'Person of the Year'
Time magazine revealed Pope Francis as its 2013 "Person of the Year" on Wednesday. The leader of the Catholic Church edged out nine other finalists, including National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and gay marriage advocate Edith Windsor, for the honor. Obama was Time's 2012 "Person of the Year." But the Pope, who the magazine said has changed the tone of the church since succeeding Pope Benedict earlier this year, was selected this year's "POY" recipient, given to someone who has the "most impact on our lives, for better or worse." "Rarely has a new player on the world stage captured so much attention so quickly — young and old, faithful and cynical — as has Pope Francis," Time managing editor Nancy Gibbs wrote. "In his nine months in office, he has placed himself at the very center of the central conversations of our time: about wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, the temptations of power. "He is embracing complexity and acknowledging the risk that a church obsessed with its own rights and righteousness could inflict more wounds than it heals," Gibbs continued. Francis was chosen, she added, "for pulling the papacy out of the palace and into the streets, for committing the world’s largest church to confronting its deepest needs, and for balancing judgment with mercy."The Vatican issued a statement on Francis' selection. "The Holy Father is not looking to become famous or to receive honors," a Vatican spokesman said. "But if the choice of Person of Year helps spread the message of the gospel — a message of God's love for everyone — he will certainly be happy about that." But Francis, who maintains a lively Twitter feed with the @Pontifex handle, has yet to tweet a response to the news. For Time, the Pope was deemed more worthy than several controversial figures, including Sen. Ted Cruz, the tea party Republican whose anti-Obamacare stand on Capitol Hill led to a partial government shutdown; Syrian President Bashar Assad, who the United States says was behind the deadly chemical attack on the Syrian people; and Snowden, who fled to China and then Russia after blowing the whistle on the NSA's spying activities. WikiLeaks, which supported Snowden, called the choice of Francis "cowardly," noting that its founder, Julian Assange, was snubbed by the magazine in 2010.
By Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News


Peres: New Pope brings spirit of hope and peace

By JPOST.COM STAFF 03/14/2013/President tells bishops visiting J'lem that Jews, Muslims, Christians of Holy Land will welcome Pope Francis I with love. President Shimon Peres meets with Polish Bishop Stanislaw Gadecki in Jerusalem, March 14, 2013. Photo: Courtesy Office of the President President Shimon Peres on Thursday welcomed the announcement of the new pontiff, saying Pope Francis I brings with him "a spirit of hope and peace."Peres made his remarks to a delegation of 14 Polish bishops who are rounding up a week-long spiritual renewal in Israel. "The new pope will be welcomed in the Holy Land with love and appreciation by Jews, Muslims and Christians as one," Peres said. Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, leader of the delegation and a member of the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, told Peres that there was no more suitable place than the holy city of Jerusalem in which to hear the good news about the election of Pope Francis. The name of the new pope was announced Wednesday, after a relatively short cardinals' conclave to elect a successor to Benedict, who made the shock decision to step down last month. Pope Francis I, formerly Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, is the first non-European and first Jesuit Bishop of Rome in a millennium.
American Jewish leaders also welcomed Francis' appointment, with Anti-Defamation League president Abe Foxman saying that he was "reassured" over the record of the new Pope, and Bergoglio had been crucial in maintaining "positive Catholic-Jewish relations". Meanwhile, Rabbi David Rosen of American Jewish Committee told JTA that the new pope is a "warm and sweet and modest man" known in Buenos Aires for doing his own cooking and personally answering his phone. After the deadly bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in 1994, the then-archbishop "showed solidarity with the Jewish community," Rosen said.
Stay on top of the news - get the Jerusalem Post headlines direct to your inbox!


Mandela's Casket Lies in State for Three Days
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 December 2013/Nelson Mandela's flag-draped casket made a solemn journey through the streets of Pretoria Wednesday, arriving at the seat of South Africa's government where he will lie in state for three days.A black hearse phalanxed by 16 motorcycle outriders rolled out of the city's 1 Military Hospital onto streets lined with flag-waving South Africans who formed a public guard of honor. "I never met Mandela, so this is my only chance and it's important I pay my respects. I'm South African -- I have to be here," said 28-year-old Vaughan Motshwene. Some cheered but many were tearful, aware that Mandela's death on Thursday aged 95, opened a new chapter in South African history. "It feels like the end of an era. All the opportunities I've had growing up that my parents never had, Madiba gave me that," said government employee Faaiqia Hartley, 27. "He gave all of us an opportunity to be the best we could be." The cortege traveled briskly, arriving less than an hour later at Union Buildings, the seat of South African government. The casket was unloaded by eight pallbearers representing the branches of the armed forces in full uniform. From there it was carried up the steps toward the towering acropolis of beige freestone, where nearly two decades ago Mandela was sworn in as the country's first black president, signifying the rebirth of this long-troubled nation. Trailing behind the coffin was Mandela's oldest grandson, Mandla Mandela, his manifest grief a poignant reminder that while the nation lost a hero, Mandela's family lost a father, grandfather and husband. Mandela's open coffin was placed on a cubic platform in the building's amphitheatre, soon to be renamed in his honor, where it he will viewed by family, heads of state, celebrities and the general public for three days. Two military officers clad in white dress uniform stood guard at each entrance with swords pointing downward.
Journey of memories
Mandela's final journey through Pretoria is laden with symbolism and replete with landmarks that carry resonance in his life. The procession passed the central prison where he was jailed in 1962 for incitement and leaving the country illegally. Another landmark is the Palace of Justice, the court where Mandela famously stood trial in 1963-64 for treason and sabotage with 10 other co-defendants. His conviction and subsequent life sentence marked the beginning of a 27-year jail stint, from which he finally emerged in 1990 as the structure of apartheid crumbled around its white minority supporters. The cortege will pass near the one-time home of Paul Kruger, the father of the Afrikaner nation. "Oom (Uncle) Paul" was the president of the Transvaal, leading a resistance movement against British rule during the first Anglo-Boer War, which began in 1880.
That Afrikaner nationalism later morphed into support for the National Party, which introduced apartheid. The funeral procession will be repeated for three days, ending each time at the Union Buildings -- the seat of government where previous presidents had signed aspects of the apartheid system into law. The public will be allowed to view the casket each afternoon, before Mandela's body is transported to his boyhood home of Qunu in the Eastern cape for its eventual burial on Sunday. The lying in state is expected to be a sombre, subdued affair compared to Tuesday's celebratory memorial service in Soweto -- the crucible of the anti-apartheid movement.
Tens of thousands of people attended the event in Soweto's World Cup stadium where US President Barack Obama led foreign tributes to the life and legacy of Mandela, whose appeal and influence spread far beyond his native land. "It is hard to eulogize any man ... how much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation towards justice," Obama told the cheering crowd. Mandela had been critically ill for months, but the announcement of his death on Thursday at the age of 95 was still a body blow to a country struggling with multiple social and economic challenges. For many, Mandela -- even a frail, aged and retired Mandela -- represented, while he was alive, a moral beacon that retained the promise of better times ahead. Current President Jacob Zuma was roundly booed by large portions of the crowd at Tuesday's memorial service, a sign of growing impatience with Mandela's successors to deliver on promises of equality and prosperity. Two decades after the racist apartheid regime was consigned to history, millions of black South Africans remain poor, unemployed and without formal housing in a society that is among the world's most unequal. Source//Agence France Presse.


Snow, Rain Lash Syria Refugees in Lebanon
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 December 2013/..Thousands of Syrian refugees living in makeshift camps in Lebanon were weathering a winter storm on Wednesday that brought snow, rain and freezing temperatures to the country.
In northern Arsal, just across the border from Syria, layers of snow sat atop flimsy shelters housing tens of thousands of recently arrived refugees. The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR has worked around the clock, partnering in recent days with the Lebanese army, to distribute winter supplies including thermal blankets and money for heaters. But despite the efforts, UNHCR spokeswomen Lisa Abou Khaled said there were concerns for thousands of people living in more than 200 informal camps in central and north Lebanon. "We are worried, because it is really cold in the Bekaa region, and we're extremely worried about the refugees living in makeshift shelters, because many are really substandard," she said. Abou Khaled said UNHCR had prepared stockpiles of items including plastic sheeting, floor mats, blankets and mattresses to help refugees whose shelters might be flooded or destroyed by the storm. She said winter supplies had also been handed out to local municipalities, so they could quickly respond to emergency needs. In Arsal, temperatures hovered just above zero degrees centigrade, and the forecast predicted between three and five inches (7.6 and 13 centimeters) of snow and night time temperatures of minus four degrees. In the past few months, more than 20,000 new refugees have arrived in the Arsal region, overwhelming the small town. "The Syrian refugees here are shivering with cold, especially the ones in tents," said Wafiq Khalaf, a member of Arsal's municipal council. "Water has come into the tents from the roofs, and from the ground where there is flooding," he told Agence France Presse by phone. "At the moment there is more than 10 centimeters of snow on the ground, but more is expected," he added. Despite the conditions, Khalaf said refugees were continuing to arrive, including a group of 10 families fleeing the Syrian town of Yabrud in the Qalamoun region north of Damascus. More than 835,000 Syrian refugees are registered in Lebanon, although the real number is thought to total more than one million. Thousands live in makeshift camps, in shelters made of little more than plastic sheeting nailed to wooden frames. Others are living in unfinished buildings with only slightly more protection from the elements in cities including Beirut.Source/Agence France Presse.


Snow Blankets Lebanon's Mountains amid Plummeting Temperatures
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 December 2013/“Alexa” has made landfall, covering Lebanon's mountains with snow, but it is expected to reach its climax on Wednesday afternoon, bringing snow to areas as low as 500 meters above sea level.Caretaker Education Minister Hassan Diab has already ordered the closure of public and private schools across the country on Wednesday. He said a decision for another closure will be decided on a day-to-day basis. All nurseries were also closed on Wednesday as a public safety precaution. But public and private universities remained open. By 8:30 am, major roads in mountainous areas were blocked after several centimeters of snow covered villages and towns across Lebanon. The Dhour al-Shweir-Tarshish road, one of the links between the western mountain range and the Bekaa Valley, and the Oyoun al-Siman-Baalbeck roads were blocked.
The snow also caused blocked roads in Maaser al-Shouf, Kefraya, Laqlouq, Tannourine and Aqoura. But public works ministry bulldozers reopened most of them at noon. Sea waves reached six meters high due to powerful winds, forcing fishermen to scramble to safety in several ports along the coast. But the storm is forecast to intensify in the afternoon, bringing heavier winds and much lower temperatures, reaching 5 degrees Celsius in coastal areas. "Alexa" is forecast to bring several days of rain and snow and a steep drop in temperature. Ambulances, civil service units and the Internal Security Forces were placed on high alert to help stranded residents. Red Cross Operations Director George Kettaneh told Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) that there were 24 accidents and 37 injuries on Lebanon's roads since Tuesday night. Most of them were caused by speed and slippery roads, he said. Later, MTV said that a man and a woman were killed in a car crash on the Sidon-Tyre highway in southern Lebanon due to low visibility. An accident involving 10 cars at al-Namlieh bridge on the Dahr al-Baidar road also caused heavy traffic. But the storm caused limited material damage. The state-run National News Agency said that a tree fell on a car in the Akkar town of Halba. The strong winds also ripped off the wall of a garden.

GCC Condemns Terrorist Bombings, Urges Hizbullah 'Militias' to Pull Out of Syria
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 December 2013/The Gulf Cooperation Council condemned on Wednesday the latest bombings that shook Lebanon and called on Hizbullah's “militias” to withdraw from war-ravaged Syria. The six Arab monarchies of the Gulf said in a statement at the end of a two-day summit in Kuwait City that they “condemned the terrorist bombings that left innocent casualties in Lebanon.”Lebanon has been rocked with a series of bombings, mainly in the Hizbullah strongholds of Beirut's southern suburbs and the eastern Bekaa Valley. The latest bombings were suicide attacks targeting the Iranian Embassy in November. Two blasts have also targeted Sunni mosques in the northern city of Tripoli. The Council urged all Lebanese parties to put their nation's interest above any other interest. The statement called for the “swift” formation of a new government to preserve the Lebanese entity and “steer it clear of the repercussions of the Syrian crisis.” Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam has been unable to form his cabinet over the conditions and counter conditions set by the rival March 8 and 14 camps. He was appointed in April but has blamed the two alliances for his failure to come up with a line-up. The GCC closing statement also called for “the withdrawal of Hizbullah militias from Syria.” Hizbullah is openly fighting in Syria alongside troops loyal to President Bashar Assad, who is facing rebels seeking to topple his regime. Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah vowed last month to keep his forces in Syria. "We have said on several occasions that the presence of our soldiers on Syrian soil is to defend... Syria, which supports the resistance" against Israel, Nasrallah said. "So long as that reason exists, our presence there is justified,” he added.

Gulf States Urge Militias to Quit Syria, Hail Iran Shift
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 December 2013/Gulf Arab leaders meeting in Kuwait on Wednesday called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from war-ravaged Syria, and praised Iran's new government for its shift in policy. The leaders of the six Gulf monarchies also approved the formation of a joint military command, but postponed a decision on a proposed union apparently over differences.
The declaration came at the end of a two-day summit in Kuwait City of the Gulf Cooperation Council led by Sunni-ruled heavyweight Saudi Arabia, the longtime regional arch foe of Shiite-dominated Iran. Adopting a firm position on Syria, the GCC "strongly condemned the continued genocide that (President Bashar) Assad's regime is committing against the Syrian people using heavy and chemical weapons."
It called "for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria," in a clear reference to Iran-backed Shiite militias from Iraq and Lebanon's Hizbullah which are supporting Assad's troops against Sunni-led rebels.
The GCC backed the rebels' position that Assad play no role in any political transition agreed to in talks scheduled for next month in Geneva, while urging the opposition to attend the meeting.
"Pillars of the Syrian regime whose hands had been stained by the blood of the Syrian people must have no role in the transitional government or Syria's political future," the oil-rich nations said in their closing statement. The National Coalition, an umbrella opposition group also backed by the West, had agreed to attend next month's Geneva 2 peace conference under certain conditions, the exclusion of Assad from any transitional government.
On Tuesday, Coalition President Ahmad Jarba had urged the GCC "to tell the whole world that the Syrian regime will have no future in the country". But brushing aside differences with Iran on Syria, the GCC praised the Islamic republic's overtures to Gulf Arab states. The monarchies "welcome the new orientation by the Iranian leadership towards the Gulf Cooperation Council and hope it will be followed by concrete measures that would positively impact regional peace," said the concluding statement. They also "welcome the interim deal signed by the P5+1 and Iran as a first step toward an inclusive and lasting agreement on Iran's nuclear program that would end international and regional concerns." Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif moved last week to assure Gulf states the nuclear deal was not at their expense and called for a new page in relations as he toured the region.
The tour followed comments by Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani who, when he took over from hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August, said he hoped to bolster ties with neighboring countries, especially those in the Gulf. Like Western powers, Gulf monarchies fear Iran may develop atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear program. Iran says the program is for peaceful purposes only.
Ties between some Gulf states and Iran have also been strained over Tehran's support for Assad and a Shiite-led uprising in Bahrain. This year's summit, attended only by the rulers of Qatar, Bahrain, and host country Kuwait, is also being staged amid differences over a Saudi proposal in 2011 to upgrade the GCC into a confederation, on which details were never disclosed. At the weekend, Oman -- which reportedly hosted secret talks that led to the Geneva deal with Tehran -- threatened to pull out of the loose alliance if a union was announced, while Saudi Arabia, solidly backed by Bahrain, has insisted it is time to move ahead. Wednesday's final statement said briefly that Gulf leaders had directed the ministerial council to "continue consultations" on the matter. However, the Gulf Arab leaders approved creating a unified military command "as part of efforts aimed at strengthening security and stability" in their countries. No details were provided on the structure or duties of this command. The GCC states -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- formed the Peninsula Shield force in 1982 as a 5,000-strong force but has since expanded to more than 30,000 troops.Source/Agence France Presse.

Syria regime slams Gulf interference in conflict

December 11, 2013/Daily Star/DAMASCUS: Syria's government on Wednesday slammed the Gulf Cooperation Council for interfering in the country's conflict and condemned the bloc for what it called "inflammatory rhetoric".
The statement from the Syrian foreign ministry came after the GCC had called for the withdrawal of foreign forces participating in the conflict, and said President Bashar al-Assad should have no role in Syria's future

Geagea Says Hizbullah Appointed Itself 'Custodian of Univsersal Declaration of Violating Human Rights'
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 December 2013/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Tuesday announced that some parties are insisting on violating the constitution and "taking us back to obsolete eras," noting that Hizbullah has "appointed itself as a custodian of the Universal Declaration of Violating Human Rights.""Eighty-seven years after the drafting of the Lebanese constitution -- which came to consolidate human rights, democracy and the freedoms of opinion, belief and expression – some parties in Lebanon are still insisting on violating this constitution and taking us back to obsolete eras," said Geagea at a seminar on human rights in Maarab.
"The interpretation of the constitution changes according to the needs of the Resistance (of Hizbullah) and the constitutional institutions come last because the conflict with the 'great satans' and 'small satans' must come first," added Geagea. "The statelet is stealing the funds of the state in Lebanon and pushing everyone to poverty," Geagea lamented, adding that "this is turning the Lebanese citizen into a citizen with no country, rights, security, stability or economy." Hitting out at Hizbullah without naming it, Geagea said the party "did not only undermine the foundations of democratic life in Lebanon but also went to Syria to contribute to impeding a fledgling democracy.”
“Sixty-five years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was issued, the Syrian people are still struggling to obtain their most basic rights and tyrants and dictators are still living in total denial of this declaration,” Geagea added. “What's shameful in this regard is that the aforementioned party has appointed itself as a custodian of the 'Universal Declaration of Violating Human Rights' and it went to Syria to help the regime violate these rights," said Geagea. He noted that in Syria, "citizens are cosidered to be mere tools and followers." "If they demand to have their most basic rights, they are labeled as takfiris, and if they call for freedom and a civil state, they are described as terrorists who are jeopardizing world peace," Geagea added. Turning to the Arab Spring protests, the LF leader said "the current transitional period will pave the ground for a more humanitarian, just and free Arab world, no matter how long it may take and regardless of the blood that is being shed."


Saniora Rejects Nasrallah's Claims against Saudi Arabia: We're Accustomed to such Baseless Accusations
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 December 2013/Head of the Mustaqbal bloc MP Fouad Saniora rejected on Tuesday Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's claims that Saudi Arabia was behind the recent bombings near the Iranian embassy in Beirut.He said: “We have grown accustomed to officials in Lebanon making baseless accusations.”“Everyone in Lebanon says whatever they want,” he remarked after holding talks at the head of a Mustaqbal delegation with Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Beirut Elias Audeh. “President Michel Suleiman made the best remarks over this issue” when he urged against ruining ties with the kingdom, continued Saniora.
“Throughout the years, Saudi Arabia had long sought to support Lebanon,” he stressed. Nasrallah accused last week Saudi Arabia of being behind the November 19 Iranian embassy twin bombings. An al-Qaida-affiliated group, the Abduallah Azzam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was aimed at pressuring Iran ally Hizbullah to withdraw its fighters from Syria. Nasrallah said that Saudi intelligence backs the Brigades. For his part, Suleiman indirectly rejected the Hizbullah chief's claim, saying: “Lebanon should not ruin its ties with Saudi Arabia through making baseless accusations against it.” Commenting on the recent developments in Syria, Saniora rejected the April kidnapping of two bishops and last week's abduction of nuns in the town of Maalula. “We reject any action that harms the sanctity of holy sites,” he added. He demanded that all efforts be exerted to pressure the criminals to release the captives. “The kidnappings do not serve the Syrian cause, they will not end the authoritarian rule, or the violence in the country,” he stated. Jihadists had abducted 13 nuns and three civilians last week from Maalula. Some of the nuns appeared in a video messages aired by al-Jazeera television on Friday, claiming that they were doing well. Bishops Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi were kidnapped by armed men in Aleppo at the end of April. Later on Tuesday, the Mustaqbal bloc reiterated Saniora's statements, while demanding the formation of a new government “as soon as possible.”“We urge Suleiman and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam to form a new government immediately because the delay is causing great harm to Lebanon,” it said after its weekly meeting. “Forming a government devoid of party officials is the first step towards improving the situation in the country,” it stressed. It also condemned the assassination of Hizbullah official Hassan al-Laqqis last week, urging the need to launch an honest investigation in the crime that will verify whether Israel was behind it. Furthermore, it praised Hizbullah's al-Manar television for apologizing to Bahrain over its coverage of the political developments in the Gulf state.
It hope that the “party would offer a similar apology to the Lebanese people for all the harm it has caused them over the years.” Al-Manar television director general Abdullah Qassir confirmed that the Hizbullah-owned TV network has apologized to Bahrain over its coverage of the Shiite-led protests in the Gulf kingdom, LBCI and al-Jadeed televisions reported on Sunday. Shiite-majority Bahrain has blacklisted Hizbullah and banned Bahraini opposition groups from having contact with the Lebanese party over allegations it was interfering in the kingdom's internal affairs. The opposition, which is battling for democratization, insists that its political agenda is Bahraini and not linked to Iran or other Shiite sides. Hizbullah and its media outlets had voiced strong support for the protest movement in Bahrain and criticized the heavy-handed crackdown on the Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations.


Miqati Tackles Possibility of Reviving Caretaker Cabinet with Various Sides
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 December 2013/Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati is discussing the possibility of reviving the work of his caretaker cabinet with several figures to end the political standstill in the country. Informed sources told As Safir newspaper published on Wednesday that Miqati informed President Michel Suleiman that the current situation became “unbearable,” during a meeting held at the Baabda Palace recently. According to the sources, Miqati told Suleiman that “he is being criticized by all sides as several urgent matters require the cabinet to convene.” The newspaper said that the caretaker PM proposed that the President chairs a cabinet session at the Baabda Palace or “he would head it at the Grand Serail to avoid embarrassing the president by discussing issues from outside the narrow articles on the agenda's session.”However, the sources said that Suleiman didn't give Miqati an answer, making him believe that the President doesn't mind “refloating” the caretaker cabinet. Miqati discussed reviving the work of the caretaker cabinet with head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary group Fouad Saniora, who didn't reject the idea but demanded more time to tackle the suggestion with his allies. The caretaker premier tackled the matter with Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat's representative Caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abou Faour, who informed Miqati that the matter is delicate and demands thorough discussions. Speaker Nabih Berri's adviser, MP Ali Hasan Khalil, discussed the issue with Miqati.
The newspaper reported that Miqati asked for an “urgent meeting” with Berri to address the matter, however, they agreed to discuss it after Miqati return from South Africa, where he is attending the Funeral of later ex-President Nelson Mandela. The proposal to revive the work of Miqati's caretaker cabinet came to light after PM-designate Tammam Salam failed to form a new cabinet due to conditions and counter-conditions set by the rival parties. However, al-Mustaqbal bloc called after its weekly meeting for the swift formation of a new cabinet. “The caretaker cabinet cannot be refloated, according to the constitution,” the bloc said.
Hizbullah and AMAL movement support the move, however, the Free Patriotic Movement says that a cabinet session should be held to discuss “pressing matters.” For his part, Suleiman is calling for the formation of a new cabinet to oversee the election of next President. His tenure ends in May 2014, but the constitutional period to elect a new head of state begins on March 25, two months prior to the expiration of Suleiman’s mandate.


2 Jabal Mohsen Residents Shot in Sectarian Attack
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 December 2013/Two residents of the Jabal Mohsen district in the northern city of Tripoli were injured on Wednesday when assailants shot them as part of the sectarian attacks gripping the city. Samer al-Aswad was wounded in his abdomen while Haidar Soaifan was shot in his leg, the state-run National News Agency reported. They were transported to a hospital in Zgharta, NNA said. The Lebanese army sent reinforcements to al-Beddawi after the shooting. Sectarian attacks against Alawites from Jabal Mohsen has increased lately. The latest assault earlier this month brought a new round of deadly gunbattles between the district and the rival Sunni neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh. State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr charged several Jabal Mohsen suspects for their involvement in the clashes. He referred them to First Military Examining Magistrate Riyad Abu Ghida. The Lebanese government authorized the army to take control of Tripoli for six months following the three days of sectarian fighting. Tensions between the neighboring areas date back to Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war but have been exacerbated by the conflict across the border in Syria, where Alawite President Bashar Assad is battling a Sunni-led uprising.

Lebanon: Comatose nation
December 11, 2013/The Daily Star /Many people in Lebanon are focused on the year’s first major snowstorm, which has already begun to batter the country, but they are blissfully apathetic about the many other storms that make their lives miserable on a daily basis. Ordinary folks have settled into the comforting routine of worrying about the things they believe “directly affect” them. A natural disaster, a situation of government corruption, civil unrest – but as long as those incidents are relatively far away, they can be safely ignored. The last few weeks have seen a string of events that would topple a government, or at least some of its members, in any other part of the world: A nasty exchange of corruption allegations between two ministers followed the flooding of streets and homes due to severe rainfall, the country’s Customs Authority showed itself to be dead set against transparency and serving the national interest and the country’s biggest prison is reportedly beset by official corruption. The list of problem areas can go on and on, to extend to health care, food safety, the quality and cost of education, environmental degradation, the atrocious mismanagement of power and water resources, and many other areas. Lebanese are skilled at complaining about all of these problems, but the most diligent efforts are put into television comedy sketches making fun of the situation, which is followed by ignoring it the next day. Lebanon boasts about its vibrant civil society, but if one takes all of the NGOs, political parties and other actors and adds up their contribution to solving the problems, the sum total is practically nil. People are thus left to moan and complain, and what’s worse, many people who do the complaining are the ones who vote the same mafias into office, election after election. This is despite the fact that Lebanon is so small that it has few secrets; young children can describe a given politician’s corrupt acts in detail. Few people can use the excuse that they don’t know what they are doing when they cast their votes. When Lebanese are moved to take action, whether peaceful or violent, it usually involves a perceived “threat” to a given sect – these are issues of direct concern, unlike the country as a whole and its future. People have turned complaining and mockery into a national industry, but when it comes to fixing what needs to be fixed, a mass state of amnesia and apathy takes hold. Lebanese should stop complaining – not because their country is relatively well off compared to other places in the world, but because they are so absolutely useless when it comes to fixing the simplest of public problems. Holding politicians and officials accountable for their acts will never take place thanks to an initiative from the political class, and unless people signal that they want real change, they deserve the situation they’re in.

Iran commander criticizes government over influence from West
DUBAI (Reuters) - The commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard force has criticized the government, saying it was under the influence of Western ideas and fundamental change was needed.
Major General Mohammad Jafari's comments are some of the sharpest to be made by a senior official in public since moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani took office as president in August pledging to improve Iran's relations with regional countries and the West. The Rouhani government's diplomatic initiative led to an agreement with six world powers last month under which Iran is to curb its disputed nuclear program in return for limited relief from sanctions that have squeezed its economy. The interim accord has been widely welcomed by Iranians both at home and abroad, but hardliners in the country's multi-layered power structure are irked by the foreign policy shift and warn against the dangers of getting too close to the West. "The military, systems and procedures governing the administrative system of the country are the same as before, (but it) has been slightly modified and unfortunately infected by Western doctrine, and a fundamental change must occur," Fars news agency quoted Jafari saying on Tuesday. The comments by Jafari - the commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) - underline the challenging task Rouhani faces in seeking a nuclear deal and improved relations abroad without provoking a dangerous backlash from powerful conservative groups. also chastised Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for a comment he was said to have made indicating Iran was militarily weak. Zarif was quoted by local media last week as saying the West had little fear of Iran's military defenses and could destroy them if it wished, although Zarif has said his statement was skewed and taken out of context. "We consider him an experienced diplomat, but he has no experience in the military field," Fars news agency reported Jafari as saying on Tuesday, without naming Zarif. Jafari was answering a question about whether U.S. forces could destroy Iran's military capability with just a few bombs. "It's not like that at all. He has no military experience or expertise," Jafari said during a visit to Tehran's Imam Sadiq University. Jafari also appeared to dismiss recent calls for the powerful force to stay out of politics, saying its duty was to protect the Islamic Revolution.
"The main threat to the revolution is in the political arena and the Guards cannot remain silent in the face of that," he said. In September, both President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there was no need for the force to be active in politics. Critics accuse the IRGC of straying into economic, social and political spheres in recent years, providing it with overwhelming influence in how the country is run, a further battle Rouhani will likely encounter in his promises to improve Iran's economy. A former nuclear negotiator, his initiatives have so far gained the endorsement of Khamenei, who has the final say in Iran's foreign and security policies but who holds a deep distrust of Western countries and their motives against Iran. Jafari also indicated Iran would not relent in its support of its Arab ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Iran has provided vital military and economy help to Assad in the Syrian civil war which has helped him reverse gains made by the rebels. "We will do whatever we can and is necessary to protect Syria because Syria is the front line of the Islamic Revolution," Jafari said. "We have announced before that we have specialist forces to transfer experience and training in Syria who work as advisers and this is public knowledge."
(Editing by Angus MacSwan)


Heads of State Stress to Miqati Keenness to Maintain Stability in Lebanon
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 December 2013/Several heads of state stressed to Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati their keenness to preserve stability in Lebanon during the Premier's visit to South Africa to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela, a global symbol of reconciliation. “Heads of state expressed their keenness to preserve stability in Lebanon and to share the burdens caused by the influx of Syrian refugees on its territories,” a statement issued by Miqati's press office said on Wednesday. Miqati held talks on the sidelines of Tuesday's celebratory memorial service in Soweto in South Africa with U.S. President Barack Obama, President Francois Hollande, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta. The wrapped up on Wednesday his visit to South Africa where he represented Lebanon in Mandela's memorial service. Miqati also participated with heads of states to view the casket of Mandela, which was placed in a cubic platform in the building's amphitheatre in Pretoria. The premier also visited the new headquarters of the Lebanese embassy in South Africa.Lebanon's Charge d'Affaires in South Africa, Ara Khatchadourian, briefed Miqati on the conditions of the Lebanese expats in the country. Miqati met on Monday with members of the Lebanese community in South Africa.He hailed the 35,000-strong community there for being “united” and having close ties with their home country. Mandela had been critically ill for months, but the announcement of his death on Thursday at the age of 95 was still a body blow to a country struggling with multiple social and economic challenges. For many, Mandela -- even a frail, aged and retired Mandela -- represented, while he was alive, a moral beacon that retained the promise of better times ahead.

Vatican Proposes Initiative Concerning Upcoming Presidential Elections
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 December 2013,/The Vatican tasked Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi with discussing with rival Lebanese parties a new initiative concerning the upcoming Presidential elections, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Wednesday. According to the daily, al-Rahi's task is to convince the 64 Christian MPs with the importance of guaranteeing the necessary quorum to elect a new President. President Michel Suleiman's tenure ends in May, 2014. In September, Suleiman said that he would challenge the extension of his mandate if the parliament took such a move amid soaring political tensions and the failure to form a new government.
The constitutional period to elect a new head of state begins on March 25, two months prior to the expiration of Suleiman’s mandate. Al-Joumhouria reported that al-Rahi began discussing the Vatican's initiative directly after his return from Rome. A source at Bkirki described the meetings with Christian MPs as “positive,” pointing out that the Vatican and al-Rahi expressed relief that the lawmakers will agree on their initiative.


Berri: 6-9-9 Cabinet Formula Still Reasonable and Acceptable
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 December 2013/ Speaker Nabih Berri stressed on Wednesday the need to form a new government in light of the ongoing disputes between the rival political powers over the matter. He said: “The 6-9-9 cabinet formula is still the most reasonable and acceptable proposal.”He made his remarks during his weekly meeting with lawmakers at his Ain el-Tineh residence. The speaker added: “All sides must assume their responsibilities to confront pending issues and upcoming developments.”The proposed formula grants centrists six ministers and the rival March 8 and 14 camps nine ministers each. 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.Earlier on Wednesday, Berri had held talks with Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat's envoy, caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abou Faour, to discuss the latest developments. The minister said after the meeting: “Crises are mounting in Lebanon and the roadmap should therefore be clear to all parties. They should restore partnership between them, whether at cabinet or the national dialogue table.” They must also cooperate in tackling upcoming developments in Lebanon, such as the presidential election. “Consensus must be reached and political efforts must be exerted in order to avoid political vacuum,” urged Abou Faour.President Michel 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.


Ex-army chief Halutz: Israel prefers Assad over Islamists in Syria

By HERB KEINON, JPOST.COM STAFF 12/11/2013/Halutz is quoted by Maariv as saying prospect of Al-Qaida affiliated elements ruling Damascus would be more problematic. Israel’s preference is for Bashar Assad to remain in power rather than see radical Islamist forces take control in Syria, the former army chief of staff is quoted in Wednesday editions of the daily tabloid Maariv as saying.
Dan Halutz, who served as IDF chief of staff during the 2006 military campaign in Lebanon, told a gathering in Moscow that the prospect of Al-Qaida affiliated elements ruling Damascus in place of the Assad regime would be more problematic from Jerusalem’s standpoint.The regime in Syria is killing its citizens on a daily basis, but we need to admit that the opposition in Syria is comprised primarily of very extremist Muslims like Al-Qaida,” the former IDF chief is quoted as saying in Maariv. “The question that needs to be asked is, ‘What is good for Israel?’ It’s an important question, because we need to ask ourselves if we want to replace this bad regime with a very bad regime which we don’t know. And this is something that we need to seriously consider.”It is worth noting that the Israeli government’s official position is that it is not intervening on behalf of any of the warring parties in Syria, where the civil war has reportedly claimed the lives of over 100,000 people. While Halutz does not hold a formal government title, his statement is considered unusual given his access to – and familiarity with - the highest levels of Israel’s political and military establishment.
Speaking at a fundraising event held in Moscow for the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, Halutz mentioned last Saturday’s roadside bomb attack which caused damage to an IDF patrol jeep in the northern Golan Heights, the first such incident to take place in 40 years.
“That’s just a small indication of what will happen if these extremists come to power,” the former IDF chief said. “As of now, it appears that the international community understands that they cannot unseat the Assad regime as long as they do not know what will follow. Right now, it looks as if the alternative [to Assad] is a regime that would destabilize regional security.”
Halutz's statements seem to contradict those made by Israel's former ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, who told The Jerusalem Post earlier this year that “bad guys” backed by Iran are worse for Israel than “bad guys” who are not supported by the Islamic Republic.
In a parting interview with the Post, Oren traced the evolution of Israel’s message on Syria during the three weeks of the chemical weapons crisis.
“The initial message about the Syrian issue was that we always wanted [President] Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran,” he said.
This was the case, he said, even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated to al-Qaida.
“We understand that they are pretty bad guys,” he said, adding that this designation did not apply to everyone in the Syrian opposition. “Still, the greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc. That is a position we had well before the outbreak of hostilities in Syria. With the outbreak of hostilities we continued to want Assad to go.”
Oren reiterated Israel’s position that it would not tolerate attempts to transfer chemical arms - which are currently in the process of being dismantled by the OPCW – to Hezbollah.
“The chemical weapons were an American red line, it wasn’t an Israel red line,” Oren said. “Our red line was that if Iran and Syria try to convey chemical weapons or game changing weaponry to Hezbollah or other terrorist organizations, that Israel would not remain passive. We were prepared to stand by the red line, and still are.”