November 30/2013


Bible Quotation for today/Eternal Life
01 John 05/13-21: "I am writing this to you so that you may know that you have eternal life—you that believe in the Son of God.  We have courage in God's presence, because we are sure that he hears us if we ask him for anything that is according to his will.  He hears us whenever we ask him; and since we know this is true, we know also that he gives us what we ask from him. If you see a believer commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray to God, who will give that person life. This applies to those whose sins do not lead to death. But there is sin which leads to death, and I do not say that you should pray to God about that.  All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which does not lead to death. We know that no children of God keep on sinning, for the Son of God keeps them safe, and the Evil One cannot harm them. We know that we belong to God even though the whole world is under the rule of the Evil One. We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we know the true God. We live in union with the true God—in union with his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and this is eternal life. My children, keep yourselves safe from false gods!


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For November 30/13
A Shower of Spokesmen/By: Michel Kilo/Asharq Alawsat/November 30/13

The Devil is in More Than the Details/By: Amir Taheri/Asharq Alawsat/November 30/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For November 30/13
Lebanese Related News

Hizbullah Accuses March 14 Camp of Protecting 'Criminal Gangs' behind Jabal Mohsen Assault

Saniora: Assault against Jabal Mohsen Residents Attempt to Create Strife in Lebanon
Miqati Urges International Support for Lebanon, Calls for Dialogue
Army Seizes, Detonates Grad Rockets in the Bekaa

One Killed, Another Wounded in Attempt to Open Blocked Road in Akkar
Mouawad Calls for Forming 'Moderate Front,' Rejects Hizbullah's 'Occupation'
3 Suspected Hizbullah Members Cleared of Nigeria Terror Charges
Rocket Left Over from 2006 War Explodes in Ouzai
U.S. Suggests New Proposal to End Maritime Dispute between Lebanon, Israel
Ain el-Hilweh Tense after Overnight Gunbattles
Charbel Blames Deficiency of Tripoli Plan on Number of Politicians' Security Personnel
Al-Rahi Mulling Visit to Tehran, Final Decision Not Taken Yet
Army Defuses Bomb in Zahle
GCC Approves 'Necessary' Measures against 'Hizbullah Interests' in Gulf
Strict Security Measures in Hermel after Reports of Booby-Trapped Cars
Lebanon acquits Syrian army defector on terror charges

Hezbollah suspect in Harb case fails to show in court
Hezbollah sustains heavy casualties in Syria
Al-Qaeda not in Lebanon, but extremism rising
Lebanese Alawites protest sectarian attacks
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Pope ramps up charity office to be near poor, sick
Vatican charity arm turns pope's words into action
Dolan: Catholics 'outmarketed' on gay marriage
Iran and Gulf states make tentative diplomatic moves
Dozens of firms interested in destroying Syrian chemicals: OPCW sources
US offering to destroy Syrian chemicals at sea
Iran sees nuclear deal implementation starting by early January

Report: Iran FM says country won't talk to Israel
Mortar round at historic Syrian mosque kills 4

Egypt police fire tear gas as Islamists defy protest law
Egypt police arrest nearly 200 over illegal protests
One Dead in Muslim-Christian Clash in Egypt
Marijuana-smoking Mountie stirs the pot in Canada

Hezbollah suspect in Harb case fails to show in court
November 29, 2013By Youssef Diab/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: A Hezbollah suspect allegedly involved in the attempted assassination of MP Boutros Harb last year failed once again to appear in court Friday and faces the possibility of a trial in absentia. Mahmoud Hayek, a Hezbollah security official, failed to show in court Friday - his scheduled court date –prompting Military Tribunal head Judge Brig. Gen. Khalil Ibrahim to postpone the session until Jan. 30. The judge also ordered a notice be posted outside the court informing Hayek of his next court date. The Hezbollah suspect, who remains at large, will be tried in absentia if he fails to appear in court on Jan. 30., a judicial source told The Daily Star. Hayek was charged last year for committing a terrorist act and attempting to assassinate Harb by planting a bomb in a building where the MP maintains an office. The charge also includes premeditated murder. On June 5, 2012, two detonators were found in an elevator in a Badaro building where the Batroun MP maintains an office. The perpetrators fled the area when a resident of the building grew suspicious.Authorities have sought to question Hayek and another suspect in the case. Harb has repeatedly urged Hezbollah to hand over Hayek and assist the judiciary in the case.Hezbollah has denied having any connection to the attempted killing, saying that Harb and March 14 coalition officials were making false accusations against the party.

Mouawad Calls for Forming 'Moderate Front,' Rejects Hizbullah's 'Occupation'
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 November 2013/Head of the Independence Movement Michel Mouawad called on Friday for forming a local “moderate front,” strongly rejecting to accept Hizbullah as a dominant force in the country. "A civil confrontation is the only mean to face extremism in Lebanon and the region,” Mouawad said in a speech he gave at a celebration marking the 24th anniversary of his father President Rene Mouawad's assassination. “I call for forming a front of moderates of all sects.” Mouawad noted, however, that a moderate front does not mean a group with a neutral ideology. "I urge a strong moderate front to face the Syrian regime's occupation,” he said. Mouawad stressed at the beginning of his speech that Lebanon is “not a land for jihad, al-Nusra or wilayat al-faqih.” He said: “Lebanon is a nation with an identity and a civilization and we will not accept an Israeli occupation, an Iranian domination or a Syrian mandate.”He explained that the problem with Iran is that it “violates Lebanese sovereignty and identity.” "Iran, (Syrian President Bashar) Assad and jihadists are a danger threatening the Lebanese entity.”"But what we cannot accept is that a Lebanese party hijacks political decisions to benefit Iran and Bashar Assad,” he added. "We cannot accept that Hizbullah goes from being a partner in the country to becoming an occupier.”The northern leader explained: “When Hizbullah is above the law and when it announces its intentions to change our lifestyle and our identity, this is called an occupation.”With “full respect,” the northern leader addressed Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, telling him that refusing a national consensus or a political cover “is not acceptable.”“The domination of one party over the Lebanese people is a rejected project. Religious coexistence cannot be guaranteed by becoming obedient and the path you are taking leads only to a total destruction.”However, Mouawad pointed out that federalism and separation are not the solution either, stressing on the importance of the state, the National Pact and the Lebanese constitution. Mouawad thanked Free Patriotic Movement leader for delegating a representative to attend Friday's event, telling MP Michel Aoun, however, that Hizbullah's path “does not resemble” his ideologies. "If Hizbullah's project wins, we will all pay the price,” the Independence Movement leader stressed. Addressing Aoun, Mouawad continued: “You belong to the party defending the state and legitimacy and I sincerely urge you to meet us and the moderate front to defend together Lebanon, its identity and the presidency.”The ceremony was held in Dbaye with the participation of a wide range of March 14 politicians and representatives of President Michel Suleiman, caretaker premier Najib Miqati, Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, Speaker Nabih Berri as well as of religious figures.President Rene Mouawad was killed on Independence Day in 1989 in an attack blamed on Syria by the Mouawad family and Damascus' foes in Lebanon.

3 Suspected Hizbullah Members Cleared of Nigeria Terror Charges
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 November 2013/Three Lebanese nationals suspected of being Hizbullah members were cleared of terrorism charges in Nigeria on Friday but one of the accused was convicted of a weapons offence and jailed for life. Mustapha Fawaz, Abdallah Thahini and Talal Ahmad Roda were arrested in May after the discovery of an arms cache in a residence in the northern Nigerian city of Kano. They were accused of plotting attacks against Western and Israeli targets in Nigeria but denied the accusations. Federal High Court Judge Adeniyi Adetokunbo Ademola said Hizbullah "is not an international terrorist organization in Nigeria" and therefore membership is not criminal. He said there was "no evidence" that the group was planning an attack or had received "terrorism training" as the prosecution alleged. All three men were also acquitted of money laundering charges. But Roda was found guilty of conspiracy to import weapons into the country and sentenced to life imprisonment. Defense lawyer for all three men Ahmed Raji told reporters after the hearing: "We are happy and slightly not comfortable with respect to the third accused (Roda). "The most important thing is that the grave aspect of the charges, that is terrorism, was knocked out. We are happy about that." Raji said he would consult with Roda about a possible appeal against his conviction and sentence and added: "Speaking for myself, I think an appeal is worthwhile." The trial featured several unexpected twists, including a testimony from Roda that an extremist cell in Nigeria had plotted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador. In August, Fawaz testified that he had been harshly interrogated by Israeli security agents after his arrest. He said the grilling was carried out by "six Israeli Mossad agents and one masked white man" who were primarily concerned with his contacts in Lebanon and demanded details of where weapons were stored in his home country. Thahini testified that he collapsed after being denied sleep for five days in a similar interrogation by purported Israeli agents. Israel raised concerns over alleged efforts by Hizbullah members to plan attacks in west Africa after the group was arrested. Fawaz owns a popular amusement park in the capital Abuja called Wonderland, which the court ordered should be re-opened after the ruling. He and Thahini were immediately released while Fawaz was escorted away in handcuffs, an Agence France Presse reporter in the court said. Nigerian intelligence agents escorted journalists to a property in Kano on May 30 and showed them a bunker where a massive haul of weapons had been stored. The spy chief in Kano, Bassey Etang, described the room as a "Hizbullah armory" -- a statement that raised eyebrows among some analysts. He said investigations were needed to uncover potential links between the "Hizbullah cell" and Boko Haram, the extremist Islamist group that has killed thousands in northern Nigeria since 2009. There had previously never been any discussion of a connection between the party and the Nigerian insurgents and experts voiced strong doubts that such ties existed.
The court verdict is a fresh blow to Nigeria's main intelligence branch, the Department of State Services, which in September claimed that Boko Haram attacked troops outside a government building in Abuja. Subsequent evidence, however, suggested the clash involved security officers and a group of squatters. In a separate matter, Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour was informed by Lebanon's Charge d'Affairs in Abuja that Hassan Mohammed Merhi, a Lebanese national, has died of natural causes in Nigeria. "The transfer of his body to Beirut is being arranged," the diplomat said.
Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, is home to a sizable Lebanese population, including in the mainly Muslim north.
Source/Agence France Presse.

Rocket Left Over from 2006 War Explodes in Ouzai
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 November 2013/An explosion was heard on Wednesday in al-Ouzai area, which is believed to be caused by the detonation of an old rocket left over from the July war. Media reports said that the explosion occurred in a junk yard in the area south of Beirut, causing no casualties. Israel fought a devastating war against Hizbullah in 2006 that cost the lives of 1,200 people in Lebanon, mainly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers. According to the state-run National News Agency, an army unit arrived swiftly at the scene and arrested the owner of the junk yard. Al-Jadeed reported earlier that a rocket fell near the Iranian Embassy, which witnessed a double suicide attack on November 19, which killed at least 23 people.  Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) said that a rocket propellant exploded after a man from al-Sultan family, who has an authorization from the army, was collecting unexploded rockets near the Iranian embassy. Security sources and the Iranian embassy denied to LBCI that a rocket fell near its premises. The bombing was the latest in a series of attacks that have struck Hizbullah strongholds. An al-Qaida-linked militant group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack — the deadliest targeting Iranian interests since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad began in March 2013.Iran has been a staunch supporter of Assad's government, and the Iranian-backed Hizbullah has been instrumental in helping his troops flush out insurgents from key areas near the Lebanese border.

Al-Rahi Mulling Visit to Tehran, Final Decision Not Taken Yet
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 November 2013/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi will not visit Iran any time soon despite receiving several invitations, Bkirki sources said in comments published in al-Joumhouria newspaper on Friday. “If the Patriarch was going to travel to Tehran we would inform the public,” the sources said. They added that al-Rahi is mulling the invitations he received but he didn't take a final decision so far.
“The campaign staged against the visit was void,” the sources added. Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Rokn Abadi reiterated during talks with al-Rahi on Monday his country's invitation for the Patriarch to visit Tehran. Concerning the recent tension at the Universite Saint Joseph in the Huvelin neighborhood in Beirut, the sources pointed out that al-Rahi is following up the matter. “Al-Rahi rejects all kinds of provocations, assaults and insulting national symbols,” the sources said, adding that the Patriarch is demanding for justice to take its course. The sources said that al-Rahi holds politicians responsible over the situation in universities.Classes have been suspended once again at USJ on Wednesday after a quarrel between the students. The incident came days after tensions were high in wake of a standoff between Hizbullah and March 14 camp supporters. Media reports said that Hizbullah supporters surrounded the university on Monday in protest against recent student election results, which led to the standoff and the eventual intervention of the army and security forces to avert any violence.

Hizbullah Accuses March 14 Camp of Protecting 'Criminal Gangs' behind Jabal Mohsen Assault
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 November 2013/Hizbullah condemned on Friday the assault against a number of residents from the Jabal Mohsen neighborhood in the northern city of Tripoli, saying that criminal gangs bent on creating sectarian strife were behind the attack. It said in a statement: “The criminal gangs, which are being offered political cover by the March 14 camp, are continuing on driving their knife into Tripoli's bleeding wound.”
“The gangs opened fire at four municipal workers simply because they belong to a sect, which has incurred the wrath of those who claim civility and a love for life,” it added in reference to the Alawite sect, whose members form the majority of the residents of Jabal Mohsen. “The actions of the criminal gangs do not reflect the national spirit of the residents of Tripoli,” it noted. “The actions instead represent the great desperation that the March 14 camp has reached due to its failure in banking on changes on the ground. It is therefore taking out its frustration through such barbaric acts,” it added. Hizbullah voiced its complete solidarity with the victims of Thursday's assault, saying that the whole of Tripoli is a victim of these criminal acts. It condemned the “mentality of creating incitement that also leans towards extremism and rejects the role of state institutions.”It therefore called on the state and all of its agencies to assume their responsibilities in ending these criminal acts that are a threat to civil and national peace. At least three Jabal Mohsen residents were injured in a shooting in Tripoli on Thursday, stoking sectarian divisions in the city. The state-run National News Agency said assailants shot the three men in their feet in the area of al-Zahriyeh.

Saniora: Assault against Jabal Mohsen Residents Attempt to Create Strife in Lebanon
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 November 2013/Head of the Mustaqbal bloc MP Fouad Saniora condemned on Friday the attack on Thursday against a number of residents from the Jabal Mohsen neighborhood in the northern city of Tripoli, describing it as a “cowardly and criminal act.”He noted that the assault was an attempt to create strife throughout Lebanon, demanding that an investigation be launched in the incident.
“The attack against people simply because they are residents of Jabal Mohsen is aimed at tarnishing the image of Tripoli and its residents, which is that of moderation,” he remarked.
Moreover, he rejected justifications that the attack may have been in retaliation to the August twin bombings in Tripoli, noting that it may have been an attempt to divert attention away from the blasts.
“Such assaults only serve the enemies of Tripoli who are working day and night to tarnish its image,” continued Saniora. He therefore demanded that the security forces assume their responsibilities towards the incident “and cease their exaggerated hesitation” in tackling security developments in the city. “We demand the firm implementation of the security plan that we have heard so much about,” he said. Saniora declared his solidarity with the victims of the Jabal Mohsen assault, wishing them a speedy recovery. The MP also contacted lawmakers from Tripoli to condemn the attack. At least three Jabal Mohsen residents were injured in a shooting in Tripoli on Thursday, stoking sectarian divisions in the city. The state-run National News Agency said assailants shot the three men in their feet in the area of al-Zahriyeh. On August 23, 45 people were killed and over 800 wounded in a twin explosions in Tripoli. The blasts targeted the Taqwa and al-Salam mosques as worshipers were performing weekly prayers.


Miqati Urges International Support for Lebanon, Calls for Dialogue
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 November 2013/Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati urged the international community on Friday to support Lebanon and end the fighting in neighboring Syria to bring back tranquility to it.
During a speech on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Miqati urged the world “to support Lebanon at all levels and stop the fighting in Syria through a formula that the Syrians agree to.”
Such a deal should “bring back peace and tranquility to Syria,” he said. Miqati called for the end of the dispute between Lebanon's rival parties and urged them to engage in dialogue away from conditions.
He told a conference held in ESCWA that the parties should not bet on the changes in the region. “We don't want this dialogue to be a new battleground,” he said. Miqati stressed that “no peace process can survive unless all Palestinians return home.”He reiterated Lebanon's policy of rejection to naturalize them. “Any attempt to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, would increase conflicts in the region,” he warned. “Palestine is the cause of the nation. It has survived for generations and will continue to do so,” he said. “There is no peace or stability without it.” Miqati hoped the latest deal between Iran and world powers, which he described as a main turning point, would lead to dialogue between Tehran and Arab countries.“Priority today is ending wars, destruction and fighting,” he said. Iran struck a breakthrough deal with the United States and five other Western powers on Sunday, accepting strict constraints on its nuclear program for the first time in a decade in exchange for partial sanctions relief. The caretaker PM reiterated that Lebanon has kept its borders open for refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict by sticking to religious and humanitarian values.“We haven't differentiated between Palestinians and Syrians,” he said. Earlier, Miqati held talks with Antonio Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, at the Grand Serail. Guterres urged the international community to provide more assistance to Lebanon, including Lebanese communities, and not just the Syrian refugees. Guterres has called on European and Gulf Arab states to host Syrian refugees who fled the civil war. He nearly 3 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries — mainly Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and an additional 6.5 million are displaced in their war-ravaged country.
After meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II on Thursday, Guterres said the refugee crisis "is alarming." He called for more financial support for countries hosting the refugees and warned a shortfall in funding may force host countries to become "unable to receive more refugees."


One Killed, Another Wounded in Attempt to Open Blocked Road in Akkar
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 November 2013/A person was killed and another was wounded on Friday evening when army forces attempted to open a blocked road in al-Mahmara town in the northern city of Akkar. "Ali Mahmoud al-Bahsa was killed in a gunfire exchange when soldiers tried to open a road blocked near the Nahr al-Bared bridge in al-Mahmara,” the state-run National News Agency said. According to the NNA, the road was blocked to protest the arrest a man from the Taleb family, who hails from al-Mahmara. Radio Voice of Lebanon identified the arrested man as Khodr Azzam Taleb. The NNA said the army responded to the sources of fire while attempting to open the blocked road, which also lead to lightly wounding Hussein Taleb. LBCI noted that tension was felt in al-Mahmara after the incident.

GCC Approves 'Necessary' Measures against 'Hizbullah Interests' in Gulf
Naharnet Newsdesk 28 November 2013/The Gulf Cooperation Council on Thursday approved what it described as “the necessary measures against Hizbullah's interests” in the Gulf countries, after endorsing recommendations during a meeting in Riyadh in September. “The interior ministers of the Council's member states have approved the results of the extraordinary meetings held by the ministries' undersecretaries regarding the necessary measures that should be taken against the interests of Hizbullah and its members and associates in the GCC countries,” Council chief Abdul Latif al-Zayani said following a meeting in Bahrain. In September, undersecretaries of the Gulf Cooperation Council's interior ministries discussed possible measures against suspected Hizbullah members living in the Gulf. Bahraini Interior Ministry Undersecretary Khaled al-Absi said the meeting discussed how to put into effect the recently-approved GCC resolution calling on members to take action against Hizbullah members in Gulf region. The measures could include visa cancellation and financial and commercial transaction restrictions. The GCC's measures come in response to Hizbullah's intervention in the Syrian war alongside President Bashar Assad's forces. The majority of Gulf countries back the rebels who are trying to topple the Syrian leader.

Army Seizes, Detonates Grad Rockets in the Bekaa
by Naharnet Newsdesk 29 November 2013/The army on Friday seized and detonated three Grad rockets in the Bekaa's al-Qaa region. "At 4:00 pm on Friday, an army patrol seized three 107-millimeter Grad rockets in al-Qaa,” the military institution said in a communique. It noted that the rockets were set to be launched. "A military expert arrived to the scene and detonated the seized rockets.”The army's statement added that the military police has launched an investigation under the supervision of the competent court to uncover who's involved in the incident. Since the eruption of the Syrian war, Bekaa's Hermel area has repeatedly been targeted with rockets launched by Syria's revolutionaries. Meanwhile, al-Qaa has been frequently bombed by Syrian warplanes.

Dolan: Catholics 'outmarketed' on gay marriage
NEW YORK (AP) — New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan says the Roman Catholic Church has been "outmarketed" on the issue of gay marriage and has been "caricatured as being anti-gay."Dolan discussed the church's positions opposing same-sex marriage and abortion in an interview with "Meet the Press" moderator David Gregory that will air Sunday on NBC. Gregory noted that Illinois just became the latest U.S. state to legalize gay marriage and asked, "Regardless of the church teachings, do you think this is evolving in such a way that it's ultimately going to be legal everywhere?" Or, he asked, will there be "a backlash" against gay marriage? "I think I'd be a Pollyanna to say that there doesn't seem to be kind of a stampede to do this," Dolan said. "I regret that." Asked why the church is losing the argument on gay marriage, Dolan responded, "Well, I think maybe we've been outmarketed sometimes. We've been caricatured as being anti-gay." He said the church supports "traditional marriage and is not "anti-anybody," adding, "When you have forces like Hollywood, when you have forces like politicians, when you have forces like some opinion-molders that are behind it, it's a tough battle."But, he said the church will not give up on the gay marriage issue. On another divisive issue, Dolan said the Catholic Church has long championed comprehensive health care, but he said U.S. Catholic bishops cannot support the Affordable Care Act as long as it includes coverage for abortion. He said the bishops started "bristling" at the legislation pushed by President Barack Obama because "it's excluding the undocumented immigrant and it's excluding the unborn baby."

Pope ramps up charity office to be near poor, sick

By NICOLE WINFIELD /VATICAN CITY (AP) — When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis was known to sneak out at night and break bread with the homeless, sit with them on the street and eat with them, as part of his aim to share the plight of the poor and let them know someone cared. That's not so easy to do now that he's pope. But Francis is still providing one-on-one doses of emergency assistance to the poor, sick and aged through a trusted archbishop. Konrad Krajewski is the Vatican Almoner, a centuries-old job of handing out alms — and Francis has ramped up the job to make it a hands-on extension of his own personal charity.
As Americans gathered for Thanksgiving on Thursday, Krajewski described how Francis has redefined the little known office of papal almoner and explained the true meaning of giving during a chat with journalists over coffee and pastries a few steps from the Vatican gates. "The Holy Father told me at the beginning: 'You can sell your desk. You don't need it. You need to get out of the Vatican. Don't wait for people to come ringing. You need to go out and look for the poor,'" Krajewski said. Krajewski gets his marching orders each morning: A Vatican gendarme goes from the Vatican hotel where Francis lives to Krajewski's office across the Vatican gardens, bringing a bundle of letters that the pope has received from the faithful asking for help. On the top of each letter, Francis might write "You know what to do" or "Go find them" or "Go talk to them."
And so Don Corrado, as he likes to be called, hits the streets of Rome and beyond.
He visits homes for the elderly in the name of the pope, writes checks to the needy in the name of the pope — even traveled to the island of Lampedusa in the name of the pope after a migrant boat capsized last month, killing more than 350 people. Over four days on Lampedusa, Krajewski bought 1,600 phone cards so the survivors could call loved ones back home in Eritrea to let them know they had made it. He also prayed with police divers as they worked to raise the dead from the sea floor. "This is the concept: Be with people and share their lives, even for 15, 30 minutes, an hour," Krajewski said. The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio "would go out at night in Buenos Aires, not just to find people, talk with them, or buy them something to eat ... He would eat with them. He would sit with them and eat with them on the street. This is what he wants from me."
The existence of the Vatican Almoner dates back centuries: It is mentioned in a papal bull from the 13th-century Pope Innocent III, and Pope Gregory X, who ruled from 1271-1276, organized it into an official Holy See office for papal charity. Until Krajewski came along, the almoner was typically an aging Vatican diplomat who was serving his final years before being allowed to retire at age 75. Francis changed all that, tapping the 50-year-old Pole who had been a close assistant to Pope John Paul II in his final years, to be a more vigorous, hands-on extension of himself. Krajewski has also enlisted others to help out: Off-duty Swiss Guards now get called into duty, helping drive a stranded person home, or recently helping to box 27,000 rosaries that Francis handed out to the general public one recent Sunday as "spiritual medicine."
Krajewski demurred when asked if Francis himself had slipped out of the Vatican on his own — "Next question!" he said. But there was a clear suggestion that the pope may very well have snuck out before Vatican security got wind of it. The almoner's duties are two-fold: carrying out acts of charity and raising the money to fund them. Krajewski's office funds its work by producing papal parchments, hand-made certificates with a photo of the pope that the faithful can buy for a particular occasion — say a wedding, baptism or priestly ordination — with the name of the recipient and an apostolic blessing written in calligraphy.
The parchments range from eight euros ($11) to 30 euros ($40) apiece, plus shipping and handling. All proceeds go directly to the works of charity. Last year, the office spent 1 million euros ($1.4 million) on 6,500 requests for help. Krajewski says the numbers will likely have doubled this year. The amounts given out aren't high: Recently Krajewski sent a check for 200 euros ($270) to an elderly woman from Venice who wrote to Francis lamenting that a pickpocket had stolen 54 euros ($75) from her. Larger and longer-term charity works are handled by the Vatican's international Caritas federation or Cor Unum, a Vatican office. The almoner, Krajewski explained, is more a "first aid" charity station: quick, small doses of help that don't require bureaucratic hurdles, but are nevertheless heartfelt and something of a sacrifice.
"Being an almoner, it has to cost me something so that it can change me," he said. He contrasted such alms-giving with, say, the unnamed cardinal who once boasted about always giving two euros to a beggar on the street near the Vatican. "I told him, 'Eminence, this isn't being an almoner. You might be able to sleep at night, but being an almoner has to cost you. Two euros is nothing for you. Take this poor person, bring him to your big apartment that has three bathrooms, let him take a shower — and your bathroom will stink for three days — and while he's showering make him a coffee and serve it to him, and maybe give him your sweater. This is being an almoner."
One recent letter caught the attention of the pope: The parents of little Noemi Sciarretta, an 18-month old suffering from spinal muscular atrophy — a genetic condition that has no cure — wrote to Francis in October. They were desperate because doctors could do nothing for their daughter. A few days later Francis called the father. On Nov. 1, Krajewski spent the day with the Sciarrettas at their home near Chieti, in Abruzzo. Five days later, with the child's condition worsening, the family traveled to the Vatican and met with Francis in person, spending the night in the same Vatican hotel where he sleeps, eating with him in the hotel dining room where he has all his meals.
Moments after they met, the pope headed out to St. Peter's Square for his weekly general audience. He started off by asking the tens of thousands of people there to take a moment of silence to pray for little Noemi.
"It was a very emotional meeting because Pope Francis was close to Noemi," her father, Andrea Sciarretta, said afterward. "We could talk and pray together for Noemi. It was an emotional gift."
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Iran and Gulf states make tentative diplomatic moves
RIYADH (Reuters) - United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed on a rare visit to Iran on Thursday called for a partnership with Iran, but suspicion remains despite Tehran's tentative overtures towards its Gulf neighbors. Mostly Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab states are wary of Iranian influence in the Middle East, fearing the Shi'ite-led country is seeking regional dominance and stirring sectarian tensions.
Improving relations with regional countries is a central plank of Iran's diplomatic policy under its new president, Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, who will visit Kuwait and Oman next week.
"We are neighbors but do not confine ourselves to this and are calling to be partners," Sheikh Abdullah was quoted as saying by Iran's official IRNA news agency. Zarif, speaking after the meeting with Sheikh Abdullah, who also met President Rouhani, said peace would benefit everybody in the region. "We see the progress of countries in the region as a success and any type of danger as a threat to them. Security and development cannot be separated and we see relations with regional countries as taking this form," IRNA quoted him as saying. They made no mention of a long-standing dispute between the two countries over the ownership of a small group of Gulf islands, or of accusations by the Gulf Cooperation Council, to which the UAE belongs, that Tehran has plotted attacks in Bahrain. The GCC consists of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE and Oman.
Zarif was quoted on Wednesday by Kuwait's state news agency as saying he would visit Kuwait and Oman next week. He added he also planned to visit Saudi Arabia but had not yet set a date. On Tuesday, Iran's former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, said he wanted better relations with Saudi Arabia in an interview with the Financial Times.Rouhani and Zarif have stressed greater regional stability as a priority, arguably an attempt to blunt the opposition of Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, to Tehran's newly minted nuclear deal with world powers.
After they met in Kuwait on Wednesday, GCC foreign ministers said they hoped the deal would lead to a comprehensive solution to Iran's nuclear crisis, but that this would require goodwill. On Thursday Bahrain's Interior Minister Sheikh Rashed bin Abdullah al-Khalifa said Iran's Arab neighbors needed assurances that the nuclear deal would enhance regional security. Alluding to previous accusations Iran was behind a popular uprising in Bahrain, he said Gulf Arab states wanted to be certain the accord "would not be at the expense of the security of any of the (Gulf Cooperation) Council". Sunday's six-month interim deal involves some reversible sanctions relief in return for more international oversight of Iran's nuclear program. Saudi Arabia, the largest and most powerful of the GCC states, gave a guarded welcome to the deal, but it still views Tehran with suspicion.
On Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama made a phone call to Saudi King Abdullah to reassure him about the deal. Diplomatic sources in the Gulf say Riyadh fears the agreement will take pressure off Iran and allow it scope to operate in other Arab countries. Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in a tussle for influence across the Arab world, backing opposing forces in political struggles in Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen.
They also support opposing sides in Syria's civil war, pitting Iranian ally President Bashar al-Assad against mostly Sunni rebels armed and financed by countries including Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
On Wednesday the opposition Syrian National Coalition said it would attend peace talks planned for January in Geneva. GCC foreign ministers said the meeting must put in place a timeframe for a transitional government and should not involve any opposition group other than the coalition. (Reporting By Angus McDowall; Additional reporting by Marcus George; Editing by Peter Cooney and Ralph Boulton)

Common ground

November 29, 2013/The Daily Star
Approaching the third anniversary of the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, with over 100,000 dead, 3 million refugees and untold levels of destruction, Turkey and Iran – each backing different sides in the conflict – joined Wednesday in calling for a cease-fire as soon as possible.The much awaited second round of Geneva talks, now scheduled for January, will take place a year and a half after the first round. Between now and then a cease-fire is the best possible scenario, and Ankara and Tehran are very right to call for one. Both sides, if they are honest with themselves, have now realized that a military solution to the conflict is very far off, if achievable at all. Fighting continues to intensify, with the media framing the rebels as having the upper hand one week, and the regime the next.  Both sides, at least the government and the National Coalition – the opposition’s biggest grouping – have also committed to attending the Geneva talks. The January talks will not be easy, and are unlikely to reach clear conclusions in any comfortable way. But the fact they have even been agreed upon shows that there are parties, on both sides of this civil war, who believe that a political solution is still possible, or at least, that the process of dialogue holds some worth.
So then, to continue the fighting until January would not just be nonsensical, it would be counterintuitive. Quite aside from the possibly tens of thousands of extra lives which would be lost, many of which have been of civilians, not to mention children, to enter into talks after a lull in fighting would create a much preferable environment for discussion.
To carry on fighting for the next two months, that is, fighting between pro- and anti-regime forces, and also between sparring factions of the opposition, be it Kurds, jihadists or the more secular elements, would be nothing but a gross waste of life, of time and of resources. Already aid is being diverted from the most needy, if it can even get there in the first place. Diseases are spreading, hunger and malnutrition are rife. Combatants need to work out how to keep those that are living still alive, to preserve what is left of the country, and to look to the future.
The time between now and Jan. 22 must be dedicated to preparations for the future. Warring sides should concentrate on their visions for what comes next, and the search for common ground that will enable Syria to re-emerge from the ashes of this war. Otherwise, Geneva II, talked of now with such anticipation and for so long, will be yet another meaningless chapter in this Syrian tragedy.

A Shower of Spokesmen

By: Michel Kilo/Asharq Alawsat
We, the Syrian people, have grown accustomed to seeing the Ba’athist regime speaking for us, without anybody authorizing it or assigning it the task. We have also grown accustomed to seeing it blame us for its own stupidity and malpractice, although we have long been the victims of its terrible oppression. The regime claims that it is not the one that is making the decisions or issuing the statements, but that it is the Syrian people who are doing so. This became the status quo over nearly half a century, where any Ba’ath Party member, no matter how minor, became a spokesman for the party, and by proxy the entire silenced people of Syria. The punishment for speaking out during this time was severe—even deadly.
While any government with a sense of self-esteem and respect for its people would assign an official spokesman to express its opinion on important issues, any and all Ba’ath Party members could claim to speak on behalf of the country. These “spokesmen” would come out and confidently state: “Our noble people want this or that.” These party members spoke as if they had conducted in-depth polls and investigations into what the Syrian people wanted, closely analyzing their results based on systematic and scientific rules to reach an informed conclusion.
The Syrian public was completely absent during the ghastly Assad era, and this led to a proliferation of politicians and officials speaking on our behalf. Prompted by an overwhelming desire to confuse the general public so that they would be unable to see what was in front of them, the Ba’ath Party would always issue varied and contradictory statements on any and every topic. Today, precisely the same thing is happening with the Syrian revolution, with various “spokesmen” and officials claiming to speak on its behalf.
The presence of these “spokesmen” reflects a dilemma the revolution has been facing from the beginning—a problem that has remained unsolved until today. The problem lies in a lack of a centralized leadership or a comprehensive plan to end the ongoing struggle in Syria and provide an objective approach to the country’s future. Those involved in the Syrian revolution should adopt a singular approach in terms of conduct and vision, working together to fulfil common goals within an agreed period of time. The Syrian revolution lacks suitable leadership and experience; this is why the Syrian revolution has become embroiled in a maze of contradictory viewpoints. In this case, it is no wonder the Syrian revolutionaries are divided, for the groups and movements they belong to are similarly divided and follow different viewpoints and ideologies, playing on the general public’s sentiments and interests to attract supporters.
The Syrian people have likely been led astray by these movements and organizations, failing to understand the reality on the ground. The people are confused because they rebelled for freedom, justice and equality, and they have now found themselves falling under the pressure of organizations that reject freedom and even consider it to be against Islam. The second issue is that the groups and individuals that originally spoke up for freedom are retreating and withdrawing in the face of these divisions and this violence. The Syrian people’s struggle against the regime has shifted into an international conflict whereby the people’s bravery has been buried under international disagreements and political considerations.
The outside world is benefitting greatly from the complete paralysis in the internal situation in Syria and its failure to live up to the expectations of one of the greatest and most courageous revolutions in history. Thus a serious phenomenon with dangerous results has emerged. This phenomenon has seen a proliferation of people speaking on behalf of the increasingly divided Syrian revolution. This is a phenomenon that has a number of dangerous repercussions, including increasing the state of despair among the Syrian rebels and the opposition, while also causing large categories of Syrian men and women to disavow the revolution and view it as a futile attempt that will have a very high cost. As a result, revolutionary organizations that had previously enjoyed mass support, playing a vital role in the continuation of the revolution, are finding it increasingly difficult to survive.
It is very difficult to find a way out of this quagmire of contradictory rhetoric and discourse, which has undermined what remains of our revolution. This contradictory discourse has become the daily bread of the Syrian revolution, and it is also a means for those with ambition to climb the ladder to wealth and power. These revolutionary climbers are ultimately harming the Syrian people’s revolution with every disingenuous statement they issue. They are adopting accusatory and eliminatory discourse towards others, and their ultimate goal is to preserve their share of the spoils.
The proliferation of Syrian spokesmen has ultimately caused the Syrian revolution to retreat. It is thanks to these spokesmen that the revolution and the revolutionaries have become immersed in an ocean of contradictory rhetoric that will ultimately throttle and crush it.

The Devil is in More Than the Details

By: Amir Taheri/Asharq Alawsat
President Rouhani has described as a “triumph” the paper his envoys signed with the P5+1 Group in Geneva last Sunday. Some in his faction have pushed hyperbole further by claiming that “the history of Islamic Revolution is divided into before and after Geneva.”However, with the dust of excitement settled, it is possible to assess “the event” with greater clarity. To start with, it is not clear what the paper should be called. Here are some of the labels used by parties involved: accord, agreement, memorandum, roadmap, and joint-action plan. The paper cannot be described as an international treaty. The P5+1 group is an ad hoc body appointed by the United Nations to persuade Iran to implement six resolutions passed by the Security Council. It has no authority to sign a treaty. In fact, the P5+1 is a misnomer, because the negotiations were piloted by the European Union’s international affairs representative. Because the EU has 28 members, the P5+1 is, in fact, a group of 31 nations. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has already stated that the Geneva paper would be submitted to all 28 EU members. Under EU rules, every one of them has the right to approve or reject the paper.
The ambivalence of the exercise is also important for other participants. If this is an international treaty, it must be approved by the US Senate, the Russian Duma and Iran’s Islamic Majlis to become binding. If it is an agreement between Iran and the UN, it must be approved by the Security Council in a new resolution. The paper’s identity is only one problem. One would also have to decide which version is authoritative. I have not studied the Chinese and Russian versions. But the English, Persian and French texts show differences.
Take just two examples:

The Persian version asserts that during the next six months “Iran’s income from oil exports would be transferred to the Iranian government.” The English text states that transfer would happen only “if Iran implements its undertakings.” And then, it limits the transfer to USD 2–4 billion in installments.
The next example concerns fees for Iranians studying abroad.
The Persian text implies that this would be automatic and unlimited. The English text sets a clear limit of USD 400 million, paid directly to the colleges concerned.
The trick in the Persian text is to use phrases without a verb, implying firm commitment on the part of P5+1. In the English text, verbs are used to emphasize that Iran might get something only if it does something beforehand. All that the P5+1 gives is a number of vague promises.
Even if we ignore the issue of identity and authority, the paper would still be a strange beast in the zoological history of diplomacy. Obviously, the P5+1 exploited the inexperience and desperation of the Iranian diplomats, and sold them a bill of goods.
By signing the paper, the Islamic Republic has extended de jure recognition to sanctions imposed by the UN, the US and the EU. Hitherto, Tehran had admitted the de facto existence of sanctions but regarded them as “illegal.”
The paper institutionalizes the sanctions within a coherent system, implicitly accepting the possibility that they will be prolonged indefinitely.
Under the paper, Iran has 21 undertakings and the P5+1 group only 11.
The P5+1’s undertakings are about not imposing new sanctions for six months, and easing some others. Iran’s undertakings, however, are concrete. It must stop enriching uranium above 5 percent, must oxidize half the stock enriched above that level, and de-commission the plutonium infrastructure built at a cost of USD 10 billion. If those things are done, Tehran’s nuclear project would be put in slow motion. Since Iran has no nuclear power stations, it would not need low-grade enriched uranium anyway. And, if it intends to build warheads, low-grade would be of little use.
By insisting that its “right” to enrich uranium be specifically recognized, Rouhani’s team made another big mistake. That demand showed that they were not sure they had that right under Non-Proliferation Treaty. Otherwise, why demand further endorsement from an ad hoc group? The P5+1 didn’t give that endorsement. Instead, the text implies that the decision about Iranian levels of enrichment belongs to P5+1.
The paper insists that Iran’s scientific research and development of industrial activities be frozen at the “the current level,” clearly excluding any advances.
Iran is expected to fulfill its 21 promises in six months, while that time limit is mentioned for only one of the P5+1’s 11 promises.
More interestingly, Iran must fulfill its undertakings before the other side reciprocates.
Under the paper, the P5+1 would be judge and jury. They would decide when and if Iran has honored its commitments. Acting for the UN, the International Atomic Energy Agency would report only on Iran’s performance.
The paper gives the P5+1 what is known in diplomatic jargon as droit de regard (right to oversight) over important sectors of the Iranian economy. The P5+1 will decide how much oil Iran is allowed to export. It would also decide how much of Iran’s revenue is “unfrozen” and the manner in which it is spent.
For the six months already agreed, some 7 percent of Iran’s oil revenues would be released. Part of that would be spent through a mechanism modeled on the “oil-for-food” program imposed on Iraq under Saddam. The label used this time is “humanitarian financial channel,” to allow imports of food and pharmaceuticals. It is not clear who would run the scheme, but the P5+1 would have final say.
The paper also gives the P5+1 a say in Iran’s insurance, banking, petrochemicals, car industry, spare parts, air transport, shipping and precious metals sectors. In some cases, sanctions would be eased at a cadence chosen by the P5+1. The paper gives the Khomeinist regime some respite and the possibility of putting the nuclear program into fast-forward in the future. Rouhani even claims that he signed the paper because “ending tension with the West” is his “top priority.” Does he hope to reverse more than three decades of Khomeinist anti-Americanism?
As long as sanctions hurt only the people, the regime tried to hide the effects in a cloak of flowery rhetoric. But when sanctions started to hurt the regime it had to eat humble pie à la Saddam Hussein. As Khamenei often says, the interest of the regime is absolute, that of the nation a variable.