April 06/14


Bible Quotation for today/Bartimaeus son of Timaeus,

Mark 10,46-52/They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Pope Francis's Tweet for Today

In the Gospel we can hear Jesus speaking to us every day: may we always carry with us a small copy of the Gospel!
Pape François
Dans l’Évangile, nous pouvons écouter chaque jour Jésus qui nous parle : portons toujours sur nous un petit Évangile !

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For April 06/14

One million Syrians take refuge in Lebanon/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiyia/April 06/14

Lebanon’s youth fight for future free from domestic violence/By:Yara al-Wazir/Al Arabiyia/April 06/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For April 06/14
Lebanese Related News

Bulgaria transfers 2012 bus bomb case to Burgas amid new evidence
Conciliatory Geagea enters race for president

12 Lebanese, Including Rifaat Eid, Charged with Belonging to Armed Terrorist Group

Salam Voices Hope New President a 'Local Choice'

Report: U.S. Congress Clamps Down on Hizbullah's Fundraising Activities

Mashnouq Meets Rahi, Says Security Plan to Extend to Northern Bekaa, Beirut

GCC Opposes New Rent Law, Calls for Further Discussions

Woman Returns Home after Tripoli Kidnap Ordeal

Four Soldiers Wounded in Gunbattles with Chamas Family in Hermel

Berri Kicks Off Next Week Discussions on Landmark Presidential Elections

Hezbollah sets conditions for Dialogue

Hand grenade found in Lebanon’s Akkar

Syrian ambassador denies execution of Lebanese captives

Miscellaneous Reports And News

EU backs Kerry's efforts in Mideast peace process

Obama backs Kerry, saying he 'admires' US secretary of state's peace efforts

23 Killed in Egypt Tribal Fighting over Woman

Afghans Vote in Presidential Election as U.S. Troops Exit

Iran Says Nuclear Expert Talks 'Useful'

Turkey's Keeps YouTube Ban after Court Backtrack

Two Italian Priests, Canadian Nun Kidnapped in Cameroon  


Blindness, faith and God's Commandments
By: Elias Bejjani
John 09:5: "While I am in the world, I am the light of the world".
We become blind not when our two eyes do not function any more and lose our vision. No, not at all, this is a physical disability that affects only our earthly body and not our Godly soul. We can overcome this physical blindness and go on with our lives, while our spiritual blindness makes us lose our eternal life and end in hell.
We actually become blind when we can not see the right and righteous tracks in life, and when we do not walk in their paths.
We actually become blind when we fail to obey God's commandments, negate His sacrifice on the cross that broke our slavery bondage from the original sin, and when we refuse to abandon and tame the instincts' of our human nature, and when we stubbornly resist after falling into the evil's temptation to rise to the Godly nature in which we were baptized with water and the holy spirit.
Meanwhile the actual blindness is not in the eyes that can not see because of physical ailments, but in the hearts that are hardened, in the consciences that are numbed and in the spirits that are defiled with sin.
Ephesians 4:29: "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear"
When we know heart, mind and soul that God Himself, is LOVE, and when we practice, honour and feel LOVE in every word we utter and in every conduct we perform, we shall never be blind in our hearts, conscience and faith, even though when our eyes cease to perform.
In its spiritual essence and core, what does love mean and encompass? Saint Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (13/01-07), answers this question: " "If I speak with the languages of men and of angels, but don’t have love, I have become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but don’t have love, I am nothing.  If I dole out all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but don’t have love, it profits me nothing.  Love is patient and is kind; love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, is not proud,  doesn’t behave itself inappropriately, doesn’t seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil;  doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails"
In every community, there are individuals from all walks of life who are spiritually blind, lacking faith, have no hope, and live in dim darkness because they have distanced themselves from Almighty God and His Gospel, although their eyes are physically perfectly functional and healthy. They did not seek God's help and did not repent and ask for forgiveness, although they know that God is always waiting eerily for them to defeat the evil, get out his temptations and come to Him.
On the sixth Lenten Sunday, our Maronite Catholic Church cites and recalls with great piety Jesus' healing miracle of the blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus. This amazing miracle that took place in Jerusalem near the Pool of Siloam is documented in three gospels; Mark 10/46-52, John 9/1-41, Matthew 20/:29-34.
Maronites in Lebanon and all over the world, like each and very faithful Christian strongly believe that Jesus is the holy and blessed light through which believers can see God's paths of righteousness. There is no doubt that without Jesus' light, evil darkness will prevails in peoples' hearts, souls and minds. Without Jesus' presence in our lives we definitely will preys to all kinds of evil temptations.
The Miracle: Mark 10/46-52: " They came to Jericho. As he went out from Jericho, with his disciples and a great multitude, the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the road. When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out, and say, “Jesus, you son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him, that he should be quiet, but he cried out much more, “You son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still, and said, “Call him. ”They called the blind man, saying to him, “Cheer up! Get up. He is calling you!” He, casting away his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “Rabboni, that I may see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go your way. Your faith has made you well.” Immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.
The son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus, the blind beggar who was born to two blind parents truly believed in Jesus. His heart, mind and spirit were all enlightened with faith and hope. Because of his strong faith he knew deep inside who actually Jesus was, and stubbornly headed towards him asking for a Godly cure. He rebelled against all those opportunist and hypocrites who out of curiosity and not faith came to see who is Jesus. He refused to listen to them when they rebuked him and tried hardly to keep him away from Jesus. He loudly witnessed for the truth and forced his way among the crowd and threw himself on Jesus' feet asking Him to open his blind eyes. Jesus was fascinated by his faith, hailed his perseverance and gave him what he asked for. He opened his eyes.
John's Gospel gives us more details about what has happened with Bartimaeus after the healing miracle of his blindness. We can see in the below verses that after his healing he and his parents were exposed to intimidation, fear, threats, and terror, but he refused to succumb or to lie, He held verbatim to all the course details of the miracle, bravely witnessed for the truth and loudly proclaimed his strong belief that Jesus who cured him was The Son Of God. His faith made him strong, fearless and courageous. The Holy Spirit came to his rescue and spoke through him.
John 9/13-12:  "As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born blind. 2 His disciples asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents' sin?” Jesus answered, “His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parents' sins. He is blind so that God's power might be seen at work in him.  As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light for the world.” After he said this, Jesus spat on the ground and made some mud with the spittle; he rubbed the mud on the man's eyes  and told him, “Go and wash your face in the Pool of Siloam.” (This name means “Sent.”) So the man went, washed his face, and came back seeing.  His neighbors, then, and the people who had seen him begging before this, asked, “Isn't this the man who used to sit and beg?”
Some said, “He is the one,” but others said, “No he isn't; he just looks like him.” So the man himself said, “I am the man.” “How is it that you can now see?” they asked him. He answered, “The man called Jesus made some mud, rubbed it on my eyes, and told me to go to Siloam and wash my face. So I went, and as soon as I washed, I could see.” “Where is he?” they asked.“I don't know,” he answered.
Sadly our contemporary world hails atheism, brags about secularism and persecutes those who have faith in God and believe in Him. Where ever we live, there are opportunist and hypocrites like some of the conceited crowd that initially rebuked Bartimaeus, and tried with humiliation to keep him away from Jesus, but the moment Jesus called on him they changed their attitude and let him go through. Meanwhile believers all over the world suffer on the hands of ruthless oppressors, and rulers and men of authority like the Pharisees who refused to witness for the truth.
But despite of all the dim spiritual darkness, thanks God, there are still too many meek believers like Bartimaeus who hold to their faith no matters what the obstacles or hurdles are.
Colossians 03:12: "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience"
Lord, enlighten our minds and hearts with your light and open our eyes to realize that You are a loving and merciful father.
Lord Help us to take Bartimaeus as a faith role model in our life.
Lord help us to defeat all kinds of sins that take us away from Your light, and deliver us all from evil temptations.
In conclusion, let us never blind ourselves from knowing where is the light and who is the light: “I came into this world for judgment, that those who don’t see may see; and that those who see may become blind.” (John 09/39)

Report: U.S. Congress Clamps Down on Hizbullah's Fundraising Activities
Naharnet Newsdesk 05 April 2014/United States lawmakers are mulling to toughen economic sanctions against Hizbullah, media reports said on Saturday. A U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee is set to introduce new legislation that would “target Hizbullah's fundraising activities,” the Israeli Ynet news reported. Al-Monitor website said that the bill's draft summary would allow the U.S. Treasury Department to "target central banks and other financial institutions, primarily in Lebanon and Europe, that knowingly engage with Hizbullah and its enablers."The bill also targets Hizbullah's al-Manar television by requiring the U.S. administration to list and penalize any satellite provider that still carries the television channel. The bill, if passed, requires President Barack Obama to determine whether Hizbullah “meets the criteria of a transnational criminal organization.” Al-Monitor reported that the law's draft summary notes that it is American policy "to prevent Hizbullah's global logistics and financial network from operating in order to curtail its domestic and international activities.” "The United States must deal with Hizbullah firmly and decisively with unyielding resolve by crippling its extensive, illegal financial network," said Congressman Mark Meadows, one of the bill's writers. "Hizbullah’s days of unhindered criminal operations and terrorist activity are numbered." Congressman Eliot Engel, another sponsor of the bill, said that the bill "will give the Administration the tools they need to break any lifeline to Hizbullah." According to the website, congressman Brad Schneider said in a press release that “Hizbullah continues to represent a threat to the United States, Israel and the entire region.” In 2013, Obama renewed a “national emergency” which imposes a freeze on assets of people linked to Hizbullah, stressing that they still “undermine Lebanon's stability.” The U.S. considers Hizbullah a terror group and accuses Syria and Iran of arming it. In August 2007, President George W. Bush ordered a freeze on U.S. assets of anyone Washington deems to be undermining the Lebanese government.


Bulgaria transfers 2012 bus bomb case to Burgas amid new evidence
04/05/2014 07:12
Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov said on Friday that the authorities transferred the investigation of the terror attack on an Israeli bus to Burgas; the Black Sea resort which was the location of the 2012 attack resulting in the deaths of five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver. Tsatsarov said again on Friday the identity of the third suspect—the alleged bomber who died during the terrorist attack on Israelis tourists--- has been identified, but not revealed. In February, Tsatsarov said the authorities identified a third suspect.Bulgaria’s government says two Hezbollah members are wanted as suspects for the attack. Both Hezbollah members are in Lebanon and have been identified. Bulgaria has filed extradition requests to the Lebanese government. According to Bulgarian National Radio (BNR), Tsatsarov declined to disclose more specifics about the identity of the third individual. The prosecutor could not say when the indictment would be field. The court case was slated for February or early March but has been delayed because of the processing of new evidence. According to the Sofia News Agency report, which appears to be based on the BNR,”Tsatsarov explained that a lot of effort went to processing data supplied by partnering investigative services and through mechanisms for international legal assistance.”
A spokeswoman for Israel’s embassy in Sofia told the Jerusalem Post in February, “The Israeli embassy welcomes everybody who has given information about the identity of the involved terrorists in the attack in Burgas. The exposure of the information by the chief prosecutor of Bulgaria only indicates the determination of the investigation into the terrorists attacks in Burgas.


Salam Voices Hope New President a 'Local Choice'
Naharnet Newsdesk 05 April 2014/Prime Minister Tammam Salam expressed hope on Saturday that the new Lebanese president would be a “local choice,” stressing that his cabinet will “do everything in its power to prepare for the presidential elections.”“The international and regional powers, that have an impact on the Lebanese local affairs, support staging the presidential elections on time,” Salam said in an interview with the General Security magazine. He stressed that his government will exert efforts to “prepare for the appropriate atmosphere to carry out the elections.” President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in May but the Constitution states that the parliament should choose a new head of state within a two-month period before the end of the incumbent's term, which was on March 25. On Friday, the Lebanese Forces executive committee unanimously agreed to back the candidacy of LF chief Samir Geagea to the presidency. Lebanese media have in recent weeks identified other presidential hopefuls as Kataeb party leader and ex-president Amin Gemayel, MPs Boutros Harb and Robert Ghanem, who are like Geagea members of the March 14 anti-Syria movement. Other potential candidates are Hizbullah allies FPM leader MP Michel Aoun, a Christian leader and former army chief, and Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh. Lebanese presidents are always chosen from the Christian Maronite community. “We reject any vacuum at the presidency post,” Salam added. The Premier expressed concern over the surge in the numbers of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon. “I fear that we might lose control over the matter,” Salam pointed out. The war in Syria has exacerbated sectarian tensions in Lebanon as the conflict has spilled over into the country. Hundreds of people have been killed over the past three years in clashes and bombings, including a recent spate of car bomb attacks targeting mostly Hizbullah strongholds. The situation has been further strained as the number of refugees from Syria has hit the one million mark in Lebanon, which has fragile resources and a native population of just four million.


Berri Kicks Off Next Week Discussions on Landmark Presidential Elections
Naharnet Newsdesk 05 April 2014/Speaker Nabih Berri is set to tackle the upcoming presidential elections at the end of next week, a local newspaper reported on Saturday. According to An Nahar newspaper, Berri is expected to be handed over “soon” a report from the presidential elections committee that he had formed. The committee, which was tasked with inquiring the opinion of the different parties on the polls, had drafted a report that includes several decisive points. The newspaper said that the report of the committee will confirm that lawmakers from the March 8 and 14 alliances, independent and centrists will attend the session that Berri will call for to elect a new president. The report also includes rejection by MPs to amend the constitution and an agreement to stage the elections within the constitutional deadline. However, the committee didn't receive any signs on the name of the candidates. The committee is comprised of Development and Liberation bloc lawmakers, including Ali Osseiran, Michel Moussa and Yassine Jaber. President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in May but the Constitution states that the parliament should start meeting March 25 to elect a new head of state.

Mashnouq Meets Rahi, Says Security Plan to Extend to Northern Bekaa, Beirut
Naharnet Newsdesk 05 April 2014/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq revealed on Saturday that the security plan adopted to restore stability in the northern city of Tripoli will be also implemented in the northern Bekaa, and later in Beirut. "We stress on going forward with this security plan in the best way possible, with the support of President Michel Suleiman, the bravery of the army chief, and the courage of Internal Security Forces,” al-Mashnouq said after meeting with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi at Bkirki. He added: “We all bear the responsibility of this plan's failure or success, but it has proved to be very successful until now.” He then revealed that the plan will be next implemented in the northern Bekaa, and later in Beirut. "We will close the door on all attacks on the Lebanese, their security and their livelihoods, especially after the recurrence of kidnapping incidents,” the minister assured. Al-Mashnouq noted that the Maronite Patriarch is keen on the security and safety of the Lebanese and on ending this (abduction) phenomenon “that harmed Lebanon and its people, as the country has come to be perceived as a place where organized crimes frequently take place.”Security forces kicked off on Tuesday the security plan in Tripoli, seizing arms depots and detaining fugitives accused of illegal acts and inciting violence in the area.

Hand grenade found in Lebanon’s Akkar
April 05, 2014/TRIPOLI, Lebanon: A Lebanese man found a hand grenade set to detonate on the wheel of his car in the northern region of Akkar. The man, identified as Hatem Z., found the grenade placed on his car, which was parked in front of his house in Halba. It was set to explode as soon the engine is turned on. The security forces launched an investigation into the incident.

Lebanon's Arabic press digest - Apr. 5, 2014

April 05, 2014 /The Daily Star
The following are a selection of stories from Lebanese newspapers that may be of interest to Daily Star readers. The Daily Star cannot vouch for the accuracy of these reports.
New U.S. pressures on Hezbollah
United States lawmakers announced they would draft a new law tightening economic sanctions against Hezbollah.
The newspaper quoted Representative Bradley Schneider (D) saying “Hezbollah still represents a threat to the U.S., Israel and the entire region.”
The proposed law would impose new and tough sanctions on sources of financing for Hezbollah, the paper said.
Al-Akhbar, citing Al-Monitor website, said that the draft law in its current form would allow the U.S. Treasury Department to “target central banks and other financial institutions, primarily in Lebanon and Europe, which knowingly engage with Hezbollah and its enablers.”
The bill also targets Hezbollah’s al-Manar television by requiring the U.S. administration to list and penalize any satellite provider that still carries the television channel.
Berri to focus on presidential election
An-Nahar learned that Speaker Nabih Berri would focus his efforts on the presidential election following next week's parliamentary sessions.
The parliamentary committee formed by Berri to hold consultations over the presidential election is set to hand the speaker the results of its meetings soon.
Sources from the committee said the report includes many points, most notably that lawmakers from both the rival March 8 and March 14 camps have voiced their intention to attend the parliamentary session to elect a new President.
The committee concluded there was no desire from any party for a constitutional amendment, with all groups emphasizing the need for a presidential election to be held on time.
The committee also said Cardinal Beshara Rai hailed Berri’s role and efforts in creating the right atmosphere to help electing the next president.
Aoun comes first in [presidential] polls
Although the Lebanese Forces announced Friday the candidacy of Samir Geagea, As-Safir said two polls held separately showed that Geagea’s rival, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, is the preferred candidate.
The first poll was commissioned by the Maronite patriarchy and it showed Aoun advancing over other presidential candidates among the Christian community.
The second poll, jointly conducted by ARA Research & Consultancy and As-Safir and scheduled to be published next week, said that Aoun came first while MP Suleiman Frangieh, who heads the Marada Movement, came second.
Geagea and Former Minister Ziyad Baroud tied for third in the poll.
Security plan to the Bekaa
The Al-Mustaqbal reported that a security plan similar to the one that went into effect in Tripoli earlier this week would be launched in east Lebanon by the beginning of next week.
The newspaper quoted high ranking security sources as saying that forces from various security agencies are expected to begin the required field measures without any “political” obstacles.
The brief abduction of the citizen Ibraim Shiha in the Bekaa Friday helped push the decision to launch the security measures in east Lebanon.
The plan, the sources said, includes pursuing people wanted by the Lebanese authorities and arresting them.
The paper estimated that some 70 to 80 prominent gangsters known for thefts, kidnappings and attacks against the Army remain at large.
The Bekaa security plan would extend from Brital to Dar al-Wasia and would include Hermel.

Conciliatory Geagea enters race for president
April 05, 2014/By Kareem Shaheen/The Daily Star
MAARAB, Lebanon: The Lebanese Forces nominated its leader Samir Geagea to run for the presidency Friday, in the opening salvo of what is set to be a contentious race. The announcement came after a one-hour extraordinary meeting of the LF’s leadership in Geagea’s leafy mountain fortress-like residence at Maarab, north of Beirut. “The executive committee of the Lebanese Forces decided unanimously to nominate the party’s leader Samir Geagea for the Lebanese presidential elections,” LF MP George Adwan announced at a news conference after the meeting. Geagea, whose followers refer to him as “Al-Hakim,” a word that means both ‘the doctor’ and ‘the wise one,’ is the first political heavyweight to announce his candidacy. In a speech before the vote, Geagea said that Lebanon was at a crossroads after the “continuous deterioration” of its security and economy.
“Lebanon’s image abroad was hit and confidence in it has been shaken,” Geagea said, addressing dozens of party cadres, MPs and officials. “Lebanon’s borders are no longer clear due to its widespread penetration by armed groups coming and going to fight in Syria,” he added. “The state’s sovereignty has been widely violated by illegitimate arms in the interior.”
Lebanon has witnessed a spate of security incidents, clashes and attacks linked to the Syrian war. Radical groups that have claimed responsibility for the attacks targeting areas associated with Hezbollah often cite the party’s intervention in Syria as the grounds for their operations. The LF sought to portray Geagea’s candidacy as a radical step needed to “shock” the country toward recovery. The party also said that Lebanon needed a strong president with a clear position on the key issues facing the country, rather than a bland consensus choice selected by foreign patrons. Adwan said that previous presidents were often chosen by foreign leaders, were not independent, or lacked “color, smell and opinion.” “The nomination of Dr. Geagea is to break this model and to say that the time has come for the Lebanese to choose a president made in Lebanon who has clear opinions,” he said.
Geagea’s persistent and vocal criticism of Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria raises questions about his ability to garner enough support from across the aisle to propel him to the presidency. His announcement also pre-empted the March 14 political bloc’s deliberations on who to back in the presidential race. President Michel Sleiman’s six-year term ends on May 25. The two-month constitutional period in which Parliament must convene and elect a new president started last month. Geagea, 62, is a staunch critic of Hezbollah, Iran and the Syrian regime, and is also a key pillar of the Western-backed March 14 coalition. He hails from the north Lebanon village of Bsharri, and became the head of the Lebanese Forces in 1986, when the group was a militia. He was arrested in 1994 over his suspected involvement in a bomb attack on the Our Lady of Salvation Church the same year.
He was also sentenced to life imprisonment over his alleged involvement in the assassination of Prime Minister Rashid Karami in June 1987 and was not released until July 2005, when Parliament passed an amnesty law.
Karami’s nephew, former minister Faisal Karami, called Geagea’s nomination a “black day” for Lebanon that showed what he described as the country’s “moral decline.”
LF MP Fadi Karam hit back at Karami, claiming he sought to relive the “black days” of Lebanon’s history and condemning his support for the Syrian regime. Geagea refused to share power with Hezbollah in February in Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s “national interest government” due to the party’s involvement in Syria. But in a sign of a softer tone toward his rivals, Geagea refrained from naming Hezbollah in his opening speech, and described as a “positive step” the statement by his potential rival, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, who said he would not run if Geagea was nominated for the presidency. He also praised Hezbollah Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mohammad Fneish after a statement by the latter saying it was Geagea’s right to run for presidency.“When Hezbollah takes the decision to abide by the Constitution and the laws and build the state, the LF and its leader will meet with them and join hands to build the state,” Adwan told reporters. But responding to skepticism from reporters who questioned whether Geagea coordinated his announcement with the rest of the March 14 bloc, the LF expressed confidence that their allies would back Geagea.
Adwan said that March 14 leaders had long been aware of Geagea’s candidacy and that he had unrelentingly championed the alliance’s principles. “It is natural that he would be nominated on behalf of March 14,” Adwan said.
In the first reaction by a March 14 official, Deputy Speaker Farid Makari hailed the nomination of Geagea, describing his chances of winning the support of the rest of the March 14 coalition as “very high.” Speaking from Parliament, he said: “Geagea is certainly a key figure in March 14 and he has all our respect and love.” But in an indication that Geagea will face additional hurdles before securing the bloc’s nomination, Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb hinted in a TV interview that he may also run for the post. In an appearance on LBC, Harb said that if he were to run for presidency it would be on a platform of “rebuilding Lebanon,” but insisted that the March 14 alliance should only nominate one candidate.Earlier in the day, Future MP Ahmad Fatfat also said the bloc had not yet decided on its nominee. Salam called for a “made in Lebanon” president, saying in an interview that his government would work to create the “right atmosphere” for the presidential election to be held. “I hope the next president will be purely Lebanese-made as was the national interest Cabinet,” Salam said in an interview with General Security magazine that is set to be published Saturday. “All regional and international forces that affect Lebanese affairs support electing a new president,” he said, adding that the election would create political stability. “We are looking forward to this constitutional deadline and we do not want any vacuum in the presidency,” he said.

Hezbollah sets conditions for Dialogue
April 05, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Hezbollah's deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem said Saturday his party supports the National Dialogue under the right conditions, suggesting that other parties should acknowledge certain basic principles before talks start. “We were the first to respond to the Dialogue over the defense strategy and we know that the defense strategy talks about the resistance,” Qassem said during a party ceremony. “Do you think that we are afraid of discussing [the defense strategy] because Hezbollah has arms? On the contrary, through dialogue, we can fix the resistance’s role in the service and for the liberation of Lebanon, and in cooperating with the Lebanese Army in the right way,” he said. “We are not against the Dialogue, and the Dialogue of course has its conditions; there should be the right prelude for any bilateral relations and the right goals,” Qassem added. Hezbollah last month refused to take part in the National Dialogue following criticism by President Michel Sleiman of the party’s involvement in the Syrian war. Qassem called on politicians to seize the current “political opportunity” and acknowledge four basic principles, implying Hezbollah would only join the talks if these conditions were met. The four principles include admission by all parties that Israel is a threat to the country, and that Lebanon is a "country for all" and that no single group can "monopolize" it. Partis should also rule out linking the fate of Lebanon to a regional crisis, he said, and should focus on holding the presidential and parliamentary elections within the constitutional period and filling key administrative appointments.

Rifaat Eid, others charged over Tripoli clashes
April 05, 2014 /The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Military Prosecutor charged Saturday 12 people, including Arab Democratic Party official Rifaat Eid, over the clashes in the northern city of Tripoli, judicial sources told The Daily Star. Judge Saqr Saqr charged Eid, the ADP’s politburo chief, and the eleven others, of belonging to an armed terror organization and carrying out terrorist acts in Tripoli, the sources said. Charges included provoking strife and taking part in fighting in the Tripoli neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen. Only one of the twelve suspects is in custody while the others remain at large, the sources added. The Army launched earlier this week a security plan aiming at restoring stability to the city plagued by intermittent battles linked to the Syrian crisis, apprehending dozens of wanted suspects. ADP sources dismissed earlier reports that Eid fled the country to avoid arrest, but the ADP official's whereabouts remain unkown. Tripoli has witnessed nearly twenty rounds of violence between the Sunni-dominated Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood and the Jabal Mohsen district populated mostly by Alawites, leaving hundreds of casualties and scores wounded over the past three years.

Syrian ambassador denies execution of Lebanese captives

April 05, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdel-Karim Ali Friday dismissed reports that Lebanese prisoners who were kidnapped during the Civil War were still being held in Syria, suggesting that questions about the allegations would only be settled by “fortune tellers.”Asked to comment on reports that families and relatives of the alleged Lebanese prisoners had proof that their loved ones were in Syrian jails, Ali said: “Probably, fortune tellers can have the answer.”He also scoffed at leaked documents claiming that hundreds of Lebanese who were held in Syrian prisons had been executed. “This talk is ridiculous. It is untrue and baseless in the first place,” he said. Ali spoke to reporters after meeting Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil to discuss the plight of Syrian refugees, a day after the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees registered the millionth refugee in Lebanon. An estimated 600 Lebanese were kidnapped during the 1975-90 Civil War and are believed to be held in Syrian prisons. Syria’s army was present in Lebanon from 1976 to 2005. The families of the prisoners have demonstrated and staged sit-ins in Downtown Beirut in the past, demanding that the government work with the Syrian authorities to determine the fate of their loved ones.
A nongovernmental organization, Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile, has been formed to follow up the case of Lebanese detainees in Syria. The Syrian regime has long denied holding Lebanese prisoners, after releasing a number of detainees in the past. Ali said Bassil raised with him the issue of Lebanese detainees in Syria. “This question has been previously repeated and the Syrian government responded that Syria had cooperated with the Lebanese government and Lebanese national leaders, including General Michel Aoun and all the delegations that visited Syria,” Ali said. “ Syria has been clear ... and does not keep secrets on this issue.”He claimed that some Lebanese who went missing during the Civil War had been killed by groups in Lebanon, though he did not identify them.

GCC Opposes New Rent Law, Calls for Further Discussions

Naharnet Newsdesk 05 April 2014/The General Labor Confederation slammed on Saturday the a draft-law endorsed by the parliament regarding the renting fees, calling on President Michel Suleiman to refer it back to the Joint Parliamentary Committees for further discussions. “Citizens have the right to have a guaranteed access to housing,” the GCC said after a meeting at its headquarters. Head of the GCC Ghassan Ghosn urged, in a statement following the meeting, Suleiman to refer the endorsed draft-law back to the parliament's joint committees. He also called for the formation of a national committee comprised of tenants, owners, senior legal, economic and social officials to establish a comprehensive national housing policy. The GCC also called on tenants to participate in a national meeting that will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday to establish a plan to guarantee their rights. On Tuesday, the parliament passed a controversial draft-law regarding rents, which has been previously opposed by Inhabitants, who argue that many won't be able to afford it, prompting them to leave their homes. The new law stipulates an increase in rents over six-year period until they reach 5% of their current value. The old rent law pertains rent contracts carried out before 1993.

Four Soldiers Wounded in Gunbattles with Chamas Family in Hermel
Naharnet Newsdesk 05 April 2014/Four soldiers were injured in a gunbattle that erupted with men from the Chamas family in the eastern Bekaa town of Hermel. According to Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) four soldiers were injured at dawn in an exchange of fire with men from the Chamas family. The incident occurred after an army patrol detained a member of the family. Unknown assailants had also tossed two hand grenades at the Hermel police station, causing material damage. The Lebanese army will enforce in the upcoming hours a security plan in the eastern Bekaa valley to end violence following the successful implementation of the plan in the northern city of Tripoli. The endeavors come after the Bekaa town of Baalbek has witnessed a series of kidnappings for ransom and car robbery over the past year. Security forces kicked off on Tuesday the security plan in Tripoli, seizing arms depots and detaining wanted suspects, who are involved in security chaos in the area. Last week, the cabinet tasked the army and security forces with seizing stockpiled arms and controlling the security situation in Tripoli and the eastern Bekaa Valley in areas bordering Syria. The plan took into consideration the recommendations of the Higher Defense Council.

Woman Returns Home after Tripoli Kidnap Ordeal
Naharnet Newsdesk 05 April 2014/A woman, who was abducted in the northern city of Tripoli, was released on Saturday in unknown circumstances. State-run National News Agency reported that 43-year-old Sawsan Abdul Haq, who hails from the town of Hayzouq in the northern region of Akkar and been kidnapped on Friday while en route to Tripoli, was transferred to the Internal Security Forces Intelligence Bureau in the northern city.
Abdul Haq was on her way to the al-Rahma Dispensary in the neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh in Tripoli when she was kidnnaped by unknown assailants. The abductors have reportedly demanded a ransom in exchange for her release, however, it wasn't clear if any money was paid. The incident comes following a security plan that kicked off on Tuesday the security plan in Tripoli, seizing arms depots and detaining wanted suspects, who are involved in security chaos in the area, in an attempt to restore calm in the city. Tripoli witnesses frequent gunbattles between two of the impoverished neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh, which is dominated by Sunnis who support Syrian rebels, and Jabal Mohsen, which is dominated by Alawites, who share the same sect as Syrian President Bashar Assad..


23 Killed in Egypt Tribal Fighting over Woman
Naharnet Newsdesk 05 April 2014/At least 23 people have been killed in tribal clashes in Egypt's southern Aswan province after a man from one group sexually accosted a woman from another, officials said Saturday.
Tribal vendettas are common in the poor, rural south, but the violence that first erupted on Friday is the worst in recent memory, police said. Longstanding tensions between Bani Hilal tribesmen and the Nubian Dabudiya family emerged after the woman was accosted on Thursday, the interior ministry said. The health ministry said 20 were killed in renewed fighting on Saturday, a day after a failed reconciliation meeting between the two sides ended in a gun battle that killed three. Security officials has earlier said the meeting took place on Thursday. Police said the clashes had subsided by the afternoon after they sent in reinforcements to quell the unrest. Police began to reassert themselves across the country only recently, after a breakdown in law and order following a 2011 uprising that overthrew strongman Hosni Mubarak.
SourceAgence France


Two Italian Priests, Canadian Nun Kidnapped in Cameroon
Naharnet Newsdesk 05 April 2014/Suspected Boko Haram gunmen seized two Italian priests and a Canadian nun in northern Cameroon overnight Saturday, in the latest kidnapping of Westerners in the remote, insurgency-wracked corner of west Africa. The attack occurred overnight in the small parish of Tchere, which lies about 40 miles (60 kilometers) from the corner of northern Nigeria that serves as a base for the Islamist Boko Haram group.
A group of armed men pulled up at the parish shortly before midnight, according to Henri Djonyang, the region's head vicar, information that was confirmed by police. The gunmen ransacked the parish before seizing the priests and nun, according to news reports. The priests were identified as Giampaolo Marta and Gianantonio Allegri and the nun as Gilberte Bussier. One of the two priests taken on Friday night had been in Cameroon for more than six years while the second had arrived around a year ago, the Ansa media agency reported. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Djonyang pointed the finger of blame at Boko Haram, who have carried out several kidnappings in the region over the past year.
"They are the ones who did it," he said.
- Latest Westerners seized -
Kidnappings of Westerners have become common in the remote and sparsely populated region, where borders between countries are porous. In November 2013, French Catholic priest Georges Vandenbeusch was seized by heavily armed men who burst into his parish at night and reportedly took him to neighboring Nigeria in an attack claimed by Boko Haram. He was released seven weeks later, touching down in Paris on January 1.
Vandenbeusch was abducted from his home near the town of Koza in northern Cameroon, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the Nigerian border. He was seized by about 15 people who had first gone to the nuns' house, apparently to look for money, giving him time to warn the embassy. In February 2013, a Frenchman employed by gas group Suez was kidnapped in the same area together with his wife, their four children and his brother, while visiting a national park. They were taken to neighboring Nigeria and also held by Boko Haram, before being released in April. France and other European countries have often been accused of paying ransoms for hostages, claims the governments have repeatedly denied. The insurgency by Boko Haram, a group aiming to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria, has killed thousands since 2009. Abuja in February sealed a portion of its border with Cameroon to block the movement of insurgents and other criminal groups. Nigeria claims that the Islamists have set up bases in sparsely populated areas of its northeastern neighbors -- Cameroon, Chad and Niger -- and flee across the border after staging attacks to avoid military pursuit. Source/Agence France Presse.

Afghans Vote in Presidential Election as U.S. Troops Exit
Naharnet Newsdesk 05 April 2014/Afghan voters turned out in large numbers Saturday, braving Taliban threats, to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai in the country's first democratic transfer of power as U.S.-led forces wind down their 13-year war. Long queues formed outside polling stations in cities across the country, despite cold, wet weather, as voters cast their ballots at around 6,000 centers under tight security. The Taliban have rejected the election as a foreign plot and urged their fighters to target polling staff, voters and security forces, but there were no major attacks reported in the early hours of voting. The head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani told Agence France Presse turnout was better than expected, without giving figures, but lower in rural districts than cities. "We have had reports of ballot papers running low in some areas and have ordered regional and provincial centers to supply extra material," he said. In Kabul, hit by a series of deadly attacks during the election campaign, hundreds of people lined up in the open air to vote despite the insurgents' promise of violence. "I'm not afraid of Taliban threats, we will die one day anyway. I want my vote to be a slap in the face of the Taliban," housewife Laila Neyazi, 48, told AFP. Poll security was a major concern following the attacks in Kabul, most recently a suicide bombing on Wednesday that killed six police officers.
- One dead, two wounded -
But a fatal blast was reported in Logar province, south of Kabul, where one person was killed and two wounded according to Mohammad Agha district chief Abdul Hameed Hamid. IEC chief Nuristani said attacks or fear of violence had forced 211 of a total 6,423 voting centers to remain closed. The day before the poll Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus was shot dead by a police commander in eastern Khost province.
She was the third journalist working for international media to be killed during the election campaign, after Swedish journalist Nils Horner and Sardar Ahmad of Agence France-Presse. Interior Minister Omar Daudzai said all 400,000 of Afghanistan's police, army and intelligence services were being deployed to ensure security around the country. Afghans have taken over responsibility for security from U.S.-led forces and this year the last of the NATO coalition's 51,000 combat troops will pull out, leaving local forces to battle the resilient Taliban insurgency without their help. In the western city of Herat, a queue of several hundred people waited to vote at one polling station, while in Jalalabad in the east, voters stood patiently outside a mosque. Voters also lined up in Kandahar city, the southern heartland of the Taliban, with some women among the crowd in contrast to the 2009 election when turnout was very low due to poor security. The country's third presidential election brings an end to 13 years of rule by Karzai, who has held power since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.
- No clear favorite -
Around 13.5 million people are eligible to vote from an estimated total population of 28 million. Polls were due to close at 4:00 pm (1130 GMT) but the IEC extended voting by an hour during the day. As well as the first round of the presidential election, voters will also cast ballots for provincial councils. The front-runners to succeed Karzai are former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul, Abdullah Abdullah -- runner up in the 2009 election -- and former World Bank academic Ashraf Ghani. There is no clear favorite and if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round -- preliminary results for which will be announced on April 24 -- a run-off is scheduled for late May. Massive fraud and widespread violence marred Karzai's re-election in 2009 and a disputed result this time would add to the challenges facing the new president. Whoever emerges victorious must lead the fight against the Taliban without the help of more NATO troops, and also strengthen an economy reliant on declining aid money. The election may offer a chance for Afghanistan to improve relations with the United States, its principal donor, after the mercurial Karzai years.Relations fell to a new low late last year when Karzai refused to sign a security agreement that would allow the U.S. to keep around 10,000 troops in Afghanistan to train local forces and hunt al-Qaida. Source/Agence France Presse.


One million Syrians take refuge in Lebanon
Saturday, 5 April 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiyia
Will the Lebanese public feel safe if the Syrian opposition is crushed? Will Lebanon be in a better situation if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is toppled? Could the Syrian coastline on the Mediterranean, a melting pot of races and sects, become a neutral region in order to contain the religious turmoil between Sunnis, Alawites and Christians, and could this stop the spread of such turmoil?
We are talking here about the effects of the problem, and not the sickness itself. The heart of the disease is in Damascus and if no political or military solution is reached, the circle of fire will expand. The war is spreading in all directions, to Kassab the Armenian town, to mountains inhabited by the ethnic Turkmen people, to the Alawite suburbs of Lattakia and the borders with Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. The war is not limted to Aleppo or Deir Ezzor any more.
The war in Syria is the source of pain for 20 million Syrians and is responsible for all the nightmares of its neighbors. This systemic internal and external collapse will not stop unless the international community becomes convinced that the policy of neglect (the ostrich-like attitude of sticking one’s head in the ground) is more dangerous than direct intervention.
The ramifications
Can anyone imagine the ramifications of one million Syrians seeking refuge in Lebanon? According to the U.N., this is how many refugees have fled the crisis for Lebanon. Has the Syrian crisis been reduced to an issue only dealt with by relief agencies and welfare associations?
Has the Syrian crisis been reduced to an issue only dealt with by relief agencies and welfare associations?
Some consider the refugee issue to be a recurrent byproduct of all wars, and that it is primarily an economic and humanitarian issue. This could be right to a certain extent, but it’s much bigger than that. Lebanon is at the doors of hell, and is very likely to be devastated by its fire. One million Syrian refugees is a problem in itself. However, the security and political repercussions are prone to become larger with time.
The main difference between the Afghan refugees in Pakistan, for example, and the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, is the ratio when compared to the indigenous population. There are 1.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, but they hardly represent a small fraction compared to the 180 million Pakistanis. However, one million Syrians in a small country of five million, such as Lebanon, is more worrisome as it is difficult to deal with them politically, even if the economic problems are fixed.
The only solution is in Damascus, by imposing the peaceful solution which was initiated at the Geneva I conference.
That solution includes the present leadership stepping down, the formation of a governing entity and gathering different Syrian factions under an international umbrella. The other alternative is to support the moderate opposition, represented by the Free Syrian Army, as it gathers all the Syrian groups - from all religions and ethnicities - until it marches forward and conquers the capital.
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on March 5, 2014.

Lebanon’s youth fight for future free from domestic violence
Saturday, 5 April 2014
Yara al-Wazir/Al Arabiyia
The Lebanese parliament disagrees on many things, but this week it proved that there’s one thing people from all walks of life need, regardless of their political and economic background: a solid law that protects women from domestic abuse. It also proved that if the call is made by enough people, and if their future as politicians is threatened by young people, they’ll do what is right.
After months of protests, sparked by the vicious reality of one death per month at the hands of domestic abusers, parliament finally pulled it together ad joined the 21st century by deciding to protect women against domestic abuse. Although there aren’t solid statistics on the rates of domestic abuse, Bader el-Deen, a lawyer focussing on the issue in Lebanon, estimates that about 50 percent of Lebanese women have been victims of this gruesome act. A call by tomorrow’s generation answered
Although pop-culture has made it seem that young people are at ease with issues of domestic violence, the protests that lead to this bill being debated once again in parliament were brought on by young people. A joint effort by KAFAA (enough), an NGO that protects abused women from their abusers, and a group of young campaigners at the American University of Beirut (AUB) organised a joint protest on World Women’s Day in March. Over 3000 people, ranging from young students to victims of abuse, attended the protest, threatening to pull their vote from lawmakers who don’t vote for the bill. Protesters even took to Twitter, using the hashtag ‘#NoLawNoVote’ to point out their abstinence from voting for politicians in the future if they didn’t push for this law through.
In an almost unprecedented move, lawmakers responded in a shockingly quick manner, passing the law less than a month since the protests.
Rape is rape – the act of coercion is a violation of the body’s sanctity, and that in itself is illegal, regardless of whether the woman is married to the man or not
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need the law to tell men that beating someone’s mother, daughter or sister is illegal. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t nurture a culture that allows these cases to go unreported; instead, we’d nurture a culture that teaches basic respect for a woman’s sanctity and body. But this isn’t an ideal world, and although this law is much needed and the fact that it passed is a major achievement, the law isn’t ideal either.
Marital rape is still rape, why isn’t it illegal?
The bill passed disregards one of the major culprits of domestic abuse: marital rape.
Rape is rape – the act of coercion is a violation of the body’s sanctity, and that in itself is illegal, regardless of whether the woman is married to the man or not. A legal document should not have any bearing on what happens inside the bedroom.
The reasons behind not including a specific clause that addresses marital rape are complex and are wrapped in a religious blanket that insinuates that a woman must obey her husband. However, religious texts do not justify force as a means to achieve this need. Islamic religious texts refer to a man “going to bed angry” – thus, if it was justifiable by religion, why would one go to bed angry? Regardless of whether or not marital rape is justified by religion, Lebanese law is not based on a specific religion – even when it comes to marriage, May 2013 saw the countries first civil marriage ceremony conducted, replacing the traditional religious ceremony. So what gives?
Moving forward
The superiority complex suffered plagues our society – the mere belief that there is any case where it can be justified that a man lays his hand on a woman to physically or emotionally harm her is outrageous. Likewise, it is outrageous for parliament to pass a law like this and expect no backlash to one of the most fundamental forms of abuse exercised.
Over the past few years, young people have lead many protests and organised many sit-ins. But nothing has had an impact as quickly and as meaningful as the latest efforts. The fact of the matter is, that in this situation, a clear goal was set, the target was simple, achievable, and non-debatable: women need protection. The method was realistic: passing a bill to protect them. Although social and cultural changes haven’t been addressed yet, legally, these women are now protected. The core fundamental values from the organisers of these protests can, and should, be used in the future to emulate social and legal change, both in Lebanon and in neighbouring Arab countries.
Mobilising society to speak up
Like any law, this bill is useless if people don’t make use of it. Sadly, it’s very much a chicken-and-egg situation – laws need to be put in place to protect women, and to make sure that women know they are legally protected and have a way out. However, society must mobilise and empower women to the point where they feel comfortable in coming forward and reporting this abuse. Cultural norms and the stigma associated with abuse must be eradicated.
At the end of the day, women must be reminded that it is not only their lives that are at stake – violence is violence, and by not reporting these crimes, their children and future generations are at risk. If a woman’s son sees his mother being beaten, and her not doing anything about it, then odds are that he will grow up to walk in his father’s shoes.
The key to cultural mobilisation is in a more accepting society, one that listens to the victims, rather than blaming them. There is no situation that justifies ever laying so much as a hurtful word or finger on a woman or child.
Hundreds of women must be thankful that this law has passed, but an amendment regarding marital rape is the next step towards true social justice.