Bible Quotation for today/He will be mocked and insulted and spat upon
Luke 18,31-34/: "Jesus took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.’ But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For April 10/14

DEBKAfile/Assad musters large Syrian-Hizballah-Iraqi force to recover forward Golan position opposite Israel/April 10/14

Iraq’s Bloodied Words/By: Diana Moukalled/Asharq AlAwsat/April 09/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For April 10/14
Lebanese Related News

Lebanese Army Clashes with Bab al-Tabbaneh Gunmen, Raids Arms Depot in Tripoli

U.S. stresses need for free presidential vote
Killer of Soldiers in Akkar Shoots Himself Dead, Accomplice Arrested

Report: Hezbollah facing economic crisis as funding from Iran cut

Lebanese Army detains four, raids warehouse in n. Lebanon

Hezbollah: West resigned to Syria stalemate

Sheikh gunned down in Sidon refugee camp

8 'Dangerous' Syrian Fugitives Detained in Arsal
Rai suggests housing Syrian refugees in Syria

Al-Ahbash Top Ain el-Hilweh Cleric Critically Injured in Assassination Bid
Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk sets broad environment plan
Lebanon: An intifada of sense
Sami Gemayel Urges Vote on New Electoral Law: Solution to Pay Raise in Privatizing Electricity

Salameh Says State Treasury Can't Endure New Wage Scale without Reforms

Jumblat Suggests Sources to Fund Wage Scale, to Make an 'Initiative' toward SCC

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Arab League blames Israel for talks stalemate
Supreme Leader says Iran will not be bullied in nuclear talks
After Israel signals 'deep disappointment,' State Dept. urges to keep Kerry comments in context
Arrests over London Hotel Hammer Attack on UAE Tourists

Austrian Foreign Minister to Travel to Israel, Iran

Kuwait Royal Court Urges Calm over 'Plot' Video 


U.S. stresses need for free presidential vote
April 09, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: A senior U.S. official Tuesday underlined the need for the presidential election to be held on time without any foreign intervention. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Larry Silverman spoke during a hearing in Washington held by the Congress’ Foreign Affairs Committee about Lebanon entitled: “Lebanon: Security challenges and U.S. interests.” Silverman said Lebanon was faced with three key challenges and had dealt with two of them: The Cabinet formation and the issuance of the policy statement. “The Lebanese people expect the political leadership to overcome the third obstacle and elect a president,” he said. He welcomed the formation of a new Cabinet by Prime Minister Tammam Salam, after a year under a caretaker government that did not have the authority to address a multitude of problems. Referring to the upcoming presidential election, Silverman said Washington had made clear to everyone the importance of holding the presidential election on time in “a free and honest manner in conformity with the Constitution without any foreign intervention.” He hoped in this respect that consensus over the Cabinet formation would be applied to the presidential election to ensure “consensus to prevent a vacuum and elect a president.” The presidential race has gained momentum after Lebanon last month entered the two-month constitutional period for Parliament to meet to elect a new head of state. So far, Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea is the only Maronite leader who has announced he would run for the presidency, unleashing what promises to be a fiercely contested presidential battle between the rival March 8 and March 14 parties. President Michel Sleiman’s six-year-term in office expires on May 25. Silverman warned that failure to transfer power to a new president would end the Cabinet’s momentum. “ Lebanon needs a responsible leadership to address its international obligations,” he said. Silverman praised the role of the Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces, particularly the recent security efforts in the northern city of Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley. He said Washington would seek to increase its military aid to modernize the Lebanese Army’s capabilities, namely training and equipment to protect Lebanon’s border with Syria. Silverman reiterated U.S. criticism of Hezbollah’s military involvement in the 3-year-old war in Syria.
Hezbollah has dragged Lebanon into a war defending and strengthening the Assad regime, he said. He added that Hezbollah’s continued involvement in Syria would bring “further fighting, terrorism and instability to Lebanon.” Meanwhile, Geagea met a special envoy from former Prime Minister Saad Hariri with whom he discussed the presidential election.
Geagea’s lengthy meeting with former MP Ghattas Khoury in Maarab Monday night discussed all aspects of the presidential election and stressed the need for the March 14 parties to maintain their unity in this stage in order to ensure the election of their unified candidate to the presidency, according to a statement released by Geagea’s office Tuesday. Geagea reiterated that the worsening political and security situation in Lebanon prompted him to announce his candidacy. “I am a candidate to the presidency. ... I have never sought a post. But the stalemated political, security and economic situation we have witnessed over the past 10 months prompted me to announce my candidacy in an attempt to take the country to a new era of governance dominated by peace, stability and prosperity,” Geagea told a delegation of the Journalists’ Union in Maarab. He ruled out the possibility of the four top Maronite leaders – Geagea, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, former President Amine Gemayel and Zghorta MP Sleiman Frangieh, leader of the Marada Movement – reaching agreement on a unified candidate to the presidency. “I am currently a candidate of the Lebanese Forces Party. I aspire in the next days to be a candidate of the March 14 parties and in the next weeks to be a candidate of all the Lebanese,” Geagea said.

Killer of Soldiers in Akkar Shoots Himself Dead, Accomplice Arrested

Naharnet/The killer of two Lebanese soldiers in an area in the northern district of Akkar committed suicide overnight and another accomplice was caught, the army and the state-run National News Agency said Wednesday. The army said in a communique that Ali Hussein Taleb was found dead after he committed suicide but the military was able to arrest Bara' al-Kik after carrying out several raids in the town of Fnaideq. Taleb is a 30-year-old soldier who deserted from the army three years ago and has long been sought by the security forces. NNA said he shot himself when his uncle and two mayors from Fnaideq approached him to convince him to hand himself over to the authorities. The army said in a communique on Tuesday night that a military vehicle was ambushed by armed men riding a car in the area of al-Qamouaa. An officer and non commissioned officer were killed while another was injured in the shooting, the communique said. The head of the Federation of Municipalities of al-Qaiteh, Abdullah Zakaria, told Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) that Taleb shot himself dead after he was chased by the armed forces until 1:30 am Wednesday. The attack on the army patrol in al-Qamouaa took place around 9:30 pm. Zakaria said that the attacker was drunk when he opened fire on the soldiers. An inquiry was launched to determine

Parliament Endorses Civil Defense Volunteers Employment Law on 'Day of Revolt'
Naharnet/The parliament approved on Wednesday a draft-law on the employment of Civil Defense volunteers, who held a protest as part of a “day of revolt” held by civil servants, teachers and labor unions asking for the approval of a wage hike. The legislature endorsed the draft-law that calls on the volunteers to undergo a state exam. But it canceled an article, which gives compensation to retirees, a move that is likely to stir anger among them. The approval of the draft-law came after the volunteers held a protest at downtown Beirut's Riad Solh Square. “This demand is the minimum that we should ask for so that we live in dignity with our families,” a spokesman at the protest said. As the protest went underway at the square, more than 10 volunteers swam in the sea in Beirut's Ramlet al-Bayda area, claiming they were willing to drownif parliament did not approve their employment. The head of the General Labor Confederation Ghassan Ghosn joined them in their protest at Ramlet al-Bayda.
The protesters have been lately staging sit-ins across Lebanon to pressure lawmakers into meeting their demands. Demonstrators from the Syndicate Coordination Committee, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, held a similar protest in downtown Beirut. “We are teaching students democracy, freedom and dignity through our protests,” the head of the private school teachers association, Nehme Mahfoud, said during a speech at the SCC protest. “We respect the law and we would not cut roads or burn tires,” he said. But he vowed to end the protest after Speaker Nabih Berri urged the SCC not to take escalatory measures pending a solution to the wage hike by Sunday. Head of Public Secondary School Education Teachers Association Hanna Gharib, who had called for a “day of revolution to free the state from squandering and from financial deals,” urged protesters to unify. "Join hands and we will emerge victorious in this battle," he said in a speech.
The decision to hold a general strike and a protest came after the joint parliamentary committees failed again to resolve the dispute on the Value Added Tax in a proposal aimed at securing the funds for the salary scale that was approved by ex-PM Najib Miqati's cabinet in 2012. Deputy Speaker Farid Makari, who chaired the meeting of the committees on Tuesday, said that several articles of the proposal to find revenues for the wage scale were approved. But due to differences on other issues, including VAT, they agreed to continue their talks, Makari added. This prompted the SCC to call for Wednesday's general strike to protest parliament's procrastination. Also Wednesday, long-time tenants demonstrated at Riad Solh square to protest a law approved by the parliament last week.
The head of the long-time tenants association, Nabil al-Arja, said during the protest that the new law aimed at displacing people.

Sami Gemayel Urges Vote on New Electoral Law: Solution to Pay Raise in Privatizing Electricity
Naharnet/Kataeb bloc MP Sami Gemayel called on Wednesday for voting on a new electoral law before electing a news president, considering also that the solution to funding the new wage scale lies in privatizing the electricity sector. "There is an issue that we have to deal with as MPs, and which has been ignored by everyone,” Gemayel remarked at a press conference. "And this issue concerns agreeing on a new electoral law before falling into the same trap again,” he clarified. "We warn everyone that if voting on a new electoral law does not take place before the vote on a new president, we will hence be jeopardizing democracy.” He continued: “We urge Speaker (Nabih) Berri to put all suggested drafts on the parliament's agenda before calling for a session to elect a new president, and this is to assure that we are on schedule and respecting constitutional and legal deadlines.”“And we will then submit our nominations for parliamentary elections based on the law that gathers the majority of support on August 18,” the Kataeb MP added. “We have to agree on a modern electoral law, or else we will hold the polls based on an old one.”Gemayel noted that agreeing on such a law is not a requirement for calling for a parliamentary session. “The constitution stipulates that the electoral law is considered a regular law, and hence it requires the votes of a simple majority,” he pointed out. Separately, the young MP addressed the Syndicate Coordination Committee's “rightful demands” of approving the contentious new wage scale, calling for the privatization of the electricity sector as a solution for funding the pay raise. "If we take a look at the Budget, we can notice that the state spends money on three issues; the public debt, the salaries of public employees and which amount to huge sums, and paying the deficit in the electricity sector which is estimated at two billion dollars,” Gemayel explained.  “We have to deal with Lebanon's electricity problem as this is the only solution if we wanted to act seriously and avoid dragging the country into a huge crisis,” he stressed, calling for the privatization of the electricity sector. He then added that the second solution to the new wage scale's “problem” lies in paying customs fees' equally. He considered that addressing the revenues issue is happening in “a random manner,” rejecting making people “pay for the pay raise through taxation.” “We cannot ask public employees not to accept bribes and to commit to the working hours unless their salaries are sufficient. We are today stressing on their rightful demands and we hope this issue is dealt with responsibly,” he said.


Lebanon: An intifada of sense
April 09, 2014/The Daily Star/Lebanon has weathered a number of political storms in recent months, and the authorities are busy implementing a solution for unrest in the city of Tripoli and eventually the rest of the country, as well as ensuring that an imminent presidential election takes place smoothly. However, the public is hearing about the possibility of a new “intifada” – not over sectarianism or the involvement of certain groups in Syria, but over a long-standing set of wage demands by teachers and government employees. The confrontation playing out on the streets, and on television screens, is a loud one, but the mess could have easily been avoided if politicians busied themselves with the work of government, and not rhetoric and sloganeering. While the executive and legislative branches of government were mired in paralysis over much of last year, the central players could have sat down and acknowledged that the salary scale issue was going to re-emerge when the break was over. They could have sat down and agreed on the outlines of a solution, instead of acting surprised when the inevitable – protests, strikes, threats and ultimatums – returned to daily news bulletins. Political leaders should step up and take responsibility for the socio-economic mess Lebanon finds itself in and decide on a way out, namely tackling the issue of government waste that already exists in various ministries and state institutions. A commitment to fixing part of the bureaucracy, so that teachers and public servants finally receive a pay scale, is one way to proceed. All sides are aware the public is in no position to accept tax hikes and other measures to drum up money for the raise with the huge leaks in the state bureaucracy.

Rai suggests housing Syrian refugees in Syria
April 09, 2014/Reuters
GENEVA: The head of Lebanon's MaroniteChristian Church suggested on Wednesday that Syrian refugees should be housed in camps inside Syria, reflecting growing frustration among Lebanese over the burden imposed on theircountry by their neighbours' war. The United Nations has registered 1 million refugees in Lebanon since the conflict began three years ago, the highest concentration of refugees worldwide. They are housed in homesand local communities rather than refugee camps. Cardinal Beshara Rai, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, told a news conference in Geneva that the presence of so many Syrians represented a huge economic, social, political and security burden for Lebanon. "Why not install some camps for them in Syrian territory where there is security? The area of Syria is 20 times greater than that of Lebanon," he said. "There is plenty of spare space in secure terrority or at least to facilitate the passage of humanitarian aid in no man's land between the borders of Lebanon and Syria."
Ordinary Lebanese had welcomed the Syrians but were now paying a price for doing so, he said. "They take all the work from the Lebanese people and the Lebanese are chased out. It's not possible."
Rai did not elaborate on the suggestion of building camps in Syria or say exactly where they could be built. Many refugees coming to Lebanon fled as Syrian forces and Hezbollah captured territory from rebels close to the border, making it unlikely they would risk returning to areas controlled by those same forces. And while the refugee population has ballooned - not just in Lebanon but also Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, to a total of 2.65 million - even greater numbers are displaced within Syria. The U.N. refugee agency estimates 6.5 million are displaced within the country, and many have been made homeless more than once, as an apparently safe shelter became caught up in new fighting. Hundreds of thousands more have left Syria but not requested international assistance. Many Syrians have requested asylum in rich countries,especially Sweden and Germany, but the numbers gaining asylum or being resettled for humanitarian reasons are a tiny fraction of the total. Despite a huge humanitarian appeal and universal calls for an end to the violence, the U.N. has too little cash to feed Syrians in need and has begun cutting their rations.


Hezbollah: West resigned to Syria stalemate
April 09, 2014/By Samia Nakhoul, Laila Bassam/Reuters
BEIRUT: Bashar Assad's Lebanese ally Hezbollah said his Western foes must now accept he will go on ruling Syria after fighting rebels to a standstill - a "reality" to which his foreign enemies seem increasingly resigned. Echoing recent bullish talk coming out of Damascus, Sheikh Naim Qassem, deputy leader of the Iranian-backed Shi'ite militia which is supporting Assad in combat, told Reuters that the president retained popular support among many of Syria's diverse religious communities and would shortly be re-elected. "There is a practical Syrian reality that the West should deal with - not with its wishes and dreams, which proved to be false," Qassem said during a meeting with Reuters journalists at a Hezbollah office in the group's southern Beirut stronghold. He said the United States and its Western allies were indisarray and lacked a coherent policy on Syria - reflecting the quandary that Western officials acknowledge they face since the pro-democracy protests they supported in 2011 became a war that has drawn al-Qaeda and other militants to the rebel cause. Syria's fractious opposition - made up of guerrillas inside the country and a largely impotent political coalition in exile- had, he said, proved incapable of providing an alternative to four decades of rule by Assad and his late father before him. "This is why the option is clear. Either to have an understanding with Assad, to reach a result, or to keep the crisis open with President Assad having the upper hand in running the country," said the bearded and turbaned cleric. Qassem's comments follow an account from another Assad ally, Russian former prime minister Sergei Stepashin, who said after meeting him last week that the Syrian leader felt secure and expected heavy fighting to end this year. Officials said this week that preparations would begin this month for the presidential election - a move that seems to reflect a degree of optimism in the capital and which may well end with Assad claiming a popular mandate that he would use to resist U.N.-backed efforts to negotiate a transition of power. Hezbollah Chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah also said this week that Assad is no longer at risk and that military gains mean the danger of Syria fragmenting was also receding.
It is a view of Assad that - quietly - seems to be gaining ground in Western capitals. Calling it bad news for Syrians, the French foreign ministry said this week: "Maybe he will be the sole survivor of this policy of mass crimes". France, which last year was preparing to join U.S. military action that was eventually aborted, now rules out force and called the stalled talks on "transition" the "only plan" - a view U.S. officials say is shared in Washington, notably among military chiefs who see Assad as preferable to sectarian chaos.
While rebels do not admit defeat, leaders like Badr Jamous of the Syrian National Coalition accept that without foreign intervention "this stalemate will go on". A U.S. official, asked about a deadlock that would leave Assad in control of much of Syria, conceded: "This has become a drawn-out conflict."Assad, 48, has weathered an armed insurgency which started with protests in 2011 and descended into a civil war that has sucked in regional powers, including Iran and Hezbollah who back the Alawite president and Sunni states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar behind the rebels.
With Russia blocking a U.N. mandate, and voters showing no appetite for war after losses in Afghanistan and Iraq, Western governments have held back from the kind of military engagement that could have toppled the well-armed Syrian leader. More than 150,000 people have been killed in three years, as Assad has lost the oil-producing and agricultural east and much of the north, including parts of Syria's largest city, Aleppo. But he did not suffer the fate of other autocrats in the Arab Spring, whether the presidents of Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen or Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader toppled and killed by rebels who rode into Tripoli under cover of Western air power. Instead, he has clawed back control near Damascus, where a year ago rebels hoped for a decisive assault, and the centre of the country which links the capital to the coastal stronghold of Assad's Alawite minority. His troops, backed by Hezbollah fighters, took another key town on Wednesday.
Though as much as half the country is being fought over, Assad could hope to hold at least a roughly south western half, including most of the built-up heartlands near the coast, and more than half of the prewar population of 23 million. This leaves Western powers reflecting on a perceived loss of influence in the Middle East. Many now see a new strategy of "containing" Assad - and the fallout from a bitter war that hascreated millions of refugees and legions of hardened guerrillas. "The U.S. has a stated policy of regime change, but it has never devoted the resources to effect that change," said Andrew Exum, a former U.S. official who worked on Middle East issues at the Pentagon. "The de facto U.S. strategy of containment is very well suited for what is likely to be a very long war."
Qassem said the United States, which backed away from military action in September after blaming Assad for gassing civilians, was hamstrung by fears over the dominance in rebel ranks of al-Qaeda's Syrian branch, the Nusra Front, and another group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). "America is in a state of confusion. On the one hand it does not want the regime to stay and on the other it cannot control the opposition which is represented by ISIL and Nusra," he said. "This is why the latest American position was to leave the situation in Syria in a state of attrition." President Barack Obama said last month that the United States had reached "limits" after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and questioned whether years of military engagement in Syria would produce a better outcome there. Qassem said: "I expect that the stalemate will continue in the Syrian crisis because of the lack of an international and regional decision to facilitate a political solution." U.N.-mediated talks at Geneva failed in February to bridge agulf between Assad's government and opponents who insist that Assad must make way for a government of national unity. Western and regional powers who support the Syrian opposition say it would be a "parody of democracy" to hold an election in the midst of a conflict which has displaced more than 9 million people and divided the country across frontlines. Syria's electoral law effectively rules out participation by opponents who have fled the country in fear of Assad's police-candidates must have lived in Syria continuously for 10 years. "My conviction is that Assad will run and will win because he has popular support in Syria from all the sects - Sunnis and secularists," Qassem said. "I believe the election will takeplace on its due date and Assad will run and win decisively." Fear of hardline Islamists has undermined support for some rebels even among the 75 percent Sunni majority, and bolstered support for Assad among his fellow Alawites, and Christians. Qassem said it was too soon to speak of Hezbollah pulling out of Syria, despite an increase in Sunni-Shiite tensions within Lebanon caused by the intervention across the border of a movement that is Lebanon's most accomplished military force and also holds cabinet seats in the government in Beirut. "Until now we consider our presence in Syria necessary and fundamental," Qassem said. "But when circumstances change, this will be a military and political matter that requires a new assessment. "But if the situation stays as is and the circumstances are similar, we will remain where we should be".


Report: Hezbollah facing economic crisis as funding from Iran cut

By YASSER OKBI04/09/2014/J.Post
A mix of foreign efforts to limit funding to organization, as well as Hezbollah's continued involvement in Syria, have hurt group financially. Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah addresses supporters in Beirut
Hezbollah is facing an economic crisis stemming from its involvement in the Syrian civil war, and budget cuts in Iran as a result of new president Hassan Rouhani's austerity policies, Lebanese sources say.
According to a report from the London paper Asharq Al-Awsat, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei continues to fund Hezbollah through his separate budget, though the Iranian president stopped the government's flow of money to Hezbollah five months ago during the reorganization of Tehran's Foreign Ministry. Adding to Hezbollah's problems is close monitoring of funding sources by American and European countries, the report stated. For example, on Tuesday, Germany outlawed the Berlin-based fundraising group Orphaned Children Project-Lebanon because it was found to be transfering money to Hezbollah. The sources in Lebanon said that "there are continuing American-European efforts to cut off the organization's funding."Lebanese media also reported that European intelligence agencies have recently been cooperating in efforts to prevent the transfer of funds to Hezbollah, especially from South American and African countries. This European effort comes after several charity organizations in Europe were found to be attempting to transfer funds to the Shi'ite organization. Money transfer freezes have been placed on individual Lebanese citizens who live in Europe as well, since they have been marked as "potential routes" for transferring money to Hezbollah.


Army Clashes with Bab al-Tabbaneh Gunmen, Raids Arms Depot in Tripoli
Naharnet /The army clashed with a number of gunmen on Wednesday evening as it carried out raids in the Tripoli neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh, after arresting three people and raiding an arms and explosives depot during the day. “Clashes erupted between the army and gunmen in Bab al-Tabbaneh amid raids in Khan al-Askar," OTV reported.
Several other TV networks said gunfire was heard in the area as al-Jadeed said “fighting broke out between the army and gunmen in Syria Street and behind al-Rashwani Mosque in Tripoli's Bab al-Tabbaneh.” Earlier on Wednesday, the army announced the arrest of a number of suspects in Tripoli linked to the various security incidents that have taken place in the northern city. It said in a statement that it raided a weapons storehouse in the city, arresting its owner S.Z. Army units confiscated various weapons, ammunition, and rockets at the storehouse, as well as material used to manufacture explosives as part of the ongoing security plan being implemented in the city. In addition, the army had arrested a suspect, R.A., in the al-Baraniyeh area in the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood in the northern city.
He is held on charges of opening fire at an army patrol. Troops also arrested A.A. and A.M. in Tripoli's al-Qobbeh neighborhood on charges of carrying out sectarian attacks, said the Army communique. They also seized a number of ammunition at A.M.'s residence. The army kicked off its security plan in Tripoli last week. It is aimed at putting an end to the rounds of clashes between the rival impoverished neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen. Tensions between the two districts go back decades but have been exacerbated by the war in Syria, where Alawite President Bashar Assad faces Sunni rebels seeking to topple him. Successive rounds of violence between the neighborhoods have killed dozens of people and brought parts of the city to a standstill.
The implementation of the security plan was faced with protests and attacks on Tuesday where angry men tossed several hand grenades in al-Baraniyeh as residents shortly blocked the roads of al-Dabagha and wheat market with burning tires.The grenade attack and the road closure were aimed at stopping the army from carrying out raids to arrest suspects involved in dozens of clashes that the city had witnessed in the past years.

Al-Ahbash Top Ain el-Hilweh Cleric Critically Injured in Assassination Bid
Naharnet/An unknown gunman on Wednesday tried to assassinate the top official of the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects -- also known as al-Ahbash -- in the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon. After several TV stations said Sheikh Orsan Suleiman died of his wounds after he was shot in Ain el-Hilweh, the hospital that he was rushed to denied the reports, saying he was alive but in a "very critical condition." Al-Jadeed television said he was undergoing "a critical surgery for his head wounds."MTV said Suleiman is the top official of al-Ahbash in Ain el-Hilweh. LBCI television said a masked gunman opened fire at the cleric on the road of the Darb al-Seem Cemetery in the camp. Gunshots were fired in the air in Ain el-Hilweh in the wake of the assassination bid, al-Jadeed TV reported. The development comes after eight people were killed and ten others were wounded on Monday in fierce clashes at the nearby Mieh Mieh Palestinian refugee camp.
The armed clash erupted between supporters of Jamal Suleiman's Ansar Ullah group, a close ally to Hizbullah, and others loyal to Ahmed Rashid's the Return Martyrs' Brigades.

8 'Dangerous' Syrian Fugitives Detained in Arsal
Naharnet/The army arrested on Wednesday evening “one of the most dangerous fugitives,” along with seven others, in the northeastern town of Arsal. "The army detained eight Syrian nationals in Arsal, including one of the most dangerous and infamous fugitives,” LBCI television reported. OTV said the “dangerous” fugitive's name is Mohammed Qassem. But later, al-Jadeed television noted that all detainees were “very dangerous.” "The army also confiscated a Renault Rapid car and weapons in the operation,” al-Jadeed revealed, while LBCI added that computers and important files were also seized.
On March 27, fugitive Sami Ahmed al-Atrash died in hospital after he was critically wounded in an exchange of gunfire with an army patrol that raided his house also in Arsal.
The arrests come as security forces are implementing a security plan that was adopted by the cabinet to restore security and stability in the northern city of Tripoli and the Bekaa. The plan has resulted so far in the arrest of over 40 fugitives. Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq vowed last week to extend the implementation of the security plan to include the northern Bekaa region and Beirut.

Jumblat Suggests Sources to Fund Wage Scale, to Make an 'Initiative' toward SCC
Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat on Wednesday suggested several sources that can be used to finance the stalled new wage scale, revealing that the PSP will soon make an "initiative" toward the Syndicate Coordination Committee, which has been championing the demands. “I propose a series of ideas that perhaps can contribute to finding serious and real solutions and putting an end to the political and populist overbidding and to attempts to persuade the working class with delusional exits despite its rightful and legitimate demands,” said Jumblat in a statement.
He suggested curbing tax evasion; ending “corruption and squandering” at the Customs department; controlling unjustified expenses at the ministries of health and education; and making use of the “48,000 state-owned real estates.” Jumblat proposed “taking drastic decisions in the sectors of energy and electricity,” approving the draft law on illegal seaside properties and imposing taxes on major real estate deals. He also suggested closing Lebanese embassies in countries that do not contain large Lebanese communities, saying wealthy Norway and Sweden have recently taken a similar decision.
Jumblat stressed the importance of administrative reform at all state institutions, urging every minister to “combat corruption inside their own ministry.”
He also called for reconsidering the huge number of brigadier generals in the armed forces and the privileges of MPs, stressing the need for organizing “a broad political and diplomatic campaign to press the international community to shoulder its responsibilities regarding supporting Lebanon in hosting the refugees and earmarking aid to execute infrastructure projects in the various fields.”
“The PSP will soon announce an initiative toward the SCC to confirm its commitment to its legitimate demands and out of its keenness on the realization of its objectives, while taking into consideration the economic and financial situations and the status of the treasury,” Jumblat added, noting that his party will join forces with the SCC and “with all civil society groups in order to fight corruption in all sectors, based on the aforementioned suggestions.”  Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh stressed on Wednesday that the state treasury will not endure the endorsement of the new salary scale without causing a turmoil in the Lebanese economy. “The state's treasury will be able to cover only 24 percent annually of the new wage scale costs,” Salameh said in comments published in al-Liwaa newspaper.
He pointed out that the state should fortify its resources and end squandering by implementing reforms that create financial surplus. The joint parliamentary committees failed again on Tuesday to secure the funds and refer the new wage scale to the parliament for endorsement. The main point of contention is the Value Added Tax. The Syndicate Coordination Committee had warned of escalation in the protests, of an open-ended strike and of boycotting (the correction of) official exams. Former Prime Minister Najib Miqati's cabinet endorsed in 2012 a new salary scale for public employees ending a long dispute that had prompted the SCC to hold several sit-ins and strikes. President Michel Suleiman signed the decree mid-June 2013 and it was referred to the joint parliamentary committees for further scrutiny.
The wage increase will be retroactive from July 1, 2012. The state treasury will have more than $1.2 billion to cover as there are over 180,000 public sector employees including military personnel.

Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk sets broad environment plan
April 09, 2014/By Kareem Shaheen/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: A new plan to recycle waste and close down a controversial landfill site in the costal town of Naameh will be presented to the Cabinet this week, Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk told The Daily Star. The strategy, which includes waste sorting by municipalities, selling recyclables to local industry and composting organic material for use as fertilizer, will pave the way for the closure of the Naameh landfill by January 2015. “We have a lot to do in the coming nine months until the Naameh landfill is closed,” Machnouk said in a wide-ranging interview that also touched on water scarcity, air pollution and the expansion of Lebanon’s nature reserves. Machnouk, who plays a key role in a committee headed by Prime Minister Tammam Salam tasked with finding an alternative to the Naameh landfill, said solid waste management was one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the country. The continuous expansion of the landfill and the resulting health hazards prompted a sit-in back in January led by environmental activists along the road leading to Naameh. The protest led to a pileup of garbage throughout Beirut and a pledge by the government to shut down the site by January 2015.
Machnouk said the committee would present its alternative plan this week to the Cabinet. The proposal would see local municipalities take on a greater role in sorting garbage on local grounds, separating recyclable material at the source and selling it to local industries. For instance, Machnouk said, local industries use 150,000 tons of recycled paper a year and would be eager to purchase still more from the government. The early sorting will allow the separation of organic waste, which can be recycled into fertilizer. Garbage will be converted into refuse-derived fuel, which can be used in cement factories. He said such a plan would require families and consumers to play an active role in helping with recycling at the source. Beyond waste management, Lebanon faces another crisis with the pollution of its rivers, a challenge worsened by recent water scarcity. Machnouk said the seeping of pesticides into rivers was one of the major environmental hazards facing the country. The ministry is currently sampling the water in the Litani River to assess the degree of pollution that can be attributed to pesticides.
The pollution in Lebanon’s rivers poses a direct risk for consumers as the water is usually the source of private water providers who fill tanks at homes during outages. Machnouk said the quality of the water offered by such providers was not monitored and could be contaminated by pollutants from rivers. On water scarcity, Machnouk said Lebanon was facing a major problem that was reaching emergency level. Lebanon has seen unusually low rainfall this year, at just 40 percent of the yearly average by the first week of April. The shortage has spurred calls for a national water strategy and a renewed push for conserving water. “This problem calls for everybody to start sparing water,” Machnouk said. “You have to use water wisely. Have a three-minute shower, as they say, and try not to abuse the water and to use it intelligently.” The problem is exacerbated by the fact that 40 percent of water pipes throughout Greater Beirut have leaks, according to Machnouk. Although efforts are underway to repair them, “We will be losing water every time you furnish water to the city,” he said. Machnouk said his ministry would propose an expansion of the number of rain-collecting dams in the country that can store rainwater for situations when water is scarce. On air pollution, Machnouk said the ministry was in the process of gathering data on air quality from stations throughout the country.
Recent research into air quality has shown higher levels of pollutants, which are often linked to the use of diesel generators and car emissions, in Beirut than recommended by international health organizations.
But Machnouk said the greatest challenge was the presence of over 700 illegal dumping grounds throughout Lebanon where villages burn waste, polluting the air and contributing to carbon dioxide emissions. Machnouk said the ministry would also empower local authorities to crack down on environmental offenses. But he added that government stability was key to implementing environmental policy. Environmental laws are nonexistent in conflict areas in the country. The ministry faces major financial constraints in carrying out environmental projects. Its budget is a meager $8 million per year, though it carries out projects worth about $70 million, covered by grants from international organizations such as the UNDP, World Bank and World Health Organization, as well as the European Union, among others. That is partly because the ministry is relatively new, at 21 years old, and faces competition for funds with other, more established ministries.

Sheikh gunned down in Sidon refugee camp
April 09, 2014/By Mohammed Zaatari/The Daily Star/SIDON, Lebanon: A Sunni sheikh was gunned down in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh in the coastal city of Sidon Wednesday, a security source told The Daily Star. The preacher is in critical condition, the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. Masked gunmen shot Sheikh Arsan Suleiman, a member of the Charity and Islamic Projects Foundation, in the neighborhood of Ras al-Ahmar and fled the scene. Suleiman is a relative of former Fatah official Mahmoud Issa, better known as “Lino,” who has been the target of several assassination attempts inside the camp.



Arab League blames Israel for talks stalemate
April 09, 2014/Agence France Presse/CAIRO: Arab foreign ministers gathered on Wednesday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Israel was "wholly responsible for the dangerous stalemate" in US-brokered peace talks scheduled to end on April 29. The emergency meeting was requested by Abbas after Israel backtracked on releasing a final batch of Palestinian prisoners and reissued tenders for 708 settler homes in annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

Twin Car Bombs Kill 25 in Syria's Homs
Naharnet/At least 25 people, including women and children, were killed on Wednesday when two car bombs exploded in the central Syrian city of Homs, the state-run SANA news agency reported.
The attacks wounded another 100 people in the Karam al-Luz district, according to SANA, which blamed the bombings on "terrorists," the government's term for all those fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad. "Twenty-five people fell as martyrs, including women and children, and more than 107 others were wounded after the explosion of the two car bombs," which went off a half-hour apart, SANA said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, also reported the bombings, saying they had been carried out in a mostly Alawite neighborhood, referring to the Shiite offshoot sect to which the Assad family belongs. Syria's uprising began as a series of peaceful protests against the Assad family's four-decade rule but escalated into a full-scale insurgency after the regime launched a devastating crackdown on dissent. More than 150,000 people have been killed since the revolt began in March 2011 and nine million have been driven from their homes, including 2.6 million international refugees. Homs was an epicenter of the revolt but is now almost entirely in regime hands, with small pockets of rebels holding out in besieged areas in and around the demolished Old City.

Australian Ship Detects New Signals as Plane Hunt Narrows
Naharnet/Two fresh signals have been picked up in the search for missing Malaysian flight MH370, raising hopes Wednesday that wreckage will be found within days even as black box batteries start to expire. Australian ship Ocean Shield detected the signals Tuesday to match a pair of transmissions picked up over the weekend that have been analyzed as consistent with signals from the plane's flight data recorder, the head of the search said."Ocean Shield has been able to reacquire the signals on two more occasions, late yesterday afternoon and later last night," said Angus Houston, head of the Joint Agency Coordination Center. The Australian ship has now picked up four transmissions, crucial information as searchers try to pinpoint the crash zone for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board. Officials had feared that the signals which were initially picked up might not be detected again, particularly since the batteries on the black box tracking beacons have a normal lifespan of about 30 days. The new transmissions, found in the same broad area as the previous two, lasted for five minutes and 32 seconds and about seven minutes respectively, Houston said. "Yesterday's signals will assist in better defining a reduced and much more manageable search area on the ocean floor," Houston said.
"I believe we are searching in the right area but we need to visually identify the aircraft before we can confirm with certainty that this is the final resting place of MH370." Houston, however, again urged caution for the sake of the families of those aboard the flight which mysteriously vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and said the search for more signals would go on.
"Hopefully with lots of transmissions we'll have a tight, small area and... in a matter of days we'll be able to find something on the bottom that might confirm that this is the last resting place of MH370," Houston told reporters. For families of MH370 passengers, who marked the one-month anniversary of the plane's disappearance on Tuesday, the suspense has been excruciating.
"Let's wait and see. I want to see the evidence that the plane is at the bottom of the sea," said Malaysian Tan Tuan Lay, whose daughter, 31-year-old bank employee Chew Kar Mooi, was one of the passengers on board. "I am really sad (about) what has happened but I am prepared to accept what ever comes," Tan said when asked to comment on the fresh signals.
Australia confirmed Wednesday that the first signals were consistent with black box recorders and that the search was narrowing.
"The analysis determines that a very stable distinct and clear signal was detected at 33.331 kHz and that it consistently pulsed at a 1.106 second interval," Houston said. "They believe the signals to be consistent with the specification and description of a flight data recorder." Authorities have been searching a linear arc produced from satellite data and believed to represent the last stretch of the plane's flight path. While China's Haixun 01 vessel initially reported some acoustic signals at the southern end of this trajectory, these have not occurred again, Houston said.
No other ships will be allowed near the Ocean Shield, as its work must be done in an environment as free of noise as possible, but a modified RAAF AP-3C Orion was parachuting sonar buoys into the vicinity. These will float on the surface and have a hydrophone attached dangling 1,000 feet below to hopefully pick up any emissions, although officials warned these could be dulled by thick silt on the seabed. With the clock ticking on how long the black boxes could feasibly continue to transmit, Houston said it would not be long before a U.S.-made autonomous underwater vehicle called a Bluefin 21 would be sent down to investigate. Houston said officials were probably close to using this device because the last acoustic signal was very weak, indicating the batteries were running down.
"I don't think that time is very far away," he said. Up to 11 military aircraft, four civil planes and 14 ships were searching Wednesday over a zone covering 75,423 square kilometers (29,000 square miles), Australia's Joint Agency Coordination Center said. The focus of the search area is 2,260 kilometers (1,400 miles) northwest of Perth. The case of the missing jet has baffled aviation experts and frustrated the families of those on board, two-thirds of whom were Chinese. Despite extensive searches on the ocean surface, no debris has yet been found, but Houston voiced optimism that the aircraft will be found "in the not too distant future".

Supreme Leader says Iran will not be bullied in nuclear talks
April 09, 2014/By Mehrdad Balali/Reuters/DUBAI: Supreme leader Ayatollah AliKhamenei said on Wednesday he had authorised nuclear talks withworld powers including arch-foe the United States just to proveIran's peaceful intentions, but Tehran would not be bullied andwould not stop atomic research. He added in remarks to nuclear scientists that Iran shouldcontinue the discussions to end a dispute over nuclear work theWest fears is aimed at developing a bomb, but Iran's negotiatorsshould not cede any gains made by its nuclear programme. "Americans are well aware we are not after nuclear weapons,but they still raise the charges every now and then to keep upthe anti- Iran hype," Khamenei told a group of nuclear scientistsand officials who gathered to mark Iran's "Nuclear TechnologyDay," an important event in Iranian calendar. "That's why I agreed to the government's initiative tonegotiate, just to break the hype and expose the truth to worldopinion," he said, referring to moderate President HassanRouhani's diplomatic overture to the West after his landslideelection last June. Khamenei, who wields near absolute power in Iran, warnedhowever that there was a limit to how far the Islamic Republicwould go to satisfy its adversaries on the nuclear issue. "No, Our pursuit of nuclear science will never halt. We willnot cede any of our gains in nuclear research and developmentand our negotiators must not allow the other side to bullyIran," he said, as quoted by the official IRNA news agency. "The decision to negotiate doesn't mean we will backtrack onthe issue." However, the Iranian clerical leader reaffirmed support fordiplomacy as a means to settle the long-running nuclear disputewhich has cost Iran economically ruinous sanctions. Khamenei spoke as Iranian negotiators and major powers - theUnited States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - metfor the second of two days of talks in Vienna to try to clearthe way for a long-term accord on Tehran's nuclear work,although diplomats said "significant gaps remained to bebridged. Iran denies accusations its nuclear programme is intended toobtain nuclear weapons capability. It wants an end to sanctionsand to regain what it sees as its rightful place as a leadingregional power.

Assad musters large Syrian-Hizballah-Iraqi force to recover forward Golan position opposite Israel

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 9, 2014/The Syrian army’s 90th Brigade’s loss of its forward Golan position at Tel Al-Ahmar to rebel forces including al Qaeda’s Nusra Front was Bashar Assad’s most humiliating military setback in the past year. Situated on the Israeli border, it is the key to the Golan town of Quneitra which faces Israeli army positions on the other side. To recover this strategic position, Assad has mustered a combined Syrian-Hizballah-Iraqi Shiite expeditionary force, the recipe for most of his victories against rebel forces in the past year.
DEBKAfile military sources also disclose that for the capture of Tel Al-Ahmar, the rebels for the first time deployed units the size of battalions, drawing 350 fighters from ten local militias from southern Syria and elements of al Qaeda’s Jabhat al Nusra. Among them too were local Syrian fighters trained by American instructors at a camp deep in the desert of southern Jordan. This was the trainees’ first taste of combat inside Syria.
Our military sources add that the battle for the Golan key point was the first rebel operations that was professionally planned, organized and executed. They used heavy 120mm mortars to pound their target into submission.
Iraqi Shiite fighters are pouring into Syria in a swelling stream to join Assad’s expeditionary force for the Golan. Most are believed to be members of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq under the command of Abu Mahdi Mohandes, the deputy of the Iranian Al Qods Brigades chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
In his speech on Friday April 4, Hassan Nasrallah said that henceforth his Hizballah fighters would strike Israel from their positions on the Syrian Golan.
This confronts Damascus with a difficulty. The Syrian army is legally constrained from deploying tanks and armored vehicles for operations against the rebels under the Syrian-Israeli 1974 ceasefire agreement which ended the war of attrition following the Yom Kippur war. This agreement restored 5 percent of the plateau to Syrian control provided it was incorporated in a demilitarized zone to the east and policed by UN peacekeepers.
But on Tuesday evening, April 8, the Syrian air force bombarded the rebels holding Tel al-Ahmar, with Iranian-made explosives in breach of that agreement. The response to that violation poses Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz with some major decisions:
1. Should the Syrian Army be allowed to drive the rebels from Tel al-Ahmar?
2. To achieve this, Syrian forces would have to use heavy weaponry, a further violation of the Syrian ceasefire agreement with Israel. How many violations can the IDF tolerate?
3. Should Israel permit hostile foreign troops, such as the Lebanese Hizballah and the Iraqi Shiites,to take up positions on its northern border?
4. How will the IDF deal with the almost inevitably spillover of battles, explosions and bombardments taking place in this tiny area into Israel?
5. Will Israel continue to provide medical care for wounded rebels in the battle for Tel al-Ahmar? If so, Israeli medical teams and hospitals may find they are treating jihadis associated with Al Qaeda.
Israelis living in the north and trippers to favorite resorts there had better not expect the coming eight-day Passover festival to pass quietly.

After Israel signals 'deep disappointment,' State Dept. urges to keep Kerry comments in context
04/09/2014 23:16
US says Kerry surprised by backlash from his comments blaming Israel for talks breakdown; Kerry meets with Liberman in Washington, both reaffirm commitment to peace talks despite recent setbacks. US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, January 3, 2014.
John Kerry and Avigdor Liberman. Photo: Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv
The State Department on Wednesday walked back Secretary of State John Kerry's comments seemingly blaming Jerusalem for the breakdown of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, with his spokeswoman calling on the Israeli media to put his comments in proper context. "He was frankly surprised by the coverage of his comments," Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday at the State Department. "He doesn't believe... that one side deserves blame over another." In his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry lauded Netanyahu for the brave political decisions he has made in the peace process, Psaki said, also noting the secretary's characterization of Palestinian actions as "clearly unhelpful.""What he did yesterday was simply restate the chronology of events of last week which took place," she added. Psaki said that Kerry stands by his statement as intended. Psaki's comments came after an official in the Prime Minister's Office said Israel was "deeply disappointed" by Kerry's comments at the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee. Kerry, in what is being dubbed in Jerusalem the "poof speech," implied that the diplomatic process went "poof" last Tuesday after Israel announced tenders for 700 new "settlement" housing units in Gilo, three days after Israel failed to meet the March 29 deadline for releasing the final batch of 26 Palestinian prisoners.
The anonymous official speaking to the Times, however, said that it was the Palestinians who "violated their fundamental commitments" to the diplomatic process by applying last week to join 15 international conventions and treaties. "Secretary Kerry knows that it was the Palestinians who said ‘no’ to continued direct talks with Israel in November; who said ‘no’ to his proposed framework for final status talks; who said ‘no’ to even discussing recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people; who said ‘no’ to a meeting with Kerry himself; and who said ‘no’ to an extension of the talks,” the official said.
"At the same time," he said, "in the understandings reached prior to the talks, Israel did not commit to any limitation on construction. Therefore, the Palestinian claim that building in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, was a violation of the understandings is contrary to the facts. Both the American negotiating team and the Palestinians know full well that Israel made no such commitment.”
Amid the flap over his testimony, Kerry hosted Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman at the State Department on Wednesday, where the American and Israeli counterparts both reaffirmed their commitment to the peace process despite recent setbacks.
Striking a conciliatory tone, Liberman told Kerry that "everyone in Israel knows that you are a true friend."
He added that "unilateral" steps taken by the Palestinians "only undermine all our efforts." Beyond the remarks made to the Times, officials in the Prime Minister's Office were not commenting on Kerry's comments, in an apparent effort to make their displeasure widely known, without belaboring the point. Kerry's comments did seem, however, to have taken Jerusalem by surprise, as government officials claimed repeatedly over the last few weeks that the US knew very well the steps Israel has taken to move the talks forward, and that it also knew that the Palestinians were not showing any flexibility.
While Kerry's finger pointing at Israel has not yet led to similar European denunciations, Jerusalem is concerned about that eventuality, and that this will make extending the talks more difficult.
Kerry's comments "will both hurt the negotiations and harden Palestinian positions," the official said, reflecting a concern in Jerusalem that if the Palestinians believe Israel will be blamed by the international community, they will be even more inflexible then they have proven to be until now. Meanwhile, Netanyahu directed his ministers and the directors-general of the government's ministries not to have meetings with their Palestinian counterparts in response to the Palestinian decision to apply to the international treaties and conventions.
One official, who said the Palestinian move was "in direct violation of their commitments," clarified that Netanyahu's directive does not apply to Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is leading Israel's negotiating team with the Palestinians, or those working with the Palestinians on security issues.
One official in the Prime Minister's Office was vague regarding whether this directive was applicable to coordination between Israel and the Palestinians regarding goods and material allowed into, and out of, Gaza. Among the ministries most impacted by the directive will be the Finance, Tourism, Agriculture, Environment Protection, and regional Cooperation ministries.
Explaining the move, one official said that Israel "wants to move forward in the talks, but if the Palestinians chose the unilateral path, we will respond. They have to understand that ultimately it is not in their interests." During her briefing, Psaki called this move "unfortunate," and encouraged both parties to take steps "conducive" to the peace process.