LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/‘Feed my
John 21,15-25./: "When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’
He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?’
When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!’ So the rumour spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?’ This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For April 23/14
Opinion: Camouflaging Extremism/By: Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat/April 23/14
Vote or Die: Syria’s reelection of a mass murderer/Brooklyn Middleton/AlArabiya/April
Has Egypt overcome the Brotherhood complex/By: Khairallah Khairallah/Alarabiya/April 23/14
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For April 23/14
Lebanese Related News
March 14 Declares Geagea Its Presidential Candidate as Mustaqbal, Kataeb Officially Announce Supporting Him
Jumblat Declares Reunion of Democratic Gathering, Nominates Helou for Presidency
Suleiman Expects Parliament to Assume its Responsibility and Elect President before May 25
Change and Reform Says to Vote Blank in Presidential Session
Sethrida Geagea Expects Gathering 50 Votes in LF Leader's Favor as Party Envoys Continue Presidential Visits
STL Issues New Arrest Warrants for Hariri's Suspected Murderers
Miqati, Karami to Vote for Helou as Safadi Says to Take 'Tripoli Sensitivities' into Account
Salam: Dispute over resistance tied to role of state
Security forces gear up for border village rescue
Prison guards charged over inmate’s death
Sidon vendors mutilate themselves in protest
Trucks Deliver Aid to Besieged Tufail
Hizbullah Official in Lassa Killed in Car Crash
Miscellaneous Reports And News
'Almost one million' Syrian refugees in Turkey: PM
New Syria chemical claims emerge, election announced
German rapper-turned-jihadist reported dead in Syria
Biden visits Ukraine as Russia, U.S. exchange blame
US says no plans
for Kerry to return for last-minute bid to save Mideast peace talks
Netanyahu to Palestinians: When you want peace, let us know
Palestinians play down threat to dismantle Authority
Iranian lawmakers seek probe into prison beatings
Iran reshuffles atomic agency for nuke talks
Hizbullah Official in Lassa Killed in Car Crash
Two Soldiers Charged with Dereliction of Duty over Prisoner's Death
Report: Aoun Won't Attend Election Session, his MPs to Cast Blank Votes
Kataeb Calls for Preserving 'March 14 Unity' in Presidential Vote
Judiciary Orders Arrest of Two Teens for Raping Minors in Tripoli
Jumblat Declares Reunion of Democratic
Gathering, Nominates Helou for Presidency
Naharnet /Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat on Tuesday announced the revival of the Democratic Gathering parliamentary bloc and the nomination of its member MP Henri Helou for the presidency, one day before a parliamentary session aimed at voting for a new president. “The Democratic Gathering has been revived with all its members and we're one family again,” Jumblat said after a meeting in Clemenceau. “The Democratic Gathering nominates Mr. Henri Helou for the presidency,” he added. “We are proud to announce this nomination and we will never cast a blank vote. We pride ourselves with this unifying candidate whose openness and moderation are well-known,” said Jumblat. He pointed out that “Helou has his Christian representation," stressing that "this nomination is not aimed at maneuvering." Revealing that Helou's presidential program would be based on the Baabda Declaration, Jumblat stated: “I emphasize on the approach that was established by President Michel Suleiman, which is the Baabda Declaration.” Reminiscing the period that witnessed Suleiman's election as president, Jumblat said: “Arab and international circumstances had helped us in 2008 to make a settlement and we had the best political and personal ties with President Suleiman and we cannot but salute him.” “We all took part in dialogue and laid out the groundwork on which we can build a strong and capable state, in which the decision of war and peace is in the hand of the state, and I mean the Baabda Declaration which was approved by everyone,” Jumblat added.
“I salute ex-PM Najib Miqati, with whom we took part in a cabinet that was described as Hizbullah's government, but we managed to impose a certain centrist policy, which has produced Suleiman and Miqati,” he went on to say. Hitting out at Hizbullah, Jumblat said: “I wish they had implemented the self-dissociation policy as we would've spared the country the booby-trapped cars.”
In January 2011, Jumblat had announced the split of the Democratic Gathering bloc after four MPs broke away from it in protest at his decision to nominate Miqati for the premiership. He announced back then the formation of the seven-member National Struggle Front.
The four MPs who withdrew after they nominated ex-PM Saad Hariri were Marwan Hamadeh, Antoine Saad and Fouad al-Saad, in addition to Helou. But Helou later decided to join the National Struggle Front and was among the ranks of the Jumblat bloc that supported the nomination of Tammam Salam for the premiership. “We are seeking openness towards everyone and I have an ambition to restore dialogue and partnership among everyone,” said Helou during Tuesday's press conference. “A strong president is one who can gather all Lebanese around the dialogue table and this is the approach adopted by Walid Beik's and the starting point for the coming period,” he added. “My nomination is not a maneuver and we have no solution other than openness. We call on everyone to take part in tomorrow's electoral session so that we can return to the approach of dialogue,” the presidential candidate went on to say. He noted that candidates are not important, “but rather the rescuing of the country.”
“I'm not interested in the post but rather in rescuing the country and the approach of openness and moderation,” Helou underlined. “A strong president would be one who can gather the Lebanese, not a confrontational president; a president who can talk to all the Lebanese, not half of them,” he said. President Suleiman's tenure ends on May 25, but the constitutional period to elect a new head of state began on March 25. Helou and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea are so far the only two candidates who have announced official nominations. The parliament is scheduled to convene Wednesday for the first round of voting amid concerns that the needed quorum will not be met.
March 14 Declares Geagea Its Presidential Candidate as Mustaqbal, Kataeb Officially Announce Supporting Him
Naharnet /Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea succeeded on Tuesday in gathering the support of the March 14 alliance in his run for presidency, on the eve of a parliamentary session dedicated for holding the first round of vote on a new head of state.
March 14 leaders convened in the evening at the Center House, and declared Geagea as their candidate for presidency. "We discussed the presidential elections and we stressed the importance of respecting constitutional deadlines,” the alliance said in a statement after the talks.
"And after communicating with all parties, leaders and political figures in the coalition, we confirm supporting the nomination of Geagea and we consider that his candidacy is a representation of the principles on which the Cedar Revolution and March 14 were based,” it added. "We hope all MPs will consider (Wednesday's session) an opportunity to cross towards establishing a state in Lebanon.” MTV noted that MPs Marwan Hamadeh, Antoine Saad and Fouad al-Saad attended March 14 coalition's meeting, hours after Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat announced the revival of the Democratic Gathering parliamentary bloc and the nomination of its member MP Henri Helou for the presidency. However, it was not immediately clear whether they will vote for Geagea or Helou.
Earlier in the day, both the Kataeb Party and al-Mustaqbal bloc also announced that Geagea is their presidential candidate.
The Kataeb Party stated that it will attend Wednesday's parliamentary session aimed at electing a new president.
MP Elie Marouni said after the party's meeting: “We will take part in the session and vote for LF leader Samir Geagea as president.”
“The party is working on bolstering the unity of the March 14 alliance to help it in the electoral process to ensure Geagea's victory,” he added in a brief statement.
Later on Tuesday, Geagea telephoned Kataeb leader Amin Gemayel to thank him for his support in the run for office. "The LF and the Kataeb have always shared the same path," Geagea said. The Kataeb political bureau announced on Monday that “the current period requires -- more than ever -- the presence of a competent president at the helm of the country, given the ongoing challenges and the fateful transformations that are surrounding Lebanon and the Middle East.”
“Accordingly, the political bureau stressed the need to preserve the unity and solidarity of the March 14 forces … so that their candidate can seek to garner the broadest national support,” it added.
Also on Tuesday, al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc convened at the Center House and officially announced endorsing Geagea's candidacy for presidency.
"Geagea's presidential program reflects the aspirations of a majority of the Lebanese in having an independent, sovereign and free state who has a monopoly of power over Lebanese territories,” a statement issued by the MPs said after the meeting. The statement continued: “This program is also a reflection of the principles and core values of the independence revolution and of the March 14 coalition in facing projects of hegemony and military and security domination."The MPs emphasized the March 14 alliance's unity. "We must preserve this solidarity especially as Hizbullah's weaponry is developing and attempting to take control of the country, and as the party is participating in the fighting in Syria alongside an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy,” they explained.
The bloc's statement comes on day earlier MP Ahmed Fatfat announced after meeting with a LF delegation that al-Mustaqbal lawmakers “fully support” Geagea for presidency.
However, and while the bloc has officially announced endorsing Geagea's run for office, the decision of the northern city of Tripoli's MPs is still ambiguous. Reports have said that the Tripoli MPs will not back the LF leader, especially as northern residents have openly voiced their rejection of his nomination and even took to the streets to condemn any possible support by the city's MPs to his candidacy.
Geagea and Democratic Gathering MP Henri Helou are so far the only two candidates running in the elections. The March 8 camp has not yet declared a candidate for the polls. Parliament is expected to convene on Wednesday to elect a president amid concerns that the needed quorum will not be met.
Change and Reform Says to Vote Blank
in Presidential Session
Naharnet/The Change and Reform parliamentary bloc led by MP Michel Aoun announced Tuesday that it will cast blank votes in Wednesday's presidential election. "We have decided to take part in Wednesday's session and we will cast blank votes," MP Emile Rahme said, reciting a terse statement issued after the bloc's weekly meeting in Rabieh. Pan-Arab daily al-Hayat on Tuesday quoted Change and Reform sources as saying that Aoun would not attend the session in person. It said his lawmakers and their allies in the March 8 alliance are expected to cast white votes to protest the candidacy of Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea. The protest votes would be 56 or 57 if the three Tripoli MPs join them, exceeding the votes that Geagea would get from his March 14 alliance by one or two, al-Hayat said. The Tripoli MPs – former Premier Najib Miqati and former Ministers Mohammed al-Safadi and Ahmed Karami – could resort to another option to vote for the candidate of Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat, the daily said. Reports have said that Jumblat, who heads the centrist National Struggle Front bloc, would on Tuesday announce the candidacy of his bloc member MP Henri Helou.
Suleiman Expects Parliament to Assume
its Responsibility and Elect President before May 25
Naharnet/President Michel Suleiman hoped on Tuesday that parliament will respect the constitutional deadline to elect a president, saying that this remains one of the greatest challenges facing Lebanon.
He said in a statement: “I expect parliament to assume its national responsibility and elect a new president that the Lebanese people deserve before May 25.” This president will hopefully be competent and bolster trust among the people, he noted in a statement. “As guardian of the constitution, I cannot but urge parliament and its political powers to stage the presidential elections through ensuring the needed quorum,” Suleiman stressed. “They must elect the most appropriate president to lead the country during a phase that requires exceptional unity,” he added, while demanding that political forces place higher national interests above foreign or personal ones. Parliament is scheduled to convene on Wednesday in order to elect a new president amid fears that the needed quorum will not be met.
Any candidate must secure two-thirds of the lawmakers' votes to win in the first round of elections, while 65 votes are needed for the second round. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea is so far the only official to submit his nomination.
Trucks Deliver Aid to Besieged Tufail
Naharnet/Aid trucks delivered on Tuesday food packages and fuel oil to the residents of Tufail on the Lebanese-Syrian border through the backing of armed forces. Tufail, which lies in eastern Lebanon in an area surrounded by Syrian territory, was isolated after the only road that leads to the town came under the control of Syrian government troops. The Syrian military has made successes against rebels in the Qalamoun region with the support of fighters from Hizbullah since the government launched an offensive in November in the strategic area, a wedge of mountainous territory between Damascus and the Lebanese border. Another dirt road leads to Tufail via Brital, but is in poor condition. The residents of Tufail, who are Sunnis, are afraid to pass through the Shiite town, which supports Hizbullah. Tuesday's aid was delivered to Tufail's residents in the town of Ras al-Harf. Tufail is now home to 3,000 Lebanese and some 5,000 Syrian refugees. Maj. Gen. Mohammed Kheir, the secretary general of the Higher Relief Council, denied there were armed Syrian rebels in Tufail. “Everyone agrees on the need to bring aid to its residents,” he told reporters before the convoy of aid left for the town. The Mufti of Baalbek and Hermel also thanked Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq for his efforts to help the town's residents.
Hezbollah official dies in car crash
April 22, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Hezbollah official Youssef Ghazi Meqdad died Tuesday in a single vehicle accident in Jbeil, north of Beirut, security sources said. The sources told The Daily Star Meqdad was alone in the Toyota 4WD when it drifted off the main Qartaba-Lassa road and plunged into a ravine.
Meqdad was Hezbollah’s officer in Lassa.
STL Issues New Arrest Warrants for
Hariri's Suspected Murderers
Naharnet /The Special Tribunal for Lebanon announced on Tuesday issuing new arrest warrants for the five suspects accused of being involved in the assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri, following the Prosecution’s submission of a joint indictment. "The STL has issued new arrest warrants for Salim Jamil Ayyash, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Hassan Habib Merhi, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra following the Prosecution’s submission of a consolidated indictment,” the tribunal said in a released statement. It explained that that the “indictment reflects the charges against all of the five accused as a result of the joinder decision of 25 February 2014.” “The Trial Chamber has now requested that the Lebanese authorities act on these new arrest warrants,” the statement said. “International arrest warrants will also be provided to Interpol for circulation in other countries,” it added, noting that the charges against the accused remain unchanged. The in absentia trial of four Hizbullah members accused of murdering Hariri in February 2005 opened in The Hague in January 2014. Ayyash, Badreddine, Oneissi and Sabra were indicted in 2011 with plotting the attack, but have not been arrested. Meanwhile, Merhi was charged in late 2013 in the case and is also still at large. On February 26, the Trial Chamber ordered the adjournment of the trial sessions until at least early to mid-May to allow Defense counsel for Merhi adequate time to prepare for trial and to conduct their own investigations. The February 14, 2005 seafront blast killed 22 people including Hariri and wounded 226, leading to the establishment by the U.N. Security Council of the STL in 2007.
Salam: Dispute over resistance tied to role of state
April 22, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam said Tuesday that the dispute over Hezbollah’s arms is tied to the role of the state in decisions of war and peace, adding that Lebanese intervention in Syria should stop. In an interview with Sky News Arabia, Salam also said that the influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon should end, but that such a step required political consensus. “The dispute is not over the principle of the resistance, but the use of the resistance’s arms domestically, which poses questions regarding the state and who holds the power over decisions of war and peace,” Salam said. “Such a decision should be in the hands of the state and the resistance should know that there is a state,” he added. “What is needed is to find a meeting point between the need for a resistance against occupation and the need for the role of the state,” Salam said. Speaking on Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria, Salam reiterated that all forms of intervention in Syrian affairs should stop “in order to achieve disassociation, which can lessen the repercussions of the conflict on Lebanon."He also spoke about the overwhelming number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which has reached over one million. Salam said third of Lebanon’s population was made up of refugees. “That is something that has never happened anywhere in the world,” he said. “We can no longer leave things be the way they are. We should make a decision to stop the influx of the Syrian refugees, and this requires political agreement,” he added. Salam played down foreign influence in Lebanon’s presidential election, and expressed hope that Wednesday’s session would see the election of a new president. “Until now, the presidential election has not yet witnessed direct foreign intervention, although there is foreign influence. Foreign influences on Lebanon are not new,” he said. “All possibilities are on the table for Wednesday’s session. The current situation resembles that of 1970 when Suleiman Franjieh was elected with one additional vote,” Salam added. None of the presumed candidates could secure a two third majority for Wednesday’s parliament session. So far, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and MP Robert Ghanem are the only two official nominees. “A new president can be elected with a simple majority and that depends on where the political parties will stand,” Salam said.
Security forces gear up for border village rescue
April 22, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: A special security team, backed by emergency rescue workers, prepared Tuesday to aid residents of an east Lebanon border village that has been besieged by Syrian government troops. Tfail, which lies in an enclave surrounded by Syrian territory, was cut off from the rest of Lebanon after the only accessible road to the Bekaa Valley came under Syrian army control as part of the regime’s offensive to root out rebels in the Qalamoun region. The security team – made up of officers from the Lebanese Army, Internal Security Forces and General Security – assembled in the main square of Brital near the eastern city of Baalbek in the morning before embarking on its mission shortly before midday. Head of the Higher Relief Committee Maj. Gen. Mohammad Kheir told reporters before the humanitarian convoy left for Tfail that the town was free of Syrian rebels. “There are no militiamen in Tfail,” Kheir told reporters, adding that he was ready to offer any type of assistance to the residents. “Under the instruction of the interior minister, we are ready to respond to calls for help from Tfail residents,” he said. A convoy of Lebanese Red Cross ambulances and humanitarian trucks was accompanied by military and police forces as it headed toward the besieged town. The trucks were ready to deliver their load of 1,000 food packages and 6,000 liters of fuel oil, security sources said. The sources, however, told The Daily Star that under the plan the security forces and rescue teams will not enter Tfail. Instead, they will reach Ijir al-Harf, the last town on the Lebanon-Syria border where Hezbollah fighters are deployed. There, the trucks will unload their humanitarian supplies and Red Cross ambulances will receive the wounded.
Residents said the village, home to 3,000 Lebanese and around 5,000 Syrian refugees, came under heavy bombardment last week. Machnouk said that if the plan does not work, he would take the case to the Cabinet and file a complaint to the United Nations Security Council over the besieged village. The Future Movement-affiliated minister defended his coordination with Hezbollah over Tfail, saying his priority was to manage the humanitarian impact of the crisis.
New Syria chemical claims emerge as election announced
April 22, 2014/By David Brunnstrom/Agence France Presse
BEIRUT: New claims have emerged that President Bashar Assad's regime may have launched attacks with an industrial chemical earlier this month, despite an international agreement to eliminate Syria's chemical arsenal. The latest evidence, cited by US and French authorities, comes as Syria plans to hold a June 3 presidential poll, which the United Nations and the Syrian opposition have slammed as a "farce" that flies in the face of efforts to end the country's three-year war.
"We have indications of the use of a toxic industrial chemical, probably chlorine, in Syria this month, in the opposition-dominated village of Kafr Zita," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday.
"We are examining allegations that the government was responsible."The revelation follows Sunday's announcement by French President Francois Hollande that his country had "information" -- but no proof -- that Assad's regime was still using chemical weapons.
There have been conflicting accounts of an alleged chlorine gas attack in opposition-held Kafr Zita in the central Hama province earlier this month, with the government and the opposition trading blame.
Activists have also reported other chlorine gas attacks, most recently on Monday in the northwestern Idlib province. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and other experts have spent months working to remove Syria's chemical stockpiles, following an agreement reached after deadly chemical attacks near Damascus last August that killed hundreds.
Western nations blamed those attacks on the Assad regime and the United States threatened military action before backing down and reaching a deal with Russia to eliminate the chemical weapons.
The OPCW said last week that 65 percent of Syria's stated chemical weapons have been removed from the country. Although chlorine is a toxic chemical, it is widely used for commercial and domestic purposes, so Syria was not required to submit its stockpiles to the OPCW, a chemical weapons expert told AFP. "However, as a chemical weapon it is prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention," which Syria joined last year, said Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, CEO of SecureBio, a British chemical weapons consultancy. "The opposition could very easily get ahold of chlorine... However the delivery method that we've seen -- the use of helicopters -- I am certain the opposition don't have any helicopters." He also said that although chlorine is a weak agent, its use would be "very effective in this kind of warfare, in urban, built-up areas, as chemical weapons find their ways into the nooks and crannies." Syria meanwhile announced Monday that it will hold a June 3 presidential election, expected to return Assad to office. Syria's first presidential election -- after constitutional amendments scrapped a referendum system -- is to go ahead despite violence which has killed more than 150,000 people since March 2011. Speaker Mohammad al-Lahham announced the date in parliament, saying Syrians living outside the country would vote on May 28 and candidates would be able to register from Tuesday until May 1.
Voting would be "free and fair... and under full judicial supervision," he said. However, the United Nations condemned the announcement, warning it would torpedo a political resolution of the conflict. "Such elections are incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Geneva communique," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York. He was referring to an agreement on a transition to democracy as the basis for negotiations between the government and the opposition. The opposition, which insists Assad step down and play no role in Syria's future, rejected the election as nothing more than a "farce." "The Assad regime's announcement today that a 'presidential election' would be held in June should be treated as a farce," said the office of opposition National Coalition leader Ahmad Jarba.
"With vast parts of Syria completely destroyed by Assad's air force, army and militias over the last three years, and with a third of Syria's population displaced internally or in refugee camps in the region, there is no electorate in Syria in a condition to exercise its right to vote."Syria's conflict began as a peaceful protest movement demanding democratic reform, but descended into war after Assad's regime unleashed a massive crackdown on dissent.Half of the population has been forced to flee their homes, and more than nine million people need humanitarian assistance.
Netanyahu to Palestinians: When you want peace, let us know
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH, JPOST.COM STAFF
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu criticized the Palestinian Authority on Monday, saying that its threat to dissolve and the ruling Fatah faction’s efforts to forge unity with Hamas indicate a lack of desire for peace. “Today, we saw the Palestinian Authority speak of dismantling itself and also talking about unity with Hamas,” the premier told revelers at a Mimouna celebration in Or Akiva. “They should decide – either dissolve, or enter into a union with Hamas. When they want peace, they should let us know. Because we want a genuine peace.” Palestinian officials in Ramallah on Monday denied that the Palestinian Authority has been considering dissolving itself if the peace talks with Israel fail. Some officials were quoted over the past few days as saying that President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to dismantle the PA in protest against the lack of progress in the negotiations. The reported threat, which comes as the April 29 deadline for the end of the peace talks approaches, is seen as an attempt to exert pressure on the US and Israel to comply with Palestinian demands, especially regarding the release of prisoners. Members of the Fatah Central Committee who met in Ramallah on Monday night to discuss the crisis in the peace talks did not have the issue of dissolving the PA on their agenda, according to a senior Fatah official. Gen. Adnan Dmeiri, spokesman for the PA security establishment, dismissed the talk about dissolving the PA as an “Israeli invention.” Israel was trying to create frustration among Palestinians by spreading such reports, he claimed. The PLO Central Council, which is expected to meet later this week, does not plan to discuss the dismantlement of the PA, said Wasel Abu Yusef, a top PLO official. The council would discuss the situation in Jerusalem, the prisoner release and efforts to establish a Palestinian unity government headed by Abbas, Abu Yusef said.
“No one is talking about the option of dissolving the Palestinian Authority,” he said. “Rather, we are talking about international recognition of a Palestinian state and our efforts to join international treaties and organizations.” Another PLO official, Qais Abu Laila, also ruled out the possibility that the PA might be dismantled. He said that this was “unrealistic” option and would not be on the agenda of the PLO council meeting. “I don’t believe that dismantling the Palestinian Authority is a healthy and right measure,” he said. “This would be suicidal.”
PLO Executive Committee member Tayseer Khaled said the dismantlement of the PA was not on the table. The Palestinians should instead reconsider their relations with Israel if the peace talks fail, especially with regards to economic and security cooperation, he said. “If Israel does not abide by the agreements, the Palestinians also won’t adhere to them,” Khaled said.
However, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency quoted unnamed sources in the PA leadership as saying that the PA might be dissolved as a result of Israeli “intransigence.”
The sources said that the PLO’s Negotiating Department has begun studying ways of dissolving the PA and the repercussions of such a move. The threat to solve the PA was not an “exercise,” the sources said. This option is on the table, they added. US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, meanwhile, said the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority would constitute an “extreme step” that would “obviously have grave implications.” “We, the United States, have put millions of dollars into this effort. It would obviously have very serious implications for our relationship, including our assistance going forward,” she warned at her daily press briefing in Washington. “A great deal of effort has gone into building Palestinian institutions, by Palestinians, as well as by the international community,” she said. “It would certainly not be in the interest of the Palestinian people for all of that to be lost.”
*Herb Keinon contributed to this story.
Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat
Tuesday, 22 Apr, 2014
It is ironic that British authorities supervising nonprofit organizations in the country have only just noticed the threats posed by these so-called charities which are used to espouse terrorism and engage in organized fraud. The chairman of the UK’s Charity Commission said that the authorities intended to check the activity of Islamist organizations after they discovered that some of them fund violent Islamist groups in Syria, Somalia and other countries. There are four lines of work which in recent years have been misused, and whose reputations have been diminished: religious preaching, human rights work, education, and charities. Ever since the 1990s, extremist and terrorist groups have infiltrated these areas in the West due to the public support they enjoy. So in the name of aiding orphans, widows and the poor, these extremist groups launched other operations using this pretext. Charity work itself is an indispensable part of Islam, with a tax levied on able Muslims distributed to those who are deprived—the poor, orphans and the needy. Extremist groups exploited alms-giving and charity to gain prominence: They have managed to collect hundreds of millions throughout the years. Money and religious evangelism together make a most dangerous mixture, one which enabled an organization like Al-Qaeda to spread and engage in acts of terror. Al-Qaeda used this mixture of finance and faith to purchase explosives and recruit potential suicide bombers. In the late 1990s, many Muslim countries began taking action against such charitable organizations after links with terrorist organizations were discovered. Following the September 11 attacks, the international crackdown on terror organization expanded; most phony charity offices were shut down and dozens of those found guilty of such illegal activity were jailed. But some charity organizations that were closed managed to resume their “charitable” activities once again when they moved to isolated communities far from the grip of Islamic governments—such as those of European Muslims. They also used modern means of social networking to market their ideas and collect funds. This has happened in Kuwait in the aim of supporting extremist groups in Syria and other countries. After two years of chaos, a delegation from the United States arrived in the region demanding an end to this and threatening sanctions.
This occurs in countries like Kuwait, but what about Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and other countries? Unfortunately, we do not hear many cases of legal pursuit. These people do not only fund terrorist operations but also support extremist groups in European countries—groups that may not be linked to violence themselves but who nonetheless incite violence. The latter groups benefit from the protection of freedom of speech, belief, and association in these European countries. However, they actually damage the fabric of the society where they live and pit Muslims against one another and against Europeans. What kind of charity work is this? The chairman of the Charity Commission in Britain said he requested the British prime minister to prevent those involved in terrorism from being qualified to engage in charity work. However, he’s wrong to think that the problem is that simple, as those convicted are a mere few while those who are sympathizers of extremist groups are the real problem.
The transferring of funds outside Britain to help the Al-Qaeda-affiliated group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, buy weapons, or to support Al-Shabaab in Somalia, does not pose a major threat. This could be controlled if financial and security monitoring improves. What’s more dangerous is when the money is collected under the pretext of helping orphans and the poor, but is instead spent on funding extremist organizations in Britain, France and other countries where Muslims live as an isolated minority. Establishing extremist education and funding intellectual extremists is not punishable by law in the West, unlike in Arab countries. However, such actions destroy future generations of Muslim youths for many decades. Muslims have lived for more than 100 years in their new countries: The Moroccans in France, the Yemenis in Britain, and so on. Extremism did not gain traction until a decade-and-a-half ago, and the future looks worrisome.
Vote or Die: Syria’s reelection of a mass murderer
Tuesday, 22 April 2014
At the same time the world is applauding the Syrian regime for reportedly shipping out 80 percent of its chemical weapons and as Bashar al-Assad announces he will run in presidential elections slated for 3 June, new reports emerge that Damascus has reinvented a way to massacre its own people: barrel bombs packed with toxic chlorine gas dropped from helicopters.
In what could prove to be a truly worst case scenario, it appears the Assad regime has carved out a way to continue waging chemical warfare that is less deadly than the major East Ghouta attack but still effective at targeting large areas.
Inaction of the international community
Despicable as the developments are; they are also entirely predictable. The collective soft response to the chemical bombardment on East Ghouta – which killed at least several hundred people and injured thousands more on 21 August – has set a precedent. Therefore, there is a high probability the international community will ultimately ignore smaller scale CW attacks.
More simply, it is nearly impossible to imagine the world will do much of anything in response to gas attacks that kill only a few - but terrorize an entire population – when the fact remains that a well-documented massacre was recorded and Assad, with Moscow’s help, negotiated himself out of any actual consequences.
As for the planned sham elections, there is no doubt Assad’s well-fed supporters will turn out to vote while other entire areas - relying on grass for sustenance - will likely not cast a single ballot.
“Inarguably, Assad has become a mastermind at reinventing ways to kills his own people – systematic starvation, indiscriminate barrel bombings, and continued lower scale chemical weapon attacks – with few damning repercussions from world powers.”
The New York Times headline referred to it as “A Show of Democracy Amid Destruction” yet the notion of any anything resembling a democratic election in Syria in its current catastrophic state would be laughable if it was not so ineffably tragic; entire pockets of the population are being intentionally starved to death and denied critical aid. Meanwhile, Assad – despite no opponent in sight - hangs campaign posters.
Inarguably, Assad has become a mastermind at reinventing ways to kills his own people – systematic starvation, indiscriminate barrel bombings, and continued lower scale chemical weapon attacks – with few damning repercussions from world powers.
Negotiating allows Assad power
The primary reason for his unremitting innovativeness can be attributed to the fact that world powers have continued to negotiate with him. They’ve allowed gestures of pseudo-cooperation to be declared as genuine.
This was recently demonstrated when Assad briefly allowed food to enter the besieged Yarmouk refugee camp in January. This was done after four months of intentionally preventing aid from reaching the camp, resulting in dozens of preventable deaths due largely to starvation.
It was during the very beginning of the Geneva II conference that aid began to once trickle into Yarmouk, proving the Assad regime could have facilitated this all along. But as soon as it no longer served a relevant political purpose, the rebel and civilian filled camp was once again choked off; Yarmouk is now currently starving to death – literally – again.
Meanwhile, despite having a known deadly history, chlorine gas – unthinkably – was not included on the chemical weapons list the Assad regime provided to The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Once again, half measures – accepted as legitimate - are triggering deadly consequences for Syrians.
Renewed chemical attacks
On 11 April, an all too familiar scene unfolded: Syrian activists videotaped and uploaded footage to social media of several men convulsing on the floor as medical professionals gathered, frantically placing oxygen masks on their gasping faces as half a dozen young children looked on.
This specific scene reportedly showcased the immediate aftermath of a chlorine barrel bomb dropped from a helicopter on the rebel-held village of Kfar Zeita, Hama province, located approximately 125 miles north of the capital. A baby and a 70-year-old man were reportedly the only two casualties but at least another 100 people were injured in the attack.
The Assad regime mouthpiece Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) blamed the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front for the attack – without - as Eliot Higgins points out – countering the on the ground claims that the toxic agent was delivered via barrel bomb dropped out of a regime helicopter.
Further, Syrian rebels allege that regime forces waged at least four chemical weapon attacks in April alone.
French President Francois Hollande noted that France has “a few elements of information” that chemical weapons have again been used by the Assad regime but that Paris has yet to obtain any solid proof.
Dismissing the already set precedent of known chemical weapon usage by Assad forces is essentially tantamount to waiting until the regime commits yet another massacre.
Chlorine gas must be added to the official chemical weapons list and it must be exported or destroyed along with the remaining 20 percent of the declared arsenal. But if this fails to happen – and it likely will – the Assad regime has little reason to fear for repercussions. The elections must be decried for the sham they are and the Assad regime must continue to be pressured to comply with a political transition - but if they are not and if he does not – the Assad regime has little reason to fear for repercussions.
Has Egypt overcome the Brotherhood complex?
Tuesday, 22 April 2014
Has anything changed in Egypt? Hope in Egypt, the biggest and most important Arab country, was not limited to getting rid of the Muslim Brotherhood governance and the backwardness it represents, but it also included paving the way towards eliminating fear of the Brotherhood dominance which took the country decades back. What's certain is that the government banning the Egyptian movie ‘Beauty of the Soul’ starring Lebanese diva Haifa Wehbe does not carry good news. The decision to ban the movie gives the impression that Egypt has only gotten rid of the Brotherhood complex on the surface but it hasn't really or deeply gotten rid of the Brotherhood's legacy and intellectual ascendancy.
The issues goes beyond banning a movie that might be good or bad, as this is an issue that the audience and critics decide at the end of the day. The issue is first and foremost linked to taking brave decisions in all sectors and fields, beginning with the cinema and all other arts.
Egypt was not a victim of the Brotherhood because a member of this group was president for a whole year; Egypt was a victim of fear, which allowed the Brotherhood to impose a lot on the society under the excuse of protecting morals. The organization thus benefitted from exploiting religion and at least two other factors.
A history of Brotherhood infiltration
The first one is represented with the regression of education across the country since the military attained power following the 1952 coup. The Brotherhood exploited this regression to the utmost as they began practicing strong and solid activity in universities and schools upon Anwar al-Sadat's encouragement, after he succeeded Gamal Abdelnasser in 1970.
Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed El-Beltagy (R) stands with other senior figures in a cage in a courthouse on the first day of their trial in Cairo November 4, 2013. (Reuters)
Back then, Sadat, who engaged in an early confrontation with other politicians, wanted to use the Brotherhood to strengthen his power, especially after he jailed Ali Sabri and his comrades in 1971.
Afterwards, Sadat needed the group to confront the repercussions resulting from huge decisions like expelling Soviet experts in 1971, engaging in the October War in 1973, going to Jerusalem in the fall of 1977 and signing the peace treaty with Israel in March 1979.
The last of which happened at a time when other Arabs sought to isolate Egypt under the influence of two Baathi regimes which mastered the act of exploiting "nationalistic" symbols in Syria and Iraq.
The Brotherhood benefitted from Sadat to the maximum before they got rid of him in October 1981.
“Did a revolution happen in Egypt in order to remain captive of the Brotherhood's complex? Or does a revolution mean a comprehensive change that brings back Egypt to its glory and civilized face so one can say a real change happened in Egypt?”
The other factor which the Brotherhood used in their favor was the complex which former leader Husni Mubarak suffered from. Mubarak sought to politically weaken the Brotherhood but he allowed them to spread on all levels including in the media.
Even national dailies were infiltrated by the Brotherhood which had full pages to market their ideas in the shadow of certain editors-in-chief and writers. These people, who had shallow intellect at best, attained their posts because they were willing to please anybody just to be employees of the minister of information or this or that security apparatus.
There were of course few exceptions among the editors-in-chief during Mubarak's era. But what cannot be ignored is that political suppression of the Brotherhood, up to preventing them from entering parliament during the last elections held in Mubarak's era, was accompanied with their infiltration of all sectors and their moral influence as they marketed backwardness even in the sector of art.
Has progress been made?
The June 30 revolution expressed the Egyptians' rejection of the Brotherhood and of hijacking the January 25 revolution. The new governance, which came as a result of this real popular revolution, was supposed to get rid of the complexes of the past. This means to first end competitions over who is more Muslim.
Either there is freedom that includes all forms of art - from cinema to theatre to singing - or there should be no art in the country anymore. We are of course not calling for submitting to the phenomenon of decay, shallowness and vulgarity. But there must unbiased specialized committees consisting of competent people and that evaluate works of art away from the Brotherhood's complexes and the necessity to make religious arguments over them.
Saudi Arabia, instead of responding to the Khomeini revolution by being more open towards all that is civilized, made a religious bid against Iran and thus fell in the trap which the latter set for it. Also in 1979, following the seizure of the Grand Mosque by extremists led by Juhayman al-Otaybi, the Saudi kingdom responded by implementing a stricter enforcement of the Islamic code.
The terrorist attack came at a time when crown prince Fahed bin Abdulaziz was supposed to make a series of reforms that take the kingdom to a new different phase. But what can one do when governance becomes captive of extremism and involve in a game of bids? Isn't this falling in the trap?
Such bids are good for nothing.
They didn't benefit Saudi Arabia, currently on the verge of great reforms in the educational, cultural and social sectors after blacklisting the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. On the contrary, this bidding, at some point, produced Osama Bin Laden and others like him who turned against Saudi Arabia in a manner akin to the Brotherhood's coup against Anwar al-Sadat.
This bidding did not benefit Egypt either and it will not benefit it in the future. The confrontation with the Brotherhood and other extremist groups is a comprehensive confrontation which is not limited to security and war on terrorism. Cinema, art and culture in general are a major part of this confrontation with a group that mainly aims to alter the society's nature and to spread misery in order to control it. The situation in Gaza with the emirate of the Talbani Hamas is a perfect example of that.
Did a revolution happen in Egypt in order to remain captive of the Brotherhood's complex? Or does a revolution mean a comprehensive change that brings back Egypt to its glory and civilized face so one can say a real change happened in Egypt?
Khairallah Khairallah is a Lebanese writer who has previously worked at Lebanon’s Annahar newspaper, he then moved to London and began writing political columns in Arabic language newspapers, including Al-Mustaqbal and Rosa El-Youssef.