February 12/14

Bible Quotation for today/Teaching about Prayer
Matthew 05/06-15: "When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites! They love to stand up and pray in the houses of worship and on the street corners, so that everyone will see them. I assure you, they have already been paid in full.  But when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you.  “When you pray, do not use a lot of meaningless words, as the pagans do, who think that their gods will hear them because their prayers are long. 8 Do not be like them. Your Father already knows what you need before you ask him. 9 This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honored; 0 may your Kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us today the food we need. Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One. ’“If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done. 

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For February 12/14

Erdogan’s latest scandal disappoints East and West/Diana Moukalled/Al Arabiya/February 12/14
Suicide terrorism thriving in Syria, is threat to West, Israel new report warns/By: Yaakov Lappin/J.Post/February 12/14
Are Negotiations a New Opportunity Being Lost by the Palestinians/By: Mohammed S. Dajani/Fikra Forum/February 12/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For February 12/14
Lebanese Related News

Geagea Asks Those Who Voiced 'Verbal Support' for Bkirki Charter to Adopt it as National Action Plan

FPM Bloc Hits Out at Geagea: No One Should Explain Bkirki Charter Differently to Serve Their Interests
Al-Rahi Heads to Vatican, Says New Cabinet Shouldn’t Lead to Crisis

Hopes for imminent Lebanese new government dashed
STL joins fifth Hezbollah suspect to Hariri case
European Union Ambassador to Lebanon Angelina Eichhorst Reveals Strong International Understanding on Lebanon
Saniora Travels to Riyadh for Talks with Hariri over Cabinet Formation
ISF Intelligence Bureau Detains Syrian Allegedly Involved in Tripoli Blasts
Cardinal Bechara Rai, Lebanon's Maronite patriarch, Lebanese must coexist, get president elected in timely manner
Al-Rahi Heads to Vatican, Says New Cabinet Shouldn’t Lead to Crisis
Jumblat Says Mustaqbal Candidates for Interior Ministry Facilitate Cabinet Formation
Lebanese, Palestinian Charged over Ties with Daftardar
Rocket from Syria Hits Outskirts of Hermel

Syrian Warplanes Launch Two Strikes on Arsal's Outskirts
Report: Hizbullah Informs Army on Dormant Terrorist Networks
Jackie Chamoun's 'Topless' Pictures Spark Flap
Imam, Lebanese 'Husband' Charged in Australia over Child Marriage
Marshall Islands Nominate Jamil Sayyed as Their Paris-Based Envoy to UNESCO
Miscellaneous Reports And News

The seizure of a dozen nuns in Syria: Suspicious scenario
Netanyahu accepts Kerry’s “framework” in principle, seeks publication delayed to Knesset recess

Rouhani Calls for 'Fair' Talks as Iran Marks Revolution
Iran's Judiciary Calls on Opposition Leaders to 'Repent'
Death to Israel’ chants mark Iran anniversary

Brahimi Says Syria Talks 'Laborious', Little Progress Made

Russia Says Draft of New Syria Resolution 'Absolutely Unacceptable'

Amr Moussa: Sisi will run for presidency
Egypt Policeman Shot Dead, Militants Blow Up Sinai Gas Pipeline

Obama: U.S., France Stepping Up to Challenges of Leadership Together

EU envoy: Relations with Israel depend on outcome of peace talks

Lieberman heads to Paris for talks on Iran


Geagea Asks Those Who Voiced 'Verbal Support' for Bkirki Charter to Adopt it as National Action Plan
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 February 2014/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Tuesday challenged rivals in the Hizbullah-led camp to endorse the recent charter issued by Bkirki as a “national program of action,” noting that some parties have only voiced “verbal support” for the document. “The Bkirki charter reminded me of the famous Bkirki declaration,” said Geagea at a press conference he held at his Maarab headquarters.
“The real manifestation of the Lebanese entity is the rise of an actual state and therefore all other policies have become irrelevant and contradicting with the Bkirki charter,” Geagea pointed out.
“The theory of resistance, which means Hizbullah's statelet, has fallen and the council of Maronite bishops has stressed the importance of the rise of the real and productive state. But several days later, (Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh) Naim Qassem said Lebanon cannot exist without the resistance, which means that there are two projects -- the Maronite bishops' project and Hizbullah's project,” the LF leader explained.
He stressed that the higher national interest can only be defined and determined according to the 1943 National Pact of coexistence and the Lebanese constitution.
“The National Pact and the constitution do not mention weapons or Hizbullah's statelet, so those who are claiming that they support Bkirki's charter must respect every clause in it that emphasizes the importance of the state's presence – the state and the state only,” Geagea went on to say. “Bkirki's charter also mentioned three founding values and it spoke of freedom, partnership and equality. How can we speak of freedom in Lebanon while we have things such as 'May 7' and the 'black shirts',” said Geagea, referring to Hizbullah's May 7, 2008 military operation, when gunmen belonging to the party and its allies swept through Beirut's neighborhoods, and the famous "black shirts" show of force, when black-clad unarmed members of Hizbullah roamed Beirut streets.
Geagea described Bkirki's charter as “excellent,” but stressed that it must be “implemented on the ground of reality” and must become an “approach in political conduct.”
“There is an absence of freedom in Lebanon that is being practiced against the March 14 camp by the other camp. As for equality in partnership, it is nonexistent, and that was reflected in Hizbullah's decision to take part in the fighting in Syria. If we also want to talk about partnership, we must mention a fair electoral law,” Geagea said. “Page 14 of Bkirki's charter mentions the crippling of constitutional institutions, and here we want to ask who crippled the institutions, who closed the parliament, who impeded the election of a new president before the Doha Agreement and who paralyzed the Constitutional Council afterwards?” he asked, hitting out at the rival camp.
He noted that “those who are crippling institutions in the country are well-known.” Commenting on the similarities between the Bkirki charter and the Baabda Declaration, Geagea said “the council of Maronite bishops mentioned the Baabda Declaration and this is an essential point.”  “It stressed that Lebanon's neutrality is not a political stance but rather a political experience for Lebanon … Our participation in the cabinet depends on the issue of the Baabda Declaration,” Geagea noted.
“Our entire stance is hinging on agreeing on the Baabda Declaration in cabinet and turning it into the only political segment of the ministerial policy statement. The charter also calls for preserving the Lebanese fabric and this requires preserving Lebanon's neutrality at a time Hizbullah has sent fighters to Syria,” he said. Geagea called on “those who are saying that they support Bkirki's charter” to be “honest with themselves,” asking them to take “a frank stance.” Addressing the issue of the exclusive possession of arms that was mentioned in the Bkirki charter, Geagea said: “How can you claim to support the charter while some parties are voicing support for Hizbullah's arms. The exclusive possession of arms means only the army and security forces can possess weapons.”He lamented that the resolutions of the international legitimacy are not being “respected or implemented.”
Geagea wrapped up his press conference by saluting Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, hoping the council of Maronite bishops “will oversee the proper implementation of this charter.”
He also called on all political parties to endorse Bkirki's charter as “a national program of action, regardless of their regional, sectarian and political affiliations.”

FPM Bloc Hits Out at Geagea: No One Should Explain Bkirki Charter Differently to Serve Their Interests

Naharnet/11 February 2014 /The Change and Reform bloc lashed out at Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Tuesday, accusing him of contradicting with the clauses of the Bkirki Charter.

"We are the party that values the Bkirki Charter and no one should explain it in different terms to serve their interests,” MP Ibrahim Kanaan stated after the bloc's weekly meeting.

Kanaan was responding to Geagea's press conference earlier in the day, in which the LF leader criticized Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun's support of the Charter.

"How can someone announce that they endorse the Charter while at the same time they are holding onto Hizbullah's weaponry?” Geagea asked. “This contradicts with the Charter's core content.”

Kanaan, however, slammed Geagea's statement and asked: “Who obstructed agreeing on an electoral law that was called for in the charter? Who extended the mandate of the parliament's term? Who prevented the formation of the cabinet for 11 months? Isn't it the party that did not want to collaborate with Hizbullah but later changed its mind? Who is suggesting vacuum in the presidency?”

He continued: “Did we discuss the Orthodox Gathering's electoral draft law in Bkirki or not? Was there consensus over it?” But in a moment the draft law was put on hold after it was already placed on the agenda.”

The FPM lawmaker noted at the beginning of his statement that the FPM did not support the Bkirki Charter “before studying it carefully and evaluating whether its main points are in harmony with the party's aspirations or not.”

The pact that was mentioned in the Bkirki Charter signals religious coexistence and the Lebanese formula is not something accidental or temporary but is a permanent matter,” he said.

The pact is not a temporary settlement that can be overthrown when there is a conflict of interests and of choices.”He remarked: “The Charter therefore tackles 23 years of flawed partnership and coexistence.”

Regarding Lebanon's stance towards regional matters, Kanaan pointed out that the Bkirki Charter suggests neutrality in order to preserve pluralism in the country.

This means that neutrality is a requirement for dealing with internal matters. The charter linked neutrality to Lebanon's strength, to the army, to the security forces and to the country's stance on regional matters such as the Palestinian cause,” he explained. Kanaan added: "The Charter then says Lebanon must not be a passage or a site for regional conflicts."

By this, the Charter is criticizing the foundation of the country's presence since 1990,” he stressed. We value the national values that the Maronite Patriarchy has proposed, the fears it has expressed, and the priorities it has set. What is left is setting a work plan for implementation.” We call for working to achieve these national goals to build a state with a positive neutral approach.”

Kanaan also called for forming a national unity cabinet. Announced on Wednesday, the Bkriki Charter calls for staging the presidential elections on time and adhering to Lebanese national principles in order to save the country from dangers threatening it.


Al-Rahi Heads to Vatican, Says New Cabinet Shouldn’t Lead to Crisis
Naharnet/ Newsdesk 11 February 2014
/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi called on Tuesday for the formation of a government that does not lead to a crisis in Lebanon and for holding the presidential elections on time.
“The government should not cause a crisis if it was formed according to everyone's wishes in Lebanon,” al-Rahi told reporters at Rafik Hariri International Airport before making a two-week trip to the Vatican.
The patriarch is scheduled to brief Pope Francis on the National Charter that received wide support from Lebanese politicians from across the political spectrum.
Al-Rahi announced the Charter following the monthly meeting of the council of Maronite bishops last Wednesday. It stressed the need for the election of a new president on time and for Muslim-Christian partnership in the country.
“I don't think it is appropriate to create a new crisis,” the patriarch said. “It would also be disrespectful for the president and the premier-designate to form a government that does not receive parliament's vote of confidence.” “It would be illogical for them to wait for ten months to form a government that does not receive a confidence,” he said.
The new government should set the stage for the presidential elections, al-Rahi stressed.
“Let's focus on this constitutional event and see how things would unfold and Lebanon would move forward,” he added.

Hopes for imminent new government dashed
February 11, 2014/By Hussein Dakroub, Hasan Lakkis/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: All signs indicate that an all-embracing political government will not be formed soon given the unresolved row over the rotation of key ministerial portfolios, political sources said Monday.
“No government will be formed in the next few days because of continued differences over the rotation of ministerial portfolios,” a source familiar with the negotiations told The Daily Star.
“Contacts on the Cabinet formation have come to a halt in the absence of new proposals to break the monthslong deadlock.”He added that Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun’s opposition to the ministerial rotation was behind the delay in announcing an all-embracing Cabinet based on an 8-8-8 lineup. The source ruled out the formation of a fait accompli government for now, saying this option would further complicate an already complex situation. Aoun has refused to yield on his opposition to the concept of rotating ministerial portfolios in an all-embracing Cabinet based on an 8-8-8 lineup. The 8-8-8 proposal was part a compromise reached last month by the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition, the Future Movement, and MP Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party in a bid to break the 10-month Cabinet stalemate.
Sources in Aoun’s parliamentary Change and Reform bloc said that the FPM leader’s decision to reject the principle of ministerial rotation and his insistence that his son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, retain the Energy Ministry were irreversible. “Gen. Aoun is unlikely to drop this demand [for the energy portfolio]. If this demand is met, all other matters, including the rotation of the Telecommunications Ministry, are negotiable,” one source in the bloc said.
They said that Aoun would touch at his news conference Tuesday on the National Pact’s principles, which do not allow decisions on the Cabinet formation to be taken without the knowledge of a large political party in the country. The sources dismissed threats by Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam to form a fait accompli government if Aoun stuck to his objection to the ministerial rotation, saying they were not serious.
“[Aoun’s] bloc is firmly convinced that [Marada Movement leader] MP Suleiman Franjieh, the Tashnag Party, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement will withdraw their ministers [from a fait accompli government] in a show of solidarity with Gen. Aoun,” the source said, adding that Jumblatt would do the same not out of solidarity with Aoun but because the PSP chief had pledged to Speaker Nabih Berri that he would not participate in any Cabinet if the speaker were out of it.According to the sources, the circumstances that led former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to accept sharing power with Hezbollah and the March 8 alliance to accept the 8-8-8 Cabinet lineup and drop the 9-9-6 proposal would prompt the parties concerned with the formation process to exclude the Energy Ministry from the ministerial rotation.
Despite fiery rhetoric by some March 14 figures against Aoun and President Michel Sleiman’s indirect criticism of the FPM leader over his rejection of the rotation principle, the Change and Reform bloc is convinced that the energy portfolio will eventually be allotted to it. Sources close to Salam said no breakthrough had so far been made to announce the new Cabinet.
“There is nothing pointing to a quick birth of the Cabinet. But eventually, we will try to form a Cabinet with the least possible damage,” a source close to Salam said.
Hezbollah’s mediation efforts have failed to make Aoun drop his demand for retaining the Energy Ministry to his bloc. Salam has rejected Aoun’s demand in line with the principle of rotating portfolios among sects and parties he has adopted since he was appointed premier-designate on April 6. Given Aoun’s unyielding stance, Salam is left with the option to go ahead forming an all-embracing political government without the FPM leader’s approval. However, Aoun and March 8 parties have warned of the consequences of forming a fait accompli government. Sleiman indirectly criticized Aoun over his rejection of the ministerial rotation, saying the delay in the formation of a new Cabinet was shameful. “The formation of a Cabinet has become essential. Is insisting on a minister, a condition, or on a ministerial portfolio more important than Lebanon?” Sleiman tweeted.
“We have to prove that we can build a state, form governments, elect presidents and Parliaments and avoid extending [Parliament’s mandate],” he added. “The delay in the Cabinet formation has become shameful.”
Referring to the presidential election scheduled in May, Sleiman, whose six-year term in office expires on May 25, said: “The constitutional deadlines must be met and implemented because citizens are reeling under fear, killings, terrorism, hunger and the economic situation.” He called for supplying the Lebanese Army with advanced weapons to confront “Israeli attacks.”
Future lawmakers accused Hezbollah of reneging on the 8-8-8 Cabinet deal by resorting to excuses and enlisting its March 8 allies to scuttle the birth of a new Cabinet.
“When a solution on the Energy Ministry began to emerge, they [Hezbollah] came up with the issue of the security portfolios and when names were proposed they started using vetoes,” Future MP Ahmad Fatfat told a local television station. “What right do Aoun and Hezbollah think they have to objet to names put forward by the Future Movement?” Future MP Mohammad Hajjar alleged Hezbollah was obstructing the Cabinet formation, reflecting what he said was a pattern of reneging on agreements by the party. “We are fully ready to facilitate the Cabinet formation ... but we are still revolving in a vicious circle because of Hezbollah’s backtracking on previous agreements and commitments,” Hajjar told the Voice of Lebanon radio station.


STL joins fifth Hezbollah suspect to Hariri case
February 11, 2014/By Elise Knutsen/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon Tuesday officially joined the case of an alleged Hezbollah member accused of complicity in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri with the trial of four other suspects. The STL Trial Chamber cited a lack of objections from the Defense Council to the decision to join the case of Hassan Merhi to the trial of the four other Hezbollah suspects - Mustafa Badreddine, Hussein Oneissi, Salim Ayyash and Assad Sabra – indicted in the Feb. 14, 2005 attack. The Defense, however, did urge that the same benefits of independent trials be afforded to the merger of the cases, including a pre-Trial hearing.

European Union Ambassador to Lebanon Angelina Eichhorst Reveals Strong International Understanding on Lebanon
Naharnet/European Union Ambassador to Lebanon Angelina Eichhorst said an understanding was reached by the international community on the safety and security of Lebanon, stressing the importance of forming a new government and respecting constitutional deadlines. “We have reiterated that we hope you would form a government because there is an important international understanding on Lebanon, which should protect the country,” Eichhorst told An Nahar daily in an interview published on Tuesday. “Some foreign parties such as The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Jabhat al-Nusra have their own agenda to create instability but this does not overshadow the international understanding,” she said. When asked whether she thought internal or regional obstacles were the reason behind the cabinet stalemate, the diplomat said: “Everything's related to each other, we can't deny that.” “But our stance is clear that it is important to reach an understanding and before that there should be a deal on the willingness to reach an understanding” among the rival parties, she said. Eichhorst told An Nahar that the EU does not interfere in the cabinet formation process but called on certain parties to make concessions to facilitate the task of Premier-designate Tammam Salam, who has been unable for the past 10 months to come up with a line-up.Asked whether there was also an international understanding on the need to hold the presidential elections on time, the ambassador said: “Although Lebanon is not officially on the agenda of the EU foreign ministers today, they do discuss its constitutional deadlines and their respect.”“We hope that through our support to the Lebanese people, there would be a respect for the constitution,” she said. President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in May this year. “Our major focus today is security. That's why the EU is granting the Lebanese Armed Forces a major support,” she said. Eichhorst stressed that Lebanese security agencies were pursuing extremists and bringing them to justice to make sure there is no impunity. She expressed confidence that they would keep the situation under control and said she was optimistic that Lebanon could overcome this difficult stage.


ISF Intelligence Bureau Detains Syrian Allegedly Involved in Tripoli Blasts
Naharnet/Internal Security Forces Intelligence Bureau detained a Syrian national allegedly involved in last year's deadly mosque bombings in the northern city of Tripoli, the state-run National News Agency reported on Tuesday. The NNA said that the Intelligence Bureau raided the house of 31-year-old Jamil Aziz al-Hassan in the northern region of Anfeh and arrested him. The suspect was transferred to Beirut for further investigations. The news agency said that a surveillance camera set at the entrance of his house was confiscated. NNA reported that al-Hassan has been under the surveillance of the security forces for several month over his fishy ties with wanted fugitives. LBCI later reported that al-Hassan was released. Forty-five people were killed and 800 injured in the car bomb blasts that targeted the Sunni al-Taqwa and al-Salam mosques on August 23. Several suspects have already been charged with forming an armed gang for the purpose of carrying out terrorist activities and bombing the Tripoli mosques.


Al-Rahi Heads to Vatican, Says New Cabinet Shouldn’t Lead to Crisis
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi called on Tuesday for the formation of a government that does not lead to a crisis in Lebanon and for holding the presidential elections on time. “The government should not cause a crisis if it was formed according to everyone's wishes in Lebanon,” al-Rahi told reporters at Rafik Hariri International Airport before making a two-week trip to the Vatican.
The patriarch is scheduled to brief Pope Francis on the National Charter that received wide support from Lebanese politicians from across the political spectrum. Al-Rahi announced the Charter following the monthly meeting of the council of Maronite bishops last Wednesday. It stressed the need for the election of a new president on time and for Muslim-Christian partnership in the country. “I don't think it is appropriate to create a new crisis,” the patriarch said. “It would also be disrespectful for the president and the premier-designate to form a government that does not receive parliament's vote of confidence.”“It would be illogical for them to wait for ten months to form a government that does not receive a confidence,” he said. The new government should set the stage for the presidential elections, al-Rahi stressed. “Let's focus on this constitutional event and see how things would unfold and Lebanon would move forward,” he added.


Cardinal Bechara Rai, Lebanon's Maronite patriarch, Lebanese must coexist, get president elected in timely manner
Catholic News Service /BEIRUT — Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai said the Maronite Catholic Church could not remain a bystander as Lebanon neared an "existential crisis." "We must return to the achievements reached by the Lebanese people when they devised the original national pact," Cardinal Rai said, referring to the 1943 agreement that laid the foundation of Lebanon as a multiconfessional state. "Coexistence lies in belonging to a civilized project that brings together Muslims and Christians." Cardinal Rai, Maronite patriarch, announced Feb. 5 that the Maronite church had issued a "road map" for Lebanon. The document comes amid extreme tension over the civil war in neighboring Syria and a recent wave of bombings in Lebanon, some of them involving suicide bombers.The cardinal stressed the need for a timely election of a new president. President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in May, but there are fears that the differences among rival political parties will lead to a vacuum in the country's top post which, under the Lebanese constitution, is held by a Maronite Catholic. "Electing a new president as a new head of state within the constitutional deadline is not debatable, and it is a prerequisite condition because its absence means an absence of the state and its future," Cardinal Rai told journalists. He said the new president would be tasked with restarting "honest dialogue" among political foes. "The Maronite Church believes that resolving the current crisis lies in returning to national principles, which can be achieved through honest dialogue," the patriarch said. Lebanon's parliament extended its term for 17 months last June after rival parties failed to agree on a new election law. He said the Lebanese authorities must continue to build the state, preserve the constitution, and respect the judiciary. "It is not reasonable for the Lebanese to boast of their democracy when they, in fact, are obstructing the state's institutions," Cardinal Rai said. "It is unfortunate that the Lebanese factions have been forced to resort to foreign powers to resolve their internal disputes."He warned the Lebanese, "particularly officials, against continuing to exclude others, remaining obstinate and power hungry, because that will only drive Lebanon to the abyss." He said it is important for Lebanon "to avoid becoming a point of transit or departure for activities that might plunge it into regional or international conflicts." The cardinal also called for an end to the crisis in Syria through a national dialogue in which Syrians could decide their own fate. "A speedy resolution to the crisis and the return of refugees to their homes are vital Lebanese interests," he said. Lebanese authorities say there are more than 1.2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, equal to about one-quarter of Lebanon's population.


Report: Hizbullah Informs Army on Dormant Terrorist Networks
Naharnet/Hizbullah has informed the Lebanese Army Intelligence on the details of dormant cells plotting terrorist attacks in Lebanon, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Tuesday. “The party has a map on the locations of these dormant terrorist cells that are plotting dangerous bombings and its leadership has informed the Army Intelligence about it,” the daily said. The majority of these networks belong to al-Qaida and are covering their presence in Lebanon through fictitious companies engaged in trade, it said. Hizbullah has arrested several terrorists but has not handed them over to the army, al-Joumhouria added. The report said that Hizbullah and Amal leaderships have put a plan to pursue Takfiri groups in Lebanon after the latest bombings that targeted their strongholds in Beirut's southern suburbs and the eastern Bekaa Valley. Al-Joumhouria also quoted security officials as saying that the Army Intelligence was pursuing Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian suspects in southern Lebanon, the Bekaa and Beirut's southern suburbs. The suspects have left their homes and the Army is seeking to know their whereabouts over fears that they could be suicide bombers, the officials said. Meanwhile, al-Akhbar newspaper said Tuesday that a report about Hizbullah dismantling a cell belonging to The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was not true. No such network was arrested in Beirut's southern suburbs in the past weeks, al-Akhbar said.


Saniora Travels to Riyadh for Talks with Hariri over Cabinet Formation
Naharnet/Head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Saniora returned to Lebanon on Tuesday after a short visit to the capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, for talks with former Prime Minister Saad Hariri concerning the latest local and regional developments. According to An Nahar newspaper, talks between al-Mustaqbal chief Saad Hariri and Saniora will focus on the latest developments regarding the cabinet formation process. Saniora is accompanied by MP Nouhad al-Mashnouq and Hariri's adviser Nader Hariri. Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, a 67-year-old moderate, was appointed in April two weeks after the resignation of Premier Najib Miqati. However, Salam has been facing a difficulty in forming his cabinet over Free Patriotic Movement Chief MP Michel Aoun's unswerving stance to retain the energy and telecommunications ministries and his rejection to adopt the concept of rotating ministerial portfolios. Aoun has rejected the rotation of portfolios as part of a deal struck between the rival parties on the 24-member cabinet based on the 8-8-8 formula, hinting that he would pull his ministers out of it and drawing the support of his allies in the March 8 alliance. Al-Mustaqbal have recently staged a campaign against the FPM, accusing the party of impeding the cabinet formation by setting new conditions.

Lebanese, Palestinian Charged over Ties with Daftardar
Naharnet/The military prosecutor charged on Tuesday two suspects for having ties with Jamal Daftardar, a prominent official in the al-Qaida linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades. The charges were issued by Judge Saqr Saqr against a Lebanese man, who is in custody, and another Palestinian suspect. Saqr referred their case to the first military examining magistrate, Imad al-Zain, who set next Thursday to question the Lebanese suspect.Daftardar was arrested in the western Bekaa region on January 15. He was charged with belonging to the Ziad al-Jarrah Battalion, which is part of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. Several of the latest attacks on Hizbullah strongholds have been claimed by the brigades whose leader Majed al-Majed was captured by Lebanese authorities in December and died in custody later month.


Rocket from Syria Hits Outskirts of Hermel
Naharnet/A rocket from Syrian territories landed on Tuesday on the outskirts of the eastern Bekaa town of Hermel, a Hizbullah stronghold, media reports said. However, the state-run National News Agency reported that explosion sounds heard in Hermel were caused by a raid carried out by Syrian planes inside Syria near the border region of al-Qaa in the northern Bekaa. Hermel's Municipal Chief Sobhi Saqr denied in comments to Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) that a blast rocked the town, pointing out that Syrian planes bombarded areas in the eastern mountain range on the Lebanese-Syrian border . Hermel and other Bekaa areas were hit by several rockets in recent months, with Syrian rebels claiming most of the attacks, which they say are in retaliation to Hizbullah's military intervention in Syria. Meanwhile, security forces began fortifying its presence in Hermel by taking extraordinary measures inside the town and on its entrances. The army erected checkpoints in the town to thoroughly inspect vehicles and checking the identification papers of passers-by. The measures were taken by the army after residents demanded a comprehensive plan to prevent any new blast in the area. Hermel was the target of several attacks recently, particularly after Hizbullah sent men to Syria to fight alongside President Bashar Assad's troops against mainly Sunni rebel groups.


Jumblat Says Mustaqbal Candidates for Interior Ministry Facilitate Cabinet Formation
Naharnet/The Progressive Socialist Party is still exerting efforts to facilitate the formation of a new cabinet and end the political deadlock despite the ongoing disputes among the rival parties over the distribution of key portfolios.
Head of the PSP MP Walid Jumblat pointed out that the names proposed by al-Mustaqbal movement to be appointed at the head of the interior ministry are not provoking nor pose any challenge to the other parties.
“We welcome the names suggested by al-Mustaqbal movement. In my opinion they facilitate the formation of the cabinet if the disputes impeding the cabinet formation were local,” Jumblat said in comments published in As Safir newspaper on Tuesday.He stressed that his party will not interfere in the matter. Premier-designate Tammam Salam had reportedly decided to grant both the interior and defense portfolios to March 14 in addition to a proposal to hand the interior ministry to one of al-Mustaqbal movement candidates. However, the move drew outrage by the March 8 alliance that threatened to withdraw their ministers if such a decision was taken. PSP caretaker Minister of the Displaced Alaa Eddine Terro told al-Joumhouria newspaper published on Tuesday that the conditions and counter-conditions by the rival parties didn't reach an end. “The complication isn't only local as the regional developments are having an impact on the cabinet formation process and delaying it,” Terro told the daily. He called on all parties to compromise and prioritize the country's interests. Terro stressed that Jumblat didn't give up, noting that the Druze chief is still exerting efforts to find common grounds among the rival parties. “We will not lose hope,” he added. Salam, a 67-year-old moderate, was appointed in April two weeks after the resignation of Premier Najib Miqati. However, Salam has been facing a difficulty in forming his cabinet over Aoun's unswerving stance to retain the energy and telecommunications ministries and his rejection to adopt the concept of rotating ministerial portfolios. Aoun has rejected the rotation of portfolios as part of a deal struck between the rival parties on the 24-member cabinet based on the 8-8-8 formula, hinting that he would pull his ministers out of it and drawing the support of his allies in the March 8 alliance.


Marshall Islands Nominate Jamil Sayyed as Their Paris-Based Envoy to UNESCO
Naharnet/The Marshall Islands have nominated former Lebanese General Security chief Maj. Gen. Jamil Sayyed, who was detained in connection with ex-premier Rafik Hariri's assassination, as their envoy to UNESCO, the U.N. agency said Monday. The move could see Sayyed given immunity from prosecution as the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon looks into the Hariri case. "I can confirm that the government of the Marshall Islands sent us a letter indicating that this person would represent it," Sue Williams, a spokeswoman for UNESCO, the U.N.'s Paris-based cultural agency, told Agence France Presse. French newspaper Le Figaro had on Monday reported Sayyed's nomination, saying: "Thanks to the diplomatic immunity that would be available to him, the former spymaster would avoid possible prosecution by The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL)." As host of UNESCO, France would need to grant Sayyed a visa to take up his post. A foreign ministry spokesman could not say how Paris would respond to a visa request. Sayyed was arrested following the death of Hariri and 22 other people in a Beirut bomb attack on February 14, 2005 that was initially blamed on pro-Syrian Lebanese generals. He was detained for four years but released in 2009 along with three other generals, after the STL said there was not sufficient evidence to keep them. The trial of four Hizbullah members accused of murdering Hariri opened near The Hague last month, nine years after the huge Beirut blast provoked a political crisis that led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops after a 29-year presence in Lebanon. The Marshall Islands are a former U.S. territory of around 70,000 residents in the Pacific Ocean.


Jackie Chamoun's 'Topless' Pictures Spark Flap
Naharnet/Jackie Chamoun, the Lebanese skier competing at the Sochi Winter Olympics, has sparked a flap in the country, including a ministerial demand for an investigation, after risque photos of her taken for a calendar resurfaced online. The photos of Chamoun taken for the calendar show her holding strategically-placed ski equipment to protect her modesty as she poses in Faraya mountains. But a video of the photoshoot and stills from the film, which leave rather less to the imagination, emerged online this week, sparking criticism in some quarters after they were featured on local television. Chamoun took to Facebook on Tuesday to publicly apologize for the video and stills, which she said showed the preparation for the photoshoot, rather than the final product. "The video and photos that you are now seeing are part of the making of the preparation. It wasn't supposed to go public," she wrote. "I want to apologize to all of you, I know that Lebanon is a conservative country and this is not the image that reflects our culture," she added. "All I can ask to each of you who saw this is to stop spreading it, it will really help me focus on what is really important now: my training and race." But the apology has not placated everyone, with caretaker Youth and Sports Minister Faisal Karami calling on Tuesday for an investigation into the photos to ensure "the protection of Lebanon's reputation." The local Olympic Committee was meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss the issue, and the head of the Olympic delegation told Agence France Presse that Chamoun had been barred from speaking to the media. Chamoun's photos touched off a small firestorm in the country. "Stop all your trash," Issam Merhi wrote on Chamoun's Facebook page, addressing her supporters. "What she has done is wrong, or else you would have all done it." The 22-year-old Chamoun is competing in her second Winter Olympics representing Lebanon in alpine skiing. And despite the criticism leveled against her, plenty of fans offered their support online. "Don't worry about nay sayers Jackie!" wrote Nicolas Rubeiz on her Facebook page. "Cherish your independence and keep making us proud. You are causing no shame whatsoever to Lebanon."And others ridiculed the idea of a ministerial investigation to protect Lebanon's reputation at a time when the country is being rocked by a string of car bombings and other violence. "Weekly car bombs, not a big deal. #JackieChamoun in a slightly revealing photoshoot: scandal. #LebaneseProblem," wrote Twitter user KareemVots.


Imam, Lebanese 'Husband' Charged in Australia over Child Marriage
Naharnet/A Muslim cleric was Tuesday charged in Australia with conducting an illegal marriage between a 26-year-old man and a 12-year-old girl. It follows the arrest of a Lebanese national -- the "husband" -- last week on child sex offences. Police said the imam, reportedly Pakistan-born, was arrested in Sydney on Monday afternoon by the Child Abuse Squad and charged with solemnization of a marriage by an unauthorized person. He was granted strict conditional bail to appear in court on April 2. Last week police revealed that the Lebanese man, in Australia on a student visa, met a 12-year-old girl in the Hunter region north of Sydney in 2013 and allegedly became involved in a sexual relationship with her. The pair then allegedly moved to Sydney where they continued the relationship, with police claiming the man and child were married in an Islamic ceremony earlier this year.
While child marriages remain prevalent in parts of the world, in Australia 18 is the minimum age to tie the knot. The "husband" has been charged with 25 counts of sexual intercourse with a child between 10 and 14 years and remains in custody. Police have not laid charges against the parents of the girl, but investigations are continuing, police said.Source/Agence France Presse


Syrian Warplanes Launch Two Strikes on Arsal's Outskirts
Naharnet/Syria's air force launched two strikes on the outskirts of the Bekaa town of Arsal on Monday, causing no casualties, a Lebanese security source told Agence France Presse. Lebanon's National News Agency said “Syrian warplanes launched two strikes on the town of Younine in the Eastern Mountain Range on the Lebanese-Syrian border.” It said the raids did not cause any casualties. Al-Jadeed television said the two strikes targeted “the Khirbet Younine area in Arsal's outskirts as the warplanes pursued armed men.”Meanwhile, Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) said “a Syrian warplane launched an air-to-ground missile against the Wadi Hmayyed area in Arsal's outskirts.”The raid was the latest in a string of cross-border strikes against Arsal. On January 17, shells rained down on the town, killing eight people, including five children. A December air raid prompted the Lebanese Army to fire back with anti-aircraft guns. Arsal's residents support the revolt against President Bashar Assad, and the town has become home to thousands of Syrians who have fled the fighting. It has also turned into a route for the trafficking of arms and fighters from and to Syria.

Egypt Policeman Shot Dead, Militants Blow Up Sinai Gas Pipeline

NaharnetظSuspected militants blew up a gas pipeline in Egypt's Sinai peninsula on Tuesday and gunmen shot dead a policeman in the Suez canal city of Ismailia, security officials said.
Attacks in the Sinai and violence targeting soldiers and policemen across Egypt have surged since the military's overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July.
In Ismailia, two unknown gunmen riding a motorcycle shot dead the policeman while he was standing at a traffic light, officials said. Since January 23, 18 policemen have been killed in militant attacks, according to an Agence France Presse tally based on reports by security officials.
In the Sinai, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip, militants Tuesday planted a bomb under a pipeline that transports gas to an industrial area south of Al-Arish city, security officials said.
No one was injured in the attack, the fourth this year in the restive peninsula. The army has poured troops into the mountainous and underdeveloped Sinai peninsula, to combat the growing militancy.
Militants had previously forced a halt to gas supplies to Israel and Jordan by repeatedly targeting the pipeline following the 2011 overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.
An attack on January 27 was claimed by an al-Qaida inspired group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis or Partisans of Jerusalem.
The group has claimed most of the deadliest attacks in Egypt since the army ousted Morsi, saying that they were in revenge for a deadly crackdown by the security forces on his supporters.
More than 1,4000 people have been killed in the crackdown, according to Amnesty International, and thousands jailed.
SourceAgence France Presse

Rouhani Calls for 'Fair' Talks as Iran Marks Revolution
Naharnet/President Hassan Rouhani called for "fair and constructive" nuclear talks Tuesday as Iranians marked the 35th anniversary of the Islamic revolution amid recent progress in negotiations with world powers.
Rouhani, a moderate elected last year on vows to pursue a diplomatic solution to the decade-long impasse over Iran's nuclear program, also warned that Western nations should not have "delusions" about having a military option. He spoke as hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to mark the anniversary of the revolution that ousted the U.S.-backed shah, with many railing against the United States, still commonly referred to as the "Great Satan." Iran is set to resume talks in Vienna next week with the P5+1 group of world powers on a comprehensive nuclear accord following a landmark interim agreement reached in November in which it agreed to curb some nuclear activities for sanctions relief. But Tehran has laid out a series of "red lines" regarding the talks, and in a show of defiance on the eve of the anniversary announced it had successfully tested a long-range missile and a laser-guided projectile. "Iran is committed to fair and constructive negotiations within the framework of international regulations; we hope to witness such a willingness in the other party in the upcoming talks," Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television. "I say explicitly, if some have delusions of having any threats against Iran on their tables, they need to wear new glasses. There is no military option against Iran on any table in the world," he added. Western nations have long suspected Iran of covertly pursuing nuclear weapons alongside its civilian program, allegations denied by Tehran, which insists its nuclear activities are entirely peaceful.
Neither the United States nor Israel has ruled out military action to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, if diplomacy fails.Rouhani delivered the speech in honor of the anniversary at central Tehran's Azadi Square, where huge crowds had gathered, many of them chanting against the United States. "We don't trust America. All they want is to plunder our wealth", a 20-year-old Bassij Islamic militia member told Agence France Presse.
"We are fine with enduring the hardships (of international sanctions) because it will lead to the preservation of our rights."
'Red lines' in next week's talks. Iran made progress over the weekend with the U.N. nuclear watchdog by agreeing to divulge information that could shed light on allegations of possible past weapons research.
But officials also insisted on "red lines" in next week's talks with the P5+1 -- Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China plus Germany.
Negotiators said they would neither discuss Iran's ballistic missile program nor agree to the closure any nuclear sites or abandoning the "right" to enrich uranium to 20 percent, a few technical steps away from weapons-grade material. The missile program -- targeted by U.N. Security Council sanctions -- worries Western powers, as Iran boasts long-range missiles with a maximum range of 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles), enough to reach Israel.
The November deal is seen as a victory for Rouhani's foreign policy, after eight years of stalled talks and escalating sanctions under his hardline predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Rouhani has the support of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but hardliners argue that Iran gave up too much in the November deal and have been critical of his diplomatic overtures, particularly towards the United States. U.S. and Iranian officials have held several face-to-face talks in recent months, but the resumption of diplomatic relations with Washington, which severed ties with Iran after the seizure of its embassy in the aftermath of the revolution, is still a taboo for many Iranians. Tehran on Monday summoned the Swiss ambassador to Iran, whose country represents American interests, to protest U.S. measures imposed on companies and individuals for violating sanctions against Iran. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meanwhile warned that the talks in Vienna would be "difficult," while anticipating that a framework for future negotiations would be discussed.
"The biggest challenge is the lack of trust," he said. Source/Agence France Presse


Iran's Judiciary Calls on Opposition Leaders to 'Repent'
Naharnet/Iran's prosecutor general said Tuesday that opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi will remain under house arrest over anti-government protests until they "repent," Fars news agency reported.
Mousavi and Karroubi have been held incommunicado under separate house arrests since February 2011, accused of orchestrating massive, unprecedented street protests sparked by a disputed presidential election in 2009.
Prosecutor general Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie said they had committed a "great crime and treason." "Until which time the sedition leaders repent... the situation will remain as before," he said.
The protests turned deadly when authorities resorted to a heavy-handed crackdown in which thousands of protesters, reformist activists and journalists were arrested. Mousavi and Karroubi had claimed that the 2009 election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president for a second term had been rigged. "Some people are pointlessly trying to lift the house arrests, but (their efforts) will not bear any fruit," said Mohseni Ejeie, without giving further details.
The fate of Mousavi and Karroubi -- both of whom are reportedly suffering health problems -- has attracted global attention and triggered heated debates at home. In December influential Iranian lawmaker Ali Motahari, a conservative, said the judiciary should end the house arrests of Mousavi and Karroubi or put them on trial. "The protracted house arrests without trial lack legal or religious justification," Motahari told parliament in remarks carried by the ISNA news agency. Last week Karroubi was moved from a safe house to his own home, but is still being kept under house arrest. President Hassan Rouhani, a reputed moderate, pledged after his election victory in June 2013 to work for political and cultural liberalization in Iran. But he has stopped short of involving himself in the case of Mousavi and Karroubi. Opposition website reported that eight people arrested during the 2009 protests were freed Monday. The report said they had been sentenced to one to three years and had served most of their jail terms. In September, authorities freed around 15 reformists, journalists and lawyers, including prominent rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. Source/Agence France Presse


Death to Israel’ chants mark Iran anniversary
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Tuesday, 11 February 2014
To mark the 35th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, hundreds of thousands of Iranians on Tuesday gathered in Tehran chanting “Down with the U.S.” and “Death to Israel,” according to state media reports.
Meanwhile, in a speech marking the 35th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranian President Hassan Rowhani attacked economic sanctions imposed by the West as “brutal, illegal and wrong” and said countries in the region had nothing to fear from Iran. Rowhani also hit out at Western assertions that a military solution to a nuclear dispute with Tehran remained an option and pledged that Tehran would press on “forever” with what he called peaceful atomic research. The traditional anti-American rhetoric in Iran persists despite a political shift in the country since last year’s election of Rowhani, who is pursuing a policy of outreach to the West.
Part of this has been the landmark nuclear deal struck between Iran and global powers last November, in which Tehran agreed to cap its controversial uranium enrichment program in return for the easing of some sanctions by the West. The 1979 revolution toppled the pro-U.S. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and brought Islamists to power. Iranian state media reported there were also rallies in other parts of the country.
(With the Associated Press)


Russia Says Draft of New Syria Resolution 'Absolutely Unacceptable'
Naharnet/Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that a draft of a new United Nations humanitarian resolution on Syria was unacceptable because it was "absolutely one-sided."
"The ideas that were shared with us by those initiating this process... are absolutely unacceptable and contain an ultimatum for the government, that if they don't solve all this in two weeks then we automatically introduce sanctions," Lavrov said in Moscow. "Instead of engaging in everyday, meticulous work to resolve problems that block deliveries of humanitarian aid, they see a new resolution as some kind of simplistic solution," he said. U.N. diplomats have tried to persuade Russia to back a new resolution, drafted by Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg, which "demands that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, immediately end the sieges of the Old City of Homs." But Lavrov said focusing on one city and the government's role was "absolutely one-sided and detached from the facts." "It's as if there are no witness accounts, even from the humanitarian agencies, that the militant groups are the main impediments to the humanitarian operation in Homs and in delivering humanitarian aid to the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp," he said. He added that other Syrian cities like Zahra and Al Hasakah also need to be unblocked, and that the U.N. needed to focus more on the spread of terrorism in the war-torn country. "It's time for the Security Council to pay attention to an equally frightening aspect of the Syrian crisis, and that is the growth of terrorism due to the conflict." "It's time not just to react to the singular manifestations of terrorism," he said. "It's time to... speak out in principle about the terrorist threat, to approach this problem systematically."
Source/Agence France Presse


Brahimi Says Syria Talks 'Laborious', Little Progress Made
Naharnet /The latest round of Syria peace talks has made little progress, international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said Tuesday, calling on the government and the opposition to stop the "nightmare" of the civil war.
"The beginning of this week is as laborious as it was the first week," Brahimi told reporters after the warring sides held their first face-to-face talks since the second round of negotiations opened on Monday. "We are not making much progress." The new round of the so-called Geneva II talks got off to a shaky start on Monday and there was little sign that Tuesday's face-to-face meeting had seen more than a restating of positions. The opposition says the only way to end the three-year conflict is to form a transitional government -- without President Bashar Assad. "The regime is not even budging on this, insisting that they want to talk about one thing," said opposition spokesman Louay Safi. The regime insists Assad's future is non-negotiable and that the talks must focus on halting "terrorism" -- its term for a revolt it says is fueled by foreign jihadists and Gulf money.
Deputy foreign minister Faisal Muqdad said the government was ready to discuss all points but that terrorism must top the agenda. Brahimi appealed to all parties to "help Syria out of the nightmare its people have been living through now for three years". "Violence and terrorism, this is what the Syrian people want to put an end to, isn't that so? And how can this end without an agreement on the steps to be taken on the future of the country?" he said. But he added: "I'm not sure whether I can impose an agenda on people who don't want. How can you put a gun on their heads? It is their country." An eight-day session last month achieved little beyond getting the foes into the same room for the first time since the conflict erupted in March 2011. The current round is set to last until Friday, but there is little hope it will make progress towards ending the civil war that has now claimed the lives of more than 136,000 people and sent millions fleeing their homes. The two sides spent Monday trading blame for escalating violence and for difficulties evacuating civilians and getting aid to opposition-held districts of the city of Homs, under government siege since 2012. An agreement on evacuating civilians from Homs and bringing in aid was the only tangible result of the January 24-31 talks but the mission only began last week.
"You know that Homs can be called success, but it has been six months in the making. Six long months... to get 800 people out, and a little bit of food in," Brahimi said. He also said there were a host of other besieged communities where "nothing has happened". The opposition has warned it will not return for more talks if there is no progress this week. The United States, which backs the opposition, and Russia, a key Damascus ally, initiated the Geneva II talks based on a call for a transition government made by world powers at a 2012 conference. Russia has proposed that Moscow and Washington hold a collective meeting with the U.N. and the two sides to break the deadlock. Source/Agence France Presse


Obama: U.S., France Stepping Up to Challenges of Leadership Together
Naharnet/The United States and France are working together to confront a variety of global challenges, President Barack Obama said Tuesday at the start of a White House visit by France's Francois Hollande.
"More nations must step up and meet the responsibilities of leadership, and that's what the United States and France are doing together," Obama said in opening remarks, Hollande by his side. Source/Agence France Presse


Lieberman heads to Paris for talks on Iran
Ynetnews/02.11.14/In first trip to France in five years, the foreign minister will also meet with French interior minister, head of OECD and members of French Jewish groups
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will visit Paris on Wednesday for talks with his counterpart Laurent Fabius that will include the Iranian nuclear program, his ministry said Tuesday.
"France plays an important role on the international stage to prevent further nuclear program of Iran," said Lieberman's spokesman in a statement ahead of the minister's first official visit to France since 2009.
"The new ballistic missile test conducted Monday by Iran proves once again that its intentions have not changed, and that the Iranians do not want to hide their aggressive intentions," he added, referring to Iran's test of two new missiles. "The threat is always the same, but (now it is) hidden behind smiles. This is the only change," the spokesman said. The Foreign Ministry said that while in Paris, Lieberman will also meet with the Interior Minister of Manuel Valls, Secretary-General of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Angel Gurria, members of the France-Israel inter-parliamentary friendship group, and representatives of Jewish organizations. Lieberman, leader of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, has long been considered a "hawk" in Israeli politics. But since his return to the Foreign Ministry in November, following his acquittal in a trial for corruption, he has worked to shed his image of the "pariah" of the international diplomatic scene. The foreign minister recently backed US Secretary of State John Kerry after he came under fire from fellow members of the government, who accused him of exploiting the threat of international boycott to pressure Israel into negotiations with the Palestinians. On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that easing sanctions against Iran was counterproductive, and had pushed Tehran to redouble its "aggression on the international scene." This tone contrasts with that adopted by the United States and the European Union, who have decided to partially lift sanctions against Iran in the hope of reaching an agreement on Tehran's nuclear program. Negotiations with the P5+1 (the United States, China, Russia, France, the UK and Germany) on a comprehensive agreement with Iran are set to begin in Vienna on February 18.


Netanyahu accepts Kerry’s “framework” in principle, seeks publication delayed to Knesset recess

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 11, 2014/Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has informed the White House in Washington and US Secretary of State John Kerry of his acceptance in principle of the US framework document - subject to the reservations he has raised with US Special Envoy Martin Indyk, DEBKAfile’s exclusive Washington sources report.
This step was followed by news that the prime minister would call on President Barack Obama in the first week of March during his next visit to Washington.
It was also the background to Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer’s defense of the US Secretary in an interview published in TIME Magazine Tuesday, Feb. 11.
Kerry’s comment about boycott and international isolation hanging over Israel if his peace mission failed was denounced in Jerusalem as attempted intimidation. However, Dermer let him off the hook by saying: “I think he was making a descriptive statement. I don’t think he was doing it in order to pressure Israel.”
By overstating the ambassador’s role as “Bibi’s brain,” TIME was hinting that Dermer’s comment represented the prime minister’s current thinking on the incident.
In the exchanges leading up to the Obama-Netanyahu meeting, the prime minister’s office and Israel embassy have asked the White House and State Department to delay publication of the Kerry document to mid-April during the Knesset’s Passover recess. This will help Netanyahu to stay clear of the rowdy debates and heated special sessions he expects to erupt over his acceptance of the paper.
The Secretary of State may therefore add a few weeks to the three-way negotiating time table and release his framework accord at the end of April or early May.
A high-ranking US official told DEBKAfile: “We all know that the die is cast in Jerusalem and that Netanyahu has accepted Kerry’s guidelines. They are now working on the reservations he needs to submit for his government coalition to survive the expected storm of protest and resistance and for the talks with the Palestinians to carry on.
Netanyahu will also try presenting the Kerry paper to the public as an American proposal which is not binding either on Israel or the Palestinians, except for the attached reservations.
US officials au fait with such processes predict that those reservations will eventually find their way to the dustbin. In 2004, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appended 16 reservations to President George W. Bush’s letter defining the American position on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
In that letter, Bush omitted recognition of the “right of return” for the 1948 Palestinian refugees, and tangentially acknowledged Israel’s right to establish large settlement blocs in the West Bank in consideration of demographic changes.The Bush letter did not refer to the 1967 borders, but instead determined that future negotiations should be based on the 1949 Armistice Lines.
Sharon’s reservations had dropped by the wayside by the time Congress came to approve the Bush letter in its original form.
Informed sources in Washington forecast a similar fate for the Kerry framework document.
For now, the US Secretary has made his own request of Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas: He asks them to draw out the negotiations on his framework after its release over two years – that is up until late 2016 when the Obama administration ends. Abbas is against any prolongation of the process. He has so far agreed to an extension of no more than a year.

Amr Moussa: Sisi will run for presidency
Staff Writer, Al Arabiya News/Tuesday, 11 February 2014
Egypt’s army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has decided to run for presidency and will make a public announcement in the near future, veteran Egyptian diplomat Amr Moussa said on Tuesday after a meeting with the military strongman. Sisi’s presidency bid has been widely anticipated. Last week, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported that he the army chief decided to run for presidency. In a lengthy interview with the daily al-Siyasa newspaper, Sisi reportedly said he “would fulfill the people’s demands to run for president.” The report stirred uproar among Egyptians, with many upset that the army chief first announced his decision to a foreign media outlet.
In a move to calm the situation, the military dismissed the report saying it was “merely journalistic speculation and not a direct statement from Field Marshal el-Sisi.”In a statement posted on Facebook, Egypt’s military spokesman Ahmed Ali said the decision "personally taken [by el-Sisi] in front of the great Egyptian people, clearly and directly, without doubt or speculation.”Egypt’s Supreme Military Council gave Sisi the green light to run for presidency last month, on the same day that interim President Adly Mansour promoted him to field marshal.


EU envoy: Relations with Israel depend on outcome of peace talks

By LAHAV HARKOV/02/11/2014/J.Post
Ambassador Faarborg-Andersen says EU "very keen" to strengthen ties with Israel, hopes for successful peace agreement. EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen.
Israel-European ties depend on outcome of peace talks, EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faarborg-Andersen said ahead of EP President Martin Schulz's speech in the Knesset on Wednesday.
"Israel is an important partner of the European Union and the Middle East peace process is one of the EU`s foreign policy priorities, and therefore a visit to Israel is almost a must for every European Parliament president,” Faaborg-Andersen said. Schulz is scheduled to address the Knesset Wednesday afternoon and meet with President Shimon Peres and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.
The ambassador said in an interview for the Knesset's website that the EU is "very keen" to strengthen ties with Israel and bring them to the same level as European non-EU countries like Norway or Switzerland, but that "because of the vital importance that the international community attaches to [negotiations with the Palestinians], this depends to a large degree on the success of that process.”
The EU envoy recounted that in December, EU Foreign Ministers declared that, should a final peace agreement be reached, they would offer Israel a Special Privileged Partnership, which would involve increased access to European markets, cultural and scientific links, political dialogue, security cooperation and more. According to Faaborg-Andersen, "every Israeli would benefit enormously," from the upgrade in relations.
”The failure of negotiations, particularly if it would be ascribed to continued settlement construction, would not make it possible for EU-Israel relations achieve their full potential and carries the risk of Israel becoming increasingly isolated,” he added. Still, Faaborg-Andersen stated that "despite the gloom and doom that one encounters in the media, EU-Israel relations are, in fact, extraordinarily strong."
The envoy added that the EU has a more developed relationship with Israel than any other non-European country.
Faaborg-Andersen pointed out that Israel in the EU cooperate in myriad areas, using the recently-launched Horizon 2020 research and development program as a prime example.

Boycotts and sanctions towards Israeli-Palestinian peace
Octavia Nasr/Al Arabiya

U.S. Secretary John Kerry is close to releasing a “framework agreement” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Though it is only a “framework,” a beginning of a tedious road ahead, it will probably be the best U.S. contribution to date to a conflict that has plagued a region for way too long and has caused only harm, death, destruction and anxiety to far too many. Particularly to generations of Palestinians living state-less and status-less, most of them in refugee camps across the Middle East, while their fate is decided. Some of the known details of this framework signal a shifting of positions on several issues and a clear distancing from the powerful Israel lobby AIPAC (The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee) that has been historically successful at dictating U.S. Middle East policy. Under the Obama administration, AIPAC was faced with a more pragmatic approach to the Middle East, one that acknowledges others’ differences and puts more weight on diplomacy and communication rather than military force and bullying.
Dead wrong
The lobby that once muted whom it wanted when it wanted under the allegation of “anti-Semitism” is for once not in the driver’s seat. Not only because it proved to be dead wrong on many occasions, but mainly because it was leading both the U.S. and Israel down destructive paths the two nations cannot afford. Indeed for the past few years, directed campaigns to boycott, divest and sanction Israel have been spreading steadily worldwide
While most of Kerry’s diplomacy has been taking place under the radar, in recent weeks he demonstrated U.S. tough love for Israel through warnings - public and private - that global sanctions are growing in size and momentum and soon they won’t be contained.
Spreading steadily
Indeed for the past few years, directed campaigns to boycott, divest and sanction Israel (BDS) have been spreading steadily worldwide. In Europe, they have forced major economic sanctions or threats of sanctions at the highest EU levels. They finally made a major impact in the U.S. when members of the American Studies Association voted to endorse the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The BDS campaigns are powerful because of the diversity of their members, their intellectual non-violent approach and their focus. Could these clear messages the U.S. is sending Israel about peace or the consequences of not going in that direction with the Palestinians bear fruit? Barring an assassination or major disaster that will deflect the attention and buy extremists on all sides enough time to derail the effort, the Kerry-Obama plan might actually lead somewhere.
This article was first published in al-Nahar on Feb. 10, 2014.

*Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks.

Erdogan’s latest scandal disappoints East and West
Diana Moukalled/Al Arabiya
It was not only Turkish public opinion that was shocked by the recent leak of an audio recording of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which he hinted at the direct pressure he exerted on the media. The Turkish opposition has often warned against the expansion of what it calls the “dark triangle”- the government, businessmen and media - which forestall all attempts to create an independent and powerful media in Turkey. The disappointment with Erdogan’s scandals has reverberated in both the East and the West, and those of us who looked up to the Turkish model as an example of harmony between Islam and modernity have been equally disappointed.
The latest scandal
The latest scandal concerns the recording, made during the recent Gezi Park protests and available on YouTube, in which Erdogan is heard asking an official at a prominent satellite channel to withdraw a story because he does not agree to its content. The official agrees immediately and pulls the report. The recording coincided with a proposal of a new draft bill which extends internet censorship at a time when at least 100 journalists have lost their jobs since the start of the corruption scandals involving Erdogan and members of his family at the end of last year. These scandals guarantee that Turkey will remain at the top of the world’s jailers of journalists, even above China
These scandals guarantee that Turkey will remain at the top of the world’s jailers of journalists, even above China. Today, Erdogan controls around 80 percent of media outlets in Turkey, and his reign has seen the highest rate of dismissals among journalists. Whoever follows events in Turkey cannot help but be surprised by the rapid and dramatic deterioration of Erdogan’s once-sparkling image, which appealed to a wide section of Arabs.
Responding to his charismatic personality
The Arab Levant responded to his charismatic personality. During his reign, Arabs rediscovered Turkey and their passion for the Ottoman Empire, which never really ended. In the past decade, Turkey again infiltrated the Arab soul with a booming economy, tourist industry, its process of modernization and a captivating nature, as well as through TV soaps featuring beautiful actors and actresses who occupied Arabs’ imagination and dreams.
In this difficult Arab reality of ours, we were often quite taken by Turkey and its move towards democracy, and saw it as a catalyst, or maybe even as a source of help for other Arabs wanting to take similar steps. However, the recent disappointments have exposed how Erdogan is now unable to differentiate between public and private, and how Turkey’s march towards democracy is faltering.
Erdogan’s early days in government were characterized by a turn towards the East at a time when his Turkish adversaries were looking to their Western neighbors. He started to talk to us in our language, causing surprise in Turkey, because successes abroad did not translate into domestic success. He lost large sections of Turkish public opinion, and was unable to achieve actual progress in his relationships with the Kurds, and now the facts about the fragile nature of his regime are finally being exposed.
Now the Turkish secularists who are closer to the West are the ones who are making progress. As for Erdogan, it is likely that all he has left from his orientalism is despotism.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 11, 2014.

**Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on


Suicide terrorism thriving in Syria, is threat to West, Israel new report warns

By YAAKOV LAPPIN/J.Post/02/11/2014 17:29
15% of world's suicide bombings occurred in Syria last year, Tel Aviv study reports; majority carried out by al-Qaida linked groups. Syrian bombing
Suicide terrorism is thriving in Syria, has begun spreading and destabilizing neighboring Lebanon, and threatens the security of Western states, a new study published on Tuesday warned.
The study, carried out by the Tel Aviv-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, found that fifteen percent of all suicide bombings in the world took place in Syria in 2013, and noted a surge of similar attacks in Lebanon since the start of 2014.
"This is the first study of its kind in the world that studies the use of suicide bombing in Syria as a modus operandi," Dr. Reuven Erlich, head of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, told The Jerusalem Post.
"It's relevant to the security of the West. This is not merely a theoretical study," he added.
The Center is a part of the Israeli Intelligence and Heritage Commemoration Center, which was founded in the 1980s by leading members of the Israeli intelligence community.
According to the report's authors, the introduction of suicide bombings in Syria was imported by terrorists copying copying al-Qaida attacks in Iraq, and in other Islamic battle arenas.
The two organizations most associated with this form of terrorism in Syria are Jabhat Al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda's official branch, and its rival, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The group is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or its abbreviated title, ISIS. Suicide bombings carried out in 2012 and 2013 caused heavy losses and damages to the Syrian regime. Bombers struck at symbols state sovereignty, and raised the profile of the the organizations that dispatched them, noted the report ."These attacks spread to Lebanon in 2014, and have become the leading modus operandi" of Sunni groups fighting Hezbollah and the Shi'ite community there, the report added. The biggest number of suicide terror attacks was carried out by Jabhat Al-Nusra. Since its founding in January of 2012 to 2013, the organization carried out 43 of the recorded 50 suicide bombings in Syria that year, and in 2013, it carried out 34 additional attacks. ISIS, for its part, carried out nine suicide bombings since its founding in May 2013. Both groups carried out a combined number of 43 suicide bombings in 2013, using 53 attackers, the report continued.
Since the start of 2014, five suicide bombings tore through Hezbollah-dominated areas in Lebanon - four of them launched by Jabhat Al-Nusra, and one by ISIS.
In Syria, the bombers most commonly used suicide explosive vests strapped to their bodies. Car and truck bombs laden with explosives were also used to cause mass casualties and widespread carnage.
"Some attacks included a combination of two to three car bombs, simultaneously or gradually," the report said. A number of attacks displayed "a high level of sophistication and professionalism. In one terror attack, six suicide bombers detonated themselves at the same time against two adjacent targets," the report added. The use of simultaneous bombers against high value targets is spreading.
Most of the suicide bombers were foreign volunteers, mainly from the Arab world. Saudi Arabian bombers formed a bulk of the attackers.
These developments pose a security threat well beyond Syria, the report's authors stated. The spread of suicide terrorism to Lebanon, which is undermining the country's internal stability, is one clear example of how this form of attack can spread. "In our assessment, the longer the [Syrian] civil war drags out, the more likely it is for suicide bomb terror attacks to occur in other states. Foreign jihadi activists fighting in Syria who return to their states might initiate, or take part in, suicide attacks, while using their widespread operational experience acquired in Syria, and the connections they formed with Al-Qaeda and global jihad activists," the report added.
Additionally, jihadi groups in Syria may initiate terrorism against western states, Israel, and Arab-Muslim states in the future, after their initial goal of toppling the Assad regime is reached.

Are Negotiations a New Opportunity Being Lost by the Palestinians?
Mohammed S. Dajani/Fikra Forum
January 30, 2014
Allowing preconditions to scuttle the latest peace effort will only lead to more Palestinian regrets.
Recently, there has been talk of the Palestinian "no"s, which have replaced the Arab League's three "no"s of the Khartoum summit in 1967 -- no negotiations, no reconciliation, no recognition. Although some writers have voiced their support for the current stance of the Palestinian Authority vis-a-vis the unsettled issues between Israelis and Palestinians, others believe that they will meet the same fate as the stipulations of the Khartoum Summit, rendering the negotiations a lost opportunity for the Palestinian people.
The first "no" concerns the Israeli condition related to the recognition of Israel as a "Jewish state." On this, it is unclear why the Palestinian position is so rigid. Israel's condition has no relation to memory, conscience, or the Palestinian, Arab, and Islamic "narrative" of the history of the Palestinian issue and the Arab-Israeli struggle, nor is it related to the refugees' right to return and reparations, or to Palestinian green line "citizenship." Palestinians have already recognized the Jewish nature of the state of Israel as represented by its name. After such recognition, what concern is it of the Palestinians whether Israel wishes to be Jewish or secular or democratic or Christian? If Israel went before the United Nations tomorrow and presented a request to change its name from the "State of Israel" to the "Jewish State of Israel," as some Muslim countries such as Libya and Iran have done to add "Islamic" to their name, would the Palestinian Authority object before the UN? And would the world take us seriously if we did?
The Israeli voices behind this condition seek to provoke the Palestinians into displaying more rigidity in order to blame them for the failure of negotiations, as occurred when the UN resolution was issued calling for the partition of Palestine in 1947. The Israeli demand related to it being a "Jewish" state is a mirage. If we look at it closely, it will disappear.
The second "no" is related to East Jerusalem, meaning old Jerusalem inside the city walls where sanctified religious places converge. The question is: why isn't this religiously and historically significant place given a special international status so that everyone is responsible for its care and oversight? Outside the walls, practically speaking, Jerusalem has grown into a city that is not highly religious. It has been built by adding successive Arab and Israeli municipalities to the city. This Jerusalem is divided into Israeli Jerusalem and Arab Jerusalem, separated by psychological and political barriers without any actual wall or barricade. Saying the city is united does not reflect the reality on the ground. The aim of Israel's obstinacy is to push Palestinians to take up rigid positions in order to make negotiations collapse and Kerry's mission fail, and to put an end to the peace process.
The third "no" relates to the Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley on the border of the Palestinian state. Palestinians have accepted that a third power under the United Nations -- be it NATO or American-led, national or international -- should be stationed in this area. Yet, though this notion is agreed upon or accepted in principle, if a peace agreement is signed, then Israel will technically be treated just like any other foreign country, but with greater abilities and expertise to protect Palestinian towns and areas against terrorism and daily bombs in markets and mosques, as is the case in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Baghdad, and Afghanistan. On this point, what matters to Palestinians is that Israeli forces alone not be concentrated at the doors of the Palestinian state, deciding what to prohibit and what to allow, as if we are in a great prison. The stationing of a single third power on the borders in these areas won't protect the Palestinian state from the terrorism of hostile powers that will bring to Palestine the woes that a number of the region's peoples currently suffer. Therefore, it is necessary to coordinate with Jordan in order to make Palestinian-Jordanian-Israeli security arrangements, in addition to setting up technologically advanced equipment to monitor the borders. Direct Palestinian-Jordanian-Israeli military presence, along with setting up technologically advanced equipment to monitor the borders and building an advanced security wall, is the ideal solution to guard the 250km long valley. No one power alone will be able to close the border or ensure security and adequate protection to prevent terrorist organizations from crossing over into the urban areas inside.
The fourth "no" is related to the Israeli condition that the Palestinian state be demilitarized. Though this demand currently seems to detract from Palestinian sovereignty, in the future, it might become clear that this is in fact in the Palestinians' best interest. If the state is demilitarized, funds can be allocated to state building, fueling the economy, and improving social conditions rather than going to military spending. When the allied powers decided at the end of World War II that Japan and Germany must be demilitarized, the Japanese and German people used their budgets to rebuild their countries and became two of the world's industrial superpowers. Conversely, one of the reasons behind the Shah of Iran's fall was his use of oil revenues to purchase advanced weapons instead of using the funds to improve the conditions of the Iranian people.
There are other "no"s that can also be negotiated. The Palestinian negotiating position should accord with the lower limits of the terms on which the peace process was based. But they must do so without seeming obstinate or rigid simply for the sake of appearing not to show any "flexibility" or "excess."
Adopting this logic, it is possible for Kerry's mission to succeed, reaching a peace that secures a future for our children. There is clearly a great difference in the balance of power between the two parties, and the Israelis always repeat among themselves: "Why would we want peace and give up land? We won the war and if we'd lost the war, we would have lost everything." They also suffer from the Holocaust experience that has made them believe in the refrain: "What happened won't happen again."
Thus, Kerry has built his strategy on the idea that an agreement must first be reached with the Israelis, and then negotiations can occur with the Palestinians to find points of agreement between the two, putting pressure on both parties to be flexible on their positions. In doing this, he has used European, Jewish, and American pressure on the Israelis and Arab pressure on the Palestinians. It will be fortunate for both parties if Kerry is able to obtain satisfactory results in the negotiations, having postponed his 11th tour. He is currently waiting for Israel to finish its own negotiations and then those with Washington, in order to bring the Palestinians to the table and negotiate with them on the results of the American-Israeli negotiations.
The Israeli extreme right seeks to make the negotiations fail, placing the responsibility on the Palestinian leadership in order to stop American and European aid. If Kerry fails and leaves, he won't have any excuse or need to return to the region again, leaving the Palestinians vulnerable to aggression, settlements, and occupation. This is the strategy of the Israeli extremists who oppose peace.
At the same time, I must reject the claim that all Israelis are opposed to peace and all Palestinians want peace. There is a camp containing Palestinians and Israelis who seek peace up against a camp that contains Palestinians and Israelis who are opposed to peace and seek to abort the peace efforts.
When Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser accepted the Rogers Plan proposed by the U.S. Secretary of State in 1968, the Palestinians refused it outright based on the slogans of hardliners. He left and didn't come back. And when Egyptian president Anwar Sadat invited us to come with him to Camp David in 1978 for negotiations, we stood with the extremists and called him a traitor. He went without us, and we regret that to this day. Why don't we learn from the lessons of the past and listen to those in the middle, for the sake of our children's future?
**Mohammed Dajani founded the Wasatia movement of moderate Islam and works as a professor of political science at al-Quds University in Jerusalem. This article originally appeared on Fikra Forum.


The seizure of a dozen nuns: Suspicious scenario
February 11, 2014/The Daily Star
The seizure of a dozen nuns and lay workers from the Syrian village of Maaloula last year re-emerged as a news item over the weekend with the posting of a new video of the “guests” of Syrian rebels.
Al-Jazeera broadcast what it claimed was the latest exclusive evidence of how the women are faring, presumably to counter recent rumors that they might have been moved to a new location.
But the latest chapter in this saga only recalls how sordid the entire story is. Regional parties such as Qatar and Turkey have regularly been linked to efforts to free hostages held in Syria, such as the more than yearlong captivity of Lebanese Shiites who were on their way back to Lebanon after a religious pilgrimage to Iran.
One can only wonder about the reasons behind Al-Jazeera’s ability to air such footage, while parent state Qatar is unable to secure the nuns’ release. Such acts of hostage taking do little to advance the struggle to achieve political change in Syria. Instead, they focus attention on the regional parties that back certain rebel groups and the naked political and other interests of such foreign parties, which claim that they are helping the Syrian people.
The average person who follows the Syria crisis is fully aware of this vulgar level of political action, which ends up diverting attention from horrific crimes and atrocities taking place nearly every day.
Expressions of concern and promises of action by regional powers that have influence with kidnappers don’t fool anyone. People know that money and political demands are at stake, but in the end, the reputation of all sides concerned is what suffers, along with the victims of such acts.