January 19/14

Bible Quotation for today/Who Is the Greatest/The Triumphant Approach to Jerusalem
Luke 19/28-40: "After Jesus said this, he went on in front of them toward Jerusalem. As he came near Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead 30 with these instructions: “Go to the village there ahead of you; as you go in, you will find a colt tied up that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here.  If someone asks you why you are untying it, tell him that the Master[a] needs it.” They went on their way and found everything just as Jesus had told them.  As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying it?” “The Master needs it,” they answered,  and they took the colt to Jesus. Then they threw their cloaks over the animal and helped Jesus get on.  As he rode on, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near Jerusalem, at the place where the road went down the Mount of Olives, the large crowd of his disciples began to thank God and praise him in loud voices for all the great things that they had seen:  “God bless the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory to God!” Then some of the Pharisees in the crowd spoke to Jesus. “Teacher,” they said, “command your disciples to be quiet!”Jesus answered, “I tell you that if they keep quiet, the stones themselves will start shouting.”


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For January 19/14

Lebanese Related News

French Diplomat Continues Talks with Officials, Reiterates Calls for Formation of Cabinet

A divided March 14 is unsure about Hezbollah’s concessions
Lebanon's Hariri says could share power with Hezbollah

Geagea Considers Hariri's Remarks 'Good Will Gesture'
Syria rockets wound 4 in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley

Aoun opposes rotation of ministerial portfolio

STL defense: Charges against Hezbollah shocking

STL Defense Emerges Confused and Divided from First Two Days of Trial

Lebanese Army apprehends wanted man in east Lebanon

Syria’s civil war is “pilling over”into Lebanon/Disassociate or bust

DNA Tests Fail to Reveal Identity of Hermel Suicide Bomber

Assailants Free Kidnapped Syrian in Zahle after Cousin Wounded in Rescue Attempt

ISF Busts Prostitution Ring in Sidon

Jumblat Hopes All Sides Would Cooperate with Hariri's Initiative on Forming Cabinet

Two Wounded Overnight as Sniper Activity Continues in Tripoli

Berri Hails Hariri's National Position on Forming New Government

Three Injured in Syrian Rocket Strikes against Arsal, Ras Baalbek

Miscellaneous Reports And News

IAEA inspectors arrive in Tehran for nuclear visits
US will not 'unilaterally disarm' its spy network, Obama says
Iran gains access to 5% of global assets

21 people including UN and IMF staff killed in Kabul restaurant attack
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper leaves today for trip to the Middle East

Kerry to unveil framework at end of month for continuation of Mideast peace talks

Syrian opposition coalition agrees to participate in peace talks

Aid enters besieged Damascus refugee camp

French 15-year-olds travel to Syria for jihad: father

French first lady leaves hospital: Paris Match

Report: Egypt president expected to call for elections in March
Egypt: 98.1 percent of voters approve constitution


Lebanese Army apprehends wanted man in east Lebanon

January 18, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army said Saturday it arrested one of the most notorious wanted men in the eastern town of Baalbek after thorough investigation and surveillance.
Ali Ahmad Jaafar is wanted for several arrest warrants for his alleged involvement in the abduction of four people including a Syrian man and the son of a prominent Lebanese businessman in return of a ransom, the Army said in a statement. The man is also accused of arms and drug trading as well as forming a gang to kidnap people at gunpoint. The Army said that soldiers exchanged fire with two vehicles when the Army intelligence unit was making its way to Jaafar's location in Rad al-Ain. Jaafar had several weapons and hand grenades in his possession at the time of his arrest.

Syria’s civil war is “spilling over” into Lebanon/Disassociate or bust
January 18, 2014/The Daily Star /Seven people, including six children, were killed in Friday’s rocket attack on Arsal. A day before, four people died after a car bomb was detonated in Hermel. It is not enough to say that Syria’s civil war is “spilling over” into Lebanon: It has arrived in full, and is now claiming the lives of Lebanese as well as Syrians. Thursday’s car bomb was claimed by the Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda-affiliated rebel group in Syria. And Friday’s rocket was launched from a Syrian warplane. Such violent attacks are increasing in frequency and becoming all too commonplace in Lebanon. And after each such crime, certain Lebanese politicians bemoan the lack of a government and urge the prompt formation of one, to replace the caretaker Cabinet currently in existence. But not just any government will be sufficient to counter such terror invading our borders.A strong government is needed, one that is unafraid of making drastic decisions and standing up to all those enemies of this country that seek to use it as a proxy battlefield for larger struggles. One whose members do not provide cover to armed militias or indeed have a private army of their own. The creation of a government is, of itself, not the answer, but the creation of one that would apply the Baabda Declaration of disassociation from Syria could be.
Now more than ever, Lebanon needs a government that prioritizes the rights of civilians over those leaders and men who are tearing the country apart; not one that is exacerbating the very violence that is killing Lebanese citizens on their own soil.

Syria rockets wound 4 in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley

 January 18, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: A barrage of rockets from Syria hit two towns in the Bekaa Valley, wounding four people Saturday, a security source told The Daily Star, a day after a rocket attack killed eight in the northeastern town of Arsal. Eleven rockets landed in Arsal, where a rocket attack killed eight including four children from the same family Friday. Eleven missiles also hit the northeastern village of Ras Baalbek, wounding Thaer al-Rai, Rifaat Nasrallah, Tony Ghanem and Edward Shoaib. The wounded remain in a stable condition. One of the missiles hit the yard of St. Elias Church in Ras Baalbek, prompting the head of the parish in the village, Father Ibrahim Naamo, to condemn the attacks that have been gripped the Bekaa Valley towns for two days."We regret the attacks on Ras Baalbek particularly that it is a village acknowledged for its coexistence.”"The attack is aimed at sowing strife between the residents," he added. Friday's attack on predominantly Sunni Arsal came one day after a car bomb rocked the mainly Shiite town of Hermel, also in the northeastern Bekaa Valley, killing five. Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr launched an investigation Saturday into the fatal Friday rocket attack on Arsal. He also tasked a military expert to determine its source. Meanwhile, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati tasked the High Relief Committee to examine the damages and compensate the residents. Residents of Arsal are supporters of the Syrian uprising and the town hosts thousands of Syrian refugees. The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack, according to social media websites belonging to the group. The sites circulated a statement reportedly by ISIS saying that its fighters launched rockets against Free Syria Army locations in Arsal Friday. Arsal Mayor Ali Hujeiri accused Hezbollah of firing the rockets, but the resistance group denied the allegations, describing such accusations as “dangerous.”The Lebanese Army said Friday 27 rockets from Syria were fired into Lebanon, causing material damage and loss of life


Geagea Considers Hariri's Remarks 'Good Will Gesture'
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 January 2014/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea described on Saturday remarks by ex-Prime Minister Saad Hariri regarding the cabinet formation process as a “good will gesture,” stressing that his party will not participate in any cabinet that doesn't include “the slightest political change.” “Hariri's statements are considered a good will gesture and not an agreement on including the army, people, resistance formula in the new cabinet's ministerial statement,” Geagea said in a press conference in Maarab. Former Prime Minister Hariri considered on Friday that he is showing positivity regarding the cabinet formation consultations, noting that Hizbullah is a political party that is leading a “big coalition.”“This is something good for the country and for stability in the country,” Hariri said in an interview. Geagea pointed out that if the political foes didn't agree on “political change in its policy statement and work then there's no need to participate in it.” Geagea stressed that the ministerial statement should also include the Baabda declaration and exclude anything article concerning the army, people, resistance formula or any equivalent article. The March 8 alliance and mainly Speaker Nabih Berri have called for keeping discussions on the policy statement until after the formation of the cabinet. He has also stuck to the army-people-resistance formula. But the March 14 camp, which is holding on to a deal with its rivals on several of the government's aspects, has insisted on having the Baabda Declaration as the basis of the policy statement.
The government formation process has witnessed an intensified a political activity in an attempt to end the standstill since Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam was appointed in April.
The formation process was put on the front burner after Berri proposed a revised 8-8-8 government formula and President Michel Suleiman said he would form a so-called neutral cabinet if the political rivals don't agree on an all-embracing government within ten days. Amid the Lebanese Forces' rejection of Hizbullah's participation in the cabinet, the March 14 alliance has reportedly accepted the 8-8-8 formula in principle, but it is awaiting answers pertaining to the ministerial policy statement and the rotation of portfolios among political parties. The 8-8-8 formula divides ministers equally between the centrists and March 14 and 8 coalitions, in which each get eight ministers with “decisive ministers” for the March 14 and 8 coalitions. “The March 14 alliance is coordinating its stances,” the Christian leader stressed. He pointed out that if the rival parties failed to reach common grounds regarding the formation of an all-embracing cabinet then Suleiman and Salam will form a neutral cabinet by the end of the month.

Aoun opposes rotation of ministerial portfolio
By Hasan Lakkis /The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Head of the Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun informed Hezbollah Saturday of his opposition to rotating ministerial portfolios based on party and sect in the upcoming Cabinet lineup, a source in the party told The Daily Star. The lawmaker told his allies in the resistance group that he opposed the principle of ministerial portfolios, during discussions between the two parties on the latest developments in the Cabinet formation process, the FPM source said. Speaker Nabih Berri said earlier this week he supported the March 14 coalition's demand to rotate ministerial portfolios so long as it entailed equality between sects and parties.
Aoun’s stance, however, would have little impact on the Cabinet formation process as Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam and President Michel Sleiman are ready to form a government without the FPM, the Lebanese Forces or the Kataeb party, political sources told The Daily Star. Future Movement failed to convince its Christian allies, the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb Party, to take part in an all-embracing Cabinet with Hezbollah, the sources said. The LF and the Kataeb have said they would not join a government that they believed provided cover for Hezbollah’s military involvement in Syria.
Hezbollah is expected to step up efforts in an attempt to soften Aoun’s stance to accept the portfolio rotation as the resistance group remains optimistic that the issue would be resolved in the next 48 hours, the sources who are close to the formation process added. Aoun, who heads the second largest parliamentary bloc after former PM Saad Hariri’s Future bloc, has always insisted on allocating the Energy Ministry to his son-in-law Gebran Bassil.
Bassil was named twice as Energy Minister: in Hariri’s 2010 national unity Cabinet and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s 2011 government. Aoun is willing to give up the Energy Ministry on condition that the Finance Ministry is allocated to his party, the sources said. The political sources also added that the portfolio rotation was one of the few unresolved issues stalling the formation process particularly that the Future Movement agreed to postpone discussion on the Cabinet's ministerial statement until after its formation.  Meanwhile, Bassil said Hariri's remarks on his readiness to join a Cabinet with Hezbollah could pave the way for national understandings in the country. “We are in need for a national understanding between us and the Future Movement, between Future Movement and Hezbollah. Such understandings complete one another and do not isolate anybody,” Bassil said in his speech on the occasion of laying the foundation for a new power plant in Beirut’s southern suburbs. "Hariri's comments could pave the way for building such an understanding," he added. In an interview with Reuters Friday, Hariri said he was ready to share power with Hezbollah in a coalition government to help stabilize Lebanon as it faced growing threats to its security from the war raging in Syria.The Future Movement leader’s remarks are expected to seal a political deal on an all-embracing Cabinet based on 8-8-8 lineup which would break the 10-month government deadlock. The deal, suggested by the speaker and Jumblatt, will most likely involve Hariri’s Future Movement, the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance and Jumblatt's bloc. “We will not be able to build a state and [apply] the rule of law if we don't recognize that the state is bigger than everyone, bigger than Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah and Michel Aoun,” Bassil said.

Lebanon's Hariri says could share power with Hezbollah
By Thomas Escritt | Reuters – THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri says he is now ready to share power with his rivals Hezbollah if that's what it takes to help Lebanon finally form a government after nine months of political deadlock. Linking up with the powerful Shi'ite group would be a sharp turnabout for Hariri and his Future party, a Sunni Muslim group that supports the Sunni revolt against Shi'ite-backed President Bashar al-Assad in neighboring Syria's civil war. It also presents a personal challenge for the son of former premier Rafik al-Hariri, whose 2005 car bomb assassination was widely blamed on Hezbollah, which denies the allegation. But Hariri told Reuters in The Hague, where he is attending the trial in absentia of four Hezbollah members charged with his father's killing, that he's not only ready to share power with Hezbollah but is optimistic they can come to an agreement. "We're trying to run the country with everyone, because we do not want to keep anyone outside," he said in an interview late on Thursday after attending the opening session of the Special Tribunal For Lebanon. "Lebanon is having a difficult time, especially since the international community has failed miserably to do anything for Syria," he said. "I think it is our duty towards the people of Lebanon to stabilize the country ... I am very optimistic."Asked why he was willing to work with a group accused of playing a role in his father's killing, he said he was committed to the principle of "innocent until proven guilty".
"We know that they are allegedly persons who committed these crimes... But at the end of the day, this is a political party that has a big coalition, with Aounis (the Free Patriotic Movement of Michel Aoun) and other political parties," he said.
Lebanon, still struggling to recover from its own 1975-1990 civil war, has been without a fully functioning government since Prime Minister Najib Mikati resigned last March. A caretaker cabinet with minimal powers is running the country until the squabbling parties can reach a deal to form a government. Fears over Syria-inspired violence have only added to the pressure on politicians to find a compromise. Hezbollah backs Assad, himself from the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. In the past two years, two prominent figures linked to Hariri's Future Party have been killed in car bombs many Hariri supporters blamed on Hezbollah, which denies the accusation. Hezbollah's strongholds in Beirut have also been attacked with a series of car bombs and rocket strikes that have killed dozens of civilians. Many of those attacks were claimed by al Qaeda-linked Syrian rebel groups. Negotiations to form a new government were revived in December. A prominent Lebanese political source told Reuters that "great strides have been made in the negotiations and a new government may see the light this month." Hariri's government was toppled by Hezbollah's political bloc in 2011 and he soon left the country. He has been living between France and Saudi Arabia, fearing for his security. He was reluctant to give any date for his return. "Eventually I will return. There is a security problem in Lebanon, especially as you know the assassination of (Mohamad) Chatah the year before, and (Wissam) al-Hassan the year before that," he said, referring to the targets of two car bombs in Beirut in 2013 and 2012. "I don't want to go back and end up like the others. I want to go back and play my role as I should."(Reporting by Erika Solomon; Editing by Tom Heneghan)


Assailants Free Kidnapped Syrian in Zahle after Cousin Wounded in Rescue Attempt
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 January 2014/A Syrian national was kidnapped in the eastern Zahle district on Saturday noon, only to be released few hours later after he was physically attacked. “Unknown assailants in a mini-bus with tinted windows kidnapped Fadi al-Jassem in Zahle,” the state-run National News Agency reported. According to the news agency, the abductors kidnapped al-Jassem from his room in al-Karak town in Zahle. Al-Jassem's cousin was wounded in the leg by gunshots while trying to rescue him as the kidnappers fled to an unknown location, the NNA added. Later on Saturday, radio Voice of Lebanon (93.3) revealed that al-Jassem was freed on the Temnine-Baalbek international road in the Bekaa, after he had been battered. The NNA detailed on the incident: “Al-Jassem was beaten on the head as the assailants took 80,000 Lebanese Pounds that were in his possession, as well as his mobile phone.”"He is currently being interrogated at the police station," the same source said.


ISF Busts Prostitution Ring in Sidon
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 January 2014/Internal Security Forces busted on Saturday a prostitution ring in the southern city of Sidon and arrested six of its members. “Security forces raided an apartment in Sidon's eastern neighborhood of Hilaliyeh and arrested six people on charges of forming a prostitution ring,” al-Jadeed television reported. Among the detainees were three Syrians, al-Jadeed noted. The same source identified the suspects as: Hilal Z., 22, Mohammed D., 20, Fatima A., 26, and Syrian nationals Nermine B., 18, her brother Firas B., 27, and Noha H., 26. “The forces also seized an unlicensed 9 millimeter gun that was in Hilal Z.'s possession.”
Al-Jadeed revealed that Hilal Z. was previously arrested several times on different charges. “The General Prosecution of the South ordered referring the members of the ring to the Haret Saida police station.”

Berri Hails Hariri's National Position on Forming New Government
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 January 2014/Speaker Nabih Berri welcomed former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's announcement that he is willing to take part in a government that includes Hizbullah as a political party, reported As Safir newspaper on Saturday. He hailed the former premier's national position, “which he set as a priority above all else despite the difficult situation in Lebanon.” The speaker's sources meanwhile told al-Joumhouria newspaper that he had intensified efforts to form a cabinet “as soon as possible, especially given the precarious security situation in the Bekaa and the North.”Hariri on Friday announced that he is showing positivity in the cabinet formation process, noting that Hizbullah is a political party that is leading a “big coalition.”He noted that he has not offered “concessions” concerning participation in a cabinet containing Hizbullah and its allies, stressing that “according to the principle of trials, any accused is innocent until proven guilty.”He made his reference to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon whose trial of four Hizbullah members opened this week.

Jumblat Hopes All Sides Would Cooperate with Hariri's Initiative on Forming Cabinet

Naharnet Newsdesk 18 January 2014/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat hailed former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's recent position in which he said that he would not be opposed to taking part in a cabinet that includes Hizbullah as a political party, reported As Safir newspaper on Saturday. He told the daily: “We hope all sides would cooperate with Hariri's initiative in order to form an all-embracing government.”
He also remarked that the initiative should serve “to open news possibilities” in the cabinet formation process. Meanwhile, caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abou Faour told the daily that the MP is continuing his “intense” contacts with President Michel Suleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, head of the Mustaqbal bloc MP Fouad Saniora, and Hizbullah leaderships “in order to reach a final agreement on a government lineup.” He highlighted Hariri's recent stance, saying that it should serve to speed up these efforts. Discussions are focusing on the distribution of power and portfolios, “which are largely being left to Suleiman and Salam's wishes,” revealed the minister. Hariri announced on Friday that he is showing positivity in the cabinet formation process, noting that Hizbullah is a political party that is leading a “big coalition.”
He noted that he has not offered “concessions” concerning participation in a cabinet containing Hizbullah and its allies, stressing that “according to the principle of trials, any accused is innocent until proven guilty.”
He made his reference to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon whose trial of four Hizbullah members opened this week.

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper leaves today for trip to the Middle East
By Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press | The Canadian Press – OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a sizable entourage leave Saturday for the Middle East on a six-day trip that will include a visit to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. Harper will address Israel's parliament, the Knesset, on Monday, making history as the first Canadian prime minister to do so. It will be the prime minister's first visit to Israel since winning power in 2006.  Spokesman Jason MacDonald says Harper will promote commercial relations, as well as peace and security in the region, when he meets Israeli leaders and, later in the week, the King of Jordan.
Harper is a passionate supporter of Israel and is expected to receive a glowing reception from Israeli leaders. "We have been challenged many times in the region, by Iran, by Syria, by the attacks of terrorists, and each time he presents his position and we feel it's the right position; it's not a partisan position," Israel's ambassador to Canada, Rafael Barak, said in an interview from Jerusalem in the days leading up to the visit. "To see citizens shelled by missiles, you have to decide who is right and who is not right ... he was not shy to say this in public, this is the most important element." The prime minister has lots of company on his flight over — he's taking six cabinet ministers and at least 30 business people and community leaders who will take part in business meetings and cultural events during the trip. MacDonald says air travel and some accommodation costs will be paid out of government coffers, although full details of the final tally are not yet available. Media organizations travelling with the prime minister are paying $8,000 a head, a pricetag that includes ground transport and access to communication facilities.
During his eight years in power, Harper has shifted his government's Middle East policy decidedly in favour of the Jewish state, marking what has been widely viewed as a departure from Canada's so-called honest broker position in the troubled region. In the summer of the 2006, while Israeli warplanes were pounding Lebanon after Hezbollah militants kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, Harper characterized the response as "measured."
That comment angered Canadians of Arab and Muslim descent, and was widely viewed by analysts as marking a significant shift away from Canada's traditional role in the Middle East.
Since then, Conservative support has manifested itself in myriad ways, including Canada's vocal opposition against the Palestinian bid for statehood recognition at the United Nations. Canada was one of only nine countries to vote against the Palestinian efforts. Harper has also forged a close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who routinely refers to "Stephen" as a true friend of Israel.
Shimon Fogel, head of the Centre for Jewish and Israel Affairs, says the prime minister will likely provide counsel to the Israelis during his visit. "Just based on the conversations I've had with Canadians over the past few weeks, I suspect the prime minister is going to provide observations and advice on some of the challenges that Israel faces," said Fogel. "Harper can give perspective from a North American, European viewing of things. He can alert them to issues they should be sensitive to." Harper's unwavering support of Israel was on full display on the eve of the trip on Friday, when his spokesman sparred with reporters over Canada's policy towards Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory. MacDonald wouldn't say whether Harper endorsed the policy statement on the Foreign Affairs Department website that denounces the settlements as breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The policy states: "As referred to in UN Security Council Resolutions 446 and 465, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The settlements also constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace." When pressed on how Harper views the settlement issue, MacDonald replied: "Canadian policy is what the prime minister has articulated, which is that we want and support a two-state solution. It has to be arrived at through negotiations. And unilateral action is not going to help that."

21 people including UN and IMF staff killed in Kabul restaurant attack least 21 people, most of them foreigners, and including UN and IMF staff, have been killed in a suicide and gun attack in the Afghan capital Kabul. The Taliban says it was behind the bloodshed at a popular Lebanese restaurant. A suicide bomber blew himself up near the entrance. Then gunmen entered and sprayed diners with bullets. “When I was in the kitchen, we heard some explosion outside and then we escaped,” said Suliman, a Lebanese national and cook at the restaurant. “All the guys escaped and after that, I went to the roof. I stayed back…two or three hours.” Fellow cook Ahmad Fawad also ran to the rooftop,then jumped into a neighbouring house and made his escape by running away down a nearby street. “A bomber blew himself up at the gate and the two others were shooting people inside the restaurant,” he said. A Briton was among the 13 foreign victims. Others killed include four UN employees and Lebanese national Wabel Abdallah, the head of the International Monetary Fund’s office in Kabul. “This is tragic news, and we at the Fund are all devastated,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to Wabel’s family and friends, as well as the other victims of this attack.” Security concerns have been rising in Afghanistan as most foreign forces prepare to leave after more than a decade of war...

A divided March 14 is unsure about Hezbollah’s concessions

Suleiman, Miqati, and Berri
Lebanon’s political leaders have been particularly optimistic this week. From Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati and Future Movement leader Saad Hariri to longtime Speaker of the House Nabih Berri, politicians have been busily reassuring their constituents that a cabinet formation bringing together rival March 8 and March 14 coalitions is imminent. Berri, today, said that a new cabinet could be announced within 48 hours. But how close, really, is Lebanon’s political class to reaching an agreement? And, amid the numerous proposals that have been floated in the media, what has each side offered to compromise on?
Tremendous progress on the cabinet formation has apparently been made following renewed joint efforts by Speaker Berri and Progressive Socialist Party head Walid Jumblatt. The two leaders have recently been pushing for an 8-8-8 proposal whereby March 8 and March 14 each get eight ministers, with the last third left for centrists. Future Movement head Hariri has already signaled his tentative approval of the plan, and Hezbollah has issued quiet acquiescence despite their previous preference for a 9-9-6 formula.
It is Hezbollah’s shift in particular that could represent a significant change, and analysts attribute it to pressure exerted by President Michel Suleiman. The head of state’s threats to form a fait accompli government, populated by technocrats, were seen as incredibly unfavorable by Hezbollah.
“[Hezbollah] felt there was going to be a fait accompli government, and it prefers to have a joint government,” said Qassem Qassir, a Lebanese analyst familiar with Hezbollah. Indeed, sources close to the party indicated that the formation of a fait accompli cabinet would draw Hezbollah out into the streets, with the intent to stop a neutral cabinet by any means, “even if it meant storming the Grand Serail.”
Despite the ominous threats, Suleiman didn’t back down – which appears to have pushed the group to not only accept an 8-8-8 formula, but to also agree to a number of demands made by the Saudi-backed Future Movement. So far, the March 8 coalition has ostensibly agreed to Future’s demands that no coalition hold veto power and cabinet portfolios be rotated. Future’s – and March 14’s – outstanding conditions include accepting the Baabda Declaration as a ministerial statement for the new government.
Many, though, are unconvinced about just how much Hezbollah is giving up. “Hezbollah doesn’t make compromises. It makes tactical decisions,” said MP Mustapha Alloush, a member of Hariri’s parliamentary Future bloc. He told NOW that March 14 shouldn’t be satisfied until Hezbollah actually withdraws from Syria, agrees to other government statement, and drops its support for the “army-people-resistance” trifecta. For Alloush, these are the issues of substance that Hezbollah has yet to actually address.
According to a source close to the Lebanese Forces, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the press, this lack of substance is precisely why LF chief Samir Geagea has yet to issue his agreement to the proposal being advocated by Berri and Jumblatt. Geagea is waiting for assurances from Hezbollah that the group will either withdraw from Syrian battlefields, drop their “army-people-resistance” formula, or accept the Baabda declaration as a ministerial statement. After a staunch statement today by Berri, none of these demands seem likely to be fulfilled. Qassir, on the other hand, finds that the Maronite leader’s stance is nothing but posturing, telling NOW that Geagea is merely holding out for a bigger role in the new government.
Whatever his reasons, Geagea’s stance has created a somewhat awkward rift between him and Hariri, who has been working with Berri and Jumblatt on their proposal. Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan reiterated today that the LF refused to join a government with Hezbollah, just as Future MP Atef Mjdalani was praising progress in government formation.
Despite the public rift, insiders say the different positions wouldn’t lead to a formal rupture within March 14. The LF source told NOW that within March 14, the decision is that Hariri wouldn’t enter a government without Geagea’s LF. Alloush, who earlier acknowledged that joining the government without the LF would be suicide, agreed: “Let’s take them at their word: if they said they’d only enter a government together, then let’s accept what they say.”Nevertheless, Hariri’s apparent receptiveness to Jumblatt and Berri’s proposal has March 14 members and allies worried. Former March 14 MP Mosbah al-Ahdab warned the anti-Assad coalition that going along with this government proposal would put Lebanon back under “Iranian-Syrian tutelage,” and former Internal Security Forces chief Ashraf Rifi said that March 14 should not join a cabinet with Hezbollah as long as the latter continues to fight in Syria.
Their clear disagreement with Future’s policy begs the question: Why has Hariri been so receptive towards the proposal, if his March 14 allies aren’t? Qassir chalked it up to regional decisions, telling NOW that American, European, Vatican, and Saudi governments all agreed that a government should be formed in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia, who has close ties with Hariri’s Future Movement, in turn “exerted pressure in order to create a government with the participation of Hezbollah,” Qassir said.
The LF source attributed it to a personal decision by Hariri, who he said failed to capitalize on Hezbollah’s feeling of being cornered and opted for compromise over confrontation. He told NOW that a “regional decision” to form a government in Lebanon hadn’t been made, since American and European governments were being very careful not to pressure their allies in Lebanon.
As the negotiations continue, the possibility of a fait accompli government remains alive. Last week, Suleiman announced that should March 8 and March 14 fail to come to an agreement by January 20, he would green-light a fait accompli government against Hezbollah’s wishes. Alloush sees this as a distinct possibility and threw cold water on the notion that a joint government would be formed within the next few days.
“The media close to Nabih Berri and March 8 is hinting that the situation has gotten to a point where there’s a full agreement [on a joint cabinet],” Alloush said. “But that’s not true.”


Question: "How will our resurrection body be different from our current body?" In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul discusses the great differences between our earthly bodies and our resurrected bodies (see 1 Corinthians 15:35-54). Contrasting our earthly bodies with the splendor of our heavenly (resurrected) bodies, Paul says, “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (vv. 42-44, emphasis added). In short, our resurrected bodies are spiritual, imperishable, and raised in glory and power.
Through the first Adam, we received our natural bodies, perfectly suited to an earthly environment. However, they became perishable as a consequence of the Fall. Due to disobedience, mankind became mortal. Aging, deterioration and eventual death now affect all of us. From dust we came, and to dust shall we return (Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 3:20). Our resurrection bodies, on the other hand, will be “raised imperishable.” They will never experience sickness, decay, deterioration, or death. And “when the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable… then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:54). As a result of the Fall, we are “sown in dishonor.” We were originally made perfect and in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), but sin has brought dishonor. Yet believers have the promise that our imperfect and dishonored bodies will one day be raised in glory. Freed from the restrictions imposed by sin, our resurrected bodies will be honorable and perfectly suited for pleasing and praising our Creator throughout eternity.
Our current bodies are also characterized by weakness and debility. Our earthly “temples” are undeniably fragile and susceptible to the plethora of diseases that ravage mankind. We are also weakened by sin and temptation. One day, though, our bodies will be raised in power and glory, and we will no longer be subject to the flaws and fragility that pervade life today.
Lastly, our resurrected body will be a spiritual one. Our natural bodies are suited for living in this world, but this is the only realm in which we can live. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50). After the resurrection we will have a “spiritual body,” perfectly suited for living in heaven. This does not mean that we will be only spirits—spirits do not have bodies—but that our resurrected bodies will not need physical sustenance or depend on natural means of supporting life. We get a glimpse of what our resurrection bodies will be like when we recall Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. He still had visible wounds, and His disciples could physically touch Him, yet He was able to travel effortlessly and appear and disappear at will. He could go through walls and doors yet could also eat and drink and sit and talk. Scripture informs us that our “lowly bodies” will be just “like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). Indeed, the physical limitations imposed by sin that hindered our ability to fully serve Him on earth will be forever gone, freeing us to praise and serve and glorify Him for eternity.

Egypt: 98.1 percent of voters approve constitution

January 18, 2014/Daily Star/CAIRO: Egypt's election committee says 98.1 percent of voters have approved a new, military-backed constitution in the first vote since a coup toppled the country's president.
Egypt's High Election Commission said Saturday that 38.6 percent of the country's more than 53 million eligible voters took part in the two-day poll. That's 20.5 million voters casting ballots.
This is the first vote since the military removed Egypt's first freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi, following massive protests in July. Officials view the vote as key in legitimizing the country's military-backed interim government and its plan for parliamentary and presidential elections.
But Morsi's supporters and his outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group boycotted the vote and have alleged the results were forged. The Brotherhood has vowed to keep up their near-daily protests.

STL defense: Charges against Hezbollah shocking

January 18, 2014/By Kareem Shaheen The Daily Star
THE HAGUE: Defense lawyers for two members of Hezbollah accused of complicity in the Hariri assassination delivered compelling opening salvos in the case Friday, saying the prosecution does not have a “shred of evidence” against their clients and that it was “astonishing” to accuse Hezbollah of carrying out the attack.The lawyers said that call data records showing the surveillance of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri ahead of his assassination did not prove the suspects intended to kill him, and that the defense is investigating the possibility that he was killed by fundamentalists who confessed to the assassination and later retracted the claim.
They also made a shocking revelation that the man who originally discovered the telecommunications evidence, which allegedly shows the surveillance of Hariri prior to his killing, was a Lebanese Army Intelligence officer working under a pro-Syrian general who was arrested for the Hariri attack. “Right now there is no material evidence that proves the existence of a conspiracy,” said Antoine Korkmaz, lead defense counsel for Mustafa Badreddine, a top Hezbollah operative charged with overall control of the alleged assassination team. Over a one hour news conference, lawyers for Badreddine and Hussein Oneissi, who are scheduled to deliver opening statements Monday, poked holes in the prosecution’s elaborate case, which was presented over two days and featured complex call data records that they allege show a sophisticated surveillance network used to track and kill the former premier. “We don’t think that there’s anything new that was presented whatsoever,” Korkmaz said.
“Right now, the prosecutor talks about telecoms evidence,” he said. “The main question to be asked is: What is the content of these communications? What did Badreddine say to Ayyash? What did Ayyash say to Merhi? And what was the exchange between Sabra and Oneissi?” “Right now there is nothing that reveals the content of these telephone conversations between the accused,” he added. “These telephone conversations do not necessarily mean there is a plot to kill someone.” The prosecution argues that the extent and sophistication of Hariri’s surveillance shows intent to kill him and is not coincidental or innocent. But they have to prove their case beyond any reasonable doubt to earn a conviction. Korkmaz said the accusation against members of Hezbollah was “astonishing,” adding that Hariri was considering running in joint parliamentary elections with Hezbollah at the time of his death. “We really don’t see how an ally can kill another ally during a parliamentary campaign,” he said. “We know that there was a lot of trust and confidence between Hariri and [ Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed] Nasrallah.”
“Therefore we find it really astonishing to claim that people from Hezbollah could plot to kill Mr. Hariri,” he added. The defense lawyers said the prosecutor’s case was just a theory that did not even answer the question of why Hariri was assassinated. “The crime for the time being seems bereft of any motive,” Oneissi defense lawyer Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse said. Korkmaz also made the shock revelation that the telecommunications evidence relied on by the prosecution was first discovered by Col. Ghassan Tufaily, an officer who worked in military intelligence under Gen. Raymond Azar, a pro-Syrian general arrested in connection with the assassination and later released. He said that Capt. Wissam Eid, an ISF officer killed after working closely on the telecoms evidence with investigators, had inherited this evidence. Korkmaz said the prosecutor’s investigation should have included the Eid assassination. The defense lawyers also questioned the strategy of the prosecution, saying the technical evidence identifying the location of the suspects should not be admissible in court.
“I was absolutely flabbergasted when I read in [an] interview that the prosecutor said, with the greatest calm and levelheadedness, that he was pursuing his investigations,” Korkmaz said. “The investigations are still underway. We’re starting trial and the investigations haven’t even finished?” Korkmaz also revived the theory that members of a cell of 13 extremists, some of who were arrested after the Hariri assassination, may have carried out the attack. Several in the alleged cell of 13 had confessed to carrying out the assassination but retracted their confession, according to Korkmaz. The head of the cell, a man called Faisal Akbar, was released this summer from Roumieh prison. The allegation has renewed interest in the theory that Islamist fundamentalists had killed Hariri. A claim of responsibility for the attack, which the prosecution says was coerced, was delivered shortly after the bombing by a group called Nusra and Jihad in Greater Syria. “Based on the documents that have been disclosed to us, we found out that investigation was not serious,” Korkmaz said. “Some people confessed to some facts but then withdrew what they said.” Korkmaz said he was pursuing an investigation in the case of the cell, but declined to elaborate.