January 28/14

Bible Quotation for today/Jesus Washes His Disciples' Feet
John 13/13 -20: "It was now the day before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. He had always loved those in the world who were his own, and he loved them to the very end.  Jesus and his disciples were at supper. The Devil had already put into the heart of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, the thought of betraying Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him complete power; he knew that he had come from God and was going to God.  So he rose from the table, took off his outer garment, and tied a towel around his waist. Then he poured some water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples' feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.  He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Are you going to wash my feet, Lord?” Jesus answered him, “You do not understand now what I am doing, but you will understand later.” Peter declared, “Never at any time will you wash my feet!”“If I do not wash your feet,” Jesus answered, “you will no longer be my disciple.” Simon Peter answered, “Lord, do not wash only my feet, then! Wash my hands and head, too!” Jesus said, “Those who have taken a bath are completely clean and do not have to wash themselves, except for their feet. All of you are clean—all except one.” ( Jesus already knew who was going to betray him; that is why he said, “All of you, except one, are clean.”) After Jesus had washed their feet, he put his outer garment back on and returned to his place at the table. “Do you understand what I have just done to you?” he asked.  “You call me Teacher and Lord, and it is right that you do so, because that is what I am.  I, your Lord and Teacher, have just washed your feet. You, then, should wash one another's feet.  I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you.  I am telling you the truth: no slaves are greater than their master, and no messengers are greater than the one who sent them.  Now that you know this truth, how happy you will be if you put it into practice! “I am not talking about all of you; I know those I have chosen. But the scripture must come true that says, ‘The man who shared my food turned against me.’  I tell you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen, you will believe that ‘I Am Who I Am.’  I am telling you the truth: whoever receives anyone I send receives me also; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.”

Pope Francis
Dear young people, let us not be satisfied with a mediocre life. Be amazed by what is true and beautiful, what is of God
Pope Francis
Chers jeunes, ne vous contentez-pas d’une vie médiocre. Laissez-vous séduire par ce qui est vrai et beau, par Dieu !
Papa Francisco
Queridos jóvenes, no se conformen con una vida mediocre. Déjense seducir por lo que es verdadero y bueno, por Dios.

Malaysia churches pray to ‘Allah’ despite ban
January 27, 2014/Agence France Presse/KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian churches defiantly continued to use the word “Allah” to refer to the Christian God in Sunday services despite the Muslim-majority country’s leader saying they must obey rules against it. Malay-speaking Christians prayed and sang hymns using the Arabic word, a practice they have observed for hundreds of years but which is now the focus of an increasingly tense religious row in the country. “They all contain the word ‘Allah,’” a pastor at a church near the capital Kuala Lumpur said of the songs sung by his congregation. “[The Malay-language Bible] contains the word ‘Allah.’ When we preach we have to read the text. It’s a really difficult situation,” he added on condition of anonymity. Under pressure from Muslim conservatives, Prime Minister Najib Razak said Friday that Malaysian Christians must heed rules forbidding them from using the word. Islamist leaders in the country say “Allah” – which also is used by Malay Muslims to refer to their creator – is exclusive to their religion and must not be used by non-Muslims. Muslim ethnic Malays make up more than 60 percent of the diverse country’s 28 million people. Malaysia has sizeable ethnic Chinese, Indian and other communities, and some 2.6 million people of residents are Christians. Church leaders have vowed not to back down. “Christians in Malaysia have no choice but to use the Malay-language Bibles. To say they cannot use these Bibles, it means saying ‘you are not allowed to worship in the language that you want,’” Rev. Hermen Shastri, general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, told AFP. The government in 2007 ordered a Malaysian Catholic weekly newspaper to cease use of the word, arguing it could entice Muslims to convert, which is illegal for adherents of Islam in Malaysia. The newspaper has launched a long-running court challenge, angering Muslim conservatives, who have demanded Christians use alternative Malay words. “Why insist? They have an option. They don’t really have to use ‘Allah’ to worship,” said Yusri Mohammad, chairman of Muslim rights group Pembela. “This is unnecessary provocation ... This is not healthy for Malaysia.”Muslim conservatives have suggested that Christians use other Malay words, such as “Tuhan,” to refer to God. Malaysia has avoided overt religious conflict for decades and the Southeast Asian nation is generally seen as a moderate Muslim country. However, non-Muslims allege growing intolerance by influential Islamic conservatives. “We feel angry. It’s unfair,” a Christian church-goer said after Sunday’s service. “It’s no longer peaceful between Christians and Muslims now.” The Malaysian Catholic Church argues that “Allah” has been used by Christians in the country for hundreds of years and that the word predates Islam’s founding.

22 Christians Killed in Attack on Catholic Church in Northeastern Nigeria
Latest Assault in Series of Attacks on Christians Spanning Two Months
1/27/2014 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) - International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that 22 Christians were killed in an assault on a Catholic church service in northeastern Nigeria. The attack is thought to have been perpetrated by the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, which the Nigerian government has struggling to contain in the country's northern and central states.
On Sunday morning, Jan. 26, suspected militants armed with guns and explosives attacked a Catholic church located in Waga Chakawa village in Nigeria's northeastern state, Adamawa. Reports by Reuters UK indicate the attacker set off bombs prior to opening fire on the Christian congregation. After assailing the church, the militants burned down houses and took local Christian residents hostage during a four-hour siege with local authorities.
When the dust settled, 22 Christians were confirmed dead. This casualty figure was confirmed Monday, Jan. 27, by spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Yola, Reverend Father Raymond Danbouye, in an interview with Reuters UK. This assault is only the latest in a series of attacks on Christians living in Nigeria's northern and central states starting in December. So far, this wave of deadly violence has claimed the lives at least 63 Christians.
From December 8 - 11, Boko Haram militants attacked four predominately Christian villages in the Gwoza, Damboa and askira-Uba Local Government areas. These attacks left at least 26 Christian dead and over 40 Christian homes burned to the ground. In January, an attack has taken place every Sunday on Christians in Nigeria's northern and central states. On January 19, Christians living in the Agatu Local Government Area in central Nigeria were attacked in separate raids on two villages by Muslim Fulani herdsmen, thought to be incited to attacking Christians by Boko Haram. At least seven Christians were killed in those violent raids.
On January 12, eight Christians living in Gari Village in Nigeria's northern Borno state were killed by Boko Haram militants. On the Sunday before, January 5, Christians living in the Manchok area were attacked, but managed to avoid casualties due to timely military intervention. Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is a sin," has a stated goal of establishing a separate Islamic state in Nigeria's northern and central regions. The Islamic terrorist group intends implement its fundamentalist interpretation of Sharia law. In 2012, Boko Haram demanded all Christians living in northern and central Nigeria to flee south so that a purely Islamic society can be established. Since then, Boko Haram has used church bombings, drive-by shootings and raids on Christian villages as a part of its strategy to 'purify' northern and central Nigeria.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For For January 28/14
Four big things to know about Egypt in 2014/By: Raymond Stock/Fox News/January 28/14

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For January 28/14
Lebanese Related News
Firefighter Gives Testimony at Third STL Hearing Session, Says Crater Split Hariri Convoy in Half
Sleiman backs neutral Cabinet if talks fail
A Lebanese Government is needed now
Salam, FPM Exchange Counter Accusations on Cabinet Delay
Hizbullah Rejects Formation of Cabinet without Ally Aoun, Calls for Lenient Stances by FPM
Berri Calls for Compromise by FPM to End Cabinet Standstill
Bkirki Calls for Proper Representation of Christians in New Cabinet
Israeli soldier wounded in blast on Lebanon border: source
New fighters, arms spark fresh fears in Tripoli
Sleiman, Kahwagi stress Army is law abiding
Abu Faour signals likely birth of fait accompli Cabinet
Jumblatt hails Hariri efforts to avert Sunni-Shiite strife
Grand Mufti of Lebanon Sheikh Mohammad Qabbani accuses US of stirring Mideast strife
Myriad questions abound in church molestation scandal
Report: Syrian Woman Held for Videotaping Qahwaji's House
Report: Tripoli Toddler Dies after Hospital Refuses Care
Miscellaneous Reports And News
22 Christians Killed in Attack on Catholic Church in Northeastern Nigeria
Malaysia churches pray to ‘Allah’ despite ban

Israel, Syria Mum on Alleged Air Raid on Latakia
Egypt army mandates Sisi to run for presidency

Second chemical shipment removed from Syria: U.N.
Elders call for ending Syria 'nightmare' on Iran visit
Syria foes say will not quit talks despite impasse
Tense session breaks up over Syria transition
Syria Talks Deadlocked over Power Transfer
Netanyahu Settlement Stand Draws Fire from All Sides
Hollande Arrives in Turkey amid Political Crisis
Iran Nuclear Talks to Resume February in New York

US official warns against business deals with Iran

Syrian opposition: Israeli jets bomb missile launchers in Latakia
Syrian army official denies reports there had been explosions in the Sheikh Dahar neighborhood; J'lem, Damascus remain silent. Israeli fighter planes bombarded S-300 missile launchers in the Syrian port city of Latakia late Sunday, Syrian opposition groups were quoted as saying by Israel's Channel 2 television. Residents of the city reported hearing loud explosions just around midnight.
Opposition sources are quoted as saying that the explosion took place in the Sheikh Dahar neighborhood just near the local port, Channel 2 reported. The claims by the opposition have not been confirmed by any official sources.An army official in Latakia denied that there had been any explosion in the Sheikh Dahar neighborhoods of Latakia. "If detonated, S-300 missiles cause a massive explosion," the army official told Syrian website Damas Post. The chatter of the alleged strike does not extend beyond the pages of social networks, he added. Damascus has neither confirmed nor denied the alleged strike. Israel has on numerous occasions been fingered as responsible for attacks on Syrian military targets during the two-year long uprising against the Assad regime. The claims of an Israeli strike in Syria coincided with reports that IAF jets breached the sound barrier at medium altitude over the city of Baalbek, located in the Hezbollah stronghold of the Bekaa Valley. The flights caused panic among the residents, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI) reported Monday morning.
"On Sunday at 10:45 p.m., two Israeli war planes violated Lebanese airspace off west Batroun [district in north Lebanon], executed circular flight over the Lebanese regions; and then left at 11:55 p.m. off west Nakoura village [in the south,]" the Lebanese Army Command Guidance Directorate said in a statement according to Lebanon's National News Agency. Despite opposition claims, it is unclear if Syria has even acquired the S-300 system. Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed in September that the delivery was suspended, even though some components had been delivered. "We have delivered separate components but the whole delivery has not been completed and for the moment we have suspended it," Putin said according to AFP. A military source told the state RIA Novosti news agency that the components were not enough to use the S-300 missile system, AFP reported. Edward Hunt, an aerospace and defense consultant for HIS Janes in London, told The Jerusalem Post back in August that it is believed that the S-300 system was not yet delivered.
Syria possesses a mixed range of surface to air anti-aircraft weapons, “some old and some quite new, like the SA-10, SA- 11, SA-19 and SA-22.” “It is not clear how effective they would be when facing well-trained and equipped US, British [and] French pilots using stand-off weapons,” said Hunt. “In the absence of the S- 300 long-range SAMs that Russia seems not to have delivered, that’s probably the best they have outside of unconventional methods.” In October, a US official said that Israel conducted air raids against a Syrian missile base near Latakia. The official, speaking to CNN, said Israel targeted missiles and related equipment out of concern that they would be transferred to Hezbollah. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which collates reports from opposition activists, said there had been an explosion at a Syrian air defense base near Jableh, in the Mediterranean coastal province of Latakia. The Latakia area is an Alawite and regime stronghold. Israel has repeatedly warned that it is prepared to use force to prevent advanced weapons, particularly from Iran, reaching Hezbollah through Syria. According to foreign reports, Israel reportedly carried out several air strikes on Syria earlier this year. In September, Israel was believed responsible for an attack on an arms depot in Latakia that killed between 10 and 20 Syrian troops. The Israeli government has consistently denied involvement in the Syrian civil war. “For a long time we have continued to say that we are not involving ourselves in the bloody civil war in Syria," Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said this past fall. "We have established our red lines and we are sticking to them.”Yasser Okbi contributed to this report.

Israel, Syria Mum on Alleged Air Raid on Latakia
Naharnet Newsdesk 27 January 2014ظConflicting reports emerged Monday about an alleged Israeli airstrike on Russian-made missiles in the Syrian port city of Latakia, amid official Syrian and Israeli silence over the unconfirmed news. The pro-Damascus Russia Today television quoted Latakia residents as saying that they did not hear any blasts overnight and that the powerful S-300 missiles in question would have produced extremely loud explosions had they been targeted in an alleged raid. “Reports of a possible airstrike are still limited to social networking websites and the authorities in Damascus have not confirmed or denied the incident,” RT noted.
Israeli media outlets had quoted websites affiliated with the Syrian opposition as saying that “Israeli warplanes overnight bombed missile launchpads in the city of Latakia.” “Israeli authorities usually keep silent over their actions in Syria,” Russia Today said. Meanwhile, Israel's public radio quoted a Syrian opposition member as saying that “explosions ripped last night through depots storing Russian-made missiles in Latakia.”"A loud explosion was heard in the Sheikh Daher neighborhood and it echoed across the city," the source added. Lebanon's National News Agency on Monday reported that Israeli warplanes broke the sound barrier at medium altitude over the Bekaa region of Baalbek, sparking panic among residents. If confirmed, this would not be the first Israeli airstrike inside Syria since the eruption of the Syrian civil war in 2011. In October 2013, Israeli warplanes struck a military base near Latakia, targeting missiles that could have been destined for Hizbullah, according to an Obama administration official. In July, ammunition warehouses in the area were hit by rockets and in May Israel carried out two airstrikes inside Syria. A senior Israeli official said at the time that both targets were Iranian weapons destined for Hizbullah.

US official warns against business deals with Iran
Associated Press Published: 01.27.14/ Ynetnews
Top US Treasury official says companies should 'hold off' doing business in Iran because many of the sanctions against the country are still in place despite an interim nuclear deal Companies should "hold off" doing business in Iran because many of the sanctions against the country are still in place despite an interim nuclear deal, the top US Treasury official warned Monday. Speaking in Turkey, which is looking to expand business opportunities with its neighbor Iran, David Cohen, the US secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said a significant portion of sanctions against Iran remained, including in the banking, energy and shipping sanctions. Iran is not open for business," Cohen said. "Businesses interested in engaging in Iran really should hold off. The day may come when Iran is open for business, but the day is not today." Last week, the United States and the European Union partially lifted economic sanctions on Iran after it unplugged banks of centrifuges involved in its most sensitive uranium enrichment work. The move was part of a deal aimed at easing concerns over Iran's nuclear program.  Turkey has expressed hopes that the easing of sanctions against Iran will open business opportunities, especially in the energy sector. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan travels to Iran on Tuesday. Turkey imports gas and oil from Iran but the Turkish oil refiner, Tupras, was forced to reduce its Iranian oil purchases due to the sanctions. "What we are working toward is the possibility of a long-term, comprehensive resolution with the Iranians in which they demonstrate that their nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes," Cohen said. Cohen also said he expects Turkey's state-run banking institution, Halkbank, to continue processing oil payments to Iran. The bank's head was arrested last month on bribery charges, along with two former Cabinet ministers' sons, and police seized $4 million in cash in shoe boxes from the bank chief's home.

Sleiman backs neutral Cabinet if talks fail
January 27, 2014/By Wassim Mroueh/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman said he would back a neutral Cabinet if efforts to form an all-embracing government hit a dead end, as Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement continued to rebuff efforts by Hezbollah to convince it to give up the Energy Ministry portfolio. “A neutral government will be formed if efforts to have an 8-8-8 Cabinet lineup fail,” Sleiman told Al-Mustaqbal newspaper in an interview to be published Monday.
Caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law, stood firm on the FPM’s opposition to the rotation of ministerial portfolios among sects, saying the Energy Ministry was a strategic asset for Christians and ensured their role in the country. “It is strategic for Lebanon and Christians because it restores a role on the international stage that was taken from the Christians 25 years ago. The ministry also involves a balanced development [policy] that was absent from Christian [areas] for 25 years,” Bassil said during a news conference. “The principle of rotating ministerial portfolios is a sound policy if it is adopted by consensus and consultations ... [and] at the beginning of a new Parliament or presidential term,” he added. Lebanon last year launched its first oil and gas licensing round, with 46 international energy companies prequalifying to bid for offshore exploration contracts. Bassil said last October that there might be as much as 95.9 trillion cubic feet of gas and 865 million barrels of oil in less than 45 percent of the nation’s waters.
Bassil said the rotation policy targeted the FPM’s achievements at the Energy Ministry and said any change in his post would reflect negatively on the entire oil sector.
He also argued that Sleiman and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam were depriving Christians of their rights: “I cannot believe that the son of [former Prime Minister] Saeb Salam and the president squander the rights of Christians as such.”He added any compromise should not be at the expense of Christians. Aoun says he was excluded from deliberations that have led to a deal between the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance, the Future Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party on forming an all-embracing 8-8-8 Cabinet and rotating key ministerial portfolios among sects.
Sources close to Salam said that while they believed Hezbollah was doing its best to convince Aoun to accept rotating ministerial portfolios, he could not wait long before forming his Cabinet.
The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said if Hezbollah’s efforts were not successful, then Salam would form an all-embracing government in which the FPM would be handed ministerial portfolios other than the Energy and Telecommunications ministries, which it currently holds.Political sources, however, wondered whether Hezbollah would also withdraw its ministers from the new government if FPM members resigned in protest at the party being stripped of the Energy Ministry.
Caretaker Social Affairs Minister and Progressive Socialist Party official Wael Abu Faour, who is mediating efforts to form such a Cabinet, said the opportunity to have a national unity government would not last forever.
“President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam are working on having an all-embracing government and there is still a chance for this to happen, but it is not long or open-ended,” Abu Faour told a local TV station. He said there were no international or regional obstacles preventing the formation of the government.
Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale traveled to Saudi Arabia Sunday for talks with officials there on how to support Lebanon. A source familiar with efforts to form the government said that during his visit to Saudi Arabia, Hale would meet Saudi officials following up on the situation in Lebanon. The outcome of his talks would determine the result of Cabinet formation efforts, the source added.
A statement by the U.S. Embassy said Hale’s discussions with Saudi officials would “focus on enhanced international support for Lebanon.”The source said Hale had met former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the leader of the Future Movement, in Paris a few days earlier. He then visited Aoun, PSP leader Walid Jumblatt and Salam.
According to the source, Hale urged the three officials to strengthen Lebanon’s immunity by forming an inclusive consensus government, pointing out that this was a dangerous phase for the country that required painful concessions from all groups. Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri said his country supported any agreement among Lebanese parties that would preserve Lebanon by forming a government as soon as possible. “From the first moment, the kingdom has supported any consensus among the Lebanese to form a Lebanese government that wins unanimous backing, and believes that neither it, nor Iran nor any other country, have anything to do with the Cabinet formation process,” Asiri told a Lebanese radio station. “This is a Lebanese affair that first and foremost has to do with the Lebanese and thus responsibility falls on them only.” The envoy said Saudi Arabia encouraged dialogue and unity in Lebanon. Asiri added that he had been outside Lebanon for several months due to the deteriorating security situation in the country. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said Saturday that current circumstances in the country required the formation of a neutral government. “The country cannot be left without a government, so long as the Cabinet is a real and harmonious one. These conditions can only be attained at the moment through a neutral government,” he said during a meeting with an LF delegation. Michel Mouawad, head of the Independence Movement, said that independent March 14 officials were still considering whether to join a government in which Hezbollah was represented. Addressing a news conference, Mouawad said: “What we can get before forming the government we cannot get after. There should be an agreement on the policy statement [prior to the Cabinet formation] and on opposing arms outside state authority.”The March 8 coalition, the PSP and the Future Movement have so far agreed to postpone the thorny issue of the Cabinet’s policy statement. – Additional reporting by Antoine Ghattas Saab

A Lebanese Government is needed now
January 27, 2014/The Daily Star
All Lebanese parties and groups are in agreement that a new government is needed, and urgently, but certain politicians seem to be prioritizing their own wishes above the country’s stability.
Both Hezbollah and Future have agreed on the need for rotating ministerial portfolios, and the 8-8-8 formula. But the former has been as yet unable to convince its Free Patriotic Movement allies of the need for regularly rotating Cabinet portfolios, with caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil saying Sunday the position must be reserved for Christians, and, indirectly, for his party. As the country veers from one security incident to another, with fractious borders and a general sense of unease, a functioning government is needed more now than ever, especially given that the presidential election, scheduled for late spring, might not even take place on time. Should this occur, a government would provide a much-needed safety net. International backers of Lebanon are also stressing the need for a government sooner rather than later, and have indicated that they are not opposed to Hezbollah being part of any new Cabinet. Therefore while this widespread enthusiasm for a new government abounds, it must be taken advantage of. If that means that the FPM are not part of the new government, then so be it. The president and the prime minister-designate have implied they are not willing to wait around for FPM leader Michel Aoun to calm down, and it seems likely the party’s ministers will resign if it is not promised the Energy portfolio.
Both sides bruised from recent events in Lebanon, Hezbollah and March 14 have realized compromise is necessary. Hopefully this mood of partial reconciliation translates into the creation of a new Cabinet, today and not tomorrow.

Berri Calls for Compromise by FPM to End Cabinet Standstill
Naharnet Newsdesk 27 January 2014/Speaker Nabih Berri stressed on Monday that contacts are ongoing among the Lebanese foes to end the cabinet standstill, pointing out that consultations haven't reached common grounds yet. “I have done everything I can to facilitate the cabinet formation process and I'm waiting for others,” Berri said in comments published in al-Joumhouria newspaper. “I have nothing new in this regards,” he added. Concerning his meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale on Friday, Berri said that the U.S. official urged the formation of an all-embracing cabinet that includes Hizbullah. Berri also expressed support to the demands set by Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, sources said in comments published in As Safir newspaper. The sources quoted Berri as saying: “It is Aoun's right to guarantee better Christian representation at the new cabinet through balanced portfolios.” However, the speaker said that the concept of rotating ministerial portfolios is to carry out reforms and is in harmony with the FPM's “Change and Reform” slogan. “Rotation in portfolios requires some sacrifices from Aoun and others,” Berri was quoted as saying. He also noted that “priority at this stage is to confront the Sunni-Shiite incitement and an all-embracing government would help.” The cabinet formation process reached an impasse after being put on front burner. Aoun's insistence that his bloc retain the Energy and Telecommunications Ministries portfolios, currently held by caretaker Ministers Jebran Bassil and Nicolas Sehnaoui respectively is viewed to be the main obstacle. In addition to his rejection to the concept of rotation of ministerial portfolios. Salam, who was appointed in April, is holding onto the concept of “fair, balanced and comprehensive rotation of portfolios,” which is rejected by the Free Patriotic Movement. The latest efforts to form a new government have yielded an agreement over the formation of a 24-member cabinet which grants eight ministers to each of the March 8 and 14 camps and centrists. The 8-8-8 formula divides ministers equally between the centrists and March 14 and 8 alliances, in which each get eight ministers with “decisive ministers” for the March 14 and 8 coalitions. Alternatives to the 8-8-8 government lineup are a de facto cabinet or a neutral one, said Speaker Nabih Berri. Berri and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat are however pressing for the formation of an all-embracing government.

Bkirki Calls for Proper Representation of Christians in New Cabinet
Naharnet Newsdesk 27 January 2014/Bkirki has adopted a strong rhetoric recently to demand a proper Christian representation in the upcoming cabinet, calling for a fair and balanced division of portfolios.
“No one can be excluded from the cabinet and experience proved that eliminating others will increase the crisis and not resolve it,” Maronite Bishop Boulus Sayyah said in comments published in al-Joumhouria newspaper on Monday. He considered that any cabinet formed without Christians will be deemed “unconstitutional.” Asked if President Michel Suleiman would ink a decree that exclude the right representation of Christians, Sayyah said: “The president known his duties very well and has discussed the matter previously with the Maronite Patriarch” Beshara al-Rahi. The bishop called on the Christian parties to agree among each other and have a unified stance in order to have an effective role. For his part, Bishop Samir Mazloum told As Safir newspaper that the Maronite Patriarchate considers that Christians should be represented properly in the upcoming cabinet. He noted that the Church calls for the formation of an all-embracing and fair cabinet in which all parties are given their rights. On Sunday, Maronite Patriarch al-Rahi urged the need for political powers to end their tense rhetoric and instead place national interests above all else. He called during his Sunday sermon for “the formation of a government capable of rising up to challenges, especially staging the presidential elections on time.”The ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps have thwarted the formation of a new government since Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam's appointment in April.

Salam, FPM Exchange Counter Accusations on Cabinet Delay
Naharnet Newsdesk 27 January 2014/Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam and the Free Patriotic Movement have exchanged accusations of responsibility for the delay in the formation of the new government. FPM officials told As Safir daily published on Monday that “the obstacle in the cabinet formation is Msaitbeh because Salam created the crisis when he came up with the idea of rotation (of portfolios) and held onto it when (al-Mustaqbal bloc leader) ex-PM Fouad Saniora made it as a condition.” The officials, who were not identified, expressed surprise at what they said was Salam's rejection to discuss with them the details of the distribution of seats to FPM officials based on the suggested rotation. They wondered what portfolios would be from the FPM's share if they gave up the energy, telecommunications and justice ministers, which are currently led by the movement's officials. FPM leader Michel Aoun has been stalling the formation of an all-embracing 24-member government for claiming that the country's top leaders did not consult him when they struck a deal on the 8-8-8 formula and the rotation of portfolios among sects.  On Sunday, caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil reiterated the FPM’s opposition to the rotation, saying his ministry ensured the role of Christians in the country.
But several local dailies quoted Salam as saying on Monday that the formation process is not a hobby or a waste of time. “It requires strong efforts and a responsibility by all political parties,” he told his visitors.
“Where is the logic in having a single party standing against the agreement” to form an all-embracing cabinet? Salam wondered. “Should we stop the country and its interests based on the wishes and demands of a single person and a specific portfolio?” he asked in reference to the energy ministry.

Firefighter Gives Testimony at Third STL Hearing Session, Says Crater Split Hariri Convoy in Half
Naharnet Newsdesk 27 January 2014/
..The Special Tribunal for Lebanon resumed on Monday its hearing sessions in The Hague, as Khaled Toubaili, a firefighter that was involved in the rescuing operations on February 14, 2005, gave his testimony.
Toubaili, a firefighter at the Bashura sector in the Beirut Fire Department, recounted the events he experienced on the day of former premier Rafik Hariri's assassination.
"I was on duty with my colleagues on February 14 2005, and we heard an explosion. I didn't wait for anyone to notify me and without hesitation we rushed to the crime scene,” he said at the beginning of his testimony, noting that they had followed the smoke to locate the explosion site.  He explained that there are three sectors in the Beirut Fire Department. “Each sector is in charge of a certain area and there is no overlapping between their work. The second sector, the Bashura (neighborhood) sector, takes charge of the area where the explosion took place. I was on duty there.”
“In addition to the fire trucks, the third vehicle accompanying us is always an ambulance. We do not go to any scene without an ambulance, in case there were wounded people or in case a firefighter was injured on duty.”
Toubaili elaborated on the road the firefighters took to reach the scene of the explosion. “We reached the Riad Solh area and then we took a maritime road, arriving to the location of the Four Seasons Hotel,” he said.
He noted: “When we arrived, all we could see was shattered glass, everything was on the streets and the glass was first seen near the Riad Solh Square. And after reaching the Four seasons area, the trucks were not able to move towards the explosion scene because of the rubble and the destruction.”“What I saw was not an ordinary view, we saw columns of fire and smoke everywhere.”Toubaili said all he could do at the time was to ask for reinforcement by calling the operation room. “I asked for sending all trucks available in the three sectors of the Beirut fire department,” he stated.  He detailed: “I divided the team into two groups. I sent one group to the St. George hotel, and the second to the Byblos building.” He said he rushed to the Byblos building to extinguish the fire that had erupted there. “When I saw the fire in the Byblos building I went personally inside the premises to rescue people who might have been trapped there. We extinguished the fire on the first floor and then headed to the second floor. On the first floor three rooms were torched but there were no employees trapped. On the second floor one room only was on fire and we transferred the wounded to the hospital.” He said his team took charge of transferring several wounded to the American University of Beirut - Medical Center.
Toubaili revealed that at that time, he had no idea the blast had targeted Hariri. “And therefore, throughout the rescuing operation, I was not aware of the reason of the explosion. But when I was inside the Byblos building, a firefighter came up to me and informed me about it,” he announced. The firefighter said the vehicles that were burned in the area were not all part of Hariri's convoy, but many belonged to employees in neighboring companies.
But the cars that were completely burned were the ones that were part of the convoy, he added, pointing out that due to the explosion, the convoy was separated and divided into two parts, one in front of the crater, and one behind it. “We could extinguish fire easily in people's vehicle but not in those of the convoy. The fuel tanks were exploding in our faces. We extinguished fire with water and every time we put off a blaze, it would ignite again. We used large quantities of foam to finally be able to extinguish the blaze.” He mentioned that the Fire Department was not the party in charge of retrieving Hariri's body. “It could have been the Red Cross or the Defense Forces that took charge of this mission,” he said. During his testimony, Toubaili referred several times to the post-blast model at the court to detail on the road his forces took, and to the sites where he performed the rescuing operations.
The hearing session was adjourned to Tuesday at 11:30 am.

Israeli soldier wounded in blast on Lebanon border: source
January 27, 2014/By Mohammed Zaatari/The Daily Star
ADAISSEH, Lebanon: An Israeli soldier was wounded Monday morning by an explosion near the technical fence on the border with Lebanon, a security source told The Daily Star. The source said the wounded soldier had been operating a bulldozer in an area along the technical fence near the Lebanese border town of Adaisseh at the time of the incident. Three successive explosions were heard as the bulldozer drilled through the earth, the source said, adding that the soldier was wounded in the final blast. Israeli soldiers in the area rushed to his rescue and extinguished the blaze, the source said, adding that an ambulance was later dispatched to transport the patient to a hospital. The Lebanese Army and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon briefly deployed along the border when the blasts occurred. UNIFIL Spokesperson Andrea Tenenti could not confirm the reports of the incident.
“We still have no information about what happened and we are still looking into it,” he told The Daily Star, adding that the situation on the Lebanese side of the border was calm.

Sleiman, Kahwagi stress Army is law abiding
January 27, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman and Gen. Jean Kahwagi Monday stressed that the Army operated within the limits of the law, rejecting campaigns alleging military misconduct, a day after Muslim scholars accused the armed forces of torturing a detained sheikh. “[Sleiman and Kahwagi] agreed that the Army acts according to governing laws, the national interest, the preservation of peace and safety of citizens,” according to a statement from the Presidential Palace. “Investigations are supervised by the relevant judiciary and are of a high level of accuracy and transparency,” the statement said. “The Army, the primary national institution that forms the backbone of peace and stability ... should not be a target of accusations in a bid to protect or provide cover for individuals or groups who commit violations,” it added. According to the Baabda Palace statement, Sleiman and Kahwagi also discussed the security situation in Lebanon, particularly in the northern city of Tripoli. On Sunday, more than a dozen Muslim scholars protested outside Lebanon’s Defense Ministry, calling for the release of a Sunni preacher who was detained last week for allegedly having links to groups that were involved in recent bombings in the country. The group of religious figures claimed that the sheikh, Omar Atrash, was beaten and intimidated during questioning. They also demanded that Atrash have a lawyer present during interrogation. Atrash, who hails from the Bekaa Valley in east Lebanon, is accused by Army Intelligence of smuggling terrorists, rigged cars and belts of explosives through the border town of Arsal to Beirut. His alleged smuggling activities are believed to be linked to several attacks in the country. The military has been accused on several occasions by Islamist groups in Tripoli of targeting the Sunni sect and arbitrarily detaining a number of individuals in the northern city. The Army has so far detained more than 29 people as part of its plan to end repeated clashes in Tripoli between fighters from the Sunni-dominated Bab al-Tabbaneh and the mainly Alawite Jabal Mohsen. The two neighborhoods have been caught in on-and-off violence for nearly three years over the Syrian crisis. On a number of occasions, gunmen in the city have clashed with the military. The latest round of violence earlier this month left two soldiers dead and a number wounded.

Suleiman Says Violators Should not Be Protected through Army Criticism
Naharnet Newsdesk 27 January 2014/President Michel Suleiman defended on Monday the army against critics who accuse it of making illegal arrests of suspects, saying the investigation with them was being carried out in a high level of transparency. Suleiman was briefed by Army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji on the situation in Lebanon in general and mainly the northern city of Tripoli, a Baabda Palace statement said. He also briefed him on the path of recent investigations and arrests, it said. Suleiman and Qahwaji agreed that the army was acting legally and was preserving civil peace and the security of residents. The statement did not mention any names but it came a day after Muslim scholars and clerics staged a protest outside the defense ministry in Yarze to condemn the arrest of Sheikh Omar al-Atrash, who has reportedly admitted his role in recent suicide bombings. “The investigation is led by the specialized judiciary and is being carried out through a high degree of accuracy and transparency,” it said. “It is rejected to protect those who have committed violations or to cover their acts” by flooding the army, which forms the backbone of civil peace and stability in the country, with accusations, the statement added. Media reports have said that al-Atrash, who is from the Bekaa Valley, has admitted to the Army Intelligence that he has smuggled terrorists, rigged cars and explosives belts, some of which have been used in recent bombings. But his lawyer denied to Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) that the Sheikh had made any confessions. Sunday's protesters urged the army to release him after it accused it of acting as a gang.

Abu Faour signals likely birth of fait accompli Cabinet
January 27, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Caretaker Social Affair Wael Abu Faour signaled Monday that a fait accompli government could soon be formed, amid lingering opposition by the Free Patriotic Movement to a March 14 demand that would pave the way for an all-embracing government. “President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam might have to declare a caesarian birth for the Cabinet,” Faour told Voice of Lebanon radio station. His reference to a “caesarian birth” is understood as a fait accompli Cabinet, which Hezbollah and the March 8 coalition have repeatedly warned against.
Abu Faour said the National Struggle Front, headed by MP Walid Jumblatt, still sought an all-embracing Cabinet but “the difficulty of reaching this aim might impose other choices that the Front is against.”
The minister’s comments come after as Hezbollah continues to push its ally FPM chief MP Michel Aoun into compromising over the rotation of ministerial portfolios, a March 14 alliance demand for joining an all-embracing Cabinet. Aoun insists on reappointing members of his party to the Energy Ministry and Telecoms Ministry, saying such a mechanism should only be introduced at the start of a new Parliament or new presidential term. Caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law, stood firm Sunday on the FPM’s opposition to the rotation of ministerial portfolios among sects, saying the Energy Ministry was a strategic asset for Christians and ensured their role in the country. In a televised news conference, Bassil also said the rotation policy targeted the FPM’s achievements at the Energy Ministry and said any change in his post would reflect negatively on the entire oil sector. He also warned that any compromise between Hezbollah and the Future Movement over a new Cabinet should not be at the expense of Christians. Meanwhile, Speaker Nabih Berri said in remarks published Monday contacts were ongoing to form an all-embracing Cabinet. “I did what I had to do to facilitate the formation of a government [but] I am waiting for the others [to do the same],” Berri told Al-Joumhouria newspaper. “Based on what I know, the efforts and contacts are ongoing and I don't have anything new to add in this regard,” he said. Hezbollah MP Kamel al-Rifai said talks between his party and Aoun have so far failed to produce tangible results and urged other officials to take part in the ongoing negotiations. " Hezbollah is holding serious consultations with MP Michel Aoun but they did not reach a conclusion. Therefore, the [negotiation] circle should be expanded to include other people,” he told a local radio station. He also urged the president and the prime minister-designate to hold talks with Aoun to narrow differences.

Jumblatt hails Hariri efforts to avert Sunni-Shiite strife
January 27, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: MP Walid Jumblatt hailed Monday the leader of the Future Movement for warning against attempts at dragging Lebanon’s Sunni sect into conflicts between Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda.
“I salute [Former Prime Minister] Saad Hariri for his recent stance opposing dragging Sunnis into the conflict between Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda,” he said in his weekly article posted on Al-Anbaa website.
“[Hariri’s stance] reflects his rationality and sense of national responsibility, especially at this critical regional and domestic [stage], where there are no political and security constraints and the terrorist bombings that claim innocent civilians in the country persist,” he said.
Hariri’s warning Saturday came in response to a statement by the Nusra Front in Lebanon, a group affiliated with Al-Qaeda which has claimed several bombings in Lebanon.
The militant group, which has threatened further attacks, warned Lebanon’s Sunnis Friday to avoid Hezbollah “areas” in the country and urged the sect to support it in its battle against Hezbollah.
Jumblatt also criticized a recent protest by Muslim scholars outside Lebanon’s Defense Ministry during which they called for the release of a Sunni preacher detained last week for alleged involvement in recent bombings in the country. “How more important is this stance [by Hariri] that calls for calm when compared to the sit-ins outside the Defense Ministry calling for the release of a detainee still being interrogated,” Jumblatt said.
During the protest outside the Defense Ministry, more than a dozen Muslim scholars accused the Army of arresting Sheikh Omar Atrash on false accusations, claiming that the preacher had merely been helping Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Atrash, who hails from the Bekaa Valley in east Lebanon, is accused by Army Intelligence of smuggling terrorists, rigged cars and belts of explosives through the border town of Arsal to Beirut. His alleged smuggling activities are believed to be linked to several attacks in the country.

New fighters, arms spark fresh fears in Tripoli
January 27, 2014/By Misbah al-Ali/The Daily Star
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Despite the calm that has prevailed over Tripoli lately and the end of the latest round of violence, residents firmly believe another clash is around the corner as the emergence of new fighting groups takes center stage, raising fears of an Army reprisal. Of some concern are dangerous facts uncovered during the latest round of clashes that observers say could plunge the city into further turmoil. At the forefront of new developments are accusations made by several fighter groups in Bab al-Tabbaneh that Army soldiers are atheists. The accusations were followed by attacks targeting Army vehicles that killed two soldiers.
These false claims have rung alarm bells that the security situation in the troubled city has reached critical proportions and is approaching a stage that could lead to dire consequences. Several field commanders in Bab al-Tabbaneh have observed new unknown groups entering their traditional front lines with rival Jabal Mohsen. The commanders have seen enthusiastic fighters, notably from the group led by Salafist leader Hussam al-Sabbagh, nicknamed Abu al-Hasan, taking part in the clashes. The commanders have also noticed the introduction of new arms to the fighting, some that have never been used in clashes before, such as 120-82 mortars and rocket propelled grenade launchers such as B7 and B10, as well as locally manufactured explosive devices. “The targeting of an Army vehicle by a group from Bab al-Tabbaneh is something unacceptable and gives [others] a pretense to retaliate against the local fighting groups of Bab al-Tabbaneh, and this could lead to much strife between them and the Army,” a senior field commander told The Daily Star, referring to separate attacks on military vehicles that killed two soldiers and wounded eight others on Jan. 22. The field commander voiced concerns that fighters in Tripoli would become scapegoats and sacrificed by politicians in the name of regional and local settlements, especially after former Prime Minister Saad Hariri agreed to participate in a Cabinet with Hezbollah. The commander could offer no vision of how the security situation could morph in Tripoli in the coming months, save for the possibility of a comprehensive security plan that might see forces enter Bab al-Tabbaneh to confiscate weapons. “Such a plan might be in the works, especially with information circulating that the security forces have the names of 53 wanted people from Bab al-Tabbaneh and will soon issue arrest warrants for them,” he said, adding that the targeting of Army vehicles in the last clash served as a trigger to issue such warrants. “[The security forces] vowed that it would not go unpunished.”The commander’s fears were echoed by most local fighting groups in Bab al-Tabbaneh. The latest round was also marked by the appearance of new fighting groups, such as the Bilal Ben Rabah Brigades, the Oussoud al-Shaarani Brigades and Jalal Dandashi Brigades, a development that evokes the myriad of decentralized rebel groups in Syria. The introduction of unknown fighting groups, and the response of the security forces to an attack against their presence in Bab al-Tabbaneh, signals the possibility for many local fighters that a crackdown on Islamist groups would soon be underway.
Observers in Tripoli said sheikhs and scholars were mostly to blame for the security situation in the city because their neglect and absence from public affairs had allowed for a more fanatic school of thought to fill the void. Institutional disorder was also to blame, they said, as the overlapping roles of Dar al-Fatwa and the Committee of Muslim Scholars, led by Sheikh Salem Rafei, only served to confuse citizens.
“The relevant authorities should deal with this negligence and deal with this issue from all sides. Here we don’t talk about military solutions, but about the chronic social and economic problems, by establishing development projects similar to those in other Lebanese regions that had similar issues,” secretary of Dar al-Fatwa Sheikh Mohammad Imam told The Daily Star, clarifying the role of his institution. “The big question,” he said, was “why the front lines in Tripoli remained open when all other front lines were eliminated [after the Civil War]?” “ Tripoli residents are rarely consulted in the happenings of their city and they often don’t know when a round of violence begins and ends. No one knows who orders the start of the violence and what is most pitiful is that the victims ... are often innocent civilians,” he added.
Imam touched on the takfiri practice of accusing enemies of being atheists as a pretense to legitimize and launch attacks. “It is useful to point out that eliminating the opposite point of view is against the instructions of the holy Quran, which calls for dialogue and negotiating with people using moderation,” he said.

Grand Mufti of Lebanon Sheikh Mohammad Qabbani accuses US of stirring Mideast strife
January 27, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Grand Mufti of Lebanon Sheikh Mohammad Qabbani accused the U.S. Monday of dividing the Middle East with battle lines based on sectarian differences in order to strengthen Israel. “To achieve this plot [‘The New Middle East’ project] ... the United States studied the instincts and ways of thinking of the groups that make up our communities and has succeeded in sowing strife in eight Arab and Muslim countries ... and was able to trigger fighting among fellow citizens,” he said in an address. Qabbani said a second method used by the West for implementing their alleged scheme was through the U.N. failing to recognize Israel’s widely suspected nuclear and chemical weapons arsenal. The mufti said the West aimed at dividing the region into “weak, feuding, mini-sectarian states under the so-called foreign scheme ‘The new Middle East.’”
The West, according to Qabbani, also aims at putting an end to the Arab’s denunciation of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. The overall objective of the so-called plot was to ensure that Israel is the “dominant country and the strongest in the Arab region.” But the mufti said the United States would fail. “Conflicts taking place in Lebanon and Arab countries are very serious disputes and are very worrisome,” Qabbani warned. Qabbani warned that the continuation of unrest in the region “threatens more horrible killings, destruction and fragmentation that the foreign [powers] are plotting to weaken the Palestinian, the Lebanese and the Arab resistances against Israel.” He blamed the growth of extremism in Lebanon on the lengthy detention of Islamist prisoners without trial and the systematic campaign against the moderates in Dar al-Fatwa. Qabbani also condemned the wave of car bombings in Lebanon and referred to suicide attacks as a sin.

Myriad questions abound in church molestation scandal
January 27, 2014/By Rayane Abou Jaoude/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: After years of silence, reports of sexual abuse at the hands of once-respected Lebanese priests and bishops have recently emerged, leaving a trail of unanswered questions and putting the Maronite and Orthodox churches in the limelight. Fresh reports of yet another scandal involving a bishop accused of sexually molesting a young boy at a Greek Orthodox monastery have raised further questions about how the Lebanese churches have been dealing with cases of sexual harassment in which clergy members are the suspected perpetrators.
Bishop Costantine Kayyal was implicated for allegedly sexually harassing a 10-year-old boy at the Mar Elias Monastery in the Metn town of Dhour Choueir, sources close to the case confirmed to The Daily Star, after local media outlets reported the story last week. Kayyal’s is the third such case to emerge in Lebanon in a matter of months, but the church has so far been secretive about the case and has not revealed any details to the public.
Elya Haber, a lawyer and a sub-deacon at the Orthodox Church, told The Daily Star that the church adopts measures of “healing” over recrimination to deal with such cases.
“The church has to take certain measures to deal with this situation. It follows up on that same priest, and can go as far as ask certain people to stay close to that priest, provide psychological counsel, limit or strip him of his ecclesiastical duties,” he said, adding that the priest could even be sent to a different country, or be asked to spend time alone in a monastery.
“These are all put under the title of healing, in a way of redeeming a certain situation. It is all part of a healing process, what is referred to in the Orthodox Church as ecclesiastical economia” Haber added.
The church carries out an investigation into the accusations and speaks to witnesses in closed sessions before choosing the appropriate “punishment.” However, while members of the clergy who have been accused or indicted of an offense are asked to “stay away” from the church, their duties could be reinstated in due time, Haber said. But the case of Bishop Costantine Kayyal was filed in civil court, not with church authorities.
According to Haber, when the case is brought up in civil court, the church is not involved. If the priest is found to be guilty, however, then the church can choose to intervene. “All a civil court can do is give compensation to the family,” the lawyer said. A court session will be held in April to determine the final verdict in Kayyal’s case, his secretary, who requested anonymity, told The Daily Star.
Kayyal himself is currently not speaking to the media or giving any interviews, the secretary added.
An Orthodox priest close to the case who also chose to remain anonymous told The Daily Star that the accusations leveled against Kayyal were untrue, and stemmed from a personal dispute between the father and the Orthodox bishop that related to investments belonging to the monastery. According to the boy’s father, who spoke to local media station LBCI last week, the 10-year-old was molested in the monastery in April 2012.
He said that Kayyal had approached his son, nude underneath his robes, and tried to kiss him several times. Right after the incident, the father said he had seen his son run screaming into the courtyard outside the monastery. The boy eventually told his father what had happened with the bishop. The boy’s father also said that the judiciary had postponed court sessions in light of Kayyal’s absence, which he blamed on the controversial political and religious dimensions of the case. The family has German citizenship, allowing them to transfer the case to a human rights court there and to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva.
But the source, who has been in close contact with Bishop Hanna Haikal in Germany who is involved in the case, said the father withdrew the file from the German courts.
“If the father was present at the monastery, how was it possible for [Kayyal] to sexually molest his son?” the source said.
He cited the case of Archimandrite Panteleimon Farah, who was sentenced to a life of isolation at the Hamatoura Monastery in the Koura town of Kousba last month by the Clerical Disciplinary Council, an ecclesiastical hearing where a church member is tried over certain allegations, following what the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Byblos and Batroun called “violations of Christian life.” The sentence was based on a decision reached by Orthodox Bishop of Mount Lebanon George Khodr.
Both Farah and Kayyal could have been potential candidates for high-ranking clerical positions, the source said, and the accusations could be part of an attempt to thwart their candidacies.
“Or an attempt at targeting Christian churches in Lebanon,” he added, saying that Christians were at risk in the Middle East. He argued that this might explain why incidents of sexual harassment at the hands of the clergy have only recently surfaced. “We are very distressed,” the source said, speaking on behalf of the Orthodox Church.
But Haber was more optimistic, saying he didn’t believe such accusations could lead the church to lose its credibility, nor were they necessarily part of a conspiracy aimed at targeting Christianity in Lebanon.
“A small thing such as this does not erase such a long history, nor would a flaw efface the good deeds of a clergymen,” he said, adding that "reptence can redeem all."
The case comes just a few months after that of Lebanese priest Mansour Labaki, a renowned cleric who was sentenced to a life of penitence and isolation by the Vatican following a conviction for sexually abusing at least three children, as well as soliciting sex. Of the recent rise in such sexual harassment cases, Haber said there were many allegations under trial, “but nothing is concrete so far.”
“Anything related to sexual behavior is highlighted, it is the most read,” he added, saying that social media platforms make the allegations available to everyone.
While some may consider the punishment for sexual assault cases relatively mild, Haber said: “The repercussions of its measures are to heal the clergy and the community at the same time. From this perspective, it is enough.”
“It is not the church’s job to incriminate a religious figure, so it is adequate within a certain judgment using all methods and means,” Haber added.
Pope Francis had recently vowed to take allegations of abuse more seriously than the Catholic Church has in the past, and has created a commission aimed at protecting children from sexually abusive priests. But there is a lack of transparency surrounding cases of sexual harassment. Unlike cases filed with the Supreme Court or the Court of Cassation, where records are kept and there is some degree of transparency, such procedures in the Vatican are coded by secret. As for the pope’s reforms to the Vatican legal system which saw the criminalization of sexual violence and child pornography, such measures only apply to Vatican City, and not to all Catholics, Marco Ventura, an expert on the Vatican legal system, told The Daily Star last year.
The rising number of abuse cases is not limited to Lebanon alone; disturbing stories of sexual abuse by notable priests have recently emerged globally, with the Catholic Church publicizing several files to the public in a bid to be more transparent. But in most cases, clergymen found guilty are sent away for treatment and assigned to different parishes when they return, with very few actually serving time in prison.
Kayyal’s lawyer Joelle Shaker recently released a statement to LBCI, also denying statements that Kayyal had molested the 10-year-old, and confirming claims that the accusations stemmed from a personal dispute involving money. “We will not go into debates around the subject as long as it is still in the hands of the judiciary, in which we have complete trust, and in its integrity and transparency, especially because issues relating to the file are running normally, knowing that the case was a result of a monetary dispute,” the statement said.
It added that the father first responded by claiming fraud and sexual harassment, which he later retracted, and then made the claim that his son was sexually harassed.
The statement said that the sessions were proceeding as normal, and psychologists as well as doctors involved in the case also denied the harassment claims.
Secretary for the Clerical Court Father Melhem Hourani, who is involved in the case, told The Daily Star he was not at liberty to divulge any information regarding either the boy’s father or Kayyal, but said the case was being followed up.

Egypt army mandates Sisi to run for presidency
January 27, 2014 /By Maggie Michael/Associated Press
CAIRO: Egypt's top generals on Monday endorsed a presidential run by army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the state news agency said, paving the way for the man who ousted the country's Islamist president to enter elections to replace him at the head of a violently divided nation. The official news agency MENA said el-Sissi could officially announce his intention to run "within hours." If el-Sissi runs in the elections due by the end of April, he would likely sweep the vote, given his popularity among a significant sector of the public, the lack of alternatives, the almost universal support in Egypt's media and the powerful atmosphere of intimidation against critics pervading the country. A run by the 59-year-old el-Sissi, a U.S.-trained infantry officer, would be a new turn in Egypt's turmoil, which began with the 2011 uprising that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak - a veteran of the military who ruled for nearly 30 years - in the name of bringing civilian rule, reform and greater democracy. The country's freest elections ever that followed brought to power the Islamists, installing Muslim Brotherhood figure Mohammad Morsi as president, only for a large portion of the population to turn against him, accusing the Brotherhood of trying to monopolize power. Massive protests prompted el-Sissi to depose Morsi on July 3.
Little known before Morsi named him defense minister and army chief, el-Sissi rocketed after the coup to become Egypt's most powerful figure, lauded by supporters as the nation's savior.
On Saturday, large crowds turned out in rallies calling for el-Sissi to run, in a show heavily orchestrated by military supporters, particularly a new political grouping called "Masr Balady" or "Egypt is My Country," which brings together prominent security figures, including a former interior minister and senior Muslim cleric Ali Gomaa. At the same time, security forces cracked down on Islamist protesters demanding Morsi's reinstatement in fighting that killed nearly 50 protesters - a sign of the violent divisions in the country. Islamist opponents describe the coup as treason and brand el-Sissi a murderer. They tried to cast el-Sissi as a ruthless dictator, an enemy of Islam or an agent of America and Israel. In a statement Sunday, a Brotherhood-led Islamist alliance said the chants from its protests showed "the people want the execution of the murderer, not (that) the people want to appoint the murderer as president."
It called for more protests Tuesday, which is the anniversary of the Jan. 28, 2011 "Day of Rage," one of the most violent days of anti-Mubarak uprising in which police forces virtually collapsed in fighting with protesters. Tuesday also brings the opening session of a new trial of Morsi and 130 others in connection to a 2011 jailbreak.
Since Morsi's ouster, Egypt has seen a wave of pro-military nationalist fervor and a return to prominence of security agencies that under Mubarak - and even after - were widely hated for abuses of power. Soon after the coup, el-Sissi called on Egyptians to take to the street in rallies to "delegate" him to fight terrorism. Millions turned out in rallies, and police have since waged a fierce crackdown on the Brotherhood, arresting thousands of members and killing hundreds.
The heavy-handed security crackdown also swept away secular-leaning activists and youth leaders as part of a wave of intimidation of critics, sparking fears among some of a return to a Mubarak-style police state.
On Monday, a figure seen as one in the few in the Cabinet who have tried to limit the crackdown and promote reconciliation with Islamists, Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Bahaa-Eldin , submitted his resignation. On his Facebook page, Bahaa-Eldin said he wanted to focus on work with his political party, the Social Democratic Party, and that he had not done so sooner because he wanted to "avoid divisions" before the approval of a new constitution in a referendum earlier this month. The military's top body of generals, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, held an hours-long meeting Monday to discuss a possible el-Sissi candidacy.
During the meeting, interim President Adly Mansour announced el-Sissi's promotion from general to field marshal - the military's top rank - apparently as a final honor before he leaves the military.
The promotion gives el-Sissi the same rank held by his predecessor, Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, who was army chief and defense minister for years under former President Hosni Mubarak and who then stepped in as military ruler for nearly 17 months after Mubarak's ouster in the 2011 uprising. After Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president, was inaugurated in 2012, he removed Tantawi and installed el-Sissi. Hours later, MENA reported that the Supreme Council unanimously "endorsed" el-Sissi to run for president.
The state-run Al-Ahram newspaper said the council also named Chief of Staff Sedki Sobhi to replace el-Sissi as army chief and defense minister when he steps down. Under the new constitution, the president must have SCAF's endorsement to fill the defense minister-army chief post, meaning the military effectively names its own chief.
With the exception of Morsi, who held office for a year, Egypt has been ruled by men of military background since the overthrow of the monarchy in a coup some 60 years ago.
An el-Sissi presidency would continue that trend.
A day earlier, interim President Mansour announced that presidential elections would be held first, followed by parliamentary elections, switching the order first laid out in a transition plan put forward by the military after Morsi's ouster. The presidential election is now expected before the end of April, while a parliamentary vote should come before the end of July. The move is seen as aimed at putting a stabilizing figure in the top position at a time of deep uncertainty. Since Morsi's ouster, Islamic militants have dramatically escalated an insurgency, attacking police and military with bombings and shootings that have spread from the Sinai Peninsula to the capital, Egypt, and increasingly strike in public areas taking civilian casualties. The government branded the Brotherhood a terrorist organization, accusing it of orchestrating the violence. The group denies the charge, saying it is aimed at justifying the crackdown.

Four big things to know about Egypt in 2014
by Raymond Stock/Fox News
Egypt will continue to make much news in the New Year -- as it has since the 2011 revolution that brought down longtime U.S. ally President Hosni Mubarak amid scenes of blood and jubilation in Tahrir Square and beyond.
As Egypt celebrates the third anniversary of that revolution's launch on January 25th, the world's oldest nation-state enters another phase in its volatile transition from Mubarak's fading, sclerotic autocracy to a yet-uncertain future:
With all that in mind, here are four big things to know about Egypt in 2014.
1. EGYPTIANS SHOULD BE HEADING BACK TO THE POLLS SHORTLY. The overwhelming passage January 14-15 of an amended Constitution paves the way for new presidential and parliamentary elections soon, and legitimizes the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi following the largest demonstrations in history last June 30. This means that Egypt's extremely popular military regime, headed by charismatic Minister of Defense General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, has turned a crucial corner in gaining international acceptance, after nearly seven months of physical attacks within Egypt, and of media and policy assaults from abroad.
Egypt's extremely popular military regime has turned a crucial corner in gaining international acceptance. Pictured, Egyptian Minister of Defense General Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisi bids farewell to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry after a meeting in Cairo, Egypt, on November 3, 2013. (Image source: U.S. State Department)
2. TERRORISM AND DISSENT WILL CONTINUE TO TORTURE EGYPT. Despite this latest triumph of the majority's will, the same destructive forces that have plagued the nation following the euphoria at Mubarak's fall will likely keep eating away at Egypt's social, political and economic fabric for the foreseeable future.
Friday, four explosions, including a suicide bombing that blew the facade off the seven-story State Security building downtown, have struck targets throughout Cairo, killing at least six and wounding more than 60 others.
President Barack Obama's botched handling of the rollout of Egypt's -- and the Arab world's --democracy, in which the U.S. backed Islamists over secular liberal forces throughout the region, means our alliance with Cairo is far less secure than it was during Mubarak's nearly thirty years atop the pyramid of power in Egypt.
Mubarak told ABC's Christiane Amanpour on February 3, 2011, that Obama "doesn't understand Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now."
Mubarak accurately warned that if he resigned abruptly, as he was pushed to do that February 11 by Obama and the military in response to protests, bringing to climax the Arab Spring, he would be followed by chaos and rule by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which Egypt now rightly calls a terrorist organization.
Chaos duly ensued, and the well-organized, deeply entrenched MB and its Salafi allies, after electoral victories, imposed an Islamist agenda on the country, eventually alienating almost the whole citizenry.
As Obama told CBS's Steve Kroft during a joint interview with then-outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton broadcast on "60 Minutes" January  27, 2013, at the height of the Islamists' ascendancy, "You know, when it comes to Egypt, I think, had it not been for the leadership we showed, you might have seen a different outcome there."
Supporters of Mubarak's successor, Mohamed Morsi, an MB hardliner, launched an armed insurgency when he was deposed on July 3, 2013 after only one year in power.
The MB's violent protests will probably not go away, though they are shrinking at least for the moment, while some of the key secular liberal groups that helped bring down both Mubarak and Morsi are turning against the repressive military. Turnout for the new Constitution -- which strips away most of the Islamist provisions found in the previous one, rammed through by Morsi in December 2012, while placing the military leadership beyond civilian control-- was officially a modest 38.6 percent, but with a "Yes" vote of 98.1 percent.
In actual numbers, almost 20 million voters backed the document, over eight million more than endorsed Morsi's charter in December 2012, and roughly six million more than had voted for Morsi as president that May.
The MB and its Islamist allies, plus a few of the secular liberal groups that had opposed Mubarak, boycotted the vote, denouncing the crackdown on dissent under al-Sisi, a Bizarro World replay of the campaign against Morsi's own Constitution. The 2014 referendum's success enables the widely-expected presidential candidacy of al-Sisi, a modern day pharaoh in a land that has known largely that kind of rule for the past five millennia.
Al-Sisi now runs Egypt through competent surrogates like Acting President Adly Mansour and Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawy, though his glow may dim should he finally shed his uniform and govern directly as a civilian.
3 . EGYPT MAY BE JOINING A NUCLEAR ARMS RACE WITH IRAN WHILE REACHING OUT EVER MORE TO RUSSIA AND PERHAPS CHINA FOR ALTERNATIVES TO U.S. AID. This is happening as the Obama administration implements a toothless nuclear deal with radical Shiite Iran, alienating traditional Sunni allies like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
In October 2013, Mansour announced a major expansion of Egypt's sixty-year old advanced nuclear program, possibly with help from Russia, with which Cairo signed an alarming $2 billion arms deal in November.
That alliance-shifting switch was prompted by Obama's decision last fall to suspend about a third of the annual $1.6 billion U.S. aid package to Egypt out of pique at al-Sisi's crackdown on the MB, while the White House had increased aid to Morsi when he had muzzled and even murdered his own opposition, angering most Egyptians.
To calm these strategically dangerous waters, last week Congress voted to grant $1.52 billion in aid to Egypt for 2014 -- but it is so hedged with conditions that no one can be sure if all or indeed any of it will actually go to Cairo, or assuage a single Egyptian after so many snubs if it does.
4. CHRISTIANS WILL STILL SUFFER BUT MAYBE NOT AS MUCH. Egypt's long-persecuted Christian minority, wrongly blamed and physically targeted in a pogrom by the Islamists after Morsi's fall, will find neither the same level of active persecution, nor -- unfortunately -- much more government protection than it did in the waning days of Mubarak, which were also marred by frequent acts of mayhem against them.
Nor will they probably receive any help from the White House, which shamefully has been almost completely silent on the ever-more intense, large-scale violence against Christians throughout the Middle East and Muslim world in recent years. Yet despite the divisions that still wrack the country, we ought to thank al-Sisi and the Egyptian people for ending the reign of the falsely "moderate," militantly anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, anti-female and anti-gay MB, that is allied with Al Qaeda and was using Egypt as a base to spread its influence and ideology.
For that service alone, Egypt today would be worth more than every penny it might yet see of the American taxpayers' money--even if we cannot buy a genuine democracy in a land that has never known one.
**Raymond Stock, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and a former Assistant Professor of Arabic and Middle East Studies at Drew University, spent twenty years in Egypt, and was deported by the Mubarak regime in 2010.

Tense session breaks up over Syria transition

January 27, 2014/By Zeina Karam/Daily Star
GENEVA: The first meeting meant to discuss the contentious issue of a Syrian transitional government broke up less than an hour after it began Monday following a tense session that one delegate described as "a dialogue of the deaf."The Syrian government has said it will not discuss replacing President Bashar Assad as the leader of a country his family has ruled since 1970. The opposition insists he must step down in favor of a transitional governing body with full executive powers that would lead the country until elections are held. The U.N. envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, managed to get both sides to sit in the same room over the weekend to discuss humanitarian aid to besieged areas of the besieged central city of Homs and a possible prisoner exchange. But the opposition said little progress has been achieved. On Sunday, after three days of talks, a tentative agreement was reached about the evacuation of women and children trapped in Homs before aid convoys go in. On Monday, the two delegations were supposed to begin discussing thorny political issues such as Assad's future. As the meeting got under way, the government delegation put forward a paper focusing on the need to combat terrorism and halt funding and shipments of weapons to rebels fighting to topple Assad, delegates said.
Bouthaina Shaaban, an Assad adviser, called the paper an "expression of good will" in search of common ground and said she was surprised the opposition rejected it.
"Either these people have no capacity to express their love and care for Syria, or they are ordered by foreign powers to ignore what is most important and most urgent for their country," she said.
The opposition called the paper a deviation from the main goal of the talks: a transitional government.
Murhaf Joueijati, a member of the National Syrian Coalition opposition group's negotiating team, criticized the government negotiators. "They began to get even more confrontational and began to lecture in a very dictatorial manner," he said. "We thought there was no point in continuing this since it was going to be a dialogue of the deaf," he said.
Brahimi broke up the meeting and was scheduled to meet with both sides separately later Monday. The inability of the two sides to discuss Assad's future was expected.
One of the key guiding principles for the talks in Geneva -which are aimed at stopping three years of bloodshed in Syria that has claimed over 130,000 lives, and forced millions from their homes - calls for the creation of a transitional government that both sides accept. "Today we will start talking about a new Syria, about transition from starvation to freedom, from torture to human rights and rule of law," an opposition spokesman, Monzer Akbik, said Monday. But Syria has said any discussion of a transitional government excluding Assad would cross "a red line," insisting the talks should focus instead on combatting terrorism.
Militants, including foreign fighters, have flocked to Syria to join the fight to topple Assad. The most powerful rebel groups include two the U.S. has formally designated as foreign terrorist organizations: the Iraqi State of Iraq and the Levant and Jabhat al-Nusra. In setback to the rebels last year, the U.S. suspended deliveries of nonlethal aid to the Syrian opposition after al-Qaida-linked militants seized warehouses that had been under the authority of a key U.S.-backed leader. But on Monday American officials said those deliveries, including communications equipment, are being resumed, for now only to non-armed opposition groups.
Regarding Homs, Akbik said the women and children there should decide whether they want to leave or stay after they have received aid. He accused authorities of blocking a convoy of 12 trucks trying to get into the embattled city and said, "We will judge the regime by what it does, not by what it says." Shaaban dismissed the aid effort for Homs as a distraction aimed at bolstering the opposition's credentials.
"This is to make a big fuss about taking two trollies to Homs," she said. "Is this why we came to Geneva? Or we came here to solve the problem in Syria?" she said.
Syrian state TV said a Syrian official and a U.N. representative were meeting in Homs to discuss how to evacuate women and children from rebel-held areas there. It was unclear when the evacuation would start.
Homs Governor Talal Barrazi said the only obstacle facing the flow of food into rebel held areas are "some cases of snipers fire by terrorist groups." In a statement released by his office, Barrazi said it is willing to evacuate civilians who want to leave the old quarter of Homs to "any place they want to go to" and they will get food and medical supplies. "We are waiting for an answer from international organization representatives to specify the number of those who want to leave," Barrazi said.

Second chemical shipment removed from Syria: U.N.
January 27, 2014/Agence France Presse/DAMASCUS: A second shipment of chemical weapons materials has been removed from Syria under a deal to eliminate its arsenal, the joint UN mission overseeing the disarmament said Monday. "Today, a further shipment of chemical weapons materials took place from the Syrian Arab Republic," the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a statement. "The chemical materials were verified by Joint Mission personnel before being loaded in Lattakia port onto Danish and Norwegian cargo vessels for onward transportation." An earlier shipment was removed on January 7. The UN Security Council last year backed a US-Russian deal to eliminate Syria's vast chemical arsenal as a way to avert US strikes threatened after a massive chemical attack near Damascus that Washington blamed on the regime.Under the agreement, Syria's entire chemical arsenal is to be eliminated by June 30. Syrian President Bashar Assad has been battling rebels for nearly three years, following his government's brutal crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising that began in March 2011.

Elders call for ending Syria 'nightmare' on Iran visit
January 27, 2014/Agence France Presse/TEHRAN: A delegation of former world leaders from the so-called Elders group on Monday called for an end to Syria's "nightmare" during a rare visit to Iran, a key regime ally.
"All of us, including our Iranian hosts, are deeply concerned about the tragic situation in Syria today. We must all do our best to help reduce suffering ... and put an end to the nightmare of Syrian people," former UN chief and Syria envoy Kofi Annan said after a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Iran is a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, which has been battling rebels for nearly three years in a civil war that has claimed an estimated 130,000 lives and displaced millions of people. Tehran was excluded from peace talks currently being held in Switzerland over its refusal to back calls for a transitional government.
Annan arrived in Iran on Sunday with former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, South African Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu and Mexican ex-president Ernesto Zedillo. The Elders group was formed in 2007 and is made up of 12 former global leaders who "promote peace, justice and human rights," according to its website. Iran has sought to improve relations with Western countries following last year's election of President Hassan Rouhani, a reputed moderate, and clinched a landmark nuclear accord with world powers in November. The West and Israel have long suspected Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons alongside its civilian atomic programme, charges denied by Tehran. In a statement released on Saturday the Elders hailed "recent positive developments as a historic and strategic opportunity to end decades of animosity between Iran and the international community." During the visit, the Elders "will exchange ideas with the Iranian leadership about peaceful ways of addressing conflict and healing sectarian divisions in the region."

Syria foes say will not quit talks despite impasse
January 27, 2014/Agence France Presse
GENEVA: Syria's rival sides said Monday that they would not quit peace talks despite being deadlocked after a session aimed at tackling the explosive issue of a transfer of power. Pressed on whether the government delegation would walk out, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad responded: "Never! We shall not leave the table. We shall continue discussing." Speaking separately, opposition delegate Rima Fleihan said: "We are positive and we're going to stay here until the goal of this conference has been achieved, the formation of a transition governing body." The impasse emerged after negotiators from President Bashar al-Assad's regime set out a statement of five principles aimed at protecting Syria's sovereignty, preserving state institutions, halting "foreign diktat" and condemning "terrorist" groups -- a label slapped by the government on opposition fighters. "What we did today was present a paper on basic elements for a political communique that will make the way smoother for the actual discussion when we come to the hard issues," said Muqdad. "In this paper we have five points, and we have never thought that Syrians would disagree on these five points," he added, underlining that the goal was to "make the atmosphere conducive for advancement". The UN-brokered talks are meant to build on the so-called "Geneva I" declaration agreed by an international conference in the Swiss city in 2012, and meant to pave the way for a mutually agreed political transition in war-torn Syria. But Fleihan said the regime had "tried from the outset to take the negotiating process in another direction". "It appears that the regime delegation is being smothered by the pressure from the international community, and that's why they are nervous," she added.