June 05/14


Bible Quotation for today/He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart

John 12,37-43/Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him. This was to fulfil the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said, ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not look with their eyes, and understand with their heart and turn and I would heal them.’ Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him. Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For June 05/14

Sisi’s policy towards Syria/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/June 05/14

The media played Assad’s game in Syria/By: Chris Doyle/June 05/14


The Daily Star Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For June 05/14

Lebanese Related News

Kerry Meets Salam, Urges Hizbullah, Iran, Russia to Exert Efforts to End Syria War

Kerry urges the election of a strong Lebanese president

Kerry: Important for presidential vacuum to be filled, urges government free from foreign influence

Salam Losing Patience over Cabinet Power Row

Aoun, Berri discuss presidential void

Machnouk: Void concerns all, not just Christians

Father kills 18-year-old daughter in north Lebanon

Abou Faour Denies PSP Not at Ease with
Makari Rejects Political Apathy, Warns of Extending Presidential Vacuum Period
Germany Charges Lebanese Man, 2 Accomplices with Terrorism

Aoun to Send an Envoy for Talks with Hariri over Presidential Impasse within Weeks

Wage Hike Committee Holds Meetings in Race Against Time

Berri Warns he Would Take Measures against Boycotting MPs

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Canada: Syrian Elections a Sham

Assad set for victory in wartime vote slammed by West
Canada's Statement on Egyptian Election Results

Libya’s Haftar survives ‘assassination bid’
Obama ‘looking forward’ to working with Sisi

Rowhani vows to defend Iran’s nuclear rights

Suspect in Jewish museum shooting refuses extradition to Belgium 

Erdogan's tightening grip on Turkey

Five years after Cairo speech, Arabs warm to Obama - if ever so slightly

Hamas begins handover of Palestinian government offices in Gaza

Hamas official: Formation of unity gov't is 'surrender on part of Hamas'

Obama Meets Ukraine's Poroshenko ahead of Putin Encounter


MP. Nadiem Gemayel: Parliament sessions boycotted until president elected
June 05, 2014/BEIRUT: March 14 Christian MPs will boycott all parliamentary legislative sessions until a new president is elected, according to Kataeb MP Nadim Gemayel, who added that Aoun’s candidacy would not be supported. “We will not participate in any legislative session as long as the presidential void remains,” said the Kataeb MP, during an interview with Kalam Beirut, a program on Future TV.  Gemayel slammed Aoun’s hopes for presidency, saying that “the Future Movement supports a candidate from March 14,” referring to Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, “and it will not adopt Aoun’s candidacy.”  In this vein, he called on Future Movement leader former Prime Minister Saad Hariri “to give Aoun a definitive response” that his candidacy would not be supported.
If there is no president selected by September, said Gemayel, then MPs would be obliged to conduct parliamentary elections and the next legislative body would elect a president. “We shall not think about extending the parliamentary term at all,” he explained. The Parliament’s term was extended by 17 months at the end of May 2013, the first since the end of 1975-90 Civil War. Gemayel also addressed Maronite Patriarch Bashara Rai, calling him to invite Christian MPs to hold comprehensive meeting in which a stance against the presidential void could be adopted. Separately, the Kataeb senior commented on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Lebanon Wednesday, saying that “he should have come when [former President] Michel Sleiman was still in Baaba Palace, and the visit would have been given more importance.” Concerning relations between the U.S. and Iran, Gemayel said that there was an obvious rapprochement ongoing between the two states, noting that “[Hezbollah head] Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has stopped attacking the United States in his speeches.”

Kerry Meets Salam, Urges Hizbullah, Iran, Russia to Exert Efforts to End Syria War
Naharnet/U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on Wednesday Russia, Iran, and Hizbullah to help end the war in Syria, saying that Lebanon has felt the impact of the crisis more than any other country. He said: “Iran, Russia, and Hizbullah must engage in a legitimate effort to bring this war to an end.” He made his remarks after holding talks at the Grand Serail with Prime Minister Tammam Salam during an unannounced trip he made to Lebanon on Wednesday afternoon.
“All nations have a responsibility to end the Syrian conflict,” he added. “Nowhere has the international impact of the conflict in Syria been felt more in many ways than in Lebanon,” he noted.
“It's important to recognize the human catastrophe unfolding before our eyes,” Kerry said of the crisis, while adding that a political solution will help end the war. “A secure and stable Lebanon is a prerequisite for a stable and secure region,” he continued. “I am proud that we have stood by the Lebanese people since day one and we will continue to support them. We will continue to support the security initiatives” in the country, he added. “The U.S. will continue to work closely with our partners in Lebanon in order to protect against any of those who seek a different goal,” said the American official.
Addressing the situation in Lebanon, Kerry noted: “The current political stalemate in Lebanon is deeply troubling.”“Lebanon needs a full empowered, fully functioning, and complete government,” he stressed.
“It needs a government free of foreign influence and with a president who is fully responsive to the needs of the people,” he declared before reporters at the Grand Serail. Moreover, he remarked that Lebanon’s security has been of paramount importance to the U.S. “The U.S. is deeply committed to Lebanon’s security, stability, and sovereignty,” he stressed.
This includes helping it cope with the burden of Syrian refugees. Kerry therefore revealed that another $290 million in human assistance will be granted to those affected by the Syrian crisis, including $51 million to refugees in Lebanon.
Asked if he made a proposal over ending the deadlock in Lebanon, he replied that no suggestion was made, adding that his visit to Lebanon was made at Obama's behest to encourage Lebanese powers to end the “deeply troubling political stalemate”.He also asked Salam about what measures will be taken given the current political deadlock, while stressing the need to elect a president as soon as possible.
Kerry arrived in Beirut on Wednesday, beginning an unannounced visit that is the first by a U.S. secretary of state to Lebanon in five years.
His visit comes more than three years into a conflict that is raging in neighboring Syria, which has had major political, humanitarian and security consequences on Lebanon. In addition to Salam, Kerry will meet Speaker Nabih Berri and Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, a diplomatic source said. "The secretary is going to announce our next response to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and U.N. system appeals," added the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Syria's war has created an unprecedented refugee crisis, pushing some three million people out of their country, including more than a million into Lebanon. The visit also comes during a protracted political crisis in Lebanon, which has been without a president since last month because of unbreachable divisions between the March 8 and March 14 camps. The diplomatic source said Kerry's visit was in part aimed at showing "support for the government" of Salam, which has assumed executive powers since Michel Suleiman's mandate as president expired on May 25.
"This a time when we want to send a message that they should elect a president as soon as possible," he said, adding Lebanon should do that "without foreign influence or foreign interference."
Kerry would also urge support for the Lebanese army and security forces, the source added.
Lebanon's National News Agency said Kerry arrived in Beirut from Warsaw amid strict security measures and a media blackout regarding the time of his arrival. He was welcomed at the Rafik Hariri International Airport by U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale and embassy employees.
On Tuesday, LBCI television said Kerry would only spend a few hours in Beirut. Last week, Kerry had emphasized during a telephone call with Suleiman the need to elect his successor as soon as possible. The U.S. official also voiced his country's support for the Baabda Declaration.
For his part, Suleiman reminded Kerry of the burden Syrian refugees are posing on Lebanon.
Suleiman's six-year term ended on May 25. The parliament failed to elect a successor despite having held five electoral sessions, amid a boycott by the March 8 coalition. Ambassador Hale has said that “as Lebanese parliament continues efforts to elect a president, the U.S. will continue its strong partnership with the Lebanese people, leaders and institutions."
Source/Naharnet/Agence France Presse


Kerry urges the election of a strong Lebanese president
June 04, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Wednesday pressed Lebanese lawmakers to swiftly elect a strong president saying it was important for the presidential vacuum to be filled. Kerry also called on Hezbollah, Russia and Iran to bring the Syria war to an end and pledged an additional $290M in assistance for Syrian crisis response. Lebanon will recieve $51M, Kerry said. Kerry said Lebanon was very important for the security of the region and needs to have a "complete" government. The Secretary of State said his country will continue its support to Lebanese security forces to calm tensions and secure borders Kerry arrived in a private jet at Rafik Hariri International Airport, where he was received by U.S. Ambassador David Hale. The secretary then headed to the Grand Serail, where he met with Prime Minister Tammam Salam. "It is an important period now to show support for the Lebanese government," a senior State Department official told reporters. Hale, U.S. State Department Deputy Chief of Staff Jonathan Finer and Vice Admiral Kurt Tidd also attended Kerry's meeting with Salam. Kerry will also hold talks with Speaker Nabih Berri and Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai during his brief visit to Lebanon. The State Department had said Kerry would announce more than $290 million in additional aid for U.N. agencies and non-governmental organizations working with the nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Some $51 million of the funds, the largest chunk of the aid, will go to helping Lebanon, which now hosts the highest concentration of refugees as a percentage of population in the world. More than $35 million of the additional funds will go to helping refugees in Jordan, $15 million to Turkey and the same amount to Iraq, while $4.5 million will support Egypt, the State Department said. As of March, the United States had donated more than $1.7 billion in humanitarian aid over the last three years to respond to the Syrian crisis, with slightly more than half directed to programs operating inside of Syria. A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Kerry would also press Lebanese politicians to elect a president as soon as possible."You need a fully empowered president to do everything that Lebanon needs to govern its territory and also to get the assistance from the international community that it really needs," the official said. "While there is not a president, he wants to go in and express the desire to get that president elected.”Kerry has visited the country in the past as the head of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but Wednesday is the first time Lebanon has seen America's top diplomat since Hillary Clinton's visit in 2009. - With Reuters

Aoun, Berri discuss presidential void

June 04, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun held talks Wednesday with Speaker Nabih Berri over the presidential void that the country plunged into last month. “We discussed urgent files that need an understanding, mainly the election of a new president and the work of both Cabinet and Parliament in light of presidential void,” Aoun said following his visit to Berri’s Ain al-Tineh residence.  Asked if Berri had told him that he would back his candidacy for the election, Aoun said “Berri is the one entitled to speak for himself and not me.”He also said that his group was maintaining cooperation and dialogue with the Future Movement, but would not provide further details. Lebanon has been facing a presidential void since the term of former President Michel Sleiman ended on May 25 with lawmakers failing to elect a new head of state. Berri has set June 9 as a new date for an electoral session in Parliament, but the vote would need a consensus between political rivals to be achieved. The presidential void has also created a new challenge for officials who have yet to agree on the mechanism of Cabinet's work in the absence of a head of state. Christian lawmakers also boycotted Parliament's session last week, arguing the assembly should not legislate while the presidency is vacant. Aoun said his party was still undecided about attending Parliament's June 10 session over the controversial salary scale.


Salam Losing Patience over Cabinet Power Row
Naharnet /A row in the cabinet over a mechanism regulating the government’s work during the ongoing presidential vacuum caused Prime Minister Tammam Salam to express irritation, stressing that it would tarnish the image of the executive authority. “I am a very patient person but am also clear. I will hold onto the implementation of the constitution,” Salam said, according to media reports published on Wednesday. As Safir newspaper reported that the premier “will not endure any longer the abnormal situation,” pointing out that he is keen to resolve the dispute during the upcoming cabinet session. “He will take a firm decision if solutions were out of reach,” the report continued. Tuesday's cabinet session failed anew to resolve the dispute among the political arch-foes over the mechanism that should regulate the work of the government during the presidential vacuum. Al-Liwaa newspaper reported that a verbal spat occurred between Free Patriotic Movement Minister Jebran Bassil and another minister, who wasn't named, over the vacuum. Bassil stressed during the session the importance of electing a new head of state, prompting a minister to wonder if the “cabinet is responsible for the vacuum,” rejecting attempts to paralyze the work of the cabinet. The cabinet had convened last week for the first time after the end of ex-president Michel Suleiman's term. The parliament has failed to elect a successor to Suleiman -- whose six-year term ended on May 25 -- despite having held five electoral sessions for that purpose. The presidential vacuum raised fears that it would affect Lebanon's power-sharing agreement under which the president should be a Maronite, the premier a Sunni and the speaker a Shiite.

Machnouk: Void concerns all, not just Christians

June 04, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said Wednesday that the presidential vacuum concerns all Lebanese, not just Christians. He also said that Speaker Nabih Berri had reiterated his warning against obstructing the political process in light of the presidential void. “The presidential vacuum doses not only concern a certain sect or political party. It is a problem for all Lebanese who will collaborate to end this void, but by through obstructing the work of [political] institutions,” Machnouk said after visiting Berri at his Ain al-Tineh residence. He acknowledged that disrupting the political process was one way to exercise political pressure, but urged officials to use other means. “Obstructing these two institutions, [the Cabinet and Parliament], will not hasten the election of the president,” he added. Machnouk spoke on behalf of Berri, saying the latter considers the Constitution as the basis for political action. The Cabinet is responsible for discussing and enact policies that interest the people without bias, had Berri said. He stressed on the incorrectness of “using the presidential vacuum as an excuse to obstruct any constitutional institution in the country.” Assafir newspaper published Wednesday comments made by Berri threatening to take measures against lawmakers if they boycott the next parliamentary session on June 10. “It is no longer possible to remain silent about what is going on, and those who have harmed the Constitution will hear something from me they’ve never heard before,” he said. Christian MPs from March 14 and MP Michel Aoun’s blocs had announced last month that they would not discuss any issue before electing a president, unless the topic was of high importance or affects national interest. In parallel, the Cabinet failed Tuesday for the second time in less than a week to agree on a mechanism to exercise full executive powers, including the president’s prerogatives.This pushed Prime Minister Tammam Salam to blame what he called a “traditional” inter-Christian struggle over the presidency for the deadlock. Speaking to MTV, he said he hoped that the Cabinet’s next session would resolve the prerogatives issue.


Makari Rejects Political Apathy, Warns of Extending Presidential Vacuum Period
Naharnet/Deputy Speaker Farid Makari slammed the political apathy, warning of extending the period of presidential vacuum over the sharp differences between the rival parties. “Before May 25 the political arch-foes were enthusiastic to elect a new president... but now each alliance is reconsidering its stances, which might affect the period of vacancy,” Makari said in a interview with the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat. The March 14 official considered that Lebanon is at a “crossroads”, holding Christians responsible for the presidential deadlock for failing to attend the parliamentary sessions set to elect a new head of state. “I am convinced that you can't do a mistake and blame others.”The official warned that “the vacuum status will remain for a long period if parties failed to reach consensus as the international community is more interested in the country's security and stability.” Makari considered that the candidacy of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea isn't “a matter of stubbornness,” pointing out that the March 8 foes will not accept any other March 14 candidate. “They (the March 8 alliance) want a president made by them... Geagea will remain our candidate until the second coalition realizes that its endeavors are worthless.” Makari expressed belief that the March 8 alliance will not adopt the candidacy of Free Patriotic Movement chief Michel Aoun. Asked if the rapprochement between al-Mustaqbal leader Saad Hariri and the FPM will lead Aoun to Baabda, the deputy speaker said that “the ex-PM has no vetoes on any candidate as long as the Christians agree on him.” “The upcoming president should be strong... Who is aware of the country's needs,” Makari added. Lebanon has been plunged into a leadership vacuum after Michel Suleiman's presidential term ended on May 25 with rival political blocs still divided over a new leader. Over the past two months the parliament convened five times to try to elect a successor to Suleiman but failed during the last four sessions due to a lack of quorum. On the ongoing debate over the powers of the executive authority amid the presidential vacuum, Makari said: “The constitution is clear. The government as a whole should assume the tasks of the presidency.”The presidential vacuum raised fears that it would affect Lebanon's power-sharing agreement under which the president should be a Maronite, the premier a Sunni and the speaker a Shiite. The cabinet assumes the executive tasks of the president as stated by the constitution until a new head of state is elected. “The ministers as a whole body should assume the jurisdiction of the presidency by the majority of votes. If the 24 ministers should agree on each matter on the agenda then it would become a caretaker cabinet.”Makari told Asharq al-Awsat that he doesn't object on staging the parliamentary elections within the presidential vacuum. “The only matter of difference would be on the electoral law.”

Abra Detainees in Jezzine Suspend Hunger Strike

Naharnet /The so-called Abra detainees have suspended their hunger strike after receiving promises that their trials would start this month, the state-run National News Agency reported Wednesday.
The suspects, who were held following the clashes that took place with the Lebanese army near the southern city of Sidon last year, went on hunger strike in Jezzine prison on Monday to protest the delay in holding their trials. But NNA said that the prisoners suspended the strike after the authorities promised them that their trials would kick off by the end of June. The detainees are supporters of Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir, who went into hiding following the gunbattles with the Lebanese army in June 2013. The 45-year-old cleric who supports the overwhelmingly Sunni rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, is nowhere to be found along with pop idol Fadel Shaker. Asir's supporters opened fire on an army checkpoint near the cleric's headquarters in the Sidon suburb of Abra in June 2013. The attack and the fierce clashes that ensued left around 18 soldiers and more than 20 gunmen dead. The gunbattles concentrated in the area of the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque and nearby buildings in Abra.

Germany Charges Lebanese Man, 2 Accomplices with Terrorism
Naharnet/German prosecutors have filed terrorism charges against a Lebanese man accused of belonging to a hard-line Islamic group in Syria, and two suspected accomplices. Federal prosecutors said Wednesday the main suspect, identified only as Ismail I., was charged with membership in the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an al-Qaida breakaway group. His brother, Ezzeddine I., and German national Mohammad Sobhan A. were charged with supporting it. They're also charged with procuring equipment and money. The main suspect is accused of training and fighting for the group in Syria last year. Prosecutors say the group sent him back to Germany to procure money, medicine and military supplies. He and one of the alleged accomplices were arrested on a German highway in November as they set off for Syria. Source/Associated Press

Wage Hike Committee Holds Meetings in Race Against Time

Naharnet/A ministerial-parliamentary committee, which has amended a controversial wage hike draft-law for the public sector, is holding meetings away from the media spotlight to reach a formula that is acceptable by all sides, MP Jamal al-Jarrah said. Al-Jarrah, who is a member of the committee, told al-Liwaa newspaper published on Wednesday that the meetings are aimed at bridging the gap between the different parties involved in the wage scale crisis ahead of a parliamentary session scheduled to discuss the draft-law on June 10. But the daily quoted parliamentary sources as saying that different parliamentary blocs continued to have converging viewpoints. It quoted Change and Reform bloc MP Ibrahim Kanaan as saying that the pay raise draft-law is linked to the country's higher interest, similar to the electoral law. Al-Liwaa said that his comment could be a sign that the Change and Reform bloc of MP Michel Aoun would end its boycott of the legislative sessions to guarantee social and political stability and would attend the session next Tuesday. Al-Mustaqbal bloc and Christian MPs, including members of Change and Reform, have been boycotting the sessions aimed at approving the wage scale to protest the parliament's failure to elect a new president. The majority of the March 8 alliance's lawmakers, including Aoun's bloc, have also boycotted sessions set to elect a head of state over the disagreement among different blocs on a compromise candidate. A new session is set for next Monday. The differences on the pay raise have led to wide range protests and strikes by public sector employees and teachers who are holding onto a 121 percent increase in their salaries. But the ministerial-parliamentary committee has proposed to reduce the total funding from LL2.8 trillion ($1.9 billion) to LL1.8 trillion ($1.2 billion). The Syndicate Coordination Committee, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, threatened on Monday to paralyze the state institutions and official exams starting June 7 over the failure to approve the draft-law. But Education Minister Elias Bou Saab said the exams, which were scheduled to start on Saturday, would be postponed for five days pending a solution to the pay hike. Later on Wednesday, the SCC held a protest near the Value Added Tax building in al-Adliyeh to reiterate its demands. Head of Public Secondary School Education Teachers AssociationHanna Gharib vowed that the SCC will not back down on its demands. “The fate of the official exams is linked to the June 10 parliamentary session,” he said before protesters.

Berri Warns he Would Take Measures against Boycotting MPs
Naharnet /Speaker Nabih Berri has issued a stern warning against the MPs who are boycotting parliamentary sessions, saying he would take measures against them for “only choosing from the menu the food they like.”In remarks to As Safir newspaper published on Wednesday, Berri said: “Things would get straight if those who are boycotting the (sessions) implement the Constitution and laws.”
“But the problem is that they don't want to implement them and each one of them wants his own Constitutional quarter,” he said. Berri accused them of being “worse them farm owners.” The majority of March 8 alliance's MPs have been boycotting sessions aimed at electing a new president while Christian lawmakers backed by al-Mustaqbal bloc are causing lack of quorum in a legislative session aimed at discussing the wage scale to protest the failure to choose a head of state. President Michel Suleiman left Baabda Palace on May 25 after the expiry of his six-year term and following the failure of parliament in several rounds to elect a successor. The vacuum in the presidential palace spilled over into parliament after the Christian and al-Mustaqbal MPs boycotted a session aimed at approving the controversial salary hike for the public sector. Berri vowed not to remain silent. “They will hear from me what they haven't heard so far. They will also see measures.”He did not elaborate. “They would be striking the Lebanese entity if they continue to behave this way,” Berri said. “Has legislation turned into a menu from which they choose the food they like?” he asked. A session for the election of a president is set for next Monday and another for the discussion of the wage raise the next day. But the same MPs are holding onto their stance of boycott.

Aoun to Send an Envoy for Talks with Hariri over Presidential Impasse within Weeks
Naharnet/The Free Patriotic Movement chief, Michel Aoun, will send an aide to hold a meeting with head of al-Mustaqbal movement Saad Hariri to know his final answer regarding his run for the presidency.
Sources close to Aoun said in comments published in An Nahar newspaper on Wednesday that Aoun will task his aide to hold talks with Hariri within a period of three weeks maximum.
The sources stressed that the FPM chief is holding onto his decision not to run for the presidential post unless he was a consensual candidate and if he guaranteed to garner most of the parliamentary votes. “If Hariri decided not to support Aoun's nomination, then the Christian chief and his allies have the priority in naming the presidential candidate and suggest the name to the March 14 alliance as the Change and Reform bloc has the parliamentary majority,” sources pointed out. Several meetings were held recently between Hariri and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, who is loyal to Aoun, to discuss the presidential deadlock. The alleged rapprochement between al-Mustaqbal and the FPM, however, has failed to end the differences over the presidential race. Lebanon has been plunged into a leadership vacuum after Michel Suleiman's presidential term ended on May 25 with rival political blocs still divided over a new leader. Over the past two months the parliament convened five times to try to elect a successor to Suleiman but failed during the last four sessions due to a lack of quorum.

Abou Faour Denies PSP Not at Ease with FPM-Mustaqbal Rapprochement
Naharnet/Health Minister Wael Abou Faour has denied that the Progressive Socialist Party was not comfortable with the rapprochement between Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun and al-Mustaqbal movement chief ex-PM Saad Hariri. “We don't have any problem with the rapprochement between Aoun and Hariri. This issue is absolutely not linked to us,” the minister told As Safir newspaper published on Wednesday. “The choice of rapprochement between the political parties is a priority for us. We have sought for it and paid a high price because of it,” said Abou Faour who is a member of MP Walid Jumblat's PSP. But the dialogue between the FPM and al-Mustaqbal should be coupled with talks between Speaker Nabih Berri, Hizbullah and Hariri's movement so that it becomes beneficial for the country, he said. “Direct dialogue between the Shiite parties – Amal and Hizbullah – and al-Mustaqbal is essential because the division is among Sunnis and Shiites,” Abou Faour added.
The minister told As Safir that the PSP's priority was to elect a new president after the top Christian post at Baabda Palace was vacated following the end of Michel Suleiman's six-year term on May 25. “But as long as the page on the four major candidates hasn't been turned, there is no way to agree on a compromise” figure, he said. Abou Faour said that only “technical reasons” have prevented a meeting between Jumblat and Hariri lately. The PSP and Hariri “have always had friendly ties despite our differences,” he added.

Obama ‘looking forward’ to working with Sisi

Al Arabiya/Wednesday, 4 June 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he was looking forward to working with Egyptian President-elect Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, a day after Sisi was announced a landslide winner of the country’s presidential elections. Obama, who is traveling in Europe this week, plans to speak to Sisi in the coming days, according to Agence France-Presse. The White House urged Sisi to adopt democratic reforms, including governing with accountability and transparency and protecting the universal rights of all Egyptians, according to The Associated Press. It said in a statement the administration said it was pleased that international observers were allowed inside Egypt for the vote and that balloting proceeded in a calm and peaceful manner. However, the White House expressed concerns about the “restrictive political environment” in which the election took place.
Egyptians celebrated late Tuesday the victory of their new leader, who has ridden a wave of victory since leading the ouster of former Islamist President Mohammad Mursi last July. From the historic Tahrir square to the Ittihadeya Palace, Sisi’s supporters danced and sang to popular election and national songs while waving flags, after the announcement of the official results. Supporters also gathered in different squares across the country to celebrate the victorious president. Sisi won 96.9 percent of the votes in the presidential election, the Presidential Election Commission announced on Tuesday.
Obama’s statements may herald a new era for relations between Egypt and the U.S. after soured ties since Mursi’s ouster. The U.S. President had condemned a bloody crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters and had withdrawn much of the annual $1.5 billion in military aid it had traditionally supplied to Egypt. But it has since allowed military aid to flow back into Egypt.
Following the announcement of the election results, Sisi delivered a televised statement thanking the Egyptian people, judges, the media for their roles during the electoral process.
Sisi now faces a wide array of challenges in a country where street demonstrations have helped to topple two leaders in three years.

Father kills 18-year-old daughter in north Lebanon
June 04, 2014/By Jana El Hassan /The Daily Star
BEIRUT: A father opened fire Wednesday at his 18-year-old daughter in Lebanon's northern region of Akkar, killing her immediately, a source close to the family said. The father Mustafa Soufan hails from the Akkar town of Bibnine. The killing of his daughter, Walaa, took place shortly after noon. The source said the alleged crime might be related to disputes between the girl and her fiancé who were set to get married later this month. The source said the girl no longer wanted to get married, which provoked her father's anger. The source described the father as a nervous and short-tempered man. "He has been involved in several problems before, and there are some judicial rulings against him," the source said. The security forces deployed across the village and launched an investigation into the incident.
According to the source, there were rumors that the suspect had fled the village and that the family was trying to claim the brother had committed the crime to save the father. Women's rights organization KAFA (Enough Violence and Exploitation) said that the crime took place at the girl’s home in the presence of her friend, who witnessed the crime. The mother was also at home but in a different room. Residents classified the killing as an “honor crime.” In August 2011, lawmakers passed a proposal increasing the punishment for honor crimes. The law calls for canceling an article in the penal code that grants a commutation of sentence for anyone who kills a wife, husband or close family member caught in the act of adultery, under the pretext that the act was driven by extreme anger.


Libya’s Haftar survives ‘assassination bid’
Haftar, who has led repeated deadly assaults on jihadists in the eastern city, escaped unharmed.
By Staff Writer | Al Arabiya News/Wednesday, 4 June 2014
Libya’s General Khalifa Haftar survived a suicide attack on his residence in the eastern city of Benghazi on Wednesday, military officials said. Haftar has been leading an offensive against Islamist militias in the country. The Associated Press reported that the bomber drove up to his residence and detonated his explosives-laden vehicle when guards stopped him at the compound’s gate.
Officials, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said Haftar was unharmed in the explosion. According to the officials, four people died in the attack, along with the bomber, and at least three were wounded. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack. A former army chief under the late dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Hafter and army units loyal to him have been battling Islamist militias, mainly in eastern Libya, the Associated Press reported.

Rowhani vows to defend Iran’s nuclear rights
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News /Wednesday, 4 June 2014
The Iranian administration will defend the Islamic Republic’s nuclear rights and work to end international sanctions that have devastated its economy, Iran’s president said ahead of the new round of nuclear talks due to begin on Wednesday. Hassan Rowhani’s remarks were seen as part of his efforts to defuse claims by hard-liners that he has given too many concessions to the West in return for too little, according to The Associated Press. “Without a doubt, nuclear power is our definite right,” Rowhani said during a ceremony in Tehran marking the 25th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei, the founder of the Islamic Republic. “Resorting to unity and resistance, we will defend interests of Iranian nation,” Rowhani added. Under the interim deal signed in November, Iran agreed to cap its nuclear activities in return for an easing of sanctions by the West. The six world powers suspect Tehran is seeking atomic weapons, but Iran denies the charge saying its aims are peaceful.
The next high-level talks aimed at finalizing a deal will be held later this month. (With AP)

The media played Assad’s game in Syria
Wednesday, 4 June 2014/By: Chris Doyle
The global media headlined on June 3 a political exercise conducted in Assad regime-controlled areas of Syria. Most reports described it as Syrian presidential elections with three candidates and a likely winner, the incumbent Bashar al-Assad. The exercise was illustrated with endless photos even videos of Syrians, described as voters, appearing to caste a vote. Coverage was far from flattering but plenty of coverage there was. So, was this news? A pretty cast iron case could be made that the media should have ignored the regime’s games and concentrated on the genuine news story that is the conflict, the bombings and humanitarian disaster. The barrel bombs and bullets are real whilst the ballots are not. It is more than a sneaking suspicion that even the most reputable of journalists succumbed to the offer of a regime visa. It was not just the media. Western political leaders opposed to Assad, even whilst tagging it as a sham or parody of democracy, used similar language. One wonders why American and French ministers interrupted their busy schedules to comment. Yet given that it was not ignored, just how should the media have covered it? How should politicians outside Syria react?
Don’t buy it
To start with, do not buy into the regime’s framing of these events.
Fixed elections are not elections at all. Votes that do not count are not votes. National elections that take place only in areas under the control of one party to a conflict are not national. How can one be a “candidate,” “opponent” or a “competitor” in a race that is already decided? The other two faces, on what was described as a ballot paper, seemed more than content that Assad was, how should we say, reaffirmed as president. In this particular drama, the two others were no more than bridesmaids trailing behind a naked Emperor.
Fixed elections are not elections at all. Votes that do not count are not votes
To list all the glaring discrepancies and violations would be to give the whole charade more credibility than it could ever deserve. Suffice it to say that the observers from Russia and Zimbabwe would not have been shocked even if the North Korean delegation might have felt it was all a little bit liberal. The problem is to use the term “elections” on such occasions inevitably skews coverage, suggesting even the possibility of a legitimate exercise. Putting forth “both sides of the story,” juxtaposing regime and opposition views about whether these were “elections,” as some media outfits do, entertains a debate that should not be had. It is not a challenge unique to Syria.
Desperately seeking a new word
The English dictionary is desperately seeking a new word (all ideas welcome!) to describe these 90 percent plus rubber stamp affairs. Even what happened in North Korea where one man got 100 percent of the vote with 100 percent turnout was still referred to in the media as an election, albeit often bookended by inverted commas. There needs to be one word that acquires widespread acceptance in the mainstream media. Coronation is too positive a term. Perhaps a respected institution could devise precise yardsticks by which a political event attains the gold standard of an election or referendum.
Does it matter? It should not, but regimes have co-opted for their own ends the democratic lexicon of elections, votes and candidates. Everyone knows that Russia, China and Iran will all tout Assad as the democratically elected legitimate Syrian leader, who therefore cannot be expected to stand down or even share power. The oft-repeated narrative is this will somehow strengthen the regime. One wonders how? Bashar al-Assad will be as illegitimate a president on June 4 as he was on June 2.
In fairness, the distorted importance of June 3 was propagated by none other than the outgoing U.N.-Arab League Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. He argued in March of this year that elections in Syria would undermine peace talks and were “incompatible with the Geneva process.” Well, only if you accept they are elections. Brahimi and international leaders should have stressed that, even if Assad had orchestrated a hundred such “elections,” it changes nothing. It would not dilute the collective demand of the international community, including Russia, for a “transitional government body with full executive powers,” a demand that two years ago the regime agreed to. A sane response of those who backed the Geneva communiqué would be to reaffirm that nothing has changed to negate its relevance as the agreed international basis for a political solution to the Syrian crisis.
The games of June 3 were a continuation of the conflict by other means. Assad did not engage in this merry-go-round for fun. It was designed as a show of strength, a display of confidence to intimidate those who oppose him inside and outside Syria. Assad treats Syrians as sheep that he can herd into booths at his whim no matter how farcical the circumstances. This herding operation, described as turnout, augments his loyal support base by bussing people to “polling locations” and punishing non-participation. Assad wants to show the invited media that he can get a large turnout even after a record of 160,000 killed, the destruction of most of the country and displacement of a third of its population. All the political and media attention has only aided and abetted this process. If regimes knew such practices would be ignored, would they expend quite so much energy in arranging them?

Sisi’s policy towards Syria
Wednesday, 4 June 2014 /Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Egyptian President-elect Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi dedicated most of his electoral campaign to addressing domestic issues and Egyptian citizens’ concerns. He did not say much about world affairs, Libya’s stability and defending the Gulf. Some websites affiliated with the Syrian regime began to say that the new Egyptian president stands with Syria on the basis that he’s against extremist Islamist groups and that he stood up against the Muslim Brotherhood. So, do we know what the president-elect thinks regarding regional issues? No, not yet. Personally, I only visited Sisi once. It was three years ago, when he was head of military intelligence and a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that ruled Egypt following Hosni Mubarak’s fall from power. I met him in his office shortly after the revolution. I did not get the sense that he is a hostile figure or that he has any aggressive thoughts. He seemed realistic, calm and worried about Egypt’s future as he feared that it would be hampered by chaos.
I think President Sisi will bolster support for closest allies such as Saudi Arabia and will support the Syrian revolution
We don’t know yet where Sisi stands in foreign politics, but we expect Egypt to overcome its isolation and to begin, in the upcoming weeks, to deal with the several foreign issues after the long absence which began when Mohammad Mursi was ousted last year.
In order to understand Sisi’s policy towards the most difficult and thorny issue in the region, that is of Syria, we must first ask: what is his stance on Iran? For Egyptian reasons, we expect Sisi to be more hostile towards Iran than ousted President Hosni Mubarak was. During most of his presidential term, Mubarak had severed relations with the cleric’s regime in Tehran. The Muslim Brotherhood had a long-lasting connection with the Iranian regime and Mursi opened up Cairo’s gates for them for the first time since the fall of the Shah in 1979. The Iranian regime, out of concern, sent a security and an administrative team to aid Mursi in running the state. Mursi took their advice and tried to imitate them by taking over the judiciary, security and media. However, it was too late.
Sisi’s stand
If Sisi really views the Iranian regime as an opponent, it is certain that he stands by the Syrian revolution and particularly by the Syrian National Coalition and the Free Syrian Army. He thus stands alongside Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan and the rest of the moderate Arab states. Syria is Iran’s long hand in the region and it’s the supporter of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah who support Tehran.
However, a year ago, a man affiliated with Sisi’s camp said they are with Assad because there’s a foreign conspiracy to eliminate Arab armies. He said Saddam Hussein’s army was eliminated and Assad’s army was besieged and that the Egyptian army will not accept this conspiracy. I think it’s unlikely that regional disputes will be simplified as such. During the eras of Hafez al-Assad and Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian army was a mere presidential force. It lost all its battles with Israel, including the October 1973 war. It also lost while confronting the Israelis in Lebanon. It became an occupation force after it was brought into Lebanon as a separating force and it suppressed most of the Syrian people for more than 40 years. It cannot be compared with the Egyptian army - the institution which maintained Egypt and imposed a balance and which is viewed by Egyptians as their own army. As for relations with the Brotherhood, the Assad regime and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah supported it against the governments of Mubarak and Anwar al-Sadat. I think President Sisi will bolster support for closest allies such as Saudi Arabia and will support the Syrian revolution and will switch the formula against Iran, not because he’s against Iran and against the Muslim Brotherhood but because it’s also important to redraw the region into alliances which reorganize the region and provide stability. By doing so, Sisi will obstruct those wreaking havoc in the region and those who were behind sabotaging the Egyptian revolution during its first weeks. I am referring to those who snuck into Egypt from Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad and who released prisoners convicted on terrorism charges from jails. Therefore, all roads will lead to Damascus.


Canada:Syrian Elections a Sham
June 3, 2014 - Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement regarding the presidential election under way in Syria:
“This is yet another of Assad’s farcical elections. As Assad calmly votes for himself and asks his followers to do the same, he drops barrel bombs on his own people, killing Syrians who oppose his rule.
“It is quite simply fraud to claim legitimacy in rigged elections while simultaneously killing your electorate. A legitimate Syrian government can result only from the country’s transition to a democratic, pluralistic state. Legitimacy comes from the will of all Syrians, not just from fearfully oppressed or blindly loyal privileged citizens.
“Canada refuses to lend these sham elections any credibility. Instead, we will continue to work hard toward a political solution to the conflict and to help prioritize and meet the needs of the Syrian people in their fight for true democracy.”

Canada's Statement on Egyptian Election Results
June 4, 2014 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement on the release of the official results of Egypt’s presidential election, which confirmed Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as president-elect:
“We congratulate President-elect el-Sisi on the results of the election. As we all know, difficult challenges face the president-elect in leading Egypt toward a more democratic, inclusive, secure and prosperous future, but such a future is in the interests of all Egyptian citizens. We continue to stand with Egypt in its efforts to confront terrorism, including in the Sinai Peninsula, where Egyptian security personnel are confronting a dangerous insurgency.
“Canada remains committed to supporting Egypt in making a peaceful and meaningful transition to democracy, based on respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.
“This transition represents an important opportunity for Egypt, one that can provide the Egyptian people with the stability and prosperity they desire.”

Obama Meets Ukraine's Poroshenko ahead of Putin Encounter
Naharnet/President Barack Obama met Ukraine's president-elect Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday, in a show of U.S. support for Ukraine's right to chart its own future, before an encounter with Russia's Vladimir Putin.
Obama sat down with Poroshenko in Warsaw, during a trip designed to assuage security concerns in eastern Europe following Russia's annexation of Crimea and what Washington says is an effort to destabilize Ukraine.
The talks on day two of Obama's European tour will come after the president met central and eastern European leaders in Warsaw and before he heads to a G7 summit in Belgium which is designed to cement Western policy towards Russia. Obama will come face to face with Putin during 70th anniversary commemorations of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France on Friday.
The leaders of Britain, France and Germany will go a step further and hold one-on-one talks with Putin. The accelerating diplomacy over Ukraine comes as a seven-week pro-Russian insurgency in Ukraine's eastern rust belt grows only more violent after Poroshenko swept to power in a May 25 presidential ballot.
Hundreds of separatist gunmen on Monday attacked a Ukrainian border guard service camp in the region of Lugansk on the border with Russia.
Obama said Tuesday that U.S. commitment to eastern European security was absolute.
"Our commitment to Poland's security as well as the security of our allies in central and eastern Europe is a cornerstone of our own security and it is sacrosanct," Obama said after inspecting a joint unit of Polish and U.S. F-16 pilots.
He proposed a "European Reassurance Initiative" of up to $1 billion (730 million euros) to finance extra U.S. troop and military deployments to "new allies" in Europe.
NATO defense ministers also agreed Tuesday a series of steps to bolster protection in eastern Europe after the Ukraine crisis, but insisted they were acting within the limits of a key post-Cold War treaty with Moscow.
- 'Clear commitment' to Ukraine -
Obama met Poroshenko Wednesday as the confectionery tycoon faces the unenviable task of keeping his economically ravaged country from slipping into an all-out civil war that Washington blames Moscow for orchestrating.
"Events in Ukraine have unfortunately unleashed forces that we had all hoped had been put away, were behind us," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Warsaw.
In eastern Ukraine, rebels pelted the border guard camp with mortar fire and deployed snipers on rooftops surrounding the base in a day-long battle that marked one of their most brazen offensives of the campaign.
Ukraine's military reported no fatalities but said they had killed five rebels.
A defense spokesman said two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 42 wounded in new violence that swept the neighboring coal mining province of Donetsk on Tuesday.
- Cost for Russia -
Washington's commitment to Ukraine will be reinforced when U.S. Vice President Joe Biden travels to Kiev on Saturday to attend Poroshenko's swearing-in as the country's fifth post-Soviet president.
Kiev has refused to invite Putin to the inauguration because of his failure to formally recognize the May 25 vote's outcome or rein in the separatist campaign.
Ukraine and its eastern European allies such as Poland have been pushing the West to unleash painful economic sanctions against entire sectors of Russia's economy in response to the Kremlin's perceived support of the rebels.
Obama addressed those calls directly by telling a joint press conference with his Polish counterpart Bronislaw Komorowski that Russia faced further punitive measures unless it put restraints on the separatists.
"Further Russian provocation will be met with further costs for Russia including, if necessary, additional sanctions," Obama said.
On Friday, Obama will attend 70th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day landings in Normandy which Putin will also attend.
The U.S. leader has spent months trying to isolate his rival and punish the Kremlin's inner circle with sanctions that have cut it off from access to U.S. and many Western banks.
Both the Kremlin and White House say Obama and Putin have no plans to meet for one-on-one talks. Obama on Tuesday called on Putin to accept Poroshenko's invitation to hold talks in Normandy. If he agrees, it would be Putin's first meeting with a Ukrainian leader since the February ouster of Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych set Kiev on its new westward course.
Source/Agence France Presse