March 25/14


Bible Quotation for today/Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word
Luke 1,26-38/: "In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her."

Pope Francis's Tweet For Today
Jesus is never far from us sinners. He wants to pour out on us, without limit, all of his mercy
Pape François
Jésus n’est jamais loin de nous pécheurs. Il veut répandre sur nous, sans mesure, toute sa miséricorde

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For March 25

Ya'alon is simply setting the record straight/By: Hagai Segal/Ynetnews/March 25/14

Diverting the Blue Nile’s course could take Africa to war/ By: Huda Al Husseini/Asharq AlAwsat/March 25/14

Kuwait… a tale of two summits/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 25/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For March 25/14
Lebanese Related News

27 Dead over 12 Days of Clashes in Tripoli

Suleiman Heads to Kuwait to Attend Arab Summit

Berri Forms Committee to Prepare for Presidential Polls

Salam Tackles Security Situation with Suleiman

Lebanon urges Arab states to support its army

PM Says No Change in Status Quo if Polls Not Held

Bassil: Syrian Refugees May Stage Attacks beyond Lebanese Borders

Army Defuses Explosives at LU Campus in Tripoli

Abou Faour Refers 'Labneh File' to General Prosecution

Phalange Party Urges Timely Presidential Vote, Security Plan for Tense Areas

Suleiman Tasks Bassil with Documenting Cross-Border Attacks

Arrest Warrants Issued against Ibrahim Bashir's Sons

Qahwaji Says War on Terrorism Open, Warns of Harboring Terrorists

for 'Understanding' among Political Foes to Confront Terror

Jumblat Slams Eid, Tripoli Leaders over Clashes, Says Hizbullah Has Not Won in Syria

Natamycin in labneh findings referred to prosecutor

Miscellaneous Reports And News'

U.N. Says Syria Aid Access Still 'Extremely Challenging'
Malaysia Says Missing Jet Crashed at Sea

Malaysian PM: MH370 flight ended in Indian Ocean, all aboard lost. No word on how it happened

Egypt Court Sentences 529 Morsi Supporters to Death

U.S. 'Deeply Concerned' by Egypt Death Sentences

Kiev Orders Crimea Military Withdrawal as Russian Forces Storm One of Ukraine's Last Ships

British PM Says No G8 Summit in Russia this Year

Israeli Minister Accused of Sexual Assault

Assad cousin killed in Latakia clash with Syria rebels

Syria Rebels on Northern Offensive after Losses

U.N. Envoy Rules out New Syria Talks 'for Time Being'

Suleiman Heads to Kuwait to Attend Arab Summit

Naharnet/President Michel Suleiman traveled on Monday to the Gulf Monarch Kuwait at the head of a delegation to attend the Arab League Summit as the situation in Lebanon is expected to top its agenda.
The delegation is comprised of Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, Health Minister Wael Abou Faour along with a number of advisers and security and administrative delegations.
Suleiman will address the summit on Tuesday afternoon with a speech expected to focus on the influx of Syrian refugees to Lebanon and the support to the Lebanese army. Nearly one million Syrians are registered as refugees by the U.N. refugee agency in Lebanon. The poorest 140,000 live in 460 informal camps, where they live in poorly insulated tents with no clean running water and with sewage running down ditches between tents. The president is also expected to demand the Arab countries to commit to their obligations regarding Lebanon. Suleiman reportedly has a busy schedule in Kuwait as he hold sideline meetings with senior Arab officials attending the summit. Kuwait said 13 heads of state have confirmed they are attending the two-day summit, which kicks off on Tuesday and will be held this year under the slogan of "solidarity for a better future".

Suleiman Tasks Bassil with Documenting Cross-Border Attacks
Naharnet /President Michel Suleiman tasked on Monday Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil with documenting the cross-border attacks against Lebanese villages. Suleiman tasked Bassil with documenting the assault on border villages by the Syrian regime in order to take the necessary diplomatic measures. Two rockets landed on Sunday in the outskirts of the Bekaa town of Sarein, leaving one person wounded. On Friday, two rockets fired from the Eastern Mountain Belt on the Lebanese-Syrian border hit a plain between the Bekaa towns of Hermel and al-Qaa, media reports said. Al-Qaida-inspired groups usually claim responsibility for suck attacks, arguing that they come in retaliation to Hizbullah's military intervention in Syria. The army and security forces tasked to control the border, upped security measures along the northern border with Syria starting from al-Arida crossing stretching to Wadi Khaled all the way along the Kabir river. Since the Syrian crisis broke out in March 2011, several border areas in the north and east have been frequently struck by cross-border shelling, while the Syrian regime has told Lebanon to better control its porous border to prevent the smuggling of fighters and arms.

Salam Tackles Security Situation with Suleiman
Naharnet /President Michel Suleiman discussed on Monday with Prime Minister Tammam Salam at the Baabda Palace the general security situation, the state-run National News Agency reported. According to NNA, the two officials tackled the recent local developments, in particular, the security situation. Lebanon has been the scene of security incidents since the war in Syria erupted three years ago, in particular, in the northern city of Tripoli and along the Lebanese-Syrian border. The country has witnessed several attacks claimed by radical Sunni groups. The news agency also reported that the agenda of Thursday's cabinet session at the Baabda Palace was discussed. The agenda of the session includes 76 articles. Salam left the Baabda Palace without making any statement. The premier's government garnered the support of 96 out of 101 lawmakers who attended last week's vote.Salam's 24-person Cabinet includes members of March 8 and 14 coalitions. Following more than 10 months of political wrangling, Salam cobbled together his government in February after bridging a political divide among the political forces.

PM Tammam Salam Says No Change in Status Quo if Polls Not Held

Naharnet/Prime Minister Tammam Salam warned on Monday that the security situation in Lebanon would not improve if the presidential elections were not held. In remarks to employees and reporters at a ceremony held at the Grand Serail, Salam said: “Making this achievement would open a new page to the nation and comfort the people.”“The situation in the country will not become better and promising if the presidential polls were not held,” he said. Salam told the government employees and journalists that his mission was short but it was essential to elect a new head of state to “revive” the country. The cabinet received parliament's vote of confidence last week. Its main mission is to prepare for the polls as President Michel Suleiman's six-year term comes to a close. Asked whether the government will deal with the security situation at a session it will hold on Thursday, Salam said: “Security is our concern and it is on the agenda of the entire country.”“Preparations are underway to (implement) a security plan based on the (decisions) reached at a meeting held last week” at Baabda Palace, he added. During the security meeting chaired by Suleiman last Wednesday, the country's top officials ordered the competent ministries and security forces to intensify cooperation and take the necessary measures to restore calm in tense areas across Lebanon.

Berri Forms Committee to Prepare for Presidential Polls

Naharnet /Speaker Nabih Berri has revealed that he formed a committee to hold consultations with Lebanon's rival parties on the upcoming presidential elections. The members of the committee are from his Development and Liberation bloc, the speaker, who is the head of Amal movement, said. He told As Safir newspaper published on Monday that the MPs would start consulting the parties on the polls after March 25 in conjunction with talks that he would hold with the same sides to guarantee the appropriate atmosphere to hold a parliamentary session. President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in May but the Constitution states that the parliament should start meeting March 25 to elect a new head of state. No one has yet officially announced his candidacy for the top post. But there are several contenders from the rival March 8 and 14 camps.
Asked to comment on the violent clashes linked to Syria's war and the rise in the kidnap-for-ransom phenomenon, Berri said the northern city of Tripoli and the eastern Bekaa Valley are in an urgent need for a security-development plan. The situation in the two areas is “no longer acceptable,” he told As Safir. Berri said his Amal movement and its ally Hizbullah have lifted the political cover off any violator of the law and any side that tampers with security, in particular kidnapping gangs. “I have also revealed the names of the persons involved in the kidnappings in the Bekaa,” he said, adding “the army and the security agencies should pursue them and arrest them.”

27 Dead over 12 Days of Clashes in Tripoli
Naharnet /The death toll for the sectarian clashes that engulfed the northern city of Tripoli increased to 27 on Monday after a man succumbed to his injuries at the hospital. Accoridng to LBCI Abdullah Minnawi passed away as 12 days of fighting pro- and anti-Damascus fighters in the country's second city Tripoli subsided on Monday. Snipers from both sides were still deployed in flashpoint areas of the northern port city, a security source told Agence France Presse Monday. Tripoli has seen intense sectarian clashes since the war in neighboring Syria erupted three years ago, with gunmen from the Sunni district of Bab al-Tabbaneh battling fighters in the Alawite area of Jabal Mohsen. "Twenty-six people have been killed in 12 days of fighting, and 135 others injured," the security source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The dead were 18 civilian residents of Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh, seven civilians from Jabal Mohsen and one soldier," said the source, adding that two children and two disabled people were among the civilians killed. "There were also three fighters from Jabal Mohsen and six from Bab al-Tabbaneh killed." On Sunday, amid a relative calm, the army raided several homes, hunting for militants. Shops and schools in the flashpoint neighborhoods remained closed on Monday, but they reopened across the rest of the city for the first time in days. The international highway from Tripoli to Syria was also reopened Monday, but roads linking the city's warring neighborhoods remain sealed off. The army has been deployed in Tripoli for several weeks to try to bring peace to the flashpoint districts, but troops have repeatedly come under fire. Lawmakers from the city have called the latest round of fighting "a war of attrition".Source/Agence France Presse

Qahwaji Says War on Terrorism Open, Warns of Harboring Terrorists
Naharnet /Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji stressed on Monday that the battle against terrorism and terrorists is open, expressing relief over the measures implemented along the Syrian-Lebanese border. “Terrorism threatens all the Lebanese without any exception,” Qahwaji pointed out in comments published in As Safir newspaper. He noted that the army will not be lenient with terrorist groups or those who are harboring them. Hizbullah-dominated areas have been the main focus of attacks claimed by radical Sunni groups, the army has also been targeted. Extremist Sunnis see the army as siding with Hizbullah in escalating Syria-related violence in Lebanon.
The party says its involvement in Syria is aimed at safeguarding Lebanon from "terror", but its Lebanese opponents say the Hizbullah presence there has caused jihadists to attack the country. Concerning the situation along the Lebanese-Syrian border, Qahwaji told the daily that any assault against the army targets the country's civil peace, therefore the military will not stand watching. The army and security forces tasked to control the border, upped security measures along the northern border with Syria starting from al-Arida crossing stretching to Wadi Khaled all the way along the Kabir river. Since the Syrian crisis broke out in March 2011, several border areas in the north and east have been frequently struck by cross-border shelling, while the Syrian regime has told Lebanon to better control its porous border to prevent the smuggling of fighters and arms.
“The army didn't and will not hesitate to protect the residents (of the northern city) of Tripoli without any exception,” the army chief said, adding that a military-security-development plan should be established.
He also called for the end of the sectarian rhetoric. Tripoli has been the scene of chronic sectarian fighting since the war in Syria erupted three years ago, with gunmen from the Sunni district of Bab al-Tabbaneh battling fighters in the Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen. According to As Safir the army will request the recruiting of around 5,000 soldier simultaneously with the Saudi grant to the military institution. Lebanon is negotiating with France a grant by Saudi Arabia to the Lebanese Armed Forces after President Michel Suleiman had revealed in late December that Saudi Arabia has decided to donate three billion dollars with the aim of purchasing French weapons for the Lebanese army as soon as possible.

Al-Mashnouq Calls for 'Understanding' among Political Foes to Confront Terror

Naharnet/Interior Minister Nuhad al-Mashnouq said a government in which there is a minimum level of political understanding would be capable of confronting terrorism. In remarks to local newspaper published on Monday, al-Mashnouq said: “The understanding is one of the essential tools in confronting terror by forcing political parties (to abide by) a unified plan.” “Hizbullah in particular should vote inside the cabinet ... like the rest of the political parties on the plan and on the measures needed to be taken” by the armed forces, he said. Lebanon has been rocked with violence linked to the Syrian war. It has been particularly on edge since Syrian President Bashar Assad's troops recently took the key rebel stronghold of Yabrud near the two countries' volatile border. Lebanon has witnessed car and suicide bombings, rocket attacks and gunfights between pro- and anti-Assad fighters in several cities and towns.The country has also seen a rise in the wave of kidnappings. Abductors usually ask for ransom. The recent such incident came on Saturday when the head of the Baalbek-Deir al-Ahmar diocese escaped a kidnap attempt in the eastern Bekaa valley. Al-Mashnouq said the “security farce” should be brought to an end. Those tho tried to kidnap Maronite Bishop Semaan Atallah are known, he was quoted as saying.
He urged all political parties to assume their responsibilities “out of our confidence in the army and the military chief.” On his ties with Hizbullah, al-Mashnouq, who represents al-Mustaqbal movement in the cabinet, said he was not against talks with the political party to discuss strategic issues. “But the party hasn't so far informed me with whom I should negotiate and on what,” the minister said. He welcomed any coordination with Hizbullah on “political security” issues.

Asir Appears in First Video after Abra Battle, Slams Qahwaji as 'Criminal'
Naharnet/Fugitive Islamist cleric Ahmed al-Asir appeared Sunday in a video that was published on his official Twitter page, his first audiovisual recording since the Abra battle. “Lebanon is under the full hegemony of the Iranian scheme through Halesh (Hizbullah) and the AMAL Movement,” Asir says in the video. It was not immediately clear when the audiovisual message was recorded. It comes amid unconfirmed reports claiming that the cleric was killed or captured as the Syrian army and Hizbullah retook Syria's Yabrud area from rebel hands. The cleric described the Lebanese Army as “the first and most important tool” of Hizbullah on the Lebanese domestic scene, slamming Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji as a “criminal.” “You are totally aware that there are death squads -- similar to the death squads of the criminal Maliki in Iraq -- inside the military institution, which are liquidating our youths, such as Khaled Hmayyed and Abou Mazen,” Asir added, addressing the army's “Sunni” officers and soldiers and urging them to defect. Commenting on the indictments that were issued on February 28, in which Judge Riyad Abu Ghida demanded the death penalty against him and 56 other people over the Abra clashes, Asir ridiculed the charges and accused Sidon MP Bahia Hariri of suppressing the families of the Abra detainees. In a threat to Hizbullah, Speaker Nabih Berri and their supporters, Asir added: “It will be impossible to continue to coexist with you before 'your heads are smashed' and, God willing, we will exert efforts to that end.” In June 2013, Asir's supporters opened fire on an army checkpoint near the cleric's headquarters in the Sidon suburb of Abra. 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. Asir, a 45-year-old cleric who supports the overwhelmingly Sunni rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, is no where to be found along with singer turned Salafist militant Fadel Shaker. The fugitive cleric had released several audio messages in the wake of the Abra battle.

Jumblat Slams Eid, Tripoli Leaders over Clashes, Says Hizbullah Has Not Won in Syria
Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat on Sunday lashed out at Arab Democratic Party leader Rifaat Eid and Tripoli's politicians over the recurrent clashes in the northern city, noting that Hizbullah did not achieve a victory in Syria with Yabrud's capture. “Everyone is in a dilemma in Tripoli ... I advise Rifaat Eid not to be reckless,” Jumblat said during an interview on al-Jadeed television. “Rifaat Eid is transgressing against Tripoli and his own sect … He is taking his sect to destruction,” he added. But the PSP leader also criticized Tripoli's ministers and politicians, accusing them of preventing the army from deploying in the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood. “The army must enter into both Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh but Tripoli's ministers must allow the army to enter Bab al-Tabbaneh. Tripoli's politicians must stop providing cover for the leaders of fighting frontiers,” said Jumblat. He called on Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi, who hails from Tripoli, to issue judicial warrants over the clashes in Tripoli, urging Hizbullah to “lift the political cover off Rifaat Eid.” Commenting on Hizbullah's military intervention in Syria, Jumblat said: “I tell Hizbullah that it has concerns that are bigger than (Arab Movement Party leader) Shaker al-Berjawi and Rifaat Eid and I don't believe that it has won in Syria.”
“Hizbullah has drowned in the Syrian mud and it would be mistaken to think that it triumphed after what happened in Yabrud,” he said. “The decision of Hizbullah's withdrawal from Syria is an Iranian decision and the policy of the Resistance Brigades has no value,” he noted. But he underlined that he is “not against the resistance” but rather with “correcting the aim of its rifle.” Asked whether President Bashar Assad's regime was winning the war in Syria, Jumblat said “no one can triumph by displacing millions of Syrians and destroying cities.” “Bashar Assad has destroyed his army and taken his country to the unknown and top chiefs of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant were in his prisons,” Jumblat noted. Commenting on the deadly bombings that have rocked Lebanon, the PSP leader said: “Terrorism exists and it has no religion or race. Global terrorism had decided to turn Lebanon into one of its arenas and I don't share the viewpoint that Hizbullah's entry into Syria is the reason behind the presence of terrorists.” “It would have been possible to avoid everything that happened through making reforms, but Assad said he was fighting takfiris, although terrorism did not exist at the beginning of the crisis,” said Jumblat. “There won't be an international settlement in Syria, especially after the cold war that started in Crimea. The Americans are also to blame for Syria's destruction because they assigned the revolution to countries that have nothing to do with democracy,” Jumblat pointed out. He said there is no solution in the horizon for the Syrian crisis, “unless the big players agree and find a formula allowing Assad's exit from Syria.” Jumblat accused the Syrian regime of killing “top Alawite officials, including Asef Shawkat and Ghazi Kanaan, for the sake of the single-party system.” Asked about the upcoming presidential election in Lebanon, Jumblat said: “From now until May 15, I do not want to tackle the issue of the presidential vote.”But he noted that a president who would “manage the crisis” must be elected. Commenting on President Michel Suleiman's call for national dialogue, Jumblat emphasized that “dialogue is beneficial.” However, he called for avoiding debate over “the arms of the resistance” and called for focusing on “the issue of weapons that are spread across cities and (Palestinian refugee) camps.” “Hizbullah, al-Mustaqbal movement and all of us are in a dilemma and everyone must heed the call for national dialogue,” he urged.

Bassil: Syrian Refugees May Stage Attacks beyond Lebanese Borders
Naharnet/Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil warned on Monday of a plot to keep Syrian refugees in Lebanon for a long time. He also warned of a plan “for the refugees to equip themselves militarily in order to carry outs attacks beyond Lebanese borders.” “We will therefore work on setting up camps for Syrian refugees outside of Lebanese territories,” he said after attending the Arab foreign ministers summit held in Kuwait. demanded a halt to the flow of Syrians into Lebanon to redistribute them among countries neighboring Syria. “Lebanon has suffered the most, in all fields, from the conflict in Syria,” he lamented during a press conference. Commenting on terrorist threats in Lebanon, he remarked: “It is unfortunate that Lebanon is gradually slipping into the clutches of blind terrorism that is infiltrating the nation from Arab countries.” These terrorists are then traveling from Lebanon to other countries where they carry out their attacks, he added. “We are in need of Arab support to confront terrorism and defend Lebanon against Israel,” he stressed. “Lebanon cannot distance itself from terrorism. It is our fate to pay the consequences of the conflicts of others,” he noted. Bassil therefore highlighted the importance of supporting the Lebanese army in combating terrorism, praising the Arab pledge to back it. “We hope words on supporting the army can be turned into actions,” he said. “Lebanon is fighting terrorism for all the Arabs and all the world,” he responded to a question in English. Bassil announced on Sunday that a meeting of Arab foreign ministers held in Kuwait approved a plan he had presented aimed at bolstering the army. He said: “The foreign ministers agreed to support the army in its resistance of Israel and battle against terrorism.” This entails bolstering it financially and providing it with the necessary equipment in accordance to international initiatives, he explained. The plan will also seek to support the Lebanese government to that end, stated Bassil. The Arab foreign ministers held their meeting in Kuwait ahead of the two-day Arab League summit that will kick off on Monday. President Michel Suleiman is scheduled to take part in the talks.

Arrest Warrants Issued against Ibrahim Bashir's Sons
Naharnet /Beirut Examining Magistrate Ghassan Owaidat issued on Monday arrest warrants in absentia against the sons of the former head of the Higher Relief Council, Ibrahim Bashir, the state-run National News Agency reported. A warrant was also issued against a third person, Hassan Jaber, involved in the embezzlement of state funds, smuggling and money laundering, NNA said. The three suspects are not in custody. But Bashir, his wife and two sons, Wissam and Sami, have been charged in the case, the agency added. Local media reports have said they have embezzled around $10 million in public funds by transferring them to accounts abroad. The defendants face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. The HRC helps Lebanese citizens and communities hit by natural and man-made disasters.


Army Defuses Explosives at LU Campus in Tripoli
Naharnet /The Lebanese army defused on Monday dynamite sticks at the science faculty of the Lebanese University in al-Qobbeh area of the northern city of Tripoli, the state-run National News Agency reported. The army found inside the campus 400 grams of dynamite sticks that were rigged to explode, NNA said. The soldiers immediately defused them and seized them, the agency added. MTV said there would have been a disaster had the sticks of dynamite exploded. Tripoli has been engulfed in the past 12 days in deadly clashes between supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad and residents who back the uprising against him. The city has seen intense sectarian clashes since the war in Syria erupted three years ago, with gunmen from the Sunni district of Bab al-Tabbaneh battling fighters in the Alawite area of Jabal Mohsen.

Phalange Party Urges Timely Presidential Vote, Security Plan for Tense Areas
Naharnet/The Phalange Party on Monday called for “capitalizing on” the formation of the new cabinet to hold the upcoming presidential election on time, urging a “comprehensive security plan” for the Lebanese regions that are witnessing security tensions. “The country enters tomorrow the timeframe stipulated by the constitution to elect a new president and the party stresses the importance of capitalizing on the promising governmental achievement to approach this juncture in a spirit of national responsibility in order to prevent any presidential vacuum,” the party said in a statement issued after the weekly meeting of its political bureau.
It called on Speaker Nabih Berri to set a date for an election session as soon as possible. The party also urged the government to draft a new law for the parliamentary elections, warning that procrastination in this issue would pose “dangerous risks to democracy and to the voters' right to practice their national role.” Turning to the recent unrest that rocked several regions across Lebanon, the Phalange Party called for devising a “comprehensive” security plan for the tense areas and the regions that are hosting a large number of Syrian refugees. The party demanded “liberating Arsal and the neighboring areas and Tripoli and its surroundings from the grip of arms and counter-arms,” urging measures to “prevent the spread of chaos into areas that have remained calm until the moment.” The conferees called on security forces to “strike with an iron fist anyone seeking to bring the civil strife into Beirut,” describing the deadly clashes that erupted near the capital's Sports City as “a dangerous indication that requires effective efforts.”The party also condemned verbal and armed attacks against the army and deplored the recent attempt to kidnap Maronite Bishop Semaan Atallah, the head of the Baalbek-Deir al-Ahmar dioceses. Turning to the situation on Lebanon's borders, the Phalange Party slammed “Israel's attacks and its serious violation of Resolution 1701” as well as “the Syrian attacks against Lebanese sovereignty and citizens in northern and eastern border areas.”It called for deploying the army along the border with Syria and taking all measures necessary to “repel the attacks.”Commenting on President Michel Suleiman's call for national dialogue, the party demanded “a clear agenda” for the all-party talks, saying the issue of weapons must be the top priority.

Abou Faour Refers 'Labneh File' to General Prosecution
Naharnet /Health Minister Wael Abou Faour referred on Monday the case of the Natamycin anti-fungal agent found in labneh (strained yogurt) products to the General Prosecution. The case will be referred to the General Prosecution in order to take the necessary measures against those found to be involved in this issue. He referred the case to General Prosecution after confirming reports that Natamycin was found in labneh and after manufacturers admitted to using it. Adding Natamycin to labneh is a violation of Lebanese standard specifications in the production of strained yogurt. Industry Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hassan had demanded during a press conference last week that manufacturers adhere to the standard specifications in the making of dairy products. Labels of the product details and ingredients should be placed on their packages, he explained. Natamycin is used in cheese products, but there are no studies that indicate whether it is harmful should it be used in the amounts that were found in local labneh products. The results of tests conducted by the UFAG Swiss lab and obtained by the Heath Ministry confirmed the presence of Natamycin in labneh products of the Dairy Khoury and Dairy Day companies.Source/Agence France Presse

Lebanon urges Arab states to support its army
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News
Monday, 24 March 2014
Lebanon’s foreign minister called on Arab countries on Monday to support the Lebanese army to counter fallout from Syria’s civil war, which he said threatened to tear the country apart, Reuters reported.
Around 1 million Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon, a displacement that has strained public infrastructure and threatened to upset the sectarian balance. Also, a security source told Agence France-Presse Monday that 26 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in 12 days of clashes between pro- and anti-Damascus fighters in Lebanon’s second city Tripoli. This “is threatening the existence of Lebanon,” Reuters quoted Gebran Bassil as telling reporters before a meeting of Arab League leaders in Kuwait on Tuesday. “This would create a danger also to the whole (of) humanity, because if the Lebanese model would vanish, then a big clash is to be expected between civilizations, religions and all aspects or differences in the world,” he said, speaking English. Power in Lebanon is split between Shiites, Sunnis, Druze and Christian leaders - reflecting the mixed population - and many fear that Sunni refugees, who represent the majority in Syria, could disrupt the fragile demographic balance. Communal tensions in Lebanon were stoked last week by the fall of the Syrian border town of Yabroud to Syrian government forces and their allies in the Lebanese Shiite political and military movement Hezbollah.  The fighting prompted a chain reaction of car bomb and rocket attacks, roadblocks and protests along sectarian lines that took days to calm and revived memories of Lebanon’s own 1975-90 civil war.
In Tripoli, Snipers from both sides were still deployed in flashpoint areas of the northern port city, as the fighting subsided on Monday for the first time in nearly two weeks. Tripoli has seen intense sectarian clashes since the war in neighboring Syria erupted three years ago, with gunmen from the Sunni district of Bab al-Tebbaneh battling fighters in the Alawite area of Jabal Mohsen.
“Twenty-six people have been killed in 12 days of fighting, and 135 others injured,” the security source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. civilian residents of Sunni Bab al-Tebbaneh, seven civilians from Jabal Mohsen and one soldier,” said the source, adding that two children and two disabled people were among the civilians killed.
“There were also three fighters from Jabal Mohsen and six from Bab al-Tebbaneh killed.”
Arabs discuss Syria’s conflict
Meanwhile, Bassil, who became foreign minister in a cabinet formed last month, said a preparatory meeting with his Arab counterparts on Sunday discussed Syria’s conflict, now in its fourth year, the refugees and support for the Lebanese army. “We hope that these decisions will be translated into reality by direct and tangible help and aid to Lebanon in backing the army, because the army of Lebanon is fighting terrorism for all the Arabs and all the world,” he said. Bassil said the only way to protect Lebanon and its borders was to give additional support to the army. Saudi Arabia donated $3 billion to the army in December for upgrades and asked France to supply weapons using a large proportion of these funds. “We cannot live with new military camps, whether Syrians or others, inside Lebanon,” he said. “Support for the army is something real for facing this coming danger.”
Lebanon is already home to large camps for displaced Palestinians where state authority does not fully extend. Many Lebanese trace the origins of their own civil war to militarization in the camps in the 1970s.
n’s military nowadays is religiously mixed but some Syrian rebels and Lebanese have accused it of being in thrall to Hezbollah, which has sent fighters to support President Bashar al-Assad, a member of the Shi'ite-derived Alawite minority. In a video posted online this week, influential Lebanese Sunni militant leader and cleric Ahmad al-Assir called for Sunnis to defect from the army. (With AFP and Reuters)


Assad cousin killed in Latakia clash with Syria rebels
Ynetnews/March 23/14/Hilal Assad, the cousin of Syrian President Bashar Assad and commander of the National Defense Force killed battling rebels near Turkish border. A cousin of Syrian President Bashar Assad was killed on Sunday in battles with Islamist rebels near the border with Turkey, activists and state media said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Hilal Assad, local head of the National Defense Force militia, and seven of his fighters were killed in clashes with the Nusra Front and other Islamist brigades. State television confirmed Assad's death, describing him as the head of the National Defense Force in the coastal province of Latakia, where the Assad family originates. The National Defense Force is a militia set up to support the army in its three-year battle with rebels seeking to overthrow Bashar Assad. The Observatory also reported that rebels fired two rockets into the port city of Latakia, which is the main hub for operations to ship out Syria's chemical weapons for destruction under a deal reached with the United States and Russia. It said there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Malaysian PM: MH370 flight ended in Indian Ocean, all aboard lost. No word on how it happened
DEBKAfile Special Report March 24, 2014/Monday, March 24, seventeen agonizing days after the Malaysian Flight 370 vanished en route to Beijing, Malaysian Prime minister Najib Razak delivered a short statement of profound regret affirming that the missing airliner ended its flight in a corridor in the southern Indian Ocean. The 239 passengers and crew aboard the flight could not have survived, said Razak. The families have been informed that their wait is tragically over. He revealed that satellite data analysis from the UK company Inmarsat helped conclude that MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean using technology never before used in the the search of lost aircraft. The prime minister did not discuss the nature of the debris believed to have come from the downed Malaysian airliner; nor did he explain what caused the plane to fly seven hours massively off course in the opposite direction from its route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. He only indicated that it must have come down more than two weeks ago and therefore, even if there were survivors when plane came down, they could not have survived in the freezing waters of the southern Indian Ocean. The Radar experts describe the British search technology as the analysis of “pings” picked up from debris sighted up to 2,000 miles at sea distance form the Australian town of Perth, but closer to the Antarctic than Australia..Those emissions indicated that those pieces had been in the water for 15 days. Prime Minister Razak promised another news conference Tuesday with more detailed information. None of the parties involved in the multinational search for the plane, Chinese, Australian or Malaysian, was yet willing to offer an explanation for how the doomed flight came to be in the place where it went down. They assume it stayed aloft until its fuel tanks were empty and then dropped into the ocean. No one has been able to establish whether the passengers and crew aboard were still alive up to the end. While the first part of the search for flight MH370 ended Monday, March 24, the next part is about to begin to raise the plane from the sea bed in extraordinarily rought waters - hopefully with its black box still in working order.

MH370 Relatives Distraught as Hope Extinguished
Naharnet Newsdesk 24 March 2014/Cries of pain and loss echoed from a Beijing hotel on Monday as the relatives of missing flight MH370 learned their loved ones were dead, ending an agonizing 17-day ordeal.
Paramedics carrying stretchers dashed into the ballroom at the Lido hotel to treat distraught family members who have been gathered there since the Malaysia Airlines jet vanished.
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak confirmed their gravest fears, announcing that the aircraft went down in a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean with 239 people on board -- two thirds of them Chinese.
Even the possibility of a hijack, however remote, had meant there was still a chance their loved ones were alive. But after the announcement, there was no hope at all.
Some burst out of the room crying uncontrollably, while others had to be supported by family members. One woman was rushed out on a stretcher, her body shaking and her eyes glazed and full of tears.
"We know we have no hope left now," one bereaved relative told Agence France Presse by telephone. Most were too distressed to talk. A few simply covered their heads, hiding their emotions as they ran a gauntlet of journalists. Grief was closely followed by anger for some, with one sobbing woman leaving the room shouting "murderers, murderers". Some relatives lost control as they departed, with one man throwing punches and kicks at the media crowd, as a male family member was being taken out on a stretcher. Others lashed out at cameramen who were filming too close. Security guards and police stood guard in and outside the room. Inside the room, heavy clouds of tobacco smoke hung overhead, with almost every man drawing heavily on cigarettes. Many faces were pale with shock, and most people stared into space, almost oblivious to other relatives around them. Candle after candle was posted on China's hugely popular weibo microblog sites, in electronic tributes to the dead. "I just can't believe it nor accept it, after having searched so many days, and waited so many days, only to finally receive news of the crash!" wrote one user. "It's impossible to imagine how these desperate families could handle it." Some Chinese have embraced far-fetched conspiracy theories in the period since the plane disappeared, and there were those who refused to believe the plane had gone down. One woman at the Lido hotel approached reporters, wailing, saying she believed her daughter was being "hidden" and had not died.Source/Agence France Presse.


Ya'alon is simply setting the record straight
By: Hagai Segal/Ynetnews/Op-ed: US should admit that Israel's defense minister is reading regional map much better than Secretary of State Kerry.  Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon showed up at a television studio last weekend and declared for the umpteenth time that in our generation there is no chance for a permanent agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. For the umpteenth time, he also noted that in the distant past he had actually believed in the "territories for peace" formula, but that in the meantime he had recovered from his naivety. As you know, Ya'alon is not the only minister who has the habit of recycling his beliefs in interviews with the media. Almost all his fellow government members do the same, each with his own beliefs. Even the most skillful politician cannot reinvent himself in every interview. The justice minister always says that Israel must make more concessions for peace, and the defense minister always says that there is no point in making any concessions. Nonetheless, we have developed a strange habit of responding to Livni's comments with a yawn and breaking into cries of despair after every Ya'alon interview: Oh no, Bogie doesn’t believe in peace. Actually, Ya'alon himself has developed his own strange habit: He is unmoved by the cries of despair. Despite the heavy psychological pressure exerted on him from all directions, he has a consistent tendency to maintain his composure, to the point of complete indifference to surrounding hysteria. His rhetoric is not subject to instructions from public opinion leaders. As the former Military Intelligence head and as a retired IDF chief of staff, he already has a solid opinion about the chances of the agreement between Jerusalem and Ramallah. It is his duty to reveal it to the public even if a certain camp doesn't like it. He is the defense minister, not the political correctness minister.
Who is right and who is obsessive?
While doing that, Ya'alon managed to irritate the Americans too, not just the peace seekers here, but there is no need to exaggerate in describing the extent of this irritation. Our defense establishment leader simply set the record straight when he said last week that the United States was showing global weakness and that its allies in the Middle East were disappointed with it. Every child in Damascus, Kiev or Manhattan knows that Obama's US is pursuing a spineless global policy. The opinion pages in the American press are filled with similar indictments against the Obama administration. According to all signs, even the administration itself knows it, but it's convenient to pull an insulted face when the Israeli defense minister joins the criticism.
Washington is now accusing Ya'alon of intentionally undermining the relationship between the two countries, no less. It is forgetting its own contribution to undermining the relations. Obama is the least pleasant American president towards Israel in the past 50 years, both in his words and in his actions. In his five years in the White House, the president insulted the prime minister more than two or three times, while the prime minister actually made sure not to throw insults back at him. Ya'alon is less strict, but is still quite polite. Despite the asymmetry between the sides, the American president should reflect on his own actions instead of imposing sanctions on our defense minister. After all, America doesn't have many friendly alternatives in the Middle East. It should even admit to itself that Ya'alon is reading the regional map much better than John Kerry. Last summer, when Kerry promised us peace within nine months, Ya'alon already voiced contradictory promises. Is there still any doubt in Washington who will be right in the end and who will be revealed as obsessive?

Opinion: Diverting the Blue Nile’s course could take Africa to war

 By: Huda Al Husseini/Asharq AlAwsat
Monday, 24 Mar, 2014/Water wars, many warn, could be around the corner. After the removal of former President Mohamed Mursi, Egypt has inherited a huge problem: Addis Ababa decided to divert the course of the Blue Nile late May, as part of its project to generate electricity through the construction of the Renaissance Dam. Ethiopia took the decision—which will have a negative impact on Egypt’s share of the water from the Nile—one day after Mursi returned to Cairo from a state visit to Addis Ababa, a move the Egyptians considered as a blow to the Islamist president. Ethiopians seem to have sensed Egypt’s weak position.
There are ten countries along the Nile. The problem here is that Ethiopia’s unilateral step means the collapse of the current regional order set by Great Britain and Egypt in 1929 in what is known as the Nile Water Agreement.
Apart from Ethiopia, none of the Nile Basin countries was independent when the agreement was signed. The agreement allocated 48 million cubic meters of water per year to Egypt and 4 million to Sudan—but it neglected the other eight countries. In 1959, Egypt and Sudan agreed to increase their share of the Nile water to 55 million and 18 million cubic meters, respectively, allowing Egypt to build the Aswan Dam. The agreement bans the establishment of any project on the Nile, its tributaries or the Nile Basin that may reduce the amount of water reaching Egypt. The agreement also gives Egypt the right to conduct inspections and investigations along the Nile down to its farthest sources.
This right, which is equivalent to an Egyptian veto against any water and energy projects, has been a subject of intense debate, and has caused restlessness among Nile Basin countries. These countries—once colonies—consider Egypt’s privileges as a violation of their sovereignty, and some have already begun running water projects threatening Egypt’s share. Egypt considers any change to the agreement as tantamount to a strategic threat and has repeatedly threatened to use all means available to a prevent violation of the agreement.
After the overthrow of Mursi, several meetings between water ministers from the member states of the technical committee have failed. So have the February 11 talks in Addis Ababa between the Ethiopian and Egyptian water ministers.
Egypt is trying to dissuade or persuade Ethiopia from changing its plans in a bid to limit the damages to its interests. But Ethiopia insists on adhering to its original plan, claiming the dam will have no negative impact on Egypt. As for Sudan, it has taken Ethiopia’s side and is supportive of the dam’s construction.
Turkey, whose relationship with Egypt has worsened after Mursi’s removal, has been encouraging Addis Ababa to go ahead with the construction of the dam, Egyptian media reported. Several media outlets in Egypt have not ruled out Israel’s potential role in the project.
Last January Egypt pulled out of talks with Ethiopia and Sudan, announcing that it will resort to all diplomatic and political means in order to preserve or even increase its share of Nile water. Ethiopia said it will go ahead with building the dam even after the suspension of the talks. Around 30 percent of the dam has now been constructed, but will take another three years to complete. However, Egypt’s Minister of Water Resources Mohamed Abdel-Motaleb said Egypt will not stand with its hands tied and that it is supportive of the construction of the dam providing it does not impact Egypt’s water security. The Egyptian minister also called on Ethiopia to freeze the construction process pending necessary technical research to ensure neither Egypt nor Sudan will be affected in case the dam collapses.
After his visit to Moscow, Egypt’s Foreign Minster Nabil Fahmi said the problem could be solved and that the Nile could fulfil each of the countries’ water needs. Fahmi, however, warned that if no agreement was reached as soon as possible, Egypt would not accept to give up its water security, urging everyone to be prepared to deal with the consequences of an undesirable regional crisis.
Ethiopia responded on February 17 that the military establishment is poised to protect the Renaissance Dam, highlighting that it is a national project, one the Ethiopians deem as one of the country’s greatest achievements. Ten days later, Ethiopia and Sudan signed, in the presence of both countries’ ministers of defense, a protocol to form a joint force tasked with the protection of their borders.
Egypt adheres to the agreement and considers it to be effective according to international law, maintaining that any amendment or change requires its prior approval. In comments about the issue, Sherif Mousa, the director of the Middle East program at the American University in Cairo, said the agreement should be dealt with in the same way the borders of most of the Nile Basin countries are respected which have been drawn by the colonial powers and recognized by international law.
What Ethiopia has done seems like an extension of the Arab Spring. And Crimea’s independence from Ukraine confirms that no international order recognized by international law will remain the same. Should Ethiopia be allowed to do what it likes, all of the Nile Basin countries will follow suit. The problem is that all African countries occupy higher land elevations than Egypt. The 1959 bilateral agreement between Egypt and Sudan that saw an increase in the two countries’ shares—neglecting other countries’ interests, such as those of Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia—has weakened Egypt’s contention that the 1929 agreement cannot be violated. Ethiopia was the first to challenge the agreement, claiming the full right to the Blue Nile and the diversion of its course—a move Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda were supportive of. This breakaway led to the signing of the 2010 Entebbe Agreement by the upstream countries in East Africa including Ethiopia. The agreement allows for the signatories to carry out water projects on the Nile without the approval of Egypt. South Sudan said it will join the agreement while Congo and Eretria remained on the sidelines. But the agreement was opposed by both Egypt and Sudan, which, following the overthrow of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, sided with Ethiopia.
With its increasing population and poverty-stricken rural areas, Ethiopia has decided, in accordance with the Entebbe Agreement, to build the Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile. At a cost of 4.7 billion US dollars, the dam will be the largest in Africa. With its 74 million cubic meter reservoir, it is expected to generate 6,000 megawatts of energy. To facilitate its construction, Ethiopia has diverted the Blue Nile 500 meters from its natural course.
The Egyptian media has launched a campaign against Ethiopia, claiming that the Egyptian people would rather die defending their right to the water than die of thirst. Of course, Egypt will not allow Ethiopia to ignore Egypt’s right to its share of Nile water. Moreover, according to international laws, Ethiopia cannot obtain the Blue Nile water. This is not to mention that the Egyptian army is powerful and can comply with the country’s agreements. The two countries can reach a mutually satisfactory arrangement. Perhaps, Ethiopia would provide Egypt with water in exchange for security. Should it benefit from some of the energy generated by the Renaissance dam, Egypt can carry out sea water desalination projects that require both energy and money.
Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to build the Renaissance Dam has shaken all of Africa, not just Egypt. Should a war take place, the dam will not protect Ethiopia. Egypt needs to organize its house at a time when most world countries are experiencing instability.

Kuwait… a tale of two summits!
By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/Monday, 24 March 2014/
Five years ago, a battle of axes escalated as a result of the Saudi-Egyptian rapprochement on one side and the Qatari-Syrian rapprochement on another.
At the time and just as Kuwait was about to hold an Arab summit, Doha insisted to hold a rival Arab political summit, claiming that it was doing this in a bid to support the resistance in Gaza. As such, a competition between the two Arab Gulf capitals was ignited to host two summits which are only a few days apart.
Most Arab countries saw that the Doha summit for what it was, an initiative designed to sabotage the Kuwait summit which was to be held a few days later.
Anyway, the tale of these two summits is a long one; so I'll summarize it by saying that only six leaders, most of whom were the region's villains, attended the Doha summit.
Among the attendees were Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir and Mauritania's coup d'etat leader General Wald bin Abdulaziz. However, the biggest shock lied in inviting Iran to attend. By all means, Doha failed to secure the necessary attendance and the summit was nothing more than a televised seminar.
In Kuwait, however, the summit convened amid the presence of all its stars. Everyone attended it amid the excitement of watching one of the most important political battles at the time. A surprise was revealed in the speech of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdelaziz, who for the sake of ending disputes and instead of confrontations, he offered reconciliation with Assad, Muammar Qaddafi and the rest.
King Abdullah’s approach even contradicted what ally Hosni Mubarak, the then-Egyptian president, who had warned Assad of the consequences of going far in his actions.
To trigger the Saudi initiative and seal the reconciliation, Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad went with five leaders, including Assad and Qatar's Emir, to the hospitality villa where King Abdullah was. But the King’s attempts were gone with the wind a few weeks later as Assad and his allies continued to stir problems in Lebanon and the region.
There must be true intentions and willingness to make sacrifices. So are Arabs prepared to confront the ongoing massacre in Syria?
As for this year's Arab League summit, it will also be held in Kuwait amidst an atmosphere of disputes that are greater than those which engulfed the previous summit held there. Truth is, we don't expect much from it because accepting invitations is not enough for it to succeed. There must be true intentions and willingness to make sacrifices. So are Arabs prepared to confront the ongoing massacre in Syria? Is Qatar ready to give up the chaos-funding policy it has adopted for over a decade and a half now? And Is (Iraq’s) Maliki's government ready to join the league of moderate states or will it continue to deviate more towards Iran?
Surprises unlikely
The battles are still raging so I think it's highly unlikely that any surprises are going to occur in Kuwait - unlike the 2009 summit when King Abdullah’s speech included important retreats done in everyone's favor.
So, what could happen during this time? We won't be hearing a speech from Assad in which he announces letting go of power and ending the Syrian massacre. It's also unlikely that Doha will give up its support of groups that are against Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen or that it give up favoring one group over another in in Tunisia, Libya or other countries.
If Kuwait's lights doesn’t brighten the summit's atmosphere this time, there must come a day when the sun rises to end the crises which haven't stopped in our region since establishing the modern Arab states. All what's left for us to do is to be optimistic that this day will come when efforts are made and funds are spent to develop and improve the region, marking the end of the crises phase once and for all.
*This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on March 24, 2014.