LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/The
Miracle of the Seven Loaves and fish
Matthew 15,29-39/: "After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?’ Jesus asked them, ‘How many loaves have you?’ They said, ‘Seven, and a few small fish.’ Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Those who had eaten were four thousand men, besides women and children. After sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan."
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For March 27/14
Israel and Syria: edging towards the brink/By:
Yossi Mekelberg/Al Arabiya/March 27/14
Next Test for Obama: Soothing the Saudis/By: Dennis Ross/Los Angeles Times/March 27/14
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For March 27/14
Lebanese Related News
Child Killed in Renewed Tripoli Sniper Activity after Jabal Mohsen Man Shot Dead
Arab League voices support for Lebanon, Army
Suleiman Urges Arabs to Share Number of Syrian Refugees, Support Lebanon's Neutrality
Lebanon principal sacked for caning students
Geagea says ‘natural candidate’ for presidency
Rai: Parliament must get going with president vote
Al-Rahi Says Won't Nominate Anyone for Presidency, New President Must 'Heal
Harb Vows to Liberalize Telecom Sector, Promises to Keep Ministry's Work Away from Politics
Berri Calls for 3-Day Parliamentary Session Next Week
Adwan Says Geagea Serious Candidate to Presidency
Bou Saab Pledges Strict Measures against Beatings at School
Israel Stages Military Exercises along Border with Lebanon
Reports: Assad Regime Informs Lebanese Allies Need to Block Presidential Elections
Berri's Presidential Elections Committee to Study Roadmap
Israeli Army Official Says Only Ground Offensive will Defeat Hizbullah
Pregnant Woman Shot Dead by Husband
Miscellaneous Reports And News'
Reports Cite 80 Dead in Kessab; Churches Desecrated
Canada Concerned by Attacks on Armenian Town in Syria
International Christian Concern/Time For Obama To Speak Out For Religious Freedom in Saudi Arabia
Arab summit decries Syria govt. ‘massacres’
Arab League declares 'total rejection' of Jewish state recognition
Arab Summit Says Capabilities of Lebanese Armed Forces should be Strengthened
Arab Summit Backs Syria Political Solution, Rejects 'Jewish State'
Malaysia: Satellite Images Show 122 Potential Objects in Jet Search
Sisi Meets Egypt Army Brass to Quit ahead of Poll
U.S. Urges Egypt against Executions in Mass Sentencing
Fierce Fighting Raging in Syria's Latakia
Kerry in Jordan Visit to Shore up Mideast Peace Talks
U.S. 'Disappointed' by Saudi Denial of Jerusalem Post Reporter Visa
Child Killed in Renewed Tripoli Sniper
Activity after Jabal Mohsen Man Shot Dead
Naharnet Newsdesk 26 March 2014ظ..A resident of the Jabal Mohsen neighborhood in northern Tripoli was killed on Wednesday when unknown assailants opened fire at him. The man was attacked with gunshots after he accidentally ran over a woman with his car, as he lost control of the vehicle at the Abu Ali roundabout in Tripoli. "He ran over a woman and a boy by mistake as he lost control of his car,” Arab Democratic Party spokesman Abdul Latif Saleh told al-Jadeed television. "Hassan Mazloum was innocent,” he stressed. The state-run National News Agency noted that the shooting took place near al-Ridani bakery in the northern city, remarking also that the woman was instantly killed following being hit by the car. Al-Jadeed said the woman's son was also killed in the accident. Following the death of Mazloum, intense sniper activity was recorded and it targeted the northern Tripoli-Akkar international road. "A group of young men also blocked the road in the Baddawi area, and called on Tripoli residents not to take the highway because of the intense sniper activity,” NNA said.
The renewed clashes killed 11-year-old Ahmed al-Sayyed near Khalil al-Rahman mosque in the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood in the city, according to several media reports. "Mahmoud Fakhreddine was wounded in the head by sniper fire," the NNA said, adding that he was transferred to a hospital for treatment. Radio Voice of Lebanon (93.3)added that a bomb was hurled on the Syria street in Tripoli as sniper activity was recorded on the Bazar axes. "Gunshots were also heard on Syria street that separates the rival neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh, according to the same source. Meanwhile, the relatives of the victims in the double blast that targeted two mosques last summer issued a statement denouncing any attack against their “Alawite partners in the country.” "We praise the army and we call on troops to probe any attack in the city and try those involved in them,” they added, "We will not allow anyone to tarnish our cause with small acts here and there that are rejected by our religious beliefs.” Following Wednesday's escalation of security events, troops patrolled in al-Beddawi area in Tripoli, according to the NNA.
Israel Stages Military Exercises along
Border with Lebanon
Naharnet Newsdesk 26 March 2014/The Israeli army staged at dawn on Wednesday military drills in the occupied Shebaa Farms and boosted security along the border with Lebanon. According to the state-run National News Agency, Israeli drones flew over the Shebaa farms during the military exercises. The NNA said that explosions heard at dawn were caused by the Israeli army. Israeli army also boosted security along its norther border near the southern town of Abbasiyeh and the Kfarshouba Hills. NNA later reported that an Israeli unit of 13 soldiers crossed the Blue Line, entering 15 meters into the region of Aita al-Shaab. The army later issued a communique saying that “Israeli paratroopers, comprised of 13 soldiers, infiltrated 20 meters into the Lebanese territories at 8:55a.m.” “The Lebanese army directly undertook the necessary defense measures,” the army command said in its statement. According to the statement, “the Israeli patrol withdrew at 9:30 a.m.” “The matter is being followed up in coordination with the UNIFIL.” Israel is closely watching its northern border with Syria and Lebanon as the embattled regime of President Bashar Assad has reportedly considered supplying chemical weapons to Hizbullah. Tensions also remain high over the prospect of Hizbullah retaliation to an Israeli air raid on the Lebanese-Syrian border in February, the first reported Israeli strike on one of its posts since a devastating 2006 summer war between the arch-foes. Hizbullah fighters, who fought a bloody war with Israel in 2006, are now fighting alongside the Syrian army against rebels seeking to overthrow the Damascus regime.
Berri Calls for 3-Day Parliamentary
Session Next Week
Naharnet Newsdesk 26 March 2014/Speaker Nabih Berri called on Wednesday for a three-day parliamentary session next week to tackle a jammed agenda. The three-day session will also address the new wage scale “if the joint parliamentary committees wrapped up its discussions on the matter ahead of the general assembly meeting. The sessions are expected to kick off on Tuesday, April 1. “Berri addressed ways to activate the parliamentary work,” MPs quoted the speaker as saying during his weekly meeting Wednesday's weekly meeting with lawmakers. The lawmakers said that Berri will call for several sessions “before the end of President (Michel) Suleiman's tenure.”The speaker “is keen to hold a successful session to elect a new president,” noting that the three-member committee he formed to carry out consultations with political parties over the presidential polls kicked off its work. 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. Berri also discussed with lawmakers the cabinet's confidence session, expressing hope that the cabinet “would be able to resolve the vital and delicate matter, including the security situation.” Prime Minister Tammam Salam's government garnered the support of 96 out of 101 lawmakers who attended last week's parliamentary 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.
Reports: Assad Regime Informs Lebanese
Allies Need to Block Presidential Elections
Naharnet Newsdesk 26 March 2014/The regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad informed its allies in Lebanon the need to prevent any attempts to stage the presidential elections in the country, the Saudi Okaz newspaper reported on Wednesday. The newspaper quoted sources close to the regime as saying that “carrying out the presidential elections in Lebanon should be linked to the run for presidency in the neighboring country.”According to the sources, a high-ranking Syrian official informed the head of a Lebanese party, which was kept anonymous, the necessity to “prevent staging the presidential elections in Lebanon ahead of the Syria.”Earlier this month, Assad voiced hope that the next Lebanese president would support the resistance axis. “We are interested in... what the upcoming Lebanese President could offer the axis of the resistance, which is the basic criterion for us,” Assad said. President Michel Suleiman's six-year tenure ends in May 2014, but the constitutional period to elect a new head of state begins on March 25, two months prior to the expiration of Suleiman’s mandate.On Tuesday, Suleiman denied reports saying that Iran will agree to extend his term in return to Assad's term extension.“The presidential elections will be staged on time despite what some sides assume,” the president noted.
Rai: Parliament must get going with
March 26, 2014 /The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Maronite Cardinal Beshara Rai Tuesday called on Speaker Nabih Berri to convene Parliament as soon as possible in order to begin voting on a possible candidate for the presidency, ruling out a vacuum in the country’s top Christian post. In his first television interview on a local channel, Rai said Bkirki would only nominate a candidate if lawmakers failed to agree on a name despite beginning early consultations. The patriarch, who is entering his fourth year as the head of the Maronite church, also spoke about Hezbollah’s arms, saying the party’s arsenal should not remain outside the jurisdiction of the state and should be part of a national defense strategy. Although he declined to comment on Hezbollah’s military role in Syria, a point of national contention, Rai said the party should distance Lebanon from regional conflicts. “I call on Speaker [Nabih] Berri to convene a series of parliamentary sessions starting Monday and as soon as possible, regardless of quorum,” Rai told LBCI in an interview with Marcel Ghanem who was joined by three newspaper editors. “He [Berri] should not start consultations with the blocs first, but he should convene a legislative session so that lawmakers can name preferred candidates,” he added. Tuesday marked the start of the two-month constitutional period for Parliament to elect a new president, during which the speaker is expected to convene Parliament to nominate a candidate for the post.
President Michel Sleiman's six-year term ends on May 25. Berri has formed a committee of lawmakers from his parliamentary bloc to hold consultations with various political factions over the spring election. The speaker has yet to schedule a date for the first house session. No political party has officially put forward any nominations, but Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said Tuesday he was a "natural" candidate for the presidency because he represented most Christians.The patriarch proposed a series of legislative sessions in which MPs would cast their votes for a candidate until one nominee received the majority vote. Although Rai refused to name a preferred candidate, he said he was preparing a list of names based on national surveys to be announced by Bkirki in case lawmakers failed to nominate someone. “If lawmakers fail to agree on a president after they begin parliamentary voting next week, I will propose a name that the people want depending on a survey,” he said. The patriarch also voiced his opposition to amending the Constitution to nominate Army Gen. Jean Kahwagi or Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh for the post. Under the Constitution, a candidate running for presidency should resign from their public post six months before the Constitutional deadline. Both Salameh and Kahwagi remain in their posts. “First and foremost, we should respect the Constitution and not think about amending it. But if lawmakers reach a dead end in their negotiations and agreed on [Kahwagi or Salameh], then so be it,” he said.
The Maronite Church usually has major influence in the election of a new president, but Rai repeatedly said it was not his prerogative to nominate a president. He declined to say whether he would veto an elected president. “We need a president that will be able to reunite us and boost Lebanon’s status in the Arab world and the international community … a modern person who knows how to manage the affairs of state,” he said, adding that only the Lebanese should decide who they want for president, “not the Iranians, Saudis or Americans.”Rai also said that he asked the ambassadors of several countries to help Lebanon hold its presidential election without delay by distancing the country from the Syrian crisis. “[During a meeting], I asked the envoys to distance Lebanon from the crisis in Syria, the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, and the Iranian-Saudi issue, so we can hold the presidential election,” he said. “We spoke clearly with the envoys and they agreed to remove Lebanon from the Syria conflict,” Rai added. Rai also spoke about Hezbollah’s arsenal and clarified previous remarks he had made over the issue when he linked the group’s arsenal to Israeli occupation. “When [former French] President Nicolas Sarkozy said the Lebanese were hostage to Hezbollah, I disagreed with him, and said it was rather a problem … and you [Western countries] are capable of resolving it,” Rai said of his 2011 meeting with Sarkozy in Paris. “Hezbollah says Israeli’s occupation of Lebanese territory is the reason for their arms … I told Sarkozy that the international community was not pressuring Israel to withdraw and thus validating Hezbollah’s point,” he said. Rai said Hezbollah’s arms should be under the control of the state similar to the Lebanese Army. “We cannot accept that Hezbollah’s arms do not have a link to the state and it is not acceptable for the party to decide to wage war and control the fate of the Lebanese,” he continued. “I will say this to Hezbollah, and [it] already knows this, that they should not decide on war and peace independently; there is a need for a national defense strategy [to incorporate its weapons in the state] and to distance Lebanon from conflicts,” Rai added. “ Hezbollah is not better than the Army, which is under the control of the state, and the use of [the military’s] arms requires a political decision.”Sleiman has proposed a national defense strategy that would allow Hezbollah to keep its arms but place them under the command of the Lebanese Army, which would have exclusive authority to use force.The arms of the resistance would be used by the state until the Army can take over all defense responsibilities.
Geagea Says Lebanese Need President
'Who Doesn't Compromise', Urges Security Plan
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 March 2014/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea stressed Tuesday that “the Lebanese need a president who does not compromise,” calling for an urgent plan to address the dire security situations in Tripoli and the Bekaa. “The battle of the presidential vote is the battle of the March 14 forces and the presidency is not for paving the ground for a political leadership but rather for selecting a strong president who has a clear vision for Lebanon according to March 14's legitimate political objectives,” Geagea said. He stressed that “the Lebanese need a president who does not compromise but who rather takes clear and bold stances, as one cannot compromise in the issues of sovereignty, combating the kidnap gangs and removing arms from non-state actors.”“Reaching the presidential seat requires full coordination with our allies in March 14, because today's battle is March 14's battle, the battle of entire Lebanon,” Geagea added. Geagea voiced his remarks during a meeting with a popular delegation from the Bekaa area of Deir al-Ahmar, in the wake of an attempt to abduct Maronite Bishop Semaan Atallah, head of the Baalbek-Deir al-Ahmar dioceses. “I made several phone calls to address this issue, especially with Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, who informed me that they have decided to put an end, once and for all, to all kidnap operations, after things reached an intolerable extent,” Geagea told the delegation. He revealed that Salam and Mashnouq are seeking to devise “an urgent security plan for entire Bekaa as well as for the city of Tripoli, which has been suffering for more than two years, especially after the latest round of clashes that left dozens of people dead and hundreds wounded.”
“Enough is enough in Tripoli. Seriously, I say in the name of us all that things have become totally unacceptable,” he added.
“There is only one possible solution, which is that the security forces and Lebanese Army become in charge of the city's security once and for all, because the army must be in control of the situation on the ground, not merely a disengagement force or a peacekeeping force between the warring groups,” Geagea said. He called for a security plan under which “arms would be collected from all people and the army and security forces would become in charge of security in the city.” Geagea noted that “it will be easier to address the security situation in the Bekaa, given the numerous complications in the capital of the North, because the process in the Bekaa only requires deterring some unrestrained gangs.”
Geagea says ‘natural candidate’ for presidency
March 26, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea says he is a “natural candidate” to succeed President Michele Sleiman and vows he will give priority to the thorny issue of Hezbollah’s military presence in Syria if elected Lebanon’s next head of state. “I am a natural candidate for the presidency ... today I am the head of the most popular party among Christians as statistics show, thus it is natural for my name to be among the first candidates for the presidency,” Geagea told Al Arabiya television in an interview aired late Tuesday. “And of course, I am not sad that things are this way.”“But I will wait for the right moment to officially announce my candidacy,” he added. Geagea said his priority if elected president would be to “pull Hezbollah out of Syria” but added that he was willing to form an alliance with the party if “ Hezbollah changes its strategy, ideology and policy.” The two-month constitutional deadline for electing a successor for Sleiman started Tuesday. Parliament has until May 25 to choose a new head of state.
Adwan Says Geagea Serious Candidate to
Naharnet Newsdesk 26 March 2014/Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan said on Wednesday that the party's chief Samir Geagea is candidate to the presidency, pointing out that the party will soon announce the principles that it will adopt to communicate with its March 14 allies. “The Lebanese Forces is seriously mulling to endorse Geagea's candidacy,” LF deputy chief Adwan said in an interview with the Kuwaiti al-Anbaa newspaper.
He stressed that the party will establish a roadmap and principles over its vision for the presidential elections and ways to deal with its allies. “The Lebanese Forces has a clear stance from the presidency and the formation of the cabinet,” Adwan told the newspaper. He noted that the party will gradually announce its stance from each presidential candidate based on its convictions and political principles. Adwan said that all parties should announce clear stances concerning the matter. “We will press for the appointment of a president who would take clear political stances, in particular, over matters that concern us,” the lawmaker said.
“We will not accept a consensual president.” Adwan stressed that the presidential elections should be staged on time in order to “choose the best candidate,” rejecting vacuum. President Michel Suleiman's six-year tenure ends in May 2014, but the constitutional period to elect a new head of state begins on March 25, two months prior to the expiration of his mandate. On remarks by the LF that its ready to engage in dialogue with Hizbullah, Adwan clarified that the “party's stances are constant.” “We are seeking real national partnership with all the Lebanese factions without any exception,” the lawmaker said, noting that “all sides should abide by the national accord and shouldn't solely take the peace and war decision.” “We want dialogue with Hizbullah under the state's auspices,” Adwan said. Geagea has expressed recently in an interview readiness to engage in a “serious dialogue” with its arch foe Hizbullah. “There is no tension with Hizbullah. Our differences with it are not personal or sectarian.”Asked about the rapprochement between al-Mustaqbal leader Saad Hariri and his foe Free Patriotic Movement chief Michel Aoun, Adwan considered that “the matter should be judged by the results.”“If al-Mustaqbal acted according to the March 14 principles then we agree with them... We encourage any rapprochement between two political parties,” the MP said. Aoun,who is Hizbullah's top ally in the March 8 camp, had met with Hariri ahead of the formation of Salam's cabinet in February. “We have our differences with al-Mustaqbal movement over the participation in the cabinet,” Adwan revealed, noting that “differences don't indicate that we disagree on the main principles that gather us.”The LF has not taken part in Prime Minister Tammam Salam's 24-member government for refusing to share power with Hizbullah.
Harb Vows to Liberalize Telecom
Sector, Promises to Keep Ministry's Work Away from Politics
Naharnet Newsdesk 26 March 2014/Telecommunications Minister Butros Harb lamented on Wednesday that the ministry had not been abiding by legal procedures before he took his post, promising to implement a law on the liberalization of the telecom sector. During a press conference he held to announce his program during the short term of Premier Tammam Salam's cabinet, Harb said he was surprised that law 431, which had been adopted in 2002, was “placed in the drawers” of the ministry. The ministry not only did not implement the law on the liberalization of the telecom sector but adopted policies that contradicted it, he said.
Law 431 has transferred the powers of licensing, regulating and monitoring the telecommunications market, from the ministry of telecom to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).
Harb pledged to activate the authority, accusing his predecessors without naming them of “not liking the law for refusing to give up their authorities in favor of the TRA.”
“The law has been put aside for political reasons which until now are shackling the telecom market,” the minister told reporters. Harb also said that the failure to implement the law created chaos, bringing certain incompetent employees to the ministry at the expense of the state treasury. Some qualified people have been put aside without any explanation, he said. But he vowed not to sack employees for political reasons. “Political issues and conflicts will remain outside the telecommunications ministry, which is in the service of all Lebanese without any exception.” Harb promised to give back the rights of competent persons who have been dismissed. He said however that each employee who has been recruited illegally should prove his competence to stay in his post. As part of his strategy in the coming few months before a new president is elected and a new government is formed, Harb promised to lower landline and mobile phone and internet tariffs. Former Telecom Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui later issued a brief statement responding to Harb, explaining: “Law 431 was not applied in accordance to several decisions made by the state Shura Council.” “The standards followed by Sehnaoui during his term adhered to the law and worked for the interests and development of the telecom sector,” it stressed.
It added that he will make a more detailed response to Harb's press conference upon his return from a trip in Australia.
Lebanon principal sacked for caning
March 26, 2014 /By Mohammed Zaatari/The Daily Star
ZAHRANI, Lebanon: The principal of a south Lebanon school has been sacked and given a lifelong ban from teaching after a video showing him caning students went viral on the Internet Tuesday. Video footage posted on the net showed Moussa Daher, the principal of the Zahrani branch of Makassed School, caning a number of students for failing in their studies. Barefooted, the students were forced to kneel on an office chair as Daher violently struck the soles of their feet. The students cried and begged for the ordeal to end. The decision to dismiss the principal came following an emergency meeting called for by the Makassed Philanthropic Islamic Association that included legal and educational advisors. The participants at the meeting also decided to personally press charges against the teacher who “offended the students’ dignity.” Education Minister Elias Bou Saab told LBCI television Tuesday evening that his ministry decided to permanently ban Daher from teaching. “A decision has been taken to expel the principal and prevent him from teaching ever again in any of Lebanon’s schools,” he added.
The Makased School branch where the incident took place closed its doors Wednesday to denounce the teacher’s behavior. Addressing students and staff outside the school, Daher admitted he had acted wrongfully, asking for forgiveness and that the ban be reversed. “I ask the students to forgive me. I may have committed a mistake but I did not commit an awful act,” he said outside the school, where a visiting delegation from the Makassed Association was also present. Daher said his actions were driven by anger over his student’s “bad grades.”“I did what I did to discipline them [students] because I fear for their future,” he said.
“I ask the [education] minister and Makassed Association to withdraw the decision to expel me.” Amine Daouq, the head of the Makassed Association who was a member of the visiting delegation to the school, said Daher’s conduct was unacceptable. He also expressed surprise over requests from parents and teachers that Daher remain at the school. “The staff at school as well as students and their parents said they ... wanted [Daher] to remain at his post. They said the conduct came during a diabolic hour,” he said, adding that he would raise the demands to the Makassed Association. Ahmad Ali Nmeiri, one of the students who appeared in the video footage, said he forgave the principal and said he had feigned being in pain during the incident. “I feel ashamed because I put the principal’s reputation at stake. I was screaming without feeling any pain while he caned me,” he said.
“I got 7 out of 30 in English and that is why Mr. Moussa got angry,” he added. “We want Mr. Moussa to open the school doors now,” the student said.
Suleiman Urges Arabs to Share Number
of Syrian Refugees, Support Lebanon's Neutrality
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 March 2014/President Michel Suleiman demanded Arab nations on Tuesday to share the burden of hosting Syrian refugees, urging also encouraging factions to neutralize the country from the ongoing turmoil in Syria. “We urge convincing the largest number of Arab countries to share the burden and the number of Syrian refugees,” Suleiman said in a speech he gave at the Arab Summit in the Kuwaiti capital. Suleiman emphasized on the necessity of hosting refugees in safe regions inside Syria, stressing that Lebanon cannot bear the refugees' crisis on its territories. "The long-term negative consequences on Lebanon's economy require many years of care and follow-up,” he noted. The influx of nearly one million Syrian refugees, according to U.N. figures, has swollen Lebanon's population by 25 percent since the war broke out across the border in March 2011. The United Nations forecasts that registered refugees in Lebanon could reach 1.5 million by the end of the year. The president also called on Arab nations to continue supporting Lebanon in all fields, particularly urging them to “encourage the different factions to commit to neutralizing Lebanon, control the border with Syria, and draw an end to Israeli violations.”"Amid the current challenges, an international support committee was formed to help Lebanon and we have reached several conclusions that enable us to face the refugees' crisis,” Suleiman said. He continued: “The committee also called for disassociating Lebanon from regional turmoil and implementing the Baabda Declaration.” “We also agreed on new policies to support the army and we welcome the exceptional Saudi donation to the military institution.”Suleiman described the situation in Syria as the “worst misery since World War II.” “Lebanon is concerned with the developments in Syria and we are keen on supporting dialogue and communication to reach a political solution in the country,” he said. “We want a solution that ends the worst misery since WWII, that helps in releasing the kidnapped, on top of them the two abducted bishops, and a solution that preserves the rights of all Syrians without any foreign meddling,” he added. Suleiman also demanded increasing the financial support given to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), to strengthen its support to the Palestinian refugees in the country. “We also call for financial aid to continue rebuilding the (northern) Nahr al-Bared refugee camp,” he said. Separately, Suleiman pledged “to work on holding the presidential elections according to Lebanon's democratic traditions.”
Arab League declares 'total rejection'
of Jewish state recognition
By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS/03/26/2014/The Arab League announced on Wednesday a full backing of a Palestinian refusal to meet Israel's demand to be recognized as a Jewish state, a condition Jerusalem says it required for peace. "We express our total rejection of the call to consider Israel as a Jewish state," read a statement from the final day of the Arab summit in Kuwait. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has reiterated the call for the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish character of Israel as a requirement for a peace agreement. On Tuesday Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the Arab heads, reiterating his refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and said that the Palestinians want an independent state on "all the territories that were occupied in 1967."Earlier in the month, the Arab League endorsed the Palestinian position on recognition.
Arab governments, distracted by the upheaval convulsing the region since the 2011 Arab uprisings, have previously taken few stands on the floundering peace talks, leaving Abbas isolated. The issue has lately overshadowed other stumbling blocks over borders, refugees and the status of Jerusalem. Palestinians fear the label would lead to discrimination against Israel's sizable Arab minority, while Israelis say it recognizes Jewish history and rights on the land. Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.
Arab League voices support for
March 26, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Arab League Wednesday voiced solidarity with Lebanon and called for enhancing the country’s security forces. “We call for solidarity with Lebanon and for securing political and economic support for the country while maintaining Lebanon’s sovereignty,” Khaled al-Jarallah, Kuwait's foreign ministry undersecretary, said, reading the final Arab summit statement. “We hail the role of the Lebanese Army and Lebanese security forces and we stress the need to further enhance their capacities to ensure stability in the country,” he said. The statement also saluted “ Lebanon and its resistance against Israeli occupation, particularly in the July [August] 2006 aggression,” referring to the 33-day war between Lebanon and Israel.
Arab summit decries Syria govt.
Arab leaders pose for a group photo with Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, host of the 25th Arab Summit, in Bayan Palace, Kuwait City March 25, 2014. (Reuters)
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Wednesday, 26 March 2014
Arab leaders meeting in Kuwait on Wednesday condemned killings carried out by the Syrian government and called for a political settlement to end the ongoing three-year-old civil war. The final statement issued at the end of the two-day Arab League summit said the crisis would only be solved through political means. “We condemn in the strongest terms the massacres and the mass killing committed by the Syrian regime's forces against the unarmed people,” said Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry undersecretary Khaled al-Jarallah as he read the statement. “We call for a political solution to the Syrian crisis in accordance with the Geneva One declaration,” he added.
The Arab League also renewed its support to the opposition Syrian National Coalition, saying it is considered the legitimate representative of the people. The 22-member Arab League convened on Tuesday amid disputes among Arab leaders over issues such as the Syrian crisis and the unrest in Egypt. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz on Tuesday called on the Arab League to grant the Syrian National Coalition, Syria’s main opposition group, a seat at the summit. Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi had earlier said that the Syrian National Coalition will not fill the Syrian regime’s vacant seat at the summit because it has yet to meet the legal requirements. Salman called for “changing the balance of forces” on the ground in Syria's civil war, saying the crisis there had reached catastrophic proportions.
Palestinian peace talks
The final declaration also backed a Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, an Israeli demand that could disrupt peace talks sponsored by the United States. “We express our total rejection of the call to consider Israel as a Jewish state,” the statement added. The Palestinians recognized Israel at the start of the peace process in the early 1990s, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted they now acknowledge it as the national homeland of the Jewish people, in a move which would effectively torpedo the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees. During the summit on Tuesday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas urged for a Palestinian state according to the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital. He also called for resolving the refugee crisis based on United Nations resolution 194. (With AFP and Reuters)
Canada Concerned by Attacks on Armenian Town in Syria
March 25, 2014 - Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, today issued the following statement:
“Canada is deeply concerned by the recent attacks by al Qaeda affiliated armed groups on the ancient Armenian town of Kessab in the Latakia district of northern Syria during which Armenian churches were reportedly desecrated and Armenians driven from their homes.
“The continued attacks against Christians, including Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Christians and Armenian Catholics, in Syria are unacceptable.
“We stand determined that the perpetrators be brought to justice for such acts and to stem the rising tide of sectarian violence.
“Canada remains deeply concerned by the suffering of the Syrian people from all communities and by widespread reports of violations of human rights, including reports of churches and mosques being destroyed or used for military purposes. “Canada stands by the Syrian people and will continue to push for pluralistic, democratic development that protects the rights of all Syrians, regardless of faith, allowing them to live in peace.”
Reports Cite 80 Dead in Kessab;
KESSAB, Syria–The Armenian populated villages of Kessab,
Syria were the target of three days of brutal cross-border attacks from Turkey
by al-Qaeda affiliated armed bands, which have cost 80 lives and forced the
civilian population of the area to flee to neighboring hills, with many seeking
safe-haven in the nearby cities of Latakia and Basit. In a written statement,
the Armenian National Committee—International, condemned the attacks and
Turkey’s active role in aiding and abetting extremist groups in their targeted
attacks against the Christian and minority populations in Syria. “For months, we
have warned the international community of the imminent threat posed by
extremist foreign fighters against the Christian minority population in Syria,”
noted the ANC-I statement. “These vicious and unprompted attacks against the
Armenian-populated town and villages of Kessab are the latest examples of this
violence, actively encouraged by neighboring Turkey. We call upon all states
with any influence in the Syrian conflict to use all available means to stop
these attacks against the peaceful civilian population of Kessab, to allow them
to return to their homes in safety and security. In the last one hundred years,
this is the third time that the Armenians are being forced to leave Kessab and
in all three cases, Turkey is the aggressor or on the side of the aggressors.”
According to news reports, the armed incursion began on Friday, March 21, 2014,
at 5:45a.m., with rebels associated with Al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front, Sham
al-Islam and Ansar al-Sham crossing the Turkish border and attacking the
Armenian civilian population of Kessab. The attackers immediately seized two
guard posts overlooking Kessab, including a strategic hill known as Observatory
45 and later took over the border crossing point with Turkey. Snipers targeted
the civilian population and launched mortar attacks on the town and the
surrounding villages. According to eyewitness accounts, the attackers crossed
the Turkish border with Syria openly passing through Turkish military barracks.
According to Turkish media reports, the attackers carried their injured back to
Turkey for treatment in the town of Yayladagi. Some 670 Armenian families, the
majority of the population of Kessab, were evacuated by the local Armenian
community leadership to safer areas in neighboring Basit and Latakia. Ten to
fifteen families with relations too elderly to move were either unable to leave
or chose to stay in their homes. On Saturday, March 22, Syrian troops launched a
counteroffensive in an attempt to regain the border crossing point,
eye-witnesses and state media reported. However, on Sunday, March 23, the
extremist groups once again entered the town of Kessab, took the remaining
Armenian families hostage, desecrated the town’s three Armenian churches,
pillaging local residences and occupying the town and surrounding villages.
Located in the northwestern corner of Syria, near the border with Turkey, Kessab
had, until very recently evaded major battles in the Syrian conflict. The local
Armenian population had increased in recently years with the city serving as
safe-haven for those fleeing from the war-torn cities of Yacubiye, Rakka and
Assad Regime Protests Turkey’s Involvement to UN
The latest onslaught on Kessab has prompted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government to protest to the United Nations that Turkey was providing cover to rebels crossing the border from its territory. In a message to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Damascus demanded that the Security Council denounce what it called a terrorist attack on Syrian territory.
Syrian state television made reference to the fighting in a breaking news alert, saying the army was “tackling attempts by terrorist gangs to infiltrate from Turkish territory and attack border crossings in northern Latakia province.”
Turkey Downs Syrian Fighter Jet
On March 23, Turkey said its fighter jets shot down a Syrian jet after it crossed into Turkish airspace. Syria denied that its jet had violated Turkish airspace and, according to Agence France-Presse, accused Turkey of “a flagrant act of aggression that is evidence of Erdoğan’s support for terrorist groups.” The MIG-23 jets were reportedly flying a support mission to assist ground forces repelling extremist fighters which had infiltrated from Turkey into Kessab. “The international community should restrain Turkey to stop this and similar anti-Armenian operations and in general it antagonistic policy against Armenia and the Armenian people,” concludes the ANC International’s statement.
International Christian Concern/Time
For Obama To Speak Out For Religious Freedom in Saudi Arabia
Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East
03/25/2014 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) - Is promoting religious freedom abroad a priority in President Obama's foreign policy? A few members of Congress certainly think it should be. On Thursday, the President will be getting a letter from more than 50 representatives urging him to publicly address human rights and religious freedom during his upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia.
In a pre-release copy of the letter obtained by International Christian Concern, members of congress ask the president to specifically address several human rights issues, including the "major concern" of religious freedom. The letter also calls on the president to take the bold step of addressing these issues publicly, saying "If your administration has previously raised such concerns through private channels, the Government of Saudi Arabia's grave human rights record reveals its willingness to ignore such advice." On Friday, President Obama is scheduled to meet with King Abdullah in Riyadh to address a number of important securityissues in the region. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a leader among Islamic countries, a close ally of the United States, but also one of the most restrictive countries in the world with respect to fundamental human rights and religious freedoms. As a friend and ally, President Obama should urge King Abdullah, and the other officials he meets with, to respect those values that America claims to represent, values which President Obama himself has recently praised.
"Yet even as our faith sustains us, it's also clear that around the world, freedom of religion is under threat," President Obama said at the National Prayer Breakfast on February 6, 2014. "We see governments engaging in discrimination and violence against the faithful. We sometimes see religion twisted in an attempt to justify hatred and persecution against other people just because of who they are, or how they pray, or who they love," he continued. This statement is profoundly true about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
"Freedom of Religion is Neither Recognized nor Protected under the Law"
As the most recent report on International Religious Freedom from the Department of State describes, "Freedom of religion is neither recognized nor protected under the law and the government severely restricted it in practice." In January, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life listed Saudi Arabia as the fourth most restrictive nation on earth in terms of government regulations on religion. In essence, unless you are a member of the Sunni Islamic majority, you legally have no right whatsoever to practice your faith in Saudi Arabia. According to the 2013 report from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), "Not a single church or other non-Muslim house of worship exists in the country." The impact of these policies that restrict freedom of expression, freedom of gathering, and freedom of worship, affect not just the more than 20 million Saudi nationals, but also some 7.5 million foreign workers, many of whom are non-Muslims.
The congressional letter to the president coming out on Thursday also mentions incidents of Christian persecution, including an incidentin December of 2011 when Saudi secret police raided a gathering of 35 Ethiopian workers who were meeting in a private home to pray together. Over the following eight months, ICC worked with numerous members of Congress on this case to advocate for their release. Finally, on August 1, 2012, these 35 workers were deported back to Ethiopia. "The Saudi officials don't tolerate any other religions other than Islam. They consider non-Muslims as unbelievers. They are full of hatred towards non-Muslims," one of the prisoners told ICC following his release. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident. Foreign workers are regularly detained for similar charges, and in some cases the punishments can be far more severe. In May, 2013, a Lebanese national was sentenced to six years in prison and 600 lashes for assisting a Saudi woman in fleeing the country, after she converted to Christianity. A Saudi national was sentenced to two years and two hundred lashes for his role in her escape, Fox News reported. These incidents represent just a small percentage of the incidents of religious persecution that have been documented in recent years. While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive regimes in regards to religious freedom and human rights, they are also a key ally of the United States. As a result of this relationship, President Obama has an opportunity to address these abuses.
"Promoting Religious Freedom is a Key Objective"
President Obama, in his remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast, continued, "As I've said before, there are times when we work with governments that don't always meet our highest standards, but they're working with us on core interests such as the security of the American people. At the same time, we also deeply believe that it's in our interest, even with our partners, sometimes with our friends, to stand up for universal human rights. So promoting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy. And I'm proud that no nation on Earth does more to stand up for the freedom of religion around the world than the United States of America."
This trip presents the President with a prime opportunity to put his own words into action. Saudi Arabia is a government that works with the United States on core interests, and also one that shows little respect for universal human rights, chief among them religious freedom. So today, ICC is joining with over 50 members of congress in urging the President to promote religious freedom as a part of his discussions with King Abdullah. This Friday is a very rare opportunity to change the lives of millions of foreign workers and Saudi nationals for the better; we call on President Obama to publicly take full advantage of it.
Israel and Syria: edging towards the brink
Wednesday, 26 March 2014
By: Yossi Mekelberg/Al Arabiya
It can be seen as almost a small miracle that in the three years of brutal civil war in Syria, for the most part, Israel managed not to become embroiled in the conflict. Considering the conflict’s impact and its outcome on Israeli national interests, one would have feared that the Israeli security establishment would be tempted to use its military power in order to protect the country’s interests. This happened in very small doses. It might be as a result of Israel’s realisation that it has very limited options, most of which amounted to no more than damage control. A major source of frustration for the decision makers in Israel was that no proactive policies could shape the future of her neighbour from the north-east to her advantage.
Developments in Syria are of great worry for Israel because they have far reaching ramifications well beyond the two countries’ relationship, and also affect relationships with Iran, Lebanon, the Palestinians and the spread of fundamentalism closer to Israeli borders. For a country which used to believe, rightly or wrongly, that it could play a major role in shaping its international surroundings through direct or indirect intervention this is a rude awakening. Suddenly she is left on the side-lines, with nearly no input or influence, regarding a major change which is taking place on her doorstep.
For most of the last three years, the Israeli security establishment adopted a very cautious and measured approach. Israel set two clear redlines for Syria and her allies, which if violated would lead to an Israeli military response. The first was the prevention of the transfer of sophisticated weapons to the hands of the Hezbollah from either Syria or Iran. The other was preventing the spill over of the Syrian civil war into the occupied Golan Heights or Israel proper. Since 2011, the IDF acted only sporadically, avoiding taking measures which might lead to unintended escalation and end in direct confrontation. The Syrian government and Hezbollah showed restraint on the occasions that Israel attacked convoys of weapons heading towards Hezbollah strongholds, and Israel used only limited force when stray bombs or rockets crossed the cease fire line in the Golan Heights.
Israeli motivation to deprive Hezbollah of acquiring sophisticated weapons is an obvious one considering that another round of hostilities between the two is more than possible
However, in the last few weeks, a sequence of events rattled not only Israel, but also Syria and Hezbollah. First, on Feb. 24, Israeli warplanes launched two raids near the Syrian-Lebanese border targeting a weapons convoy, which apparently carried missiles from Syria to its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah. Unlike previous air strikes this one occurred on the Lebanese side of the border, and in the proximity of the Lebanese Shiite movement’s stronghold in Baalbek.
Israeli motivation to deprive Hezbollah of acquiring sophisticated weapons is an obvious one considering that another round of hostilities between the two is more than possible. However, this puts Hezbollah in the difficult position of losing credibility if it does not retaliate to Israeli attacks. Israeli constructive ambiguity regarding her responsibility for targeting Hezbollah convoys has enabled the Lebanese organization to avoid taking counter measures without losing too much credibility, and without escalation into an all-out war. The decision to attack inside Lebanon might have been reached by Israel for operational reasons, but it resulted in increasing pressure on the Hezbollah to respond. And indeed, soon after the Israeli airstrike, Hezbollah fighters ambushed a group of Israeli paratroopers, who were patrolling in the Golan Heights not far from the town of Majdal Shams bordering Syria. The border skirmish left four Israeli paratroopers injured. This, in return, led to further Israeli airstrikes on army headquarters and artillery batteries within Syria, killing at least one Syrian soldier and injuring many more. For now, this tit for tat seems to have come to a halt. The question remains, how long before there is another flare up?
Israel’s next steps
The Israeli Defense Minister Ya’alon, in his customarily bold manner, made it clear that Israel “… will not tolerate any violation of our sovereignty and any attack on our soldiers and civilians, and will respond with determination and force against anyone who acts against us, in any place and at any time, as we did last night.” He may have conveniently forgotten that Israel is not the sovereign power in the Golan Heights. Nevertheless, and more importantly, he was ready on this occasion to let the world know that Israel was behind these air raids as means of deterrence. Ya’alon’s comments might be a departure from the ‘plausible deniability’ approach and a signal of readiness on Israel’s part to become more proactive in pursuing its objectives in Syria and Lebanon. The decision makers in Israel recognize that there is a slim chance that any outcome of the civil war in Syria will favor Israeli interests. In the meantime, however, Hezbollah, despite losing hundreds of its combatants in the fight in Lebanon, is acquiring valuable experience in the battlefield and is gradually becoming equipped with more advanced weaponry. The dilemma for Israel is whether to risk a rapid escalation or potentially facie a better equipped and experienced Hezbollah in a future theater of war. Neither of these options is appealing to Israeli leadership, and for now it would probably prefer to avoid confrontation. The situation is extremely volatile and any localised incident might lead to full blown hostilities reminiscent of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.
In this equation, one should also not forget that President Assad has little interest in opening a new front with Israel, while he is fighting for his survival. However, he might reach an erroneous conclusion that involving Israel in the civil war might divert attention from the internal conflict. This very dangerous scenario could lead to a war which would most likely not aid in strengthening Assad, but instead lead to more bloodshed. For forty years the truce along Golan Heights’ border between Syria and Israel was kept by both sides. Nonetheless, miscalculation by any of the sides involved, in favor of short term gains, might end in a high risk crisis and even war.
Next Test for Obama: Soothing the
Dennis Ross/Los Angeles Times/March 24, 2014
The kingdom will have a raft of complaints for the president when he visits Riyadh.
President Obama will visit Saudi Arabia this week. Based on what I hear from key Saudis, he is in for a rough reception. Rarely have the Saudis been more skeptical about the United States, and if the president is to affect Saudi behavior, it is important for him to understand why.
Fundamentally, the Saudis believe that America's friends and interests are under threat, and the U.S. response has ranged from indifference to accommodation. The Saudis see Iran trying to encircle them with its Quds Force active in Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and their own eastern province. The Saudis see an Iranian effort to shift the balance of forces in the region dramatically in Tehran's favor, whether by killing Sunni Muslims in Syria, mobilizing Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq, providing arms to the Houthi rebels in Yemen or fomenting unrest among Saudi Shiites.
Unlike the Israelis, who see the Iranian nuclear program as an existential threat, the Saudis perceive Iranian encirclement in existential terms. Like the Israelis, they are convinced Iran is determined to acquire nuclear arms but see it as an instrument in its pursuit of regional hegemony.
Fair or not, Saudi leaders believe the U.S. is seeking detente with Iran and is turning a blind eye to Tehran's troublemaking in the region. They see the Iranians using the nuclear program negotiations to buy time, and fear that the U.S. is so anxious to do a deal and avoid conflict with Iran that it refuses to compete with the Iranians in the region or to back U.S. friends as they do so. U.S. hesitancy in Syria, and particularly the perceived unwillingness to act militarily even though the president had established a "red line" on chemical weapons, has done much to feed this impression.
Unfortunately, the Saudis' view of American policy toward Egypt adds to their sense of disquiet. They see the Egyptian military involved in a life-and-death struggle with the Muslim Brotherhood and jihadi terrorists in the Sinai, both of whom are also perceived as a threat to Saudi Arabia. And yet they see the U.S. withholding Apache helicopters. They may not like the withholding of any weaponry from the Egyptian military, but withholding helicopters, which are effective as a counter-terror weapon, is inexplicable to the Saudis. This leads them to question whether the U.S. defines its interests in the region in a way that is compatible with Saudi Arabia's.
None of this means that the Saudis will turn away from the United States; Saudi leaders know that only the U.S. can safeguard Saudi Arabia against external threats. Nonetheless, the Saudis' disquiet can lead them to pursue policies that are destructive to U.S. interests -- and theirs.
A case in point is the Saudi offer to pay for the $2-billion to $3-billion arms package Egypt is seeking from the Russians. At a time when Putin needs to pay a price for flouting international norms in Crimea, this is hardly the time to be offering funds for Russian arms. Even from their own perspective, how can the Saudis possibly hope to persuade Vladimir Putin about the high costs of backing Syrian President Bashar Assad if they are going to pay for the Egyptian arms request? Obama should make this point with King Abdullah.
Unfortunately, insecurity often leads to self-destructive policies, and the Saudis and Egyptians are signaling the Obama administration that they will go their own way if they can't count on us. The fact that Obama added Saudi Arabia to his itinerary indicates that he is aware of the problem. But given the depth of the Saudi doubts, the president will be unlikely to succeed if he offers only words of reassurance.
Instead, he needs to take the concerns head-on. That does not require him to accept Saudi complaints. However, he needs to show that he has no illusions about the Iranians, spelling out that we know what the Quds Force is doing and the steps the U.S. will to take to counter it. For example, intercepting clandestine Iranian arms shipments would show we mean what we say.
Imagine the effect on the Saudis and others if it had been the U.S. and not Israel that intercepted the Klos C ship this month carrying Iranian weapons destined for the Gaza Strip. Few things would more clearly demonstrate to the Saudis that we will not allow nuclear negotiations with Iran to prevent us from countering Iran's de-stabilizing actions in the region.
Egypt and Syria will be harder nuts to crack. But focusing on our common strategic objectives is a starting point: preventing Egypt from becoming a failed state, ensuring that jihadis cannot gain footholds in Egypt or Syria, and stopping the genocide in Syria. Perhaps, on Egypt -- where the Saudis cannot afford to be Egypt's ATM forever -- the president could offer to lift the hold on key weapons in return for the Saudis using their influence to get Egypt to finalize an agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
The president will likely have difficult discussions in Riyadh. Understanding, however, that his hosts will be looking for actions and not just good words may yet make them productive.
**Dennis Ross is the counselor and William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute. Previously, he served as a senior Middle East advisor to President Obama.
U.S. 'Disappointed' by Saudi Denial of
Jerusalem Post Reporter Visa
Naharnet Newsdesk 26 March 2014/The White House said Tuesday it is "very disappointed" that Saudi Arabia has denied a Jerusalem Post reporter's visa to cover President Barack Obama's visit to the kingdom later this week. Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said the White House made clear to the Saudis the importance that the reporter have access to cover the trip. Rhodes said reporters' affiliation should not count against their ability to do their job. The White House Correspondents' Association said Michael Wilner was the only reporter who signed up to cover Obama's trip who was denied a visa. Obama is due to arrive in Saudi Arabia Friday for meetings with King Abdullah following the president's three-country trip to Europe.
Source/Agence France PresseAssociated Press.