April 12/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 24,13-35. Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, "What are you discussing as you walk along?" They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?" And he replied to them, "What sort of things?" They said to him, "The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see." And he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures. As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?" So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, "The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!" Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Free Opinions
Algiers Terror Ghazwa: It is a global war with Terror, in different battlefields.By Walid Phares. March/07
Drive for the International Tribunal Launched in the Security Council.Dar Al-Hayat. March 12/07

Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources for April 12/07
Saniora Puts International Tribunal in U.N. Hands-Naharnet

Russia: Lebanon parliament opposition is short-sighted-Ya Libnan
Hizbullah Claims its Lebanese Opponents Are Armed by U.S.-Naharnet
Lebanon's Siniora asks UN to set up Hariri court-Washington Post
Geagea Vows to Confront Nasrallah's Global Scheme-Naharnet
Legislators Appeal Anew for Parliament Session-Naharnet
Opposition Has No Strategy Following Nasrallah's Speech
ANALYSIS-Lebanon crisis could lead to two governments-Reuters
Crisis Cripples Some Businesses While Others Flourish-Naharnet
Israel and Hizbullah in Court Confrontation-Naharnet
S. Arabia Urging Iran, Syria to Cooperate with International Community-Naharnet
Forget Pelosi. What about Syria?Los Angeles Times
Lebanon,s Hezbollah: US is waging covert war against us-Ya Libnan
US lawmaker ready to visit Iran after Syria trip-Middle East Times
IMF Approves First Funding For Lebanon At $77 Million-World Bank Group
Saudi tells Iran, Syria don't count on us if you don,t cooperate-Ya Libnan
Suicide bombers use Syria as gateway to
LEBANON: Political crisis hampering post-war reconstruction-Reuters
Germany pledges development aid to Syria-World Peace Herald
UK foreign policy hits relief, says Oxfam-Financial Times

This is an example of Iranian money and propaganda for Hizbollah via funding Western Journalists to write pro Hizbollah pieces. The Iranian money campaign has penetrated European, Canadian and American media. This is a clear example.
April 10, 2007-Lebanonwire
US 'in covert war against Hezbollah'
Clancy Chassay in Beirut, Guardian
Washington is waging a covert war against Hezbollah, according to the militant group, which accuses the US administration of arming anti-Hezbollah militias and seeking to undermine the Lebanese army in moves that could plunge the country back into civil war. "[The US vice president] Dick Cheney has given orders for a covert war against Hezbollah... there is now an American programme that is using Lebanon to further its goals in the region," Sheikh Naim Qasim, Hezbollah's deputy secretary general, told the Guardian in an interview in a safe house deep in Beirut's southern suburbs.
The accusation follows reports in the US and British media that the CIA has been authorised to take covert action against the militant Shia group, which receives substantial military backing from Iran, as part of wider strategy by the Bush administration to prevent the spread of Iranian influence in the region.
According to the reports, US intelligence agencies are authorised to provide "non-lethal" funding to anti-Hezbollah groups in Lebanon and to activists who support the western-backed government of Fouad Siniora.
But Hezbollah accused the Lebanese government of arming groups across the country. "This happens with the knowledge of the prime minister and is facilitated by the security forces under his command," said Sheikh Qasim. The Bush administration recently set aside $60m (£30m) to fund the interior ministry's internal security force, which has almost doubled in size to 24,000 troops. Sheikh Qasim said there was a growing anti-Hezbollah bias in the security services. "The internal security forces have not succeeded in playing a balanced role ... The sectarian issue is very delicate when it comes to the security services."
Cabinet minister Ahmed Fatfat told the Los Angeles Times late last year that the increase in interior ministry personnel was to counter the growing influence of Iran and its Shia ally in Lebanon.
Earlier this year, in his state of the union address, George Bush accused Hezbollah of "seeking to undermine Lebanon's legitimately elected government".
Sheikh Qasim rejected the accusation, claiming Washington had scuppered attempts by the Lebanese government and the Hezbollah-led opposition to reach a compromise. "We think that if it wasn't for America's interference, we would have resolved the issue of participating in the government a long time ago," he said. "America is forcing the government forces to prolong this crisis, because they want a price for it ... They want to tie Lebanon into negotiations that benefit Israel and their plan for a new Middle East." The political standoff in Beirut had revolved around an opposition demand for veto power over key cabinet decisions, including an international tribunal to try suspects for the assassination of the former prime minister Rafik Hariri.
But in a speech at the weekend Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said he had given up hope of reaching a compromise with the government. He said the only way out of the crisis was through a referendum or early elections. Sheikh Qasim said Hezbollah did not rule out another confrontation with Israel this summer and confirmed that the group was rearming: "We are prepared for the possibility of another adventure or the demand of American policy that might push the IDF [Israeli Defence Force] in that direction."

Saniora Puts International Tribunal in U.N. Hands
Prime Minister Fouad Saniora has handed over to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon a memorandum urging the world body to take measures to create the international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes.
Justice Minister Charles Rizk said Saniora's memo, which was presented to U.N. special coordinator in Lebanon Geir Pederson late Tuesday, was accompanied by a letter updating Ban on the latest developments over the tribunal issue in Lebanon.
Lebanese media said the memo contained the text of a second petition signed by 70 lawmakers asking the U.N. to help set up the court.
They said deputy House Speaker Farid Makari submitted the petition to Saniora hours before his meeting with Pederson.
In remarks to the daily An Nahar published on Wednesday, Rizk said that the Lebanese should not be misled into believing that Saniora's request calls for implementation of Chapter 7 of the U.N charter. Chapter 7 spares the government the need to approve the international tribunal in parliament.
Rizk said the memo came after failure to reach a compromise over creation of the court. He said the memorandum asked the U.N. Security Council to "take any necessary measure in line with international laws." Rizk, however, stressed that the government will keep the doors open for further efforts aimed at approval of the court in accordance with the Lebanese constitution. The memo came one week after 70 majority lawmakers presented a similar message to Ban requesting the Security Council to take "all alternative measures" to guarantee the establishment of the tribunal. Beirut, 11 Apr 07, 09:44

Hizbullah Claims its Lebanese Opponents Are Armed by U.S.
The U.S. government is waging a "covert war" against Hizbullah by arming militias in Lebanon opposed to the group, Hizbullah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem said in comments published Wednesday.
In an interview with Britain's Guardian daily from a safe house in Beirut's southern suburbs, Qassem also did not rule out a new conflict between Hizbullah fighters and Israel. U.S. Vice President "Dick Cheney has given orders for a covert war against Hizbullah," Qassem was quoted as saying. "There is now an American program that is using Lebanon to further its goals in the region." The newspaper cited published reports saying U.S. intelligence agencies are authorized to provide "non-lethal" funding to anti-Hizbullah groups in Lebanon and to activists who support the government of Premier Fouad Saniora.
However, Sheikh Qassem accused Saniora's government of going further and arming groups across Lebanon.
"This happens with the knowledge of the prime minister and is facilitated by the security forces under his command," Qassem was quoted as saying.
The Guardian said the U.S. administration had earmarked 60 million dollars to bolster the Lebanese interior ministry's internal security forces, which Qassem described as increasingly biased against Hizbullah. "The internal security forces have not succeeded in playing a balanced role... The sectarian issue is very delicate when it comes to the security services," he said.
Qassem charged that Washington had thwarted attempts by the Lebanese government and the Hizbullah-led opposition to reach a compromise over an ongoing political crisis. "We think that if it wasn't for America's interference, we would have resolved the issue of participating in the government a long time ago," he said. "America is forcing the government forces to prolong this crisis, because they want a price for it," he charged. "They want to tie Lebanon into negotiations that benefit Israel and their plan for a new Middle East."The opposition is staging an open-ended sit-in outside Saniora's offices in downtown Beirut and has vowed to maintain its protest aimed at toppling the prime minister until the formation of a national unity cabinet.
Qassem also said Hizbullah did not rule out a new confrontation with Israel this summer like the 34-day war last July and August.
"We are prepared for the possibility of another adventure or the demand of American policy that might push the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) in that direction," he said.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 11 Apr 07, 13:19

Geagea Vows to Confront Nasrallah's Global Scheme
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea lashed out at Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah Tuesday, accusing him of "cheating" the Lebanese and blocking the formation of a capable state. Geagea, addressing a news conference, also accused Nasrallah of trying to carry out an agenda aimed at creating a global Islamic state that contradicts with the essence of pluralist Lebanon. "We will not allow either Hizbullah or any other power to control our destiny and our children's destiny," Geagea announced in an apparent response to a pledge of a half century of Hizbullah influence that Nasrallah made in a speech Sunday. Addressing Nasrallah, Geagea said: "you are not allowing the rise of the state, you are blocking our march … a capable state cannot rise if it is surrounded by armed militias.""We don't want armed factions alongside the state any more. We want the state. The state cannot rise if it is surrounded by armed groups," he stressed.
Geagea's 80-minute conference focused on countering minutes of Nasrallah's address that has provoked angry reaction and criticism from leaders of the March 14 majority alliance that backs Premier Fouad Saniora's government. The capable Lebanese state, Geagea said, "will certainly rise. We and our allies believe in this state … we are facing a problem today, but in any minute you will notice that the problem ceased to exist."
Hizbullah's target, according to Geagea, is not to liberate the Israeli-occupied Shebaa farms of south Lebanon that the Saniora government is seeking to place under United Nations supervision pending demarcation of the borders with Syria. "You want to liberate the whole of Palestine and throw the Jews in the sea. You want to push the Americans out of all Muslim lands. You want to liberate the Balkan province … We are not affiliated with this scheme," Geagea told Nasrallah. "You have no right to take the Lebanese people hostage to carry out your strategy. The Lebanese state exists, the Lebanese entity exists and you will not be able to drag the Lebanese people into war," he added. "No one can impose on us what we don't want. No one can impose on us strategies or ideologies," Geagea announced.
Regarding Nasrallah's call for a referendum to allow the people have a say in a settlement to the ongoing political crisis, Geagea asked the Hizbullah chief: "Did you ask for the people's opinion when you staged war on July 12 and caused the death of over 1.000 Lebanese and the destruction of the country?"
He was referring to last summer's 34-day war with Israel which started on July 12 when Hizbullah fighters kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border attack. Geagea accused Hizbullah's ally, House Speaker Nabih Berri, and Syrian-backed President Emile Lahoud of blocking bills adopted by the Saniora government in order to prevent state rise. "You want a return of the Syrian hegemony era and this will not happen," Geagea told Nasrallah.
He attacked the Hizbullah chief for saying that the international tribunal designed to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes was to announce ready-made verdicts. "These are mere allegations that lack proof. You are cheating the Lebanese...We want reforms," Geagea said. He accused the General Security department, which the majority says is headed by a pro-Hizbullah general, of permitting the entry of "trucks loaded with weapons" from Syria to rearm Hizbullah and other pro-Syrian groups in Lebanon. Geagea said it was not up to Nasrallah to say if the Saniora government is constitutional or not. "Only parliament can judge the government and your ally (Berri) does not convene it." Beirut, 10 Apr 07, 14:38

Opposition Has No Strategy Following Nasrallah's Speech
The latest speech by Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has allegedly left the Lebanese opposition with no "tactics" given that it believed the rival camp was confused. Ibrahim Bayram wrote in the daily An Nahar on Wednesday that the Hizbullah-led opposition was pleased to stay in a "reaction" position because the pro-government camp was now forced to hunt for speedy exits that would guarantee its stay in power and ability to maneuver.
He said the opposition has "practically no immediate tactics as long as it sees its foe confused," particularly after Prime Minister Fouad Saniora put the international tribunal in U.N. hands. Bayram wondered whether the ongoing political crisis has entered a new phase following Nasrallah's fiery speech on Sunday which drew sharp criticism from across the pro-government camp. Bayram said that House Speaker Nabih Berri has run out of time to find a settlement to the crisis. He said that task has now moved to other Opposition parties, including Hizbullah, after Berri exhausted all efforts aimed at resolving the stalemate. Bayram said Nasrallah's Sunday speech was "full of clear and discreet messages." "But what is certain in his speech is the decisive factor between the two phases of the Lebanon crisis," Bayram added. He said Nasrallah's address has "propelled forward a new political speech in the political life." Nasrallah has attacked the international tribunal saying it is designed to announce ready-made verdicts against certain suspects in the 2005 murder of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes. He said four generals jailed in connection with the crime were "political prisoners" in Lebanon.
Bayram said that news circulated by Opposition circles spoke of a launch of a political-media campaign under the title "ending oppression" to demand a settlement to the four jailed generals. He said Nasrallah's words were seen by many as an indication of a beginning of a conflict against the "police state" which the opposition believes was established when Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government took office in the summer of 2005.
The question, Bayram concluded, which remains to be asked was whether Nasrallah's speech shed light on the Opposition's political reading "of an expired period or another yet to begin?" Beirut, 11 Apr 07, 07:43

Legislators Appeal Anew for Parliament Session
Pro-government legislators gathered in parliament for the fourth straight Tuesday urging Speaker Nabih Berri to convene parliament to ratify the international tribunal that would try suspects in ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's murder and related crimes. MP Akram Shehayyeb urged Berri "to attend," adding that failure to hold a session would lead to "negative consequences which would not be in the interest of Lebanon." About the petition handed to the U.N. requesting that the world body establish the international court, Shehayyeb said the move "was the only way to protect the tribunal."
Last Tuesday, legislature Saad Hariri delivered the petition which was signed by 70 lawmakers to the U.N. special coordinator in Lebanon, Geir Pederson. Addressed to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, it requested that "all alternative measures" be taken by the Security Council to establish the tribunal. "It is a duty to open parliament doors," Shehayyeb said. But Hizbullah MP Hussein Hajj Hassan ruled out a session before the formation of a "legitimate and constitutional government." "If they (March 14 Forces) are able to form a cabinet through coexistence (among various sects) then let it approve as much bills as it wants," then refer them to the president and finally to parliament, said Hajj Hassan. Beirut, 10 Apr 07, 11:51

Israel and Hizbullah in Court Confrontation
Eight months after the war between Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon the two foes took their battle to the courtroom on Tuesday as three captured Shiite militants fought for legal protection as prisoners of war. Israel is seeking to brand the militants captured by its troops in southern Lebanon as "illegal combatants," the same legal classification used by the United States to deny Guantanamo Bay inmates due process in American courts.
The militants' Israeli lawyers, however, say they deserve to be protected by the same international treaties that apply to prisoners of war.
At a preliminary hearing on Tuesday, the defense argued that Hizbullah acted as an agent of the Lebanese government while the prosecution countered that the group did not reflect Lebanese government policy. As enemy combatants the three captives would face murder charges and the prospects of long stints in Israeli jails. As prisoners of war, they would be sent back to Lebanon as soon as a prisoner exchange can be agreed.
The three men -- Mohammed Adelhamid Srour, 20, Hussein Suleiman, 23, and Maher Hassan Kurani, 30 -- were captured on August 4 in the villages of Aita al-Shaab and Shihine, two Lebanese border villages on the front lines. They are being charged with attempted murder for setting an ambush for Israeli soldiers and "membership in a terrorist organization." Suleiman is accused of aiding in the capture of two Israeli soldiers in July, an incident that sparked the month long conflict last year. "They are prisoners of war because they were combatants who took part in a war between two countries, Israel and Lebanon," defense lawyer Smadar Ben Nathan told Agence France Presse.
"Lebanon did not send its own troops to the south to protect it against the Israeli army but instead relied on Hizbullah. It thus represented the Lebanese armed forces." Israel's justice ministry sees things differently. Hizbullah, it says, is an "illegal terrorist militia" which is not in any way a regular army.
"The system has decided they should be tried as people who commit crimes against the state of Israel," justice ministry spokesman Moshe Cohen told AFP. "They can not enjoy the privileges of prisoners of war because they don't abide by rules of engagement. They shoot from within civilian homes," he said. "You have to pay the price for what you did." Defense lawyers say they hope that wartime declarations by Israeli and Lebanese leaders will show that Israel entered into a conflict with another country, a war to which international law applies. "On the day that the two Israeli soldiers were taken -- last July 12 -- Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accused Lebanon of an attack against the state of Israel," the Srour's lawyer said. Lebanese president Emile Lahoud, meanwhile, "constantly said during the war that Hezbollah belongs to the national resistance and is complementary to the army." Defense attorneys also argue that the captured Hizbullah militants deserve the same treatment as Israeli soldiers held in Lebanon. "I don't think that anybody (in Israel) disputes the fact that the two Israeli soldiers are prisoners of war. This is why the government must give (Hezbollah militants) this same status," Ben Nathan said.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 10 Apr 07, 18:08

Crisis Deepens Following Nasrallah's Speech
The ongoing political deadlock continues in Lebanon following Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's fiery speech in which he ruled out any chances for a settlement into the four-month-old stalemate. The daily As Safir said Tuesday failure to maintain dialogue between pro-government MP Saad Hariri and opposition House Speaker Nabih Berri to end the impasse has renewed fears over security. "Uncalculated security developments are likely to happen," As Safir wrote on the front page, even though, it said, Nasrallah had reasserted that Hizbullah would not allow itself to be dragged into civil war. Nasrallah has given up hope of reaching a Lebanon deal and said in a Sunday address that the "dialogue is deadlocked." An Nahar's Rosana Bou Monsef wrote, in turn, that Nasrallah used the U.S.'s "shock and awe" tactic, a strategy technically known as rapid dominance. Nasrallah also criticized the U.N.-backed international tribunal saying it is designed to announce ready-made verdicts against certain suspects in the 2005 murder of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes. Bou Monsef said that some states like Russia will seek to employ Nasrallah's position by saying that the establishment of the court will "further shake Lebanon's stability." Beirut, 10 Apr 07, 07:30

UK foreign policy hits relief, says Oxfam
By Alan Beattie, World Trade Editor
Published: April 11 2007
Britain’s falling popularity in many Islamic and developing countries is damaging British charities’ ability to help with disaster relief and reconstruction in war zones, according to Oxfam.
The UK-based international development charity says it was forced to turn down British government funding for disaster relief in Lebanon after last year’s Israeli-Lebanon conflict. It says its reputation would have been damaged by association with UK foreign policy, given the government’s failure to call for a ceasefire during the conflict. “The invasion of Iraq, and the government’s failure to stand up to all governments when they break international law and harm innocent people, have seriously damaged Britain’s capacity to be a force for good on the world stage,” said Oxfam’s director, Barbara Stocking.
The charity quoted an olive farmer in south Lebanon who said the destruction of his farm by Israeli bombardment had been aided by the UK’s refusal to back a ceasefire. “I’m aware the British people do not think the same as Tony Blair and the British government,” he was quoted as saying.
An Oxfam worker reported a 12-year-old boy pointing a toy gun and saying: “Why are you here? You want to hurt us. Britain is against us.”
The Foreign Office said it was up to each charity to assess what money it was prepared to take and where it was prepared to work.
Oxfam has spent £800,000 on disaster relief and reconstruction in Iraq since the invasion in 2003, and £1.2m in Lebanon since last July. The charity said the UK Department for International Development gave it £20.7m in total in 2005-06 – 9 per cent of its total net funding.
Other British-based charities have reported similar problems. Martin Kirk, head of advocacy at Save the Children UK, said anti-British sentiment had been rising rapidly in Lebanon, where the charity had been active since 1949. They had already stopped taking money from the US government because running clinics in areas controlled by Hizbollah would put its American employees at risk of prosecution under US anti-terrorism legislation, he said.
“The leakage from British foreign policy is more tenuous than for the US, but it is rapidly getting stronger,” said Mr Kirk.
In Afghanistan, a bomb was detonated outside the Oxfam and Save the Children UK offices in Kabul in November 2005. Oxfam has said it cannot work in Helmand province, in the south, partly because of the presence of British troops.
The British employers’ body, the CBI, says it has no evidence of a similar backlash against UK companies operating abroad.
Oxfam said Britain was far more popular in parts of Africa, such as Sierra Leone, where it sent in troops in 2000 to quell the civil war. But some African leaders have been increasingly critical of the Blair government.
Robert Mugabe, the embattled president of Zimbabwe, has portrayed Mr Blair as a neo-colonialist, while President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, once close to the British prime minister, has also distanced himself, partly as a reaction to Mr Blair’s support for the war in Iraq.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

Forget Pelosi. What about Syria?
U.S. isolation of Damascus rests in a misunderstanding of Syria's position in the Mideast.
By Robert Malley, ROBERT MALLEY, former special assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli affairs, is the International Crisis Group's Middle East program director.
April 11, 2007
UNDERTAKING HER first major diplomatic foray, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got an earful. As she met with Syrian President Bashar Assad, she came under immediate, stinging attack. The White House condemned her encounter as counterproductive, asserting that it undermined U.S. policy aimed at marginalizing a so-called pariah regime.
The charge is, on its face, absurd. The European Union's top diplomatic envoy just visited Syria. Assad attended the recent Arab League summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Republican and Democratic officials have been traveling to Damascus for months. The Syrian regime is no more isolated in the world than the Bush administration is embraced by it. But the fuss about Pelosi's perfectly legitimate visit obscured a far more intriguing question: What should be done about Syria?
Over the last several years, the consistent response from Israel and the United States has been: Ignore it. It is difficult to recall the last time Israel rejected an Arab invitation to negotiate — let alone the last time the U.S. actively encouraged it to do so — but in this case that is exactly what it has done.
Israel spurns Assad's calls to renew unconditional peace talks, claiming that the Syrian regime has no intention of concluding a peace deal and is merely seeking to lessen international pressure and shift attention away from the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria may wish to regain sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the argument goes, but it desperately wants to restore its hegemony over Lebanon. To engage Syria now would reward its support for groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, its attempts to destabilize Lebanon and its funneling of jihadists into Iraq. Seen in this light, a resumption of Israeli-Syrian negotiations is considered futile or, worse, damaging, an escape hatch for a regime that will respond only — if at all — to sustained pressure.
The arguments have merit, but the conclusion does not stand up to scrutiny. As any one visiting Damascus these days doubtless will notice, the regime is displaying a peculiar mix of supreme confidence and outright anxiety. Convinced that the regional tide is turning against the U.S. in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon, Syrian officials sense that any American attempt to destabilize their regime is a thing of the past.
Yet America's defeat is not necessarily Syria's victory. Sandwiched between civil strife in Iraq and Lebanon, facing increasing sectarian polarization throughout the region, losing political legitimacy at home and confronted with acute economic problems, the Syrian regime is eager for renewed domestic popularity and international investment. What better than a peace deal with Israel and recovery of the Golan Heights — with all the attendant diplomatic and economic benefits — most notably normalization with the West — to achieve those goals?
As for Syria's regional posture, this much can be said: Damascus will not cut ties with Hezbollah, break with Hamas or alienate Iran as the entry fare for peace negotiations. Syrian officials make clear that they will not forgo their few strategic cards ahead of a deal. But they are equally clear that a deal would change the entire regional picture — the country's alliances as well as its policies.
If, as Israeli and U.S. officials assert, the regime's priority is self-preservation, it is unlikely to sponsor militant groups, jeopardize its newfound status, destabilize the region or threaten nascent economic ties for the sake of ideological purity once an agreement has been reached. Israeli and U.S. demands will not be satisfied as preconditions to negotiations, but there is at the very least solid reason to believe that they would be satisfied as part of a final deal.
Even assuming that Washington and Jerusalem are right and that Syria is more interested in the process than in the outcome, what is the downside of testing the sincerity of its intentions? To the contrary, the mere sight of Israeli and Syrian officials sitting side by side would carry dividends, producing ripple effects in a region where popular opinion is moving away from acceptance of the Jewish state's right to exist, and putting Syrian allies that oppose a negotiated settlement in an awkward position. It has gone largely unnoticed, but Assad has been at pains to differentiate his position from that of his Iranian ally, emphasizing that Syria's goal is to live in peace with Israel, not to wipe it off the face of the Earth. That is a distinction worth exploiting, not ignoring.
Rigidly rebuffing Syria is a mistake fast on its way to becoming a missed opportunity. The U.S. says it wants to see real change from Damascus, and it takes pleasure in faulting visitors — Pelosi only the latest among them — for returning empty-handed. Syria's response is that it will continue to assist militant groups, maintain close ties to Iran and let the U.S. flounder in Iraq for as long as Washington maintains its hostile policy and blocks peace talks. It also could change all of the above should the U.S. change its stance. That's a message Pelosi can hear and one she can deliver, but not one she can do much about. Rather than engage in political theatrics, the president should listen.

Lebanon train bomb suspects on trial
11 April 2007
Beirut (dpa) - The trial of four Lebanese accused of attempting to bomb trains in Germany was adjourned in Beirut Wednesday after an eight-minute opening session - one of the shortest court hearings in the history of the Lebanese judicial system.
A Beirut court meanwhile issued arrest warrants for two other suspects - one detained in German custody, and one still at large.
"The court session was adjourned in eight minutes until April 18. I initially wanted it to be in May, but it was decided by the judge that way," defence lawyer Fawaz Zakariyeh told Deutsche Presse- Agentur dpa after the trial was adjourned.
"Beirut criminal court is not entitled to try the four suspects in Beirut because they were arrested in - and are all from - northern Lebanon. So their trial should be in the northern port city of Tripoli," he added.
The four main suspects are Jihad Hamad,22, Khaled al-Hajj Dib,19, Ayman Hawwa,22, and Khalil Bubu,23. They face up to 25 years in prison if convicted. A Judicial source told dpa that Bubu, also faces another trial for links to a bomb attack on a Lebanese army barracks last year. He is an electrician and the other three are students.
Meanwhile, a Beirut court issued arrest warrants for al-Hajj Dib's brothers Saddam, who remains at large, and Youssef Mohammed, who is custody in Germany, to try them in absentia. A judicial source said those tried in absentia would get tougher sentences if found guilty.
According to lawyer Zakariyeh, the atmosphere inside the court "was pleasant, and in accordance with the Lebanese judicial system the accused were allowed five minutes to speak to their family members after the court hearing was adjourned."
The head of the Beirut criminal court, Michel Abu Arraj, presided over the court along with three other judges.
Hamad, clad in a blue shirt and blue jeans, his hair cropped and with only a short beard, appeared relaxed and was smiling at his parents during the hearing. Only Bubu was wearing the long traditional Arab abbaya - an outfit that covers the whole body - and had a long beard, which reflects his religious background. The four accused arrived at the Lebanese Justice Palace in a closed armoured jail truck - accompanied by three black cars from the Lebanese special forces - from the central prison in Roumieh, 20 kilometres north-east of the capital.
Traffic near the Justice Palace was halted temporarily to allow the convoy to enter. No German officials were present in court, a German embassy source said. Judge Arraj had decided on March 5 to start the trial Wednesday after interrogating the four. Al-Hajj Dib's brother, Youssef Mohammed, was arrested in Germany last August on similar charges.
"The Lebanese judge will also be trying Youssef al-Hajj Dib in absentia, despite the fact that he is in a German jail," lawyer Fawaz Zakariyeh added.
Lebanon's general prosecutor, Said Mirza, has opposed transferring Lebanese suspects to Germany. They were "Lebanese citizens," he said, "their trial needs to take place here, and they must serve here any sentence they may be given."
Jihad Hamad had already confessed under judicial interrogation in March to having placed a suitcase containing explosives on a train in Germany in July last year. The bomb had been planted on a train from Aachen to Hamm, while another bomb was planted in a train heading from Moenchengladbach to Koblenz. Hamad was quoted during his interrogation as saying that his intentions had not been to kill people, "but to avenge any harm done to Muslims after the publication in Denmark of cartoons that were harmful to the Prophet Mohammed."
German federal police said the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in Western and some Arab media had been the "detonator" which pushed the alleged terrorists to organize a plot to bomb German trains last July 31.
The plan failed when the bombs concealed on the two regional trains did not explode because of faulty detonators.
Youssef al-Hajj Deeb and Jihad Hamad, the two main suspects, were said by Lebanese security sources to have been influenced by the late al-Qaeda chief in Iraq Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. DPA

Drive for the International Tribunal Launched in the Security Council
Randa Takieddin Al-Hayat - 11/04/07//
The drive for setting up an international tribunal to try those accused of assassinating former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri will begin before the term of President Jacque Chirac ends. Meanwhile, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah delivered on Sunday a speech that dashed all hopes to forge an internal Lebanese consensus on the establishment of this tribunal.
The setting up of the tribunal will be on the negotiating table during President Chirac's talks with Jordanian King Abdullah in the Elysée Palace today. King Abdullah headed to Paris to bid farewell to the outgoing French president. The tribunal will also be present on Thursday in Chirac's talks with South African President Thabo Mbeki, whose country is a Security Council heavyweight that has previously hindered the Security Council's resolution imposing sanctions on Iran. Syria, recognizing South Africa's weight in the council, has actively approached it diplomatically.
The French president, always a defender of the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon, had said that he hoped an international tribunal would be put in place before the end of his presidency. He preferred that it comes as a result of a Lebanese consensus. But, in case this becomes unfeasible, the solution would be to establish it under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, according to him.
After the hopes of the international community that Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri would call a session to approve the draft composition of the tribunal were frustrated, Nasrallah's address came to bury them completely. The message of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to the Security Council will launch the establishment of the tribunal under Chapter 7. This message is expected to be sent after the Council's presidential statement on Resolution 1701 that ordered the Israeli war on Lebanon to stop. Over this week and the next, France and its President will be pushing in the Security Council for the negotiations over the establishment of the tribunal to start. Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak's visit to his friend Chirac on April 16 will be very important, as France seeks the approval of two key Arab states - Egypt and Saudi Arabia- of the establishment of the tribunal.
Nasrallah's speech made things clear, and confirmed that there was no hope from negotiating with, or talking to, Berry, as the decision to reject the tribunal belonged to Hezbollah and was not for negotiation. There is no doubt that, when the negotiations on the establishment of the tribunal under Chapter 7 are launched in the Security Council, securing the nine votes necessary to approve it will be difficult. However, the reservations of states such as Russia, for example, will not turn into a 'veto', as Moscow said it would abstain from voting but nonetheless would not use the 'veto'. This came out in a meeting in Moscow between French presidential advisor Maurice Gourdault-Montagne and President Vladimir Putin's advisor in which the French official listened to Russia's reservations about the establishment of the tribunal, which linked the international tribunal to its own concerns over the international community's policy vis-à-vis Kosovo.
Ultimately, in spite of the major difficulties, both Chirac and US President George Bush will press strongly for the establishment of the tribunal because it is a guarantee of the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon. As the Russians were told, retreating from the tribunal means putting Lebanon once again in Syria's grip, and this is unacceptable at this moment. Resolution 1559 evicted Syria's military forces from Lebanon, and the international tribunal in the Security Council will be a deterrent to those who want to return, once again, to the situation that preceded the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri.
The date to launch the drive for the tribunal in the Security Council has approached, even though the complexities of the current regional situation have made it more difficult than before the adoption of Resolution 1559. Nonetheless, the international community cannot allow the return of the Syrian hegemony over Lebanon - even though Israel proved that it prefers the Syrian control to the Siniora government. After all, all the information coming from Israeli officials makes it clear to France and the US that Israel is more comfortable with a Syrian regime controlling Hezbollah than with a democratic system where the Lebanese can live a decent life.