LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 24,35-48. 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. While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you."But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have."And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them. He said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. And he said to them, "Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.
A divorce that Nasrallah cannot afford.By Michael Young. April 13/07
The battle over the Hariri court threatens to tear Lebanon apart-Daily Star April 13/07
Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources for April 13/07
Israel's Parliament Reviews Unofficial Israel-Syria Talks-Voice of America
Syrian addresses Israeli lawmakers-AP
Syria says it's ready for peace talks-ImediNews
Suicide bomber kills eight at Iraqi parliament. AP
Bush condemns Green Zone attack-AP
Lebanon marks civil war anniversary amid political, sectarian tensions-International Herald Tribune
Unofficial envoy: Syria, Israel ignored peace bid-MSNBC
Pelosi's delegation to Syria -- who said what to whom?The Jewish Journal of greater
Analysis: Don't underestimate Syria's military-Jerusalem Post
Bombing at Iraqi parliament kills 8- AP
Assad-Offered Peace with Israel Cuts off Hizbullah Link-Naharnet
U.N. Chief Studying Saniora Letter on Tribunal-Naharnet
False Bomb Alert Interrupts Classes at Beirut's Hawaii University-Naharnet
Siniora: Nasrallah's path leads to splitting up Lebanon.Ya Libnan
Report: Hezbollah preparing for summer war-United Press International
NGOs Voice Concern About Children's Plight to U.N. Envoy-Naharnet
Trial of Lebanese Men Accused in Germany Bombing Adjourned-Naharnet
Hizbullah Claims its Lebanese Opponents Are Armed by U.S.-Naharnet
Political Posturing Hinders Rebuilding Efforts in Lebanon-BBSNews
Analysis: Syria is not a US enemy-United Press International
White House opposes legislators plan to visit Iran-Xinhua
Ban to visit Italy, Switzerland, Qatar and Syria-Monsters and Critics.com
UN chief studying Lebanonís PM letter on Hariri tribunal-Ya Libnan
Northern Israel Comes Back To Life After Lebanon War-All Headline News
The Truth About Syria-Washington Post
Latest News Reports From The Daily Star for April 12/07
Solide marks second anniversary of sit-in
Eight months after war, Lebanese wounded and displaced continue to look to non-governmental sources for aid
Lebanese opposition is pushing too hard - key Russian legislator
MPs trade latest versions of usual accusations
Qassem: US waging 'covert war' on Hizbullah
UN envoy on children and conflict meets with Siniora
European Parliament delegation to arrive Thursday
Orthodox patriarch makes stopover in Beirut
Sayyed lashes out at Eido, Geagea
Murr denies proposing military government
Qabbani touts unifying role of education
Suspects in botched German train bombings make court appearance
The World Council THE INTERNATIONAL for the Cedars Revolution LEBANESE COMMITTEE
April 10, 2007
On the Necessity of Mandating an international Tribunal Under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter To try the Terror assassinations in Lebanon
H.E. Ban Ki Moon
Secretary General of the United Nations
As we congratulate you for your election as Secretary General of the United Nations, especially at this critical conjuncture of international relations and the challenges of Terrorism, human rights and development, we hereby urge you to address the current crisis in Lebanon in the most pressing manner. We, the representatives of the World Council of the Cedars Revolution (WCCR), an INGO which has been working with the United Nations for years to reestablish the sovereignty and freedom of Lebanon and implement all relevant UN resolutions, are submitting the following urgent memorandum:
Since September 2004, the Security Council of the United Nations has engaged itself in responding to the rapidly developing crisis in Lebanon and has since issued a number of binding resolutions to address the threats to international peace and civilian population in that country. We, the World Council of the Cedars Revolution, representing NGOs inside Lebanon and throughout the Lebanese Diaspora in 23 countries around the world have been assisting the UN with advice and consulting periodically with your office and many missions at the Security Council on these issues since the UN initiatives have begun. Thus, and as we witness the deterioration of the situation in general and the growing challenges to the UN process of stabilizing Lebanon, we first draw your attention to the threats aiming at blocking the judicial procedures, with its consequences then urge you to take the appropriate actions:
1. Blocking UN judicial process
In September 2004, the Security Council adopted UNSCR 1559 asking the Syrian occupation forces, other military forces including the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Terrorist networks training in Lebanon, to pull out from the Lebanese territories. The Resolution asked for the disarming of all remaining militias, which includes Hezbollah's armed forces and other militias present on Lebanese soil. Such a historic resolution, voted by a strong majority in the council and reinforced by a Security Council Presidential letter signed unanimously during the same month, has put the two demands under international law and UN responsibility: Withdrawal of foreign forces and disarming the militias. Hence, all subsequent obstruction and violence in response to UNSCR 1559 falls under special responsibility of the UN and its main arm of defense: Chapter 7.
The forces targeted by the resolution for compliance, which included the Syrian Government, the Iranian Government, the pro-Syrian Government of Lebanon at the time, Hezbollah's militia and other armed groups, declared themselves openly opposed to UNSCR 1559 and stated that they will do all they can to stop the implementation of the resolution. Lebanese politicians who opposed the occupation were targeted with Terrorist action. Hence, Minister Marwan Hamade was the victim of a car bomb in the fall of 2004. On February 14, 2005, former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and many of his companions were killed by a Terrorist attack in downtown Beirut. On February 15, 2005, the United Nations Security Council issued a statement calling on the Lebanese government to "bring to justice those who perpetrated, organized and sponsored this heinous terrorist act ." On April 7, 2007 UNSCR 1595 established an International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) into the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri calling it a "terrorist act". From that moment the UN became responsible for bringing the Terrorists to justice.
The Terrorist forces, regimes and organizations responded to the UN between July and December 2005 by murdering more Lebanese citizens and politicians, including George Hawi, Samir Qassir and Jebran Tueni. UNSCR 1636, voted on October 31, 2005, and UNSCR 1644 adopted on December 15, 2005 moved the investigation under Chapter Seven. But the Terror war against Lebanon's civil society didn't stop despite the UN measures. Assassinations, including of Minister Pierre Gemayel during the fall of 2006, intimidations and obstruction of the judicial process are still aimed at crumbling the international Tribunal. Two years of sabotaging of the international justice process has submitted Lebanon to escalating violence and security set backs.
In the last few weeks, a dangerous development threatens to block the establishment of the court, developing grave risks for current and future Terrorism against Lebanon's civil society and UN legitimacy in international relations. As detailed in the attached memo, signed by the majority of the democratically elected Lebanese Parliament, and addressed to the UN Secretary General, two main allies of the Syrian occupation, the isolated President of the Republic Emile Lahoud and the minority-speaker of the Parliament, Amal Leader Nabih Berri are now trying to block the process of establishing the tribunal. While the majority-backed Lebanese Government of Prime Minister Seniora is moving forward with the UN sponsored process, and the majority in Parliament endorses it, the pro-Syrian political minority in the country, is obstructing it. It is to note that the pro-Syrian politicians are backed by armed militias, still rejecting UNSCR 1559.
2. Dangers to international Peace
M. Secretary General, if the international tribunal is not formed immediately and if legal action continues to be obstructed this will have incalculable consequences on regional and international peace and security. For if the UN cannot protect a civil society from Terrorism targeting its legitimate leaders, the Terrorist attacks will continue against other leaders, Government officials and legislators. Not stopping the murders via the Tribunal will lead to collective murders and mass killings, under UN watch. More clearly, if the international court is obstructed in the assassination of Hariri, Tueni, Gemayel and the other victims, future assassinations taking place across international borders will create mayhem in international relations. The tribunal is a response to Terror attacks condemned by the UNSCR. The UN responsibility is directly engaged in enforcing Peace and security in Lebanon. Failing to quickly move forward with the tribunal will crumble both the credibility of the UN and its legitimacy at a critical time in world politics, and will open the door to many similar Terror attacks against regional and world leaders. The precedent cannot be allowed.
3. The appropriate actions:
Hence, the WCCR and its branches in many countries around the world, in consultation with many Lebanese NGOs call on you to implement the following immediate steps:
a) Acknowledge reception of the Memo sent to your office by the members of Lebanon's Parliamentary majority and invite their leaders for a consultation session at the Security Council.
b) Call for an emergency meeting of the Security Council and issue a resolution to rapidly establish the International Tribunal under Chapter Seven, in view of the imminent threats against Lebanon civil society and its democratically elected institutions.
c) Establish a special protection and execution force for the Tribunal under direct control of the UNIFIL.
d) Meanwhile, extend a permanent UN security protection to the members of the Lebanese Parliament who have signed the Memo addressed to the UN. This protection must be extended till the Terror crimes are solved and the perpetrators brought to justice.
The World Council for the Cedars Revolution and the International Lebanese Committee for the Implementation of UNSCR 1559 remain at the disposal of your office and the Security Council for any assistance and advice,
**Memo prepared on behalf of the WCCR by Professor Walid Phares, General Counsel to the WCCR and ILC 1559 and Senior Fellow, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Washington, DC
False Bomb Alert Interrupts Classes at Beirut's Hawaii University
Classes were suspended at Hawaii University in Beirut's Hamra commercial thoroughfare Thursday after an unidentified person telephoned police to report an alleged bomb is planted in the campus. The campus and its surrounding were evacuated as police sappers searched for the alleged explosive device, but it turned out that the call was a "hoax," a police officer told Naharnet. The university resumed services after a two-hour interruption and police launched an investigation to determine who made the telephone call, the officer added. Police arrested nine students at various Beirut schools two weeks ago for making similar calls with the aim of interrupting classes to avoid exams. eirut, 12 Apr 07, 14:21
Saniora: Nasrallah's Path Leads to Division
Prime Minister Fouad Saniora snapped back at Hizbullah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, saying the path he recently chose would only lead to splitting up Lebanon. "Saying that 'come talk to us when you have a state' will lead to a path we all know, and that is the path to division, the path to Lebanon's decline, the path to no state," Saniora on Wednesday told a meeting of Arab finance authorities in Beirut. "A state cannot be established without the support of all the Lebanese regardless of their views and beliefs," Saniora added. "A state is built by respecting constitutional institutions," he added.
Nasrallah gave a fiery speech on Sunday in which he attacked Saniora and ruled out any chances for a settlement into the ongoing political crisis.
Meanwhile, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri announced that he no more intends to launch fresh initiatives designed to resolve the stalemate.
Berri said in remarks published by the daily As Safir on Thursday that he will inform some concerned Arab countries of his stand. Beirut, 12 Apr 07, 08:38
Assad-Offered Peace with Israel Cuts off Hizbullah Link
Syrian-American negotiator Ibrahim Suleiman said Thursday Syrian President Bashar Assad was ready for peace with Israel in six months that could cut his links with Lebanon's Hizbullah and allow him to fight terrorism.
"Since 1948 Israeli leaders have said they are ready to talk peace anytime and anywhere," The Israeli daily Haaretz quoted Suleiman as telling reporters at a news conference after addressing the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "Syria right now is ready to speak peace."
"I challenged the Israeli government to answer President Bashar [Assad]'s call for peace and sit down together," he added. "I think it can happen in six months."David Baker, an official in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office, said in response: "The position of the Israeli government remains the same. The Syrian government is not pursuing peace but is merely posturing."
"Syria continues to be more interested in providing safe haven to the 11 terrorist groups it is harboring in Damascus and fomenting terror against Israel wherever it can," Baker added. The peace plan drafted during the unofficial Syrian-Israeli negotiations would allow Syria to "cut itself off from the Hizbullah and join the global struggle against terror", Suleiman told the committee on Thursday.
Suleiman appeared before the committee alongside Alon Liel, former director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The two briefed the committee members on the secret, unofficial talks they conducted, and on the understandings they reached for a peace agreement between Israel and Syria.
The centerpiece of the "non-paper" they drafted is a proposal to turn part of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in 1981, into a "peace park." Syria would be the sovereign in all of the Golan, but Israelis could visit the park freely, without visas.
In addition, territory on both sides of the border would be demilitarized along a 4:1 ratio in Israel's favor.
Liel, who represented the unofficial Israeli delegation during the negotiations, told the committee that he had informed the ministry of the talks and that Suleiman had met with Israeli inspectors over the issue.
Suleiman asked the Israeli government to allow him to meet with 12 Syrian citizens who are currently serving time in Israeli prisons - one Syrian who crossed the border and was captured, and 12 Golan Heights Druze who also hold Syrian citizenship.
Suleiman raised the issue during the committee hearing, and several Members of Knesset promised to ensure that he could meet with the Syrian who crossed the border before the end of his visit Friday afternoon. Suleiman said such a meeting would be seen as a gesture of goodwill by Damascus.
Suleiman is the first Syrian to address lawmakers in Israel. On his way out of the meeting, Suleiman said he was very glad to have come to Israel.
"I am hoping that the officials in Israel and the officials in Syria will start meeting with one another and that we, as a private channel, should disappear now," he said. "My presence here will make everything useful."
Suleiman said he has no doubts that Assad is genuine in his desire for peace, as are the Syrian people. He said that in previous peace talks between Israel and Syria, 80 percent of the issues in dispute were resolved, adding that in his opinion the Shepherdstown talks in 2000 would not have broken down had the contents of the emerging agreement not been leaked to the media.
The invitation to Suleiman was extended so the panel could assess his claims to ties with top figures in the Damascus regime. Israel, which has acknowledged his talks with Liel but distanced itself from them, has questioned the quality of his contacts.
Suleiman, who landed in Israel on Tuesday, has told the MKs about a committee appointed by Assad to coordinate the talks with Israel, which is headed by one of his army generals with whom Suleiman has regular contact. In addition, he relayed messages he received from Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem and other Syrian officials. In the hearing, Liel disclosed the contents of the reports he allegedly gave to officials in the Foreign Ministry regarding his progress in the talks. Liel also reported to various parties in the Prime Minister's Bureau when it was headed by former prime minister Ariel Sharon.
"There is a genuine willingness in Damascus to initiate peace talks with Israel, which at the very least requires Israel to test the waters," Suleiman told Israeli sources during his stay.
Labor MK Danny Yatom said during the hearing that he has approached Syrian sources during the past few weeks in an effort to begin unofficial negotiations. Yatom said he was turned down, and that the Syrians are continuing to demand that any negotiations be official. "They have always been concerned that unofficial negotiations would end in leaks that are embarrassing to Syria," he said.
During the hearing, a difference of opinion emerged between Suleiman and Uzi Arad, who also participated in the secret talks. Arad said Suleiman told him that the Assad family does not want peace, but Suleiman denied the conversation ever took place. National Union-National Religious Party MK Zvi Hendel said as a result that, "Until now I thought they (Syrians) were liars, and now I know that they are telling the truth - they want negotiations, not peace."Despite Suleiman's interest in meeting with senior Israeli officials during his visit, the Foreign Ministry decided against such a move. The ministry's director general, Aharon Abramowitz, explained that Suleiman's request had been denied "to avoid giving a false impression, as though he were engaged in official talks with the State of Israel." Abramowitz added that, "If Syria wanted to conduct official talks, it had other avenues available to it."
The Prime Minister's Bureau had similar reservations, as it did when Haaretz first exposed the existence of the talks in January. By contrast, MK Zahava Gal-On, who initiated the committee discussion, expressed her hope that after the MKs hear what Suleiman has to say, they would realize his immediate connection to the Syrian leadership. "Some think he doesn't enjoy any sort of valid status in Damascus. The hearing will give us a chance to examine just that," she said.
On Wednesday Suleiman visited Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, in Jerusalem. Suleiman said he hoped "we will be able to live together in peace, and put all the killing and incitement behind us," adding that "the peoples of the Middle East need to think of the future of their children and grandchildren." Beirut, 12 Apr 07, 18:28
U.N. Chief Studying Saniora Letter on Tribunal
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon was studying a letter from Prime Minister Fouad Saniora in which he asked the world body to create the international tribunal after efforts to get the court ratified by the Lebanese parliament failed.
"We are in receipt of the letter from Mr. Saniora and we're studying it," U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe told reporters in New York on Wednesday. Saniora's press office said the premier on Tuesday sent a letter along with a copy of a petition signed by 70 lawmakers to Ban asking him to move on the tribunal, which is the core of Lebanon's deepest crisis since the end of the civil war in 1990.
Saniora stressed that the tribunal was needed "to preserve freedoms and end the cycle of political attacks."
Last week, Ban said that Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri had called for a Saudi-sponsored meeting of rival Lebanese parties to break the impasse over creation of the court. The U.N. chief said Berri also suggested that Nicolas Michel, the U.N.'s top legal adviser, would attend that meeting and provide the necessary advice. Meanwhile Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah proposed on Sunday that a referendum could resolve the political deadlock between the pro- and anti-government camps in Lebanon. The crisis began when six pro-Syrian ministers walked out of the cabinet last November.
Nasrallah slammed a call by 70 anti-Syrian MPs for the U.N. Security Council to step in and use its power to set up the tribunal to try those involved in the 2005 murder of former Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes. Many Lebanese accuse Syria of killing Hariri and 22 others in a massive bomb blast in Beirut. Damascus has denied any involvement. The United Nations and Lebanon's government have signed a deal to set up the tribunal, but it must be ratified by the country's divided parliament.
The Hizbullah-led opposition objects to the way the Saniora government has handled plans to create the court under U.N. auspices and has so far blocked all moves to set it up.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 12 Apr 07, 05:34
Trial of Lebanese Men Accused in Germany Bombing Adjourned
The trial of four Lebanese men accused of involvement in a failed train bombing in Germany has been adjourned for one week, court officials in Beirut said. The four train bombing suspects appeared before Judge Michel Abu Arraj for just 10 minutes on Wednesday before the hearing was adjourned until April 18 at the request of the suspects' defense attorney. Court officials said the attorney asked to move the trial from Beirut to northern Lebanon, arguing that the suspects' families couldn't afford transportation to Beirut for the trial.
It was not immediately known if the court would meet the request of the defense attorney, whose name was not released by the court.
Lebanese authorities arrested the suspects on charges of planting crude bombs on two trains at the Cologne station on July 31. The bombs, found later in the day on trains at the Koblenz and Dortmund stations, failed to explode because of faulty detonators.
German surveillance cameras are said to have filmed the suspects as they wheeled suitcases into the station.
The suspects include Jihad Hamad, Ayman Hawa, Khalil al-Boubou and Khaled Khair-Eddin el-Hajdib, whose brother Youssef is under arrest in Germany in connection with the case. Last month, Hamad, 19, confessed to planting one of the bombs. During preliminary interrogation by Judge Abu Arraj, Hamad said he was trying to avenge the publication of 12 cartoons that satirized the Prophet Mohammed.
The drawings, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper in September 2005 and were republished in other European papers, sparked outrage across the Muslim world, where many consider images of the prophet to be blasphemy.
Hamad, who is from the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, told the judge that his aim was not to kill, but to defend Islam, according to court officials.
The head of Germany's Federal Crime Office, Joerg Ziercke, has said that the train-bomb suspects were also motivated by the June 7 killing of the former leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in a U.S. airstrike. Germany wants to extradite the suspects, but there is no extradition treaty between Germany and Lebanon. Lebanon has decided to try the suspects in its courts and defer consideration of extradition until later.(Naharnet-AP)(AFP photo shows a policeman securing the site near the Justice Palace as a vehicle carrying the Lebanese suspects arrives to the compound.) Beirut, 12 Apr 07, 10:06
A divorce that Nasrallah cannot afford
By Michael Young -Daily Star staff
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's speech on Sunday formalized Hizbullah's divorce from the rest of Lebanese society, confirming there is a fundamental rift between the party and a majority of Lebanese over a vision for Lebanon. But the rhetoric was also something more prosaic. It echoed a statement last week by former Minister Wiam Wahab, one of Syria's licensed local spokesmen, that negotiations over the distribution of portfolios in the government had become "stupid," and that a more fundamental change in the political system was now needed.
Both points Nasrallah combined in a key passage of his address. Lebanon was passing through a "fateful and important period" of its history, he argued, and "the issue is not one of [an] 11-19 [distribution of ministers in the government] or 17-13; it is much deeper than that." The real issue was one of control, with the parliamentary majority seeking to impose its writ on the whole country with international, particularly American, encouragement. The only way Lebanon could emerge from its crisis was through new elections or a referendum. The Hariri tribunal would only be endorsed once the opposition introduced changes into the text, and would have to be approved by the government in a session presided over by President Emile Lahoud. The tribunal itself might be formed only after the United Nations investigation of Rafik Hariri's assassination was completed (though, Nasrallah insisted, the judgment had already been written). And Nasrallah described the four generals who are suspects in the assassination as "political prisoners" who had to be released.
While the majority and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora are taking the Security Council route to establish the Hariri tribunal under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, Hizbullah's secretary general merely reiterated Syria's line on the Lebanese deadlock. He reaffirmed that the party's conflict with its adversaries is an existential one and, rashly, made Shiites the first line of defense in protecting Hariri's killers.
Nasrallah ruled out a civil war, and his threat that the opposition would be willing to stick to its position for two more years, until Parliament's mandate ended, suggested he is not looking for an imminent escalation. Instead, the opposition's tactic is to wear the system down through inertia, even if economic disaster is the result. Nasrallah's aim is to gain time for his Syrian allies, push the international community and the Arab world to exasperation or hesitation, so they will approve of a revitalized Syrian role in Lebanon, and, by so doing, guarantee that Hizbullah will be able to remain a military organization as well as a political one.
Nasrallah was right. Lebanon's destiny is indeed being determined today. Will the country once again become that freewheeling liberal outpost open to both East and West that it was before 1975, and which Hariri tried to recreate? Or will it become the pro-Syrian, pro-Iranian garrison state of which Nasrallah dreams, one that would allow his party to retain its weapons and secure a future as the militant vanguard of a society whose obsession would be self-defense against proliferating foes?
Nasrallah claims that he has a majority of Lebanese on his side. That's untrue since even Hizbullah's main allies in the Aounist movement don't share the secretary general's austere designs for Lebanon, at least if their political program is to be believed. One has to wonder what Michel Aoun thought of Nasrallah's statements. Does it take much more for him to realize that, in the unlikely event he were ever to become president, the primary obstacle to implementing his own ideal of the Lebanese state would be Hizbullah's ideal of the Lebanese state?
In this context, what about Speaker Nabih Berri? He has tried unsuccessfully to maneuver between Nasrallah's increasingly unyielding conditions, the majority's growing impatience with Berri's refusal to convene Parliament, and Syria's intransigence on the tribunal. Last week Berri proposed a massive airlift of Lebanon's politicians to Saudi Arabia so they could be reconciled under the kingdom's auspices. His rationale seems to have been that because King Abdullah could not abide failure, such a gathering would induce the Saudis to pressure the majority into being more conciliatory toward Berri's plans.
This wasn't the first time that Berri had imagined a Saudi solution. Several weeks ago, the speaker sent a document to the kingdom in which he made suggestions on resolving the current crisis. He reportedly accepted that the tribunal should be approved first, before agreement on a new government. The opposition would make amendments to the tribunal's statutes, but this would be done promptly, without emptying the tribunal of its clout. Then a government would be formed on a 19-11 basis, with a promise that opposition ministers would not resign before the end of Emile Lahoud's term in order to bring the government down and impose an opposition candidate as president. This government would then approve the tribunal, as would Lahoud, resolving the crisis.
The Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, Abdel-Aziz Khoja, liked the idea, which might explain why he was full of praise for Berri recently, after the speaker made a speech harshly criticizing the majority. However, the majority was displeased with the implications of Berri's proposals, particularly its setting precedents that might negate the Siniora government's past actions, and made this known in Riyadh. The Saudis sensed the complications in accepting Berri's scheme, which is perhaps why they showed so little enthusiasm for the speaker's offer last week. Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt shot Berri's idea down by insisting that a Saudi reconciliation should only be icing on a prior inter-Lebanese settlement. Nasrallah's address on Sunday raised the stakes by showing this was not about to happen. It was also his way of warning that a Chapter 7 tribunal might generate sectarian discord inside Lebanon, an argument that raises powerful doubts in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The UN is where all major matters Lebanese are likely to be decided in the coming months. The Chapter 7 tribunal bazaar has been opened. Ultimately, the outcome will in all probability be decided at the level of heads of state, not foreign ministers. Nasrallah has gambled on behalf of his Syrian allies, but if the tribunal is approved, does Hizbullah really want to be out on a limb in confronting the international community and Lebanon's Sunnis, who want justice in the Hariri case? The party seems to have forgotten that it needs to rebuild a Lebanese consensus to protect itself down the road. As things stand, however, Nasrallah is making that impossible.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.
The battle over the Hariri court threatens to tear Lebanon apart
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's decision to ask the United Nations to set up a court to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri marks yet another twist in Lebanon's meandering political crisis. Siniora's latest move, along with the petition signed by 70 MPs who make up the parliamentary majority, does not mean that the court's fate is secured. Although presidents Jacques Chirac and George W. Bush would surely like to see the tribunal created before the French leader leaves office in May, they must still contend with a restrained and unpredictable decision-making process at the Security Council. Already, Russia has expressed concerns over rapidly imposing the court in the absence of a Lebanese consensus, although Moscow has also suggested that it will not use its veto power to stand in the way of its creation.
Regardless of what analysts are able to read from the tea leaves, at this point, the end result of the Security Council's decision-making process remain anybody's guess. Even the ruling coalition is aware of the fact that the court is not a done deal, and its current moves appear to be a form of lobbying the council to support the draft.
We all know that the Lebanese opposition rejects specific clauses of the agreement with the United Nations to create the court. But until now, we still do not know what their exact objections are, because they have made no attempt to state these publicly. Siniora went so far as to propose a professional committee to hammer out the details of the draft, and even appointed individuals to represent the ruling coalition's view in performing that task. But Siniora's gesture has yet to be matched by the opposition, as Speaker Nabih Berri still has not appointed representatives to serve on the committee. The ruling coalition's move to bypass their opponents altogether and directly lobby the UN risks preventing consensus from ever emerging.
Ironically then, the final chapter in the story of Rafik Hariri, who spent most of his adult life trying to unite the Lebanese and rebuild a shattered country, could end up being an ugly dispute over a court to try his killers that ends up tearing Lebanon apart. Already the political battle has taken a huge toll on the country. The economies of the Gulf are acting like sponges, sapping up the best and the brightest Lebanese graduates who are all too eager to leave; investors are showing reluctance to launch new projects in Lebanon; and tourists are holding off before booking their airline tickets to Beirut. It is a tragedy that the politicians of this country, whose divided citizens all claim to love life, seem so bent on crushing any hope for Lebanon's revival.
Lebanese opposition is pushing too hard - key Russian legislator
By Hani M. Bathish -Daily Star staff
Thursday, April 12, 2007
BEIRUT: A senior Russian legislator warned Lebanon's opposition Wednesday that its "forceful, shortsighted approach" would cause the UN Security Council to establish an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri unilaterally. Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament, told the Interfax news agency that he "regretted" the actions of the opposition and all external interference in Lebanese affairs.
"The minority ... by resorting to a forceful and shortsighted approach, aims to hamper the work of Parliament and forbid the tribunal from starting its work," Margelov said. Russia is committed to the stabilization of the situation in Lebanon and to reaching a peaceful solution he added, urging all sides to respect the democratic process.
In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday night, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora asked that the matter of the tribunal be placed before the Security Council to consider "alternative ways" of establishing the court.
In a telephone conversation Wednesday, Ban reportedly assured Siniora that he would continue discussions with council members "to study all options."
In a copy of the letter obtained by The Daily Star, Siniora told Ban: "I urge you to put this matter before the esteemed members of the Security Council to examine alternative ways and means that will ensure the establishment, without delay, of the [court] which is essential for the safeguarding of liberties and deterring further political assassinations." UN sources in Beirut said the letter was dispatched to New York on Wednesday morning, along with a copy of a petition signed by 70 pro-government MPs last week that also asked the council to take all necessary measures to establish the court. Siniora said in the letter that difficulties faced in ratifying the statutes of the tribunal were mainly related to the paralysis of Parliament.
"The speaker (Nabih Berri) stated clearly that he shall not convene Parliament under the pretext of the unconstitutionality of my government. Needless to say that according to our Constitution it is only the Parliament which can bestow legitimacy on any government and this government continues to be supported by a clear parliamentary majority," the premier wrote.
"Aspirants for 'mini-states' and spheres of influence are many [in Lebanon], and each of them justifies his existence by the absence or weakness of the state, instead of helping to support it," he added. Addressing a meeting of Arab finance ministers in Beirut on Wednesday, Siniora replied to a speech earlier this week by Hizbullah's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. "Talk like 'come speak to us when you have a state' only leads to a road we know well, and that is the path to division, a path leading to Lebanon's decline and to no state," the premier said.
A strong state is created by supporting constitutional institutions and by respecting democratic mechanisms, he added, stressing the need for the tribunal to put an end to a string of assassinations since 2005.
The Loyalty to the Resistance parliamentary bloc said Wednesday that alleged constitutional violations committed by the government "will not achieve political stability in the country."
In a statement, the bloc said Siniora's letter and the MPs' petition were "misleading and are a breach of the Constitution."
The government is pressing for the court on "the instructions of some leaders of countries of foreign tutelage before they leave [office]," the bloc added, referring to outgoing French President Jacques Chirac.
"They insist on ratifying it without discussion in cahoots with international powers, some of whom cover up Zionist crimes, all to garner the sympathy of those saddened by the passing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, in order to climb to power on their shoulders and incite them against their fellow citizens," the statement added.
The statement went on to say that early parliamentary elections were a "realistic and practical" means of escaping the escalating political crisis in Lebanon, and that the opportunity presented by the Paris III donor conference in January would be lost without early polls.
The bloc accused the pro-government camp of refusing to compromise and rejecting repeated Arab and regional initiatives ahead of talks between Berri and parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri.
The bloc accused what it called "symbols of government militias" of "canceling out, isolating and excluding" others, adding that such policies "cost the Lebanese dearly in the past."In other comments, former President Amin Gemayel said said the size of the problem implied it was not the result of current disagreements over the tribunal or the shape of the government, but over a desire by some to revisit the Taif Accord.
Gemayel feared events would "take the political struggle to the streets where the law of the jungle would prevail."
He said steadfastness was essential, "while leaving a path open for diplomatic solutions," adding that the Arab world wants the crisis to end.
MPs trade latest versions of usual accusations
Daily Star staff-Thursday, April 12, 2007
BEIRUT: Opposition and loyalist legislators continued to exchange barbs on Wednesday, one day after pro-government MPs delivered a second petition to the United Nations to urge the establishment of an international tribunal to try crimes including the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri.
Development and Liberation bloc MP Ali Khreis said a request from Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Tuesday night that UN chief Ban Ki-moon assist in the formation of the tribunal was "abnormal behavior."
"Siniora is no longer working for the welfare of Lebanon," Khreis told Voice of Lebanon radio. "On the contrary, all that Siniora cares about is preserving his position as prime minister."
The Amal MP said his block had always supported the establishment of a tribunal, "as long as its final make-up is thoroughly discussed and agreed upon by all the Lebanese."
"The ruling majority's insistence on having the draft law for the international tribunal ratified by any means is totally unacceptable," Khreis added.
Talks between the political camps have "reached a deadlock and any attempt to revive dialogue sessions has proved to be quite difficult," he said.
In separate comments on the radio station, Democratic Gathering MP Fouad Saad defended the petition from Siniora as "justified" due to the continued paralysis of Parliament.
Saad accused Hizbullah of blocking the tribunal "because both Syria and Iran refuse its establishment ... If the tribunal is not formed according to an agreement between Lebanon and the UN, then it should be formed under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter."
Reform and Change MP Salim Aoun said that the methods adopted by the government to form the court "defy the true purposes of the tribunal."
The UN Security Council has "failed to provide Lebanon with any viable help," Aoun said. "The tense behavior adopted by the government will only lead to more disasters."
Responding to comments Tuesday by Lebanese Forces head Samir Geagea, Hizbullah MP Nawar Sahili said the argument put forth "lacked any substance and was a personal attack on Hizbullah secretary general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah rather than an analysis of the sayyed's stance."
Geagea was further accused of making a speech "loaded with fallacies and surrealist images."
"A certified criminal such as him is not allowed to throw false accusations and give value judgments," Sahili said.
Geagea should be "constantly reminded" that it was the votes of Hizbullah supporters that secured his party seats in Parliament, Sahili said.
"Geagea and his allies are afraid to face people, this is specifically the reason why they harshly oppose any referendums or early parliamentary elections," the Hizbullah MP concluded. - The Daily Star
Qassem: US waging 'covert war' on Hizbullah
Party's deputy leader accuses siniora's government of collaborating
Thursday, April 12, 2007
The US government is waging a "covert war" against Hizbullah by arming militias opposed to the group, the party's number two claimed in comments published on Wednesday. In an interview with Britain's The Guardian, which took place in a safe house in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Sheikh Naim Qassem also accused Washington for thwarting attempts between the Lebanese government and the opposition to reach a settlement to the crisis that has deadlocked Beirut.
"America is forcing the government forces to prolong this crisis, because they want a price for it," Qassem told the British daily. "They want to tie Lebanon into negotiations that benefit Israel and their plan for a new Middle East. US 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 British daily cited published reports saying that US intelligence agencies have been authorized to provide "non-lethal" funding to anti-Hizbullah groups in Lebanon and to activists who support the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
However, Qassem accused Siniora's government of going even further and arming militias 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.
Qassem's statements echo a report by American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published in late February. Hersh examined the connection between the US, Siniora's government and Lebanese Sunni extremist groups in orchestrating a "redirection" of US Middle East policy toward countering the Iranian threat, as opposed to fighting the threat posed by Sunni extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda.
Prime Minister Fouad Siniora strongly denied Hersh's article in February, calling it "totally unfounded," and the premier's office again rejected Qassemm's claims on Wednesday. "The statements made by Naim Qassem are completely false," a spokesperson for Siniora told The Daily Star, on condition of anonymity. "All the elements are untrue."
According to the article published in the Guardian, the US has earmarked some $60 million to bolster the Lebanese Interior Ministry's Internal Security Force, 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," Qassem said. Qassem also said Hizbullah did not rule out a new confrontation with Israel this summer like the 34-day war last July and August that killed more than 1,100 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 150 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
"We are prepared for the possibility of another adventure or the demand of American policy that might push the [Israeli government] in that direction," he said. Hizbullah secretary general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has never denied rearming after the 2006 war with Israel.
Qassem's comments come as Western nations increase pressure on the United Nations to examine recent allegations of weapons smuggling across the Lebanese-Syrian border.The United States, France and Great Britain are pushing for the creation of a special UN expert committee to examine alleged weapons smuggling across the Lebanon-Syria border, according to a report in the Israeli daily Haaretz on Wednesday.
The push apparently came on the heel of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's visit to the Middle East, after which he briefed the UN Security Council on the alleged smuggling. Ban told the council that he had "received information from Israel and other countries" that arms smuggling was taking place along the border with weapons being delivered from Syria and Iran to Hizbullah. He added that arms smuggling would constitute a "blatant violation" of Security Council resolutions, including 1701, which led to a cease-fire after the 2006 war.
Israel also violates the cease-fire by continually entering Lebanese airspace in South Lebanon and maintaining its occupation of the border village of Ghajar, where talks on an Israeli withdraw stalled last fall. - AFP, with additional reporting by Iman Azzi
Sayyed lashes out at Eido, Geagea
Daily Star staff-Thursday, April 12, 2007
Jamil Sayyed, the former head of the Surete Generale currently detained on suspicion of involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, lashed out at Future Movement MP Walid Eido and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Wednesday. In a statement, Sayyed said that "if I wanted to enjoy parliamentary immunity as he [Eido] did I could have done that ... I have chosen to confront international investigations and the UN probe has declared me innocent ... but I am still detained for political reasons." Eido said earlier this week that Hizbullah had tried to submit Sayyed's candidacy to the 2005 parliamentary elections to confer on him parliamentary immunity in the face of the international investigations. Sayyed also urged Geagea to stop "using Hariri's blood to seek revenge from those who uncovered his involvement in the assassination of former Premier Rashid Karami" in 1987.