LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
April 20/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 3,31-36. The one who comes from above is above all. The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things. But the one who comes from heaven (is above all). He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy. For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit. The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him

Free Opinions
Prepare for less attention in Paris.By Michael Young. April 20/07
More tinkering by the UN Security Council poses a threat to Lebanon. Daily Star. April 20/07
Trouble is brewing for the US in Iraqi Kurdistan.By David Ignatius. April 20/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for April 20/07
Gates Discusses Iran, Lebanon with Olmert.Naharnet
Sultanov Discusses Lebanon with Assad-Naharnet
Russian DFM meets Assad in Syria over Lebanon tribunal-Ya Libnan
Syrian president meets Russian deputy foreign minister for talks-Monsters and Critics.com
Rebuilding Lebanon's bridges through Art.Ya Libnan
Lebanonís Hezbollah refuses to offer own remarks about tribunal.Ya Libnan
US presses Lebanon on Red Cross.Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Russian envoy, Syria's Assad meet-Seattle Post Intelligencer
EU braces for more waves of Iraqi asylum-seekers.International Herald Tribune
Press Council sees Israeli media as casualty of Lebanon war.Ha'aretz
A Look at Lebanese Victims of Virginia Tech Shootings-Naharnet
Hizbullah Would Not Change Rigid Stance over Tribunal-Naharnet
U.S: Syria, Iran Continue to Provide Hizbullah with Weapons-Naharnet

France welcomes UN declaration on Lebanon.People's Daily Online
Council: 'Serious concern' at reports of illegal arms smuggling ...San Diego Union Tribune
Lebanon adjourns trial of German bomb plot until May 10.Ya Libnan
UN wants to view Lebanon border for arms traffic-Reuters
Lebanon crisis undermining UNí.The News - International

Trial of Germany Bomb Plot Suspects Put off-Naharnet

Latest News Reports From The Daily Star for April 19/07
UN envoy polls key players in row over Hariri court
Welch insists Syrians or Iranians arming Hizbullah
Hamadeh unveils new stamps to honor Fuleihan, stresses need for tribunal
Hizbullah says Chapter 7 court 'will make the truth lost'
Siniora meets Indonesian deputy speaker
Brammertz returns to Beirut after trip to Paris
Hariri court poses challenge for Security Council - MP
Geagea vows to maintain Christians' 'influential role'
Harb warns MPs against boycotting presidential vote
NDU inks exchange deal with US university
Families grieve for loved ones caught in US campus massacre
Trial of suspects in failed German plot delayed
Lebanese youth to practice Euro-Med governance
USAID center to promote baked goods
Is reconstruction taking Southerners' breath away?

Security Council calls for team to assess possible arms movements into Lebanon
18 April 2007 Ė Voicing concern at reports of illegal arms movements across the Lebanese-Syrian border, which would violate the United Nations resolution ending last year's conflict between the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and Hizbollah, the Security Council has invited Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to send an independent mission as soon as possible to assess the monitoring of the entire border.
In a statement read out last night by Ambassador Karen Pierce of the United Kingdom, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, the 15-member body said it welcomed Mr. Ban's intention, outlined in a letter last week, to evaluate the situation along the border.
Such a mission should be independent and dispatched in close liaison with the Lebanese Government, the presidential statement added, and report back promptly to the Council on its findings and recommendations.
In his letter, Mr. Ban had proposed sending a small team with specific terms of reference and for a limited period of time. Council members said they had "serious concern at mounting information by Israel and another State of illegal movements of arms" across the border between Lebanon and Syria. At the same time, the Council members welcomed the Lebanese Government's expressed determination and steps taken to prevent such movements.
Noting that Syria has stated it has taken its own measures in this area, the Council reiterated its call on Damascus to take further steps to reinforce border controls.
The statement also called on all Member States, especially those in the region, to take all necessary measures to enforce the arms embargo detailed in resolution 1701, which last August ended the 34-day war between Israel and Hizbollah.
Last night's presidential statement also welcomed the successful completion of the second phase of the deployment of the expanded UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and commended that Force's active role.
Council members called on the Israeli and Lebanese Governments to do more to consolidate the cessation of hostilities, particularly by increasing their cooperation with UNIFIL and approving temporary security arrangements for the northern part of the village of Ghajar.
The statement also reiterated members' deep concern over continuing Israeli violations of Lebanese air space and renewed the Council's call for the disbanding and disarming of all militias and armed groups, aside from the military, in Lebanon. It also voiced deep concern at reported recent statements by a Hizbollah leader about the seizure by Lebanese authorities of a truckload of arms "and underscores that these statements are an open admission of activities which would constitute a violation of resolution 1701."

Welch insists Syrians or Iranians arming Hizbullah
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Syria or Iran continues to provide weapons to Hizbullah in Lebanon in violation of a UN arms embargo, a senior US official said Wednesday. "The border between Leba-non and Syria remains highly porous," Assistant Secretary of State David Welch told a Congressional panel.
Welch said that Washington agreed with a recent report by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asserting "serious breaches" of the arms embargo imposed under a Security Council resolution which ended last year's summer war with Israel. "It is clear in [Ban's] judgment, and it is clear in our own independent [judgment] that Hizbullah continues to rearm and we can see no other source for such assistance than Syria or Iran," said Welch, the top State Department official for the Middle East. "We are encouraging the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL to take a more assertive role in stopping smuggling," he said, referring to an expanded United Nations peacekeeping force deployed in Lebanon following the July-August war.
Welch accused Hizbullah, which is also a political movement in Lebanon, of campaigning to overthrow the elected government of Premier Fouad Siniora, with Syria's backing. He said one aim was to thwart the establishment of a UN-backed special tribunal to investigate the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.
Welch said that if Lebanon is unable to formally endorse the creation of the special tribunal due to opposition from Hizbullah and other pro-Syrian parties in parliament, the US could back unilateral action by the UN. "If the Lebanese government is unable to approve the agreement, the [Security] Council may need to consider other mechanisms for establishing the Tribunal, including under UN Security Council Chapter 7 authority," he said.
Chapter 7 of the UN Charter gives the Security Council the power to impose mandatory actions on member states.
Welch was speaking after the Security Council on Tuesday asked Ban to send an independent mission to investigate reports of illegal arms movements across the Lebanese-Syrian border.
The council expressed its "serious concern at mounting information by Israel and another state" of arms smuggling across the border in violation of UN resolution 1701.Syria has denied that arms are making their way over the border into Lebanon and warned against any moves to station international troops along the frontier in Lebanon, which Damascus occupied for 30 years until being forced by popular protests to withdraw following Hariri's assassination. In response, Syria warned against stationing international troops along the Lebanese-Syrian border. Attempts to contact Syrian officials for this article were unsuccessful.
These statements also come on the eve of a report by UN Special Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559. Roed-Larsen is expected to had the report over to Ban, who will then distribute it to the Security Council members. On Tuesday, all 15 members of the council unanimously adopted the statement, calling on Ban "to dispatch at the earliest, in close liaison with the Lebanese government, an independent mission to fully assess the monitoring of the border." Spokespersons from both the Prime Minister's office and from Hizbullah declined to comment on the matter on Wednesday when contacted by The Daily Star.
The statement from the Security Council did, however, take note of the fact that the Syrian government has been cooperating and has attempted to prevent the smuggling of arms across its border. Nonetheless, it reiterated its call on Syria "to take further measures to reinforce controls at the border."
With regards to the enduring political deadlock in Beirut, the Security Council called on Lebanese political parties "to show responsibility with a view to preventing, through dialogue, further deterioration of the situation in Lebanon."
Ban visited Lebanon in March, when he toured the South and met with politicians. During his time here he asserted that the continuation of arms smuggling could have an adverse effect of the political situation in the country. The summer 2006 war came to an end with the release of Resolution 1701, which called for the prevention and cessation of illegal arms sales and other related operations in Lebanon. It also called for an end to Israeli violations of the border, which continue to occur regularly.
The new statement made by the Security Council also took note of progress made lately toward "an accurate territorial definition" of the controversial Shebaa Farms area by an independent cartographer. The Shebaa Farms, approximately 20 square kilometers and originally captured in 1967 by Israel, has been the subject of international disputes over its territorial claims, with some claiming it to be Syrian and others claiming it as Lebanese.
Hizbullah refuses to relinquish their arms before an Israeli withdrawal from the farms, claiming them as the last piece of Lebanese land to remain under occupation. Israel refuses to leave, claiming the territory is part of the Golan Heights, and therefore Syrian land, albeit occupied. The UN expects the official demarcation to be completed by mid-June.
The council also voiced its "deep concern" over ongoing violations of Lebanese airspace by Israel, as well as its "profound concern" that no progress has occurred with regard to securing the release of the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hizbullah in July 2006. It also encouraged efforts "aimed at urgently settling the issue of the Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel." - Agencies, with additional reporting by Nour Samaha

Look at Lebanese Victims of Virginia Tech Shootings
Here is a look at the Lebanese victims of the Virginia Tech shootings which claimed the lives of 32 people.
Rima Samaha Samaha was a dancer, whether it was the classical ballet she studied as a child, the belly dance moves she used for a high school talent show last year or just spinning around the living room with her mother at their home in a Washington suburb. "She just danced, and laughed and smiled," said Linda D'Orazio, a neighbor. Both she and her killer, 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui, graduated from Westfield High School in Chantilly, Virginia -- Samaha in 2006 and Cho in 2003. But Samaha's neighbors and friends said they didn't think she knew Cho. Samaha, 18, was a member of the high school's dance team. She had recently taken up belly dancing, a nod to her family's roots in Lebanon, which the Samahas visited each summer, friends said. Watching her on stage was captivating, they said. "She was just beautiful and when you watched her, I thought she was one of the most gorgeous girls in the world inside and out," said Lauren Walters, a Westfield graduate who is now enrolled at Clemson University.
Ross Abdullah Alameddine
Alameddine, 20, of Saugus, Massachusetts, was a sophomore who had just declared English as his major. Friends created a memorial page on Facebook.com that described Alameddine as "an intelligent, funny, easygoing guy." "You're such an amazing kid, Ross," wrote Zach Allen, who along with Alameddine attended Austin Preparatory School in Reading, Massachusetts. "You always made me smile, and you always knew the right thing to do or say to cheer anyone up." Alameddine was killed in the classroom building, according to Robert Palumbo, a family friend who answered the phone Tuesday at the Alameddine residence. Alameddine's mother, Lynnette Alameddine, said she was outraged by how victims' relatives were notified of the shooting. "It happened in the morning and I did not hear (about her son's death) until a quarter to 11 at night," she said. "That was outrageous. Two kids died, and then they shoot a whole bunch of them, including my son."(AP) Beirut, 19 Apr 07, 10:35

Trial of Germany Bomb Plot Suspects Put off
A Beirut court has postponed the trial of four suspects in a failed train bombing in Germany until May 10 after the judge rejected a defense request to move the proceedings to the suspects' northern Lebanon home region. The defense Wednesday decided to appeal the ruling, according to a defense lawyer. At a hearing a week ago, the defense sought to move the trial to the northern port city of Tripoli, arguing that the suspects' families couldn't afford travel expenses to Beirut, a two-hour drive away. "The request to move the trial to Tripoli was rejected," said Fawaz Zakariya, lawyer for Jihad Hamad, one of the four suspects. "They (court) had legal reasons and we have our legal reasons, so we are going to appeal the decision," he said outside the court. The next hearing was set for May 10. Hamad and the other suspects in custody -- Ayman Hawa, Khalil al-Boubou and Khaled Khair-Eddin el-Hajdib -- were brought from the main Roumieh prison in a hilly northeastern suburb of Beirut under police guard in a closed prison van. They appeared in the criminal court handcuffed and were returned to prison immediately after the 10-minute hearing ended.
At the opening of the trial last Wednesday, the court also issued arrest warrants for Saddam al-Hajj Dib, who remains at large, and his brother Youssef Mohammed al-Hajj Dib, who is in custody in Germany. Both are being tried in absentia.
The presiding judge, Michel Abou Arraj, gave no reasons for his decision to reject the defense request to move the proceedings to Tripoli.
However, court officials have said security concerns, including the possibility of an attack to free the suspects, prompted authorities to hold the four in the main maximum security prison at Roumieh and to have the court sit in the Lebanese capital.
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 suspects as they wheeled suitcases into the station.
In March, Hamad said during preliminary interrogation that he planted one of the bombs to try to avenge the publication of 12 cartoons that ridiculed Prophet Mohammed, according to court officials. Hamad told the judge that his aim was not to kill, but to defend Islam, according to the officials.
But a lawyer for Hawa said Wednesday his client was a university student who is a devout but moderate Muslim.
"It is necessary to distinguish between devotion, fanaticism and terrorism," attorney Munir Husseini said outside the court. Hawa "never traveled abroad, does not think of traveling and does not even have a passport," he said. If found guilty, the four suspects in custody could be jailed for a maximum period of 15 years while those in absentia could receive longer prison terms. 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.(AP-AFP) (AFP photo shows Jihad Hamad) Beirut, 19 Apr 07, 10:03

Hizbullah Would Not Change Rigid Stance over Tribunal
Hizbullah has reiterated it would not change its rigid stance over creation of an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes. Resigned Energy Minister Mohammed Fneish told U.N. Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Nicolas Michel on Wednesday that Hizbullah stands by its position of not giving its observations on the court before a national unity government is formed.
"We are not going to give our reservations before there is a constitutional government that would approve them," Fneish told reporters at the end of his 90-minute meeting with Michel. He stressed, however, that the Hizbullah-led opposition does not object to the court's set up, but wanted to discuss its mandate and structure.
Fneish warned that establishment of the tribunal would "threaten and undermine stability in Lebanon," adding that international intervention will not solve the months' long political stalemate that has crippled the country. His warning coincided with a similar statement by Hizbullah in which it said that establishment of the court under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Security Council "threatens Lebanon's unity and stability, and hampers the chances of unveiling the truth."
Michel, on the other hand, cautioned against judging his mission "before it reached its final term." The U.N. envoy said his meeting with Fneish helped him understand Hizbullah's stand "even though the group has yet to set out his proposed changes to the draft law on the tribunal." Beirut, 19 Apr 07, 08:07

.S: Syria, Iran Continue to Provide Hizbullah with Weapons
Syria or Iran continue to provide weapons to Hizbullah in Lebanon in violation of a U.N. arms embargo, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.
"The border between Lebanon and Syria remains highly porous," Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Welch told a Congressional panel. Welch said Washington agreed with a recent report by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asserting "serious breaches" of the arms embargo imposed under a U.N. Security Council resolution which ended last year's war between Israel and Hizbullah. "It is clear in (Ban's) judgment, and it is clear in our own independent (judgment) that Hizbullah continues to rearm and we can see no other source for such assistance than Syria or Iran," said Welch, the top State Department official for the Middle East. "We are encouraging the Lebanese army and UNIFIL to take a more assertive role in stopping smuggling," he said, referring to an expanded United Nations peacekeeping force deployed in Lebanon following the July-August war.

Welch said Hizbullah, which is also a political movement in Lebanon, of campaigning to overthrow the elected government of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora, with Syria's backing.

He said one aim was to thwart the establishment of a U.N.-backed special tribunal to investigate the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Hariri was a strong opponent of Syria's long domination of Lebanon and many believe Damascus was behind his murder.

Welch said that if Lebanon is unable to formally endorse the creation of the special tribunal due to opposition from Hizbullah and other pro-Syrian parties in parliament, the U.S. could back unilateral action by the U.N.
"If the Lebanese government is unable to approve the agreement, the (Security) Council may need to consider other mechanisms for establishing the Tribunal, including under U.N. Security Council Chapter VII authority," he said. Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter gives the Security Council the power to impose mandatory actions on member states. Welch was speaking after the Security Council on Tuesday asked Ban to send an independent mission to investigate reports of illegal arms movements across the Lebanese-Syrian border. The council expressed its "serious concern at mounting information by Israel and another state" of arms smuggling across the border in violation of U.N. resolution 1701.
Syria has denied that arms are making their way over the border into Lebanon and warned against any moves to station international troops along the frontier in Lebanon, which Damascus occupied for 30 years until being forced by popular protests to withdraw following Hariri's assassination.
Ban is due to visit Syria next Tuesday. Welch also said that "terrorist attacks, like the February 13 twin bus bombings in the mountainous town of Ain Alaq which killed three people the day before the two-year commemoration of Hariri's assassination, have sown fear throughout Lebanon and have led to growing concerns about a return of civil conflict."(AFP-AP) Beirut, 18 Apr 07, 19:25

Hamadeh unveils new stamps to honor Fuleihan, stresses need for tribunal
Daily Star staff-Thursday, April 19, 2007
BEIRUT: Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh unveiled new commemorative postage stamps depicting former Economy and Trade Minister Basel Fuleihan on Wednesday. Hamadeh told a news conference that the three sets of stamps "symbolize Basel the university student and high-class professor, the economic expert and economy minister, and the martyr of Lebanon and its independence."
"The Telecommunications Ministry wants to mark the second anniversary of Basel Fuleihan's death in its own way," Hamadeh said.
"Through the issuance of these stamps, we wanted to remember Basel Fuleihan as the martyr of bright Lebanese youth," he added. "Fuleihan was a symbol of Lebanese youth through his culture, education and ethics."Hamadeh stressed the need for an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in a bombing that also took the life of Fuleihan and 21 others. "Everything is clear ... whenever the establishment of the court looms in the horizon ... the criminals incite the Lebanese and spread rumors that the tribunal will lead to civil war," Hamadeh said. The minister said that if the creation of the tribunal was not approved through constitutional institutions it would be established according to Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. "Why do they [the opposition] fear the formation of an international tribunal if it is passed in Lebanese institutions, when the UN chooses the judges?" Hamadeh asked.
"The UN won't choose US or Israeli judges, nor would we accept this," he said. Meanwhile, the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) issued a statement on Wednesday to mark the second anniversary of Fuleihan's death. The PSP urged the opposition "not to hamper the creation of the tribunal," which it said "will enforce justice, uncover the truth and protect Lebanon.""We also urge them [the opposition] to reconsider their regional alliances, which are trying to attack Lebanon's democratic regime and damage its civil peace," the statement said.
The March 14 Youth Organizations vowed in a statement to mark Fuleihan's death to "cling to the international tribunal," describing it as a means to "deter killers and protect freedom.""We will support a state that resists the Syrian regime's attempts to control it via terrorization and killing," they said.
Fuleihan was one of many victims of a massive explosion targeting a convoy carrying the late Hariri near the Beirut seafront on February 14, 2005.
Fuleihan survived the attack but received severe burns to over 95 percent of his body. He endured 64 days and several surgeries at the Percy Military Hospital in Paris before succumbing to his wounds. - The Daily Star

Hizbullah says Chapter 7 court 'will make the truth lost'
MP accuses cabinet of 'seizing' donor aid funds
By Nada Bakri -Daily Star staff
Thursday, April 19, 2007
BEIRUT: Hizbullah said on Wednesday that establishing an international tribunal to try suspects in the murder of former Premier Rafik Hariri under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter would constitute a threat to stability and unity in Lebanon. The Hizbullah warning, the second in less than one week, came one day after world powers reportedly gave Lebanon a two-week deadline to reach consensus over the court before the UN Security Council rules on the issue. The March 14 coalition has been pressing the UN to establish the tribunal on its own after Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri refused to call for a parliamentary session to ratify a draft for the court.
The UN sent its undersecretary for legal affairs, Nicola Michel, to Beirut this week to discuss the draft law and mechanism with the pro-government parties and the opposition. "The Lebanese people, who are united in their efforts to unveil the truth behind the assassination of Hariri through an international court, find themselves today in front of a dangerous slippery slope that will make the truth lost and lead the country to the unknown," Hizbullah MP Mohammad Raad, the head of the Loyalty to the Resistance parliamentary bloc, said.
"Therefore any decision concerning the establishment of the international court outside the Lebanese constitutional norms threatens Lebanon's security, stability and unity, and hinders the possibility of unveiling the truth," he added. The official reiterated his party's warning that the UN should not vote to establish the court under Chapter 7, but rather respect legal Lebanese norms to avoid being accused of politically favoring one Lebanese party over the other. Last week, Hizbullah number two Sheikh Naim Qassem said that in order to avoid "a chaotic Lebanon" the UN should remain at an equal distance from all political players and avoid interfering in the country's internal affairs.
Raad lashed out at the Lebanese government for what he said was a violation of the Constitution, adding that the Cabinet could not be trusted.
The opposition considers the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora unconstitutional after all of its Shiite members resigned in November.
Raad also accused the government of hindering the channeling of funds from international donors for reconstruction after the summer 2006 war with Israel.
The government "continues to seize money sent from donor countries to [give it to] its people loyal to them instead of transfering it to the victims of the Israeli aggression," Raad alleged.Hizbullah has said it will only discuss its reservations about the court as a member of a new national unity government.
Nassib Lahoud, the head of the Democratic Renewal Movement and a member of the ruling coalition, warned against politicizing the tribunal and urged Hizbullah to take advantage of the visit from Michel to announce their reservations on the court. "The opposition has a responsibility to announce their remarks, not only to the Lebanese but to the international envoy so that it will become known what their worries are."
Future Movement MP Atef Majdalani urged Hizbullah to make their specific concerns public so that Berri can call for a parliamentary session to ratify the draft law for the tribunal. Amal Movement MP Ali Khreis said the problem was not Hizbullah's remarks but rather the fact that the March 14 Forces had "disrespected" an agreement reached on the court with Berri. Parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri held a series of talks with Berri in March after which Berri said a deal had been reached on the court.
Former President Amin Gemayel said the court would be established "soon," despite the deadlock. "The international court will be established despite all obstacles. We want it to be established through constitutional institutions, but if that is impossible the UN Security Council will the have to fulfill its obligations," Gemayel said.

Brammertz returns to Beirut after trip to Paris
Thursday, April 19, 2007
The head of the international investigative commission into the February 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Belgian Prosecutor Serge Brammertz, returned to Beirut. A statement by the National News Agency on Wednesday said that the prosecutor had been on a trip to France and had returned late Tuesday. The statement did not specify the details of his trip to Paris.

Hariri court poses challenge for Security Council - MP
Daily Star staff-Thursday, April 19, 2007
BEIRUT: Future Movement MP Mustafa Hashem said on Wednesday that the "integrity" of the UN Security Council was being tested by the establishment of an international tribunal to try suspects in the February 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Hashem was speaking following a meeting at Dar al-Fatwa, where he and MPs Mahmoud Mrad and Azzam Dandashi discussed recent developments on the political scene with Grand Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani.
Hashem said he hoped that the March 14 Forces and the opposition would be able to come to an understanding regarding the tribunal. "We resorted to the UN Security Council because it was obvious that the opposition refused the tribunal," he added. Mrad said that the opposition's "constantly tense behavior, as well as rhetoric," reflected negatively on the situation in the country. "The opposition is revealing their devious intentions day after day," he added. Dandashi accused Hizbullah of transforming from "a resistance movement into an invader movement," in reference to the sit-in staged by the opposition since December 1 in Downtown Beirut. Dandashi described an announcement by Speaker Nabbi Berri on Sunday that he would convene a parliamentary session to elect a new president on September 25 as "just a mirage." "They want to waste time and distract the Lebanese from the core issues of concerns, such as the international tribunal, which will definitely be established," the legislator said. - The Daily Star

Geagea vows to maintain Christians' 'influential role'
Daily Star staff-Thursday, April 19, 2007
BZUMMAR: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said Wednesday that Lebanon Christians regained their "key" national role following the end of Syria's hegemony and they "will not allow for their role to be contested ever again." "The Christians' influential role returned when the Syrians left the country and any Christian claiming the opposite is living an identity crisis because they failed to regain their role after having served the Syrians for years," Samir Geagea said, in a veiled reference to the Christian members of the opposition - mainly Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun and former Minister Suleiman Franjieh.
Speaking during a meeting with LF supporters at his residence in Bzummar, Geagea accused "some Christian groups" of working toward taking other Christians' roles. "But they will never succeed," he added. Geagea said that the "disparity of power" prevailing on the Lebanese political scene was a "direct" result of 30 years of Syrian hegemony. "Damascus promoted its allies at the expense of other Lebanese groups," he said.
Geagea urged LF supporters to adopt dialogue as a means to solve conflicts, "away from defiance and provocation."
The Christian leader said that the March 14 Forces "will not cease their fight" for the establishment of an international court to try suspects into the February 2005 murder of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
"The establishment of the tribunal will not only uncover the truth about the assassinations that occurred during the past three years, but will also reveal the truth behind the murders of all our martyrs since 1975."The LF parliamentary bloc held its weekly meeting in Bzummar Wednesday, expressing disappointment that the international tribunal "was being faced by a number of obstacles put forth by the March 8 Forces."
"All the ongoing efforts to hamper the court has allowed the true killers to perform more criminal acts and think they can get way them," said MP Antoine Zahra, who read the LF statement. "However," he added, "the formation of the tribunal has become an imminent step."
Zahra said the paralysis of Parliament "is likely to bring more complications to the stagnant political situation." He called on Speaker Nabih Berri to "assume his responsibilities" as speaker rather than opposition figure. - The Daily Star

Harb warns MPs against boycotting presidential vote
By Maroun Khoury -Daily Star correspondent
Thursday, April 19, 2007
BKIRKI: MP Butros Harb warned the opposition on Wednesday that boycotting a parliamentary session to elect a new president would damage the position of the presidency and political life in the country. "A session to elect a new president is one of the most important events that can take place in Parliament ... thus having one group absent itself from participating in [presidential] elections is a blatant breach of all democratic norms," Harb said after meeting with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir at Bkirki.
"Any new president should be totally capably of running the country, solving all pending issues and restituting to the position of the president its fundamental role and solemnity," he added. The MP, a ranking member of the ruling coalition, said that the March 14 Forces would never agree to grant the opposition veto power in any future government, "as this would allow them to control all Cabinet sessions, and we strictly reject such behavior."
Harb reiterated his support for the position taken by the Council of Maronite Bishops concerning the establishment of an international court to try suspects in the February 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and others."The council's statement earlier this month clearly stated that the formation of the tribunal should be set apart from any political give-and-take because the tribunal ought to be considered from moral and humane perspectives," he said. Harb called on the opposition to "bring to light" their reservations about the court, "so that we can discuss them together and reach a fair settlement."
"By failing to provide their comments it has become quite clear that the opposition has a preconceived stance against the tribunal," he said.
Asked whether the parliamentary majority had considered the ramifications of creating the tribunal under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, Harb said that he was "surprised" such "rumors" were being spread."The tribunal is nothing but beneficial to Lebanon ... and should be formed by any means - any means under any circumstances," he added.

Prepare for less attention in Paris
By Michael Young -Daily Star staff
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Jacques Chirac still has some weeks left in office, but as of this Sunday, when France votes in the first round of its presidential election, the president will begin emptying the closets at the Elysee Palace. Chirac's final act, however, may be to see through a major endeavor of his in recent months: ensuring that a tribunal is formed to sentence those responsible for the assassination of his late friend, Rafik Hariri.
By next week we should know better whether the tribunal will be created under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter. Much will depend on the impressions that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Sultanov and UN Undersecretary General for Legal Affairs Nicolas Michel take home with them after their visits to the region this week. Chirac's departure is accelerating what happens in New York, partly because he has good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and could help reassure the Kremlin; partly because the transfer of power to a new French president could delay the tribunal approval process, which senior UN officials, the United States, and France don't want to see happen.
Whoever replaces Chirac as president, those in Beirut who regard France as a vital ally in frustrating Syria's designs to regain power in Lebanon will have to brace themselves for less attention in Paris. In a press conference on Monday, after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the presidential front-runner, Nicolas Sarkozy, pointedly noted: "Lebanon is very important to me, [but] there is more than just Lebanon." March 14 has benefited from the anomaly of Chirac's personalization of his Lebanon policy thanks to his intimacy with the Hariri family. But the implications for Lebanon's future may be more dangerous than we realize.
Chirac's support for Hariri was apparently a key factor behind French efforts in 2004 to be more intrusive in Lebanon. The defining moment came in June of that year, when the French president met with his American counterpart, George W. Bush, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Normandy landings. Though the Americans and French had clashed bitterly over the Iraq invasion, Lebanon emerged as an issue over which the two sides could agree. Bush was keen to put pressure on Syria because of Syrian actions in Iraq. Chirac, who by then had lost all faith in Syrian President Bashar Assad, appeared to be preparing for the upcoming presidential election in Lebanon, an essential moment for Hariri to reassert his influence after years of facing animosity from President Emile Lahoud, Lebanon's security services, and Syria.
Following his meeting with Bush in Paris, Chirac had declared: "We have expressed renewed conviction and belief that Lebanon has to be ensured that its independence and sovereignty are guaranteed." Bush, in turn, affirmed: "The United States and France ... agree that the people of Lebanon should be free to determine their own future, without foreign interference or domination." The culmination of these early rumblings of consensus would come in September, when the Security Council passed Resolution 1559. Among other things, it demanded a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, after Assad had intimidated Hariri and Lebanon's Parliament into voting in favor of an extension for Lahoud.
This was a remarkable turnaround when compared to Chirac's position in 1996, when the president addressed the Lebanese Parliament. He told the assembled parliamentarians that France hoped 1996 could be a year when Syria and Lebanon would each reach a settlement with Israel. Chirac went on to observe that "it's through a just and lasting peace that your country will regain its sovereignty over all its territory, according to United Nations resolutions." At the time, Hariri was a main pillar of the Syrian order in Lebanon, so the French president basically reminded the Lebanese that Syria would only withdraw its forces once peace had been negotiated with Israel - which still occupied much of South Lebanon. Resolution 1559 did away with the open-endedness of Chirac's earlier message.
It was good to have Chirac in office during 2005 and 2006, when Lebanon needed regional and international assistance to get rid of the Syrians, put the Hariri investigation on track, and set up a UN framework to help normalize the country, particularly after the summer war last year. Unfortunately, too much of a good thing in diplomacy can often lead to too much of a bad thing. Domestic politics are often conducted in partisan counterpoint, so that, for example, the Bush administration's isolation of Syria prompted a foolish Democratic opening to Assad when US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Damascus recently. Similarly, Chirac's closeness to the Hariri family will almost certainly ensure that a new French administration swings the pendulum in the opposite direction, to compensate for the perceived excesses of the current president.
This is worrisome. It may be too late for Chirac, but Bush needs to better anchor his policy institutionally toward Syria, so it can endure once he leaves office. Policy abhors a vacuum. That's why Bush must define a more systematic approach to containing Syria, which he can justify in the context of a broader Middle East strategy that gains bipartisan support in Washington. Instead, what we now have is a deep rift between Republicans and Democrats over Iraq, which is threatening to undermine the administration's line on other important regional issues in which it has successfully worked within an Arab and international consensus. This includes ending Syria's efforts to reimpose its hegemony over Lebanon.
As for March 14, it should make a priority of pressing its friends in the West to develop a Lebanon policy that lasts beyond the leaders in place. That means talking to those likely to be in power next, and showing that Lebanon means more than justice for Rafik Hariri or tranquility along the border with Israel. Both are important objectives, even critical ones, but the Lebanese have too often suffered from international indifference not to see the advantages of building sympathy that is more lasting.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.