April 24/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 6,22-29. The next day, the crowd that remained across the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not gone along with his disciples in the boat, but only his disciples had left. Other boats came from Tiberias near the place where they had eaten the bread when the Lord gave thanks. When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?" Jesus answered them and said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal."So they said to him, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent."

Free Opinions
Israel's message in talks with Gates: Syria is preparing for war.Ha'aretz, Israel. April 23/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for April 24/07
France's Sarkozy, Royal back to campaign trail after close vote-AP
Switzerland Offers to Host Inter-Lebanese Dialogue-Naharnet
Egyptian president, Lebanese prime minister discuss situation in ...International Herald Tribune
Saniora Takes Tribunal Campaign to Egypt-Naharnet
Qassem: Prisoner Swap Talks Are 'Serious'-Naharnet
Lebanon: Palestinian man shot, bomb damages car.Jerusalem Post
Violence in Palestinian camp.Houston Chronicle
Former Arab Israeli MP to whip up support campaign.Middle East Times
Israel says Syria preparing for war.Israel Today
US military: Iran and Syria help armed groups in
From Brazil to Lebanon: time to return.ANBA
Olmert looks to counter Lebanon War criticism.Israel Today
Olmert: Painful Summer War Changed Equation-Naharnet


Switzerland Offers to Host Inter-Lebanese Dialogue
Naharnet: Switzerland has reportedly suggested hosting an inter-Lebanese dialogue in an effort to settle the ongoing Lebanon crisis, a well-informed Lebanese source said on Monday. The source told the daily As Safir that Switzerland recently offered to host talks in Geneva between leaders of the pro-government ruling majority and the Hizbullah-led opposition. As Safir said a Swiss presidential envoy "secretly" visited Beirut a few weeks ago and met leaders of the majority and the opposition. It quoted the source as saying that the Geneva talks are to be held behind closed doors and "away from media attention."While "some" leaders of the ruling majority welcomed the offer, the opposition referred the proposal to House Speaker Nabih Berri who is in charge of conducting political contacts on behalf of the anti-government camp, As-Safir said.
It said Berri refused to answer a question concerning the Swiss offer, telling As Safir he was not willing to give any statements yet.
The sources said that the U.N.'s top legal adviser Nicolas Michel, who was in Beirut last week, had raised the issue with leaders of both sides of the political divide, stressing U.N.'s enthusiasm for the matter. They said Berri listened to Michel's explanation of the Swiss proposal, adding that the Parliament Speaker said he wanted to "study it before giving his final answer." Beirut, 23 Apr 07, 07:13

Saniora Takes Tribunal Campaign to Egypt
Premier Fouad Saniora took his campaign for an international tribunal to Egypt on Monday, holding talks with its president days after the U.N. said it will push through the court if political deadlock in Lebanon continues.
"We will exert all efforts and exhaust all means that lead to the establishment of this tribunal in Lebanon, and let it be known that we really want this court to be established," Saniora told reporters after talks with President Hosni Mubarak. The U.N.'s top legal adviser Nicolas Michel warned in comments published Saturday that "if the statutes of the tribunal laid out in the accord between the United Nations and the Lebanese government are not ratified in accordance with Lebanese constitutional procedures, other ways will have to be found." Saniora's government has been pushing for the creation of the court that will try the suspects in ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's assassination and related crimes. But opposition Speaker Nabih Berri is refusing to call for a parliament session to ratify the tribunal. "For 30 years, Lebanon has suffered dozens of assassinations and still we don't know about them, therefore, to protect democracy and freedom and to guarantee this freedom for the Lebanese people, an international tribunal must be established," Saniora said.
Egypt made no immediate comment on Saniora's talks with Mubarak, but the prime minister said Cairo had long supported his government and was trying to make all Lebanese parties sit down together to resolve their problems.
Egypt and Mubarak have "always supported Lebanon," he said. Saniora told reporters he and the Egyptian president discussed developments in Lebanon and the region. Opposition supporters have been camping outside Saniora's office in downtown Beirut for months, demanding that he step down or give the Hizbullah-led alliance a veto-wielding share of the cabinet. Saniora said Monday that "the past few months of pressure, threats and other acts meant to stifle the economic and legal institutions, have produced no result. "But we are still determined to follow dialogue and common understanding, and we hope our brothers will do the same," Saniora said of Hizbullah and its allies.
Later Monday, Saniora met Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, who has made several trips to Lebanon to try to negotiate a compromise between the two sides. Saniora said Moussa would resume his efforts when there was real progress in the talks among the Lebanese factions.(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 23 Apr 07, 17:25

Qassem: Prisoner Swap Talks Are 'Serious'
U.N.-mediated negotiations to secure a prisoner swap between Hizbullah and Israel are going on in a "serious" manner, but so far there have been no results, Hizbullah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem has said. Qassem also stressed Sunday that the two Israeli soldiers, whose capture by Hizbullah on July 12 triggered a 34-day war between the Jewish state and the group's fighters, would be freed only in exchange for freedom of all Lebanese prisoners held in Israel. "The negotiations are serious and when they reach any result, it will be announced, because we have agreed not to announce details of the negotiations to secure their success and to keep them away from political and media blackmail," Qassem said.
U.N. Resolution 1701 that ended the war on Aug. 14 called for an unconditional release of the two soldiers. On the same day the two Israelis were captured, Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah told a news conference that the two soldiers would be released only through a prisoner exchange with Israel.
Israel had initially rejected calls for a prisoner swap to secure the soldiers' freedom, calling instead for their unconditional release. It later accepted U.N. mediation in the case. A special U.N. envoy dispatched last September by then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been mediating between Hizbullah and Israel on a possible exchange of prisoners. Hizbullah has not released any details on the conditions of the two soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, or provided any sign they are still alive since their capture.
Earlier in the month, Hizbullah politburo member Mahmoud Qamati reportedly told an Arab-Israel newspaper that the prisoners were receiving humane treatment. However, Hizbullah denied the report and said Qamati had told the Arabic-language Al-Sinara "he was not authorized to speak on the subject."
Qassem hoped that the indirect negotiations between Israel and the Shiite party would end "quickly and in a better way," stressing that all Lebanese prisoners must be freed in any deal. "We are committed to this slogan regardless of the patience and sacrifices we endure. We are confident that the Israelis will eventually comply," he said.
Qassem was speaking at a Hizbullah rally in a mosque in Beirut's war-devastated southern suburbs to mark the 28th anniversary of Samir Kantar's captivity in Israel. Kantar, the dean of Lebanese prisoners, is serving a 542-year prison sentence in Israel for killing three Israelis during an attack in 1979.
"There can be no solution to the prisoners' issue except through an equal exchange that will release our prisoners, on top of them is Samir Kantar," Qassem said, drawing cheers from the crowd that included Kantar's mother and family members. Israel says it will not release Kantar until it receives information about Ron Arad, an air force navigator who went missing after his plane was shot down over Lebanon in 1986. His fate is unknown.
Israel and Hizbullah have had prisoner swaps in the past. During his visit to Lebanon last month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed disappointment that there had been no progress toward the release of the two Israeli soldiers.(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 23 Apr 07, 10:38

Olmert: Painful Summer War Changed Equation
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that last summer's war between the Jewish State and Hizbullah was painful but succeeded in changing "the rules of the game" in the region. "The threat is not as it has been for many many years. At this moment the northern border is totally quiet," Olmert told Israel Radio in an interview aired Sunday. "The main goal we wanted to achieve, changing the equation, I think it was achieved but at a very heavy price," he said. He said the time would not be ripe for peace negotiations with Syria until Syrian President Bashar Assad stopped supporting Palestinian militants.
"We want to have peace with every Arab state, including Syria," he said. "But ... it is not enough to say publicly 'I want peace,' you have to act on this."
He also said Iran is still a long way from acquiring technology necessary to produce nuclear weapons. "Iran is far from attaining the technology threshold and this country is not close to getting it, contrary to statements by its leadership," he said. Olmert also said that he preferred diplomacy in dealing with the Islamic republic's controversial nuclear program.
"I don't think that a military operation would ensure that Iran doesn't get nuclear arms," he said. "The enormous diplomatic efforts, with which Israel is associated, are attaining their objective," he said. "Iran is the biggest danger for us, but we shouldn't give in to panic and hysteria, which result in nothing," he added.(Naharnet-AP-AFP) Beirut, 23 Apr 07, 07:35

Israeli Jetfighters Buzz Hizbullah's New Bases
Israeli jetfighters buzzed Hizbullah's new bases in south Lebanon and the western flank of the Beqaa valley Sunday, drawing anti-aircraft fire, but no raids or hits were reported. Local reporters said at least four Israeli jetfighters flew apparent reconnaissance missions at medium-low altitudes over the mountainous range stretching from the southern Shebaa sector to the Jezzine-Chouf region, cracking sonic booms and drawing scattered anti-aircraft fire.
The overflights covered a stretch of the terrain north of the Litani River in south Lebanon, to which Hizbullah was pushed after the July-August war with Israel. Witnesses in the area told Naharnet the Israeli jetfighters dropped scarlet balloons in a protective tactic designed to deflect heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles. No such weapons were observed, however. Anti-aircraft rounds made white puffs of smoke in the clear sky as they exploded around the Israeli jetfighters. No hits were reported, however.
The overflights created panic in the Hizbullah-controlled villages of the Apple Province, east of the southern provincial capital of Sidon, residents told Naharnet. The Israeli move was carried out shortly before a visit to neighboring Syria by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to discuss with Damascus officials, among other topics, relations with Lebanon and the alleged smuggling of weapons to re-arm Hizbullah. Illegal trafficking of weapons to Lebanon has been banned by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 which ended a 34-day war between Hizbullah and Israel last August.
The resolution created a weapons-free zone south of the Litani River to prevent Hizbullah from staging cross-border attacks against Israel.
The party, however, has set up fortified bases north of the Litani River and in the western region of the Beqaa valley, close to the borders with Syria.
A U.N. peacekeeping force created by resolution 1701 patrols the zone south of the Litani rover to support Lebanese army operations in the area.
Beirut, 22 Apr 07, 11:18

Israel's message in talks with Gates: Syria is preparing for war
By Ze'ev Schiff, Haaretz Correspondent
The gist of the Israeli message in its recent talks with United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates is that Syria is preparing for a military confrontation with Israel. The U.S. message to Israel on Syria, in contrast, remained unchanged: Israel should at present avoid diplomatic talks with Damascus because President Bashar Assad plans to use such talks to extricate Syria from its isolation. Israeli talks with Damascus would be a knife in the back of the government of Fouad Siniora in Lebanon.
No tangible evidence exists, Israel told the U.S., that Damascus is planning an all-out war with Israel. But it is believed that Damascus has concluded that Israel might respond to various Syrian actions and that would be the cause of a full-blown confrontation.
Such an Israeli response might come following Syrian assistance to Hezbollah or Palestinian terror organizations like Islamic Jihad. Damascus would have no choice but to respond with a more extensive operation.
Such evaluations have been made before and proven mistaken. However, facts on the ground show the Syrian army is increasing its battle readiness, munitions production (especially of rockets and missiles), emergency stores and is acquiring more weapons systems from Iran. It has purchased a large number of advanced anti-tank missiles from the Russians, with whom it also negotiating the purchase of Russia's latest anti-aircraft missiles.
The Syrians have deployed Iranian naval missiles (originally Chinese), the C. 802. The destructive power and range of Syria's rockets and missiles has clearly grown in recent years. Israel does not rule out a possible Syrian grab for the Golan, assuming that if Israel counter-attacks the Syrian lines it will incur heavy losses. Thus, the IDF's power has also increased, especially that of the Israel Air Force.
Like the Syrians, the Israelis are upgrading the training of their units and providing them with the latest equipment.
The difference is that Israel is not threatening war on Syria, while Syrian leaders, including Assad, have frequently said recently that if they do not get the Golan Heights back, Syria will turn to "resistance." In other words, it will go to war. Last update - 07:53 22/04/2007

Sarkozy and Royal set to contest French presidency
By Robert Marquand, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Mon Apr 23, 4:00 AM ET
PARIS - Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Ségolène Royal will face each other in a runoff for president on May 6, after one of the largest voter turnouts in French history. The vote gives a clear choice between a right and a left direction for one of Europe's most influential nations, and may possibly allow France to elect its first female head of state. When the polls closed at 8 p.m. Paris time, preliminary results showed Mr. Sarkozy, the former interior minister, with 29.6 percent of the vote, and Ms. Royal with 25.1 percent, according to French election officials.
A "Sarko-Ségo" run-off is probably the least surprising outcome in what has been a wide-open, 12-candidate race, where "undecided" has been the standard voter reply to pollsters for months. François Bayrou, the so-called "third option" in the race, and nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen, finished with 18.7 and 11.5 percent respectively. Voter turnout was confirmed to be at least 75 percent at 5 p.m., with projections showing that up to 87 percent of France's 44.5 million voters would cast ballots.
Front-runner Sarkozy, in a speech at his campaign headquarters moments after the polls closed, said a race between himself and Royal would offer "two ideas for the future, two projects for society ... and we have the responsibility to make the positions as clear as possible."
At 9:45 p.m., Royal gave a speech emphasizing brotherhood and justice. She said, it's time to engage in a "fight for change so that France can stand up again."
The view from the suburbs
At the Ambroise Thomas public school in Argenteuil, a heavily immigrant Paris suburb that saw rioting in 2005, French citizens waited hours in unseasonable heat to vote overwhelmingly for Royal. Two Moroccan women, Jamilia and Fatima, both wearing designer sunglasses, raced into the school in the afternoon, only to reappear moments later. The lines were so long, they decided to watch a Hollywood film, and come back in the evening to vote.
"People need to say what they think," Jamilia said, noting that while she felt Royal is not a true leftist, "she is a woman, and since men have ruled here so long, and not so well, maybe a woman can offer something different."
In the wealthy suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, where Sarkozy launched his political career in his early 20s and where he cast his vote Sunday morning, most residents voted for him. In the city center, national police squads deployed from the south-central city of Lyon were parked along a tree-lined street where kids were kicking soccer balls. They drove to Paris three days ago, but an officer said the vote had been peaceful throughout France.
"If the vote goes a certain way, we might have some trouble after dark," he said, "but we don't expect it."
Change for France – and Europe
The French election has been passionately debated here. Voters say they deeply feel the need for change – though it was not always clear what change of direction they want in a society that has long relied on a state social-welfare model.
France has such pull and clout in Europe, that the Continent has been waiting for the final round of elections on May 6 to determine a direction on a constitution that would further unify the European Union.