April 26/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ accordin

g to Saint Mark 16,15-20. He said to them, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.)

Free Opinions
Getting Damascus to say what it means and mean what it says. Daily Star. April 26/07
What's left and who's right in France?
By Dominique Moisi. April 26/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for April 25/07
Bishara Accused of Passing Information to Hizbullah.Naharnet
Mysterious Disappearance of 2 Youths in Beirut Sparks Fears of Renewed Violence
Ban Urges Assad to Use Influence to Ensure Consensus over Tribunal
Saniora Launches Fresh Initiative to End Political Impasse
Syria Warns Against Possible U.N. Deployment along Border with Lebanon

Lebanon, civil war still not taught 17 years later.Middle East Times
UN chief: Syria visit "productive".PRESS TV
Syria: Prominent human rights activist sentenced to five years.Al-Bawaba

Anti-Scarf Protest At Iranian University
Russia Bids Solemn Farewell to Yeltsin
U.N. Commission to Question Heroine of Al Madina Bank Scandal

Hundreds of 'Abused' Filipinos to be Repatriated from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia
Prominent Human Rights Syrian Lawyer Gets Five Years.BBSNews
Lebanon urges pressure on Israel.PRESS TV
Spain agrees to provide assistance to war-affected south Lebanon.People's Daily Online
Israeli general refutes PM's claims. PRESS TV

Latest News Reports From the Dailt Star for April 25/07
MPs stage usual shows at Parliament
Ban says Assad has pledged to help seal deal on Hariri court
Franjieh hails Iranian support for Lebanon
Tribunal should follow 'Lebanese rules' - Lahoud
Brazilian court asks UN's Hariri probe to interrogate Qoleilat
Spain signs deal to help Southerners affected by war
Saudi ambassador holds 'excellent' meeting with Sfeir
Australian cleric under fire over donations to Lebanon
Solidere denies shipping waste to other regions
UN asks Israelis for locations of cluster attacks
False bomb threat causes stir at USJ campus
Gemmayzeh Social League elects new board
Armenians mark anniversary of slaughter
Lebanese impasse looks familiar to ex-Sudanese PM
Security crisis erodes cash-strapped Palestinians' livelihoods

Getting Damascus to say what it means and mean what it says
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Editorial-Daily Star
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Syria on Tuesday for high-level meetings on the international court to try suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri, as well as other issues relating to Lebanon and the region. It is safe to guess that President Bashar Assad and other officials adopted the same tone during their talks with the UN chief that Syria has recently taken toward the UN investigation into the killing: one of the utmost compliance and cooperation. As an editorial in the state-run Tishrin newspaper suggested on Tuesday, Ban was probably given the impression that there is "a lot of common ground that can be built on."
But the international community ought to also take note of two key developments that were unfolding in Syria on the same day as the secretary general's visit. As Ban was arriving in Damascus, a Syrian court sentenced a leading human rights lawyer to five years in prison for questioning his government's policy toward Lebanon. Anwar al-Bunni's "crime" was to sign a petition calling for dialogue and diplomatic relations with the government in Beirut. Also on Tuesday, Syrian officials were counting votes and were due to announce the results of the country's recent parliamentary elections, not that the outcome of the vote was not predictable months in advance. Both the farcical elections and the jailing of a political dissident suggest that regardless of whatever President Bashar Assad tells Ban or any other visiting international official about his government's intentions, the primary concern of the ruling Baath Party is with engineering its own survival.
Although Assad was unlikely to have been completely forthcoming during Tuesday's meetings, Ban will no doubt come away from Damascus with a better idea about the nebulousness of the Syrian regime and the challenges that the international community faces in getting the country to modify its behavior toward Lebanon. This is not to say that the international community should give up its current quest to coax Syria's cooperation and instead seek to further destabilize the country, as such an approach would undoubtedly have disastrous consequences.
A better approach would be to seek ongoing contacts with Damascus aimed at dispelling any fantasy-like notions that the regime can bide time and wait for Lebanon's sovereignty to go away. Diplomats might also begin themselves to separate the Syrian and Lebanese files, making clear to Syrian leaders that they must deal directly with the UN in upholding their obligations with regard to the Hariri tribunal, and that pulling strings in Lebanon will do nothing to absolve them of these responsibilities.

What's left and who's right in France?
By Dominique Moisi
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
The surprise in the first round of the French presidential election was that there was no surprise, except for the huge level of voter turnout. The two leaders of the right and of the left, the favorites in all the polls for a long time, came first and second. Four winners and one clear loser emerged from the first round. The first winner is democracy. For the first time in my lifetime, as I went to vote on Sunday with my children - in a peaceful celebration of that secular religion that is democracy when it works well - I had to wait in line patiently for a relatively long time. For 85 percent of the electorate went to vote in what has been the highest level of participation in presidential elections in France since Charles de Gaulle last ran for president in 1965.
The lesson of the first ballot of 2002, which saw a high level of abstention and the surprise elimination of the Socialist Lionel Jospin, partly explains that mobilization. Also, with the emergence of a new generation of political leaders, the French - who were thought cynical toward politics - seem to have regained their unique passion for it.
The second winner is undeniably and by far Nicolas Sarkozy. With 31 percent of the vote he will come to the second ballot in a very favorable position. His strategy to attract the electorates of Jean Marie Le Pen's National Front proved to be a winning one. A majority of those who voted for him, did it, according to reliable exit poll studies, above all because of his personality. They wanted a strong charismatic man to reawaken France economically and to reassure them in security terms.
The third winner, though she is mathematically in a much less favorable position, is Segolene Royal. Her making it to the second round was a huge relief for the Socialist Party after the Jospin debacle of 2002 - and with more than 25 percent of the votes, she did nearly as well as Francois Mitterrand in 1981.
In order to have a serious chance to win, she has to transform the second ballot into a referendum against Sarkozy. In a classical left-right contest she can only lose. The working class is disappearing in modern France and what's left of it tends to go more to the extreme right than to the extreme left. Segolene Royal has done well, but probably not well enough, unless in a face-to-face debate with Sarkozy she can rally a majority of viewers to the radical modernity of electing a woman to the highest French position. It is not what she says but what she is, or even more so the fear of her opponent that constitute her best chance.
The fourth winner, though his absence from the second ballot is a disappointment for him, is Francois Bayrou. With more than 18 percent of the votes he tripled his score of 2002. He has turned the center into a force. In the second ballot of France's presidential elections, he will prove to be a queen- or more likely a king-maker. His votes are needed by both remaining candidates and it is likely they will tend to split equally between left and right, for he cannot commit himself to clearly support one candidate over the other.
The clear loser in the first round is the leader of the extreme right, Jean-Marie Le Pen. With less than 11 percent of the votes in what will be the last campaign of his career, he turned into an "aging detail of history." In a campaign centered on the emergence of a new generation of political leaders, he lost his appeal. He did not mellow, but was swallowed by history's zeitgeist.
Now a second campaign begins. The key strategic move for the two remaining candidates will be to attract the votes of the center without losing their core leftist or rightist constituencies. That means emphasizing in a reassuring way, economic credibility for Segolene Royal, and social compassion for Nicolas Sarkozy.
The world and Europe in particular will be watching even more intensely this second round. One can nearly detect a kind of "North-South divide," with Southern Europe (mainly Spain and Italy) standing behind Royal, and Northern Europe (predominantly Germany and Britain) - the US as well - aligning themselves behind Sarkozy.
For the European Union, a new man or a woman in the Elysee Palace may be a necessary condition for reinvigorating the European project, but it is not a sufficient condition. The French "no" to the referendum on Europe's constitutional treaty in May 2005 revealed the depth of Europe's crisis, it did not create it. Watching the celebration of patriotism behind the raising of the French flag and the singing of the national anthem during the first round of the campaign, one can believe that the British vision of a Europe of independent nation states has won already, if only by default.
On May 6, the date of the second ballot, French citizens will choose between two risks. The first one, which is potential given Sarkozy's domineering personality, is to have Sarkozy as president. The second risk may prove to be even a bigger one, and can be described as follows. At this particular juncture in time and given the condition of their economy, can the French reject the candidate that incarnates by far the best hope for change and "renaissance?" To succeed, Sarkozy will have to turn his campaign slogan, "Together everything becomes possible" into reality. That implies successfully integrating French immigrants into the wider community with a combination of economic growth, restoration of the authority of the state, but also and above all a far greater sense of solidarity and fraternity. **Dominique Moisi, a founder and senior adviser at the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI), is currently a professor at the College of Europe in Natolin, Warsaw. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate (c) (

Mysterious Disappearance of 2 Youths in Beirut Sparks Fears of Renewed Violence
Police have reported that a boy and a young man affiliated with Druze leader Walid Jumblat's Progressive Socialist Party went missing in Beirut and were presumed kidnapped. A police communiqué released on Tuesday identified the two as Ziad Ghandour, 12, and Ziad Qabalan, 25.
The short communiqué said the two left the Beirut PSP stronghold of Wata Mosseitbeh on Monday in a French-made Renault minivan which was found 24 hours later deserted east of the capital. The communiqué included photographs of the two, urging anyone with information pertaining to their whereabouts to report it to police. It did not disclose further details. However, security sources told Naharnet that Ghandour's father was a PSP member like Qabalan. One source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, expressed the belief that the two were kidnapped in a tribal vendetta act related to the killing of Adnan Shamas, a pro-Hizbullah young man, during a bloody confrontation between pro- and anti-government factions on Jan. 25.
The PSP confirmed the two went missing but withheld comment on whether efforts are being exerted to determine their whereabouts.
The daily An Nahar on Wednesday said Jumblat swiftly called House Speaker Nabih Berri, a Hizbullah ally, in the first such contact between the two leaders in months due to the ongoing political crisis. The paper said Jumblat asked Berri to help secure the release of the kidnapped persons "to avoid unrest." Beirut, 24 Apr 07, 21:23

Saniora Launches Fresh Initiative to End Political Impasse
Prime Minister Fouad Saniora has launched a fresh initiative that could get Lebanon out of its political impasse, the daily An Nahar reported on Wednesday. In a front-page article, An Nahar headlined that Saniora's announcement was made during talks with Saudi Ambassador Abdul Aziz Khoja at the Grand Serail on Tuesday. The paper said Saniora's proposal, which came following a meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Arab League chief Amr Moussa, aimed at ending the vicious circle over formation of a new government. Saniora said any exit to the ongoing crisis would be creation of a "national unity government based on political consensus … after that, there shall be no problem as to the number (of cabinet ministers) issue."The pro-government camp has adamantly rejected the opposition demand which has been insisting on a 19 -11 formula that would give it veto power in a national unity cabinet. On the other hand, the Hizbullah-led opposition has bluntly snubbed the ruling majority demand for a 19 + 10 + 1 formula which would strip the anti-government camp of veto power. The 19 – 11 and the 19 + 10 + 1 are a reference to the number of ministers for each camp in a new cabinet. Saniora, however, said that his new initiative requires "agreement over the declarations that are built on commitment," in reference to the Seven-Point cease-fire plan adopted by the government as a means to end the 34-day Israel-Hizbullah war last summer. He said a timetable was also required "to implement what has been agreed upon" during all-party national talks which first commenced in March 2006 and stopped when Israel launched its offensive on Lebanon last July. Beirut, 25 Apr 07, 10:16

Ban Urges Assad to Use Influence to Ensure Consensus over Tribunal
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has urged Syrian President Bashar Assad to press all sides in Lebanon to accept an international tribunal that would try ex-premier Rafik Hariri's suspected assassins. However, following his talks with the Syrian leader, Ban hinted Tuesday that the United Nations might have to act on its own if no agreement was reached between opposing pro- and anti-government factions in Beirut.
"I emphasized the importance and the urgency for the Lebanese people to promote national reconciliation, so that they can reach an agreement for the establishment of the international tribunal," Ban told a press conference.
"Neighboring countries, particularly Syria, should play a constructive role to help this national reconciliation."But he added that if the Lebanese "are not able to do that, the U.N. and the Security Council will have to consider that."He said he and Assad had discussed the court at length, and that the Syrian president had said it was something "the Lebanese should decide."In what he described as "short but productive talks" during his first visit to Syria, Ban said Assad had agreed to use his good offices to "encourage the Lebanese to arrive to a national consensus."
Damascus refuses to allow any Syrian suspects to appear before the proposed court. Tuesday's talks also focused on control of the border between Syria and Lebanon. The U.N. chief said he and Assad had "discussed the importance of preventing (entry) of illegal arms to Lebanon. Syria can play a very positive role in disarming all armed groups" there.
Ban warned that the smuggling of weapons across the Syrian-Lebanese border threatens the August 14 cease-fire that halted the war between Israel and Hizbullah. An Nahar daily said Wednesday that the U.N. Secretary General also urged Assad to establish diplomatic ties with Lebanon.
Earlier in the day, Ban visited U.N. forces monitoring the armistice line between Syrian forces and Israeli troops on the occupied Golan Heights.
On the Middle East front, Ban hopes his Syrian visit "will be useful and constructive" in advancing the peace process, U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said earlier this month. During a tour last month, the U.N. secretary general visited Israel and the West Bank in a bid to revive peace talks before attending an Arab summit in Riyadh where a Saudi-inspired peace initiative was re-launched.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 25 Apr 07, 08:24

Hundreds of 'Abused' Filipinos to be Repatriated from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia
Hundreds of Filipino workers stranded in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia after fleeing "abusive" employers are to be repatriated by the Philippines government, a labor official in Manila has said. President Gloria Arroyo on Tuesday greeted at Manila international airport 108 Filipinos who had returned from Saudi Arabia and 16 from Lebanon. More than 300 Filipino workers in the two countries have sought help from their embassies after leaving their employers for such things as "unpaid salaries, abuses, maltreatment, sexual harassments and rapes," said Labor Secretary Arturo Brion. The workers had fled their employers and taken refuge in special "resource centers" in the Philippines embassy in those countries, Brion said.
He stressed that repatriation was not an unusual procedure as more than a thousand Filipino workers had been sent home in similar circumstances since Arroyo visited Saudi Arabia in 2006 and set up the system for them to return home. Brion said these workers, most of them household helpers, were only a fraction of the more than one million Filipinos working in the Middle East. Last month, the Manila government allowed Filipino workers who evacuated Lebanon during last summer's war between Israel and Hizbullah to return to work with the same employers. It said newly-hired Filipino household helpers will also be allowed to work in Lebanon provided their employers are endorsed by Philippines officials in Lebanon.
The Manila government also said that such endorsement would come only for Filipino household helpers contracted for Lebanese government officials, the diplomatic corps and international organizations operating in Lebanon.(AFP-Naharnet) (AFP photo shows Philippines President Gloria Arroyo talking to some of the Filipino overseas workers who arrived at Manila international airport) Beirut, 25 Apr 07, 09:04