April 6/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 13,1-15.
Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Master, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered and said to him, "What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well." Jesus said to him, "Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all."For he knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, "Not all of you are clean." So when he had washed their feet (and) put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, "Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.

Free Opinions
Nancy Pelosi Embraces Terror State. Wires. March 06/07

When a dilettante takes on Hizbullah- By Michael Young. March 06/07
Oui to a Chapter 7 Mandate For Lebanon. Joseph Hitti.Global Politician . March 06/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous sources April 06/07
Berri Says Dozens of MPs Will Resign if He Convenes Parliament-Naharnet
Jumblat Criticizes Legislators' 'Silly' Hugs and Kisses-Naharnet
U.N. Studies Majority MPs' Request on Creation of Tribunal-Naharnet
Israeli Reservists Need to Reconcile with their Weapons-Naharnet
Two Lebanese Hostages Released in Nigeria-Naharnet
Bush: Iraq Pullout Would Make U.S. More Vulnerable to 'Evil' Attack-Naharnet
U.K. sailors return home after Iran crisis. AP
Syria played role in resolving U.K.-Iran dispute, officials say-AP
Syria Claims Credit in British Crew Release-The Media Line
IDF shoots from border into Lebanon-Jerusalem Post
Siniora gov't blamed for Lebanon impasse-PRESS TV
Hopes dim for Syria talks-Monsters and
Pelosi makes a wave in Syria-Los Angeles Times
Pelosi's Syria trip gets mixed review-Los Angeles Times
Film portrays civilian heroes of Lebanon war-Gulf Times
Hezbollah accuses majority of wanting to 'control' Lebanon-Ya Libnan
Israel Says Action Needed From Syria for Peace Talks-Voice of America

Latest News Reports From the Daily April 05/07
Assad tells Pelosi Syria is ready for peace talks
Inquiry 'will say Olmert should have quit after war'  
Berri accuses loyalists of using UN to 'impose their rule'
Maronite Bishops call for timely presidential vote
Sabaa holds first formal talks with Graziano
Nigerian militants free Lebanese, Dutch, British hostages
Workshop argues for need to lower country's voting age from 21 to 18
Hizbullah MP slams majority for using Hariri case for 'political provocation'
Lebanese-Syrian Committee meets at border
Future MP opens 2 bridges rebuilt after war
London pledges cash, dogs to clear unexploded ordnance
Court orders halt to TV show with 'stolen' concept
De-miners hope to finish work in South by end of year
AUB inaugurates business leadership program
'Follow the Women' prepares for tour
Italian ambassador puts a little extra cash in UNICEF's pocket
'The Middle East is warming up' to nuclear energy
Private security firms cash in on increasing paranoia

Nancy Pelosi Embraces Terror State Wires
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has come under criticism for her visit to Syria as Bush administration officials charge that the trip undermines U.S. efforts to isolate the hard-line Arab country. The White House was also sharply critical of visits to Syria in December by Pelosi's fellow Democrats Sen. John Kerry, Sen. Christopher Dodd and Sen. Bill Nelson, as well as a trip by Republican Sen. Arlen Specter.
The fact is, Syria is a brutal dictatorship that actively supports terrorists – including Iraqi Sunni insurgents that operate from Syrian territory.
Pelosi says Syria and its leader Bashar Assad are interested in peace talks with Israel. But here is the real story about this rogue nation:
In 2002, then Undersecretary of State John Bolton added Syria to the "Axis of Evil," a group of nations that the U.S. charges with sponsoring terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. accuses Syria of acting as a conduit for Iranian arms destined for Hezbollah terrorists. Both Hezbollah and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas have offices in Damascus, the Syrian capital.
Last year a former Iraqi military officials said Saddam Hussein had sent his weapons of mass destruction to Syria before the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Syria has been in a self-proclaimed "state of emergency" since 1963, which it uses to justify arbitrary arrests and detentions without trial. The state restricts freedom of speech, the press and assembly and outlaws political opposition. Amnesty International estimates that Syria currently holds about 600 political prisoners, but Human Rights Watch puts the number in the thousands.
Freedom House rates Syria a 7 on a scale that ranks countries from 1 to 7, with 1 being the "most free" and 7 the "least free."
An estimated 300,000 Syrian Kurds – about 10 percent of the population – are denied citizenship.
Ever since Bashar Assad's father seized power in 1970, the government has been under the control of the secretive Alawite sect, which comprises less than 10 percent of the population. The Alawites consider themselves Shiites, but both the Shiites and Sunnis do not recognize the Alawites as Muslims.
In 1982, Syria savagely put down an uprising led by the Muslim Brotherhood, laying siege to the city of Hama and shelling it. More than 20,000 people were slaughtered, although some estimates put the number at 40,000.
Syrian troops occupied Lebanon in 1976 and launched a campaign of terror and assassination against anti-Syrian voices in the country.
In February 2005, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated by a car bomb in Beirut. A United Nations probe implicated Syria, and international pressure forced the Syrians to withdraw their troops from Lebanon in April 2005.
The assassinations did not end with the Syrian troop withdrawal. This past November, Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel was gunned down by Syrian assassins in Beirut. Elias Bejjani, chairman of the Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council, said in February that Syria, along with Iran, "carry out their anti-Lebanese, anti-peace, and anti-world destructive schemes in and via Lebanon." © NewsMax 2007. All rights reserved.

Berri Says Dozens of MPs Will Resign if He Convenes Parliament
Naharnet: House Speaker Nabih Berri has said that he was deliberately not convening Parliament in an effort to "safeguard" what he termed Lebanon's "last constitutional institution.""I have information that if I convene parliament during this (tense) atmosphere more than 50 deputies will resign," Berri said in an interview with NBN television channel Wednesday evening. "What I'm doing now is safeguarding Lebanon's last constitutional institution," he added.
Berri, a close Hizbullah ally and a leading figure in the opposition, also said the government majority was using the international tribunal as a pretext for governing Lebanon. On the parliamentary majority's move in which it handed a petition to the U.N. requesting establishment of the court, Berri said: "It's not about the tribunal. It's about trying to impose their rule on Lebanon."
Legislature Saad Hariri on Tuesday delivered the petition which was signed by 70 lawmakers to the U.N. special coordinator in Lebanon, Geir Pederson, asking the world body to set up the court on the assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri. Berri charged that the petition was signed and ready to go since Sunday and wondered "why the government wants a parliament session when it has the (U.N.) Security Council by passing what (bills) it wants."
The speaker reiterated that he and Hizbullah, which spearheads the opposition, "want the (establishment of the) tribunal and are concerned about it, but we want to discuss it."Berri also uncovered that Israel had asked France and the United States to "re-attack Lebanon soon."
"How can we confront such a situation?" Berri asked. "By national unity," he responded. Beirut, 05 Apr 07, 07:05

Jumblat Criticizes Legislators' 'Silly' Hugs and Kisses
Naharnet:: Druze leader Walid Jumblat has criticized fellow legislators for hugging and kissing rival lawmakers during a recent rally in Parliament over an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri. "We could have done without the resounding hand-shake party with agents of the Syrian regime and followers of Iran who established the Hizbullah state to confront that of the Taef," Jumblat said in remarks published on Thursday. "We could have done without these silly kisses with those whom we accuse of moral and perhaps technical partnership in the (latest) series of crimes…,""We could have done without the warm encounters with those who destroyed the economy and turned Beirut squares into (military) camps…,""We could have done without the grins with those who represent the culture of death…," Jumblat added.
He was referring to Tuesday's television footage which illustrated some pro-government deputies who kissed, hugged or merely shook hands with rival lawmakers, instead of the usual bickering and feuding. Pro-government legislators and opposition deputies gathered in parliament avoiding a feared showdown over the U.N.-backed tribunal. But the hugs and kisses, which normally heal a broken heart, did not settle the dispute over the court.
Beirut, 05 Apr 07, 13:37

U.N. Studies Majority MPs' Request on Creation of Tribunal
The United Nations said Wednesday that it was studying a request by Lebanese lawmakers for the world body to set up an international tribunal to try ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's suspected assassins. "The secretariat has received a memorandum addressed to the Secretary General by 70 Lebanese parliamentarians and is studying it," U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas told a press briefing. "The Secretary General continues to be concerned by the political impasse in Lebanon and hopes that the relevant Lebanese institutions will take the steps necessary under their constitution to conclude the agreement," she added. Saad Hariri, legislator and son of the slain leader, presented a memorandum which was signed by 70 majority lawmakers to the U.N. special coordinator in Lebanon, Geir Pederson, during a meeting late Tuesday. Addressed to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, the text requested that "all alternative measures" be taken by the Security Council to guarantee the establishment of the international tribunal. Montas said that during Ban's recent visit to Beirut, all of the leaders the U.N. chief met expressed "support for the process that would bring to justice those responsible" for the Feb. 2005 killing of Hariri and 22 others in a massive bombing on the Beirut seafront. "The Secretary General remains convinced that the preferred path toward justice is through the fulfillment of the Lebanese constitutional process," she added.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 05 Apr 07, 07:24

Israeli Reservists Need to Reconcile with their Weapons
At least 20 percent of reservists in Israel's ground forces are incapable of handling their weapons, the Yediot Aharonot newspaper reported Wednesday.
The paper quoted army sources as saying the figures were gathered during training of reservists since November, with tank, artillery and engineering units showing the worst performance. Israel's new army chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, has said the training of reservists would be one of his top priorities following last year's inconclusive war against Hizbullah in Lebanon.(AFP) Beirut, 04 Apr 07, 17:47

When a dilettante takes on Hizbullah
By Michael Young -Daily Star staff
Thursday, April 05, 2007
We can thank the US speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, for having informed Syrian President Bashar Assad, from Beirut, that "the road to solving Lebanon's problems passes through Damascus." Now, of course, all we need to do is remind Pelosi that the spirit and letter of successive United Nations Security Council resolutions, as well as Saudi and Egyptian efforts in recent weeks, have been destined to ensure precisely the opposite: that Syria end its meddling in Lebanese affairs.
Pelosi embarked on a fool's errand to Damascus this week, and among the issues she said she would raise with Assad - when she wasn't on the Lady Hester Stanhope tour in the capital of imprisoned dissidents Aref Dalila, Michel Kilo, and Anwar Bunni - is "the role of Syria in supporting Hamas and Hizbullah." What the speaker doesn't seem to have realized is that if Syria is made an obligatory passage in American efforts to address the Lebanese crisis, then Hizbullah will only gain. Once Assad is re-anointed gatekeeper in Lebanon, he will have no incentive to concede anything, least of all to dilettantes like Pelosi, on an organization that would be Syria's enforcer in Beirut if it could re-impose its hegemony over its smaller neighbor.
Inasmuch as it is possible to evoke sympathy in such cases, one can sympathize with Hizbullah. In 2000, the party lost much of its reason to exist as a military force when the Israelis withdrew from Southern Lebanon. The manufacturing of the Shebaa Farms pretext, thanks to the diligent efforts of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, bought Hizbullah an extension, a handy fig leaf allowing it to keep its weapons. Last summer, however, the party's initiation of a war devastating to Lebanon, followed by its efforts to lead a coup against the majority, demolished any lingering cross-sectarian support that Hizbullah had enjoyed.
Hizbullah's weapons are no longer regarded as weapons of resistance by most Lebanese, but as weapons of sectarian discord. The party's effort to torpedo the Hariri tribunal has created a perception that it is siding with Rafik Hariri's murderers - little helped by Hizbullah secretary general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's public statements of solidarity with the Syrian regime. But perhaps most worrying for Hizbullah's leadership is its knowledge that the party cannot return to where it was before July 12, 2006, when the war with Israel began - at least without pushing the Lebanese political system perilously closer to war. For one thing is absolutely clear: Without some sort of Syrian return to Lebanon, and even then, Hizbullah has no future as simultaneously a political and military party.
For years, pundits and analysts have spoken of Hizbullah's "integration into Lebanese society." Their underlying premise was that the party somehow desired this. Optimists pointed to Hizbullah's participation in successive parliamentary elections as an example of its willingness to "assimilate." The naivete deployed was remarkable. It rarely occurred to the experts that Hizbullah did not start as, nor truly is, a social services organization. It is an Iranian-financed military and security enterprise overseeing a vast and competent patronage system designed to win Shiite backing, allowing Hizbullah to retain its weapons. It never occurred to the experts that Hizbullah's objective in participating in the political system was not to jettison its military identity, but rather to safeguard it within the confines of Lebanese institutions it could thereafter influence. And it never occurred to the experts that Hizbullah was not interested in integration at all, at least on terms that would require surrendering its autonomy, even if it readily exploited its stake in the state as an additional means of patronage, much like other Lebanese political actors.
These conditions no longer apply in Lebanon. With the society divided, Hizbullah cannot impose its conditions as it once did. This, Nasrallah knows. At the same time, the party's officials are too astute not to recognize that a return of Syrian domination, while it might buy Hizbullah a new lease on life, is more likely to lead to a Sunni-Shiite war, its end result, in all probability, being the collapse of Assad's regime, which would not be able to resist sectarian discord coming from Lebanon. That leaves a third option: Hizbullah's embrace of the Lebanese system through an agreement to disarm and transform itself from a Leninist political-military party into solely a political one deferring to democratic rules.
None of these choices appeals to Hizbullah. This is why it is trying to avoid a decision by taking over effective control of the government, to better determine who will be elected president once Emile Lahoud's term ends. Hizbullah's demand for 11 ministers out of 30 must be understood in this context, as an instrument to bring the government down, or threaten to, and use this as leverage to choose a friendly president. If the party and Syria can influence the presidency, and given the fact that they already rule over Parliament through Berri, this would allow them to hold Lebanon hostage in the coming years and rebuild the political and military infrastructure that was the basis of their intimidation.
That's why both Syria and Hizbullah were especially alarmed with statements from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's entourage last week, that the UN was working on defining the Shebaa Farms border, whether Syria agreed with this or not. If the international organization sets final boundaries and persuades Israel to withdraw, Hizbullah will have even less of an excuse to hold on to its arms. More worrying for the Syrians, this would sever any remaining linkage between a resolution of Lebanon's territorial dispute with Israel and Syria's. Syria would no longer be able to link the military neutralization of the Lebanese-Syrian border area to an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights.
Perhaps Pelosi and other foreign officials will understand this simple equation one day, after again failing to persuade Assad to sell Hizbullah out. Unfortunately, foreign bigwigs come to town, their domestic calculations in hand; then they leave, and we're left picking up the pieces.
***Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.

Two Lebanese Hostages Released in Nigeria
Two Lebanese citizens abducted in southern Nigeria on Saturday have been freed, a Scottish oil company whose employee was also released told Agence France Presse Wednesday. A spokesperson for Dolphin Drilling had earlier confirmed the release in Nigeria of the company's British employee Gordon Gray and a Dutch oil worker."He was released along with a Dutch national and two Lebanese hostages who had been kidnapped as well," the spokesperson said. The Dutchman and two Lebanese were not employed by Dolphin Drilling.(AFP) Beirut, 04 Apr 07, 17:37

Siniora gov't blamed for Lebanon impasse

Thu, 05 Apr 2007 16:35:30
Lebanon's National Assembly Speaker Nabih Berri says the 'illegitimate' government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora should be blamed for the current crisis in Lebanon. In an interview with the Lebanese NBN TV network, Berri stressed, "Siniora's government, not the issue of international tribunal to try the suspects in the assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri, is the cause of the present crisis in the country."
Referring to his talks with leader of Al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc Saad Al Hariri in the last month, he reiterated that he would continue his efforts for resolving the political impasse in Lebanon, which has been ongoing in the past five months. Berri also emphasized on his prerogative to hold parliamentary sessions, adding, "No parliament session will be held until the government gains legitimacy by reshuffling."

Israel Says Action Needed From Syria for Peace Talks
By Jim Teeple -Jerusalem
05 April 2007
A senior Israeli official says Syria needs to take concrete actions to reduce tensions with Israel if peace talks are to resume. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem the Israeli comments follow those by U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, who said Wednesday in Damascus that Syria's president is ready to negotiate with Israel. Israeli Cabinet member Zeev Boim, a close associate of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, told Israel Radio that if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad really wants peace with Israel he should take some actions, even minor ones, to prove his intentions.
Boim says just because Bashar Assad is offering an olive branch, that does not mean he really wants peace. The Israeli politician says the Syrian leader should act on his intentions. Boim says Israel would be willing to go so far as to give up the Golan Heights, the territory it captured from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War as part of an eventual peace settlement with Syria.
Boim's comments followed those made by U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday in Damascus. After meeting with Mr. Assad, Speaker Pelosi said the Syrian leader was willing to engage in peace negotiations with Israel, and that Israel's prime minister had told her Israel was ready for peace talks with Syria. A statement from Mr. Olmert's office issued after her comments said peace talks with Syria would only be possible if Syria stopped its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, and scaled back its ties with Iran.
Alon Liel is a former director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry who recently held unofficial talks with a number of Syrians about the prospect or resuming peace talks between Israel and Syria. He says the current public Israeli position on Syria means that peace talks between the two countries are unlikely at this time. "In the Middle East nobody is going to launch a peace before he gets a response or goods from the other side," Liel said. "This is what I guess he (Ehud Olmert) told Nancy Pelosi that if Syria will behave we will talk to her. She (Nancy Pelosi) stressed the positive part of the deal, and probably almost hid the negative part."US House speaker Nancy Pelosi, right, is greeted by Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi ambassador to Washington, upon her arrival in Riyadh, 04 Apr 2007 Speaker Pelosi continued her Middle East trip with a visit to Saudi Arabia where she met with Saudi King Abdullah and then later held meetings with members of Saudi Arabia's Shura Council, the unelected advisory assembly whose members are appointed by Saudi Arabia's monarch. Saudi officials said the issue of reform in Saudi Arabia would be discussed and also the problems some Saudi citizens face in obtaining U.S. visas.

Syria Claims Credit in British Crew Release
Written by TML Staff
Published Thursday, April 05, 2007
Officials in Damascus says they were instrumental in helping secure the release of 15 British sailors and marines who were held in Iran for nearly two weeks for allegedly trespassing into Iran’s territorial waters.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry welcomed Iran’s decision to release the British Royal Navy crew.
Their release was a result of both Iranian willingness and Syria efforts, Syrian Information Minister Muhsin Bilal told reporters, according to AP.
The Britons headed back to London on Thursday.
Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mu’allim said Syria exercised a quiet diplomacy to encourage dialogue between Britain and Iran.
Syria has close relations with the non-Arab Iran. Both countries have been criticized by the West for allegedly backing terror groups in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad released the crew as what he called a “gift.” Tehran maintains they invaded Iranian waters. They were shown on Iranian television on Wednesday expressing their gratitude to the Iranians for releasing them.
Prior to their release, several members of the crew were filmed apologizing for entering Iran’s waters.
Britain maintains they were in Iraqi waters under a United Nations mandate when they were captured and that their documented confessions were extracted under duress. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the approach to releasing the crew, which included 14 men and one woman, “was not negotiating but not confronting either.”It is unclear whether there was a connection between the service people’s release and developments in the neighboring Iraq, where an Iranian representative was given access to five Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers captured by American forces in January.
Also, an Iranian diplomat seized by Iraqi soldiers in February was released on Tuesday.Copyright © 2006 The Media Line. All Rights Reserved.