August 19/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 19,13-15. Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
After he placed his hands on them, he went away.

A rare opportunity to treat Lebanese citizens like adults.The Daily Star. August 18.07
If you pay, we'll be sure to look the other way.By Michael Young. August 18.07


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for August 18/07
Saudi Outrage Over Remarks by Syria-Naharnet
Russia delivers modern air defense systems to Syria-Kuwait Times

U.N. Delegation to Netherlands to Discuss Arrangements for Operating Hariri Court-Naharnet
Could Russian Air Defense Units Sent to Syria End Up in Hizbullah Hands?. Naharnet

Proposal: Longer UN stay in Lebanon.San Jose Mercury News
Suspected al-Qaeda members hijack Turkish plane.The Age
Syria Has Weapons of Mass Destruction Stockpiles.
Saudi blasts Syria 'lies' on Mideast role.Gulf Times

UN Security Council could soon debate fresh sanctions on Iran - Daily Star
Saudi hits back at Syria in growing diplomatic spat.
Saudi Arabia hits back at Syria in escalating spat
- Daily Star
Netherlands agrees to host Hariri tribunal
- Daily Star
Berri to meet with Sfeir to discuss presidency 'when time is right'
- Daily Star
Fadlallah accuses US of blocking attempts to end political crisis
- Daily Star
Welch plans visits to France, Libya and Oman next week
- Daily Star
Qassem: Hizbullah rejects any mandate regardless of its source
- Daily Star
USAID offers over $80,000 in scholarships to ACS
- Daily Star
Winning the impossible battle
- Daily Star
Army kills one militant as ground offensive resumes
- Daily Star
Israel must ensure full humanitarian access to Gaza
- Daily Star
Lebanese Telecom Ministry preps for privatization
- Daily Star
Electricity crisis to top series of planned Sidon protests
- Daily Star
Officials call for relocation of those displaced during Civil War
- Daily Star
Russia rejects fears that air-defense systems soldto Syria can end up in Iran.AFP
Egyptian woman detained over female circumcision
- Daily Star

Proposal: Longer U.N. stay in Lebanon
By EDITH M. LEDERER Associated Press Writer
Article Launched: 08/17/2007
UNITED NATIONS—France circulated a draft U.N. resolution Friday that would extend the mandate of the 13,600-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon and call for a permanent cease-fire and long-term solution to last summer's Israel-Hezbollah war. The draft, obtained by The Associated Press, emphasizes the need for greater progress in resolving these issues and reiterates the Security Council's intention "to consider further steps to contribute to the implementation of a permanent cease-fire and a long-term solution." Earlier this month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the council to extend the mandate of the force, praising the troops for helping to establish security in southern Lebanon following the conflict last summer. Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Saniora sent a letter asking the council to renew the mandate of the force, known as UNIFIL, for a year, and that's what the resolution would do. The current mandate of the force—comprising 11,428 ground troops, 2,000 maritime personnel, 185 staff officers and 20 local staffers—expires on Aug. 31. The U.N. force, along with 15,000 Lebanese troops, was deployed along Lebanon's border with Israel to enforce the Security Council resolution that ended the Israeli-Hezbollah war, which killed more than 1,000 people in Lebanon and 159 people on the Israeli side. The draft appeals to all parties to respect the cessation of hostilities and the U.N.-drawn Blue Line boundary between Israel and Lebanon.
It emphasizes the need for further coordination between UNIFIL and the Lebanese army in the southern border region to establish "an area free of any unauthorized armed personnel, assets and weapons." It also condemns all terrorist attacks on UNIFIL. Ban had earlier cited "the vicious attack" on June 24 that killed six peacekeepers belonging to the Spanish contingent whose armored personnel carrier in southern Lebanon was struck by a bomb. It was the first such attack against UNIFIL.

U.N. Delegation to Netherlands to Discuss Arrangements for Operating Hariri Court
The U.N. is in the process of taking the steps and measures necessary to establishing the Special Tribunal for Lebanon after the Netherlands agreed to host the court that would try suspects in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and related crimes.
Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende had written to the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon agreeing to host the special court at the U.N. request, U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said. The tribunal will try suspects in the 2005 murder of Hariri who killed with 22 others in a massive explosion targeting his motorcade. Montas said a sealed envelope with a list of 12 Lebanese judges, already submitted by the Lebanese government, will not be opened before U.N. Member States put forward the names of judges they recommend. She said that following this procedure, the mechanism for the selecting the magistrates – both worldwide and Lebanese -- will take place stimulatingly.
Montas said that Ban, who is in the process of taking the steps and measures necessary to establishing the Tribunal, will send a delegation to the Netherlands in the coming weeks to discuss the practical arrangements required for creating and operating the court. In June, a senior U.N. official said that it is likely to take at least a year for the Special Tribunal to begin operations as, in addition to finding a location, funds have to be generated, judges and other officials have to be appointed and security arrangements for staff, victims and witnesses must be determined. According to the applicable rules, the Tribunal will not be established until there are sufficient financial contributions to create the court and run it for a year and enough pledges to meet the expected expenses of another two years.
Montas said Lebanon will have to provide 49 percent of the funds. The senior U.N. official said about $30 million could be needed to finance the court's first year, but that amount may change depending on whether the Tribunal is housed in existing buildings, a renovated complex or an entirely new structure.
Montas also confirmed that a report by legal adviser to the U.N. secretary general Nicola Michel, due to be handed in Aug. 28, will be submitted on September 5 at the U.N. request. France will take over U.N. presidency in September. Beirut, 18 Aug 07, 09:04

Could Russian Air Defense Units Sent to Syria End Up in Hizbullah Hands?
Russia has started delivering sophisticated air defense systems to Syria, while rejecting speculation that some of them could reach Iran and Lebanon's Hizbullah, a Russian newspaper reported. "The first part of the delivery to Syria has started," the centrist daily Nezavissimaya Gazeta reported, quoting a domestic military information agency. A spokesman for Russia's arms export agency Rosoboron export declined to comment on the newspaper report.
The report acknowledged that the delivery of the weapons, the Pantsyr-S1E self-propelled short-range air defense missile system, was particularly sensitive in light of Israeli claims last year that Russian arms sold to Syria had ended up in the hands of Hizbullah.
Israel fought a brief war with Hizbullah fighters in Lebanon in July 2006 and afterwards accused Russia of indirectly supplying the party with relatively sophisticated anti-tank weapons, an accusation Moscow denied. Nezavissimaya Gazeta quoted an official involved in Russian arms export policy as describing concerns that Russian air defense weapons could be re-exported to Iran as "silly rumors". "This is not possible," Vitaly Shlykov, a member of the state committee on foreign and defense policy, was quoted as saying. "One of the conditions for every deal is the prohibition on transfer of the weaponry to a third country."
Officially, the contract was for the sale of 50 Pantsyr units for about 900 million dollars (670 million euros). Media reports have put the number of units sold to Syria at around 36. In May, the London-based arms specialist magazine Jane's Defense Weekly reported that Syria had agreed to send Iran at least 10 of the Pantsyr units.
That report was categorically denied by a range of top Russian officials including First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 17 Aug 07, 16:47

A rare opportunity to treat Lebanese citizens like adults
By The Daily Star
Saturday, August 18, 2007
The middle of August is traditionally the time when the high humidity levels in Beirut reach their annual peak, and then slowly start receding. This year, the middle of August also marked the firing of the starting pistol for the presidential candidates in Lebanon to come out of their starting gates. At least two more have declared this week, and others are on the way. The trickle is likely to turn into a mini-stampede as the election date of late September nears. This is an opportunity for Lebanon, which can transform what is now a contentious issue that has paralyzed the governance system into a constructive exercise that benefits all citizens. The many talk shows on Lebanese television should combine with the top independent research centers, universities and think tanks to initiate a flexible presidential forum that would allow serious candidates to engage with the public and explain their proposed policies. The critical requirement in the Lebanese presidency now is to transcend the issue of contentious personalities and reassert the tradition of policy-based activism anchored in a combination of political constitutionalism and human decency.
A media-disseminated, think tank-based presidential forum would take advantage of the best in the Lebanese public sphere - an open mass media, dynamic and independent research centers, and quality universities. Putting the presidential candidates in such forums and asking them all similar questions that demand substantial answers would help shift attention from a frozen political system toward a more dynamic quest for policies that can help Lebanon steer out of its troubled waters. Some candidates have already published detailed and credible policy papers, while others are preparing to do so. Demand among the citizenry is high for plausible policies that can address challenges like debt, cost of living, employment, security and education. Citizens are eager to be treated like adults by presidential hopefuls who have the best interest of the country at heart, rather than advancing a personal or ideological agenda. The coming month offers a rare opportunity to see this happen.

UN Security Council could soon debate fresh sanctions on Iran
France says it has no plans to add islamic republic's military wing to terror list

Compiled by Daily Star staff
Saturday, August 18, 2007
A third UN resolution imposing sanctions on Iran over its controversial nuclear program could come as early as September, diplomats said as Washington raised the heat on the Islamic Republic. Five months after the last round of sanctions was approved, three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - United States, France and Britain - support such a move, while Russia and China are more hesitant. With resolutions 1737 (December 2006) and 1747 (March), the Security Council imposed and then increased sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt sensitive uranium enrichment activities. The sanctions aim to convince Tehran to stop enriching uranium and building a heavy-water reactor in Arak, and to cooperate fully with the inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
After vowing that its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian aims, Tehran has not changed its stance and leaders have vowed that nothing will force it to halt uranium enrichment, which can be used to produce nuclear weapons. Washington fears the program is a cover for nuclear weapons building and has pressed for new measures, including via the United Nations.
On Wednesday the United States announced it planned to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a "terrorist" group, possibly in the coming weeks. The Guards are an elite force of 100,000 troops whose influence stretches into the fields of business and politics and would be the first national military branch included on the US terror list. Even though the European Union has no such plans to place the Revolutionary Guards on its terror list, French ambassador to the United Nations Jean-Maurice Ripert told reporters that Paris believes Iran needs to be dealt with "very firmly."
"Unfortunately it appears that the Iranians have still not delivered what the Security Council has asked them to do and we will reach a time when we will have to again boost the international sanctions," he said, adding: "I am not sure that we have the choice of waiting until October to bring this matter before the Security Council."
While France debates further UN sanction, a French Foreign Ministry officials noted that no official French plans were in the works toward blacklisting Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a "terrorist" organization.
"We are considering additional measures, in the framework of a new Security Council resolution, against members and backers of the Iranian regime refusing to comply with demands of the international community," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hugues Moret said in an online briefing on Friday.
Some experts have suggested that France and Germany, which have dealings with Revolutionary Guard companies, could resist labeling the Guards as a terror group.
At the end of July, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said "there will probably be a third [UN Security Council] resolution in relation to Iran soon and I believe that that is a way forward that is working and will work."
Brown, who appealed to Iran to "understand the fears that other countries have about the development of a nuclear weapons program," also refused to rule out military action against the Islamic Republic. But Moscow and Beijing are hesitant to further tighten sanctions on Iran, fearing such a move would directly impact their economic interests in Iran, said one Western diplomat on condition of anonymity.
They could argue that new sanctions should not be imposed as long as Iran is talking with UN nuclear watchdog inspectors in a bid to clear up questions over its nuclear aims.China's deputy UN ambassador Liu Zhenmin told AFP on Thursday that is was "possible" that the question of new sanctions could be discussed in September. Nevertheless, he said it would be necessary to first wait for an IAEA report on its contacts with Tehran, then arrive at an agreement between the five permanent Security Council members as to which kind of policy to pursue.
IAEA experts last week discussed with Iranian authorities the possibility of inspecting the nuclear site at Natanz in southern Iran, where uranium is enriched to produce nuclear fuel, after gaining access to the heavy water reactor in Arak on July 30. Arak is a key Western concern and the visit was the first since Iran in April blocked access to the plutonium-producing research reactor, which is currently under construction. Western experts believe that when it is up and running, Arak will be able to produce 12.5 kilograms of plutonium each year, enough for two or three nuclear bombs. On August 20, Iran is to hold a third round of talks with IAEA officials tasked with determining whether Iran is engaging in a civilian nuclear energy program as it claims. Iranian nuclear negotiators have expressed hope that Tehran's willingness to step up cooperation with the IAEA would avert any attempt to impose new sanctions. - Agencies

Syria Has Weapons of Mass Destruction Stockpiles

Friday, August 17, 2007
Syria now has chemical and biological weapons than can strike Tel Aviv and other major Israeli cities, a recent Israeli intelligence report said. However, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has banned the distribution of gas masks in Israel for fear of upsetting the fragile peace with Syria, Israel Insider reports.
Barak said that the distribution of gas masks might give the impression that Israel was preparing for war with Syria and escalate the tense situation between the two countries. Syria attacked Israel in the 1948, 1967 and 1973 wars, and is a sponsor of terrorism.
The move was heavily criticized by many Israeli government officials, and for good reason. Yuval Steinitz, head of Homefront Preparedness in Israel’s Knesset, argued that it is the Defense Minister’s duty to protect civilians from a possible chemical or biological attack and said failure to do so was an egregious error.
Syria has been stockpiling missiles and launchers in and around the Golan Heights area for months, and is reportedly using Iranian money to purchase sophisticated military equipment from Russia and North Korea. “Military sources said intelligence shows Syria was nearing the end of an accelerated deployment of a large rocket arsenal of Katyusha and Scud missiles, including Scud D and other improved missiles supplied by Iran, that can deliver 500-kilogram payloads to Tel Aviv …” the Jerusalem Post said. Many of these missiles can be outfitted with chemical or biological warheads.
The tension between the two sides is so high that some believe even the distribution of gas masks to civilians could push the region over the edge and into war. Still, Israel’s gamble with its citizens’ lives for the sake of showing Damascus it has no intention of attacking could be reasonably interpreted by its enemies as a sign of weakness—and an opportunity. Israel is in an extraordinarily difficult position.

Saudi blasts Syria ‘lies’ on Mideast role
Published: Saturday, 18 August, 2007,
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has rejected as “lies and fallacies” high-level Syrian accusations that its role in the Middle East was waning and accused Damascus of fomenting instability in the region. The kingdom, which has been trying to bolster its regional role, responded to criticism from Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Shara earlier this week with an unusually scathing statement. “The government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has followed with great surprise the distasteful statements recently made by ... Shara, which included numerous lies and fallacies aimed at harming us,” read the statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) late on Thursday. “The problem is not in the stances of the kingdom but rather in positions which have disregarded the unity of Arab ranks and worked for spreading chaos and turbulence in the region.
“Those behind such stances do not have the courage to declare them. They believe that they can deceive the Arab and Islamic nation although their actions speak bluntly of their ill-intentions.” Washington, the kingdom’s top Western ally, accuses Syria of not doing enough to stop Islamist militants from crossing into Iraq to fight US-led troops and of meddling in Lebanon to undermine its US- and Saudi-backed government.
The statement which quoted an unidentified government official source signalled a new low in diplomatic ties already strained over Lebanon and Iraq.
“Talk about the paralysis of the kingdom’s Arab and Islamic role does not come from a rational and prudent person, as this role is well known to everyone ... Perhaps Mr Shara had a slip of the tongue and meant by paralysis the policy he speaks for.” In a speech at Damascus University, Shara said Saudi Arabia’s regional role was “virtually paralysed”, pointing to the failure of a Palestinian unity deal forged in the Saudi holy city of Makkah in February.
Shara said the outline of the Makkah deal had been hammered out in Damascus and hinted that its collapse showed either that Saudi Arabia was hamstrung or that the kingdom had lost the ear of its old ally the US. Shara also criticised a Saudi decision not to attend a meeting on Iraqi security hosted by Syria earlier this month.
Ties between Syria and Saudi Arabia have been strained since the 2005 assassination of Lebanese former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, a close Saudi ally.
Saudi King Abdullah, once close to Syria’s Baathist leaders, was outraged by the murder in Lebanon, which was under Syrian military and intelligence dominance.
A UN investigation has implicated Syrian and Lebanese security officials in the killing, a charge Damascus denies.
Saad al-Hariri, the late Hariri’s son and political heir, who holds a Saudi passport, also criticised Shara’s remarks.
“We’re hardly surprised that the genius Syrian diplomacy added a new catastrophe to the record of the regime that is replete with dissonant (policies) and diplomatic blunders,” the anti-Syrian majority leader’s media office said in a statement.
A political standoff between Lebanon’s pro-Syrian Hezbollah and the Lebanese government, which is backed by the West and Saudi Arabia, has further soured relations since last year’s war between Israel and the Shia guerrilla group. Riyadh is also concerned about the growing influence of Syria’s Shia ally, Iran, particularly in Iraq and Lebanon, where Shia groups are strong. Tensions appeared to ease with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s attendance of the last Arab summit held in Riyadh in March, but the latest exchange appeared to mark a downturn in relations. The next Arab summit is due to take place in Syria.
“Shara’s claim that the Makkah agreement ... had been agreed in Damascus is an unforgivable insult to the Palestinian leaderships,” the Saudi statement said.
“God willing, every Syrian and Saudi is keen on maintaining and strengthening this (Arab) brotherhood, despite the abominable voices and their owners who will vanish in the wind.” – Reuters

Welch plans visits to France, Libya and Oman next week

By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Saturday, August 18, 2007
WASHINGTON: The top American diplomat for Middle East affairs will travel to France, Libya and Oman next week for discussions on a wide range of issues, the State Department said Thursday. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch's first stop will be Paris, where his topics of discussions with French counterparts will include Syria, which has been implicated in a UN probe over the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and efforts to resolve the Palestinian question, the department said.
They will talk about "the US-French partnership on supporting Lebanon, supporting [efforts to] bringing to justice the killers of former Prime Minister Hariri," said department spokesman Sean McCormack.
The Netherlands plans to host the international court that will try suspects in Hariri's murder. The tribunal will also have jurisdiction over other attacks against anti-Syrian Lebanese figures between October 2004 and December 2005 if they are linked to the Hariri slaying.
In Libya, Welch will help lay the groundwork for a potential visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Tripoli.
Rice had expressed willingness to visit Libya soon, following the recent return to Bulgaria of six medics freed from life sentences in the North African state.
In May 2006, the US renewed diplomatic ties with Libya, ending a 25-year-old diplomatic battle with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and taking the country off the US list of nations accused of supporting terrorism.
In Oman, Welch will discuss regional issues, including Iraq and efforts to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, McCormack said.
The United States is striving to forge a deal for the establishment of a Palestinian state ahead of an international meeting called for by Bush in the last three months of 2007. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said last week he had positive talks with Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert in the West Bank city of Jericho. - AFP

Winning the impossible battle

By May Akl -Daily Star
Saturday, August 18, 2007
When, a few days before the by-elections in the Metn, MP Michel Aoun declared in a televised interview that the Free Patriotic Movement was "bound to win impossible battles," little did people know what he truly meant. That was no metaphor, nor was it a political tactic. That was reality. The long election Sunday proved no less complicated and the victory no less meaningful, going far beyond a Maronite parliamentary seat. And for those willing to read beyond facts and figures, there is a democratic lesson to be learned.
A few days before the elections, a journalist asked me who I thought would win and of course, I said it was Kamil Khoury, the FPM candidate. So he asked me what are the odds, and I didn't reply ... The odds were all against FPM.
The first challenge was the steady media war against Aoun since his return to Lebanon in May 2007 aimed at influencing public opinion by portraying him as a pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian agent, knowing that both his foes allies know Aoun has had no links with the Syrian regime in the past, nor does he have any now. Unfortunately, the media in Lebanon serves political agendas because it is owned by political parties, either reminiscent of the Lebanese war militias or of newly formed parties with suits and ties who foment grudges and extremism.
Never has the Metn witnessed such an "expensive" electoral campaign for a single seat. Huge amounts of corrupt political money were pumped into the homes of voters, weary of the economic plight raging through the country like plague. Impoverishing the voter to make the temptation harder to resist as elections approach is no new tactic for the government and its allies. The ruling coalition has put that same scenario to the test a couple of years ago in northern Lebanon and it worked. But in the Metn, it didn't work as it was expected to. Some people did succumb to the temptation, but a majority didn't, which former President Amin Gemayel and his allies did not expect.
The business elite throughout Lebanon did not miss a chance to express support for Gemayel. Those are all shareholders in a state-turned-company where corruption is the name of game in the shadows of paralyzed constitutional institutional bodies initially aimed at ensuring accountability of officials.
In the highly sensitive Christian heartland of the Metn where people are affected by the positions of Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, Bkirki did not hide its support for Gemayel. Sfeir urged the voters to stick to the traditions of Lebanese families and express their sympathy with those who have lost loved ones, thus prioritizing emotions over reason. No sooner had he made this plea than clergymen throughout Lebanon became active players in the Metn elections, calling on friends and relatives to vote for Gemayel in a blatant interference of religion in politics, a vice the FPM seeks to eradicate.
The run-up to the polls was consummated by a series of initiatives apparently aimed at avoiding the electoral battle but actually intended to waste time for the preparation of the battle while there was no real intention to reach a consensus.
By prioritizing emotions over reason, Bkirki and Gemayel abused the emotions of the people at a crucial time when the future of the country is at stake. Misusing and abusing martyrdom is a blatant insult to the spirit and soul of the martyr, for the martyr, and in this case slain Deputy and Minister Pierre Gemayel, is not only a loss for his family but a loss for the whole of Lebanon. But playing on the emotions of people the way they did, and laying on the people the guilt of "not voting for the martyr" which means "killing the martyr another time," is anything but a democratic tactic of winning votes.
All in all, the bottom line is that Kamil Khoury, a physician unknown by the public, won over a pillar of the so-called March 14 coalition, a former president of the Republic, the head of the oldest Christian party, and the father of a martyr supported by the entire world, including US President George W. Bush, who issued three days prior to the elections a presidential decree against those who allegedly threaten the stability of the Siniora government.
The 39,534 people who cast their ballots in favor of Kamil Khoury and the political line he represents are the pure ones who resisted temptations, safeguarded their prayers for their martyrs, and put yet another nail in the coffin of corruption of old feudal dictatorship.
Aoun and his FPM have all the reasons to be exhilarated for more than 50 percent of the Christians in the Metn have proven politically mature and have won against all odds.Lastly, the democratic lesson for the losing candidate can be drawn from the history of democracy: when a former president of the Republic loses a parliamentary seat in his own district, it means that his era has ended and should resign from political life, leaving the opportunity for newcomers who might be able to breathe new life into a political arena rotten by outdated policies and yearning for change and reform.
**May Akl is director of the foreign press at head of the Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun's Press Office.