August 20/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 12,49-53. I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for August 19/07
Fighting in Lebanon Camp Kills 2. Washington Post
Lebanon charges 107 with terrorism.Gulf News
UNIFIL won't receive power boost in southern Lebanon'.Jerusalem Post
Hague Likely Host For Lebanon Trial.Washington Post

Would Iran's Guards Strike U.S. Targets in Lebanon?-Naharnet
Remarks by Syria on Saudi Cause Stir in Lebanon-Naharnet

FPM's Abu Jamra Supports Military Cabinet. Naharnet
Syria Shifts to Tranquil Row with Saudis-Naharnet
Fares Joins Presidential Race-Naharnet
U.N. Delegation to Netherlands to Discuss Arrangements for Operating Hariri Court-Naharnet
No middle way in the Middle East.Guardian Unlimited
Syria denies vice president criticized Saudi Arabia.International Herald Tribune
Arab officials: Syria not planning to attack Israel.Ha'aretz
Hezbollah warns Israel against attack.Leading The Charge
Former hostage returns to Lebanon for 'another holiday'.Ya Libnan
Bloodied but unbowed, Lebanon's soldiers.France24
Lebanon charges over 100 people suspected of battling army with ...International Herald Tribune
Hizbullah video game modeled on Second Lebanon War.Ynetnews
Lebanese await the inevitable return of war-Guardian Unlimited

Remarks by Syria on Saudi Cause Stir in Lebanon
Pro-government Lebanese leaders expressed anger over remarks made by Syria's Foreign Minister Farouk Sharaa that caused Saudi outrage.
MP Saad Hariri strongly defended the Saudi kingdom, describing as "lies and offenses" Sharaa's comments on Tuesday in which he said that the Saudi nation the Middle East's key Sunni power player has become semi-paralyzed. Hariri, labeling March 8 Forces "Syria's followers in Lebanon," accused the Hizbullah-led coalition's media of "rushing to highlight" Sharaa's remarks. "We are not surprised that the genius Syrian diplomacy has added a new calamity to the record of the regime which is rife with discord and diplomatic blunders," said Hariri in a statement released by his office.
While reminding the Lebanese of Saudi's support during last summer's war with Israel, Hariri urged March 8 leaders to reconsider its media policy vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia sent financial as well as humanitarian aid to help the Lebanese during the July-August 2006 war with Israel. Hariri said that the date of the international tribunal to try suspects in the murder of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, has approached. "It must be nerve wrecking for Sharaa and his companions of the criminal system," the statement by Hariri's office added. An unidentified kingdom official in a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency criticized Sharaa's remarks who had belittled the Saudi role in the Middle East. The statement, on SPA, which is considered a kingdom mouthpiece, said that Riyadh was "very surprised over the repulsive remarks by ... al-Sharaa that included a lot of lies aimed at harming the kingdom."
It added that the Syrian official's comments show irreverence to the "traditions and norms that rule relations between sisterly Arab nations."
Sharaa also blamed the kingdom for the ultimate failure of the agreement between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas that was signed in Mecca earlier this year.
Syria on Saturday hit back, saying the kingdom's remarks were "harsh and unobjective."
"We believe in constructive criticism," said Suleiman Haddad, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Syrian parliament, adding that what Sharaa meant by paralysis was not exclusively directed at Saudi Arabia but at the Arab nations whose "decisions are paralyzed altogether." Relations between the kingdom and Damascus have grown increasingly worse, with the two deeply divided over Syria's ties to Iran and Hizbullah. The assassination of Hariri, who was a close Saudi ally, has also strained ties between the two Arab nations. The relations in particular soured after Syrian President Bashar Assad, in a speech following last summer's Israel-Hizbullah war, described leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan as half-men for their failure to act to stop the violence. Saudi Arabia was markedly absent from a key regional meeting earlier this month of a newly created security committee on Iraq that took place in Damascus. Youth and Sports Minister Ahmad Fatfat also slammed Syria, saying the timing of the Syrian campaign as regard to the Saudi role aims at blocking efforts to help Lebanon. "Some do not want the crisis to end in this country," Fatfat said. Lebanese Forces deputy Antoine Zahra said the Syrian objective behind their campaign against Saudi Arabia aimed at blocking presidential elections "to keep the constitutionals institutions paralyzed." Legislator Akram Shehayeb, a senior member of Walid Jumblat's Democratic Gathering, said Sharaa's comments illustrates Syria's disrespectable behavior.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 18 Aug 07, 15:24

Syria Shifts to Tranquil Row with Saudis
Statements by Syrian Vice President Farouk Sharaa on relations with Saudi Arabia were changed by Riyadh, the official SANA news agency reported Saturday, quoting an unnamed official. "The source indicated that allegations that the vice president had used impolite words against the Saudi kingdom were groundless, reiterating the Syrian leadership and people's care to maintain best relations" with Saudi Arabia, the SANA agency said. It quoted the official as expressing regret over a Saudi official statement about comments attributed to Sharaa "which were unrightfully changed." Saudi newspapers on Saturday criticized Sharaa for his reported claim that the kingdom's regional role had become paralyzed, putting further pressure on already strained relations between the two countries.
"The least that can be said of al-Sharaa's statement is that it lacks diplomacy and aims to sow sedition between two brotherly peoples," the Al-Bilad newspaper said.
It denounced what it called "desperate attempts to downplay the role of the kingdom in the Arab and Muslim world and the false claim that its role is paralysed."
On Thursday Riyadh accused Sharaa of making false statements which "contain numerous lies aimed at damaging the kingdom," and of seeking to "stoke disorder in the region." But SANA quoted the Syrian official on Saturday as saying Damascus "supports any meeting aimed at reviving and boosting Arab solidarity... of the two brotherly peoples and in those of the Arab and Islamic nation." The agency stressed Syrian insistence on not being dragged into disputes "that do not serve anybody except the enemies of the two brotherly countries and the enemies of the Arab nation." On Tuesday Sharaa said that it was "regrettable" that Saudi Arabia had not attended a meeting in Damascus last week on the security situation in Iraq, which was attended by U.S. and French delegations. Riyadh launched a fierce attack on Sharaa on Thursday, accusing him of making false statements and seeking to "stoke disorder in the region." Relations between Riyadh and Damascus have been fraught since disagreements over last summer's war between Israel and Hizbullah. They were further strained after the Hizbullah-led Lebanese opposition launched a campaign to oust the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who is close to Saudi Arabia.(AFP) Beirut, 18 Aug 07, 23:35

Fares Joins Presidential Race
Retired general Paul Fares joined the presidential race for 2007.
Fares said he advocates dividing Lebanon into 24 or 34 "confessionally homogeneous" regions with their own deputies.
He said he also advocates turning Lebanon into a federal system, saying the president should not always be Maronite.
Beirut, 18 Aug 07, 21:04

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

Lebanese await the inevitable return of war

Mitchell Prothero in Beirut
Sunday August 19, 2007
The Observer
In one of Beirut's trendier bars, four European photographers relax over cold beers. Their presence is alarming Ghassan, the barman. 'Why are there so many journalists in Beirut right now?' he asks me. "Has there been some change in 'The Situation?"'
The Lebanese can be forgiven for seeing a new slew of foreign press as a harbinger of doom, for the year since last summer's war between Hizbollah and Israel has seen crisis after crisis pummel this tiny, fractious nation with the bad luck to exist in a very tough neighbourhood.
The Situation, 'al-Wada' in Arabic, crops up in conversation a lot these days - a phrase that summarises the past 30 years since Beirut went from being the 'Paris of the Middle East' to a playground for every troublemaking faction in the region.
Lebanon's uncertain future is held hostage by three major crises: political stalemate between Hizbollah and the government; military crisis over the presence of Hizbollah near Israel's northern border, and the arrival of Sunni militants escaping the Iraq war to set up shop in Lebanon. For a nation as fragile as Lebanon, facing all three problems at once is untenable.
The aftermath of last summer's war - which killed more than 1,000 Lebanese and displaced a million - turned out to be more political than physical, when the Hizbollah-led opposition decided to move against the elected government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and his western allies. Over the ensuing 10 months, a deep schism erupted between Sunni government supporters and the primarily Shia opposition.
Periodic riots and violent street clashes have paralysed the government. And its inability even to agree on the rules for meeting, let alone to resolve 'al-Wada', has thrust the nation deeper into crisis as November's deadline for selecting a replacement for President Emile Lahoud, a Christian supporter of the opposition and a long-time ally of Syria approaches.
The government - and its Christian, Druze and Sunni supporters - want the next president to be independent of Syrian influence. The opposition wants a supporter of Hizbollah's 'armed resistance' and wants to prevent the government from installing a president aligned with the US and Europe against Syria and Hizbollah. Just weeks before his term is set to expire, the parliament can't even agree on the terms for a debate on Lahoud's replacement, let alone find an acceptable candidate.
The situation remains so tense that all sides are considering what some are calling the 'junta option,' where Lebanon voluntarily turns over the presidency, in the short-term, to the army chief of staff Michel Suleiman. He appears to be neutral in the power struggle and could be a consensus choice to avert what could become civil war should the factions fail to compromise before Lahoud's term ends.
The war of 100 days and more against radical Palestinians in the Nahr al-Bared camp has also shredded any sense of security in Lebanon. Fatah al-Islam, with an ideological link to al-Qaeda and many Iraq war veterans, remains in control of a square kilometre of the now-destroyed camp after more than three months of shelling by the Lebanese army.
The fighting, which has claimed more than 200 lives and displaced tens of thousands of Palestinians, has revealed an inherent weakness in the military and security services. The fear that Fatah al-Islam are only the first Sunni radicals with ties to Iraqi insurgents is legitimate and could be deeply destabilising in a country with little history of fundamentalism among its Sunni Muslims. But the highest profile threat is the sense of unfinished business between Israel and Hizbollah. Hizbollah claim last summer's war as a 'Divine Victory' and most people accept that another round of fighting is inevitable.
The presence of an expanded UN peacekeeping mission along the border has calmed things somewhat, but just north of the UN mandate area, Hizbollah is openly reforming its defences and rocket batteries. And the Israelis seem resigned to eventually having another go at the group. But with the elected government powerless to deter Hizbollah from instigating another war, and even more powerless to convince Israel not to pursue one, yet another spark along that longtime regional flashpoint could have repercussions not only in Lebanon but with Iran and Syria as well. The threat of regional war has never seemed greater.
But ultimately, the Lebanese remain convinced that there's little they can do to avert any of these catastrophes. With 18 different ethnic and religious groups, a weak central government and inept security services, Lebanon has long been the playground for regional powers looking for a site for a proxy war. Now everyone finds it inevitable that war will begin. They just can't agree on the direction from which it will come.

Would Iran's Guards Strike U.S. Targets in Lebanon?

The Commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Gen. Rahim Safawi, who met Hizbullah's deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem at a religious conference in Tehran, has threatened the United States with "Stronger Punches" and an Iranian dissident expected the group to strike in Lebanon. Safawi made the remarks in an interview with the Iranian daily Keyhan stressing that "America will receive stronger strikes and punches from the Revolutionary Guards in the future.""We will not remain silent in the face of American pressure and we will use all the force we have to confront the Americans. The Revolutionary Guard Corps has a tremendous power and we have sophisticated weapons," he said. Meanwhile, Iranian dissident Mohsen Sazghar, who was one the Revolutionary Guards founders, said the guards would escalate attacks against U.S. targets in "Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon" is retaliation for labeling the group a terrorist organization. In a related development, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday described Israel as "the flag of Satan" and said the Jewish state was destined to fall apart. "The Zionist regime is the flag bearer of violation and occupation and this regime is the flag of Satan," Ahmadinejad told an international religious conference in Tehran, which was attended by Qassem and other religious figures.
"It is not unlikely that this regime be on the path to dissolution and deterioration when the philosophy behind its creation and survival is invalid," he said.
His comments came in the wake of a 30-billion-dollar arms deal between Israel and the United States which explicitly mentioned the threat of a "resurgent" Iran.
Washington and Israel, which is widely considered to be the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear power, are increasingly alarmed by Iran's nuclear program, which they suspect is a cover to develop atomic weapons. Tehran insists the program is for peaceful, civilian energy purposes.
"The United States understands that Israel lives in an increasingly dangerous region... where Iran is resurgent, where Iran is seeking a nuclear capability, where it is seeking to expand its conventional power," U.S. Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns said before signing the memorandum of understanding for the aid package in Jerusalem on Thursday.
"There is now a nexus of cooperation between Iran, Syria, Hizbullah... and other groups that are responsible for conflict in this region," including the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, Burns said. With current U.S. defense aid to Israel standing at 2.4 billion dollars a year, the new package will raise the value of assistance by 600 million dollars annually on average, officials said. Iran also is the ostensible reason for Washington's controversial plans to install a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, a move which has sparked fierce condemnation from Russia. The U.S. military wants to build a radar station in the Czech Republic and a launching site in Poland with 10 long-range interceptors capable of shooting down missiles. It claims the system would defend Europe against attacks from limited missile strikes by smaller military powers such as Iran.
Ahmadinejad claimed on Thursday that if deployed, the U.S. system would threaten all of Asia. "Such a plan goes beyond threatening one country. It concerns most of the continent, Asia," he said at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), according to a translation by organizers.
Iran has observer status at the SCO, which comprises China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Iran consistently refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist in the Middle East, and Ahmadinejad sparked outrage in the international community when he said Israel should be "wiped off the map" shortly after coming to power in 2005. In June he said a "countdown" had begun that would end with Lebanese and Palestinian militants destroying Israel. His government last year hosted a conference on the Holocaust, questioning the German Nazi genocide of the Jews during World War II.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 19 Aug 07, 09:47