August 24/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 22,1-14. Jesus again in reply spoke to them in parables, saying,The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those invited: "Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast."' Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.Then he said to his servants, 'The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.' The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, 'My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?' But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'Many are invited, but few are chosen."

Security Council French Draft Text
Draft Security Council resolution on Lebanon. Thursday, August 23, 2007

Aoun and Christian Marginalization.By: Hassan Haydar.Dar Al-Hayat. August 23/07
Outrage forces removal of pro-Hezbollah billboard.By RON STANG, CJN. August 23/07
Spare the army fatal factional politics.By Michael Young. August 23/07
Lebanon's presidential hopefuls can do three simple things.By The Daily Star.August 23/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for August 23/07
German troops to remain in Lebanon.ReliefWeb (press release)
Jumblat for a President By Simple Majority, Amal Hits Back
France Renews Lebanon Mediation
Two Arrested in Connection with UNIFIL Bombing
Iraq Rejects French Conference A La Libanaise
Lebanon crisis threatens presidential vote.Reuters
Lebanon Bans Political Performance Art.ARTINFO
UNIFIL troops in Lebanon unlikely to get greater authority.Ha'aretz
Every one can see that the king has no clothes on. Alarab online
US presses for presidential polls free of interference.Daily Star
Lebanese Army awaits reply from militants on arranging evacuation of civilians.Daily Star
Phalange demands armed group attacking members be dealt with.Daily Star
LOG speaks out against Syrian comments.Daily Star
MP dispels rumors of PSP assassination plot.Daily Star
Berri invites 'all sects' to rally honoring Musa Sadr.Daily Star
Rights group condemns treatment of Palestinian detainee who died in custody.Daily Star
Kadima MP highlights 'achievements' in summer war.Daily Star
Draft Security Council resolution on Lebanon.Daily Star
France pushes UN resolution to extend UNIFIL's mandate.Daily Star
Foreign investors lose taste for Lebanese Eurobonds.Daily Star
Lebanese association demands transparency in reconstruction.Daily Star
Seaside dump in Sidon teeters on edge of disaster.Daily Star
Maliki lashes out at US criticism of Iraqi Cabinet's progress.Daily Star

France Renews Lebanon Mediation

Top French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran returns to Lebanon on Thursday on a new mission to try to break a nine-month deadlock among Lebanon's feuding political parties, a diplomatic source told Agence France Presse. Cousseran's visit comes as the country prepares for a presidential election due to be held between September 25 and November 24, when the mandate of current pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud ends. During his three-day mission that ends on Saturday Cousseran is due to meet Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who is allied with the Hizbullah-led opposition backed by Syria and Iran.
France's envoy is also due to hold talks with other Lebanese leaders. His visit comes amid efforts by Paris to broker an end to the political standoff in Lebanon that threatens to scuttle the upcoming presidential ballot and plunge the divided country further into disarray. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner met Lebanese leaders in Beirut at the end of July but failed to make significant headway. The resignation last November of six pro-Syrian ministers, five of them Shiites, sparked the current political standoff, the country's worst since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war. Hizbullah, bolstered by what it called its victory during last year's 34-day war with Israel, is pushing for the opposition to be better represented in government in order to give it veto power. But the majority insists that this can only happen if Hizbullah agrees to stop blocking parliamentary sessions in order to ensure the quorum needed for the presidential election. Failure by the parties to resolve their differences in the coming weeks could spark a dangerous power vacuum or even the creation of two rival governments.
France has taken the lead in trying to resolve the crisis, gathering all the parties for a conference near Paris in July and sending Cousseran to the region for consultations with the key players.(AFP) Beirut, 22 Aug 07, 18:30

Jumblat for a President By Simple Majority, Amal Hits Back

Druze leader Walid Jumblat declared Wednesday that the March 14 majority alliance would elect a new president by simple majority at any venue outside parliament and rejected the principle of choosing a head of state by consensus. Jumblat, in an interview with the youth supplement of the daily an-Nahar to be published Thursday said "We will elect a president for the republic from the March 124 ranks by simple majority and in any venue outside parliament because the constitution permits this after the 14th of October."Amal MP Ali Hassan Khalil hit back at Jumblat, saying his "words mean a total coup against the constitution and the political institutions."
Khalil said Jumblat's comments were also a clear indication that the Druze MP was "imposing a status quo that is contrary to the covenant."
Excerpts of Jumblat's interview were distributed by the state-run National News Agency (NNA). Jumblat stressed on rejecting a new head of state by consensus saying: "If we accept the principle of consensus with the other side, which I term the foe that doesn't believe in the principles of the Cedars Revolution, we would waste the sacrifices of all our martyrs." He accused Hizbullah of seeking to establish "a mini state" through purchasing property by "Iranian backing."
"They want to establish political, military and economic control over the nation," Jumblat said of Hizbullah. He said the "great battle" would be fought over choosing the team of Lebanese judges to the international tribunal that would try suspects in the 2005 killing of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes. He accused Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri of becoming a "mail box for (Hizbullah leader) Hassan Nasrallah.""Unfortunately Berri has finished himself with his own hands," he added. Beirut, 22 Aug 07, 19:58

Two Arrested in Connection with UNIFIL Bombing
Lebanese authorities arrested two persons suspected of involvement in the July 16 bombing of a U.N. peacekeeping patrol in south Lebanon, the daily An Nahar reported Thursday. It said their detention came after security forces found and seized a "remote control" that had been used and left behind in the roadside bomb that targeted a UNIFIL patrol on Qassmiyeh Bridge near the southern port city of Tyre. There were no casualties from the attack on the vehicle belonging to the Tanzanian contingent, which was slightly damaged. A preliminary investigation showed that the two detainees were Palestinians with links to Jund al-Sham, An Nahar said.
It said authorities were still hunting for a third suspect. Information obtained by An Nahar revealed that immediate investigation of a Fatah al-Islam member arrested on Wednesday as he tried to escape the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared by sea was labeled "very important."
The daily identified the captive as Abu Omar al-Attar, a Palestinian.
It said Attar made "significant" confessions about Fatah al-Islam, saying they are "near collapse."Attar also uncovered that Fatah al-Islam leader Shaker Abssi was still alive, standing side by side with his comrades. Beirut, 23 Aug 07, 07:48

Iraq Rejects French Conference A La Libanaise

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has rejected a French proposal for a Paris conference to promote dialogue between rival factions, Le Monde reported on Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner discussed the proposal during a three-day visit to Baghdad, hoping that France could do for Iraq what it did for Lebanon last month when it hosted a conference of politicians from all of Lebanon's political parties. "I do not believe that a national conference, like the one for Lebanon, is necessary for Iraq," Talabani told the French daily. "In Lebanon, there are different parties who are unable to talk and sit at the same table. In Iraq, we talk and meet every day." "Every community takes part in the dialogue. We will be able to pull together without a conference," said the Iraqi president. Kouchner's visit to Baghdad, which ended Tuesday, was the first by a senior French official since Paris led opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The foreign minister met with Iraqi leaders from across the political spectrum and said France was ready to play a role to help stabilize the country.(AFP) Beirut, 22 Aug 07, 19:37

Spare the army fatal factional politics
By Michael Young
Daily Star staff
Thursday, August 23, 2007
On Monday, the dean of Lebanese journalists, Ghassan Tueni, wrote a column in Al-Nahar that turns much else written on the same subject into annotation. The subject in question is the prospect that yet another military man might be elected president of Lebanon, this time Army Commander Michel Suleiman. Tueni's headline played on a slogan popularized after the start of the Nahr al-Bared fighting that was favorable to the army: "The order is yours to give." Tueni turned this around to say, "The order is yours to give, in war not in government."
Tueni's point was a simple one. The Lebanese are grateful for what the army has done in the past three months, and can only sympathize with the troops who have suffered a horrendous casualty rate. When considering that the armed forces have only some 2,000 or so well trained combat troops, the toll is far more onerous than many realize. However, the lives of the soldiers do not translate into a blank check to hand power over to the military establishment through the election of Suleiman. For too long the Arab world has been a victim of immoveable military regimes. As Tueni concluded, it is now up to Suleiman to focus not on the presidency, but on helping his army recover from a devastating battle.
In recent days a story has begun circulating that Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri is thinking of a plan to bring Suleiman in as interim president for two years - an idea similar to what Michel Murr proposed several weeks ago. Such an initiative would be rejected by March 14 and probably by Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir. But that misses the point. What Berri is probably thinking of, if he makes his proposal public, is to provoke a conflict between the army commander and the parliamentary majority. If that's the case, then both the Suleiman and March 14 should avoid a head-on collision at all costs. The majority has absolutely no interest in painting the army as a villain. That's one confrontation that March 14 will not win, and, worse, it will wreak havoc within the Sunni community, whose sons in the Akkar have been at the forefront of the army's efforts to crush Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr al-Bared camp.
Suleiman's merits or demerits notwithstanding, the general is not finding it easy being a stealth candidate. He received a boost from Sfeir last week when the patriarch was persuaded by As-Safir to say the magic words: that he would not oppose a constitutional amendment if this could help save Lebanon. With respect to Suleiman specifically, Sfeir remarked: "If the army commander can save the country, then welcome to him."
By the following day the Lebanese Forces leader, Samir Geagea, and the justice minister, Charles Rizk, had ascended to the patriarchal summer home in Diman to qualify what Sfeir had said. The patriarch, for all the respect he invites, has constrained March 14 in recent weeks, as has the Maronite church. A Maronite bishops' statement was critical of the Siniora government because it had signed an accord on the rights of the Muslim child and agreed to remove Good Friday as a holiday; Bishop Bishara Rai then accused the government of "Islamizing" the country; and Sfeir publicly insisted there needed
to be a two-thirds quorum for Parliament to elect a president, effectively endorsing the opposition's position, although he seemed to hedge on this in an interview published on Wednesday in the Kuwaiti newspaper As-Siyassa.
The patriarch's statement to As-Safir on an amendment, while it may have been a slip of the tongue, was more likely a reflection of Sfeir's state of mind. He does not trust March 14 much more than he does March 8 or Michel Aoun, and was likely sending a clear message: that it is preferable for the presidency to be filled, even by someone like Suleiman who is acceptable to March 8, than leaving the office vacant, which would mean the Maronites find themselves without their paramount representative.
If that's Sfeir's reasoning, it is worth mulling over, because the signs for now are that Lebanon will have no president at the end of November. Suleiman may become inevitable, whether the majority likes it or not. But if the patriarch sees the army commander as someone who can appeal to March 8, he should examine more closely whether he's acceptable to March 14. Samir Geagea spent 11 years in a cell at the Defense Ministry, so his enthusiasm for a dominion of officers cannot be high. The first time I met Walid Jumblatt in February 2005, military helicopters were patrolling over his palace at Mukhtara. In the past 15 years, while the army undoubtedly remains a nationalist institution, the reality is that the officer corps has been filled with individuals screened by Syria, Hizbullah, Emile Lahoud or Michel Murr, with many of the earlier holdovers being Aounists. For all the respect Suleiman imposed by remaining neutral during the Independence Intifada, more will be needed for the majority to consider altering the Constitution to bring him into office.
That reluctance is valid. Here is Lebanon, a rare Arab country which has not run to the barracks to resolve its every crisis, suddenly considering electing a second army commander in a decade. Meanwhile, a third military man, Michel Aoun, lurks in the background, insisting he's the redeemer that no one wants to acknowledge. The unfortunate fact is that Lahoud's politicization of the military very nearly ruined its credibility and effectiveness before 2005, and is a reason why the troops are so ill-prepared today for Nahr al-Bared. Nor do we need dispense much effort to show what a calamity Aoun's two years in power were. The general not only destroyed the armed forces, he destroyed the Christian community as well. That such a man should have the insolence to again want to "save" Lebanon is testimony to our capacity for amnesia.
Lebanon is not a laboratory for military rule, and should not become one. Michel Suleiman has not declared his candidacy, nor is he permitted to. But what would greatly help is for him to say plainly that he opposes the politicization of the army, and can prove it by refusing to accept the presidency even if it is offered to him on a silver platter. In the past nine months the military's neutrality is what has allowed Lebanon to contain the discord in the streets. If Suleiman were elected president, that neutrality would be lost. The army, through the president, would become a full-time political actor, and could be torn apart in the process.
In 1998, the Syrian regime sought to transform its way of doing business in Lebanon. Through Emile Lahoud's election it hoped to militarize rule in the country, so that Damascus could operate by way of a military hierarchy capable of marginalizing powerful politicians. The point was to centralize authority in Beirut, much as it is in Syria. The project was an abject failure, however, proving that the Syrian regime was always too contemptuous of its Lebanese possession to understand its inner workings. In the 2000 elections, Lahoud and the army suffered a withering defeat at the hands of the political class. The Lebanese can champion the army for a time, they can admire the bravery of its soldiers, but when push comes to shove, they prefer a traditional mode of diffuse leadership to centralization brought about by military muscle.
Suleiman is sensitive to this reality, and should remember this again when the presidential election period begins next month. The army never wins for long in Lebanon. The country is not Syria, Iraq or Egypt. That's why it would be best not to amend the Constitution, and why Suleiman should reject such an option on the grounds that the best way to reward the army is by keeping it outside the fatal reach of factional politics.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.

Lebanon's presidential hopefuls can do three simple things
By The Daily Star

Thursday, August 23, 2007
Back in 2005, when Lebanon was emerging from decades of Syrian domination and forming its first post-occupation government, The Daily Star was among the many media outlets, organizations and individuals around the world expressing optimism about the country's future. Under the guidance of a new and independent government, it was believed, Lebanon would quickly rise to become a country based on the twin pillars of democracy and the rule of law. Since then, The Daily Star has published numerous editorials imploring politicians to design serious policy papers that would pave the way toward far-reaching reforms, including the full implementation of the Taif Accord, the elimination of the destabilizing impact of sectarianism and the creation of mechanisms to guarantee an independent judiciary. However, during the two years since then, Lebanon's political class has made no progress on any of these fronts, nor have any of their foreign sponsors made democratic reform a genuine priority.
It is evident by now that we have been shouting into a well. Surprisingly, instead of finding ourselves in a better Lebanon, we are observing what must be the most absurd presidential contest the world has ever witnessed. None of the candidates or their supporters are debating the means of state-building or issues that are of concern to Lebanese citizens. On the contrary, the discussions - including the contributions being made by representatives of foreign capitals - have focused on this or that candidate's relationship with other countries. The conclusion that our leaders are forcing us to draw is that our most august statesmen are mere pawns of bigger players in foreign capitals, that Lebanon will always be a protectorate overseen by non-Lebanese, and that the country really has no recourse at all, except to choose which power it will blindly follow.
Our response to this sad state of affairs is to issue a public challenge to all of the leaders who aspire to take over the helm of state when Emile Lahoud leaves office. Under the current circumstances, we no longer hope for a leader to emerge with a bold and visionary reform plan, but we can still identify three simple things that a president can do that would go a long way toward creating a functional Lebanese state: propose a fair electoral law, draft a law defining the role of the president, and suggest a law that outlines the role of Cabinet. Right now, these three cogs of state are absent, making the state an amorphous entity with no real structure.
Most of the debate over the presidency until now has failed to address the structural problems in our governing system. And without addressing these key issues, the players appear to be battling for control over a non-existent state. Solutions to these problems will not come from abroad, because foreign players are only concerned about their own interests. The Lebanese will need their own leaders to do the work to make Lebanon a strong state. Each of the candidates has the hope of leading Lebanon. Right now is the time to tell us exactly where they want to lead us.

Every one can see that the king has no clothes on
By Bouthaina Shaaban*
August 22/07
After few years of serving as an ambassador of The United States of America to Lebanon Mr. Jeffrey Feltman has finally reached an acceptable understanding on one of the common denominators among Arab people. But, unfortunately, he thought that his discovery is an accusation that he levels against some important Arab personalities. Hence, the need to take a moment with him and explain to him the true meaning of his understanding, especially as he has become an expert in Middle Eastern affairs whose opinion counts in Washington not only as far as Lebanon is concerned but as far as all the Arabs are concerned. Responding to a question about an interview conducted with the head of FPM Free Patriotic Movement, Mr. Michael Aoun, MP in the French Le Monde he described the interview as "amusing" and added "Had I seen what was said in this interview without knowing who said it; I would've thought it was said by Bouthaina Shaaban in Tishreen newspaper (Syrian paper) or something of that kind and I wouldn't have thought it was said by a Lebanese MP who fought for the independence of Lebanon for years".
Mr. Feltman is right. If you take out the name the interview could've been ascribed to any Arab writer or politician who truly cares about the future of Lebanon and the unity of Lebanon. What General Awn said in that interview is similar, in essence, to what is said by so many Arabs from Morocco to Kuwait, who all agree that the United States is trying to destabilize Lebanon just as it did in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan, as part of its announced plan for "Creative Chaos" in the Middle East. Had Mr. Feltman been a reader of Arabic he would've read similar statements to what General Michael Aoun said about the role of the U.S. in Lebanon in many Arab papers, both inside and outside the Arab world. But because Mr. Feltman sits with only one Lebanese group and listens only to this group, he mistakenly thought that only this group represents Lebanon and anything else, said by anyone else, is a sign of foreign influence and interference, and I hope no one ever thinks that the role of Mr. Feltman is a clear sign of foreign interference as he seems to consider himself part and parcel of the Lebanese political matrix! Upon hearing the statement of Mr. Feltman a Lebanese friend of mine called me and said if the U.S. were to tap our telephones and listen to our conversations at home, as they do to American people after 9/11, they would discover how much we loath their policies towards Lebanon and the entire Arab world.
The Question is how does an ambassador to a country dare criticize an important public figure? His statement is a proof that he behaves as a high commissioner to Lebanon rather than an ambassador and is another evidence of what Mr. Aoun said in his interview that the U.S. is working hard to divide the Lebanese ranks and prevent them from reaching agreement.
The second question is how could Mr. Feltman feel the deep and various factors which make the Arabs one people. When he and his Secretary of State were giving Israel extra time to kill more Lebanese, the Syrian people went out to the borders to receive, with love and compassion, their Lebanese brothers and sisters fleeing Israeli criminal attacks using American arms and bombs. While Mr. Feltman finds the virtual agreement in opinion between a prominent Lebanese leader and a Syrian writer "amusing", American forces continue to kill 30.000 Iraqis every month (The Lancet, the most prestigious British medical journal, October 12, 2006). Juan cole, the most visible American Middle East scholar, summarized the Lancet study in a particularly vivid comment: "The US misadventure in Iraq is responsible, in a little over three years, for setting off the killing of twice as many civilians as Saddam managed to polish off in 25 years". Yet the U.S. offered refuge to less than a thousand Iraqis whereas Syria welcomed almost two million Iraqis with whom we share our schools, hospitals, food and houses, because we are one people, share the same life and look forward to a better future.
I don't expect Mr. Feltman to feel what we feel when we see a Palestinian man fatally wounded by an Israeli bullet, creeping and his blood behind him moaning his youth, or to have any of our feelings when we watch an American soldier standing with his boots on the bed of an Iraqi woman trying to cover herself as a stranger has violated the sanctity of her home only to see her daughter killed in front of her eyes. If Mr. Feltman wants to know more about the behavior of American occupation forces in Iraq I advise him to read the study entitled: Is the United States Killing 10.000 Iraqis Every Month? Or Is it More. By Prof. Michael Schwartz in Global Research August 13, 2007 and if he wants to know how the 30 billion Dollars given to Israel will be spent he should look at the Israeli B'tselem Website to have an inkling of one Israeli apartheid regime against Palestinians and the genocide against Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank. Hence Mr. Feltman may start to see the reasons which make the Arabs have a similar reading of the U.S. role in Lebanon and the Arab World although they have never met before. He did not read Arab history or literature nor was he born to a civilization that embraced and spread the three monolithic religions and granted humanity the products of excellent creative minds and built, for example, two thousand years ago an amphitheatre in Bosra al Sham that hosts fifteen thousand viewers. What most Americans need is to understand this very important fact. All the Arabs, Mr. Feltman, see that the king has no clothes on and it would be good for the U.S. and for every one that you see that too.
* Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban is Minister of Expatriates in Syria, and writer and professor at Damascus University since 1985. Before assuming her current ministerial position, Dr. Shaaban was Director of the Press Office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Syria. She received her Ph.D. in English Literature from Warwick University in England in 1982, and joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an advisor in 1988. Since then, she has represented Syria as a spokeswomen on an international level. In 2005 Dr. Shaaban was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and in the same year, was presented with "the Most Distinguished Woman in a Governmental Position" award by the Arab League. Dr. Shaaban has published four books, and contributed to numerous other. She may be reached at:

US presses for presidential polls free of interference
'We are concerned about Syrian influence in lebanon'

By Hani M. Bathish
Daily Star staff
Thursday, August 23, 2007
BEIRUT: The United States wants to see presidential elections in Lebanon held on time in accordance with the Lebanese Constitution, but most importantly wants elections free of external interference, according to Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Beirut William Grant, who spoke to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation on Wednesday.
Grant said that the United States will not negotiate with Syria at Lebanon's expense, calling for relations between Lebanon and Syria to be based on mutual respect. "We are concerned over Syrian influence in Lebanon, directly or through proxy," Grant said. "We are concerned over threats to Lebanon's democracy and sovereignty, from the assassination of MP Walid Eido to terrorist attacks against Lebanon's army in the North and talk of a second government by Syria's allies in Lebanon."
Grant said the US has several tools at its disposal to use in response to what it considers threats to Lebanon and its institutions. He said the US wants a president for Lebanon who will put Lebanon's interests first ahead of all foreign interests, including those of the United States.
French Envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran returns to Lebanon on Thursday to resume his mission to try to break a nine-month-old political deadlock, a French Embassy source told The Daily Star Wednesday.
During his three-day visit, which ends on Saturday, Cousseran plans to meet Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Speaker Nabih Berri and other political leaders, according to an AFP report which quoted diplomatic sources.
The visit comes as France aims to double efforts to broker an end to the political standoff that threatens to scuttle presidential elections scheduled for September 25. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner met Lebanese leaders in Beirut in July but failed to make significant headway toward resolving the political impasse.
French Charge d'Affaires Andre Baran met Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir at his summer residence in Diman on Wednesday and emphasized the importance of holding presidential elections on time. Baran told reporters after the meeting that presidential elections "represent an historical opportunity for the Lebanese and the Maronites in particular, to save their country." Baran said that respecting the Constitution creates a political atmosphere conducive to ending the political crisis.
He said France will spare no effort to assist Lebanon and the Lebanese to overcome difficulties and "create an atmosphere of trust in Lebanon," adding that France will follow up its efforts to facilitate a solution to the crisis.
Baran said his government views with great importance its relationship with Sfeir as well as the patriarch's stance on issues, his wisdom and outlook for the situation in Lebanon.
Presidential hopeful and Democratic Renewal Movement leader MP Nassib Lahoud said there is no bar to agreeing over a national unity government with the opposition, but such a government should only take office after a new president is elected.
Lahoud, in a statement issued Wednesday, said the Maarab meeting had laid the cornerstone to ensuring the electoral process is "purely Lebanese." He said during the meeting participants emphasized their unchanging position on the elections concerning constitutional amendments and their relationship with Bkirki.
"We wanted to express clearly that we reject any obstruction of this election and that all the talk about Lebanon's president being chosen from abroad, whether referring to history or to the present day, is rejected by us," Lahoud said, adding that Lebanon's next president will be chosen in Lebanon.
He said that the Maarab meeting has decided on a mechanism for choosing the March 14 presidential candidate, adding that an expanded meeting for all March 14 leaders shall be held to choose their presidential candidate.
"We will all support this candidate and present his name to other political factions to seek consensus," Lahoud said, adding that the participants expressed support for the Maronite patriarchate's position and its national principles.
Lahoud said the insistence of March 8 forces that a national unity government be set up even "half an hour" before presidential elections lacks objectivity. "However, agreement over a national unity government to be set up with the election of a new president and after the president assumes his constitutional duties, is a realistic and just demand," Lahoud said, adding that everyone would be willing to discuss such a demand.
Lahoud added that rejecting amending the Constitution is a primary position March 14 has had at all similar junctures, regardless of the individuals involved, adding that such a position is not aimed against army commander General Michel Suleiman nor is it aimed at anyone who would stand to benefit from such an amendment. "On the contrary we respect them and recognize the major role they play, however we feel respecting the Constitution at this juncture in particular is akin to respecting our Lebanese institutions," Lahoud said.
Change and Reform Bloc leader MP Michel Aoun, following a meeting of Christian opposition figures at his home Tuesday evening, said his opposition Christian politicians speak on behalf of Lebanon's Christians, not March 14 Christian politicians.
"They have no right to speak on behalf of the Christian majority as they have no right to nominate [a candidate] for president while he does not represent the majority of the Christians," Aoun said.
"We declare stances ... We have the right to speak on behalf of the majority of Christians." The meeting tackled, among other issues, the upcoming presidential elections.

Lebanon Bans Political Performance Art

Published: August 22, 2007
BEIRUT, Lebanon—Lebanon's Interior Ministry censorship board has banned artist Rabih Mroué's performances of the piece How Nancy Wished That Everything Was an April Fool’s Joke, which was to have premiered this weekend, the New York Times reports. Written by Mroué with Fadi Toufic, Nancy, which will take the stage in Paris, Rome, and the capitals of Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt over the next three months, presents an episodic history of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war through the experiences of four fighters who served in different militias. Although Mroué's works have been controversial in Lebanon in the past, he said this is the first time a performance has been outright banned. “The margin of freedom is getting smaller and smaller,” he said. “The vision is becoming so narrow, and there is no more room for different voices.”

Outrage forces removal of pro-Hezbollah billboard

By RON STANG, Special to The CJN
Thursday, 23 August 2007
WINDSOR, Ont. — Many in Windsor are breathing a sigh of relief after a controversial billboard depicting Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, erected in the heart of the city’s Arab Middle Eastern community, came down within days of being put up.
The billboard showed Nasrallah alongside smaller images of four other Lebanese leaders. The sign had both English and Arabic text. In English, it read, “Lebanese and Arab communities in Windsor city congratulate the Lebanese people for their steadfastness and endeavour to establish peace in Lebanon.”
But the person who first brought the billboard to the public’s attention, Edy Haddad, a University of Windsor student and a Lebanese-born Canadian, said the Arabic wording contained a reference to “fight” in it.
“There are two different sayings,” Haddad, the former North American youth representative for Kataeb, a Lebanon-based, pro-democracy party, said of the sign. He said that in English the text stressed “the whole peace thing.” But in Arabic, “they were trying to say this is our army, but they did it in a very nonchalant way, but there is a… [phrase] that had the word ‘fight’ in it.”
Haddad, who lives two blocks from the billboard, put out a press release Aug. 10 and demanded that the “despicable” billboard, located along one of Windsor’s busiest streets, be taken down. The release said Hezbollah “is on the terror watch list by Canada” and “has murdered countless numbers of civilians.”
Since that time, Haddad said in an interview, he has received death threats and some people “were threatening to come to my house and beat me up.”
The billboard raised alarm in Windsor generally, chiefly among the city’s Jewish community, which made immediate efforts to contact elected politicans and the city’s mayor to seek the sign’s immediate removal.
Harvey Kessler, executive director of the Windsor Jewish Federation and Community Centre, said the “primary concern” was that the poster depicted an individual who “represents a terrorist organization that’s banned in Canada.” He said police, including the RCMP, were investigating.
By midday on Monday, Aug. 13 – three days after the billboard went up – the sign had been removed and replaced with an advertisement for a local auto dealership.
Kessler suggested that Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis, who is of Lebanese descent, was instrumental in having the poster taken down.
“He told me he was going to do everything in his power to make sure that billboard came down as quickly as possible,” Kessler said. “I assume someone put pressure on the billboard sign company to take it down.”
The billboard became a national news story. Kessler and the mayor’s office received phone calls from across the country, mostly condemning the sign.
The incident appears to be unprecedented in Canada.
“The only situation I can recall that is at all analogous to this is the Jews for Jesus billboard that was put up at the corner of Bathurst [Street] and Wilson [Avenue in Toronto] a few years ago,” said Len Rudner, national director of Community Relations for Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC). “The billboard, offensive in its presentation of a Holocaust survivor who had ‘found’ Jesus, was quickly taken down.”
Rudner added that since the Canadian government has deemed Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization, “it is entirely inappropriate that the leader of Hezbollah should be portrayed in such an adulatory fashion.” CJC commended the Windsor Jewish Federation and the mayor’s office for having “this material removed from the public square.”
Michele Erskine, marketing director for CBS Outdoor Canada, the company that owns the sign, called the entire incident “an honest mistake.”
She said an employee at the firm’s Windsor office “didn’t recognize the full content” of the sign or recognize the significance of the pictures before putting it up.
“Since we realized the mistake was made, we’ve taken it down as fast as we could.”
Attempts to reach the billboard’s supporters were unsuccessful. The Windsor Star quoted Hussein Dabaja, who said various members of the Lebanese community took up a collection to pay for the sign and had made their point.
“The Jewish are not the enemy,” Dabaja told the Star. “When Hezbollah fights the Israeli army, they fight the Israeli occupation to Lebanon.”
The billboard went up just before the Aug. 12 one-year anniversary of Israel and Hezbollah agreeing to a United Nations-brokered ceasefire following last summer’s war between the Jewish state and the Lebanese-based Shiite Muslim group.
Windsor’s Lebanese community, which Haddad estimated at between 15,000 and 20,000 people, is typical of many such communities in Canada, divided between Christians and Muslims. He added that “it’s not all Muslims that support Hezbollah.”Kessler said that while a sign such as the pro-Hezbollah billboard increases tensions generally, “I think it’s going to increase tensions most in the Arab and Lebanese communities, from what I’m hearing.” He added “there are many different perspectives” within the Lebanese community “on the politics of the Middle East.”Meanwhile, he said he will bring the matter to city hall’s race and ethnocultural relations committee, hoping “protocols” will be developed in the event another such incident occurs.Kessler said that on this occasion “the community reacted.” But he said that in the event of a future incident, “we would have some proactive strategies or protocols in place.”

France pushes UN resolution to extend UNIFIL's mandate
Germany extends naval presence for one year

Compiled by Daily Star staff
Thursday, August 23, 2007
France introduced to the UN Security Council on Tuesday a draft resolution to extend the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, UN diplomats reported. The French draft resolution seeks to extend the present mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which expires on August 31st, for an additional year. The resolution commended the "positive role" of UNIFIL, saying its deployment together with the Lebanese Army has helped to "establish a new strategic environment in southern Lebanon."The resolution also appeals "to all parties concerned" to "respect the cessation of hostilities and the Blue Line in its entirety."
It also urges parties to "fully" cooperate with the Security Council and the UN secretary general to achieve "a permanent cease-fire and a long term solution."
The resolution "emphasizes the need for greater progress in this regard."
The UN peacekeeping force first deployed to South Lebanon in 1978. It currently has 13,500 troops along with 1,000 civilian employees, compared to only 2,000 troops before 2006.
UNIFIL monitors the separation of forces following the summer 2006 war with Israel.
The force also helps the Lebanese Army deploy in the South, and makes sure humanitarian assistance reaches civilians.
Following on France's footsteps, the German Cabinet on Wednesday approved a one-year extension to the country's role in the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, where it has led naval patrols off the coast.
The Cabinet decided to extend the German military's mandate until September 15, 2008, at its regular weekly meeting. The extension still requires approval by Parliament, which is expected to vote in mid-September.
Eight German ships joined the UNIFIL mission last year in Germany's largest naval deployment since World War II. It currently has 960 sailors with the mission, designed to prevent arms from reaching Hizbullah by sea.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's government ruled out sending combat troops to try to ensure that German soldiers would not get caught up in any confrontation with Israeli forces. Government spokesman Thomas Steg said the deployment so far had not resulted in weapons being intercepted.
Steg said that, under the new mandate, the maximum number of German sailors authorized to take part would be reduced to 1,400 from 2,400. He noted that Germany never reached the current limit, and said it was only adapting the limit "to the actual needs."
Steg said Germany was prepared to continue leading the mission until late February, but was asking the UN to find another leader after that date. Other countries involved in the patrols include Greece, Turkey and Norway. The head of the German Parliament's foreign affairs committee said the mission has been a success.
"That little incidents have happened is a sign that the deployment is successful," Ruprecht Polenz, a member of Merkel's Christian Democrats, said on local German radio. "The mission works preventively as well - potential weapons smugglers know they barely have any chance of smuggling weapons into Lebanon by sea," Polenz added. Also related to developments in the south of Lebanon, the Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday that the UN has decided to send a cartographer within the next month to visit the occupied Shebaa Farms. According to the daily, Israel is vehemently opposed to the UN's initiative to redraw Israel's border with Lebanon.
Israel contends that it conquered the area located between Lebanon and the Golan Heights, from Syria during the Six Day War in 1967.
"In the past, the United States and France have pressured Israel to concede the territory as a gesture to bolster Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora," the newspaper said. However, Israeli defense officials have warned against ceding the area to Lebanon. "If the border is changed, then this could be dangerous for Israel's national security," the paper quoted a senior official as saying. The UN decision comes in the wake of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other top officials' frequent expressions of concern about the Israeli Army's inadequate state. Officials have been meeting with greater frequency to discuss methods for improving the country's defenses. According to another Israeli daily, Haaretz, Barak had warned that "Israel is currently at less than half the maximum order of battle it had in the past." "A military force is not merely hardware and technology, but first of all confidence and fighting spirit. There is no military force without training," he said. - Agencies

Lebanon crisis threatens presidential vote

Wed Aug 22, 2007 1
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Bitter rivalry between Lebanon's political camps and between their respective foreign backers could torpedo next month's presidential election, threatening a new constitutional crisis, instability and economic paralysis.
The poll is the next battle in a struggle that pits the ruling coalition backed by the United States and Saudi Arabia against a Shi'ite-Christian opposition including the powerful Hezbollah group, which enjoys Syrian and Iranian support.
According to the constitution, parliament should meet on September 25 to elect a successor to President Emile Lahoud, a close Syrian ally whose term ends at midnight on November 23. But the vote is unlikely to happen then or before the end of Lahoud's term without a settlement of the political standoff which has paralyzed Lebanon since November and triggered outbreaks of strife reminiscent of the 1975-1990 civil war. "Everybody is awaiting the positions of the Americans and the influential regional states," a senior Lebanese politician said. "All the talk on the local level is just to pass time."Syria's insistence on extending Lahoud's term in 2004 raised tension in Lebanon and provoked U.S.-led pressure on Damascus. Replacing Lahoud with someone independent of Syrian tutelage has been a priority for supporters of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government since Syrian troops left Lebanon in 2005, amid an outcry over the killing of ex-premier Rafik al-Hariri.
Hezbollah is equally determined to stop the presidency falling into the hands of political adversaries it says are controlled by Washington.
Breaking the Lebanese impasse thus depends on easing wider tensions -- a slim prospect right now, given U.S. sparring with Syria and Iran, recent animosity between Syria and Saudi Arabia, and Sunni fears of Tehran's rising influence in Iraq and beyond.
"There needs to be a regional thaw -- between Syria, Saudi and Iran and Saudi," said Lebanese political analyst Oussama Safa said. "I doubt there's a chance of that soon."The pro-government majority bloc made up of Sunni, Christian and Druze factions accuses the opposition of seeking to restore Syrian dominance in Lebanon. Hezbollah sees Siniora's cabinet as a tool of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Opposition leaders are demanding a national unity government in which they would hold veto power before any vote on a new president, who they say must be a consensus choice. "No national unity government, no presidential elections," leading Hezbollah cleric Sayyed Hashem Safieddin said this week. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a fiery anti-Syrian politician, rejected any such government. "I am against a compromise," he told Reuters. "It means political suicide for us."
Yet neither side can impose its own candidate. The pro-government bloc cannot ensure a two-thirds quorum in parliament. The opposition would reject any president elected without a quorum as unconstitutional. The president must be a Maronite Christian in Lebanon's power-sharing system, but the Maronite community is divided over the declared candidates, who include opposition leader Michel Aoun and pro-government figures Boutros Harb and Nassib Lahoud.
The name of army chief Michel Suleiman has been floated as a compromise candidate, although the constitution would need to be amended to let him assume the post straightaway. Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh is also seen as a possible neutral choice.
Lahoud, like the opposition, disputes the legitimacy of the Siniora government and says he will not turn over power to it if his term expires before a new president has been elected. Some analysts say Lahoud may appoint a new government in competition with Siniora's -- or even try to stay in office.
Jumblatt said it was too early to predict the outcome, but suggested that if the deadlock persisted the ruling coalition could hold a vote outside parliament without opposition MPs. A senior opposition source said such a step would "take Lebanon to the unknown" and would be confronted "by all possible means". Even some pro-government MPs have questioned whether such an unprecedented election would have any legitimacy.
Amal Saad Ghorayeb, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment's Middle East Center, saw no prospect of polls taking place in the fraught atmosphere clouding Lebanon. "Once Lahoud's term expires, he could hand power over to the army commander," she said.
That would mirror a move in 1988, when former President Amin Gemayel named then army chief Aoun to head a military government in conflict with the existing cabinet. Syria drove Aoun from office in 1990, with a green light from Washington. "The creation of two governments will recreate the dangers of civil war and they (the opposition) are not ready to go with this alternative," prominent Lebanese columnist Sateh Noureddin said, pinning his hopes on foreign pressure to secure a deal.
"We are only at the beginning of this political circus."
(Additional reporting by Laila Bassam)

Draft Security Council resolution on Lebanon

Thursday, August 23, 2007
The Security Council,
Recalling all its previous resolutions on Lebanon, in particular resolutions 425 (1978), 426 (1978), 1559 (2004), 1680 (2006) and 1701 (2006), as well as the statements of its President on the situation in Lebanon, in particular the statement of 3 August 2007 (S/PRST/2007/XX),
Recalling also the report of the Secretary General of 28 June 2007 (S/2007/392) and the letter from the Secretary General to its President of 2 August 2007 (S/2007/XX),
Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized borders and under the sole and exclusive authority of its Government,
Reiterating its strong support for full respect for the cessation of hostilities and the Blue Line in its entirety,
Reaffirming its attachment to the full implementation of all provisions of resolution 1701 (2006), and aware of its responsibilities to help secure a permanent cease-
fire and a long-term solution as envisioned in the resolution,
Emphasizing the need to address the causes of the conflict, including that the abducted Israeli soldiers have not been released, nor has proof of life been provided, and calling once again for their immediate and unconditional return,
Encouraging the efforts aimed at urgently settling the issue of the Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel,
Welcoming the steps taken by the government of Lebanon to extend its authority over its territory, through its own legitimate armed forces, such that there will be no weapons without the consent of the government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the government of Lebanon, and encouraging it to continue its efforts in this regard,
Welcoming also the tripartite arrangements referred to in the aforementioned report, and encouraging the parties to coordinate further with UNIFIL, notably to visibly mark the Blue Line and reach an agreement on the northern part of Ghajar,
Condemning in the strongest terms all terrorist attacks against UNIFIL and emphasizing the need for further coordination between UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces in particular regarding the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL and for UNIFIL to enhance its investigative capacities in response to these attacks,
Underlining the importance of continued efforts to clear unexploded ordnance from Southern Lebanon,
Reaffirming UNIFIL's authority to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind and to resist attempts by forceful means to prevent it from discharging its mandate,
Recalling the relevant principles contained in the Convention on the safety of United Nations and associated personnel adopted on 9 December 1994,
Commending the active role and dedication of the personnel of UNIFIL, notably of its Commander, as well as of the Special Coordinator of the United Nations for Lebanon,
Expressing its strong appreciation to Member states that contribute to UNIFIL and underlining the necessity that UNIFIL have at its disposal all necessary means and equipment to carry out its mandate,
Responding to the request of the Government of Lebanon to extend the mandate of UNIFIL for a new period of one year without amendment presented in the letter from the Lebanese Prime Minister to the Secretary General of 25 June 2007 (S/2007/396),
Determining that the situation in Lebanon continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security,
Decides to extend the present mandate of UNIFIL until 31 August 2008;
Commends the positive role of UNIFIL, whose deployment together with the Lebanese Armed Forces has helped to establish a new strategic environment in Southern Lebanon, and looks forward to its increased cooperation with the LAF in the discharge of its mandate;
Appeals to all parties concerned to respect the cessation of hostilities and the Blue Line in its entirety;
Urges all parties to cooperate fully with the United Nations and UNIFIL and to abide scrupulously by their obligation to respect the safety of the UNIFIL and other United Nations personnel, including by avoiding any course of action which endangers United Nations personnel and by ensuring UNIFIL is accorded full freedom of movement within its area of operation;
Calls upon all parties to cooperate fully with the Security Council and the Secretary General to achieve a permanent cease-fire and a long term solution as envisioned in resolution 1701 (2006), and emphasizes the need for greater progress in this regard;
Reiterates its intention to consider further steps to contribute to the implementation of a permanent cease-fire and a long-term solution;
Welcomes the efforts being undertaken by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon to implement the Secretary General's zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and to ensure full compliance of its personnel with the United Nations code of conduct, requests the Secretary General to continue to take all necessary action in this regard and to keep the Security Council informed, and urges troop-contributing countries to take preventive and disciplinary action to ensure that such acts are properly investigated and punished in cases involving their personnel.
Requests the Secretary General to continue to report to the Council on the implementation of Resolution 1701 (2006) every four months, or at any time as the Secretary General deems appropriate;
Stresses the importance of, and the need to achieve, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on all its relevant resolutions including its resolutions 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967,338 (1973) of 22 October 1973, and 1515 (2003) of 19 November 2003;
Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.

Aoun and Christian Marginalization
Hassan Haydar - Al-Hayat - 23/08/07//
Judging from the meetings of politicians in Rabieh and in Merab, Lebanon's Christians - including the Maronites - seem more divided than ever. This division threatens to undermine their future and historical role in Lebanese political life as they appear increasingly divorced from the country's sectarian-political scene - especially in light of the current Sunni, Shia and Druze positions on politics in general and elections in particular.
Although pluralism is a welcome development integral to democracy, it has become a source of weakness for Christians as compared to the solidarity among Lebanon's other sects and the spirit of cooperation embodied in the Taef Accords. If Lebanon's current division was purely political, it would be only natural for a variety of Christian parties to emerge - each pushing their own political and economic program. However, given the intense sectarian mobilization on the parts of other sects, Christian leadership seems divided into factions - each of which must follow the lead of other sects and - and does not emerge as an equal partner capable of defending its own interests.
The blame for the Christian's predicament lies mainly with the sect's leaders, many of whom brandish slogans that contradict their political positions. This includes MP Michel Aoun, who continues to view the current situation through the same lens as the 'war of cancellation' he fought almost two decades ago. Aoun recognizes no representative of the Christians but himself and attributes any opposition by others to "foreign influence." This thinking was behind Aoun's statement following the Merab meeting in which he insisted that the participants' decisions were not in their hands - apparently forgetting that many of the meeting's attendees had fought hard against Christian marginalization during the peak of Syrian hegemony and had paid a high price for it.
Following each political assassination, all eyes are on Aoun as he scrambles to craft a defense of Syria on the grounds that they have already "withdrawn from Lebanon." The presidential contest has in Aoun's eyes become a battle for survival: either Aoun becomes President or Lebanon enters a political vacuum as elections are stalled. Thus, the 'defender' of Christian rights becomes their violator - and a tool in the hands of those who wish to see a political vacuum in Lebanon for their own reasons. However, it will be Aoun alone who will bear responsibility for the crisis he creates - for the interests of his allies may be guaranteed in international and regional negotiations, while his will not.
In his last role as head of an interim government, Aoun gifted the Lebanese with two wars that resulted in the massive emigration of young Christians. Few are eager to grant him another position of leadership, for there are no longer enough young Christians remaining to don his orange shirts - unless he borrows followers from other factions

Release from: Center For Democracy and the Rule Of Law (cdrl)

End the Lack of Transparency in the Selection of Judges for the Hariri Court- By Publishing the Secret List of the Nominees Immediately!
Beirut, August 23, 2007:
Dr. Muhamad Mugraby issued the following statement:
One month ago to the day, I called on the United Nations Secretary General and the Lebanese Minister of Justice to adopt a transparent process in the nomination for, and selection of, judges on the prospective Hariri Court. In particular, I called on the Lebanese Minister to make public the list of names of the Lebanese candidates he sent to the UN Secretary General under a secret letter. This morning, "Nahar Ash-Shabab" published an interview with MP and former minister Walid Jumblat in which he stated that he knew the names. He said that the list of names is not a secret and is "booby-trapped". Jumblat added: "I was astonished to discover that one of the judges is a Syrian agent".
I do not believe that Minister Jumblat did not know that Syrian General Ghazi Kinaan was directly involved with the appointment and promotion of high judges, including the president of the High Judiciary Council, and many of their assistants. Most of those appointees still occupy their posts, although it is possible that some of them may have changed the color of their allegiance due to the change of circumstances.
But it is a very serious charge by such a knowledgeable and influential person to say that the list of proposed judges is "booby-trapped" and consists partly of Syrian agents. It makes it mandatory that the Minister of Justice publish the list immediately. Minister Rizk had in the past published the full list of the judicial re-appointments before it was issued and it has never been issued. If Rizk should refrain from publishing the list of names I call on Jumblat to publish the list he has.
Jumblat's charges are so serious that the list, once published, should be made the subject of open debate and honest scrutiny.
Dr. Mugraby i the president of the Center for democracy and the Rule of Law and the founder of the Campaign for Judicial Integrity
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