December 02/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 21,34-36. Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man."

Releases. Reports & Opinions
Lebanon's politicians deserve the scolding they got from Sfeir-The Daily Star-December 01/07

Interview with Ali Bayanouni, the leader of the Muslim Brothehood in Syria
Interview. "Bayanouni: Syria instrument in Iran's hands/ArabicaReport. December 01/07

Interview from Naharnet with Hezbollah MP Mohammed Raad
Hizbullah's Mohammed Raad: No to a Constitutional Amendment by Saniora Government. Naharnet. December 02/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for December 01/07-Naharnet
Olmert: Bush will Not Sell Out Lebanon to Syria-Naharnet
A Year On, 'Tent City' Paralyzes Beirut-The Associated Press
US sees 'mixed picture' from Syria on Mideast cooperation-AFP
MK Yatom calls for peace talks with Syria without preconditions-Jerusalem Post
Syria describes Annapolis conference as defeat for Palestinians-International Herald Tribune
Bkirki Criticizes Opposition-Naharnet
Bin Laden: 9/11 Attacks Were Retaliation against American-Israeli's Aggression on Lebanon, Palestine
Feltman: Requirements for Constitutional Amendment today are Different from Those of 2004
Opposition Tent City To Celebrate First Anniversary-Naharnet

U.S. withdraws U.N. Mideast resolution over Israeli objection-AP
Bin Laden: 9/11 Attacks Were Retaliation against American-Israeli's Aggression on Lebanon, Palestine-Naharnet
Feltman: Requirements for Constitutional Amendment today are Different from Those of 2004-Naharnet

Sfeir urges presidential vote 'before it's too late-Daily Star
South Korean UNIFIL troops get 'morale boost' from visit by foreign minister
-Daily Star
Sayyed demands release, says UN report 'denies' he played role in Hariri killing
-Daily Star
FPM schedules rally on first anniversary of sit-in
-Daily Star
Ghanem underlines limits to government's power
-Daily Star
Italian premier confident UNIFIL 'in no danger
-Daily Star
NGO launches project to boost democratization in Arab world by focusing on socioeconomic policies
-Daily Star
Fadlallah takes issue with 'flagrant' US interference
-Daily Star
Can Parliament meet to amend Constitution?
-Daily Star
Hamra hotel backs off on threat to sue after British daily retracts militia claim
-Daily Star
Popular Beirut cafe hosts young crowd to mark Day of Solidarity with Palestinians
-Daily Star
The gap between performance and reward in the Arab world
-Daily Star
S&P paints bleak picture of top Lebanese banks due to presidential crisis
-Daily Star

The Guardians of the Cedars Party issued the following weekly communiqué:
The Problem is the Leaders of the “Christian Community”.

Now that the presidential palace has closed its doors for the first time in Lebanon’s contemporary history, with the presidential election up in the air and postponed indefinitely, a soul-searching self-criticism is unavoidable to shed light on the causes that have ravaged the “Christian community” and led it to this state of weakness, marginality and irrelevance.
We have said it before, and we repeat it here: The problem of the “Christian community” of Lebanon is its leaders, most of whom suffer from incurable diseases, with the three most dangerous of these being the following:
First, a proclivity for domination, monopoly of power, and acute egotism, in addition to an aggregate lust for power and money that is free from any ethical or patriotic restraints, all of which have led the “Christian community” to this disgraceful display of deep divisiveness.
Second, a proclivity for political sterility, short-sightedness and an absolute lack of future vision, which is due to the leaders’ total ignorance of Lebanon’s historic reality, its central role, and its universal civilizing mission. In the words of poet Maurice Awwad, this reality is summed up by: The Maronite political mind is “barren.”
Third, a proclivity for unjustified violence in dealing with others, as well as the confrontational character that governs the conduct of those leaders and leads them to resorting to weapons in sorting their internal conflicts, without any hesitation at perpetrating the worst crimes to get rid of their opponents inside that community, as happened in Ehden and Safra, and during the “War of Elimination”. Lest we forget, the crime of the fall of the Eastern Region eliminated the last bastion of influence and dignity that the Christians had, which was followed by the crime of accepting the Taef Agreement and the voluntary forgoing of the authority of the President that finished off whatever was left of that influence.
No doubt that there were, and still are, conspiracies that have targeted the “Christian existence” in Lebanon. But the “Christian” leaders left no fatal mistake that they did not make to allow those conspiracies to pass, much as they squandered every opportunity that came to rescue them.
Those leaders have two choices before them: Either realize these facts, rise from their fall, and change their course and conduct by uniting their ranks and fearing their God; Or persist in their wayward course and perdition, and the saying will then apply to them: “Don’t cry like women over a possession you did not protect like men.”
Lebanon, at your service
Abu Arz
November 30, 2007

US withdraws Mideast resolution at UN
By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer
UNITED NATIONS - In an about face, the United States on Friday withdrew a U.N. resolution endorsing this week's agreement by Israeli and Palestinian leaders to try to reach a Mideast peace settlement by the end of 2008, apparently after Israel objected.
Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff informed the Security Council that the United States was pulling the resolution from consideration less than 24 hours after Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad introduced it and welcomed the "very positive" response from council members.
Khalilzad had said he needed to consult with the Israelis and Palestinians on the text of the resolution to ensure that it was what they wanted following the decisions by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the Mideast peace conference in Annapolis, Md.
Wolff said the U.S. had held intensive consultations in the past few days "and the upshot was that there were some unease with the idea" of a resolution.
Well-informed diplomats said Israel, a close U.S. ally, did not want a resolution, which would bring the Security Council into the fledgling negotiations with the Palestinians. The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Khalilzad introduced the draft resolution without getting broad support from the Israelis, Palestinians and the Bush administration.
"It's not the proper venue," Israel's deputy ambassador Daniel Carmon said after Friday's council meeting. "We feel that the appreciation of Annapolis has other means of being expressed than in a resolution.
"We were not the only ones to object," Carmon said.
He added that the Americans had told the Israelis that the Palestinians also objected.
"The focus, we all realized again, should be placed and remain on Annapolis and the understanding that was reached there," Wolff said. "It's a momentous decision ... and rather than dilute from that and in respect to both parties in terms of what they thought would be most helpful, we reached a conclusion that it would be best to withdraw it," Wolff said.
Normally, the United States would have consulted Israel, a close ally, in advance of introducing a Security Council resolution, as well as the Palestinians, to gauge their reaction. But on Thursday, Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman said he knew "very little" about the proposed resolution, adding "we will be discussing it, and no doubt in very good spirit." The State Department said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had decided such a resolution was unnecessary.
"We have looked at this and, at the end of the day, the secretary believes that the positive results of Annapolis speak for themselves and there is really no reason to gild the lily," spokesman Sean McCormack said. "I am not sure that we saw the need to add anything else to the conversation. Sometimes, the results and the event speak for themselves."
Two U.S. officials, who on condition of anonymity described Rice's decision to withdraw the draft document, said there were several concerns about the resolution, including the failure to consult the Israelis and Palestinians on the language and the possibility that some on the Security Council might try to add anti-Israeli language to it. Ambassador Nassir Al-Nasser of Qatar, the only Arab member on the Security Council, said Thursday "we are happy with the language as it is" in the U.S. draft resolution. "I am happy that the council is dealing with this issue," he said. "For me, this is the main thing."
The Annapolis conference drew 44 nations, including Israel's neighboring Arab states whose support is considered vital to any peace agreement. A joint understanding between the Israelis and Palestinians, in doubt until the last minute, was salvaged and Abbas and Olmert reiterated their desire to reach a peace settlement by the end of 2008. Indonesian Ambassador Marty Natalegawa, the current council president who had hoped the resolution would be adopted Friday, said he wanted to highlight the strong support in the council for the Annapolis conference. Council members were "welcoming, supporting and encouraging the parties to diligently follow up," he said.
"We are more focused at this time on the substance, that there is an absolutely clear message of council unity in supporting Annapolis conference and its achievements," he said. Deputy Ambassador Konstantin Dolgov of Russia said it was the U.S. right as the sponsor to withdraw the resolution.
"What is important is that discussions showed that there is a lot of support for the outcome," he said. "We think that it would be important, of course, for the Security Council to express itself on this issue because the discussions showed that all Security Council members supported the outcome of Annapolis meeting."
**Associated Press Writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report

Liban: le chef de l’armée favori pour la présidence
Georges Malbrunot
30/11/2007 | Mise à jour : 20:21 | Commentaires 1 .
La neutralité affichée par le général Sleimane lui permet d’être un candidat acceptable pour les partis libanais mais aussi pour la Syrie. Crédits photo : AFP
L’élection probable du général Michel Sleimane pourrait provisoirement dénouer la crise dans laquelle le pays du Cèdre est plongé depuis des mois.
Le chef de l’armée libanaise, Michel Sleimane, qui émerge après des mois de crise comme le favori pour le poste de président de la République, commande la seule entité en qui les Libanais ont gardé une certaine confiance. Le soutien que vient de lui apporter le dirigeant chrétien Michel Aoun, allié du Hezbollah chiite, a renforcé ses chances, même si l’élection d’un nouveau chef de l’État qui aurait dû avoir lieu hier a été une nouvelle fois repoussée, cette fois au 7 décembre.
Le choix du général Sleimane n’est pas le plus simple, puisque son élection nécessiterait au préalable une modification de la Constitution, qui interdit aux hauts fonctionnaires de devenir chef de l’État. Néanmoins, après des mois de crise institutionnelle, ponctués d’assassinats ciblés et de menaces djihadistes, il est perçu aujourd’hui par une majorité de dirigeants libanais comme celui qui devrait leur permettre de maintenir un semblant d’ordre et d’unité. Le Liban est sans président depuis le départ d’Émile Lahoud à l’expiration de son mandat le 23 novembre.
Le général Sleimane, un chrétien maronite âgé de 59 ans, a su pendant sa carrière donner des gages à la Syrie. En 1998, sa nomination à la tête de l’armée ne put se faire qu’après accord de la puissance tutélaire. Et jusqu’au départ des troupes de Damas du Liban au printemps 2005, il rendait fidèlement compte chaque semaine au «proconsul» syrien au Liban, Rostom Ghazaleh. Dans cette tâche cependant, «il n’affichait pas de zèle et laissait d’autres faire le travail ingrat», reconnaît un militaire français qui l’a fréquenté.
Le général Sleimane se tint ensuite à égale distance des clans libanais qui se déchirèrent après l’assassinat de l’ancien premier ministre Rafic Hariri, en février 2005. Quelques semaines après le crime, il laissa les manifestants antisyriens défiler dans Beyrouth. En janvier 2007, il refusa également de disperser les nombreux opposants, proches de Damas, qui avaient décrété une grève générale.
Modus vivendi
Même si ses détracteurs pointent sa «faiblesse de caractère», sa neutralité affichée lui permet aujourd’hui d’être acceptable à la fois par la Syrie et par ses alliés de l’opposition libanaise, mais aussi par la majorité parlementaire, soutenue par Washington et Paris.
«Depuis 2005, il a bien géré les crises en cherchant à dépasser les clivages confessionnels», concède l’ancien général Tannous Mouawad, proche de la majorité antisyrienne. Le général Sleimane s’enorgueillit d’avoir réduit les djihadistes retranchés au printemps dernier dans le camp de réfugiés palestiniens de Nahr el-Bared dans le nord du Liban. Il a aussi, à son actif, le déploiement réussi de l’armée au Liban du Sud, après la guerre de l’été 2006 entre le Hezbollah et Israël. Cet homme de compromis a établi alors un modus vivendi avec le puissant Hezbollah, au terme duquel «ce dernier acceptait que l’armée se déploie dans le fief de la milice chiite au sud du Litani, en échange de quoi la troupe ne serait pas trop regardante sur les activités clandestines du Hezbollah au nord du fleuve», résume un observateur. Le président Sleimane pourra-t-il, toutefois, maintenir cet accord tacite, alors que la question de l’armement du Hezbollah sera une des premières à être posées par le prochain gouvernement ?
Seule fausse note dans le parcours de Michel Sleimane : son acquisition frauduleuse d’un passeport français, en 2004, lorsque la présence syrienne au Liban commençait à devenir incertaine. Il s’en expliqua maladroitement, avant de rendre le document de voyage aux diplomates français à Beyrouth. «Ses ennemis peuvent s’en servir pour dire qu’il cherchait alors une porte de sortie du Liban», note un ancien militaire.

Ali Sadruddin Bayanouni’s Interview with Ikhwanweb
Arwa Walid, IkhwanWeb - Syria
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The National Salvation Front"s conference, held in German capital Berlin weeks ago, raised an escalating controversy among observers of the current critical Syrian situation. The coalitions in exile and the schisms at home make researchers and observers of the Syrian political situation enquire about the point of change for the Syrian regime.
Ikhwanweb"s correspondent to London , Arwa Walid met Ali Bayanouni, the leader of the Muslim Brothehood in Syria . He responded to questions around the Syrian opposition at home and in exile and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood"s attitudes towards current issues in the Middle East and all over the world.
Ikhwanweb: Weeks ago, you ended the conference of the National Salvation Front. What are its results?. Is there any thing new that the national salvation front has offered. What"s the front expected to do?.
Bayanouni: First: The National Salvation front is a coalition of a group of political powers in the Syrian arena. We- the Muslim Brotherhood group in Syria- adopt the policy of coalitions in order to gather national powers on common understandings. The National Salvation Front has been taking this shape in the past 1 1/2 years. The front"s conference held weeks ago was the second ordinary general conference. This conference is the broadest framework in the front. It was tasked with reviewing the front"s performance and course during the past year and review the performance of the General Secretariat which was elected by the general conference in order to assess this course on the one hand, and to put a future action plan on the other hand. I think that the conference has achieved many of its targets. The work of the front and the performance of the General Secretariat during past year have been reviewed and action plan for the coming stage has been drawn. The concluding statement gave its view about the future of Syria . I believe that the conference has achieved the required target. The most important achievements was that this conference hosted more powers that have recently joined the front and they participated in the general conference, and had seats in the General Secretariat elected in this conference.
Ikhwanweb: In a statement in the Quds Press newspaper, you said that two opposition groups at home joined the General Secretariat?
Bayanouni: This is right. During this round of the conference, two political figures from inside Syria and they represent political blocs or parties inside the country attended it. This is the first time in which political figures from inside country join us after consultations and discussions with them. We have declared their pseudonyms, but their real identities are known only to a very few number of people to protect them inside the country.
Ikhwanweb: Is this a beginning for a new agreement or phase of cooperation between the Syrian opposition inside and outside?
Bayanouni: In fact, we do not distinguish between the opposition inside and outside the country. The opposition in exile is actually an extension of the opposition at home, but tough conditions facing people inside the country do not allow them to give vent to their views. The regime sees a National Salvation Front affiliates inside the country as a red line. It also sees the Muslim Brotherhood as a red line. The ordinary citizen can not declare their support or sympathy to the front or the group, except for some citizens who decide to bear the responsibility and pay the price. Therefore, we are keen to keep identities of these leaders from inside the country not declared. We must admit that both figures" joining the front with their weight and powers inside the country can be considered an important key development in the work of the National Salvation Front.
Ikhwanweb: Observers say that the Muslim Brotherhood Movement has lost so mush of its credibility due to its coalition with Abdel Halim Khaddam, the former Syrian vice-president. Many people currently see the Muslim Brotherhood and Abdel Halim Khaddam as identical. What is your comment?
Bayanouni: In such coalitions, we are not forming one single party. It is only a coalition between different figures and parties which don"t necessarily have the same ideology. They only agree on common targets. This is on the one hand. On the other hand, it is important to form a coalition with Abdel Halim Khaddam because he has got powers inside the regime. These insider powers are ready to work and participate in the process of moving towards democracy in Syria . It is true that most people did not understand our coalition with one of the pillars of the regime. However, the effect of such a coalition is on the regime, and its effect inside the regime, may give it more positive dimensions. We believe that this coalition will help in accelerating the process of national democratic change in Syria . It isn"t important that this may have a negative effect on the group"s popular support in a way or another, as long as this coalition serves the drive towards democratic change.
Ikhwanweb: Some say that the Syrian opposition is isolated from the Syrian public opinion and people. Is there any credited information about the real public opinion in Syria or it mainly depends on guessing.
Bayanouni: The conditions in Syria do not allow holding polls like democratic states that may allow spaces for a freedom of expression. Knowing the Syrian conditions and the day-to-day suffering facing Syrian citizens in economic social and political levels makes the one be sure that such a citizen is opposing the regime. It is true that the political life in Syria has been blocked throughout more than 40 years, but this actually doesn"t prevent most Syrian citizens from opposing this regime because of the daily all-out suffering.
I think that saying that the opposition is isolated is inaccurate. It is true that it hasn"t managed- until now- to organize all popular opposition powers due to the pressing security situations, but the one can say most Syrian citizens are opposing the regime. As for how the opposition can make use of efforts of these anti-regime, there are difficulties due to the absence of the political life and as a result of the state of fear and intimidation that Syrian citizens experience due to the continuously increasing repressions which further increase whenever the regime"s isolation increases on domestic and foreign levels. It is true that we face difficulties in organizing these opposition powers but they are certainly on the ground and are on the increase.
Ikhwanweb: What is the future of the Syrian opposition inside the country?. Does it have a space to move under rule of Bashar Al-Asad. There are some reports that the Syrian opposition in exile has given nothing to the opposition inside the country. Is there any possible future cooperation with international organizations supporting democracy?
Bayanouni: First: I confirm that the opposition can"t be divided. The opposition in exile is an extension of the opposition inside the country. For example, we are a part of the declaration of Damascus inside the country and we have also participated in the National Salvation Front in exile. Second: The opposition"s ability to express itself inside the country is related- to a great extent- to the barbaric repressions committed by the regime against the freedom of expression. The opposition inside the country needs an Arab and international support to protect it from the tyranny of regime. We think that in a later stage when the grip is tightened on the regime, it won"t be able to carry out any repression or genocide like those it committed in the past. I believe that opposition work is going on and it will one day work and move without any fear of any mass repression like what"s happening nowadays.
As for our cooperation with international organizations, we are actually open to all democratic powers and civil society institutions inside and outside Syria . We try to explain to these powers the status quo in Syria because we think that change is to the benefit of Syria and the Arab world, and it will contribute to stability in the region.
Ikhwanweb: What about the future of the declaration of Damascus as political activists are continuously detained from the Syrian opposition like Anwar Al Bunni and Michael Kilou?.
Bayanouni: The most important feature in the declaration of Damascus was that all powers along the political spectrum joined it. It was expected since the beginning that the ceiling of the movement of the declaration of Damascus will be limited because of the current security situation. However, and despite this rising repression detentions against dozens tens of activists inside Syria , but the declaration of Damascus gained ground and is still issuing statements within these limits. As the declaration of Damascus continues, the Salvation Front continues also and in the near future all these coalitions will close ranks on common targets, and there is a suitable ground for this unity.
Ikhwanweb: Some say that the idea of establishing an interim government as a government in exile is impossible under the current critical situations. What are the hopes pinned on this idea?
Bayanouni: Some peoples thought that the interim government is exile government. The interim government that the National Front referred to is an interim government that fills the vacuum if the regime falls. There should be preparations and consultations with all parties to form it in the coming stage. It isn"t government in exile. It is a government for filling vacuum in case regime is toppled.
Ikhwanweb: Is it possible that change will occur in Syria ?. Will the change take place peacefully or will it be marred by violence?. Or is it still blurred?.
Bayanouni: The strategy of the Syrian opposition in general, and particularly the Salvation Front and the Declaration of Damascus and the Muslim Brotherhood group, is based on a peaceful method of change. We dismiss violence and exert our efforts to rescue the country from any possible chaos. However, in front of the regime"s inflexibility, maintaining same policies, and aggravating repressions, all options are on the table. We don"t want Syria to be Iraqized into a state of chaos. We think that the Syrian people can achieve the process of peaceful change and can end this ordeal and face all obstacles.
Ikhwanweb: Farouk Al-Sharaa described the Saudi role in the region as "paralyzed" while he backs Iran . How do you expect the balance of power in the region will be if a change happens and an interim government takes power in Syria ? What about the Iran-Syria coalition? will the interim government maintain this coalition or will it seek a coalition with neighbouring Arab countries?
Bayanouni: First: Farouk Al-Sharaa"s statements reflect the regime"s confusion and isolation from its Arab context. It has become an instrument in the hand of the Iranian politics. The Iranian-Syrian coalition is not a coalition of peers. It is a coalition between a strong country that has its own project in the region with a weak regime that lacks legitimacy, does not have a popular basis and it doesn"t have any national project. Therefore, we warn against the ongoing policy of being controlled by the Iranian politics. As for our future outlook, we aren"t against forging coalitions with Islamic states, including Iran and others, as long as it is based on common interests, not like the current state. The coalition with Iran in Hafez Asad"s era had to a great extent kind of balance between Iran and Syria because of Hafez Asad"s personality and his political capabilities. At present, with Bashar Al-Asad"s weakness and lack of any political project, the Syrian political stance is unfortunately a part of the Iranian stance. In the future, a priority should be given to cooperation and coalitions with Islamic and Arab countries, coalitions which should be based on mutual interests, and not to be a part of strategies others.
The International Court
Ikhwanweb: Some say that if the regime succumbed to foreign pressures and held a deal with America and initiated the peace process with Israel, the first victims will be the International Court and Hezbollah. Given that the Salvation Front relies on the results of the International Court , what will be the front"s fate if the regime held a deal with America and Israel ?
Bayanouni: First: Our opposition in the Muslim Brotherhood group, the Salvation Front and the Syrian opposition in general is emanating from the Syrian people"s suffering and need for change. We do not rely on foreign powers or the International Court . We have been opposing this regime throughout more than thirty years. We opposed it before assassinating Rafik Al-Hariri and before the International Court is formed. The crimes committed by the regime in Lebanon and its wrong policies will certainly help the national opposition because it put the regime in a mess and will add to its Arab and international isolation. We will definitely benefit from the international atmosphere and from the isolation of Arab and international nations when it is convicted in the case of assassinating Al Hariri and in other crimes that it committed. However, our opposition to the regime is not based on these variables. It has started before them. Thus, it will continue till it attains its targets.
Second: It is unlikely that the regime holds a deal at the expense of justice and at the expense of the blood it shed, specially that the investigation into Al Hariri"s assassination has reached an advanced stage with a contribution of a big number of international judges, and that any violation to the results of the investigation or the course of justice will be an international scandal. I do not think that the regime will manage to hold such a deal although it wants to.
Ikhwanweb: Is there any hope that the state of emergency may be canceled under Bashar"s rule?
Bayanouni: I do not think so. All indications show that the more popular and foreign pressures that Bashar Al-Asad is facing, the more he aggravates repressions and tortures based on the state of emergency and he activates law number 49 of the year 1980 stipulating that any one affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood group must be executed. At the beginning of of his era, Bashar spoke in his oath swearing speech about democracy, freedom of speech and respecting views of the other, people got deceived. However, it became later clear to all that his speechs are merely hollow promises and that Bashar Al-Asad"s regime is an extension of his father"s regime and that he can"t be reformed and isn"t qualified for reform. Therefore, all political powers have been calling for change after expecting no near reform or any breakthrough in the Syrian scene under rule of this regime.
Ikhwanweb: What is your opinion about the success of the Justice and Development Party in Turkish elections? Can Syria "s Muslim Brotherhood benefit from this experience?
Bayanouni: The experience of the Justice and Development Party in Turkey deserves attention to draw lessons from it. Through solving people"s problems and easing their suffering, this party managed to top all parties by the votes of the Turkish people. This party benefited also from the freedom that Turkish people enjoy under a democratic political regime, based on free and fair elections. This is the key point in the Turkish case, that there are real freedoms and elections. We did not hear that any Turkish party failed in the elections and accused others of election fraud. The issue of rigging elections doesn"t take place in these democratic states. Therefore, the case of Turkey has kind of difference. It has been proved that in case fair and real elections are held in any Muslim country, the Islamic movement will top the political scene. This happened in Turkey , Morocco , and Palestine and in Egypt . This happens in every place that allows even a little space of freedom. Despite its difference, the Turkish experience proves that Islamists- when they try to solve citizens" problems and ease their concerns, can claim deserved positions in elections held in fair and free atmosphere.
Ikhwanweb: There is a reported defecting of more Syrian officials after Abdel Halim Khaddam. However, nothing of this happened since the latter defected. How do you expect the internal structure of the Syrian regime nowadays and under foreign pressures?
Bayanouni: We have some information confirming that a number of the men of the regime are poised to declare their opposition to the corrupt and tyrant regime. However, the atmosphere in Syria does not allow such declarations, especially after the measures that the regime took against Khaddam after he declared his stance We have relations with a number of these figures of those expected to declare their stances in an advanced stage on the way towards change.
Ikhwanweb: Hamas" win in the elections caused an international uproar: that Islamists can succeed and assume power even under a critical situation like that in Palestine . Do you think that the Syrian experience if you mange to assume power, any similarity with Hamas?
Bayanouni: Although Hamas represents the Islamic movement in Palestine , but the Palestinian situation is also different dur to issues of occupation, resistance, Oslo and corruption. There may be some similarity but there are still many differences. In Syria there is no political life. There is a real Islamic movement in Syria . The one can feel the Islamic awakening but there is no organized political movement inside Syria . Therefore, the situation differs somehow, but the Islamic movement is leading the Syrian opposition and it is leading most political powers in the Arab world. If there is freedom of speech for the voters to express their views, the Islamic political movement will have its normal place in political scene. By the way, we do not seek rule in Syria . We actually want to cooperate with all national sections of the Syrian society to achieve change. We will work after that for a national unity government that includes all political powers to bear the responsibility of reforming the piles of corruption and tyranny.
Ikhwanweb: Don"t you agree that the Syrian opposition in exile didn"t manage to get the required momentum inside hosting countries, like Britain and it not drawing the attention to spreading democracy in Syria?.
Bayanouni: This is right. The activities of the Syrian opposition in exile is still weak. Most of those in exile are in Arab countries whose regimes do not allow opposition activities in their soil. There are limited opposition activities in Europe . This may be due to the fact that few numbers of opposition members return to Syria and have relations with Syria . Therefore, they take into consideration the security concerns.
Human Rights
Ikhwanweb: How far the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood cares for the human rights situation. What is your view about it under Bashar"s rule?
Bayanouni: The MB gives a priority to the human rights and humanitarian situation. Therefore, we insist on underlining the human case and that we can"t initiate a dialogue with the regime unless it first tackles the human rights files. We mean by the human rights files, four files:
1-The file of the political detainees who must be released
2-the second file is of the missing citizens (up to about twenty thousand missing persons who were thrown into Syrian prisons and haven"t been released from them)
3-the third file is of the displaced. They are up to tens of thousands of Syrians who are denied the right to return to their country except through security blackmailing. They must be allowed to return without any blackmail
4-the fourth file is of law number 49 of the year 1980 that stipulates executing any person only for his intellectual or political affiliation to the Muslim Brotherhood group.
These files must be solved ahead of holding any dialogue. We have cooperated with several organizations like Amnesty International, the Syrian Commission for Human Rights in order to exercise pressures on the regime to stop the violations.
Ikhwanweb: Bashar Al Asad gave a political space of freedom at the beginning of his era but he closed this space several months later after opposition inside the country gained a political momentum. Why has Bashar done this?
Bayanouni: I think that Bashar Al-Asad who inherited rule did not have any national project for reform or even any clear reformist directions. He has seemingly uttered some promises after he was sworn in as president. Some people thought that these romises are a prelude for a real reform. These promises were proved to be vacuum after the several months spring of Damascus prompted opposition leaders to stage an open and civilian and peaceful rally, after which they were detained, appeared before a military tribunal that sentenced the to 5-10 years. Dr. Aref Dalila- still serving 10 year sentence- is in prison because he gave a lecture about the economic situation and the prevalent corruption in Syria .
Ikhwanweb: Isn"t it paradoxical that the Muslim Brotherhood is inside and is not inside Syria . How do you work for changing the Syrian regime while you are not inside it? Do you depend on foreign support?.
Bayanouni: Actually, we do not have a typical organizational entity inside Syria so that MB members avoid any possible barbaric repression under a law that sentences to death any one proved to be belonging to our group. We don"t want to burden people with what they can"t endure. There are many MB sympathizers who belong to the Islamic movement at large. The notorious law no. 49 of the year 1980 also prevents people from joining our group inside Syria . We are present inside Syria with our moderate thought as a part of the Islamic movement spreading in villages and cities.

US sees 'mixed picture' from Syria on Mideast cooperation
16 hours ago
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States said Friday it sees a "mixed picture" from Syria about whether it seeks to cooperate with US aims in the Middle East since Damascus backed revived peace talks in the region.
"You have indications of things like participating at the Annapolis conference," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.
He said the Syria's presence at the conference Tuesday in Annapolis, Maryland contrasts, for example, with its proposal just over a month ago to hold a gathering of groups opposed to Palestinian-Israeli peace moves.
"So, there's definitely a mixed picture there," McCormack said.
"We would hope that they would make a more definitive statement to the international community through their actions that they want to play a positive role in the region. I don't think anybody has seen that at this point," he said.
He could not offer a "definitive assessment" when a reporter asked if there was any proof that Syria is cooperating more with Washington to support free elections in Lebanon or stop arms or militants from entering Iraq from Syria. Its talks frozen with Israel since 2000, Syria attended the Annapolis talks when it was assured it would be able to discuss its demand for the return of the Golan Heights as well as other Arab negotiations with Israel.
To ensure broader Arab participation, Washington had opened up the conference to include talks on a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace even though it sought to keep the focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. With the Golan issue not explicitly on the agenda, Damascus sent its deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad to Annapolis, though its representation was lower than from Arab states like Saudi Arabia that sent foreign ministers.
"The participation of Syria at this meeting represents an extra step by it to contribute to reaching a just and global peace in our troubled region," Mekdad said at the conference. It stressed the importance of the Madrid peace conference in 1991 which launched negotiations on Israel's conflicts with the Palestinians, Lebanon and Syria.

Feltman: Requirements for Constitutional Amendment today are Different from Those of 2004
U.S. ambassador Jeffrey Feltman said Friday Lebanese MPs should have the freedom to look into amending the constitution to allow the election of army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman. Feltman hailed the leadership of Suleiman, saying the army chief is "fully aware" of the United Nations' stance regarding international resolutions and the Special International Tribunal for Lebanon to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The U.S. ambassador said that he does not expect the new President to disarm Hizbullah tomorrow. Feltman believed that the requirements for a constitutional amendment today are different from those of 2004 when Syria imposed a constitutional amendment on the Lebanese Parliament. He said a visit to Beirut by the foreign ministers of France, Spain and Italy will only take place to support the election of a new president. Feltman said Washington will support the president-to-be, adding that amendment of the constitution is for rebuilding the state of Lebanon. He stressed that Syria should respect Lebanon's democracy and stop its destructive behavior. Feltman said in response to a question that the change in Washington's stance resulted from the change in the Lebanese stance. Beirut, 30 Nov 07, 18:28

Bkirki Criticizes Opposition
The Maronite Church on Friday criticized the Hizbullah-led opposition for closing parliament, boycotting presidential election sessions and the resigned ministers.
A strongly-worded statement issued by secretariat of the Maronite Church noted that "the constitutional rule states that MPs should go to parliament, review names (of candidates) and elect one of them for the presidential office.""Closing down parliament during the past months puts the great responsibility for this move on whoever closed the house, irrespective of the pretexts," the statement said.
It noted that "Parliament is the place where MPs in all nations of the world meet to tackle national issues and take decisions regarding them."
The statement said ministers "who have abstained from attending government meetings are not less responsible than others. They, at the same time, abstain and head to their respective ministries' offices to process whatever actions they want … This is deplorable and denounced."
The statement recalled that French officials had asked Bkirki to propose a list of candidates, stressing that it is better for the Maronite Church to propose such a list to prevent the nation from heading to chaos. The French officials, according to the statement, informed Bkirki that a candidate from the list would be elected.
However, the statement noted that after the list was proposed Bkirki was asked to propose a second list of candidates or to add an extra candidate to it, but the seat of the Maronite church responded by saying: "This is what we could do. You are free to add or drop any candidate, and the list remains lost."
It called for "the speedy election of president before it is too late. This is the responsibility of all deputies." Beirut, 30 Nov 07, 13:49

Hizbullah's Mohammed Raad: No to a Constitutional Amendment by Saniora Government
By Dalia Nehme
The head of Hizbullah's parliamentary bloc MP Mohammed Raad said Wednesday Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's majority government does not have the authority to propose a constitutional amendment allowing the election of Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman president.
Noting that he is voicing "a viewpoint that remains personal," Raad told Naharnet: "To me, at the personal level, I believe a constitutional amendment in parliament is possible after resignation of Fouad Saniora from the government which is neither constitutional nor legitimate."
"Parliament cannot meet with a non-constitutional government. I am not making a proposal, but expressing a view point that remains personal."
However, Raad stressed that "we will not block any consensus possibility if the intro to it is a constitutional amendment, provided that all opposition factions have agreed on it."
In answering a question as to whether the Hizbullah parliamentary bloc will attend a session to amend the constitution, Raad said: "We believe that any constitutional amendment will be fabrication based on tacit approval by both the pro-government factions and the opposition due to an extraordinary and very important matter."
"This issue should be discussed in detail by the opposition," he added.
What would your stand be if amending the constitution to elect Gen. Suleiman is the only salvation solution? Raad was asked.
He replied: "In fact, this issue needs to be judged to realize its seriousness in the candidate-proposing formula, and to know if the other side considers it the salvation solution."
He recalled that Saniora had "pledged to chop off his hand before signing a constitutional amendment decree. If he is ready now to chop off his hand lets discuss this issue," Raad added.
"We see no seriousness in tackling this issue, some (factions) are trying to maneuver by throwing the ball into the other side's court."
Raad said Gen. Suleiman "knows well our stand regarding him, we explained our stand to him in details a long time ago. And when nominating him is proposed seriously we'll discuss the topic."
He asked "why wasn't (suleiman's nomination) in the basked on candidates. Is constitutional amendment possible now, from a constitutional point of view? And who amends the constitution now? A non-constitutional government, and a parliament that doesn't meet with this non-constitutional government? This issue requires a discussion."
In answering a question as to whether nominating Gen. Suleiman could be proposed as a salvation exit out of the ongoing political crisis, Raad replied:
"If the opposition adopted this view point, then why not. But the opposition might not adopt this view point … This issue requires a decision. But this government is neither legal nor constitutional, how can it be entrusted with a constitutional amendment … in the first place it does not exist as far as we are concerned. Amending the constitution requires a two-thirds vote by a legal government so that a decree can be referred to parliament.
"Parliament does not accept illegitimate decrees by the illegitimate government."
Raad concluded by asking: "does the extraordinary situation prevailing over the country require us to surmount all these issues and the constitutional mechanism to amend the constitution?"
"I don't know, though I find it to be difficult," he replied.
Raad said Hizbullah's presidential candidate is Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun "or whoever is chosen by Gen. Aoun."
"It will be difficult to agree on any candidate of whom Gen. Aoun is not convinced," Raad added, stressing that Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri "realizes this."
He said "pressure cards" of the majority have "faded away and collapsed. The pro-government team would find itself obliged to seriously accept a compromise."
Raad said any protest organized by Aoun would be coordinated with all the opposition factions, noting that the people are "suffering from economic hardships and the increase in prices of basic commodities."
"This requires serious and thorough handling that can only be available through intact rule," Raad added.
He accused the United States of aborting a French initiative to elect a consensus president before Nov. 23 when former President Emile Lahoud's extended term in office expired.
Syria, he said, "played a positive role and did not interfere in naming candidates and supported consensus on a candidate."
Raad warned that electing a president by simple majority, an option that the majority had pledged to resort to, "would open the door to chaos in the country."
The majority, Raad added, "can maintain this option for as long as they want, but can they practice it?"
Hizbullah, he said, wants a president who enjoys "Christian popularity and who strongly believes in Lebanon's strength and would be ready to maintain the national balance."
Raad said the peace conference hosted by U.S. President George Bush at Annapolis gave nothing to the Palestinians and the Arabs, while Israel was labeled a Jewish state and the Israelis did not make a commitment to halt the building of settlements or the "wall of isolation."
Israel, he said, "insisted on dealing with the Palestinian Authority through the road map, the starting phase of which insists on starting a Palestinian civil war through what the Israelis term ending terrorist operations."
The Arabs who took part in the meeting went to Annapolis "empty handed and proposed the Arab (peace) initiative that the Israeli enemy did not even accept to discuss." Beirut, 28 Nov 07, 17:28