December 07/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 7,21.24-27. Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined."

Releases. Reports & Opinions
Osama targets Europe. By: Walid Phares.Washington Times - December 06/07
Bin Laden's Message to Europe.By: MEMRI-December 06/07
Iran: The Unknown Unknown.By: Alan W. Dowd. December 06/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for December 06/07
Kouchner Needs More Time to Work Out Lebanon's Differences-Naharnet
Hariri Probe to Have Successful Ending, Brammertz-Naharnet
A Seventh Delay of Presidential Vote Predicted-Naharnet
Hariri to Kouchner: We Reject Government's Resignation-Naharnet
Hizbullah Denies Nasrallah-Suleiman Meeting
Saniora Slams Hizbullah for Delaying Presidential Election-Naharnet
UN chief 'extremely concerned' about delay in Lebanon's ...International Herald Tribune
Lebanon: A sellout to Syria?
Christian Science Monitor-Naharnet
Go home or go to jail, Lebanon tells Iraqi refugees-Times Online

Four blasts rock Palestinian base in Bekaa. AFP
Maronite Bishops fear new obstacles to agreement
-Daily Star
Berri, Siniora voice confidence that end of presidential crisis is near
-Daily Star
UNIFIL conducts training with anti-missile flares
-Daily Star
Political maneuvers reach fever pitch ahead of presidential election.AFP
Resigned ministers still mulling return to Cabinet
-Daily Star
D'Alema claims credit for talks on Suleiman
-Daily Star
Israeli Army chief absolves troops for result of 2006 war
-Daily Star
Regional dynamics shape local crisis-Daily Star
Lebanese banker expects 2 percent GDP growth by end of 2007-Daily Star
The Nahr al-Bared camp as a space of exception
-Daily Star
France opens more doors for Lebanese students
-Daily Star
Beirutis set for walk against climate change-Daily Star
Conference aims to curb dropout rates
-Daily Star
Once all 'glitter and glamor,' Lebanon's showgirl business has given way to a 'shady and ugly' scene
-Daily Star
Inter-Palestinian clashes wound 10-year-old girl in south Lebanon-Monsters and
UN Chief Urges End to Political Stalemate-Naharnet
Prime Minister Saniora criticizes opposition on presidential ...International Herald Tribune

Kouchner Tries to Salvage Lebanon's Presidential Elections-Naharnet
Geagea Doubts Outcome of Hariri-Berri talks-Naharnet
Inter-Palestinian Clash Wounds Child-Naharnet

Hariri Probe to Have Successful Ending, Brammertz
The chief investigator probing the murder of former ex-Premier Rafik Hariri said he is more confident than ever that those allegedly involved in the assassination will be brought before a tribunal to face justice, adding that he could not predict when the investigation will be completed.
In his final appearance before the U.N. Security Council, Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz said that progress made in the last few months has enabled U.N. investigators to identify "a number of persons of interest" who may have been involved in some aspect of the crime -- or knew about the preparations.
But he said he cannot predict when the investigation will be complete because that depends on the final results of several ongoing projects, which he did not disclose, and on the abilities of the prosecutor of the new U.N.-backed tribunal that will try suspects in the Hariri assassination.
"It's a very complex puzzle of elements which altogether are the crime as such," Brammertz told reporters afterward. "So we have answers and indications on some of these questions, but others are still open, and to make a final assessment of responsibilities, you really need to know the full picture."
Investigators have previously confirmed that a single blast from a Mitsubishi Canter van packed with 3,960 pounds (1,800 kilograms) of high explosives was detonated "most likely" by a male suicide bomber in central Beirut on Feb. 14, 2005, killing Hariri and 22 others.
Brammertz said the U.N. International Independent Investigation Commission has "a certain understanding" of who some people behind several aspects of the assassination may be, and it its starting to have "a much better picture than some time ago" of the people who actually carried out the crime.
"And then you have ... the crime scene as such, where we really strongly believe we know what happened," he said.
Investigators also strongly believe "that it's in the political context that the motive has to be found," Brammertz said. The first U.N. chief investigator, Germany's Detlev Mehlis, said the plot's complexity suggested that Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services had a role, but Brammertz has not echoed his view. He said Wednesday that it was not his mandate "to confirm or not confirm the opinion of my predecessor." Syria denied involvement in Hariri's assassination but was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, ending a 29-year presence. Four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals have been under arrest for almost two years for alleged involvement in the murder. While Brammertz refused to be drawn out about many specifics in the investigation, he told the Security Council, "When I am asked whether I am satisfied with the progress made so far, my answer is absolutely yes."
"Important results have been achieved in many areas of the investigation despite the numerous challenges the commission has faced," he said.
"Based on the progress made in recent months, I am more confident and optimistic than ever that the investigation can be concluded successfully," Brammertz told council members. The Security Council has unanimously approved Brammertz' nomination to head the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, starting Jan. 1. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed former Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare to head the Hariri probe and he told reporters Wednesday that "we are committed to ensure a seamless transition." The council adopted a press statement commending Brammertz "for his outstanding work" and leadership "in advancing the investigation" and reiterated its support for the commission.
Brammertz told reporters that his only objective during the two years he led the investigation -- under difficult circumstances and seeing the suffering of many Lebanese people -- "was to help in advancing this investigation as much as possible."
"I very, very much hope that the investigation will continue in the same direction, and at the end of the day, this investigation is successful and that a tribunal can put an end to impunity, and that political assassination will not be any more one of the major problems in your country," he told a Lebanese reporter.
Brammertz said in his final report that the commission confirmed its hypothesis that "operational links may exist" between the perpetrators of 18 other targeted assassinations and bombings in Lebanon. "Confirming these operational links will be one of the commission's highest priorities in the months to come," he told the council. The most recent assassination, of Parliament member Antoine Ghanem on Sept. 19 -- just three days after he returned to Beirut from a prolonged trip overseas -- showed that the perpetrators were able to conclude their surveillance and arrange a car bomb on short notice, he said. This suggests "that those perpetrators have important operational capabilities -- and probably still have -- in Beirut," Brammertz said.(AP) Beirut, 06 Dec 07, 08:32

Kouchner Needs More Time to Work Out Lebanon's Differences

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner failed in the second day of his seventh mission in Lebanon to achieve a breakthrough in the nation's ongoing presidential crisis. "Work is continuing, meetings are continuing, we'll be back and you will get the news when work is done," Kouchner told reporters as he emerged from a three-hour meeting with Majority representative Saad Hariri and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri at the latter's residence.
The meeting, the second in as many days, was aimed at dealing with differences between the ruling majority and the Hizbullah-led opposition on facilitating the election of Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman for the nation's top post. Kouchner reportedly has a plan to exit the crisis based on a three-point declaration of principles that would set course for electing Gen. Suleiman. The daily An-Nahar reported that Kouchner made his offer at a tripartite meeting with Berri and Hariri on Wednesday.An-Nahar said Kouchner suggested a formula that carries with it guarantees to both the opposition and the ruling majority.
It said the exit plan constitutes a compromise that should end the dispute over the presidential elections.
An-Nahar said Kouchner's offer comprised three points:
- Consensus on the election of Suleiman and the constitutional amendment mechanism needed for that.
- Formation of a national unity government after the election.
- The holding of parliamentary elections on schedule in the summer of 2009 in line with a new and fair election law.
It said the French envoy hopes that both sides will be realistic enough to accept the exit plan.
An-Nahar said Berri and Hariri were expected to discuss Kouchner's new offer with their allies so as to come out with the "necessary stance."
The daily As-Safir, which is close to the opposition, reported Thursday that the key obstacle was failure to reach agreement on the mechanism to amend Article 49 of the Constitution due to lack of agreement on ways to bridge the gap over the legitimacy of the cabinet. The Hizbullah-led opposition considers Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government as illegitimate, while the ruling majority insists that the cabinet will not resign. Beirut, 06 Dec 07, 08:41

Saniora Slams Hizbullah for Delaying Presidential Election

Prime Minister Fouad Saniora lashed out at the Hizbullah-led opposition, accusing it of delaying a presidential election by setting new conditions."We should work and push toward carrying out the presidential elections as soon as possible and not shackle the (presidential vote) with obstacles and conditions," Saniora said, in an indirect reference to the opposition. "I am confident we are on the verge and at the beginning of a solution," he added. Saniora's allegations came two days before parliament was to set to elect a president to replace outgoing pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, who left office Nov. 23. Beirut, 06 Dec 07, 09:45

Hizbullah Denies Nasrallah-Suleiman Meeting

Hizbullah denied media reports that said Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah met with Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman on Monday. Al-Manar television, mouthpiece of Hizbullah, described the report as "baseless."Suleiman was formally endorsed by the ruling majority on Sunday while the Hizbullah-led opposition has not made a firm commitment. Gen. Michel Aoun, himself a former army chief, said he would back Suleiman for the presidency only if he held the office until legislative election in 2009, instead of the full six-year term stipulated by the constitution. In any case, Suleiman's election requires a change to the constitution as Article 49 bars public servants from assuming the presidency within two years of stepping down from their posts. Beirut, 06 Dec 07, 09:55

A Seventh Delay of Presidential Vote Predicted
Lebanon's parliamentary vote due on Friday to elect a president appears heading to a seventh delay as feuding parties accuse each other of blocking the process, several politicians said Thursday. "Friday's session is most probably going to be delayed," said Ammar Houry, an MP from Saad Hariri's Future bloc.
After weeks of bitter negotiations, rival leaders have agreed on army chief General Michel Suleiman for the top job but are still divided on how to amend the constitution to allow his election and the make-up of a new cabinet, officials have said. MP Ibrahim Kanaan of the Free Patriotic Movement of Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun, said the vote would probably be delayed by common agreement between the ruling majority and the Hizbullah-led opposition.
"Even if there is a political agreement, we will not have time to carry out a constitutional amendment between today and tomorrow" to elect Sleiman, said Kanaan.
Article 49 of the constitution bars ranking public servants from assuming the presidency within two years of stepping down from their posts.
Lebanon has been without a president since November 23, when incumbent Emile Lahoud stepped down at the end of his term and feuding political parties were unable to agree on a successor. Six sessions scheduled to elect a president have already been postponed since September amid fears the crisis would lead to unrest in a country still recovering from its 1975-1990 civil war. France, Lebanon's former colonial power, has been leading efforts to end the crisis that escalated a year ago when six pro-Syrian ministers quit the government and paralyzed its work.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has been meeting leaders of the two rival camps since Tuesday, his seventh mediation bid in Beirut in the past six months.
Early on Thursday, Kouchner met Hariri and parliament speaker Nabih Berri, a prominent opposition figure, for the second time in 24 hours, officials said.
As the meeting was underway, politicians from both sides continued to trade accusations. "Kouchner was surprised by the negative stand of the majority which has been refusing to offer any compromise," Kanaan said. He also accused Hariri of being "not ready to give up the premiership."
Media reports said in recent days that Hariri was eyeing the post of prime minister to succeed Fouad Saniora, once a close aide to his father, Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in February 2005. Aoun has presented a plan to end the crisis over the presidency, which stipulated that independent figures should be chosen to fill the posts of president and prime minister. The ruling majority has rejected the plan. The Hizbullah-led opposition has been seeking a "comprehensive deal" to end the crisis, including agreements on the new president, the make-up of the next government, a new electoral law and the appointment of security chiefs.
The ruling majority has insisted that it would not be tied down to any pre-set deals before a president is elected, saying that lingering problems would be dealt with by the future government and parliament. "The important thing is to have a new president, and after that the institutions will decide the future of the country," ruling majority MP Samir Franjieh told AFP. He also accused the Lebanese opposition of following "a Syrian-Iranian decision... to block the presidential election." (AFP-Naharnet)
Beirut, 06 Dec 07, 14:00

Lebanon: A sellout to Syria?

A new president in Lebanon who has close ties to Syria might actually benefit the country and the region.
from the December 6, 2007 edition
Events in Lebanon are rarely just about Lebanon. They can't be, not with Syria, Iran, the US, France, and Israel all vying for influence in this tiny and tattered democracy. It's not surprising then, that the prospect of a new president in Lebanon also has implications for the region.
In Lebanon, a bellwether for what ails the Middle East, the welcome news is this: After a year of political stalemate, key factions in parliament are coalescing around the choice of Army Chief Michel Suleiman as president. That's quite a feat for a deeply divided country that could easily tip back into civil war and that is still recovering from last year's brief war between Israel and Lebanon's Hizbullah militants.
General Suleiman's election by parliament is not yet a done deal. But the main group opposing him, known as the March 14 Coalition and a pro-US force for democracy, now reluctantly supports him.
True, March 14 doesn't like that Suleiman is Syria's preferred choice, that he is a military man, or that he is close to Hizbullah. On the other hand, Suleiman is popular for having rooted out radical Islamists from a Palestinian refugee camp this year, for keeping order in Beirut during Hizbullah-organized protests and sit-ins, and for positioning the Army as neutral.
That Suleiman comes with a list of pros and cons is what makes him a compromise. It's also what raises his story to one of regional import.
Some in the March 14 group view the general as a "sellout" to neighboring Syria. It was only in 2005 that peaceful Lebanese protesters threw off Syrian military occupation after the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. A preliminary United Nations investigation implicated Syrian and Lebanese security officials in the deed, but its latest report doesn't name names. March 14 believes Syria is also behind killings of anti-Syrian politicians, journalists, and civic leaders in Lebanon since the assassination.
Suleiman was appointed Army chief when Syria occupied the country. He has a working relationship with Syrian military intelligence. March 14 feels betrayed by US support for Suleiman and its recent warming with Syria.
Another way to look at Suleiman is not as a sellout, but as an "investment in" a new geopolitical dynamic that engages Syria in regional peace issues instead of isolates it. The Bush administration seems to be going in this direction by inviting Syria to last week's Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in Annapolis, Md., and expressing openness to an Israeli-Syrian peace deal over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
A US engagement strategy with Syria might look like this: Syria and Israel work out a peace deal that returns the Golan Heights to Damascus; that deal relieves Syria from having to support its anti-Israel military proxies Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza and loosens its relationship of convenience with Iran; that in turn improves regional stability.
The US labels Syria as a supporter of terrorism, and that makes it difficult for the administration to switch gears like this. But isolating Damascus has not worked, and even Israel has made overtures to Syria. There is an opportunity now to move forward, and Suleiman could actually help that process along in Lebanon and in the neighborhood.