December 13/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 11,28-30. Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves.For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."

Releases. Reports & Opinions
Algeria's bombings: al Qaeda strike at French-Algerian rapprochement?By: Dr. Walid Phares. December 12/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for December 12/07
Serial Killings Shift from Politicians to the Military-Naharnet
Army general killed in Lebanon blast: security source
UN Council urges Lebanese presidential vote soon-Reuters
Car bomb kills Lebanese army chief contender in Beirut suburb-AP
US says Iran needs to take more steps to improve relations with US-International Herald Tribune
Talk of possible prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hezbollah
-Monsters and
Grenade is thrown in Christian area of Beirut-Monsters and
Hariri Discusses Presidential Crisis with Saudi, Egyptian Ambassadors-Naharnet
Geagea: 'Painful Solutions" to Deal with the Presidential Crisis
EU expresses 'concern' over political vacuum in Beirut, urges resolution-Daily Star
Husseini insists Cabinet must approve any amendment-Daily Star
Sfeir voices frustration over ongoing political impasse-Daily Star
UN debates draft backing Siniora's government-Daily Star
Lebanese crisis deepens as rivals resurrect hard lines-Daily Star
Rights group cries foul in Chaaban case-Daily Star

UNRWA in rush to school Nahr al-Bared children-Daily Star
Pakistan vows to defend nuclear arsenal against all threats-AFP
Lebanon 'has a role to play' in combating climate change-Daily Star

AUB panel split over UN bond to international law-Daily Star
Human Rights Day event focuses on implementation-Daily Star

After Postponement of Presidential Elections, Majority Hints at Resorting to Half-Plus-One Vote-Naharnet
Hariri Discusses Presidential Crisis with Saudi, Egyptian Ambassadors-Naharnet
Gen. Suleiman Vows to Shepherd Lebanon's Resurrection-Naharnet
Germany Deports Lebanese Hizbullah Member and Iranian Secret Agent-Naharnet
Lebanon: Presidential crisis imposed by Syria and Iran, says analyst-Âßí
US Officials To Meet With Arch Foes - Iran and
Syria arrests protesters on Human Rights Day: groups-AFP
Syria sees long way to go before reclaiming Golan-Xinhua
Arab group: Israel committed war crimes during Lebanon war-Ynetnews

Algeria's bombings: al Qaeda strike at French-Algerian rapprochement?
By Walid Phares
Here are few remarks about the bombings in Algeria today:
An Al Qaeda link?
Most experts in Algeria and the Arab world believe this terror campaign is either inspired or ordered by al Qaeda in the Maghreb. Even if the execution is perpetrated by local Jihadist groups it is part of the Salafist general offensive against Algeria's Government and an extension to the North African operations by al Qaeda Maghreb in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania and possibly later Libya. This attack in Algeria today is linked to the regional strategy of weakening the Algerian Government in general and resuming the 1990s warfare against Kufr (infdidel) institutions, society and Government. But unlike in the past decade, today's operations are strategically coordinated with al Qaeda central, not in terms of operations but policies and international decision making. However I believe that this particular attack is a response to the recent visit by French President Nicholas Sarkozy to Algeria. It is directed against the number of agreements signed by the Government of Abdelaziz Bouteflika with the Paris presidential delegation. The Jihadist incitement against the Algerian authorities, including mostly via the al jazeera shows, usually indicates the trends to come. Algiers was accused by the Salafi forces as "betraying the Muslim world and associating with French kuffar." The strikes came in line with this incitement.
A Pyramid
Since the beginning of this year, al Qaeda worldwide has organized its presence in North Africa through al Qaeda in the Maghreb, a sort of a super emirate covering the Jihadi activities in Morocco and Algeria. But the regional umbrella has also local groups affiliated with it and also much smaller cells that operate separately. It looks like a Pyramid. The strategy of al Qaeda Maghreb is to undermine stability in North Africa and disrupt economic relationships with the European Union.
Any Significance of December “11”?
We will always have the tendency of looking at the date 11 in each month as a potential because of 9/11 in America and 3/11 in Madrid. The Jihadists will also try to bank on it. But in general terms al Qaeda and its allies would use dates according to their readiness
A sign of strength of al Qaeda?
Al Qaeda lost in some areas but grew in other sectors. The central al Qaeda based in Afghanistan before November 2001 is over. But the remnants of al Qaeda adapted in many other areas and are trying to find a spot from which they can regenerate a fully fledged regime, such as in Iraq, Somalia, Waziristan and also North Africa. The world is dealing with a different al Qaeda today.
Another “Ansar?”
The West generally gets confused with the names and identities of the various Jihadi groups including in North Africa. The GSPC, an off shoot from the GIA which was an off shoot of the FIS, which was a mutation from the Muslim Brotherhood are all under the web of Salafism. Since al Qaeda's campaigns in the 1990s and particularly after 2001, a number of Salafi Jihadist groups would emerge and take names, than change them and merge with others. The moves are faster than Western analysis can follow. These "Ansar" ( Ansar al Islam fi Sahara al Bilad al Mulazamin) are a brand of Jihadists who have designed the Maghreb and a piece of the Sahara as their area of operation. But at the top of the pyramid, there is al Qaeda. **Dr Walid Phares is Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. December 11, 2007

Lebanon bomb kills senior army officer
By Ferry Biedermann in Beirut
Published: December 12 2007
A powerful car bomb on Wednesday killed a senior Lebanese army general and at least three others, deepening the country’s drawn out political crisis over the election of a new president and raising fears of the deadlock turning violent. The attack was the first time in many years that the army has been targeted in a bomb attack.
The bomb targeted brigadier-general Francois el-Hajj, chief operations officer of the army. He was close to army commander Michel Suleiman who has emerged as the leading candidate to take up the post of president that has been vacant for more than two weeks. Lebanon’s parliament on Tuesday again postponed a vote on a new president, until Monday next week.
Lebanese rivals turn to army chief - Nov-29Lebanon pushes presidential election to brink - Nov-20Hizbollah flexes muscles as crisis deepens - Nov-20Lebanon in last-ditch hunt for president - Nov-18Interview transcript: Faisal Miqdad - Nov-08Comment: Peace in Lebanon needs time - Nov-08Gen. el-Hajj had been identified as a likely successor to Gen. Suleiman after his election. He had also been directly in charge of the army’s assault on militant fundamentalists in the northern Palestinian refugee camp Nahr el-Bared earlier this year.
Speculation on possible motives behind the assassination ranged from the political, as a bid to derail the election of Gen. Suleiman, to revenge for the attack on Nahr el-Bared. The blast took place in the Christian suburb of Baabda where the empty presidential palace is located. The car containing the bomb was parked close to the municipality building and on a road leading to the Ministry of Defence, raising questions about security in the politically tense country. The night before, unknown assailants threw a hand grenade at a school in a Christian neighbourhood.
Emile Lahoud, the former president, had charged the army with special responsibility for security just before his term ended 18 days ago without a successor having been elected. That was seen as an attempt by the pro-Syrian Mr Lahoud to undermine the authority of the anti-Syrian government. But in the ensuing power vacuum cooperation between the government and the army remained good.
Gen. Suleiman emerged as a compromise candidate that both the government and the opposition, which is led by the pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian Hizbollah movement, could agree on. As head of the army he is seen as a neutral figure. But the continued wrangling over technical constitutional issues as political demands has so far blocked his election. The assassination of Gen. el-Hajj represents the first major attack on the army since dozens of soldiers were killed in surprise ambushes at the outset of the fighting in Nahr el-Bared in May. Other bomb attacks over the past three years had mainly targeted anti-Syrian politicians and activists.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

Top general among four killed in Lebanon car bomb: security official
6 hours ago
BEIRUT (AFP) — A top Lebanese army general was among at least four people killed on Wednesday in a car bombing targeting the military in a Christian suburb on the outskirts of Beirut, a security official told AFP. The army said Brigadier General Francois El-Hajj, 54, its chief of operations, was killed in the explosion along with a number of soldiers as his car drove past the Baabda municipality during the morning rush-hour.
The security official said at least four people died and up to 10 were injured. The Lebanese Red Cross said five people were hospitalised, none of them with serious wounds.
Several officials said Hajj was targeted as he was tipped to replace as army chief General Michel Sleiman, the front-runner to become Lebanon's next president but whose election has been blocked by a standoff between pro- and anti-Syrian camps. An army officer who did not wish to be named said Wednesday's blast was caused by a car bomb that detonated shortly after 7:00 a.m. (0500 GMT) as the general drove by on his way to the defence ministry nearby. Hajj's body and that of at least another victim were thrown into a nearby ravine by the force of the blast, which blew out the windows of nearby buildings. Ambulances rushed to the site to evacuate the casualties and firefighters extinguished cars set ablaze, as police and army vehicles cordoned off the area. "Let me through, let me through, I want to find my father," one woman cried out as police kept her at bay. A bearded man wearing a navy blue baseball cap and a beige overcoat was seen being detained by the army at the site of the blast but it was not clear whether he was involved in the attack. Hajj gained prominence last summer during a fierce 15-week battle between the army and an Al-Qaeda-inspired Islamist group at a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon.
Several officials said his assassination was linked to the battle at Nahr al-Bared camp and the current crisis over the presidency.
"My first reaction is that this is linked to Nahr al-Bared, that it is a revenge attack," said Butros Harb, an MP with the ruling Western-backed majority.
"But I am not sure that this is not also a message to the army in order to destabilise it and remove the halo around it at a time when the commander in chief has been tipped to become president," he added. Lebanon has been without a president since November 23 when the incumbent Emile Lahoud ended his term and left his seat vacant as feuding politicians bickered over his successor. On Tuesday, a parliament session to elect Sleiman president was postponed for the eighth time, amid a tug-of-war between politicians over how to amend the constitution to allow him to take up the post. Rival parties have also been at loggerheads over the make-up of the new cabinet and who would be appointed to sensitive top security posts, including that of army chief. Wednesday's blast came amid high tension in Lebanon which has been rocked by a number of political assassinations in the past two years that have killed eight anti-Syrian MPs and politicians. One of the slain MPs, Gibran Tueni, died in a car bomb attack exactly two years ago, on December 12, 2005. The attacks, which began with the February 2005 killing of former prime minister, Rafiq Hariri, have been widely blamed on Syria, which has denied involvement. The current political crisis is Lebanon's worst since the end of the 1975-1990 civil and there has been fear that it could spill out into violence.

Car bomb attack in Lebanon kills 3
By SAM F. GHATTAS, Associated Press Writer
BEIRUT, Lebanon - A car bomb attack killed one of Lebanon's top military generals and at least two others Wednesday, the military and state media said, putting even more pressure on the country's delicate political situation.
The target of the attack, Brig. Gen. Francois Hajj, a top Maronite Catholic in the command, was considered a leading candidate to succeed the head of the military, Gen. Michel Suleiman, if Suleiman is elected president.
Hajj, 55, also led a major military campaign against Islamic militants over the summer.
The blast is the first such attack against the Lebanese army, which has remained neutral in Lebanon's yearlong political crisis and is widely seen as the only force that can hold the country together amid the bitter infighting between parliament's rival factions.
The political divisions have paralyzed the government and prevented the election of a president, leaving the post empty since Nov. 23 in a dangerous power vacuum. Under Lebanon's sectarian division of political posts, the president must be a Maronite, like the army commander.
The slaying of Hajj and its timing amid the deadlock over the presidency raised immediate speculation over who was behind the bombing, which blasted Hajj's SUV as he drove through a busy street of Baabda district.
Anti-Syrian politicians blamed Damascus, as they have for a string of bombings over the past two years that killed eight prominent opponents of Syria. Damascus has denied any role in those killings.
Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh, speaking to Associated Press Television News, accused the "Syrian-Iranian axis" of hitting the military, "the only body in Lebanon who can balance the power of Hezbollah and other militias in the country."
But the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah, which has good relations with the army, denounced the assassination. It called Hajj's death a "great national loss" and praised the military's "great national role" in preserving security.
The main Christian opposition leader, Michel Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah, told reporters that he had supported Hajj to succeed Suleiman as army commander. Aoun, a former head of the military, praised Hajj and said it was "shameful" for political forces to take advantage of the crime, a reference to the anti-Syrian groups.
Suspicion also fell on al-Qaida-inspired Sunni Muslim militants, whom the army crushed at the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared in northern Lebanon in an operation led by Hajj, a battle that cost hundreds of lives.
Hikmat Deeb, a leading member of Aoun's opposition Free Patriotic Movement, said Hajj was "a hero of Nahr el-Bared," suggesting the battle there was a factor in the assassination.
The military refrained from laying blame, saying in a statement that "the criminal hand" killed Hajj, along with "a number of soldiers, and wounded others." It said the military was investigating. The blast went off at 7:10 a.m. (12:10 a.m. EST) on a busy street near the Baabda Municipality building as school buses and people were setting off for work. Hajj, who lives in the area, had left his home few minutes earlier, probably heading to the nearby Defense Ministry, security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with military rules.
A parked car packed with 77 pounds of TNT exploded as his SUV passed, knocking a crater two yards wide and a yard deep into the pavement.
Two bodies were thrown about 15 yards by the force of the blast. Troops sealed off the area as firefighters tried to put out the flames in at least two cars. The road was blacked with the soot as black smoke covered the area.
The security officials said three people were confirmed dead, including the general, his driver and bodyguard. Emergency workers were searching in nearby bushes for a possible fourth body. Saad Hariri, leader of the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority, said the attack came at a "pivotal time at which Lebanon's enemies are seeking to consecrate the vacuum in the presidency."
The failure to elect a president has embroiled Lebanon in its worst political crisis since the end of the 1975-90 civil war. The country has been without a president since Nov. 23 when Emile Lahoud left office and a deadlocked parliament failed to elect a successor.
Parliament is sharply divided between anti-Syrian supporters of the government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and the opposition, led by Hezbollah, an ally of Syria and Iran. The two sides are locked in a dispute over how to elect the army commander, Suleiman, as compromise candidate to fill the vacant presidency. His election requires a constitutional amendment because currently a sitting army commander is barred from the post.
Lebanon has been rocked by a series of explosion since a massive truck bombing killed former Premier Rafik Hariri in central Beirut in 2005.
The last major explosion on Sept. 19 killed anti-Syrian lawmaker Antoine Ghanem on a Beirut street, an attack blamed by his supporters in the government coalition on Syria. Syria denied involvement.