December 24/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 1,18-24. Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means "God is with us." When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

Releases. Reports & Opinions
Elliot Abrams's Victories in Lebanon-By: Mostafa Zein.Dar Al-Hayat- December 23/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for December 23/07
Syria could face sanctions for obstructing Lebanon vote-Ya Libnan
Hizbullah: We Will Not Relinquish Rights-Naharnet
Limbo Lebanon Completes One Month Without President
March 14 Going Ahead with Suleiman Election amidst Opposition Challenge-Naharnet
Aoun Reiterates Willingness to Meet Hariri in Paris-Naharnet
Olmert rules out truce with Hamas-BBC News
Syrian MP hints Damascus could strike Dimona reactor if attacked-Ha'aretz
Lebanon's new low as leader talks fail-Guardian Unlimited
Russia seeks to play key role in Israeli-Syrian talks-Jerusalem Post
Geagea accuses Syria of trying to control Lebanon-Ya Libnan
Sfeir: The Lebanese destroyed their democratic system-Ya Libnan

Geagea accuses Syria of trying to control Lebanon
Saturday, 22 December
Beirut - Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said Syria wants to control "all of Lebanon" and stressed that the majority has other options if the disruption of the election of General Michel Suleiman president of the republic continues.
Geagea, in remarks during an LBC's Naharkum Saeed talk show interview , said: "We will not accept continued void (in the presidential office) and if Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman withdrew we will push towards an election of a new president by MPs because we are bound by article 74 of the constitution."
Geagea stressed that the stand of March 14 alliance and that of U.S. President George Bush are "not identical. We want to elect Suleiman as a consensus president while Bush's address referred to other options, in the event that Suleiman as an option falls through ."Bush had called for the election of a new head of state for Lebanon by simple majority, an option that the March 14 alliance is not considering at this stage in an effort to avoid a violent confrontation with the Hezbollah-led opposition. When asked about General Aoun, Geagea said “ Aoun is in a cage and is not free to express himself . He is not independent ... His ideas for settling the Lebanon crises match exactly the same ideas expressed by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem. He added Aoun’s basket of terms and conditions is exactly the same as Moallem’s and accused the opposition of acting on orders from Syria  Geagea urged the Free Patriotic Movement leader to "set aside all differences and let's sit and talk ... with the aim of putting an end to the ongoing crisis."When asked about Nabih Berri , Geagea said the Parliament Speaker is "cleaver in verbally marketing various ideas , but not as smart in delivering bottom line results “Syria was forced out of Lebanon in 2005 following the assassination of former Lebanon's prime minster Rafik Hariri after 29 years of military occupation. The Lebanese parliament majority has been accusing Syria of trying to return to Lebanon through the back door via Hezbollah and its other allies.

Syria could face sanctions for obstructing Lebanon vote

Sunday, 23 December, 2007
Beirut / Washington - The United States urged the UN Security Council to study the imposition of sanctions on Syria for obstructing the holding of presidential elections in Lebanon. Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations told the Council at the special monthly meeting devoted for reviewing the situation in the Midle east " I believe that the Council is ready to study further additional measures to punish those who are blocking the election of the President election in Lebanon and to change their attitudes." His comment is a clear message to the United Nations "to impose international sanctions against Syria." This American position came about shortly after the head of the Lebanese Parliament Nabih Berri decided to postpone yesterday’s meeting for electing the president of the Lebanese republic until December 29. This is the tenth postponement so far. Khalilzad said in his speech to the Security Council: "I would like to emphasize the concern to the United States for the inability of the Lebanese to exercise their democratic right to elect the President, and we urge the Lebanese opposition who is obstructing the election , and those who support them from outside Lebanon, Syria in particular, to stop their demands for the preconditions , since these are unconstitutional. "
Khalilzad added: "We urge the Lebanese to elect a new president quickly, and in conformity with the Lebanese constitution and without pressure from outside parties”He continued by saying "I wish to point out here - that in any event - and until such a time when a new president is elected , the United States will continue to have full confidence in the Lebanese government's legitimacy and in its management of state affairs and will fully support it and support the Lebanese armed forces to continue to provide security." In response to a question by Kuwait News Agency , Khalilzad said “ the phrase ‘additional measures’ means everything including sanctions and many other penalties “ but he did not reveal any details , what these will be This is the new American stance following the statement of President George Bush on Thursday, in which he said that his patience has "run out a long time ago" with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad , for hosting in Damascus the Hamas movement and for supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon and for destabilizing Lebanon “and warned Syria of the consequences of interference in the Lebanese affairs.

Aoun Reiterates Willingness to Meet Hariri in Paris

Free Patriotic Movement leader Gen. Michel Aoun has reiterated his willingness to meet with Al-Moustaqbal leader Saad Hariri in Paris.
Aoun, however, told his Orange TV that he was surprised at what he said was France's "expansion in the invitation to cover more than half of the dialogue table."
Aoun believed that the majority's approach towards amending the constitution through Cabinet will "completely burn up the settlement and burry all initiatives."
Beirut, 23 Dec 07, 09:25

Lebanon's new low as leader talks fail
West keeps up the pressure after a tenth abortive attempt by political rivals to pick a President
Mitchell Prothero and Peter Beaumont in Beirut
Sunday December 23, 2007
The Observer
Lebanon's political crisis deepened this weekend after the failure for the 10th time by rival parties to agree on a way to elect a President. Some say the latest postponement meant that the opportunity to find a replacement for Emile Lahoud, who stood down on 23 November, had been lost forever.
Despite mounting international pressure from France and the US for Lebanese parties to elect the army chief of staff, Michel Suleiman, as a consensus President, the Speaker of the Lebanese parliament, Nabih Berri, on Friday again postponed the planned election until 29 December, amid claims by Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun that negotiations had completely broken down. 'There is no agreement,' said Aoun, who has been representing the Hizbollah-led opposition in the negotiations. 'All lines of dialogue are broken.'
The present difficulties in a Lebanon still recovering from last year's war with Israel have worrying echoes of its civil war when the country descended in sectarian and factional bloodshed. Today the pro-Western majority is backed by the West, most vocally the US and France, while the opposition, led by the Shia-Hizbollah movement, enjoys the support of Syria and Iran.
Under Lebanon's sectarian political settlement, the position of President traditionally goes to a Maronite Christian politician. The lack of a President is the first such hiatus in Lebanon since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
Aoun's comments came as Hizbollah reacted furiously to demands by George Bush that Lebanon's anti-Syrian parliamentarians should push through their own choice for President if agreement cannot be reached. Bush also warned Syria against interfering in the election. Syria denies doing so.
The increasing sense of pessimism over the political impasse was reflected in the comments of the Christian Maronite Patriarch, Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, in his Christmas address. 'The presidency is lost and we have not been able to elect a head of state for the first time in the history of the republic. [And] parliament has been crippled for more than a year,' he said.
Although the appointment of Suleiman had been agreed in principle, his election has been blocked by the inability of the different factions to decide on a series of key issues, including who should lead the government and the allocation of seats in the cabinet - in particular whether the opposition should have sufficient seats to wield a veto. The opposition includes figures with close ties to Damascus, while the present government is backed by the West.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has also been involved in attempting to mediate a settlement. In a telephone call to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad he urged that yesterday's deadline for electing a President should be respected.
The latest postponement has put paid to optimism on all sides following the agreement to appoint Suleiman as President. A neutral choice respected by both sides, Suleiman would need the Lebanese constitution amended to allow him to transfer from the head of the military to the presidency.
Hizbollah and the opposition have been demanding at least 11 ministries to exercise a veto to prevent any disarming of Hizbollah's military wing at the request of America and Israel. Bush recently dispatched diplomat David Welch to Beirut to meet pro-American leaders, a move pounced on by Hizbollah officials as proof that the government is collaborating with its enemies.
'No, Bush, your orders cannot be implemented in Lebanon and your tutelage is rejected,' Hizbollah's number two, Naim Kassem, said late on Friday.
The situation has been exacerbated by the attitude of MP Saad Hariri - son of the former Prime Minister, Rafik Harriri, who was widely considered to have been slain by Syrian agents in early 2005 - who has been leading the ruling coalition. He has surprised even some of his own supporters with his belligerence towards compromise, a position some of his allies believe stems from the US and French government positions. 'Bush and the French seem intent on keeping Hizbollah out of the government, they are telling us not to compromise,' one political veteran and supporter of Hariri confided anonymously. 'Saad still wants revenge for his father and appears all too willing to indulge this stalemate.'
Yesterday Hariri attacked Syria for its continued interference in Lebanon's internal affairs. 'The Syrian regime has gone too far in its efforts to destabilise Lebanon and to divide it, using what it calls "allies and friends". I find this shameful that some Lebanese allow themselves to be manipulated by such a regime which is known for terrorism, crime and corruption,' he said.

Syrian MP hints Damascus could strike Dimona reactor if attacked

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service
A Syrian member of parliament thought to be familiar with the thinking of President Bashar al-Assad is quoted in the London-based pan-Arab daily newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi on Saturday as saying that Syria could strike Israel's nuclear reactor in Dimona as retaliation for any future violations of Syrian sovereignty.
In an interview with the paper, Mohammad Habash noted that Dimona is well within range of Syrian missiles, and that Damascus does not rule out the possibility of additional Israeli attacks against it. As such, Habash added that Syria has no interest in escalating tensions between the two countries, and that diplomatic efforts are underway to renew contacts with Jerusalem over a possible peace deal. Habash said that no such contacts are currently being held.
 An attempt to exchange messages between Israel and Syria in recent months has failed. European diplomatic sources said that the reason for the impasse was the inability to reach an agreed-upon agenda for talks between the two countries. But in off-the-record conversations, several sources close to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert say that "the Syrian track still has higher chances of success when compared to the Palestinian track."
In the past few months, Israel approached Assad via a number of friendly states, in an effort to evaluate the possibility of renewing direct contact. The main interlocutor in these exchanges has been Turkey, but Israel also made use of the good services of Germany, which still holds an open line of communications with Damascus. Following a series of exchanges, the view in Israel is that the seriousness of Syrian intentions is still questionable.
European diplomats updated on some of the exchanges noted that "the bottom line was a negative one."
They pointed out that there was no agreement on an agenda for talks between the two sides, assuming such talks would actually take place.
"The Syrians wanted the talks to revolve only on the Golan [Heights]," the European diplomats said. "But Israel wanted to first talk about other issues that trouble it, such as [Syria's] ties with Iran and the support for Hezbollah and Hamas, and Syria did not agree." Olmert may be interested in furthering the Annapolis process, but increasingly, senior officials feel that the Syrian track must be given a chance to move forward. "It is a lot simpler and it is possible to achieve an agreement in a short time," one of Olmert's confidants said. "The only problem is that the Syrians are not sending positive signals."
Another source close to Olmert was more optimistic. "The fact that they [Syria] came to Annapolis and canceled the conference of terrorist groups in Damascus were positive and encouraging signals." A statement from the Prime Minister's Office said that Olmert "is carrying out an evaluation of the Syrian track and that is still ongoing." The U.S., however, is strongly opposed to any goodwill gesture toward Damascus.
President George W. Bush told a White House press conference yesterday that his patience with Syrian President Bashar Assad had run out long ago.
"Syria needs to stay out of Lebanon," Bush said when asked whether he would be willing to talk to Assad about stabilizing Lebanon, which is caught up in a political crisis over the election of a new president. "My patience ran out on President Assad a long time ago," Bush said.
"The reason why is because he houses Hamas, he facilitates Hezbollah, suiciders go from his country into Iraq and he destabilizes Lebanon," the president said.
Earlier this week, during a foreign ministers' meeting at the Paris conference of donor nations for the Palestinian Authority, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attacked Syria for what she said was a missed opportunity at Annapolis.
"Annapolis was a chance we gave Syria and its test were the [presidential] elections in Lebanon. So far, the Syrians have failed completely."
European diplomatic sources said that "Syria is undermining any chance for an accord [in Lebanon] and is pushing Hezbollah and the rest of its allies in Lebanon to raise the bar on their demands." The same sources said that Assad is interested in giving the impression, whatever the cost may be, "that without him nothing will move in Lebanon," and therefore the assessment is that the crisis there will continue.

Elliot Abrams's Victories in Lebanon
Mostafa Zein
Al-Hayat - 22/12/07//
Before his visit to the Middle East at the beginning of next month, President George Bush reassured the Lebanese about the exhaustion of his patience with President Bashar al-Assad. He no longer wanted to hear his name. There is no possibility for any dialogue between Washington and Damascus. His administration is united in this approach. It is not possible to say that in his administration there are hawks who take orders from his vice-president Cheney, and doves who incline toward Minister Rice. He sent to Beirut Assistant Secretary of State David Welch and deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams.
The Lebanese know the American officials well. The first barely left Beirut at times of crises. The second participated in the planning for the "Cedar Revolution" with a number of them in the year 2000. They issued a document entitled "The Role of the United States in Ending the Syrian Occupation of Lebanon." With him were Ziad Abdelnur, Samir Bustani, Nabil el-Hajj, Habib Malek, Daniel Nassif, Charles Sahyoun, and others. The document called upon Washington to remove the weapons of mass destruction from Syria, and to remove Syria from Lebanon by force. His interest in this question matured at that advanced stage, and perhaps before it. At that time, the division between the Lebanese was not as clear. The Syrian army was still firmly established in Lebanon. Rafiq al-Hariri was prime minister and Walid Jumblatt was still a friend of Ghazi Kanaan and then Rustum Ghazaleh. Samir Gaegea was in prison, Hizbullah was getting ready to liberate the South (the document was written before May 2000).
It is the man's biography that he believes in achieving peace only by force. His star began to rise in the era of former President Ronald Reagan. His name was connected with the "Contra" scandal and the arming of it in Nicaragua. He only sees in the Middle East the interest of Israel. He stood with the hawks of Likud, such as Sharon and Netanyahu. He was against Oslo. He criticized Bill Clinton sharply because he became engaged in the negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. In 1997 he signed with many Likudists "the Project for the American Century, which calls upon Washington to increase military spending and to bear its responsibilities in spreading democracy by force in the world. He also participated in the signing of a letter that was sent to Clinton (1998) that calls on him to get rid of the Iraqi regime because it was no longer possible to ascertain the extent of its armament, and it had become a danger for the United Sates and Israel. He has worked toward and is still working toward strengthening the relationship between Zionism and Christian fundamentalism.
In January 2006, Abrams visited Beirut. He came to examine his accomplishments and they had been realized. He came to witness the realization of his dream with the transformation of Lebanon from a country that supported Palestinian rights, united around the resistance, to a country where anarchy reigned. He came with Welch to visit and support his friends. He justifies the Israeli aggression and emphasizes that the Hebrew State was not defeated in the July 2006 War. He listens for a long time to "the arms of treachery." He loved to hear this expression, which means that Israeli was right.
After one year exactly, Abrams returns , with Welch, taking on themselves the same mission: to strengthen the determination of friends, and to stand by their side, since their alliance was almost coming to an end, after Walid Jumblatt discovered the secret, during his trip to Washington. He returned to Beirut to announce his retreat from all of his previous positions, for fear of an American-Syrian deal at the expense of March 14, and "to preserve the gains that have been realized by the alliance, as long as the defeat occurred and so that we do not relinquish more and to protect the resistance."
Abrams returned to Beirut to celebrate his victory once more, and to verify that Lebanon was on the edge of the abyss. His presence among sincere friends is sufficient so that this conclusion is correct. How if we joined that with the exhaustion of Bush's patience with al-Assad