December 26/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 1,1-18. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man's decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth. John testified to him and cried out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.'"From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father's side, has revealed him.

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for December 25/07
Lebanon Leaps into Chaos-Naharnet
Pope Laments 'Grim Sound of Arms' in Lebanon, Other Conflict Zones-Naharnet
Would Lebanon's President Be Chosen by a Damascus-Based Arab Summit?-Naharnet
Israel: Use of Cluster Bombs in Lebanon Was Legal-Naharnet

The Saniora Government Adopts Constitutional Amendment Bill and Corners Berri-Naharnet
Berri Assigns Aide To Reject Government's Amendment Bill-Naharnet
Suleiman: Security is a Red Line-Naharnet
Syria threatens Spanish UN soldiers in Lebanon-AFP
Jumblat Attacks 'Silly" Attempts by International Powers to Court Assad-Naharnet
Israel army chief during Lebanon war decorated-AFP
Suleiman: Thanks to our heroes Lebanon’s army is stronger than ever-Ya Libnan
Israeli army: use of cluster bombs during Lebanon war legal-Xinhua

Pope Laments 'Grim Sound of Arms' in Lebanon, Other Conflict Zones

Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday lamented the "grim sound of arms" in the world's conflict zones, from Sudan to Sri Lanka and especially the volatile Middle East, in his Christmas message. "On this day of peace, my thoughts turn especially to those places where the grim sound of arms continues to reverberate," he said, emphasising "the whole of the Middle East -- especially Iraq, Lebanon and the Holy Land."
The leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics spoke as two suicide bombings killed 29 people in Iraq on Tuesday, apparently targeting groups fighting al-Qaida militants. Benedict also singled out Darfur, Somalia, the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Balkans and "many other crisis situations that unfortunately are frequently forgotten."
Pilgrims filled a sun-drenched St Peter's Square, shouting "viva!" and applauding as the German pope began delivering his traditional Christmas blessing, "Urbi et Orbi" (To the City and the World). The Vatican's Swiss Guard corps in their colourful striped uniforms opened the ceremony with military precision, saluting the pope as he prepared to speak from the loggia of St Peter's Basilica, draped with the papal coat of arms.
Also taking pride of place in the piazza, as the tens of thousands of pilgrims pressed against barriers for a better view, were units of the police and the armed forces and a military band. The message was broadcast by nearly 100 television stations around the world, starting at noon (1100 GMT).
The 80-year-old pope, wearing a gold mitre and a gold and white embroidered cape, was delivering the blessing, his voice cracking intermittently, after celebrating midnight mass in the massive basilica early Tuesday. The Urbi et Orbi message, also offered at Easter, brings with it a plenary indulgence, the remission of all temporal punishment due to sin, granted not only to those in St Peter's Square but also to Catholics watching the ceremony on television and listening on radio.
The pope followed the blessing with greetings in 63 languages including Latin and Esperanto.
The pontiff prayed that political leaders would find "the wisdom and courage to seek and find humane, just and lasting solutions."
The pope spoke of "those who live in the darkness of poverty, injustice and war ... those who are still denied their legitimate aspirations for a more secure existence, for health, education, stable employment." Benedict said: "It is the most vulnerable members of society -- women, children, the elderly -- who are so often the victims of brutal armed conflicts, terrorism and violence of every kind, which inflict such terrible sufferings on entire populations."
The pope, who has spoken out with increasing frequency on environmental issues, said on Tuesday: "Throughout the world the number of migrants, refugees and evacuees is also increasing because of frequent natural disasters, often caused by alarming environmental upheavals."
St Peter's Square was dominated by an unusual Nativity scene that was unveiled Monday night next to an immense Christmas tree in the famous piazza.
Instead of the usual manger scene, this year's creche is set in the carpentry workshop of Joseph, the husband of Mary, with hovering angels created by Mexican artist Agustin Parra and 10 figures from northeast Italy's Trentino region.(AFP) Beirut, 25 Dec 07, 14:26

Lebanon Leaps into Chaos
The ongoing crisis has surpassed the point of no return and chaos is almost a destiny, Rajeh Khoury cautioned in a column published Tuesday by the daily An Nahar.Under the headline "is chaos inevitable?" Khoury listed the political facts, stating that "there would be no presidential election without reaching an agreement on the government, and there would be no agreement on a government that does not reflect total surrender by the majority, full defeat of the March 14 gathering and final collapse of the independence uprising."
The Hizbullah-led opposition, Khoury wrote, wants to strip the forthcoming president of his authorities, "that is why Gen. Michel Aoun stated clearly that he and opposition leaders have no confidence in (forthcoming) ministers who would represent the president. That is why they want, probably, to choose such ministers from opposition ranks.""We don't know whether (Army Commander Gen. Michel) Suleiman would be permitted, when elected president, to choose his action plan, or even when to breath and on which side he can sleep as well as what to eat and drink and what blades he can use to shave," Khoury noted.
Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's majority government, he wrote, would be treated "as if it has crucified Jesus, simply because it adopted yesterday a constitutional amendment bill to facilitate Gen. Suleiman's election."Khoury concluded by noting that the majority "would be faced by void and chaos if it rejected the (opposition's) crippling conditions, and if it tried to fill in the vacuum through constitutional and regional measures it would also face threats to ignite chaos."
Beirut, 25 Dec 07, 12:54

Would Lebanon's President Be Chosen by a Damascus-Based Arab Summit?
Lebanon appeared Tuesday to have lost its chance to elect a president soon amidst mushrooming tension between the majority and opposition and warnings against the outbreak of chaos in the trouble-ridden nation. The daily An Nahar quoted French diplomatic "circles" as saying the next chance for Lebanon to elect a president is the regular Arab Summit conference scheduled for March in the Syrian capital of Damascus. "Efforts are currently underway to facilitate holding the presidential election after the summit … because it would be an opportunity to re-unite the Arabs and achieve reconciliation between Damascus and Riyadh," An Nahar quoted the sources as saying. That reflected a turning point in the French effort to facilitate the Lebanese Presidential elections, which had previously focused on direct Paris-Damascus talks based on proposing incentives to President Bashar Assad's regime in return for allowing the constitutional mechanism to proceed in Beirut.
The French approach was sharply criticized as "silly" by Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat who stressed that March 14 leaders would not "succumb" to the Damascus regime. Jumblat also attacked Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun for practicing "organized agitation" against the Saniora government and state institutions, including the nation's army. The PSP leader targeted "some Arabs who hesitate in naming the Syrian side that blocks" presidential elections in Lebanon. Meanwhile, Syria's ambassador to the United States expressed concern that failure of the political process in Lebanon could plunge the country into civil war and lead the Hizbullah resistance into involvement in such strife. Such a scenario would be a "national catastrophe for Syria and, at the same time, a victory for enemies of the Lebanese resistance," he said. Beirut, 25 Dec 07, 13:24

The Saniora Government Adopts Constitutional Amendment Bill and Corners Berri
Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's Government on Monday adopted a constitutional amendment bill to allow the election of army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman president. The government also adopted a motion calling for an extraordinary legislative session by parliament as of January 1, to tackle the amendment bill.
The bill amends the third clause of article 49 of the constitution, which bans the election of senior public employees for president.
The house goes into a legislative recess for nearly three months as of Dec. 31, but retains its right to elect a new head of state in light of the persisting presidential void since Nov. 24. The move by the Saniora Government is apparently aimed at cornering Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri into either accepting the constitutional amendment and calling the house to tackle and ratify it, or rejecting the approach and, therefore, appearing as leading an effort to foil Suleiman's election.
Beirut, 24 Dec 07, 14:01

Jumblat Attacks "Silly" Attempts by International Powers to Court Assad
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat on Monday launched a veiled attack on France for seeking a settlement with Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime over Lebanon's political crisis. "To some silly propagandists in the international community who ask for a settlement with the Syrian regime we say: The free Lebanese people would not have mercy on those who come in the name of democracy to prostrate to the Damascus tyrant," Jumblat wrote in the PSP weekly mouthpiece, al-Anbaa. "Regardless of changes in regional and international circumstances, Lebanon will not rest assured as long as this junta continues to rule Damascus," he added. Lebanese-Syrian relations, according to Jumblat, would not be normalized "so long as this wisp of dictators continued to rule Syria … and direct its armed gangs and remnants of mini-parties in Lebanon," he added. Jumblat recalled that "we have repeatedly stressed that reaching a settlement is one thing and succumbing is a totally different issue. A settlement is based on a valiant decision … and succumbing is none of our values.""We haven't surrendered in the past, we don't surrender now and we would not surrender in the future," Jumblat concluded. He also criticized Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun for practicing "organized agitation against the government" of premier Fouad Saniora. Beirut, 24 Dec 07, 17:44

Suleiman: Security is a Red Line
Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman said Monday the nation's security is a "red line" and urged his troops to defend the homeland and the people's safety.
Suleiman made the remarks to troops deployed in north Lebanon, including soldiers manning the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp.
"The army now is stronger and more immune, thanks to the martyrs who have fallen during its long march," Suleiman said.
He urged the regular force to "stay away from political wrangling and proceed with the march of sacrifice, irrespective of the risks and difficulties."
The nation's "security is a red line … it is the people's right ," said the commander. He urged the troops to be "prepared and ready to defend the homeland and the people's safety."  Beirut, 24 Dec 07, 15:55

Berri Will Reject Amendment Draft Law

Parliament speaker Nabih Berri has said that he will not receive the constitutional amendment draft law which the government will refer to him on Monday.
"The draft law will be written down by an unconstitutional and illegitimate government," Berri told al-Diyar daily in remarks published Monday.
He said: "We don't need to amend the constitution if they want to elect (Army Commander) Gen. Suleiman president as article 74 is clear in this matter."
Berri stressed that he will keep calling for presidential sessions until an agreement was reached. Hizbullah-led opposition sources warned Premier Fouad Saniora's government against taking executive decisions. The sources said the "opposition will respond by taking appropriate measures." Beirut, 24 Dec 07, 12:05

Berri Assigns Aide To Reject Government's Amendment Bill

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri indirectly rejected a constitutional amendment bill adopted by the majority government to open the door for the election of Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman president. Berri's stand was outlined by MP Ali Hassan Khalil, a member of the speaker's parliamentary bloc and AMAL Movement. Khalil, reading a statement to reporters at Berri's residence in Ein al-Tineh, said: "Parliament … would not break constitutional rules by accepting an anti-constitutional move from an illegitimate government."Addressing the Saniora majority government, Khalil added: "Your bill has no constitutional value."
"What happened today is a media blocking attempt at the orders of Mr. Saniora's masters. This decision adopted by the illegitimate government is fuel to the fire that some want to start and we would not be lured into it," Khalil said. "We would not recognize what you have adopted … Parliament would not be a passage to your illegitimacy and would maintain its sessions until consensus is achieved not on just Gen. Suleiman but on the basket of demands," Khalil concluded.
Beirut, 24 Dec 07, 16:39

Syrian Intelligence Threatens Spanish Peacekeepers in Lebanon

Syria's secret service has threatened Spanish soldiers in Lebanon in a bid to block the extradition of suspected arms dealer Monzer Al-Kassar to the United States, the newspaper El Mundo reported Monday. The Spanish intelligence service, according to a memo cited by the newspaper, fears that troops on UN deployment in south-east Lebanon could be targeted if the Spanish cabinet ratify a judicial verdict and send Kassar to the United States. General Assef Schawkat, chief of Syrian military intelligence, wrote to his opposite number in Spain: "If you think we are going to ignore the affront inflicted by north-American henchmen on our brother (Kassar), you don't really know us and [you] are no friends of the Syrian people." Dated end-July, the note also refers to Schawkat delivering a thinly-veiled threat during a discussion with Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos. Around 1,100 Spanish soldiers serve in the UN interim force in Lebanon deployed following the summer 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah. Six Spanish soldiers were killed during a bombing there in June. Syrian native Kassar, known colloquially as the "Prince of Marbella" where he has been based for the last decade, is wanted in the U.S. on suspicion of arranging arms deals for leftist FARC rebels in Colombia.(AFP) \Beirut, 24 Dec 07, 15:29