December 27/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 10,17-22. But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.

Free Opinions & releases
About Syria's Friends in Lebanon-Elias Harfouche. December 26/07
Lebanon and Lost Opportunities-By: Randa Takieddine. December 26/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for December 26/07
Hizbullah Threatens with New Complications-Naharnet
Olmert awaiting Syrian signal about talks - senator-Reuters
US Senator: Aid to Egypt should hinge on crackdown on weapons ...International Herald Tribune
Abul-Gheit Discusses Lebanon Crisis with Kouchner, Moussa-Naharnet
Free Shiite Movement Leader under Attack in Hajj-Naharnet

Awde Slams Feuding Leaders: Let Your Conscience be Your Guide-Naharnet
Ynet Interview - "Neocons: We expected Israel to attack Syria"-International Analyst Network
Syria Warns "Resistance" Against Being Dragged into Lebanon Civil War-Naharnet
Iran Fears Lebanon Talks Could Face 'Explosive Situation'-Naharnet

Awde Slams Feuding Leaders: Let Your Conscience be Your Guide
Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Awde has appealed to Lebanon's feuding leaders to return to ideals of moral conscience, stressing that there is no excuse to refrain from performing official responsibilities. "Has it become impossible for us to go back to the institutions and practice democracy and elect a president for the republic to rein in control and shoulder responsibility?" Awde asked in his Christmas Day sermon on Tuesday. "Have the men in our country become rare to demand the country's and the people's rights?" Awde wondered. "What is the role of the MPs if they don't look after the rights of those who elected them?" Awde inquired. He recalled that Lebanon is without a presidency, nor a cabinet "since they suspect it" and no parliament. "We don't know how the country is functioning."
"Go back to your conscience. Let your conscience be your guide, otherwise history will have no mercy on you," Awde concluded.
The Archbishop's comments came after the Hizbullah-led opposition rejected as unconstitutional a government bill amending the constitution to facilitate the election of Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman president. The opposition has also threatened to boycott Saturday's parliament session to elect a new head of state unless the ruling coalition agrees on the shape of the future government ahead of the vote. Beirut, 26 Dec 07, 09:20

Hizbullah Threatens with "New Complications"

Hizbullah on Wednesday launched a vehement attack on Premier Fouad Saniora's majority government blaming it for a parcel of alleged violations, including "premeditated" usurping of presidential powers and pledged "new complications" to the already tense situation. The stand was made in a statement issued by Hizbullah's parliamentary bloc following a meeting presided over by its chairman MP Mohammed Raad. A constitutional amendment bill by the government was tantamount to "usurping presidential powers," the statement said. "That provides clear evidence to the crime of premeditated usurping of authority and a coup against the constitution, despite (the fact) that what has been adopted by the government two days ago carries no constitutional or practical values," the statement added.
The constitutional amendment bill, aimed at facilitating the election of Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman president, "is a provocative measure designed to test the opposition's response," the Hizbullah parliamentary bloc charged. It threatened: "such a performance opens the door to new complications for which the authority would be held fully responsible."The Hizbullah bloc said the majority's rejection to the formation of a "national unity government" in which the opposition enjoys veto powers "exposed" that nominating Gen. Suleiman for the presidency was a mere "maneuver aimed at covering up their rejection of true national partnership." Beirut, 26 Dec 07, 15:47

Iran for New Initiatives to Resolve Lebanon Crisis 'Diplomatically'

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said that the necessary measure to settle the ongoing political crisis in Lebanon was to launch new initiatives "leading to a diplomatic solution to the problem."Hosseini's remarks to Iran's official news agency, IRNA, came after the government approved a constitutional amendment bill and a motion calling for an extraordinary parliament session to tackle the bill.
Commenting on the latest developments in Lebanon and the reported visit to Iran of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Hosseini said: "France's stance is more rational than that of Washington.""It seems that France has a better understanding of the situation in Lebanon," Hosseini said in response to a question on Paris' and Washington's positions regarding the cabinet's decision to amend the constitution. The cabinet bill facilitates the election of Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman president.The Hizbullah-led opposition has threatened to boycott a parliament session set for Saturday, Dec. 29 to elect a new head of state unless the majority March 14 alliance agrees on the shapeup of the future government ahead of the vote. Beirut, 26 Dec 07, 11:30

Free Shiite Movement Leader under Attack in Hajj

Two pilgrims from southern Lebanon attempted to attack Sheikh Mohammed al-Hajj Hassan, who heads the anti-Iranian Free Shiite Movement, during the annual Muslim pilgrimage, or hajj, a statement said Tuesday. The statement by the clergyman's press office said the two men "belonged to a pilgrimage group coordinated by an (unidentified) party." It said one of the two men showered Sheikh Hassan with insults and curses as he left Prophet al-Akram tomb.
The statement wondered how pilgrims "dare" to insult and curse a Muslim "with no regard to the nobleman position." Beirut, 25 Dec 07, 22:11

About Syria's Friends in Lebanon
Elias Harfouche
Al Hayat - 26/12/07//
Protect me from my friends but let me handle my enemies!
Syria has a number of friends in Lebanon, though it would be better off without these friendships, or at least it would not be compelled to bear their burden and "unpleasantness" while it handles "protecting" their stances when it is exposed to foreign pressure because of them.
We say that as we tend to "believe" the Syrian reports that confirm that these friends enjoy complete freedom, independence and sovereignty in taking stances vis--vis the political stalemate in Lebanon, and that Syria cannot "pressure" them to change these stances! Because of the "independence" of their stance, they generally "put Syrian in a tight spot" which it neither wants nor likes. The reason is that the Syrian capital is a visionary and sees that the current politics in Lebanon are becoming a source of awkwardness and harm for its relations whether with its Arab neighbors or with the world.
The statements voiced by prominent Syrian officials, including for example the Syrian Vice-President, make it hard sometimes to believe the Syrian reports and stances. In these statements, they confirm that their role in Lebanon, as a result of the stances of these friends, is stronger than it ever was when the Syrian forces were taking hold of the Lebanese situation. But one must have good intentions and deduce from these statements that this is just a matter of harmony in stances between Damascus and its friends. This harmony may be due to a long history of receiving instructions, at a time when this was considered legal and authorized. In fact, it shaped the policy of the nation and defined its decisions.
Because the friends of Syria are overemphasizing their "independence," their political reports and discourses sometimes follow after a certain lapse the opening articles and comments of the Syrian press, when it wages its campaigns on the "the agents of George Bush" in Lebanon or when it criticizes PM Fouad Siniora and the members of his government. This lapse in reading the Syrian press gives those ill-intentioned the impression that there is a wait to "receive instructions" before making a statement or announcing a stance. In certain cases, the situation might reach an open turmoil, such as reaching an agreement on the candidate for the presidency or signing a parliamentary petition to amend the constitution. Then something instigates a disclaimer of this agreement and confusion occurs as to whether explanation and clarification reports should be issued, on the grounds of "independence" in stances and observance of the national interest before the interests of any foreign party.
A new chapter of this "independence" in stances has recently come to characterize the discourse of the Lebanese opposition. This chapter is closer to political practical joke. It is the chapter related to the transfer of the negotiation files to "the hands" of General Michel Aoun since he is considered the most noticeable symbol of "independent" stances. As such, the opposition achieves two goals: it substantiates its "Lebanese" decision-making process on the basis that Aoun is the father and mother of independence and his history is a testimony thereof! The second goal is to try to alleviate the foreign pressure that calls on the Syrian leadership to expedite the solution in Lebanon by granting Damascus the golden card that has grown to be the slogan of this period: We cannot pressure Aoun because we don't hold contacts with him!
If Aoun was not available, there would have been a need to find him or find someone like him! It is true that the stances of the opposition are totally "independent" as mentioned before, but only few can outbid the hero of the liberation and cancellation wars when it comes to the approach to independence. This is clearly evidenced in the "independence" achieved by these two wars, which lasted unfortunately 15 years only

Lebanon and Lost Opportunities
Randa Takieddine
Al-Hayat - 26/12/07//
Lebanon's presidential void, its internal divisions, and the media wars between its different factions and side have pushed the Lebanese citizen to a state of indifference toward the entire political class which has become a real burden rather than a driving force for most Lebanese.
The average Lebanese who was scared of the presidential void before it actually occurred is now tired of and fed up with politics and disputes. There is now a real divorce between the entire political elite and the citizen. Neither the opposition scares or affects him, nor does the majority attract him, and all that he wants is to live a life free of security scares. This nation that aspires for a dignified and secure life is upset by politics and by those who allowed outsiders, especially Syria, to impose an impasse on the country and to push for the gradual disintegration of the state. At the same time, the Lebanese are frustrated by a majority that is often weakened by its lack of unity as a result of the different ambitions of its members.
Most seriously, the fact that the absence of a president seems to have no implication whatsoever on daily politics serves only the Syrian regime and its allies in Lebanon as they aim at disintegrating the entire state, a process that has already started by paralyzing the parliament, the cabinet and the presidency, and is now being followed by the military establishment and its commander, presidential candidate General Michel Sleiman.
Syria which had once dominated this country for thirty years is determined to undo the structures of a state that it never recognized in the first place, and unfortunately for Lebanon, it makes sure that this task is accomplished by Lebanese allies. Had the Syrian regime recognized the Lebanese state, it would have naturally acquiesced to exchange of diplomatic missions as the case is among all world nations. Resolution 1559 forced the Syrian forces out of Lebanon, but Syrian political and security hegemony remained. This is partly owed to another regional power, Israel, which wants the Syrian regime in Lebanon in preference over any other, and partly to Lebanese parties that carry out such plans.
Not Sarkozy, Bush, Amro Mousa or anyone else has been successful in bringing enough pressure to make Syria accept the concept of Lebanon's independence, sovereignty and existence. Syria simply insists on keeping the Lebanese card up its sleeve, deriving strength from it as long as there are Lebanese parties who are willing to play along. All efforts aimed at good will aim at ending the impasse in Lebanon as the case is with the efforts of Qatari Vice Premiere and Oil Minister Abdullah Hamad Al-Atiyya who earnestly wants conciliatory solutions among all sides. Al-Atiyya who enjoys good ties with all sides dedicated his Adha vacation to his second beloved home, Lebanon, shuttling from Nabih Berri to Michel Aoun, then to Premiere Fouad Siniora, to Walid Jumblat, and finally to General Michel Sleiman. He was also interested in visiting deputy Saad Hariri who at the time was in Saudi Arabia, and all for the sake of solving the presidential issue and to end the impasse in Lebanon.
The political impasse and crisis in this beautiful country has led to missing major opportunities. As a result of political quagmires, assassinations and media-instigated tensions, this country has not been able to achieve the growth rates enjoyed by its neighbors. Were it not for the political situation, Lebanon's GDP could have easily been over $30 billion rather than the $24 billion reported Central Bank sources.
The budgetary deficit requires reforms and the absence of performing political institutions delays reforms. The electricity problem remains unsolved and will remain so as long as the state remains divided. There are also the rightful popular demands for educational, social, and health provisions at affordable costs. Such services are monopolized by political parties without which the loyalty of the needy would shift to the state.
The Lebanese society is frozen with far greater potentials than is currently seen. With a lacking president, a government described by Patriarch Sfeir as amputated, and a shut down parliament, the faith in having reforms implemented is lost, further postponing Paris 3.
Yet, the political crisis has not led to complete breakdown despite all the economic difficulties and challenges. The resilience of the Lebanese and their ability to adapt remains exceeds politics and its empty feuds. The season of festivities bears witness to that, for in spite of the small number of Arab tourists who arrived in the country during this period, Lebanon's restaurants and hotels were packed with Lebanese. In fact, even the central district witnessed significant activity despite the sit-in, proving that the Lebanese want to bypass the obstructions, the sit-ins, and the economic paralysis. If the Lebanese were to live free of the ambitions of the Syrian regime and those supporting it, Lebanon would have enjoyed a high level of economic prosperity as it benefits from the economic boom in the Gulf region. It is only hoped today that the political crisis will not transform into security deterioration because it would be the most serious for every Lebanese and on every level