December 30/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 2,22-35.
When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord," and to offer the sacrifice of "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons," in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel." The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

Free Opinions and Releases
The Lebanese void and sectarian polarization-By: Walid Choucair- Dar Al-Hayat-December 29/07
A neocon Bush Middle East policy? Look again-By Michael Young-December 29/07
Benazir Bhutto, victim of an often deadly process of change-By David Ignatius-December 29/07 

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for December 29/07
Off the Terror List-Wall Street Journal
Lebanon Without President for Two More Weeks-Naharnet
Gul, Bush Discuss Lebanon in Upcoming Meeting-Naharnet
Gemayel Warns against Prolonging Presidential Void-Naharnet
Deja vu: Berri postpones session to elect president-Daily Star
Mirza calls reports of leads in Hajj killing 'inaccurate-Daily Star
Sfeir says only saints can save country from crisis-Daily Star
Lebanese Option Group blames opposition for void-Daily Star
New political group asks Vatican to unite Christians-Daily Star
Siniora, Hariri condemn Bhutto assassination-Daily Star
Dubai Cares helps students in Nahr al-Bared-Daily Star
Geagea: Hizbullah obstructing election to bring Syria back-Daily Star
Tehran prayer leader tells US to leave Lebanon alone-Daily Star
Reshaping the politics of Lebanon will be anything but easy-Daily Star
Study underlines opposing views on gender roles in Lebanon-Daily Star
Lebanese prep for New Year's festivities - with caution-Daily Star
Harvest of pine nuts gets under way in Jezzine-Daily Star

Lebanon president vote postponed to January 12
By Laila Bassam
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's presidential election was postponed to January 12 from Saturday, the parliament speaker said on Friday, prolonging a power vacuum that threatens to further destabilize the country. This is the 11th delay to an election first due to have been held in parliament more than three months ago, deepening Lebanon's worst political crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. While rival leaders have agreed on army chief General Michel Suleiman as a consensus candidate for the presidency, they are still wrangling over how to share power once he takes office. The vote cannot take place without a two-thirds quorum in parliament, which can only be secured by a deal between the anti-Syrian ruling coalition and the Damascus-backed opposition.
A statement from the office of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a key opposition leader, said the next session was scheduled for January 12 at 12 pm. (5 a.m. EST)Earlier, a senior political source cited "complications in regional and international negotiations and the severing of domestic talks" as reasons for another delay.
The Hezbollah-led opposition wants assurances it will have veto power in the new cabinet, but the majority coalition wants Suleiman elected first and says the government's formation falls within the new president's power. Political sources said no progress was made this week in reconciling the rival camps, which blame each other for obstructing the election of Suleiman. The presidency has been vacant since the term of pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud ended on November 23.
The Western-backed government took measures it says are to facilitate the election of Suleiman, a 59-year-old Maronite Christian who has been army commander since 1998. Earlier this week, it drafted a law to amend the constitution to allow a senior public servant to be president and on Thursday 13 parliamentarians from the ruling majority signed a petition in favor of the amendment. Both measures were rejected by the opposition, which says no amendment is needed. Berri has refused to accept the draft law from a government he considers illegitimate ever since opposition ministers resigned last year.
Criticizing the government's moves, Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun told reporters: "This path has enormous consequences and will hit the country's stability."The statement from Berri also said the measures were unnecessary. He has said he will continue to call parliamentary sessions to try to elect a president.
The crisis has caused deep rifts among the Christian community, who are allied to the rival political groups. The presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian under Lebanon's power-sharing sectarian system. France, Lebanon's former colonial power, has led intensive mediation efforts, but those seem to have lost some momentum in recent days. Suleiman, who was appointed as army chief when Syria still dominated Lebanon, is on good terms with Hezbollah, a powerful military-political group backed by Syria and Iran.
(Writing by Yara Bayoumy; editing by Matthew Tostevin)

Lebanon Without President for Two More Weeks
A parliamentary session scheduled for Saturday to elect a new president was postponed again as political wrangling continued to hold up the army chief's election.
This postponement is the 11th since the first attempt by Lebanon's sharply divided parliament to elect a new president in September, as the Syrian-backed opposition and the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority bloc remain deadlocked over an amendment to the constitution and the shape of a future government.
A statement issued by the parliament secretary general said that parliament speaker Nabih Berri decided to postpone Saturday's session to elect a new president until Saturday, jan 12. But the statement issued by the office of Berri, a pillar of the opposition, insisted there was no need to amend the constitution to elect Suleiman, citing Article 74 of the Lebanese constitution.  According to the statement, this stipulates that "in case of a presidential vacancy... parliament meets immediately to elect a new president, which excludes the (need for) amendment"
Parliament has failed to elect a president because the opposition, led by the militant Hizbollah group, has boycotted sessions, preventing a two-thirds quorum. The post has been empty since pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud's term ended Nov. 23, plunging the country into the worst political crisis since the end of the 1975-90 civil war. Lawmakers on both sides have agreed to back Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman as a compromise candidate, but parliament must first amend the constitution to allow a sitting military chief to become president. This process has been complicated by the opposition's demand for a new unity government that would give it veto power over major decisions. The majority has rejected the opposition's conditions, saying the shape of the next government could be discussed only after the presidential vote.
We did not agree on the mechanism of the necessary constitutional amendment and we did not reach any political settlement as there were not even negotiations this week" between the two feuding parties, Ibrahim Kanaan of the Free Patriotic Movement of opposition leader Michel Aoun told AFP.
A Hizbollah lawmaker said there won't be a presidential election before the ruling coalition agreed to "a comprehensive political agreement" with the opposition, including guarantees on veto power in any new Cabinet. "There is no possibility of holding the presidential election in Lebanon without an agreement on the formation of a national unity government," Hizbollah legislator Hussein al-Haj Hassan said in a statement. Christian opposition lawmaker Nabil Nicola also linked the presidential election to a political accord with the pro-government faction.
"There won't be a (parliament) session tomorrow to elect a president until the usurpers of power return to their senses and to reconciliation," Nicola said in a television interview Friday. Nicola is part of a 23-member parliamentary bloc headed by Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun and allied to Hizbollah.
Christian lawmaker Antoine Zahra, from the majority bloc, said Saturday's parliament session will not be held "because Speaker Berri and other opposition leaders have not yet received the green light from the Syrian and Iranian regimes to hold the election."The ruling coalition has accused the opposition of obstructing the presidential vote under orders from Syria and Iran, which back Hezbollah. In turn, the opposition claims pro-government groups in the parliament majority follow U.S. policies. (AP-AFP) Beirut, 28 Dec 07, 20:27

Gemayel Warns against Prolonging Presidential Void

Phalenge Party leader Amin Gemayel accused the Hizbullah-led opposition of blocking the presidential elections by insisting on granting it the one third share in the next government. Gemayel said, after receiving Maronite Bishop of Jubeil Bechara Rahi, that the essential problem preventing the election of a president is the "obstructing" one-third share in the government. "If March 8 and March 14 reach an agreement over this pending problem, MPs will go to the parliament and elect a president," he said. The former president said that he is keeping in touch with FPM leader MP Michel Aoun. Rahi visited Aoun late Thursday at his residence in Rabye but didn't disclose the content of the discussions. Gemayel warned against extending the presidential vacuum. "We will be forced to seek solutions, as a vacuum is not acceptable," Gemayel stressed. Beirut, 28 Dec 07, 22:01

Gul, Bush Discuss Lebanon in Upcoming Meeting
Turkish President Abdullah Gul will discuss Lebanese ongoing political impasse during his first visit to Washington as president next month.
Deputy White House spokesman Scott Stanzel announced that U.S. President George Bush "will welcome President Abdullah Gul of Turkey to the White House on January 8, 2008, for his first visit to Washington as president." The two leaders would discuss "issues of mutual concern, including our efforts to counter the PKK," or the Kurdistan Workers' Party which the United States, European Union and Turkey view as a terrorist group. Turkish warplanes have launched three bombing raids on PKK targets in northern Iraq since December 16, with the most recent raid taking place on Wednesday. Turkey has massed up to 100,000 soldiers in its southeast near the Iraqi border, and in October Ankara secured a one-year parliamentary authorization for cross-border military action to hunt down PKK rebels. The PKK has been fighting for self-rule in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984, in a conflict that has claimed more than 37,000 lives. Also on the agenda between Bush and Gul would be "peace and stability in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and the broader Middle East" as well as how to "advance Turkey's European Union accession goals, which the United States supports," Stanzel said.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 28 Dec 07, 22:10

The Lebanese void and sectarian polarization

Walid Choucair
Al-Hayat - 28/12/07//
Lebanon's crisis is heading toward limbo with concerned politicians seeing no light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, they seem to be in a contest over not having the ability to see any hope to move beyond the presidential impasse to the point that one of the well-connected religious figures stated that he does not know how the crisis could possibly end, and "I have not found anyone who knows."
While waiting will impose itself on the upcoming days and weeks in Lebanon, the void cannot wait as it has to be filled by someone or something. Prime Minister Siniora's government is struggling to fill the void with a number of constitutional and legal measures in accordance with the Lebanese constitution to pave the legal road to the electing army commander General Michel Sleiman to the presidency and to keep the wheels of the state and administration running to the extent possible with the absence of a president. However, this government is under the fires of an unprecedented campaign for having sent to parliament a bill to amend the constitution and a decree to open an extraordinary parliamentary session, two inevitable procedures to end the void if the majority and opposition come to an agreement in the coming few days.
Siniora's efforts to fill the void by adopting procedures that may lead to the election of a new president on the one hand, and the opposition's relentless attempts to fill this void with endless slur campaigns accusing the government of betrayal and treachery and threatening the majority leaders with persecution after defaming them on the other hand, raise questions about how the state of affairs will be like from now till next March. In line with expectations, Lebanon throughout this period will stay without a president until the next normal parliamentary session when the Arab summit is held in Damascus in the same month.
If it is true that Damascus is holding the presidency hostage through its allies as a means to impose détente with other Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, and with the international community, especially with the US, and if it is true that the opposition is fighting tooth and nail to prevent the majority from stealing this card away from it and from Damascus by pushing for a constitutional amendment to fill the void, then the only thing that will fill the void in this case will be the political wrestling between the two sides. However, this will probably fill the void with political chaos with all the risks that it imposes on the minimal level of stability since Saudi Arabia seems to be in no position to open up to Damascus before the presidential elections in Lebanon are held, nor is the Bush administration willing to raise the level of its communication with Damascus above the occasional encounters between the foreign ministers of the two countries along the meetings on Iraq. Moreover, Speaker Nabih Berri has not hesitated to remind would-be mediators between the majority and the opposition that they have to move along the SS trench lines, Saudi Arabia and Syria, in the hope of achieving a breakthrough.
The Lebanese opposition's compulsion to stay in synchrony with Damascus's need to maintain the presidential void as a card in its hand through taking turns with verbal escalation and assaults against Mustakbal Movement leader, deputy Saad Hariri and against prime minister Siniora will only contribute to serious domestic tensions in Lebanon, especially if the void continues for months. The loud screaming is only mobilizing the already nervous public behind the opposition while charging the emotions of the publics behind Hariri and Siniora. Additionally, the opposition's tactic of relying on FPM leader General Michel Aoun to provoke the Christians over the government's assumption of power and the prime minister's assumptions of presidential powers is delivering a similar effect on their respective supporters. As a result, the pressures to move the SS formula becomes a means of the unaccountable inflammation Sunni-Shiite sentiments, pushing Lebanon to the edge of a serious sectarian problem. Is this what some leaders wish to fill the void with in the coming few months? This by all means is the worst outcome that the continued and deliberate presidential void may lead to, especially when employing tools that only contribute to sectarian polarization

To all Lebanese Patriots,
After all the readings I have done about the Iranian nuclear program, I found out that the real uranium enrichment plants in Iran are most likely based in underground facilities and in the major cities like Tehran and Esfahan. they are located in areas crowded with people.
as for the facilities located outside the cities, they only serve for the purpose of camouflage.
In Lebanon, Iran has a plan of transforming the country into an Islamic republic.
Mr. Michel Aoun, with his lust for the presidency, is willing to cover the transformation of Lebanon into an Islamic republic which would be a major ally for Iran.
he is willing to be the Christian cover for any civil war in Lebanon. Syria and Iran will be behind this war that will bring an end to the Christians and Lebanon.
that's why I would like to ask the Lebanese Christians not to make additional mistakes and surrender Lebanon to evil. I hope they understand how critical the situation is for the future of the country.
in the past, the Syrian president Hafez Assad interviewed General Michel Suleiman 30 times and also interviewed other candidates before he accepted to appoint him as a high rank employee in Lebanon (army commander). He found in him a good employee who does not affect the Syrian interests in any bad way.
as long as he was an employee, this did not bother the Syrian regime because they controlled the president who has the power to replace him anytime.
now things changed and if General Suleiman would be the president (not an employee) and at the same time he is controlling the army, the Syrian and Iranian regimes feels this would be a problem for them.
if they don't control the president, they would like to control the army and this is the reason why they can not accept General Michel Suleiman.
all the Syrian agents in Lebanon want the civil war so they can go back to the time under the Syrian occupation when they controlled the economic resources of the country.
I ask you to be courageous enough and secure the election of a president regardless of the consequences; otherwise, the country will be gone.