February 10/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 7,31-37. Again he left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man's ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, "Ephphatha!" (that is, "Be opened!") And (immediately) the man's ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished and they said, "He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and (the) mute speak."

Free Opinions
Lebanon needs early elections -By Michel Aoun 10.02.07
Maps, please, now. By: Serene Assir Al-Ahram Weekly 10.02.07

Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources For 10/02/07
Tension Evident at St. Maroun Church-Naharnet
Lebanon Will Use Confiscated Hizbullah Weapons to Fight Israel-Naharnet
Israel: Army May Act "Forcefully" against Hizbullah-Naharnet
Hizbullah Bluntly Demands Return of Arms Seized by Authorities
Murr: No Return of Arms to Hizbullah, 'Fundamentalists ...Naharnet
Higher Shiite Council Bans Use of Arms-Naharnet
New Zealand Experts to Help Clear Unexploded Munitions-Naharnet
U.S. Photographer Wins World Press Photo Award with Shot of Bombed-Out Beirut
Gemayel Urges 'Compromise' to Settle Lebanon Crisis
New Zealand Experts to Help Lebanon Clear Unexploded Munitions-Naharnet
Lebanon won't protest over border clash-Jerusalem Post

US delivers more security equipment to Lebanon-Xinhua
Rice talks Iraqi refugees in Syria-CNN International
Lebanon's Hezbollah demands back seized munitions-Reuters
France wants UN council reaction on Israel/Lebanon-Reuters

UN enhances Lebanon border presence (2nd Roundup)-Monsters and
Israel intensifies controversial military flights over Lebanon-Ya Libnan
UN chief appeals to Israel and Lebanon to observe ceasefire-Hindustan Times
New Zealand Defense Force Heads to Lebanon-People's Daily Online

Latest News Reports From the Daily Star For 09/02/07
Lebanese Cabinet thanks UN for efforts on tribunal
UNIFIL steps up presence after border clash
United in praise of army, leaders split in reaction to border clash
French ambassador visits Husseini
Shiite leadership bans sectarian violence
Lebanon's tourism takes heavy blow from 2006 war with Israel, political tensions
Influx of new businesses alters commercial dynamic of Hamra
Hizbullah demands army return weapons
Local group promotes awareness on autism
Young 'shadow government' starts tackling country's woes
Beirut resident rues day prominent politician set up office in her building
Man faces charges for sex with minor
Lebanese University students sign 'code of honor' pact
USAID awards $7 million to revamp schools
Racing enthusiasts embrace passion unspoiled by political debate
Majority of Lebanese fear country is headed to civil war

Lebanon's Hezbollah demands back seized munitions
Thu 8 Feb 2007 2:02 PM ET
(Rewrites after Hezbollah statement)
BEIRUT, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Hezbollah demanded the return of a truck carrying munitions seized by Lebanese authorities on Thursday and said the supplies were heading to its fighters in south Lebanon. Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said earlier on Thursday customs authorities had stopped a truck carrying weapons on the outskirts of Beirut and had taken it to the city's port for investigation. Hezbollah said the authorities had confiscated a "truck carrying munitions to the resistance." The truck had been carrying the load from the Bekaa Valley in the east to the south, it said in a statement. "The government programme clearly confirms the right of the resistance ... to work to liberate the rest of the occupied land, the prisoners and to confront the Zionist threats," the statement said, demanding the return of the truck and munitions. Israel and Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, fought a war in July and August following the Lebanese group's capture of two Israeli soldiers on July 12. The war was halted by a U.N. Security Council resolution which authorised the deployment of thousands of U.N. troops to monitor the truce. The Lebanese army also deployed to the south under the resolution. The Lebanese government is supposed to halt the flow of weapons to Hezbollah from abroad under the resolution. A U.N. envoy and anti-Syrian Lebanese leaders have accused Syria of smuggling weapons to its allies in Lebanon in recent months.
Hezbollah is part of an opposition at odds with the government. The Shi'ite Muslim group says the cabinet does the bidding of the United States and, together with its allies, is demanding veto power in government. The political standoff spilled over into armed clashes last month and nine people were killed.It was Lebanon's worst civil unrest since its 1975-1990 civil war and raised fears of a new conflict. Leaders on both sides called for calm.
Hezbollah has sworn it will never use its weapons against other Lebanese. It says it needs the arms partly because of Israel's continued occupation of Shebaa Farms -- territory occupied since the 1967 Middle East war.The Shebaa Farms are claimed by Lebanon, while the United Nations says they belong to Syria. Damascus says the land belongs to Lebanon. Israeli and Lebanese soldiers exchanged fire on Wednesday after Lebanese troops shot in the air as an Israeli patrol crossed a security fence near the border to search for explosives planted by Hezbollah guerrillas. No one was hurt.

Lebanon Will Use Confiscated Hizbullah Weapons to Fight Israel
Defense Minister Elias Murr said Friday the Lebanese army will use a truckload of weapons seized from Hizbullah to fight Israel in case of any future violation of Lebanese sovereignty. "The truck and its contents are now with the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon," Murr said in reference to a truck carrying Hizbullah arms, including Grad rockets, seized in Hazmieh east of Beirut on Thursday. "If Israel carries out another violation, we will use these weapons to confront it," he told reporters after a meeting with the commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon, Major General Claudio Graziano.
Murr said he told Graziano that "the Lebanese army deployed in southern Lebanon has orders to confront Israeli forces in case of any new violation" of Lebanese sovereignty. Lebanese and Israeli troops clashed across the border on Wednesday in the most serious shootout since last summer's war between Israel and Hizbullah. The incident was sparked by Israeli sappers moving towards the border to clear unexploded ordnance.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon called for restraint, saying the clashes breached the Aug. 14 ceasefire that ended Israel's devastating war against Hizbullah last year.
Hizbullah senior official Mohammed Yazbek reiterated on Friday that the seized truck was carrying munitions destined for his group's fighters and demanded the return of the weaponry. "The security and judicial authorities should return the truck which was carrying arms for the Resistance from the (eastern) Bekaa to the south," he said at Friday prayers in the eastern city of Baalbek. "The Resistance did not breach any agreement by transporting these arms ... in line with the (2005) 'ministerial declaration'" of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora, which recognized the right to resist Israeli occupation, he said. "We are still in a confrontation with the enemy which continues to occupy parts of our land and continues to hold Lebanese detainees," he said. Lebanon claims sovereignty over the Shabaa Farms along the Lebanon-Syria-Israeli borders which Israel captured from Syria during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and then annexed along with the rest of the Golan Heights.
Hizbullah was the only armed group which was not asked to surrender its weapons after the country's 1975-1990 civil war because it was considered a "resistance group" then fighting Israel's occupation of Lebanese territory. U.N. Security Council resolutions have called for the disarming of all militias in Lebanon.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 09 Feb 07, 21:16

France wants UN council reaction on Israel/Lebanon
Thu 8 Feb 2007 12:09 PM ET
By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 8 (Reuters) - France wants the U.N. Security Council to discuss and react to a border clash between Israel and Lebanon, France's U.N. ambassador said on Thursday. Israeli and Lebanese soldiers exchanged fire on Wednesday after Lebanese troops shot in the air as an Israeli patrol crossed a security fence near the border to search for explosives planted by Hezbollah guerrillas. No one was hurt. It was the first such clash since Lebanon deployed regular forces along the frontier as part of a U.N.-brokered cease-fire that ended a 34-day war last year between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas. The border has been largely quiet since then. "We think that the council should have an exchange of views on this issue, which is an important one," France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere told reporters. "I am just going to ask for a briefing from the secretariat."
"We think that the council should react because it is a matter of concern," he said. "It is important that both parties exercise restraint and it's important that the council express again its full support for the full implementation of resolution 1701." The resolution adopted on Aug. 11 called for a truce and a peacekeeping force to help the Lebanese army supervise the pull-out of Israeli troops from the southern Lebanon after the war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas.
It authorized up to 13,000 well-armed troops to augment a 2,000-member U.N. force already in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL.
"We have to see what the best way for the council to express its position, maybe a press statement, we will see, we will discuss it with members of the council," Sabliere said. Other diplomats said the briefing by the head of U.N. peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guehenno, and a possible statement may be delayed until Friday, depending on the council discussions. Israel ordered searches in the area where Wednesday's shooting occurred after discovering four explosive devices on the border on Monday. Israeli officials accused Hezbollah of planting the bombs recently, but the group said it placed them before the July-August war.

Assad: Syria firm in its support for Hezbollah, Hamas

By Reuters
DAMASCUS ? Syrian President Bashar al-Assad vowed to keep supporting Hezbollah, an Islamic militia in Lebanon, and Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist party, despite United States pressure on Syria to stop backing the groups, Baath Party members familiar with a speech the Syrian leader gave on Wednesday said.
Assad was speaking at the start of a two-day conference of the ruling Baath Party central command, which is expected to set a date before July for a referendum on the renewal of the president's seven-year term. "The president was clear that Syria's support for the two movements will continue and that their resistance to regain occupied land was a legitimate right," Baath Party member Mostafa al-Meqdad told Reuters.
Washington imposed sanctions on Syria in 2004, mainly for backing the two groups and threatened in September to widen the embargo.
Members of Hamas' leadership, including the group's leader Khaled Meshal, live in exile in Syria. Hezbollah is attempting to oust Lebanon's Western-backed government, which it views as unrepresentative.
Washington accuses Damascus of causing instability in Lebanon. Syria, which pulled its forces from Lebanon in 2005 under duress, denies interfering in Lebanese affairs and says it supports efforts to reach a deal that would involve giving Hezbollah's bloc more ministers in the cabinet. "President Assad told the conference Lebanese unity must be preserved," another Baath Party member said. State news agency SANA said Assad told delegates the key to Middle East stability was a comprehensive peace deal that returned all Arab territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights.
The 41-year-old president, who succeeded his late father, Hafez al-Assad, in 2000, is expected to win the referendum easily. His rule has been marked by a slow liberalization of the economy and deteriorating ties with the United States, Israel's chief ally. Assad said there would be no major changes to the policy of gradually opening the economy to private investment while maintaining a public sector that employs hundreds of thousands of people. Assad gave no indication that the Baath Party, which has monopolized power since mounting a coup in 1963, would allow opposition parties to operate in the country.

A very big war is coming Lebanon, Syria and Israel
By Sean Osborne
Northeast Intelligence Network
Friday, February 9, 2007
The brief firefight of a day ago between Lebanese and Israeli ground forces was more serious and of more significant consequence than many people seem to realize. It was not just another fire fight or skirmish between Arabs and Jews in the middle east. This event was something else.
Consider the core facts of the matter. The impotent, virtually useless Lebanese Army, an army which cannot even maintain effective control over its own sovereign territory, intentionally engaged an Israeli armored force executing a border security mine-clearing mission while on sovereign Israeli territory.
Before August 2006 such an engagment would have been unthinkable for the Lebanese Army. Virtually suicidal by any tactical standard. Like a kitten taking a swipe at an adult pit bull. After August 2006 not only was such an attack thinkable but the potential repercusions were competently considered beforehand and determined to be desirable by the Lebanese Army field commander. Moreover, the Lebanese commander had been very well advised by the Israeli commander that he had no intention of crossing the blue line and entering Lebanese territory. Yet this Lebanese commander still ordered his forces to engage fires with the Israeli armored force. Why? For what purpose or tactical necessity did the Lebanese engage the Israeli force?
The Lebanese Army must have known Hezbollah had placed those Iranian shaped-charge mines on Israeli territory, and they must have known the Israeli's would come and clear them. The Lebanese Army sat and waited for the Israeli force to show up. The Israeli's did. The Israeli's told the Lebanese they were going to clear the mines. Therefore it seems obvious that the entire operation of placing of the mines on Israeli soil must have been a set-up, a trap to provoke or achieve some tactical result above and beyond what this event appears to have been in hindsight. It is a failed tactical repeat of the kidnapping event of July 2006.
The Lebanese Army is either working in coordination with Hezbollah, or that was no Lebanese Army unit, but Hezbollah soldiers in Lebanese Army uniforms and vehicles. There is war coming to this border region, a very big war is coming. Iran and Syria with their terrorist proxies are spoiling for a very big war. I see no other tactical explanation which makes an iota of sense

Murr: No Return of Arms to Hizbullah, 'Fundamentalists' Contemplating Attacks against UNIFIL

Defense Minister Elias Murr refused to return a truckload of weapons that was seized by Lebanese authorities on Thursday to Hizbullah, and said there were reports of possible attacks being planned by "fundamentalist groups" against U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon. "I refuse to return the weapons to Hizbullah," Murr said on Kalam el Nas talk show on LBC television late Thursday, in response to a Hizbullah demand for an immediate release of the shipment. "While the Lebanese resisting army was fighting the Israelis Hizbullah should have donated these munitions to the army, which is the side concerned in curbing violations, instead of demanding their return," Murr added. This was a reference to the brief exchange of fire overnight Wednesday between Lebanese troops and the Israeli army on the Lebanon-Israel border. U.N. peacekeepers sent tanks and armor to the area on Thursday to try to establish whether an Israeli bulldozer had crossed into Lebanon, sparking the shootout that caused no casualties. Hizbullah's demand followed an announcement by Information Minister Ghazi Aridi that authorities had intercepted a truck full of ammunitions in the Hazmieh suburb east of Beirut Thursday.
The news came during a cabinet meeting which also discussed the nighttime Israeli-Lebanese shootout, the most serious clash since last summer's war between Hizbullah and the Jewish state. "The preliminary information says the truck came from Bekaa Valley," said Aridi. Murr said the shipment included rockets, but stressed that it came from within Lebanon. "Not even a mosquito" could cross the Syrian-Lebanese border, he said, in references to allegations of Syrian assistance to Hizbullah. Witnesses described the truck as a six-wheel. Some unconfirmed reports said it contained mainly machine guns and other light weapons. A security official later said the ammunition included 20 Grad rockets and 20 rocket launchers concealed in bags of straw. Under U.N. resolution 1701 that ended this summer's Israel-Hizbullah war, the group is banned from rearming. But Hizbullah said in a statement Thursday that the government must abide by its own policy, proclaimed in 2005, to support the "resistance" in the south. Israel has accused Hizbullah of rearming and has said its air force would continue to monitor Lebanon to prevent weapons shipments to the group. On the possible U.N. attacks, Murr said: "We have information on threats against UNIFIL."
He was referring to the U.N force monitoring the U.N.-brokered cease-fire between Israel and Hizbullah in the buffer zone in southern Lebanon. Murr said there were reports that "fundamentalist groups" in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh near south Lebanon's port city of Sidon, were contemplating attacks against the peacekeepers. "Whether this information is true or not, we have to deal with it very carefully ... even if it has zero credibility," he said. He did not elaborate or give more details on the fundamentalist groups.
Israel and Syria have both warned of an increasing al-Qaida presence in Lebanon, though attacks here have been rare. Lebanese security forces broke up several cells believed linked to al-Qaida early in the year. On Nov. 28, the leader of a Syrian militant group blew himself up on the Syrian side of the border with Lebanon in a clash with guards there in what may have been an attempt to infiltrate Lebanon. In December, Israeli media reported that Israel had warned the 12,000 strong UNIFIL that al-Qaida is planning an attack on the force. The reports said Israel had received intelligence that al-Qaida's deputy chief, Ayman al-Zawahri, had issued the order to attack the peacekeepers. In a video released this year marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S., al-Zawahri denounced the beefed-up U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon. Also in December, during a visit to his country's contingent in south Lebanon, Italy's Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema warned that there is a risk of attack against UNIFIL and that they should be alert.(Naharnet-AP) Beirut, 09 Feb 07, 08:19

Tension Evident at St. Maroun Church
Lebanon's political crisis manifested itself at St. Maroun church on Friday as President Emile Lahoud and Premier Fouad Saniora sat meters apart during mass.
As Safir newspaper said that Saniora told a cabinet minister on Thursday that Protocol officials were considering exceptional seating procedures at the church since Lahoud regards the prime minister and the government illegitimate. Television footage showed Lahoud's seat placed on the right side of the altar while Saniora sitting on the left separated by the church's hallway. An Nahar daily said that reception at the church's hall was also cancelled given the sensitivities between the Saniora and opposition camps. Politicians, diplomats and clergymen also attended the mass on the occasion of St. Maroun day at the church in Gemmayze. Beirut's Maronite archbishop Boulos Matar, who led the mass, urged unity among politicians and called on them to resolve their problems to prevent the country from plunging back into civil war. The crisis erupted after the resignation of six pro-Syrian ministers from the Saniora cabinet in November. This was followed by an ongoing sit-in in downtown Beirut by the Hizbullah-led opposition aimed at toppling Saniora's government which is backed by the parliamentary majority.
The crisis turned bloody last month after street clashes between pro and anti-government protestors left at least nine dead and hundreds injured. Beirut, 09 Feb 07, 12:27

Gemayel Urges 'Compromise' to Settle Lebanon Crisis
Former President Amin Gemayel warned in remarks published Friday that unless the feuding political sides proposed compromises to their "unachievable" demands, Lebanon was on the "doorstep of a critical crisis.""We are on the doorstep of a critical crisis and should not take matters lightly," Gemayel said after meeting with U.S. President George Bush in Washington on Thursday. "Our main priority is to restore stability (to Lebanon), and this cannot be achieved unless we restart dialogue and cooperate with one another," Gemayel added. While he described the Lebanon situation as "explosive," Gemayel said there are "good signs" to get Lebanon out of its political impasse if "each side (of the political divide) gave up its unachievable demands." Bush reiterated the U.S. administration's support for Lebanon. "We'll be demonstrating U.S. commitment to a sovereign and democratic Lebanon, and express sympathy, again, on behalf of the president and the American people for the assassination of Mr. Gemayel's son, Pierre Gemayel," White House press secretary Tony Snow said Thursday.
Gemayel said in an interview broadcast Sunday he did not know who was responsible for the killing of his son, Lebanon's industry minister, who was assassinated in November. But he accused Syria of plotting a coup d'etat against the government of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora.(Naharnet-AP)
Beirut, 09 Feb 07, 08:18

Higher Shiite Council Bans Use of Arms
The Higher Shiite Council has issued a Fatwa, or religious ruling, banning the use of arms over political discord.
"Use of arms, or any attack against anyone over political dispute is forbidden," said a statement issued on Thursday at the end of the Council's monthly meeting under Vice President Sheikh Abdel Amir Qabalan. The Council considered any cabinet meeting which does not represent the various sects in Lebanon a "serious escalation against the constitutional formula." Beirut, 09 Feb 07, 10:27

Israel: Army May Act "Forcefully" against Hizbullah
Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz has accused Syria of allowing the rearmament of Hizbullah and said Israel has the right to act "forcefully" against the group to counter the threat. Peretz's comments came days after Israel said it discovered four bombs in northern Israel recently planted by Hizbullah. The Israeli claim, denied by Hizbullah, immediately raised tensions along the volatile border. Israel and Hizbullah fought a bruising 34-day last summer before a U.N.-brokered cease-fire took hold Aug. 14. Under the truce, about 15,000 Lebanese army troops and 12,000 U.N. peacekeepers patrol the border to maintain calm. The cease-fire also bars armed Hizbullah fighters from the border area and calls for a halt in unauthorized weapons transfers to the group.
Speaking to visiting U.S. Jewish leaders, Peretz said Syria is continuing to allow weapons shipments to Hizbullah to cross its border with Lebanon.
"We can't under any circumstances ignore the transfer of weapons and ammunition to Hizbullah," Peretz said. While Israel remains committed to the cease-fire, he said, "we reserve the right to protect the citizens of the state of Israel and we will do this forcefully without any compromises."
In Beirut, a Hizbullah official declined comment. Israel accuses the Damascus government of providing weapons to Hizbullah and allowing arms from Iran, Hizbullah's main supplier, to pass through its territory to Lebanon.
The Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot on Wednesday said Syria recently transferred Russian-made Kornet anti-tank missiles to Hizbullah in violation of the cease-fire agreement. The report cited unidentified "senior political sources." During a trip to Moscow last October, Olmert expressed concern that Russian missiles were reaching Hizbullah through third parties. At the time, Russia's defense minister said his government had settled the matter with Israel.
Peretz gave no firm evidence of the weapons transfers and did not specify what would provoke Israeli military action in Lebanon. But he said this week's discovery of the bombs along the border showed how critical the situation has become. Israeli military officials said the bombs were planted in recent days, under the cover of bad weather. If true, it would mark a violation of the cease-fire and indicate a failure by the U.N. Intermi Force in Lebanon to prevent new attacks on Israel.
Hizbullah denied the allegation, saying the explosives were planted months ago before the war. U.N. officials are looking into the Israeli report.
Late Wednesday, Israeli army bulldozers re-entered the border area to look for more explosives, the army said, crossing the fence but remaining in Israeli territory.
Peretz has come under heavy criticism for his handling of last summer's war, which has widely been perceived as a failure by the Israeli public. Israel attacked Hizbullah on July 12 after the group infiltrated Israel, killing three soldiers and capturing two others.
Despite an advantage in firepower, the army failed to accomplish the two main goals set by Israeli leaders -- destruction of Hizbullah and rescuing the two captured soldiers. It also was unable to prevent Hizbullah from raining thousands of rockets onto northern Israel.(AP-Naharnet) (AFP photo shows Israeli soldiers patrolling their country's side of the border with Lebanon) Beirut, 09 Feb 07, 09:43

New Zealand Experts to Help Clear Unexploded Munitions
A team of New Zealand Defense Force bomb disposal experts left for Lebanon Friday to help clear unexploded bombs, cluster bombs and missiles, a senior official said. New Zealand is providing two 10-person teams to the U.N. Mine Action Coordination Center in southern Lebanon, Defense Minister Phil Goff said.
Each team, comprised of four disposal technicians and six surveyors, will be deployed for a six-month period. Their job will be to locate, map and destroy unexploded bombs from last year's fighting between Israel and Hizbullah. Goff said the contribution was to help the Lebanese people to rebuild their lives. "The challenge facing the U.N. is significant," he said. "An estimated 900,000 unexploded cluster munitions remain buried in South Lebanon in addition to an estimated 400,000 mines and 15,000 other types of unexploded ordnance," Goff said in a statement. New Zealand regularly contributes demining experts to U.N. operations, including in Cambodia, Laos and Mozambique.(AP) Beirut, 09 Feb 07, 09:30

.S. Photographer Wins World Press Photo Award with Shot of Bombed-Out Beirut

An image of stylish Lebanese youths driving through a Beirut neighborhood devastated by Israeli bombing, taken by U.S. photographer Spencer Platt, has won the World Press Photo of the Year award, the jury announced Friday. The image contrasts a group of friends against a background of the wreckage of a collapsed building. Tellingly, one woman grimaces as she uses her mobile phone to send a text message to a friend, while another, wearing sunglasses, covers her nose with a handkerchief. The award, which Platt took while working for photo agency Getty Images, is considered one of the most prestigious for photojournalists.
The photo was taken on Aug. 15, the second day of a cease-fire between Israel and Hizbullah, as hundreds of thousands of Lebanese began returning to their homes. It also won in the category of "Daily Life Singles." The chairman of the jury, Michele McNally of the New York Times, described the shot as "a picture you can keep looking at." "It has the complexity and contradiction of real life, amidst chaos. This photograph makes you look beyond the obvious," she said in a statement announcing the winners. In the prestigious spot and general news categories, Reuters' Akintunde Akinleye won in the spot news singles category for a picture of a man rinsing soot from his face after a pipeline explosion in Lagos, Nigeria, on Dec. 26, while Italy's Davide Monteleone won in the spot news story category for Contrasto with photos of the Israeli bombings of Lebanon in July.
Italy's Paolo Pellegrin, working for Magnum Photos, won in the general news singles category with a picture of a victim of an Israeli rocket attack, taken in Tyre, Lebanon, on Aug. 6. Hungarian photographer Zsolt Szigetvary won in the general news story category for photos of the riots in Budapest in September and October, working for MTI. In sports news, a shot of French football player Zinedine Zidane headbutting an opponent in the World Cup final in Berlin on July 9 won in the Sports Action category for Dutch photographer Peter Schols, working for Dagblad De Limburger, GPD, and Reuters.
The Associated Press won six awards, the most of any news agency overall, followed by Reuters with five and Getty with four. Platt will receive his award and $13,000 in a ceremony April 22.(AP) Beirut, 09 Feb 07, 12:42

Lebanon needs early elections
By Michel Aoun
Friday, February 09, 2007
View point by General Michel Aoun
In the midst of this crisis looming over Lebanon and laden with disputes and quarrels, all logical thinking evaporates and instincts and emotions take over conscious reasoning in determining the reasons, components, results and solutions of this crisis. This is why it becomes paramount for all those working in the public sphere from an official and responsible stance to give their opinion in writing, since the latter form of expression is known for setting facts straight, controlling ideas and determining the author's responsibility with respect to the form and content of his text.
The crisis that we are witnessing today is made up of several detached and intertwining factors that are the offspring of a bad will that was able, in a certain phase, to corrupt the political reality and its ramifying consequences, which, in turn, have corrupted the relation between the constitutional institutions and led to their absolute paralysis.
Today, we find ourselves lacking functional constitutional authorities that are capable of performing their duties per the edicts of our democratic system.
Undoubtedly, parliamentary elections form the cornerstone for the establishment of a governmental authority, and any flaws tarnishing this operation will reflect on all future events.
The main flaw that affected our democracy after the withdrawal of the Syrian troops from Lebanon is the electoral law under which the elections took place. These elections managed to bring to office those who lost in their own confession and to cast aside those who won.
These same elections also managed to corrupt just representation and to establish the equilibrium of political forces on a fundamental disequilibrium. Further, the electoral process was accompanied by other flaws represented in transgressions that form a basis for the annulment of the results.
Yet, the dissolution of the Constitutional Council has impeded all contestation of parliamentary seats of disputed legitimacy. Thus, an illegitimate majority was established and would have certainly become a minority if the Constitutional Council had ruled in the matter of the contestations.
In democratic systems, it is known that parliamentary elections are organized after the fall of major political alliances forming the ruling majority. This is precisely what happened with the Quadruple Alliance that emerged as a result of the last parliamentary elections and formed the basis of the current government.
It is also common in democratic systems to take recourse in a referendum via elections after the occurrence of serious events in the country. How could this not be the case after the country has witnessed a war that nearly severed its ties and was accompanied by opposed and clashing political positions that altered the opinions, orientations and even convictions of the citizens?
In addition to all the above, one must not forget the massive popular demonstrations that formed, according to historians and observers, an unparalleled phenomenon and the sit-in, which has entered its third month and is unprecedented in our history.
Now, moving on to the performance of the government, we find that the list is endless. This government has been all words and no action. It has been unproductive and was not able to accomplish any promises it has made and has sometimes even acted against those promises. Thus, it has turned a blind eye to the contents of the Ministerial Statement, especially with respect to the previous political cover it provided for the acts of the resistance and the activation of the Constitutional Council. Further, the economic paper that it had prepared for the Paris III conference was neglected by the attendants, who adopted alternatives and more serious and effective principles.
One must also mention the deviant manner in which the government dealt with the promised electoral law, given that the latter is a reform obligation and the government is handling it in a manner as if it were a bargaining product. What makes matters worse is the politicization of the administration that has become an electoral tool promoting political and confessional sectarianism instead of being a meeting place for all Lebanese on equal footing.
If we agree with what has been mentioned in this article so far and surpass it, we are still obliged to inform the reader of the methodical destruction of all signs of government. By that I mean the Lebanese Constitution, which has been violated in practice textually, spiritually, conventionally and traditionally. Without the Constitution, we find ourselves driven back to obsolete primitive systems or modern mafia-like ones. Thus, the majority will become a tribe from pre-Islamic times or a mafia family out of 1930s Chicago.
Many transgressions have been committed against the Constitution to the extent that we have reached a stage in which we allow ourselves to use such descriptions to portray the status of government.
Let us begin chronologically and state the constitutional violations and the neglect of this charter which includes the fundamental texts for the practice of government and which forms the landmark and the reference of every government that strives to preserve its legitimacy.
Upon the end of the "vote of confidence" session, the government annulled the Constitutional Council, which it has promised to activate. As a result, it has violated Article 19 of the Constitution. In the beginning of the parliamentary session in October 2005, the government had to present the annual budget of 2006, yet it failed to do so, and failed again in 2006 when it did not succeed in presenting the budget of 2007. Thus, it has violated constitutional Article 83.
When the president of the republic signed the decrees pertaining to the formation of the government, the latter began assuming its tasks and signs of rebellion against the head of the state began to emerge from the side of the government and the ministers who conspired with some ambassadors to boycott the president and to deal directly with the prime minister. Furthermore, the prime minister allowed himself to receive direct mails that should be addressed to the president, such as the invitation to the Francophone conference. In this respect, another article of the Constitution has been desecrated, Article 49.
The government was not satisfied with the above constitutional violations, it ignored them and pursued its attempt to ratify the international tribunal; hence, violating, once again, Article 52 of the Constitution, which states that the president of the republic negotiates international treaties.
Finally, the government has fallen into the trap of the forbidden by violating Article 95 after the resignation of the Shiite ministers. Thus, it has lost its legitimacy in accordance with paragraph "j" from the preamble of the Constitution, which states that "There is no constitutional legitimacy for any authority which contradicts the 'pact of communal coexistence'." In addition to that, the Christian representation in the government was lacking a representational quality and stands as an inefficient false witness, as was the case of most of its peers during the mandate era.
Despite all that has been stated in this article, we find ourselves receiving advice from the masters and connoisseurs of democracy in the world, who recommend us to work within the constitutional institutions that were made void and null by the government. This is why we have to thank those masters for their advice and tell them that Beirut, the Mother of Laws, knows how to interpret its Constitution and laws and does not require guidance in this field. All that Beirut requires is to be free of interference in its internal affairs. So take your hands away from us and allow us, at least, to deal with our internal affairs slightly more than you do.
Rabieh, February 7, 2007

Maps, please, now
By: Serene Assir -Al Aharam

The US may have taken token steps towards scolding Israel for using cluster bombs in Lebanon, but where are the maps of where they were dropped, asks Serene Assir in South Lebanon
An elderly Lebanese woman sits amidst the rubble in the southern border town of Bint Jbeil. The unfortunate town was subject to the most vicious cluster bomb attack by the Israelis in the summer of 2007. International reports now reveal that the Israelis used American- manufactured cluster bombs on a wide scale causing mass death and widespread destruction throughout Lebanon
It was a somewhat surprising move given the historical "special relationship" between the United States and Israel and countless gratuitous acts of mutual interest protection in the Middle East. Last week, the US State Department sent a report to Congress outlining its preliminary findings on Israel's controversial use of cluster bombs in South Lebanon during the last hours of the summer 2006 war. The findings, it has been reported, suggest that Israel may have violated the Arms Export Control Act, which governs the use of weapons sold by the US, the world's biggest arms manufacturer and exporter.
According to the Washington-based Arab American Institute, there are two options ahead concerning the matter of cluster bombs, should a final investigation prove Israel's use of cluster bombs illegal. Either US President George W Bush imposes sanctions on Israel, or "Congress should take legislative action to sanction Israel to uphold the integrity of the law."
A full six months after the end of the summer war that killed 1,400 people, injured over 4,000 others, and completely destroyed 15,000 homes, life for the inhabitants of South Lebanon continues to be plagued with the threat posed by unexploded cluster munitions. According to 16- year-old Samar, resident of Khiam, "The outskirts of the town are covered with bombs. My brother was badly injured by a bomb when he was out working on our olive farm. Now he is much better, but he still can't walk for very long without being in a lot of pain."
"As of 31 January, 841 cluster bomb sites had been located in South Lebanon," said Dalya Farran, spokeswoman for the Tyre-based UN Mine Action Coordination Centre for South Lebanon (UNMACC). "There were a total of 216 casualties, among whom 30 were fatal." Following intense lobbying on the issue of cluster bombs by local and international human rights groups, aid agencies and media workers, UNMACC was able to gather the necessary resources to train and fund sufficient de-mining teams in a bid to clean up the south and render it safe for its inhabitants to live and work in. Among the teams, Farran pointed out, is now a Swedish-trained group of women de- miners, probably the first of its kind in the Middle East.
But the effectiveness of the de-mining work continues to be negatively affected by Israel's ongoing failure to deliver on a key demand stipulated by UNMACC and Amnesty International, among others; namely that Israel provide grid references indicating where it dropped cluster bombs. "We also need to know which types of cluster bombs where thrown where," said Farran, as depending on the kind of cluster bomb-bearing missile, the number of munitions it contains varies. Until Israel provides maps with that level of specificity, the de-miners' work is an agonising shot in the dark, searching area after area for signs and putting themselves -- and by default inhabitants of the area until the work is done -- at severe risk.
It appears, however, that this was precisely the point of Israel's blatant contravention of the Geneva Conventions that prohibit the use of such weapons in civilian areas. That 90 per cent of the estimated total four million cluster bomblets were dropped on South Lebanon in the last 72 hours of the war, when the implementation of a UN resolution for the cessation of hostilities was imminent, only accentuates the feeling of suspicion surrounding Israel's continued failure to provide maps of their location.
In the context of Israel's failure to fulfil its stated objective of eradicating Hizbullah during the summer 2006 war, culminating in the resignation of Chief-of-Staff General Dan Halutz, the massive use of cluster bombs was at least in part an act of spite. That many of the cluster bombs used were old or expired stock and therefore more unlikely to explode when dropped but rather lay dormant, waiting for civilian victims, adds insult to injury. Israel cannot claim, having occupied South Lebanon in the past for over a decade, to not understand that 70 per cent of South Lebanon's economy relies on agriculture. Who, then, were the intended targets of this last minute barrage of cluster bombs? Farmers? Children?
Israel's nefarious calculations aside, so long as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert -- himself under fire for his disastrous venture in Lebanon -- does not hand over detailed maps to the UN not only will more lives be lost in Lebanon, but human rights groups and other concerned parties will be provided yet further ammunition to berate a state whose military pursuits have cost the lives of countless thousands, and the permanent displacement of millions, since its establishment in 1948.
Back in the USA, given that the State Department has come this far, there is no going back. This could be a watershed mark in the struggle to ban altogether such indiscriminate and utterly unjustifiable munitions such as cluster bombs. Ideally, Israel would face sanctions for this, yet another, violation of international law, even while so many others have passed without punishment. On the other extreme, Olmert could at least be pressured to issue a public apology. Certainly there is no discussion about whether or not Olmert hands over specified maps charting where the cluster bombs were dropped. Already he is months late in meeting this UN-issued demand.
The ball is now in the court of Washington, which is as much to say that it resides still in the court of Tel Aviv. Will Israel's fighting partner put pressure on Olmert and uphold both international law for the sake of the greater stability of international relations and common decency for the sake of lives at risk still in South Lebanon? It appears that around the issue of cluster bombs the full extent of the US-Israel alliance will be tested. Meanwhile, and until Washington manoeuvres out of this embarrassing situation, across southern Lebanon tens of thousands of bomblets lie in wait for de-miners and ordinary civilians alike.