February 17/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 8,34-38.9,1. He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."He also said to them, "Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come in power."

Free Opinions.
Click on the below links to read Elias Bejjani's New editorial in the Media
World Forum   California Chronicle   American Chronicle
Syrian pressure, Lebanese blood.By Tony Badran 17.02.07
Hariri's Proposal and The Destructive Waiting-By:
Walid Choucair 17.02.07
A bloodstained memorial-Al-Ahram Weekly

Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources For 17/02/07
Assad to Tehran for Talks on Lebanon, Region-Naharnet
U.N. to Help Lebanon Probe Ain Alaq Bus Bombings-Naharnet
Hariri Warns U.N. Could Impose International Tribunal-Naharnet

Rice Faces an Uphill Battle for a Mideast Breakthrough-New York Times 
Pope Meets Relatives Of Israeli Soldiers Seized By Hezbollah-Today's
Security Council Oks Lebanon Bomb Probe-Guardian Unlimited
UN Council okays probe into Lebanon bus bombings
Australia Seeks Evacuation Reimbursement from Lebanese-Naharnet

Latest News Reports From the Daily Star For 16/02/07
Possible signs of breakthrough in Beirut
Syria blames March 14 for bus bombings as families bury victims
Israeli paper claims Chirac fears Hizbullah attack on peacekeepers
Japanese ambassador inaugurates renovation project
MP describes Syrian regime as 'Israeli product'
US senators propose bill to protect civilians from cluster bombs
Sarkis meets with delegation from Iraqi Kurdistan
Opposition figures condemn harsh rhetoric at Hariri rally
Slowly but surely, Southern villages are making progress on reconstruction
AUB to establish worldwide alumni association
Storms disrupt normal routine as army, Civil Defense scramble to clear roads
Traditional Turkish bath offers temporary escape from crisis for overheated Beirutis
'There are people other than March 8 or March 14'

Father of bus-bombing victim rejects 'martyr' label for son
'As far as i know, martyrs die for a cause'
Daily Star staff-Thursday, February 15, 2007
BEIRUT: The father of one of the three people killed in the Tuesday bus bombings in Ain Alaq said on Wednesday that his son's blood had been spilled in vain, as an extended security meeting was held to discuss the attacks. In an interview with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International television station, Fouad Attar, the father of 18-year-old Michel, said that he had heard "many politicians calling my son a martyr."
"As far as I know," he said sarcastically, "martyrs die for a cause. But I can't seem to figure out what cause my son was fighting for when he died."
Two bombs ripped through two minibuses packed with commuters in the village in the Metn region on Tuesday morning, killing three people and wounding 23 others in an unusual attack targeting civilians. Amnesty International condemned the bombings "in the strongest terms" on Wednesday.
The international human rights organization accused the perpetrators of the attacks of "showing complete disregard for the most fundamental principles of humanity" in a statement that said deliberate attacks on civilians "can never be justified."
"These deadly attacks on civilians represent a further deterioration of the security situation in Lebanon, which has become increasingly polarized, prompting fears of a possible slide toward a new conflict," the statement said.
Amnesty called on Lebanese political leaders to take "urgent" steps to ensure that the Ain Alaq attacks "are not used as a license for further violence."
The Amnesty statement urged that those responsible for Tuesday's attack be "arrested and brought to justice, promptly and fairly and without recourse to the death penalty." The group encouraged political leaders to build a framework for addressing unresolved issues that have "fueled background grievances and suspicions, including over the international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for the killing of Rafik Hariri, the composition of a new government and forthcoming parliamentary elections."
For any such agreement to be "sustainable," Amnesty said, it would have to be coupled with "the adoption in Lebanon of particular reforms of the justice system that Amnesty International has repeatedly called for."
Meanwhile, Lebanese security forces, in addition to forensics and explosives experts, analyzed reports made available by investigators after they inspected Tuesday's crime scene. The testimonies of more than 50 witnesses were discussed at the security meeting.
The meeting, which was attended by Chief Military Investigating Magistrate Rashid Mezher and Military Prosecutor Jean Fahd, did not add to information made available by the judiciary on the day of the attack. Forensic investigators on the scene said that the first bomb was "inside" one of the buses, while the second bomb was under the bus. Both explosives were estimated to have weighed around 1 kilogram. Judicial sources told The Daily Star that dozens of witnesses had said a "suspicious- looking" man had boarded the first bus carrying a large bag, but there were conflicting reports as to whether he got off before the blast. A judicial source said the bombs might have been set off by a timer. Earlier reports had said they were detonated by remote control

Vatican: Bus Explosions 'Anti-Christian'
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone condemned as "anti-Christian" Tuesday's bomb attacks on two buses in Lebanon in which at least three people were killed. Cardinal Bertone described the double bombings in a mainly Christian mountain area northeast of Beirut as "a serious attack of an anti-Christian character". The cardinal, who occupies the number two position at the Vatican, called for prayers for Lebanon, the ANSA news agency reported.(AFP) Beirut, 13 Feb 07, 19:10

Hariri Warns U.N. Could Impose International Tribunal
Parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri has warned that the U.N. Security Council could override objections by the Hizbullah-led Opposition and impose an international court to try suspects in the murder of his father, former premier Rafik Hariri. "If obstacles continue to block the creation of an international tribunal, I believe the Security Council will impose it, invoking Chapter 7" of the U.N. Charter, Hariri told Al Arabia satellite channel Thursday night. Under Chapter 7, the Security Council can impose sanctions, or even resort to military force, if it determines the "existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression." Hariri reiterated that the key settlement to the ongoing political crisis was the set up of the tribunal, saying failure to create the court would "give the killer a killing license.""It is obvious that Syria does not want this court," Hariri went on. "If this international tribunal is not created, then every opponent of the Syrian regime will be killed." In an effort to defuse tension, Hariri said he was going to meet Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri "soon, but I cannot say when for security reasons." He said that the formation of the tribunal would lead to national unity.
However, Hariri said it is "wrong" to link between the international court and Opposition demands for the formation of a national unity cabinet.
"A (national unity) government is a political demand, while the court is not a political issue," he stressed. The Hizbullah-led Opposition objects to the way the government has handled plans to create the court under U.N. auspices.
Rafik Hariri and 22 other people were killed in a massive car bombing in Beirut on February 14, 2005, and a preliminary U.N. investigation has pointed the finger at the Syrian regime and accomplices in Lebanon. Damascus has consistently denied any hand in the assassination of Hariri, or other prominent anti-Syrian figures since then.
Saad Hariri did not say how the Security Council might impose the tribunal under Chapter 7. Last week, the United Nations said it had signed a deal with the government to set up the tribunal, but that the deal must be in accordance with Lebanon's constitutional process, meaning it must be ratified by the country's divided parliament. Berri has refused to allow the government to submit a bill that would authorize the court, effectively blocking the tribunal's creation. A Hariri-Berri meeting would be aimed at resuming dialogue between the government and the Opposition. Hariri did not speculate on what the outcome of his talks with Berri might be, but pointing to the lawmaker's pro-Damascus stance, said "he must choose between Lebanon and Syria." However, he did say that it was not Iran blocking a return to dialogue in Lebanon, but Syria.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 16 Feb 07, 08:32

U.N. to Help Lebanon Probe Ain Alaq Bus Bombings
The U.N. Security Council responded quickly to a request from Premier Fouad Saniora and gave a green light Thursday for U.N. investigators to help probe the latest bus blasts in Ain Alaq. Saniora sent a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday requesting technical assistance from the International Independent Investigation Commission which was established to investigate the Feb. 14, 2005 assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri.
The bombings in the mountainous Christian town of Ain Alaq northeast of Beirut came on the eve of the second anniversary of the Beirut bomb attack that killed Hariri and 22 others. Slovakia's U.N. Ambassador Peter Burian, the 15-member council president, told reporters that members agreed on a letter responding to Saniora's request. "By that letter, we agree that the commission should provide assistance which will be needed in this regard," Burian said.
"The fact that this latest series of bombings took place on the eve of the second anniversary of the Hariri assassination ... makes it very clear to us there are potential links that need to be explored," acting U.S. ambassador Alejandro Wolff said.(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 16 Feb 07, 07:30

There are people other than March 8 or March 14'
Civil society takes on the squabbling status quo - but can it make a difference?
By Nour Samaha -Daily Star staff
Friday, February 16, 2007
BEIRUT: Two men. Each holds gun to the other's head, one facing the camera, the other with his back turned to it. In both Arabic and English, "Who's Losing?" is written in white across the dark scene, emphasizing an air of futility. This is the latest billboard campaign that has been launched by Loubnani W Bass ('Just Lebanese'), a new civil society movement that says its aim is to "give a voice to the silent majority," and to promote feelings of national identity rather than sectarianism.
In an interview with The Daily Star, a founder and board member of the movement, homemaker Zeina Karam, explained how she hoped they would be able to make a difference to the tense political atmosphere that has now taken up residence in Lebanon.
"We want to say that there are people other than March 8 or March 14. For us we think there are people who are fed up with what is happening, they don't agree with the situation of today," she said. "They don't have a voice, and like Resolve It, Solve It and March 11, Pour Que Le Liban Vive, and Nahwa al-Muwatiniya [other nascent groups that aim to articulate objective points of view], we want to give them that chance to shout out."
"Although we have not come up with anything brand-new, I believe that if we all work together, maybe we can achieve something that shows the people are moving in the same direction," she added. The focus of the new billboards is aimed specifically at the youth of Lebanon, "for the fighters on the streets, and the students," said Karam, with reference to an incident at Beirut Arab University on January 28 that escalated into riots, leaving four people dead and over 150 injured. Loubnani W Bass aims to take the next step of its campaign to schools and universities to create greater awareness of a "third option," which does not involve being with either the government or the opposition.
In recent weeks many similar movements have sprung up, their names like Resolve It, Solve It and Pour Que Le Liban Vive (So Lebanon Can Live) giving the impression of offering a viable alternative to the current political deadlock, but their manifestos and campaigns offering little more than another outlet for people to voice their frustration over the situation. Loubnani W Bass doesn't dispute this; rather its Web site promotes the idea of using the group to voice grievances against the current turmoil.
There are those who feel that such groups are necessary to alleviate the rising tensions between different communities, specifically amongst the youth. Nahi Issa, a graphic designer from Ain al-Roummaneh, believes that this new wave of movements has the potential to bring people together while leaving politics behind.
"As long as they stay strictly non-political, I think Lebanon could greatly benefit from an alternative to the two sides," Issa said. "The idea that has been created from these kinds of groups is really good, and has the potential to stop the tensions if they campaign in the right way, and target the right audience; the youth."
Although there seems to be a general consensus among the population that a third alternative is in fact a refreshing idea, some say that because none of the groups has offered a viable solution to the current deadlock, the entire movement is actually dead in the water.
"To be honest, I don't think these groups can do anything successful, because they can't offer anything new to the Lebanese," said Dima Akl of Bikfaya. "Everyone in the country is already arguing, so adding them to the mix would cause more problems."
Dori Chamoun, a lighting engineer from Dekwaneh, feels that while the concept of such an alternative has the potential to ease divisions, the campaigns and grassroots support are weak.
"There is a point to them, definitely, but their biggest downfall is that they haven't published their ideas thoroughly enough," he told The Daily Star. "They really need to target schools and universities, and develop an educational program in order to be successful. Otherwise people will stop paying attention."
"I like the new movements' approach," said Toufic Harb, a resident of Ain al-Roummaneh, "but they won't achieve their target because they don't have a leader. The successes of March 8 and March 14 are because of their leaders."  In the case of Loubnani W Bass and the others however, the essence of their being is to remain non-political. Whether this will hinder their development remains to be seen.

Syria blames March 14 for bus bombings as families bury victims
By Rym Momtaz -Special to The Daily Star
Friday, February 16, 2007
BEIRUT: As the families of the victims of the twin bus bombings in Ain Alaq, northeast of Beirut, held funerals for their loved ones on Thursday, Syria's state media accused the leaders of the March 14 Forces of being behind the blasts that claimed the lives of three people. Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council on Thursday directed UN investigators probing the 2005 assassiantion of former Premier Rafik Hariri to help Beirut investigate the bus bombings, its president said. Slovak UN Ambassador Peter Burian, who chairs the 15-member council for this month, said that the council gave its green light in a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The council's action came in response to a request from Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who earlier this week sought technical assistance from the UN inquiry panel led by Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz to shed light on Tuesday's blasts.
Syrian state media launched a scathing attack on Thursday against leaders of Lebanon's ruling coalition, accusing them of involvement in the bombings.
Syria's official media did identify politicians by name, but referred to a specific pair of leaders, understood to be prominent Druze leader and MP Walid Jumblatt and Christian leader Samir Geagea.
"Some are convinced that the terrorist attack [on Tuesday] had been committed by these two, who are also implicated in other attacks aiming to incite dissent," Syria's official Ath-Thawra daily said.
"They are having nervous breakdowns," the paper added. "The harmful words spoken by the two bastards are beyond all decency and political rules. By their words, these two are trying to cover up the crimes they have committed."
Anti-Syrian figures had said Tuesday's bombings were designed to disrupt the Hariri commemoration the following day.
Another government daily, Tishrin, likened Lebanon's ruling coalition leaders to snakes who "hiss on the orders of the Americans and Israelis ... Some of those who shouted like fanatics yesterday did so because the US ambassador [in Lebanon] asked them to."
Syria "has no need for a certificate of good behavior. Its national standing does not allow it to respond to little traitors' tantrums," Tishrin added.
Meanwhile, a group of people at the Social Syrian National Party's headquarters in Bikfaya reportedly threw rocks at the coffin of one of the victims of the blasts when it passed the town's main roundabout, according to the Phalange Party headquarters in Ain al-Tuffaha. The body of Lorrice Gemayel, 32, a mother of two, was being transported from the hospital to Ain al- Tuffaha, her native village.
The SSNP quickly issued a statement denying the report and reiterating its condemnation of Tuesday's bombings as "criminal acts that claimed the lives of innocent civilians, most of whom were SSNP and Free Patriotic Movement supporters."
Bishop Roland Abu Jaoude, the deputy of Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, said that "the attack [on the funeral convoy ] is a despicable thing. All political parties must relinquish their personal interests for the country's unity and general wellbeing." Abu Jaoude was attending the funeral to present his condolences and deliver a letter to the family of the deceased from Pope Benedict XVI.
In the letter, the pope called on "the Lebanese people and their leaders to shy away from violence and resume in these tragic times their efforts to consolidate national unity and public good."
Meanwhile, a separate funeral was held at the Mar Mikhail Church in the village of Beit al-Shaar, northeast of Beirut, for Michel Fouad Attar, another victim of Tuesday's twin bus bombings.
Attar's coffin was covered with white flowers and the flag of the Knights of Virgin Mary, his parish's scouts.
Attar was a 19-year-old business major at the Lebanese University and was taking the bus from Bikfaya to attend classes when he was killed.
Friends and family members filled the church, all dressed in black and wearing his picture as badges on their chests. His parents and four brothers sat silently in the front row.
The funeral was attended by slain Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel's widow, Patricia and his brother Sami, representing his father, former President Amin Gemayel. Also in attendance, representing Siniora, was Madeleine Haddad, qaimaqam of the Metn region.
Attar's eldest brother Abdo, 25, read a passage from the Bible before the family left the church to accept condolences.
Samira Saliba, Attar's supervisor in the scouts, described him as "a devoted, non-political person who always wanted to put a smile on people's faces."
On Thursday, Chief Military Investigating Magistrate Rashid Mezher met with the head of Bikfaya's Police Department to discuss the testimonies of survivors of Tuesday's attack, as well as those of eye-witnesses interviewed so far. Mezher requested that a tent be placed over the crime scene to preserve evidence. - With agencies

MP describes Syrian regime as 'Israeli product'
Friday, February 16, 2007
Democratic Gathering Parliamentary Bloc MP Antoine Andraos lashed out at the Syrian government Thursday, saying it was a "purely Israeli" product. In a statement issued a day after the February 14 rally in commemoration of slain Premier Rafik Hariri, the Chouf MP said all countries and the international community, "got fed up" with Syria's behavior. "Exactly like the Israelis, the Syrians adopt a divisive policy," he said. Andraos added that the interests of both Israel and Syria "intersect" in Lebanon. "It is unfortunate that a party such as Hizbullah, which has fought the Israelis and their Christian allies, are currently allied with the Syrians," Andraos said.

Assad to Tehran for Talks on Lebanon, Region
Syrian President Bashar Assad will visit Tehran on Saturday for talks with his Iranian ally President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over regional issues, the ISNA news agency reported. Assad will arrive Saturday afternoon on a two-day trip and he will be "holding talks focused on expansion of mutual ties and the issues of bilateral interests," ISNA on Friday quoted Ehsan Jahandideh, a presidential aide, as saying. The two presidents would also discuss "regional issues and especially those of the Islamic world," he said, adding that Assad will also meet with other high-ranking officials. The daily An Nahar on Friday quoted an Iranian source in Damascus as saying that "many dossiers will be discussed in-depth, including the Lebanese, Iraqi and Palestinian issues." Tehran and Damascus have maintained close ties ever since Ahmadinejad became president amid severe pressure from the international community.  The two countries have been accused of playing a role in stirring up insecurity in neighboring Iraq by supporting insurgents in the conflict there.
Iraq temporarily closed its borders with both countries this week under a new security plan designed to halt violence in Baghdad.(AFP-Naharnet)
Beirut, 16 Feb 07, 11:57

Syrian pressure, Lebanese blood
Commentary by By Tony Badran
Friday, February 16, 2007
Two years after the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, and 22 others, including former Minister Basil Fuleihan, on Tuesday Lebanon was subjected to another terrorist attack in Ain Alaq, near Bikfaya, home of the Gemayel family. The bombings represented, most probably, another escalation by the Syrian regime. In assessing the possible reasons - or messages - behind the latest attack, one must examine the political context in which it occurred. Hizbullah's attempt at toppling the Siniora government has failed, but the party and other Syrian allies in Lebanon are still trying to block formation of the mixed Lebanese-international tribunal to try suspects in the Hariri assassination, in line with Syria's demands.
In an attempt to break the impasse, Saudi Arabia has been trying to reach an understanding with Iran, intentionally and visibly bypassing the Syrians. In parallel, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa has been negotiating an initiative based on the formula of "no victor, no vanquished." The essence of the initiative is to accommodate the opposition's demands for more seats in the Cabinet in return for formal Lebanese endorsement of the tribunal. Such a solution is detrimental to the Syrians, and they apparently told Moussa last Monday the same thing that they have been telling other envoys visiting Damascus: Syria does not want to hear of the Hariri tribunal.
According to an Al-Hayat report on Tuesday, the Syrian conditions for a solution in Lebanon, as presented to Moussa, were that the Lebanese opposition be given the so-called "blocking third" in the Cabinet (which would enable it to veto any decision that goes to a vote, and even bring the government down); and that there should be no "rush" in forming the tribunal, even though Syria considers itself "unconcerned with it." In other words, the Syrians are holding on to their maximalist position.
Syrian brazenness didn't end there. Al-Hayat also reported that there were hints from Damascus and its Lebanese allies that Moussa was no longer acceptable as a mediator, and should not return to Lebanon. In all likelihood, the point of such leaks is to present the Saudis (but also the Iranians) with a fait accompli and tell Riyadh that it has to deal with Syria directly and accommodate its demands, or else face mayhem in Lebanon. The timing is important: In March, an Arab summit will be held in Saudi Arabia. The targeting of civilians, not to mention the continuous threats directed against the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon stationed in the South, is intended to show that Syria will not hesitate to escalate its activities to whole new levels.
This has been Syria's method since the forced extension of President Emile Lahoud's mandate in 2004: to force "respect" through brutishness. However, it allows no margin for maneuver, even for President Bashar Assad's allies in Lebanon or those outside who are working under the illusion that they can "draw Syria in from the cold." In many ways it is a replay of Assad's misreading of the political winds when UN Security Council Resolution 1559 was passed. At the time, Assad misguidedly thought he could bend the international community to his will.
This might explain a second message Syria and its allies wanted to send with the Ain Alaq attack. Last week, former Lebanese President Amin Gemayel paid a visit to Washington, where he met with President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. At the meetings, the US officials reaffirmed their strong support for Lebanon. The reaction in Damascus was less encouraging. An unnamed Syrian official commented on Gemayel's visit by warning that "those who might be promising him the presidency may not be able to fulfill their promise." Two days later, Lahoud issued a statement condemning Gemayel, in which he made ominous reference to 1983 and to Gemayel's trip to the US at the time. This, Lahoud added, "resulted in a costly war for Lebanon." Indeed, 1983 is the year when American and French interests in Lebanon were attacked by groups affiliated to Syria and Iran.
It may be that the Syrians fear, and were reacting to, what they saw as a bid to find a new president to replace Lahoud - who has threatened not to leave office after his term expires in a few months. Early presidential elections also happen to be part of Moussa's package deal, and they have been explicitly rejected by Assad. After all, that is what the Syrian president reportedly told Hariri in 2004: I alone choose Lebanon's president, and I will break Lebanon over all your heads if you disagree.
The problem for Assad is that his inflexibility is likely to have a contrary effect. The Europeans have tried to engage Syria, to no avail. As a European diplomat recently told Al-Hayat, all those Europeans who go to Damascus to ask it to change its ways, end up returning disappointed and agreeing with the US and French position. There are no more "deals" possible over Lebanon of the kind that Assad envisions, where the country would again become his exclusive patrimony. And the more violence he inflicts on Lebanon, the more the Hariri tribunal becomes inevitable.
**Tony Badran is a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington, where he focuses on Lebanon and Syria. He also hosts the Across the Bay blog ( He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.

Israeli paper claims Chirac fears Hizbullah attack on peacekeepers
UNIFIL, resistance dismiss report
By Rym Ghazal
Daily Star staff
Friday, February 16, 2007
BEIRUT: The UN peacekeeping force and Hizbullah both dismissed a report by an Israeli newspaper claiming that French President Jacques Chirac had expressed "fears" the resistance would strike French troops in the south, calling it "baseless."
According to Israeli daily Haaretz Thursday, Chirac proposed sending a special envoy to Tehran "to reach an understanding" and "to lessen pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear program" to protect the French soldiers serving in UNIFIL from being attacked by Hizbullah.
"UNIFIL doesn't feel threatened in any way by Hizbullah," a UNIFIL spokesperson told The Daily Star Thursday, adding: "We have the full cooperation of the Lebanese people."
When The Daily Star contacted the French presidential office, the president's spokesperson said that he could "not comment" until he had met with Chirac. There was no comment by the time The Daily Star went to press.
Haaretz quoted a government source as saying that Chirac's position "is controversial in Paris," with the French Foreign Ministry continuing to support a hard line with regard to the Iranian nuclear program, a position also expressed Wednesday by the French ambassador to Israel, Jean-Michel Casa, in an earlier interview with Haaretz.
Hizbullah officials also dismissed Haaretz's report, describing it as "ridiculous."
"There is absolutely no basis to it as Hizbullah and UNIFIL have had a positive relationship and cooperation for years," said Ghaleb Abu-Zeinab of Hizbullah's politburo. "Hizbullah would never threaten or attack UNIFIL ... This news report is part of an Israeli campaign against Hizbullah."
The report of threats against UNIFIL comes two days after Al-Qaeda threatened UNIFIL directly in an audiotape broadcast on Al-Jazeera TV network.
"UNIFIL's position is to be prepared to face any potential attack," he said when asked about precautions UNIFIL had taken since the threat.
In the tape, Al-Qaeda's number two, Ayman al-Zawahri, called on Lebanon's Muslims to reject the UN resolution that ended last summer's war with Israel, saying: "I call on the brothers of Islam and of jihad in Lebanon not to yield to Resolution 1701 and not to accept ... the presence of international and crusader [Western] forces in South Lebanon." Prior to the tape, Israeli media in December reported that Israel had warned the 12,000-strong UNIFIL that Al-Qaeda was planning an attack on the force. The reports said Israel had received intelligence that Zawahri had issued the order to attack the peacekeepers. Sources close to the issue told The Daily Star that UNIFIL had received "real" threats along with some "perceived" threats.
In February, Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr announced there were intelligence reports of possible attacks being planned against the international peacekeepers in Lebanon. "We have intelligence reports on threats against UNIFIL," Murr said in an interview with the privately owned Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation.
At the time, Murr said there were reports that "fundamentalist groups" in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh near Sidon were considering attacks against UNIFIL. In a video released this year marking the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US, Zawahri denounced the beefed-up UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon. Also in December, during a visit to his country's contingent in South Lebanon, Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema warned there was a risk of attack against the peacekeepers and that they should be alert.
However, there have been no reports of any Hizbullah threats against UNIFIL. - With agencies

Hariri's Proposal and The Destructive Waiting
Walid Choucair Al-Hayat - 16/02/07//
Those opposed to setting up an international tribunal to try suspected killers of slain former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and his companions, and the perpetrators of other related crimes, will not find the huge popular crowd that marked the second anniversary of the crime a good reason to take an interest in reaching an internal settlement.
The major outcome of this gathering, among many things, is that it has highlighted the popular support to the demand of the parliamentary majority and the March 14 Forces to establish the court, the "only way for any solution" as Future Movement leader Saad Hariri and many other speakers described it. The opposition, however, has shunned these calls.
The main word of the gathering was delivered by MP Saad Hariri, whom the international tribunal issue concerns most among other victim's families who are seeking justice, and included repeated calls for dialogue as a means to "come to the brave decisions" that guarantee the setting up of the tribunal and a government where "all parliamentary blocs are represented. The positive signals of these words, however, did not receive any response. Hariri has put forward a proposal that directly addresses the opposition's main demand, which is forming a national unity government. But the leaders of the opposition, instead of responding to this offer, preferred to respond to the Democratic Gathering leader Walid Jumblatt's attacks on Syria and the Lebanese Forces executive Samir Geagea's attack on President Emile Lahoud.
In his speech, Hariri has proposed an open, public framework for the tribunal-government formula, but someone else drew the responses. This proposal of Hariri's had earlier been made in an interview with LBC satellite channel.
This is not a coincidence given the fact that the real answer to his proposal will not come from within Lebanon, but form without. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berry kept telling any negotiator he meets with that improving the Syrian-Saudi bilateral relations was the key to resolving the ongoing dispute over the international tribunal and the government. The preference made by the opposition to react to Jumbaltt's attack on the Syrian leadership and Geagea's remarks about Lahoud, rather than responding to Hariri's initiative, may be a signal that the foreign obstacles to making any internal progress will continue.
But the problem is that waiting for a solution to come from abroad may last for too long, even till after the due date of many regional commitments such as the Arab summit scheduled for the end of March in Saudi. Moreover, the bet on regional contacts to impose a solution on the Lebanese people, as some in the opposition camp hope in order to avoid embarrassment with some of their allies, seems no more than a means to kill the time while waiting.
The opposition waits for Riyadh, in the context of joint Iranian-Saudi efforts, to put pressure on the majority to accept a settlement that would spare the major opposition forces a disagreement with Syria. This is not likely so far as Riyadh insists on the principle of setting up the tribunal in any case. Meanwhile, the majority bets on Tehran persuading Hezbollah and Amal Movement of a solution that would lead to an agreement over the issue of the tribunal; and then it could accept the proposal to enlarge the government. But the past few weeks have proven that this is not likely, as Iran and its friends in Lebanon would not abandon Damascus in its demand to put off the discussion of the tribunal issue till after the international investigation is concluded.
If the situation in Lebanon continues this way, i.e. waiting for a foreign solution, the fantasy hopes of some of its leaders will lead them to an unknown future.
Foreign and regional forces, while trying to reach agreements over major crises, test each other; leaving the Lebanese crisis to a second or third priority. A close observation of concerned regional players shows that they are currently testing their ability to enforce the Mecca agreement between Fatah and Hamas to form a national unity government in Palestine. Tehran has received the Islamic Jihad Secretary-General, Ramadan Shalah, before the meeting to indicate that facilitating a deal with Hamas does not call off the other cards it had. Also, Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Meshaal's thanking to Syria for facilitating the Mecca meeting means that Damascus will have the right to follow a hard-line policy in Lebanon in return for its part in that meeting, if it achieves its final goals, especially that it had received words of appreciation from some European countries for its role to bring the two Palestinian parties to an understanding.
Therefore, the waiting of some Lebanese leaders for a solution from abroad may turn into a destructive behavior when they had been promised an upcoming solution

A bloodstained memorial
AlAhram Weekly-By: Lucy Fielder from Beirut
Fear of clashes between supporters and opponents of the government grew as the second anniversary of Rafik Al-Hariri's assassination drew near. But none of the passengers on the two buses that blew up on Tuesday morning would have expected bombs on the eve of the memorial, on the mountain road to Beirut, in the driving rain.
"Before politicians were targeted, now it's everyone," whispered Marie-Thérèse Saliba as she waited at a hospital north of Beirut for news of her friend's mother who lost her leg in one of the two bus bombs. Three people were killed and at least 20 more wounded.
While Lebanon has been periodically shaken by bombings for two years now they have generally targetted anti-Syrian journalists and politicians, most recently Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, who hailed from nearby Bikfaya, in November. Tuesday morning's attacks, though, which occurred at 9.30 am, the rush hour, were planned to inflict the maximum number of casualties among civilians.
Security forces and troops cordoned off the area where the skeleton of a white bus stood with its roof ripped open. Pools of blood lay on the road. Thirty metres behind was the mangled wreckage of the second bus. The two explosions were 10 minutes apart.
Undeterred and defiant, tens of thousands of government supporters poured into Martyrs Square on Wednesday to commemorate Hariri's death, along with 22 other people, in February 2005.
Lebanese flags, as well as those of the governing coalition parties, fluttered as blue and white balloons bearing Hariri's picture bobbed overhead. Demonstrators climbed nearby cranes, stood on the roof of the vast mosque commissioned by Hariri that overlooks the square and sat atop lamp posts.
It was clearly a political rally as much as a memorial. "We've come here to tell the world we are not with Hizbullah or Iran or Syria," said Taghrid Al-Unaisi from the eastern Chouf region. "After the bombs, which were supposed to scare us off, we were even more determined to come."
"Hizbullah is an Iranian seed planted in Lebanese soil and watered by Syria. No to a Hizbullah state, yes to a Lebanon open to the world," read one demonstrator's placard.
Saad Al-Hariri, head of the parliamentary majority, blamed Syria for the most recent bombings as well as the one that killed his father. Their aim, he said, was to frighten people away from commemorating his father's death.
Prime Minister Fouad Al-Seniora promised to pursue the "sinners who assassinated Hariri and his companions, and continued this criminal scenario... with the crime perpetrated today".
"We will not give up our determination to reach justice. We are determined to uncover the killers and deter the criminals." The government and United Nations have approved plans for a tribunal into Hariri's killing, but the president has yet to approve them and parliament needs to ratify them when it convenes in March.
Hundreds of troops blocked access to the opposition protest camp in the upper half of the square which was divided by barbed wire into two. There had been widespread fears of clashes and local television footage reported that the opposition had banned gatherings in areas around the encampment to avoid friction with government supporters. Inside the tents people read the Qur'an's fatiha in Hariri's memory.
Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah wrote an open letter in As-Safir newspaper on 14 February. "Yes, we all lost him -- those who allied with him, because with his departure they lost a strong ally, and those who differed with him, because with his departure they lost a wise and patient negotiator, whose heart was big enough even for those who strongly opposed him," he wrote.
Nazik Al-Hariri, the widow of the Lebanese figurehead whose relationship with Nasrallah had warmed in his later years, wrote an open letter to the Hizbullah leader at the weekend. In a conciliatory, even affectionate tone, Hariri paid tribute to Nasrallah's resistance against Israel and called him "the father of the martyr Hadi", a reference to Nasrallah's eldest son Hadi, killed in 1997 during Hizbullah's battle to drive Israeli troops from the south.
"I have a favour to ask you, who would always answer with loyalty, to make the second anniversary of his martyrdom an occasion that unites and does not divide, and that his grave be surrounded only by those who want to ask for God's mercy or recite the fatiha of the Lord of the two worlds," she wrote.
Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, visiting fellow at the Carnegie Endowment's Middle East centre in Beirut, said that the conciliatory tone of political speeches at the rally pointed towards an agreement between leaders as reported by Al-Akhbar earlier in the week.
The compromise agreement leaked by the paper gave the opposition 11 cabinet seats to the government's 19 -- a veto-wielding third was a key opposition demand -- called for early parliamentary elections and a compromise presidential candidate. A committee would make amendments to the tribunal plans to suit all sides. Crucially, the issue of the resistance would be resolved internally, with the right to resist Israel enshrined in a cabinet statement.
"I think there's a lot of credibility to reports that there was a breakthrough, presumably supported by the US since I don't think Saudi would act on its own," said Saad-Ghorayeb. "We know that Moussa's agreement was based on those four or five items, otherwise Al-Akhbar 's draft would have been refuted."
Pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud said the attacks were to thwart intensified efforts to resolve the stand- off between the government and opposition, which has cleaved the country in half.
"Every time the possibility of a practical solution looms on the horizon... the enemies of Lebanon rush to commit a new crime against innocents," Lahoud said in a statement.
In an editorial in Al-Akhbar newspaper, commentator Khalid Saghiyyeh wrote that the time had come for Lebanon's leaders to announce the Lebanese war -- part two. "The international situation is favourable and approving. Most of the leaders of the Lebanese war, part one, are still present and in good health, and have increased their domination, presence and riches. The popular situation is enjoying an above normal degree of tension. And with great respect to the civil society groups that are working against the war, their portrayal of a silent majority is a lie. The majority, unfortunately, is not silent but loudly giving free rein to sectarian arrogance..." (see p.5)