February 2/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 6,7-13. He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick--no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them." So they went off and preached repentance. They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

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Free Opinions
Negotiating with Murderers. By William Harris 02.02
Beirut and the sad autumn of the Arabs -By Michael Young 02.02.07

Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources For 2/02/07
Lebanese Expatriates Urge Leaders to Come to their Senses-Naharnet
Saniora: Only the Government Should Have Weapons-Naharnet
Hamadeh: Feb. 14 Likely to be Peaceful Day-Naharnet
Moscow Seeking 'Exit' to International Tribunal Issue-Naharnet

Hizbullah's star wanes in one Lebanese town-Christian Science Monitor
Olmert testifies: \\\'Israel won the Lebanon war\\\'-International Middle East Media Center
Democracy In Lebanon Up For Debate-All Headline News
Iraqi Hezbollah leader killed in attack in Iraq-Monsters and
US Congressmen Demand Hezbollah Release Israeli Captives-All Headline News
AL envoy to return to Lebanon to help resolve crises-Ya Libnan
Cyprus denounces Turkey's threats against its Lebanon oil deal-Ya Libnan
Nicola Nasser: Lebanon Crisis Plays into Israeli Hands-Lebanese Lobby
Syria dictating Hezbollah's conditions in Lebanon-Ya Libnan
Israeli Defense Minister: Peretz finally admits war against ...Center for Research on Globalization

Latest News Reports From The Daily Star For 1/02/07
Beirut and the sad autumn of the Arabs -By Michael Young
Military prosecutors begin questioning of suspects in deadly Beirut riots
Diplomacy raises hopes for solution in Lebanon
Munich court goes after 13 tied to CIA abduction of Lebanese-German man
Jumblatt meets Belgian parliamentary delegation
Fadlallah says country needs better leaders
Kafaat Movement accuses Hizbullah of using Shiites to defend Iran
Aridi orders probe into attacks on journalists
Prosecutor inspects Beirut mayor's torched property in South
Emie stresses change to help Paris III windfall take effect
Siniora welcomes Nasrallah's stand against resorting to arms
Even LF smiles on conciliatory tone
Israel sets dubious record for use of deadly cluster bombs
Federalism makes a comeback as sectarianism flaunts its flaws
Health Ministry reports 11 cases of Hepatitis A in Southern villages
Neighbors should repond urgently to Baghdad's call

Kafaat Movement accuses Hizbullah of using Shiites to defend Iran
Daily Star staff
Thursday, February 01, 2007
SRIFA, Tyre: In a scathing attack on the opposition, and Hizbullah in particular, the head of the Lebanon Kafaat Movement has accused Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah of "seeking Iran's money and political protection." "Where are you taking us Sayyed Hassan?" Ahmad Asaad asked. "Why are you holding on so tightly to Iran?" "Stop intimidating the people to put them under your mercy and the mercy of your weapons," he added.
Speaking on Tuesday during a commemoration of Ashoura at his Srifa residence, Asaad said Shiites in Lebanon had nothing to gain from aligning themselves with Iran. "What are we, the Shiites, gaining from this adherence to Iran? Is it technology? Education? Civilization? Democracy, or what?" he asked. "Persians never loved or defended the Arabs. Haven't the Persians always despised the Arabs?"
Asaad said the Shiite community was being used as "fuel to defend the Iranian regime." He also lashed out over Hizbullah's rejection of the reform plan submitted by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora at the Paris III donor conference. "You criticize Paris III, but what is your alternative?" Asaad asked Nasrallah. "Apart from slogans, where is your detailed program to resolve the public debt, increase economic growth and create job opportunities?"
"What about your plans to fight corruption in Lebanon ?" While expressing support for Siniora's plan "in theory," Asaad said he hoped the proposed reforms would be implemented "in an appropriate way." Taking aim at the speaker of Parliament, Asaad said Nabih Berri was a "confused and embarrassed man who doesn't know how to behave and acts contrary to his beliefs." The opposition in general was also taken to task, the leaders of which, Asaad said, were not up to fighting corruption. "Can the most important symbols of corruption in the era of Syrian tutelage undertake reforms and fight corruption?" he asked. - The Daily Star

Lebanese Expatriates Urge Leaders to Come to their Senses
Lebanese expatriates appealed Thursday to the country's leaders and people to step back from the brink and resolve the political crisis through dialogue.
They called on their fellow Lebanese "to reject all forms of verbal or physical violence" and not to "awaken the demons of internal war," in an appeal published by Arabic and French-language newspapers in Beirut.They said the political leadership was to blame for "this dangerous climate."
Lebanese leaders were urged to stop "this sorry spectacle of one-upmanship which is paralyzing the state and its institutions" and work for a political settlement, in what the expatriates called a "wake-up call" for the people. Fears that Lebanon's political crisis could develop into armed conflict grew after clashes last week between opposition and government supporters left at least seven people dead and more than 300 injured.
The Hizbullah-led opposition has since December 1 been stepping up a campaign of protests aimed at overthrowing the government of Premier Fouad Saniora.(AFP-Naharnet) (AFP photo shows a Lebanese soldier securing the area where heavy clashes erupted last week between government and opposition supporters in Beirut)

Moscow Seeking 'Exit' to International Tribunal Issue
Moscow on Thursday was reportedly exerting intensive efforts with Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as other Western states in a bid to find an exit to the controversial issue of the International Tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes.
The daily As Safir, citing Arab diplomatic sources, said Moscow, which has approved the formation of the international tribunal, was cautious about the possibilities of politicizing the court. The sources said contacts underway by Moscow focused on finding "guarantees" concerning the international probe into the Hariri murder to pave the way for "securing the international tribunal's mission."
They said negotiations between Bandar bin Sultan, Secretary General of the Saudi National Security Council, and Russian officials in Moscow last week followed Bandar's visit to the United States and Iran, where talks centered on the issue of the international tribunal in light of "remarks" made by Syrian President Bashar Assad to Iran's national security chief Ali Larijani. As Safir said Moscow did not rule out the "logic" of some Lebanese leaders within the parliamentary majority who proposed to leave the issue of the international tribunal until the completion of the investigation in June 2007.
It said that after chief U.N. investigator Serge Brammertz issues his final report in June, it would be regarded as a charge sheet, setting the identities of the suspects."This is a relatively persuasive logic which could open the door for a political settlement," to the ongoing crisis in Lebanon, one Arab diplomat told As Safir.

Saniora: Only the Government Should Have Weapons
Premier Fouad Saniora said Thursday the Lebanese government should have a "monopoly" right to possess weapons.
Saniora, in an interview with the Italian Rai Television network, was answering a question on the spread of weapons in Lebanon during the recent clashes between followers of the Hizbullah-led opposition and pro-government factions. "In principle, the government is the only authority in the country that has monopoly right to weapons. It is a positive monopoly … The government should practice this monopoly," Saniora added. He said his majority government was "working on spreading its authority throughout Lebanon so that it can be the only authority in the country."
Saniora was referring to de facto semi-autonomous areas controlled by Hizbullah and Palestinian factions, both within and outside refugee camps.
He recalled that his government adopted "a strategic decision" last August sending the regular army to south Lebanon for the first time in three decades.
Saniora stressed that "we will disarm the militias, but only in full cooperation and coordination with the Lebanese resistance (Hizbullah). The Lebanese resistance is part of the Lebanese fabric and it does not include outlaws or criminals. Its members are Lebanese (citizens) who were fighting the Israeli occupation."Israel, according to Saniora, "still occupies part of Lebanon and we are trying to solve the Shabaa Farms problem, which our government deals with it as a priority."He stressed that "our government will keep working with our citizens until we reach a point by which the Lebanese state is the only authority in Lebanon."
As for the two-month Hizbullah-led protest to topple his government, Saniora said the pluralist "nature of the Lebanese society does not accept solutions imposed by force, because there cannot be any conqueror or vanquished." The Hizbullah-led protest has failed to achieve its declared objective of toppling the Saniora majority government. "I will stay in power as long as I enjoy parliamentary confidence," Saniora declared, referring to the parliamentary majority that backs his government. "The only solution is by returning to the dialogue table. Our hand is stretched to all," he added.
Saniora said Lebanon wanted "good" relations with Syria and Iran, based on mutual respect and the non-interference in Lebanon's domestic affairs.
"Lebanon wants good relations with sisterly and friendly states, but not at the expense of Lebanon's independence and sovereignty," he added.
Forming an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes, remains a priority for the government, Saniora said. "We insist on the formation of this tribunal because Lebanon cannot afford to live in non-stop fear. Many Lebanese personalities have been assassinated, and we haven't found the culprits yet," he added.

Hamadeh: Feb. 14 Likely to be Peaceful Day
Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh said Thursday that there was a general understanding to maintain calm and peace on the occasion to commemorate the second anniversary of the assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri Feb. 14. Hamadeh, in an interview with Voice of Lebanon Radio station, said recent statements by opposition and pro-government politicians were a sign that the rival factions were considering not to allow Lebanon's future "to be shrouded in darkness." He said there are some parties accusing the pro-government March 14 Forces of seeking to transform February 14 into a "battle with the opposition."The March 14 alliance has "no such intentions," Hamadeh assured. He said the coalition, to which he belongs, has not yet decided on how it would commemorate Hariri's murder. Hamadeh said news infiltrating from the opposition, including Speaker Nabih Berri, were clear that "Feb. 14 should not be a day to prevent the Lebanese (from reaching the mosque where Hariri is buried) to pray for his soul."
Hizbullah-led protestors have been camping outside government headquarters in downtown Beirut near Hariri's graveyard at Al Amine Mosque since Dec. 1 in a bid to topple Prime Minister Fouad Saniora. Hamadeh also said that Arab League Chief Amr Moussa will arrive in Beirut on Feb. 8 to resume his mediation between Lebanon's feuding parties in an effort to find a settlement in the ongoing political crisis. "There is an understanding to have a peaceful day" (on Feb. 14) which will allow Moussa to continue his mediation, Hamadeh saidز Beirut, 01 Feb 07, 12:09

Olmert investigated, testifies that Israel won the Lebanon war
Thursday February 01, 2007 12:16 by Polly Bangoriad - IMEMC & Agencies polly_1207 at hotmail dot com
On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was brought before the Winograd Committee investigating the second Lebanon war. Despite a chorus of public criticism of the country's leadership, Olmert is expected to defend his role in the war and tell the committee that Israel emerged victorious.
On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was brought before the Winograd Committee investigating the second Lebanon war. Despite a chorus of public criticism of the country's leadership, Olmert is expected to defend his role in the war and tell the committee that Israel emerged victorious.
Olmert is the latest in a string of about 70 senior political and military officials to testify before the commission, which was set up in September and is headed by retired judge Eliyahu Winograd.
The commisson was instigated amid raging public criticism of Olmert in the wake of the 34-day war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. The war failed to achieve it's main objectives if freeing two Israeli soldiers and stopping Hezbollah rocket fire, and caused over 1000 Lebanese civilian fatalities.
Olmert is expected to be questioned over a number of decisions he made beforeand during the war in Lebanon.
Firstly, it is expected that he will be questioned over the decision to go to war on July 12. The committee will ask him about the information he had before making that decision, and what his expectations of the war were. He is expected to be asked to explain what his aims were in committing to such a war, and how he described these aims to the Israeli Army. Olmert will also be questioned about his decision to ignore the discussions of a draft resolution on a cease-fire and embark on a major ground offensive during the final days of the war. The Israeli Prime Minister's ratings are falling dramatically in the wake of a series of corruption scandals involving him and senior members of his government. If the commission finds him directly responsible for the perceived failures of the war in Lebanon, this will be the latest blow for a very fragile coalition. An interim report on the Winograd panel's conclusions is not expected to be published before mid-March.

Negotiating with Murderers
Hezbollah attempts to impose its will in Lebanon by force.
By William Harris
February 1/07
Lebanon may be the complicated little cockpit of Middle Eastern affairs, but the country’s crisis in its latest phase, manifested in the deadly street violence of January 23 and 25, is terrifyingly simple. The Syrian regime of Bashar Assad looks to escape a Lebanese murder rap that could bring it down and thereby also gut the anti-Western alignment of Baathist Syria, Islamist Iran, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Damascus remains desperate to blunt the U.N. inquiry into the assassinations of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and other Lebanese critics of Syria’s ruling clique, and to neuter the U.N.-sponsored special tribunal proposed to prosecute the murderers. This tribunal would have a mixed panel of international and Lebanese judges, and sit outside Lebanon.
In line with Syrian desiderata, a coalition of Syria’s allies, agents, sub-contractors, and fellow travelers within Lebanon has campaigned to destroy the present Lebanese government headed by Prime Minister Fouad Sinyora. The campaign began with the resignations of pro-Syrian ministers on November 12, 2006, the moment the government moved to endorse the U.N.-drafted protocol of the proposed murder tribunal. The Hezbollah-led pro-Syrian coalition has manipulated all sorts of sentiments to pull protesting crowds onto the streets, from resentment of the bourgeois elite to insinuations that the parliamentary majority is the tool of America and Israel.
The underlying drive, however, is transparent enough. For example, on December 21, 2006, the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat reported Hezbollah’s requirement that Sinyora agree to change murder tribunal articles relating both to the responsibility of a superior for the actions of subordinates and also to an investigation into the connection of other political murders to the Hariri crime. Al-Hayat also quoted a “top Syrian leader” as saying that “Syria will not accept the continuation of the tribunal project … in its present form.” Hezbollah has made it clear to Arab League mediators that a new “national unity government” with built-in veto power for the pro-Syrian coalition must precede any Lebanese consideration of the murder tribunal.
Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah proclaimed on January 24 that he can remove the Sinyora government, which retains a membership of one minister above the two-thirds quorum required for constitutional viability, any time he pleases — “tomorrow or the day after.” This threat should raise eyebrows everywhere. The only way to topple Fouad Sinyora with such dispatch is either through the assassination of two more ministers or through a violent coup, with gangs of thugs invading the government offices to kidnap the prime minister, followed by Nasrallah’s ally President Emile Lahoud appointing a replacement.
Otherwise, Nasrallah’s remarks indicate that Hezbollah does not take pro-government forces seriously. The reality is that the inflammatory rhetoric of Nasrallah and his Maronite Christian ally Michel Aoun has driven Lebanon’s Sunni Muslims, not much less in number than the country’s Shia Muslims, to the wall. Most Sunnis have rallied behind a Sunni prime minister under siege, especially as the other top officers of state — the Maronite president and the Shia parliamentary speaker — are respectively a puppet and a hostage of the Syrian regime. The coalition behind Fouad Sinyora comprises the overwhelming majority of Lebanon’s Sunni and Druze communities, at least half of the Christians, and a minority of Shia fed up with Hezbollah’s absolutism. This is probably more than half the country. If Hezbollah has become so convinced of its infallibility and so infatuated with its own propaganda that it can only conceive Lebanese who don’t agree with it as phantoms or traitors, then it really has gone beyond the point of no return. Fouad Sinyora should not waver in the face of such arrogance, and the international community should not waver in supporting him.
Arab League mediators have suggested an adjusted Lebanese government in which the opposition coalition of Hezbollah, Aoun, and others receives a share expanded to one-third of seats, with an independent personality to hold the deciding vote on critical issues. To avert civil war, the Arab League suggestion is reasonable, especially if it is part of a package in which the September 2004 extension of Emile Lahoud’s presidential term, dictated by Syria and condemned in U.N. Security Council resolution 1559, is immediately terminated. What is not reasonable is that the protocol of the Lebanese/international murder tribunal become subject to rewriting by Syria’s allies. Whatever happens to the government, the tribunal protocol should proceed directly in its present form to the Lebanese parliament, a parliament endorsed by the international community as the legitimate product of May/June 2005 democratic elections. There is no doubt that the parliamentary majority will approve the protocol. The pro-Syrian coalition loudly asserts that it wants a “clean” government; if what it wants in fact is a government that dilutes a U.N.-sponsored tribunal so that murderers and those who arrange for murders can evade justice, then it is difficult to imagine a dirtier government.
Any change to the guidelines of the tribunal in the manner apparently desired by Hezbollah would subvert U.N. Security Council resolutions. First, resolution 1595, which established the U.N. inquiry into the Hariri murder, calls for “organizers and sponsors” as well as “perpetrators” of “the terrorist bombing” to be brought to justice. What force could this have if the follow-up tribunal is to be restricted from pursuing the “organizers and sponsors” of the “perpetrators,” for example if heads of regimes can parade their immunity? Second, resolutions 1644 and 1686 request the U.N. inquiry to examine other bombings and political murders in Lebanon from October 2004 onward, for interconnection with the Hariri case. Again, what is the purpose of these investigations if the tribunal is to be restricted in taking them into account? The drafting of the tribunal protocol involved laborious negotiations between U.N. and Lebanese legal experts, and every member of the Security Council reviewed the text. If Lebanon cannot approve the existing draft because of Syrian orchestrated obstruction, the Security Council has the option of establishing an international tribunal without Lebanese participation.
The Syrian regime looks to stretch time and precipitate chaos. Damascus wants consideration of a murder tribunal to be postponed until after completion of the U.N. inquiry, which could delay indictments for an extra year or more. Syria thus hopes to see off Jacques Chirac and George W. Bush, and thereafter to enjoy “realist” horse-trading with more congenial French and American presidents. In the meantime, more weapons flow across the Syrian/Lebanese border to Hezbollah and other Syrian friends. Hezbollah’s fortified mini-state in southern Lebanon prospers amid a Shia population devastated in the Party of God’s recent war with Israel. Both Syria and Hezbollah fret at the constraint on their options for military diversions represented by the enlarged U.N. force on the Lebanese/Israeli border authorized under U.N. Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the July/August 2006 hostilities. Damascus has put incoming foreign soldiers on notice of the fate of the 1983 multi-national force, stampeded out of Lebanon by suicide bombings.
In Beirut, Hezbollah has warned the pro-government side not to bring its masses to central Beirut for the February 14 second anniversary of Rafik Hariri’s killing. In Hezbollah’s political lexicon it seems that only one side has the right to free assembly and free expression. If Syria and Hezbollah have their way and the murder inquiry and tribunal flop, Lebanese democracy will assuredly die and the murder machine will have a new lease of life.
— William Harris is a professor of political studies at the University of Otago, New Zealand

Beirut and the sad autumn of the Arabs
By Michael Young -Daily Star staff
Thursday, February 01, 2007
In March 2005, Samir Kassir wrote a column titled, "Beirut, the springtime of the Arabs." Martyrs Square was then awash with people protesting Rafik Hariri's murder, and Samir felt confident enough to affirm: "Today, Beirut declares that death is not the only path open to the Arabs." Of the grim outfit ruling in Damascus, he noted, "Beirut's renaissance is by far more important than maintaining a regime that leaves only desolation in its wake."
Yet in the space of only two months, since early December last, the Lebanese capital has been transformed into a new Arab autumn. Sunnis and Shiites are increasingly wary of living in the same neighborhoods, while Christians are beginning to look to crossing points between the eastern and western halves of Beirut as barriers against instability from "the other side." Beirut's renaissance remains desirable, the impact of sectarian conflict on our city would have calamitous regional consequences, multiplied by its occurring in the Arab world's laboratory of modernity (another Kassir formulation); but no one has been able to alter the behavior of those purveyors of desolation of whom Kassir wrote, and who, in the end, liquidated him and vandalized his optimism.
There are countless ways to explain the ongoing Lebanese crisis, but the most essential one, it seems to me, is that it is a battle over the destiny of Beirut. Will the city ever return to being that shambling, ill-disciplined showcase of modernity that it has always said it was, a laboratory of bastardized Arab liberalism (but liberalism nonetheless)? Or will it fall back into the lap of a decaying Baath regime in Damascus, in league with an ambitious Iran, whose local allies deploy a language of death and the austere habits of those movements created by a security apparat?
To fully understand these contrasting visions for Beirut, we should also admit to their shortcomings. Take only the most dramatic way the city has been used in the ongoing political confrontation between the parliamentary majority and its adversaries. It would be convenient to interpret the descent of the mainly Shiite opposition to the Downtown since early December solely as the desecration of an island of wealth by angry masses of poor. In some respects, that's what it is. There has been unwarranted hatred in the standoff, a sense that urban prosperity is something to be ashamed of, to be punished. As if the way to distribute justice and equality were by turning a pot of gold into a lump of coal.
However, though we can reproach opposition sympathizers for their obvious delectation in trashing the Solidere area, it's also true that Beirut is paying for its past faults. A city that cannot properly integrate its different communities is one bound to suffer. A vast majority of Beirut's Shiites never had much of a say in Beirut's sundry identities. Shiites were largely excluded from the mostly Sunni Arab nationalist plotline of the 1950s and '60s; the so-called "Palestinian revolution" of the 1970s visited nothing but misery on Shiites in the South and Beirut; and the postwar Hariri reconstruction plan, while in theory designed to benefit all, was little focused on creating a social safety net, one that could have helped pry the community away from its reliance on Hizbullah aid.
For many Shiites, the movement to Beirut has been devoid of an underlining narrative that any intellectual would find invigorating. It's been largely a tale of wretchedness, of escaping the violence of the South or scraping up a better living. In Beirut proper, the Shiite advance into those areas of the capital straddling the old "green line" was the result, principally, of war and displacement. That is why we will continue to see Beirut's original inhabitants treating Shiites as being in the city but not of it - a sad leitmotif heard last week after the Thursday clashes. In this particular case it is Beirut that is to blame, through its imposition of too selective a prevailing spirit - not those outsiders drawn to it.
A great difficulty, too, is that Hizbullah has turned itself into the sole mediator between Beirut and the Shiite community. The autonomy of the southern suburbs can surely be blamed on the unbalanced way the city has developed; but Hizbullah has also found it convenient to separate the area from the rest of the capital. This isolation has allowed the party to better exercise control, to block the dissemination of subversive ideas that any modern city tosses up, to avoid the sort of integration into Beirut, indeed into Lebanon, that threatens to make Hizbullah redundant. If Beirut is to ever truly become the springtime of the Arabs, Shiites need to break the filter that Hizbullah is placing between them and their own city.
That won't be easy. After the rioting last week, several disturbing messages were sent to the Shiites: that access to Beirut from Shiite population centers in South Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley could be easily cut off; that Shiites inside Beirut might be trapped between Sunni and Christian quarters; and that in the event of war, Beirut's southern suburbs would find themselves under the guns of their foes. That is what the city is disintegrating into: a conversation on comparative military positioning.
Even language has been corrupted. For a place that once prided itself on literary output, a glance at news shows or newspapers will show the chronic use of shoddy, loathsome terminology: the opposition is referred to as "the coup-plotting forces" in outlets controlled by the majority; majority parties are refereed to as "the militias of the state" by Hizbullah and the Aounists. The airwaves and broadsheets are filled daily with threats. Media have become instruments of war and mobilization, sources of division - even in terms of who watches which TV channels. So much for the unifying nature of modern communications; so much for Beirut's ability to inject liberalism even into the most recalcitrant of its sons.
And yet liberalism is precisely where Beirut's salvation will come from. It will come once Shiites are truly accepted as part of the city, but also when they accept the city in all its anarchic permutations - not as the representation of a mortal adversary to be violated. For Beirut to have any meaning, it must remain free, disobedient, disorderly, able to take in any strange idea and grind it down into food the city can digest. Perhaps most importantly, Beirut should be spared the intrusions of God, because religion, so utterly suffocating in its Lebanese manifestations, can only suffocate what makes Beirut interesting and different.
There are many in the Middle East who would prefer to see Beirut destroyed rather than emancipated. They should be careful. Beirut may be dumb prey, but like any city that also doubles as a powerful idea, it tends to take down those conceited enough to imagine that they can kill it.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.

Munich court goes after 13 tied to CIA abduction of Lebanese-German man
Compiled by Daily Star staff
Thursday, February 01, 2007
A court in Germany has ordered the arrest of 13 people suspected of being involved in the abduction of a German national who says he was kidnapped, flown out of Europe, and tortured by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), state prosecutors said on Wednesday.
The unidentified agents are being sought on suspicion of the wrongful imprisonment of Khaled al-Masri, a German of Lebanese descent, and causing him serious bodily harm, Munich Prosecutor Christian Schmidt-Sommerfeld told The Associated Press. Prosecutors did not give the nationalities of the suspects - 11 men and two women - although according to German media reports, most of them reside in the United States. "[The suspects] are people who in part were part of the plane's crew, and in part, those who were part of the so-called 'rendition team' - that is, the kidnapping team," State Prosecutor August Stern told the Reuters Television news service. Masri's attorney, Manfred Gnjidic, said the issuance of the arrest warrants was "a very important step in the rehabilitation of Masri," and the first sign that German authorities were willing to back his client against the CIA.
"It shows us that we were right in putting our trust in the German authorities and the German prosecutors," he said at a news conference.
Masri, a 43-year-old unemployed car salesman, says he was abducted in December 2003 at the Serbian-Macedonian border and flown by the CIA to a detention center in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was abused. He says he was released in Albania in May 2004 after the CIA discovered they had the wrong person.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other US officials have declined to address the case. However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the United States has acknowledged making a mistake with Masri. The German government refused comment on the arrest warrants, citing the ongoing judicial proceedings. The CIA also declined to comment. Rights campaigners have seized on Masri's story to press Washington to stop flying terrorism suspects to countries other than the US where they could face abuse - a practice known as "extraordinary rendition."
In a separate case, Italian authorities are seeking the arrest of 26 Americans, all but one believed to be CIA agents, in connection with the 2003 kidnapping in Milan of Egyptian cleric suspect Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr, who is now being held in Egypt. - Agencies

Health Ministry reports 11 cases of Hepatitis A in Southern villages
By Mirella Hodeib and Mohammed Zaatari
Daily Star staff-Thursday, February 01, 2007
TYRE: Eleven cases of Hepatitis A, the majority of which were children between the ages of 2 and 15, were reported in South Lebanon during the past month, Health Ministry reports said Wednesday. Five children in the villages of Shahin and Jebin, near Tyre, and another six from the villages of Tayr Diba and Maarakeh, have tested positive for Hepatitis A.
The Public Health Unit within the ministry tested samples taken from potable water in the Southern villages and found high levels of pollution in water containers at the Maarakeh Public School and rainwater pools found in the majority of homes in Shahin and Jebin.
The head of the municipality of Shahin, Akram Awada, said members of five families from the villages had been diagnosed with Hepatitis A.
Jenin Public School was also forced to close down for one day, over fears that more children could contract the virus.
Awada said his municipality, in collaboration with a number of local and international environmental and health organizations, had attempted to resolve the crisis by ordering laboratory tests on water samples collected from a variety of sources in the villages.
"Results have shown that potable water is not contaminated whatsoever," Awada said. "Only rainwater has been found to be contaminated."
The Health Ministry urged the Water Authority in the South to take immediate measures to refurbish water canals in the region of Tyre. The ministry also called on residents in infected villages to avoid drawing water from rainwater collectors.
Environment expert Wilson Rizk said the main cause for the infection of nearly a dozen Southerners with the Hepatitis A virus was the high levels of pollution and neglect from which all water sources in Lebanon suffer. "Waste water and potable water mix together in many of the water refineries across Leb-anon, including the Dashrieh Water Refinery, which supplies the Southern regions with potable water," Rizk said. Another cause of water pollution is the age of potable water pipes throughout the country - between 40 and 50 years old - and the fact that most pipes have become rusty and are often exposed to open air and airborne bacteria in the atmosphere, he added.
"A third source of pollution is the fact that most Lebanese do not put a lid on their water containers, which means the water is more likely to become contaminated by all sorts of viruses and bacteria," he said. Family medicine specialist Dr. Ardaches Simonian explained that Hepatitis A is an infectious, viral disease transmitted by the orofecal route, via contaminated food and water.
"Hepatitis A is a disease affecting the liver, and caused by the Hepatitis A virus," Dr. Simonian added. Dr. Simonian said there was no specific treatment for the virus. Those infected were advised to get lots of rest, eat a well-balanced diet rich in vitamins and dring lots of fluids.
"Hepatitis A is a viral disease, thus it cannot be cured with antibiotics," he added. Dr. Simonian said that young children who catch Hepatitis A often have a milder form of the disease, usually lasting for no more than three weeks. Hepatitis A can be prevented with good hygiene and sanitation. Dr. Simonian said ways to prevent contracting the virus include washing hands with soap and warm water before preparing or eating food, keeping bathrooms clean and disinfected and, most importantly, drinking water only from approved sources.

Even LF smiles on conciliatory tone
Daily Star staff
Thursday, February 01, 2007
BZOUMMAR: The Lebanese Forces parliamentary bloc on Wednesday saluted what it saw as "positive signs" in an Ashoura address made by Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah earlier this week. The bloc's comments came in a statement read by MP Antoine Zahra after a meeting headed by Samir Geagea at his residence in Bzoummar, Kesrouan. The bloc welcomed any initiative to revive internal dialogue, saying, "We are ready to be part of any move toward solving the current crisis." Nasrallah vowed on Tuesday that his party would "not be dragged" into a civil war, which he accused the United States and Israel of provoking by "targeting" resistance movements in the region.
While saying that the opposition campaign to bring down the government would continue, Nasrallah welcomed any "Arab initiatives" aimed at defusing the political crisis. The LF bloc urged Speaker Nabih Berri to "return life" to the Parliament, "so that all Lebanese can benefit from the constructive outcome of the Paris III donors conference."
The bloc called on the judiciary to take measures against any individuals found to have participated in or encouraged violent clashes across the country last week, while hailing the efforts of the Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces in containing the riots. "Peace and security ... can only be achieved if both the army and the ISF are given more freedom to act," the bloc said. The LF also expressed hope that efforts carried out by Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir to convene an inter-Christian dialogue would soon come to fruition. The opposition sit-in taking place in Downtown Beirut should be brought to an end, the bloc said, "as the last two months have clearly proved that taking to the street only contributes to worsening the situation in the country." - The Daily Star

Following is the U.S. - Lebanon Partnership brief after the Paris 3 donors’ conference from the office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy at the Department of State for your constituencies’ consideration.
U.S.-Lebanon Partnership
Prime Minister of Lebanon, United States Secretary of State,
American Business Leaders Offer Path to a More Stable Lebanon
Highlight Importance of Public-Private Partnerships to Nation’s Future
PARIS, France, 25 January 2007 – Today, the Prime Minister of Lebanon Fouad Siniora, the United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a group of American business leaders announced progress in an effort to spur economic growth and stability in Lebanon.
Prime Minister Siniora, Secretary Rice and the business leaders met at Paris III, an international donor conference in the French capital aimed at identifying ways to build a more promising future for the people of Lebanon. There, they discussed the crucial role of public-private partnerships in helping to rebuild Lebanon for a better future through expanding the reach of education and workforce training, job creation and building technology infrastructure.
Four of the business leaders, Craig Barrett, Chairman, Intel Corporation; John Chambers, Chairman and CEO, Cisco Systems, Inc.; Yousif Ghafari, Chairman, GHAFARI, Inc.; and Dr. Ray Irani, Chairman, President and CEO, Occidental Petroleum Corporation, formed the U.S.-Lebanon Partnership in September, at the request of United States President George W. Bush.
Additionally, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was introduced as a new member of the Lebanon Partnership leadership group today.
"Lebanon faces real and substantial challenges in the wake of the recent conflict, with damages to homes, schools and other critical infrastructure costing billions of dollars. The U.S.-Lebanon Partnership is a great friend to the people of Lebanon, and a leader in the effort to marshal international support for the rebuilding efforts. We will continue to work with the leaders of the Partnership to find a more stable and prosperous future for the Lebanese people," said Fouad Siniora, Prime Minister of Lebanon.
“The United States is deeply concerned about the people of Lebanon and is committed to finding enduring solutions for the challenges they face,” said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “The U.S.-Lebanon Partnership is making important progress towards that goal, helping to lay the foundation for sustained economic growth and long-term stability.”
Today, the Partnership announced initiatives in five key areas critical to creating sustainable economic growth in the region, which include crisis relief and response, information communication technology (ICT) infrastructure, workforce training, job creation/private sector revival and connected government.
Crisis Relief and Response
The Partnership is working with proven non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Lebanon to help address the immediate needs of adequate housing, education and worker training. Today, the Partnership announced a series of steps being taken by the NGOs which are funded by the Partnership, including:
Habitat for Humanity (HFH) will assist approximately 50 families to repair damaged homes and will establish a new Habitat Resource Center to help with ongoing disaster response programs, directly and indirectly helping more than 3,500 people.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will accelerate efforts to return normalcy to children and families, with a focus on improving health and nutrition, child protection and education. As part of this, UNICEF will rehabilitate 10 schools in southern Lebanon, relying in part on youth volunteers brought in from affected areas and across the country.
American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) will distribute Partnership funds among 10 southern Lebanese community-based organizations to link the neediest populations to educational and worker training materials through ICT.
Mercy Corps will rehabilitate 10 schools, expand their extra-curricular offerings, provide IT access and computer training and encourage school engagement among parents and other community members.
ICT Infrastructure
Currently, Lebanon is burdened by a nascent and inefficient ICT infrastructure. The Partnership has pledged to support development of an International Gateway and an Internet Exchange Point to Lebanon which will help develop Lebanon’s economy by enabling open communications in a competitive environment. This support may include donation of equipment, training and consulting. The International Gateway will offer improved international Internet connectivity for Lebanon, and the Internet Exchange Point will strengthen local infrastructure to stimulate local economic development. This project has the potential to improve the speed and efficiency of Internet traffic flow throughout Lebanon and help decrease costs.
Assistance also will be made available to the Lebanese Telecommunications Regulatory Authority in establishing an enabling environment for ICT in Lebanon that can promote innovation, investment and infrastructure development.
Workforce Training
Sustainable economic growth in Lebanon requires a skilled workforce and businesses built to compete in a global marketplace. The Partnership is working to identify and place 500 Lebanese interns in Lebanon and the United States over the next three years. Members of the Partnership have initially committed to placing 115 interns within their own companies.
In addition, Cisco has pledged to double the number of its Networking Academies in Lebanon. The Networking Academy program prepares students for IT jobs through a combination of online, e-learning curriculum and hands-on lab work.
Job Creation / Private Sector Revival
Growing Lebanon’s private sector is the linchpin to creating jobs for the Lebanese people. Over the past two months, the Partnership has conducted extensive outreach and worked with local stakeholders to identify private sector projects that could be accelerated through injection of capital and joint ventures with companies worldwide. The result of this outreach is an initial list of more than 100 promising projects in six key industries – technology, tourism, banking and finance, agribusiness, health care and manufacturing – which will contribute to job creation in Lebanon.
The project acceleration phase will start in mid-February, and the Partnership will work with the United States Chamber of Commerce, Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Near East Consulting Group to create joint ventures between Lebanese businesses and compatible foreign business partners and provide needed funding and insurance incentives. This will be done with the help of key Lebanese business development organizations including Kafalat, IDAL and the AmCham.
Connected Government
Technology has an increasingly important role to play in the delivery of government and social services to the Lebanese people. For this reason, the Partnership will enable on-line community access in Lebanon by providing on-line access points that offer social resources such as job training, healthcare information, on-line education, global resources such as on-line libraries and other rich media content and government services to Lebanese citizens.
“Microsoft has been working with Lebanon's government and NGOs for years, collaborating on education projects, on efforts to expand technology access, and on e-government solutions,” said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO. “So we're pleased to be involved in the U.S.-Lebanon Partnership Fund. This builds on our ongoing efforts to help foster stability and promote development across the Middle East.”
Microsoft supports access to technology and IT skills training for schools and communities through its flagship citizenship programs Unlimited Potential and Partners in Learning. In Lebanon, Microsoft works to help students, orphans, elderly and people with disabilities, and to help small and medium businesses thrive.
“Lebanon will only be rebuilt through actions focused on improving the educational and economic infrastructure,” said Craig Barrett, Chairman, Intel Corporation. “The first $1 million in grants from the U.S.-Lebanon Partnership Fund will enhance the existing relief efforts. By collaborating with proven NGOs, our goal is to accelerate meeting the immediate needs of adequate housing, education and worker training.”
“Only occasionally do you have an opportunity to make a difference in a person’s life, much less in a community. Through this partnership, we have a chance to make a difference in a country and perhaps even a region,” said John Chambers, Chairman and CEO, Cisco. “After visiting Lebanon, I have seen first-hand the serious challenges facing the country. Through the efforts of this Partnership, we can make a meaningful contribution not just for rebuilding Lebanon but to help position the country for leadership in the future. Through the unique combination of public-private partnerships and the support of the global community, together we can accomplish what none of us can do alone. We cannot underestimate the challenges associated with this endeavor, nor can we afford to ignore the great needs facing this country and all of its citizens. The time to act is now.”
“It is my personal goal to help Lebanon return to the country I knew growing up,” said Yousif Ghafari, Chairman, GHAFARI, Inc. “Lebanon used to be called the Switzerland or the Paris of the Middle East, there was commerce and tourism: people of different religions lived as peaceful neighbors. We were hospitable and we were entrepreneurs and our small country welcomed the world to its sophisticated night life, its beaches and its mountain resorts. The world has changed, and Lebanon has lost its luster, but its people have not lost their will to live in peace, tolerance and prosperity. I firmly believe that with our human capital, outstanding educational institutions and the Lebanese entrepreneurship we once again can make Lebanon an example for the region where different faiths and cultures can live together in peace and harmony, an oasis of tolerance and prosperity in a volatile and increasing intolerant region of the world. We cannot lose this generation to ignorance, lack of economic opportunity and a loss of hope, if we do, we have lost Lebanon. We cannot have peace without the hope of a future for the young people, they have no comfort in the memory of Lebanon as it was, they need education and opportunity and they will make a new Lebanon. The Lebanon they make, however, is up to us, they can move to the light, or they can move to the darkness of religious and cultural intolerance, and blind and violent hatred of all things Western. They can work for peace, or make war; my wish, and the reason I am participating in this effort, is to work for peace. Every small step toward peace is a step away from war.”
“There has never been a more important time for the American people to show their support and generosity to those in need in Lebanon,” said Dr. Ray Irani, Chairman, President and CEO of Occidental Petroleum Corporation. “I continue, along with Occidental, to very actively support a wide range of educational, health care and charitable organizations throughout the Arab Middle East, including Lebanon. It remains my hope that the work of the U.S.-Lebanon Partnership, coupled with the important contributions of numerous other non-governmental organizations throughout the United States and across the globe, can assist Lebanon in achieving a more rapid recovery and help in promoting lasting peace and stability in the region.”
**For more information about the partnership and contributing to the effort, visit