February 5/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 5,1-11. While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.  Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch." Simon said in reply, "Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets." When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.

Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources For 5/02/07
Who's Stoking the Fires?U.S. News & World Report
Berri Uncovers Letter Paving Way for Establishment of International Tribunal under Chapter 7-Naharnet
Despite Return to Calm, Beirutis Fear New Outbreak of Civil War-Naharnet
Lebanon Crisis could Jeopardize International Aid Pledges-Naharnet
Growing Concern Over Iranian Role in Lebanon-Naharnet
Hariri Criticizes Berri Over International Tribunal, Aoun Lashes out at Majority-Naharnet
Report: Nasrallah admits Hezbollah gets arms from Iran via Syria-Ha'aretz
Syria accused over Iraq attacks-BBC News

Outgoing UNIFIL Chief: Security in S. Lebanon Still ˜Fragile-Arutz Sheva
Syria rejects Iraqi accusations that it's taking measures against ...International Herald Tribune
Israel Names Ashkenazi New Army Chief-Naharnet

Report: Nasrallah admits Iran supplies Hezbollah with arms
By Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondent
Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah has said it is no secret that Iran is aiding Hezbollah by sending money and weapons via Syria.
In remarks published in an interview in the weekend issue of the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai Al-Aam, Nasrallah also is willing to receive aid not only from Iran but also from Muslim countries that have diplomatic ties with Israel, such as Egypt, and states that are considered moderate, such as Saudi Arabia.
The interviewer, Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, said he met Nasrallah several days ago in Lebanon. Ibrahim, a vocal critic of the Egyptian regime, is the chair of Cairo's Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Nasrallah told Ibrahim that his organization kidnapped Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser in order to effect the release of Lebanese prisoners being held in Israel, but admitted that he had made mistakes.
"Perhaps we erred, only God does not make mistakes, and we have apologized to the Lebanese people for this and have paid a heavy price in blood. We do not hesitate to sacrifice our children in the name of our righteous struggle," Nasrallah said. According to Ibrahim, Nasrallah denied any ambition to be a pan-Arab or pan-Islamic leader, or even to lead Lebanon. "My agenda is based on one principle, ridding the oppression and injustice from which the Shi'ite sect in Lebanon suffers and turning the Shi'ites into genuine partners in leading and creating the state, and removing the Israeli threat," Nasrallah said. Ibrahim said Nasrallah rejected claims that he is aiming to become a leader of the Arab or Islamic worlds, or even of Lebanon.
"My agenda is based on one principle: removing the discrimination suffered by Shi'ites in Lebanon and to turn the Shi'ites into real partners in the work and leadership of the state. As well, removing the Israeli threat," he said. According to Ibrahim, Nasrallah also rejected comparisons between him and former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser - who in 1952 led a military officers' coup against the existing government - and of this summer's war against Israel to the Suez Crisis of 1956, in which Egypt suffered heavy losses by Israel, Britain and France but obtained control of the Suez Canal.
"There is no room for comparison between Nasser and any other Arab leader in our time - Nasser led a historic revolution and became the leader of the largest Arab country. In the Suez War he achieved results on a global scale, but my aspirations do not extend beyond the Lebanese arena," he said.

Berri Uncovers Letter Paving Way for Establishment of International Tribunal under Chapter 7
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Saturday uncovered that the government had recently sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council that paves the way for requesting the establishment of the international tribunal to try suspects in ex-premier Rafik Hariri's murder and related crimes under Chapter 7.
In a statement released by his office, Berri accused Hariri and the 'illegitimate' government of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora of sending "fabricated letters day and night to the United Nations … the latest a letter sent three days ago paving the way for demanding the establishment of the court under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter." Chapter 7 spares the government the need to approve the international tribunal in parliament. "Now our suspicions became substantial as to why the Opposition ministers were not allowed to discuss the tribunal plan," Berri said in the statement that came in response to legislator Saad Hariri's interview with the daily Al Hayat published earlier Saturday. "The plot behind not allowing a discussion (over the tribunal) was eventually to resort to Chapter 7 in order to keep up pressure on the Opposition, on the Lebanese and on Lebanon,' Berri added.
Berri also denied claims by Hariri that he was seeking to wait until after the completion of the investigation into his father's murder before ratifying the establishment of the international tribunal. "The suggestion to postpone the endorsement of the tribunal plan until the completion of the international probe simply did not originate from Speaker Berri," the statement from his office said. Beirut, 03 Feb 07, 20:40

Despite Return to Calm, Beirutis Fear New Outbreak of Civil War
Beirut residents are living in constant fear that Lebanon could plunge back into civil strife after deadly street clashes last month pitted Sunnis against Shiites.
"Everyone fears an outbreak of civil war despite the return to calm, and the residents are ready to bear arms," warned Hussam Nagi, who lives in the mostly Sunni residential neighborhood of Tariq Jdideh. The area saw violent clashes between opposition and government supporters more than a week ago that left at least seven people dead and about 300 others wounded across the country. In Tariq Jdideh, the confrontations took on a confessional aspect as Sunni government supporters fought fierce street battles with Shiite opposition activists. The clashes spread fears that the country could revert to scenes of anarchy and violence last witnessed during the 1975-1990 civil war. "The deployment of the Lebanese army is important" since it imposed an overnight curfew that ended the deadly confrontations on January 25, said Hassan Arnaout, a Sunni resident of Tariq Jdideh. "Older people fear an outbreak of civil war because they have already known its bitter taste," he said. "But the young people are ready to carry weapons to defend their neighborhoods if armed outsiders keep coming in." Nagi said "the prevailing calm is not a sign that everything is back to normal. Many people don't go out at night, and there is less traffic than usual in daytime." Nagi witnessed clashes which erupted at the Beirut Arab University campus between student followers of Hizbullah and Amal and supporters of legislator Saad Hariri's Al Moustaqbal movement.
"I helped Shiite students get out of the campus to return to the southern suburbs," he said.
Marwan Qassab, who runs a coffee shop near BAU, complained that "the number of customers has dwindled since the recent events because people are scared to stay out for a long time." The university was closed after the violence and ordered to remain shut until Monday. Qassab shook his head as he pointed to burnt-out vehicles still on the streets, bitter reminders of the clashes that raged in Tariq Jdideh where posters of Saad Hariri are plastered across the walls. In Beirut's southern suburbs, Lebanese army troops also patrol the streets, apart from "the security perimeters" manned by Hizbullah fighters. The suburbs are rife with posters of Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Amal leader and Speaker Nabih Berri. Some pictures of their Christian ally Free Patriotic Movement leader Gen. Michel Aoun are also displayed on electricity poles.
Most residents of the area accuse the pro-government camp of seeking to spark internal fighting, but they remain confident that their own leaders will not allow civil war to break out again. Mahmoud Fadel, a grocer in the Shiyah neighborhood of the suburbs, said "the government camp leaders want to sow discord in order to divide the country... but Nasrallah and Berri will confront this plot." According to Assaad Kanj, a municipal official in Shiyah, the media are also to blame for the continuing sense of unease that pervades Beirut. "To add fuel to the fire, the media from both sides trade accusations, some along confessional lines," he said.(AFP) (AFP file photo shows smoke billowing from burnt barricades on a Beirut street) Beirut, 04 Feb 07, 09:35

Growing Concern Over Iranian Role in Lebanon
President George Bush's heightened rhetoric against Iran's alleged role in Iraq violence is aimed at ratcheting up pressure over Tehran's role in Lebanon and other political activities, Stephen Hadley, a top White House adviser, confirmed. Calling Iran "a disruptive factor in the region," Hadley, Bush's national security adviser, said the U.S. president's tough remarks recently were not only aimed at Iran's alleged interference in Iraq.
In an interview on January 30 Bush warned on National Public Radio that "if Iran escalates its military action in Iraq to the detriment of our troops and/or innocent Iraqi people, we will respond firmly." The White House also last month revealed that Bush had authorized the killing or capture of Iranian agents threatening U.S. soldiers in their activities in Iraq in the second half of 2006.
The U.S. has claimed to have strong proof that Iran is providing the arms and explosive devices to Shiite militias that have caused so many casualties in Iraq, including U.S. military casualties. While Bush has stopped short of branding Iran a "major factor" in Iraq's instability, as part of his new controversial strategy to boost troop levels in Iraq he has vowed to use all the means necessary to protect U.S. forces from Iranian actions there. The frequent mention of Iran has been a marked shift in the White House's message on how it is conducting the Iraq war. But analysts say this is deliberate. Lawrence Korb, an expert at the Center for American Progress, summed up the change in rhetoric "This is not about Iraq, it's about Iran." Hadley said Bush wanted to increase pressure on the Islamic Republic's support of the radical Palestinian group Hamas, its efforts "to destabilize" the Lebanese government, and its alleged program to develop nuclear weapons.
He made clear the U.S. rhetoric reflects concern about Shiite-dominated Iran's region-wide activities among other Arab countries. "There's a suggestion almost that the concern of Sunni nations for Iran's activities comes out of their assessments of what's happening in Iraq. But, of course, if you talk to any of those leaders, their concerns about Iran go much beyond an Iranian role in Iraq," Hadley said. "They are concerned about what Iran is doing to destabilize the democratically elected (Fouad) Saniora government in Lebanon. They're concerned about Iranian training and support for Hamas that is making it difficult for (Palestinian) President (Mahmoud) Abbas to move forward with (Israeli) Prime Minister (Ehud) Olmert to try and find a way forward to a peace. "And of course, there's concern in the region about a nuclear-armed Iran because if the current Iran can cause this much disruption, the concern is with a nuclear Iran."(AFP) Beirut, 04 Feb 07, 10:53

Hariri Criticizes Berri Over International Tribunal, Aoun Lashes out at Majority
Legislator Saad Hariri on Saturday attacked Speaker Nabih Berri for declining to call for an extraordinary parliamentary session to endorse a Special International Tribunal for Lebanon to try suspects in the assassination of his father, former premier Rafik Hariri, and related crimes.
"When is the parliament speaker going to let go of the legislature so the tribunal draft can be ratified?" Hariri said in an interview with the daily Al Hayat published Saturday. "Does that match his concern for finding the killers of (Rafik) Hariri?" the outspoken MP asked Berri. Hariri questioned how Berri can declare his father a "martyr of Lebanon" without seeking to ratify the tribunal plan "with the excuse of waiting until after the completion of the investigation before discussing the court's formation." "The question is beyond Berri's feeling towards his friend and longtime associate in liberating, rebuilding and developing the south," Hariri went on. He said Berri, who is a lawyer, is aware of the procedures for setting up an international tribunal -- from choosing a location to appointing its members -- "and all that take much more time than the probe itself."
"It has become clear that the regional party which does not support Saudi-Iranian attempts in finding an end to the Lebanon crisis, is the same party which is against the establishment of the tribunal, and is the same party which the March 8 Forces are honored to be allied with," Hariri said in an indirect reference to Syria. On the issue of the commemoration of his slain father, Hariri said the March 14 Forces as well his family are planning to hold a memorial service Feb. 14 at Martyr's Square, where Hariri's graveyard is.
Meanwhile, General Michel Aoun said he was surprised by the March 14 coalition's insistence on "changing Lebanese criminal laws in the tribunal plan," saying he had no problem personally with the international court. "We have supported the international probe committee and we have supported the international tribunal to try the criminals and we still do," Aoun declared. "I have no doubts myself in anything. Therefore, I'm not terrified, and the question is what do they (rival camp) want?" Aoun said in a separate interview with Al Hayat also published Saturday. "Why do we want to introduce amendments to the Lebanese laws? ... Why do we want a law for trying presidents?" Aoun questioned.  He said that under the Lebanese law, a doer, a culprit, a conspirator, a provoker, and an accomplice are all tried. If the president is found guilty in any of the above mentioned crimes he will be punished, Aoun added. Beirut, 03 Feb 07, 08:33

Outgoing UNIFIL Chief: Security in S. Lebanon Still ‘Fragile’
11:15 Feb 04, '07 / 16 Shevat 5767
( Major General Alain Pelllegrini, outgoing head of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), said Friday that the security situation in South Lebanon is still “fragile.” In a radio interview on European One,Pellegrini blamed Israeli overflights of the region for the situation, saying the daily reconnaissance patrols “are obviously performed to take control of Lebanese territory, but it could also be a form of provocation.”
Pellegrini did not deny, however, that Hizbullah terrorists are violating the terms of the ceasefire reached last August with Israel by smuggling weapons into the country in order to re-arm.“I cannot confirm it, it is quite probable,” said the outgoing UNIFIL commander. Nonetheless, he said he did not believe more security forces would be needed to maintain peace in the area. Some 12,000 UNIFIL troops are deployed in South Lebanon, with another 1,000 expected to join them by the end of the month.

Syria rejects Iraqi accusations that it's taking measures against Iraqi refugees
The Associated PressPublished: February 4, 2007
DAMASCUS, Syria: Syria on Sunday dismissed Iraqi accusations that it was taking measures against Iraqi refugees while welcoming Sunni figures wanted by the Baghdad government. A Syrian government official rejected Iraq's allegations that Damascus was making problems for Iraqi refugees by restricting visa regulations, saying the accusations were deliberately trying to sour Syria-Iraq relations. "Some Iraqi parties, which are linked to Washington, are unhappy with the positive developments that have occurred in Syrian-Iraqi relations," the official told The Associated Press. The official was referring to the restoration of diplomatic relations between Syria and Iraq late last year, more than two decades after they were cut over ideological disputes, Syria's support of Iran in its 1980-88 war with Iraq and charges that Baghdad supported Syrian militants. Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh last week said Iraqis going to Syria only were given 15-day entrance visas and some were having to leave the country for at least 30 days before being allowed to return."Thousands of Iraqis are being put in a difficult situation," al-Dabbagh told the U.S.-financed Alhurra television Friday.
But the Syrian official said Damascus was "exerting all-out efforts to help the Iraqi people in their ordeal. ... Syria was still standing alongside the Iraqis."
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
However, the official said Damascus was overburdened by the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to Syria and said measures introduced by the Damascus government on Iraqi newcomers were taken for security and economic reasons. He added that granting residency permits to the Iraqis' was under discussion. Syria, with a population of 18 million, is the refuge of choice for those fleeing violence in Iraq primarily because of its relaxed entry regulations for Arabs, the relatively low cost of living and availability of schools and health care. The Damascus office of the United Nations refugee agency says about 40,000 Iraqis arrive monthly.
But the ongoing influx of Iraqis entering Syria has affected the country. Housing prices in the Damascus area have soared by up to 300 percent. Syrians also complain about higher food prices and overcrowding at some schools, which have reportedly admitted up to 28,000 Iraqi children. In areas where Iraqis have settled, residents say some classes have swollen from 30 pupils to 50.
Al-Dabbagh, the Iraqi government spokesman, also alleged that half the militants who launch bomb attacks in Iraq come from Syria. But the Syrian official declined to comment on this charge. Iraq was angered by Syrian President Bashar Assad's meeting in Damascus last week with the head of the influential Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, Sheik Harith al-Dhari. Iraq's Interior Ministry issued an arrest warrant against him in November, alleging al-Dhari instigated sectarian violence. Relations between Syria and Iraq have been cool since the fall of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime in 2003. U.S. and Iraqi authorities accuse Syria of not doing enough to prevent foreign fighters from entering the country — a claim that Syria denies.

Israel Names Ashkenazi New Army Chief
The Israeli cabinet confirmed Major General Gabi Ashkenazi as Israel's new army chief of staff Sunday after his predecessor quit over the handling of last summer's war in Lebanon, official sources said. "Gaby (Ashkenazi) is a valuable commander who has proven reliable ... There is no doubt that he will be able to lead the (Israeli Defense Force), confront the challenges facing the army and ensure the safety of Israel," Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the opening of his weekly cabinet meeting. Ashkenazi, the 19th chief of staff of the Israeli army, will assume charge of an Israeli army in crisis after a disappointing performance in last summer's 34-day war against Hizbullah.
Ashkenazi's predecessor, Lieutenant General Dan Halutz, resigned his post on January 17 after being widely criticized for his role in the military campaign launched after Hizbullah fighters seized two soldiers in deadly cross-border raid. The July-August offensive on Lebanon failed to achieve either of its stated goals of freeing the men or stopping Hizbullah rocket fire. These failures generated a public outcry against the country's senior leaders, including Halutz, Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Olmert and Peretz continue to fend off calls that they join Halutz in stepping down.
Ashkenazi joined the elite Golani infantry brigade in 1972, rising through the ranks to become its commander in 1986. In 1976 he took part in a daring commando raid that rescued Jewish passengers taken hostage after an Air France flight was hijacked and flown to Entebbe, Uganda. He was wounded in 1978 in a military operation in Lebanon. He was named commander of Israel's northern military region in 1998 and deputy chief of staff in 2002. He resigned from that post three years later when Halutz was given the top job, and moved to the defense ministry.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 04 Feb 07, 16:12

Syria accused over Iraq attacks
The bombing obliterated a market packed with shoppers
A senior Iraqi official has said half of all insurgent attacks in Baghdad are carried out by militants from Syria. Ali al-Dabbagh said the Iraqi government has provided Damascus with evidence to back up this claim. It comes after the deadliest single bombing since the US-led invasion of 2003 killed 130 people in Baghdad. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has vowed to put an end to such attacks, which he blamed on followers of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. In fresh violence, four policemen were killed in a roadside bomb attack in Baghdad on Sunday, police said. At least three others were wounded in the blast in the al-Qasra area of the capital.
'Car bombs'
Saturday's suicide truck bombing tore through a market in al-Sadriya district of Baghdad, causing widespread devastation. Desolation and destruction in Baghdad's bombed market More than 300 people were injured in the attack - the fifth major bombing in less than a month targeting mainly Shia areas of the capital and in Hilla, a town to the south. Speaking on al-Arabiyah television, Mr al-Dabbagh said many of the insurgents emanated from neighbouring Syria. "Fifty per cent of terrorism enters Iraq from Syria, and we have evidence" to prove that, the Associated Press news agency reported.
"The Interior Ministry and the Ministry of State for National Security gave them [the Syrians] evidence about those who are conspiring and are sending car bombs. We gave them the numbers of their apartments and the buildings where they live," he said. The Iraqi government, and Washington, have long accused Syria of failing to prevent militants crossing the border. We reassure the population that we will put an end to these crimes
The BBC's world affairs correspondent in Baghdad, Mike Wooldridge, says the Syrians maintain they have taken action and it is up to the Americans and the Iraqis to do more. Prime Minister Maliki said the scale of Saturday's attack had shocked Iraqis and the rest of the world. "The Saddamists have returned to commit a new crime," Mr Maliki said, blaming supporters of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. "We reassure the population that we will put an end to these crimes," he added. Our correspondent says the relentlessness of these attacks in places where they are clearly intended to cause the biggest number of casualties underlines the challenge before the Iraqis and Americans as they build up their forces for their new security operation in Baghdad. He says they have to prove to an often sceptical public here that the threat from bombers and gunmen can be significantly lowered.

Solidere to take majority stake in UAE project
Daily Star staff-Saturday, February 03, 2007
BEIRUT: Lebanese real-estate giant Solidere is planning to invest $6.8 billion in a $13.6 billion real-estate development in the UAE emirate of Ajman, a leading local bank said Friday. According to a weekly bulletin published by Bank Audi Saradar, the project, to be known as "Downtown Ajman," will be developed in partnership with the Ajman government and will cover 10 square kilometers of the Al-Zoura area of the emirate. The development comprises a new city consisting of hospitals, offices, shopping centers, residential buildings, five-star hotels and a golf course. Ajman's crown prince said the development hopes to attract both individual and institutional investors. The project will be funded through a combination of private equity placement, government investments and pre-sales. The development is expected to be officially launched within three months and completed in phases over a period of seven to 10 years. The bulletin said that a new company with financing of $1.1-$1.4 billion will be established to develop the project.
Solidere was unavailable for comment on the project. It was not clear if Solidere would raise money for the project from its portfolio in Lebanon or by launching an initial public offering in the UAE to come up with the funds. A 2006 Cabinet decree authorized Solidere to operate outside Lebanon.
The real-estate firm announced net profits of $82.1 million in the first nine months of 2006, up 60.7 percent from the same period in 2005.
The company reported strong sales and rentals in 2006 despite chronic political insecurity. - The Daily Star