February 6/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 6,53-56. After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret and tied up there. As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him. They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.

Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources For 6/02/07
Arab diplomacy struggles to break Lebanon deadlock-Reuters
Classes Resume at Lebanese, Arab Universities Amid Heavy Security-Naharnet
Israel Discovers Four Roadside Bombs Near Lebanon
Arab League Envoy in Beirut Ahead of Moussa's Mediation
Syria Says it Seized Iraqi Truck with Guns Bound for Lebanon
Lebanon's Women Protest Against War
Lavrov: U.S. Isolating 'Key Actors,' Including Hizbullah in Solving Mideast Conflict
Gemayel Slams Opposition's Syrian-Backed 'Coup d'Etat'
Lebanese in Malaysia Conference to Condemn Bush, Blair for 'Child Killing'
Beckett Heads for Israel, Palestine
Merkel Urges Gulf Leaders to Revive Middle East Peace
London warning: A new step in Jihad Terror-Counterterrorism Blog
Students return to Lebanon's universities-Ya Libnan
Lebanon's youth say 'Yes' to dialogue, 'No' to war-Ya Libnan
Christian and Muslim religious leaders appeal for dialogue, reject - Italy

Hezbollah Leader Says Its No Secret Aid From Iran Comes Via Syria-All Headline News
Lebanon's youth say 'Yes' to dialogue, 'No' to war-Ya Libnan
Lebanon to US: No bombs for Israel-United Press International
INTERVIEW-Aid at risk if Lebanon crisis drags on-minister-Reuters AlertNet
Assad tells ABC-TV that dialogue with Syria, others is last chance ...International Herald Tribune
Lebanon's Mufti praises Saudi initiative to settle Palestinian dispute-Kuwait News Agency
Israeli army's new commander due on Feb.14-United Press International
Arab League chief to visit Lebanon soon for mediation: gov't source-People's Daily Online

Latest News Reports From the Daily Star For 6/02/07
Syria reports seizure of arms bound for Tripoli
Hizbullah scoffs at interview quoting Nasrallah as acknowledging Iranian weapons deliveries
Siniora, Berri trade blows over bid to slip Hariri court treaty past Parliament
New chief of staff will try to repair Israeli confidence
DVD on killing of Armenians to be packaged in Time
Jumblatt meets with sheikh akl on inter-faith summit
Youth group meets with leaders to promote dialogue
Iran's misunderstood strategy in Lebanon
French MPs want Hizbullah on list of terrorist groups
Religious leaders urge calm amid rising tensions
Cabinet rejects FPM criticism of plan to administer Paris III billions
Jund al-Sham militants take over preschool near Ain al-Hilweh
For sufferers of acute and chronic political fatigue, a double dose of 'what's not to love?'
New questions concerning the European Union's future
Giving life a chance in Lebanon.By Riad Bou Hadir

Who's Stoking the Fires?
By Mitchell Prothero
Posted Sunday, February 4, 2007
BEIRUT-The presence of balaclava-clad young men waving weapons from motorbikes is never a good sign. Even so, their arrival during a recent series of street clashes between Sunni Muslim supporters of the current Lebanese government and the Shiite followers of the Hezbollah-led opposition is particularly ominous given Lebanon's tragic history of sectarian violence and civil war.
For more than two months, Lebanon has teetered on the brink of chaos. Hezbollah and its allies have been demanding the American-backed government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora submit to the formation of a so-called national unity government-one that would tip the political balance in favor of the Shiite community. A series of escalating demonstrations finally exploded in late January into sectarian violence that left about 10 people dead and more than 200 wounded. There are concerns about further clashes next week if thousands of pro-government demonstrators turn out to mark the second anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
This should be a parochial struggle among Lebanese in a tiny nation of 3.8 million where the mix of Sunnis, Shiites, and Christians is just diverse enough that no group can dominate. During Lebanon's 15-year civil war, which claimed some 100,000 lives and turned Beirut into a rubble-strewn battleground, the country mainly split between Christians and Muslims. Now, nearly two decades later, the conflict's defining characteristic is the rift within the Muslim community, a split that draws in on opposing sides the region's two major powers, Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran. Lebanon is a testing ground for growing Iranian influence-and for Saudi Arabia's efforts to block it.
This has led to some unusual political twists. After war unexpectedly erupted last summer between Hezbollah and Israel, the major Sunni Arab states-Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan-moved quickly to condemn the provocation by Hezbollah. For the first time, these Arab states essentially took Israel's side.
Lebanon's Sunni Muslims-who include much of Beirut's economic elite-tend to look to the Saudis for patronage. And with the prime minister slot open only to a Sunni (Lebanon's Christians get the presidency and the Shiites get the parliament speaker), Hezbollah's political attack on Siniora is widely perceived as part of an Iran-backed challenge to the Sunni Islam power structure around the region.
When Hezbollah began protesting in downtown Beirut's gleaming shopping district (most of which is owned by Saudi companies), it looked to the Saudis as if Lebanon risked tipping to Iranian control-just as Iraq transformed from a Sunni power under Saddam Hussein to an Iranian-friendly Shiite one.
Political sources say that within days of Hezbollah's initial protests, Siniora was told by Saudis to hold firm and they would pay any economic bill necessary. "It began last summer during the war, when the Arab League came to Siniora's defense," says Michael Young, opinion editor of Beirut's English-language newspaper, the Daily Star. "The Saudis promised him then anything he needed. Siniora does not stand for Siniora; he's a steadfast symbol of the Sunni Arab world and its political establishment. He is always someone who has fought for an Arab consensus to every problem. So to assail him is to assail the Sunni Arab world itself."
But then came a series of street clashes between Sunnis and Shiites that seemed to take everyone by surprise, apparently including Hezbollah itself. "Look, Hezbollah is a disciplined organization, maybe the most disciplined in the Arab world," says one security official, who cannot speak for attribution on this subject. "But it's not enough to control your fighters and officials. They clearly lost control of the kids and their allies, who aren't organized like they are. This really scared everyone involved."
Even, perhaps, officials in Saudi Arabia and Iran, who may have their own interests in not having their rivalry push Lebanon over the brink. Whether or not that is the case, Saudi and Iranian officials unexpectedly opened direct talks to calm the crisis. They need to hurry to keep Lebanon from again sliding into civil war.

Arab diplomacy struggles to break Lebanon deadlock
05 Feb 2007 -Source: Reuters
More By Nadim Ladki
BEIRUT, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Arab diplomats will hold talks in Beirut and abroad this week to try to defuse Lebanon's political crisis before it deteriorates again into civil strife, diplomats and Lebanese political sources said on Monday.
A compromise to resolve the standoff between the government, backed by Saudi Arabia, France and the United States, and the Hezbollah-led opposition, has proved elusive. But talks between senior Iranian and Saudi officials have helped to keep the peace in Beirut after deadly clashes on Jan. 23 and 25 in which eight people were killed and 400 wounded. "There has been little progress towards a deal," a Lebanese political source said. "But at least the diplomatic activity helped calm the situation before it got out of hand." The source said Saudi and Iranian influence with their respective allies in Lebanon had gone some way towards dampening street tensions that have run high since the opposition set up a protest tent city in central Beirut nearly 10 weeks ago. The political logjam has threatened to spill into sectarian violence. Shi'ite Muslim factions spearhead the opposition while Sunni Muslim leaders back the government. The fate of $7.6 billion of badly needed aid and soft loans pledged to Lebanon at a conference in Paris last month also hangs in the balance.
Over the past two weeks, senior Saudi diplomat Prince Bandar bin Sultan has visited Tehran, Washington, Moscow and Paris for talks on the Lebanese crisis and other regional issues. Iran and Syria, Hezbollah's backers, have also been in constant contact. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa visits Russia this week and is sending an aide to Beirut to prepare for another round of mediation between rival Lebanese leaders. A similar effort by Moussa in December failed. The Lebanese opposition wants veto power in government and early general elections. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and his anti-Syrian majority coalition have refused to give in, accusing Hezbollah of trying to reinstate Syria's hegemony over Lebanon.
Other contentious issues include the election of a new president and formation of a U.N.-backed international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and other political attacks. Sources close to the opposition say a formula discussed by Iran and Saudi officials calls for a national unity government, formation of the Hariri tribunal after a U.N. inquiry completes its investigation, and the election of a new president by parliament, followed by early parliamentary elections. But the sources said moves to link any deal on Lebanon to wider U.S.-Iranian disputes over Iraq and Tehran's nuclear programme have frozen progress. Another dampening factor has been Saudi Arabia's chilly relations with Syria. Diplomats say Bandar's visit to Moscow was partly to ask Russia to persuade Syria to cooperate more on the tribunal.
Anti-Syrian Lebanese officials who have visited Moscow in recent weeks say Syria's allies are blocking formation of the court on Damascus's behalf.The U.N. investigation has implicated Syrian security officials in Hariri's killing. Damascus denies any involvement.
The Arab League's Moussa is also trying to mend fences between Riyadh and Damascus. He is expected to visit both capitals before or immediately after he comes to Beirut.Syria was the dominant force in Lebanon for three decades until an international and Lebanese outcry over Hariri's killing forced it to withdraw troops from its neighbour in April 2005.

Classes Resume at Lebanese, Arab Universities Amid Heavy Security
Classes resumed at the state-run and Beirut Arab Universities Monday under heavy security following a ten-day closure that followed violent clashes between pro and anti-government protestors which left four people killed. Scores of Lebanese army troops and internal security forces manned the roads leading to BAU in Beirut's Tarik Jdideh neighborhood as students were searched before entering campus. Four people were killed and 169 injured in street clashes triggered by a row at the BAU cafeteria between legislator Saad Hariri's supporters and Hizbullah and Amal backers on Jan. 25. LU and BAU, which were due to reopen last Wednesday, remained shut until Monday to "consolidate a positive atmosphere" in relations between students, according to an LU statement. Education Minister Khaled Qabbani has said that students should not be dragged into Lebanon's political crisis which has been ongoing since the Hizbullah-led opposition launched an open-ended sit-in in downtown Beirut aimed at toppling Premier Fouad Saniora's government.(AFP photo shows Lebanese soldiers arresting a protestor during the Jan. 25 clashes that erupted at BAU) Beirut, 05 Feb 07, 13:36

Israel Discovers Four Roadside Bombs Near Lebanon
The Israeli army discovered Monday four roadside bombs along the country's northern border with Lebanon, military sources said. The explosives were found buried on the Israeli side of the border near the community of Avivim, the sources said. Army sappers disarmed the explosives and it remained unknown whether the charges had been planted before, during or after last summer's 34-day war with Hizbullah. Recent rains, the source, said could have exposed charges placed months ago. The war with Hizbullah began after the group kidnapped two Israeli soldiers July 12.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 05 Feb 07, 14:46

Arab League Envoy in Beirut Ahead of Moussa's Mediation
An Arab League envoy arrived in Beirut on Monday ahead of the resumption of mediation efforts by Amr Moussa to find a way out of the country's political crisis.Ambassador Hisham Youssef, one of Arab League chief Moussa's top aides, held separate meetings with Premier Fouad Saniora and a member of Speaker Nabih Berri's bloc in parliament Ali Hassan Khalil, the National News Agency said. Youssef will meet with Hizbullah representatives during his 48-hour stay in the Lebanese capital on Tuesday. Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh has said Moussa will resume his mediation on February 8.The Arab League chief began mediating between the Hizbullah-led opposition and Saniora's supporters in mid-December after the anti-government camp began an open-ended sit-in outside the Grand Serail in downtown Beirut demanding the prime minister's resignation.(AFP-Naharnet) (AFP photo is of Moussa) Beirut, 04 Feb 07, 21:17

Syria Says it Seized Iraqi Truck with Guns Bound for Lebanon
Syrian customs officers have seized an Iraqi truck transporting weapons bound for Lebanon, the official SANA news agency has said.
"Syrian customs recently foiled an attempt to smuggle weapons into Lebanon. The guns were in an Iraq-registered truck and heading for Lebanon via the Al-Arida border crossing," it said on Sunday. The vehicle was registered in the restive Iraqi province of Al-Anbar, a Sunni bastion west of Baghdad, SANA said, adding the consignment was apparently destined for a restaurant owner in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.
Customs officers found a cache of 96 9mm pistols, an automatic weapon, a Russian-made gun, 190 bullets and 290 clips, the agency said. It did not give a date for the incident but said the arms were concealed under the truck. It said the alleged arms smugglers have been arrested and handed over to Syrian authorities for investigation, without specifying how many.(AFP-AP) Beirut, 04 Feb 07, 20:57

Lebanon's Women Protest Against War
About 300 Lebanese women held a sit-in protest in Beirut on Monday to warn that sectarian strife could plunge the country back into civil war.
"Enough confessional incitement, no to civil war," read banners raised by women associations in the demonstration at Beirut Museum, once the main crossing point on the "Green Line" during the 1975-1990 civil war. "More than 100,000 killed, more than 100,000 handicapped, more than 17,000 people missing is the price of the past civil war," read a banner. The organizers issued a statement calling on political leaders to stop confessional incitement and trading of accusations. "We refuse internal fighting as a means to achieve political goals, and call on all political leaders to return to dialogue in order to reach a national, non-confessional solution" to Lebanon's crisis, they said.
Seven people were killed and 300 wounded in street clashes between opposition followers and government supporters at the end of last month.
Followers of Christian factions fought each other north of Beirut, while Sunni government supporters clashed with Shiite opposition activists in the capital. The confrontation spread fears that Lebanon could revert to scenes of anarchy and violence last witnessed during the devastating civil war.(AFP) Beirut, 05 Feb 07, 20:09

Lavrov: U.S. Isolating 'Key Actors,' Including Hizbullah in Solving Mideast Conflict
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said the United States is likely the "most difficult partner" for Russia to deal with, reiterating suggestions that the U.S. was being shortsighted by not engaging countries that could help solve problems from Iraq and Lebanon to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"The Middle East settlement has been suspended because, despite our position and the position of the European Union, Washington has conducted policy based on the principle, 'He who is not with us is against us,"' the Interfax news agency on Sunday quoted Lavrov as saying.
He said that the United States is isolating Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah, even though they are "key actors in solving the Middle East puzzle."
Lavrov also laid blame on Washington for impasses in the Middle East, suggesting the U.S. position there was too confrontational, Interfax reported. He said Russian-American relations were far less positive at lower levels than between the presidents, Interfax said.
The remarks reflected troubled ties between the Cold War superpowers, which are strained by disagreements over an array of international issues and over Russia's record on democracy under President Vladimir Putin, despite avowals of common aims on matters such as terrorism and weapons proliferation. "Like any other country, we are interested in having good, smooth, clear relations with the United States," but it is "not easy" to build such ties, Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying in an interview on a state-run cultural television channel. While Moscow and Washington have been able to "achieve mutually acceptable results" on many issues, he said the United States "is not an easy partner at all (to deal with) -- probably the most difficult partner." Lavrov echoed suggestions by Russian officials, including Putin, that animus among U.S. officials toward Russia was clouding relations, despite solid ties between Putin and U.S. President George Bush.
"In spite of the mutual respect of the presidents and their readiness to accept the sovereign decisions of the other side, the situation looks entirely different at other levels of the executive branch," Interfax quoted him as saying. Lavrov said that Moscow is frank with Washington when it takes issue with U.S. foreign policy, and that the United States should learn from its own experience, and quickly. "Too much potential for crisis has built up in addition to Iraq and Afghanistan," he reportedly said. Russia sharply criticized the U.S. invasion of Iraq and has sought to counter what it suggests are overly uncompromising U.S. positions on the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.
Lavrov repeated criticism he made in Washington last week, when he rebuked the Bush administration for its resistance to diplomacy with certain Middle East governments Lavrov said Saturday that Russia and the United States also disagree sharply over how to resolve the dispute over the future status of Kosovo. The U.S. backs independence for the province, while Russia supports Serbia's position that it is an integral part of its territory.(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 05 Feb 07, 11:52

Gemayel Slams Opposition's Syrian-Backed 'Coup d'Etat'
Former President Amin Gemayel has said the Hizbullah-led opposition's determination to bring down the government of Fouad Saniora is a "coup d'etat" against the constitution.Gemayel, who is in Washington to meet with U.S. President George Bush and other top officials, also said that Lebanon cannot afford a new civil war that many fear could break out amid a political crisis gripping the country.
"In my opinion, what's going on in Lebanon is really a coup d'etat... It's a coup d'etat against the Lebanese constitution," he said on CNN television.
Accusing Syria of being behind the opposition demands, Gemayel said that Damascus is trying to undermine Saniora's government and to block the constitutional process designed to establish an international tribunal to try the suspects of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's murder and related crimes.
"This coup d'etat is to block the constitution process ... to endorse the international tribunal. Because Syria is really afraid, because it's the first suspect in the ... crimes," Gemayel said, referring to the murders of both Hariri and his son Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel. The former president also slammed Hizbullah, which he branded a "state within a state." "They have their own army, their own financial system, with the huge and generous financial support from outside. ... Hizbullah enjoyed the full support of Syria and Iran. It's not a secret."
Gemayel said the country cannot afford to have a new civil war. "We're trying now to find a political solution to this crisis. I am, myself, also in touch with the Hizbullah and many other parties, trying to avoid the civil war and to find a political solution to the prevailing crisis."(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 05 Feb 07, 07:42