January 21/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 3,20-21. He came home. Again (the) crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, "He is out of his mind."

Press Release From DOLIDA
Mahmoud Abou Rafeh/Forgotten in the basement of the Ministry of Defense/
SOLIDA 20.01.07

Latest News Reports miscellaneous sources For 21/01/07
MacKay meets Abbas, but there's no welcome mat-Globe and Mail, Canada
Abbas tells MacKay borders with Israel must be settled-London Free Press
Vocal Turkish journalist murdered-
Chicago Tribune
US captures radical cleric's aide-Chicago Tribune
Opposition Calls for 'General Strike' on Tuesday, Economic Committees Likely to Defy Demand-Naharnet
Nasrallah Pledges 'Very Big Action' Soon Against Government-Naharnet
Israel to Nasrallah: Don't Test us-Naharnet
Russia Urges Quick Settlement of Political Standoff-Naharnet
Bush Renews Freeze on Hizbullah Assets-Naharnet

Lebanon opposition to call general strike-Washington Post
An Enigmatic Wild Card in Lebanon’s High-Stakes Politics-New York Times
Nasrallah Predicts More Resignations in 'Defeated' Israel-Naharnet
Cyprus rejects Turkey's objection to economic zone deal with Lebanon-Xinhua

Opposition Calls for 'General Strike' on Tuesday, Economic Committees Likely to Defy Demand
The Hizbullah-led opposition and the General Federation of Labor Unions called for a one-day general strike on Tuesday to keep up their pressure against Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government. However, sources told Naharnet that leaders of the Economic Committees will meet over the weekend to denounce the strike "which will inflict damage and losses to the economy" and are likely to announce Tuesday "a normal working day."
"In the face of the obstinacy of the government barricaded behind the walls of the Grand Serail, the opposition calls on its supporters to step up their peaceful and democratic protests and on all Lebanese to observe a general strike on Tuesday," an opposition statement said. The opposition's call on Saturday came shortly after a similar demand by the allied GFLU in protest against the government's socio-economic recovery and reform plan. "In accordance with its peaceful plan of action against the reforms proposed by the prime minister, the GFLU is calling a general strike for Tuesday ... to put an end to the savage cuts being put forward," said the statement by the Labor Unions following a Saturday morning meeting. Saniora's cabinet endorsed a five-year economic reform package on January 4 that foresees increases in Value Added Tax and cuts in fuel and power subsidies as well as privatization of the telephone and electricity sectors.
The plan, which like the rest of the government's legislative program risks remaining a dead letter with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri taking the opposition's side in the political crisis, is aimed at meeting donor concerns ahead of Thursday's Paris III aid conference. The opposition's call came a day after Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah pledged that the anti-government alliance would mount an "effective" action in the coming days in its campaign against Saniora's government.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 20 Jan 07, 12:55

Israel to Nasrallah: Don't Test us
A member of Israel's security cabinet warned Hizbullah Saturday not to "test" the Jewish State, after Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah hailed the resignation of Israel's military chief of staff. "Israel will know how to draw its conclusions about this war, and I advise Nasrallah not try to put Israel to the test again," Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer told army radio. Lieutenant General Dan Halutz stepped down Tuesday, shouldering the blame for Israel's failure to achieve its objectives in a 34-day war against Hizbullah in the summer. "When I heard the news, I was happy," Hizbullah's Secretary General said in an interview with al-Manar TV station Friday night. Nasrallah predicted that Israeli Defense Minister Amir Petetz would also resign his post over the outcome of the July-August war.
Responding to Nasrallah, Israeli Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon said Halutz had "succeeded in restoring calm on our northern border (with Lebanon) and of allowing an international force to be deployed in southern Lebanon."He added that "Nasrallah is hiding under ground and he will continue to do so for a long time to come."For his part, Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres dismissed Nasrallah as not understanding democracy, adding that "Israel will come out of the current crisis stronger than ever."(AFP-Naharnet) (AFP photo is of Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres) Beirut, 20 Jan 07, 15:26

Nasrallah Pledges "Very Big Action" Soon Against Government
Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has pledged that the opposition alliance would mount an "effective" action in the coming days in its campaign against Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government. In a long interview with Hizbullah's Al-Manar television Friday evening, Nasrallah said Hizullah's consultations with its allies were drawing to a close. "I believe this action will be effective, very important and very big," he said, urging the Lebanese to support the plan.
He said the opposition would announce Saturday or Sunday the steps to be taken but would not disclose details of the action. The Hizbullah-led opposition has been camping outside government headquarters in downtown Beirut since Dec. 1 in a bid to bring down Saniora's cabinet. Nasrallah declined to respond to a question on whether the opposition would close roads, Beirut port or airport, emphasizing that the campaign would remain non-violent, as has generally been the case. One person was shot dead in a street clash, but the protests have been largely peaceful.
Nasrallah said Hizbullah would never use weapons in its political struggle in Lebanon, reiterating that the group's arms were for fighting Israel.
He said Hizbullah's "victory" in the July-August war "forced the Israeli army's chief of staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz to resign his post before facing a committee of investigation that would recommend he be fired." The conflict ended August 14 in line with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, under which some 15,000 Lebanese troops and about 12,000 U.N. peacekeepers have taken control of southern Lebanon, where Hizbullah used to be the dominant military force.
The war, according to Nasrallah, was staged by Israel upon instructions from the United States to "open the western gate to the New Middle East."
He added that the conflict was aimed at "forcing a major demographic change in Lebanon, not allowing residents of south Lebanon who fled the area to return to it … and changing Lebanon into mini states."
That, according to Nasrallah, was supposed to be followed by "staging a war (by Israel) against Syria with the aim of partitioning it."
"Hizbullah, by defeating Israel in the war, closed the western gate to the new Middle East," he added.
Nasrallah also accused local Lebanese factions, without naming them, of "collaboration" with Israel before, during and after the war.
"After the cessation of hostilities, local forces worked to prevent the return of the displaced citizens" to war-shattered villages in south Lebanon, Nasrallah claimed.
Nasrallah predicted that Israeli Defense Minister Amir Petetz would also resign his post over the outcome of the summer war.
He said it was "the first war that Israel has lost and failed to achieve its objectives."
He said the Israeli community was going through the most serious "crisis of confidence" in its history because of its army's "defeat" in the summer war.
"Soldiers don't trust officers, officers don't trust the command, the command doesn't trust the political leadership (government) and the people do not trust the government," Nasrallah said. Asked about reports of the falling popularity of himself and Hizbullah in the Arab world, Nasrallah claimed there was a deliberate campaign to discredit his party. Nasrallah and Hizbullah's members are Shiite Muslims whereas most Arabs belong to the Sunni Muslim sect.
"We are not sectarian-motivated," he said. Nasrallah sought to alleviate Lebanese fears that Hizbullah's campaign to bring down the government of Saniora, a Sunni, was aimed at replacing him with a non-Sunni. "We will stick to the current formula," Nasrallah said, referring to the power-sharing system under which the president is a Maronite Catholic, the prime minister a Sunni and the parliament speaker is a Shiite. Hizbullah and its allies -- in all six ministers -- quit the Cabinet in November after the failure of talks in which they demanded more power. On Friday, opposition MP Ali Khreiss said protest organizers were considering calling an indefinite strike to press their demands. The opposition has been calling for early elections to end the political crisis which has paralyzed the government for weeks.
The last elections in 2005, which followed the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon after a military presence of almost three decades, were won by an anti-Damascus coalition.(Naharnet-AP-AFP) Beirut, 19 Jan 07, 09:33

Russia Urges Quick Settlement of Political Standoff
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has urged an early settlement of the Lebanese crisis and stressed that his country supports an independent Lebanon, the Russian foreign ministry announced. Lavrov, in a telephone conversation with Premier Fouad Saniora, said Friday that Russia wants to see an early solution to the country's political crisis and reiterated its support for Lebanon's independence. "The Russian side reiterated its position in support of Lebanon's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as efforts to achieve an early settlement of internal Lebanese problems through consensus among all of the country's political forces," the foreign ministry said in a statement. It also said that Lavrov and Saniora discussed on the phone preparations for the Paris III donors' conference due to take place on January 25. Lavrov said earlier that Russia is deeply concerned over growing tensions in Lebanon, but it does not intend to mediate to solve the political impasse between the Hizbullah-led opposition and the Saniora government. Beirut, 20 Jan 07, 10:16

Bush Renews Freeze on Hizbullah Assets
U.S. President George Bush has renewed for one year an asset freeze on terrorist chief Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaida network as well as groups like Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad. In a letter to key U.S. lawmakers explaining the move, Bush cited "grave acts of violence committed by foreign terrorists that disrupt the Middle East peace process." "Terrorist groups continue to engage in activities that have the purpose or effect of threatening the Middle East peace process and that are hostile to United States interests in the region," he said. "Such actions constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States," said the president. "For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared with respect to foreign terrorists who threaten to disrupt the Middle East peace process and to maintain in force the economic sanctions against them to respond to this threat," said Bush.(AFP) Beirut, 20 Jan 07, 09:49

Cyprus rejects Turkey's objection to economic zone deal with Lebanon 2007-01-20 03:31:50
NICOSIA, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos on Friday rejected Turkey's objection to a recent exclusive economic zone agreement between Cyprus and Lebanon, the Cyprus News Agency reported. Papadopoulos said that Turkey has no rights over potential oil and natural gas resources in Cyprus' coastal areas. Cyprus and Lebanon on Wednesday signed in Beirut an agreement for the delimitation of the exclusive economic zone to pave the way for future exploration in the seabed between the two countries. But Turkey reportedly lodged a protest to Lebanon, saying that Turkey has a part in the matter and Beirut should ask Ankara's opinion before signing any agreement with Cyprus. Papadopoulos said that the Cypriot government had consulted legal experts on the issue, especially concerning the northern part, adding that Cyprus has no intention to negotiate a relevant agreement with its arch rival Turkey.
Positive findings in the seas off Egypt and initial findings in Cyprus' surrounding areas have encouraged the island state to make further scans for energy resources.
Meanwhile, Cyprus has worked to determine the exclusive economic zone with Egypt to facilitate future exploration of oil and natural gas reserves.

Khan crossing likened to political chess
Torstar Network
Jan 20, 2007
Mississauga-Streetsville MP Wajid Khan's decision to cross the floor is likened to an intricate game of political chess with Prime Minister Stephen Harper being credited with making some astute moves. The Toronto Star reports that Harper's decision to "woo" Khan reveals him for what he really is - a master strategist who did not miss an opportunity to divide the Liberals. "No one is going to accuse Mr. Harper of being a statesman in a political sense. I certainly won't. That's the style he has," said Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh (Vancouver South) to the Star. But political science professor Paul Nesbitt-Larking said Harper's political manoeuvring has been "intelligent.""This is a very, very leader-centric party so what Mr. Harper does and how he strategizes and what tactics he comes up with strike me as very important," said Nesbitt-Larking, a professor at the University of Western Ontario. "I think that on the whole he has been very clever with strategy and a very good tactician... Any time he gets a chance to turn something, to get someone to move to the other side, he's going to make use of that." Harper's New Year's coup of enticing Khan is seen as a precursor to smart election planning. Khan, a backbencher will bring Tories a much needed connection to the 905 region, not to mention the South Asian votes.

Mahmoud Abou Rafeh/Forgotten in the basement of the Ministry of Defense
The SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) Movement is gravely concerned about the condition of Mahmoud Abou Rafeh, who has been held for almost 8 months in the Ministry of Defense.
Mahmoud Abou Rafeh, age 59, is accused of being a member of a network operating in Lebanon on behalf of the Israeli Intelligence Services.
Arrested June 7, 2006 by the Intelligence Services of the Lebanese Army under suspicious circumstances resembling a kidnapping (men in civilian clothes are alleged to have hit his car at 5:00 AM before taking him away, leaving his vehicle on the crash site with the motor running), his detention location was kept secret for several days. If this information is true, his arrest and interrogations without a lawyer present have taken place in conditions contrary to Lebanese law and the international commitments of Lebanon. In addition, since his arrest, he has been held in the detention center of the Ministry of Defense, an official prison to whose basement cells neither the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) nor humanitarian organizations have had access. This is contrary to Lebanese Government Decree 8800 of 2002, which gives the ICRC access to all Lebanese prisons. According to data collected by SOLIDA (data which have been cited in our report published October 5, 2006 [1]) several individuals have been subjected to torture and to conditions of detention deemed cruel, inhumane or degrading.
For these reasons, we are very concerned about the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Abou Rafeh, and about the subsequent legal proceedings in his case.
With no information filtering through about his situation, we ask the following questions: What are the current detention conditions of Mahmoud Abou Rafeh? Why, almost 8 months after his arrest, has he still not received the assistance of a lawyer? For what reasons has he not be transferred to a civil prison, which would guarantee his rights and reduce his risk of being victim of an unfair trial? Finally, in the interest of justice, we ask that he be tried within a reasonable period of time, which will guarantee the families of his presumed victims the right to the truth.Paris, January 19, 2007

[1] « Lebanon, the Detention Center of the Ministry of Defense: A Majo r Obstacle to athe Prevention of Torture », October 4, 2006. Mahmoud Abou Rafeh Oublié au sous-sol du Ministère de la Défense
Le Mouvement SOLIDA (Soutien aux Libanais Détenus Arbitrairement) est vivement préoccupé par la situation de Mahmoud Abou Rafeh détenu depuis près de 8 mois au Ministère de la Défense.
Mahmoud Abou Rafeh, 59 ans, serait accusé d’être membre d’un réseau opérant au Liban pour le compte des services de renseignements israéliens.
Arrêté le 7 Juin 2006 par les services de renseignement de l’armée libanaise dans des circonstances tro ubles s’apparentant à un enlèvement (des hommes en civil auraient percuté sa voiture à 5h du matin avant de l’embarquer en laissant sur place son véhicule, moteur allumé), son lieu de détention aurait été gardé secret durant plusieurs jours.
Si ces informations sont justes, son arrestation et les interrogatoires sans avocat se seraient donc déroulés dans des conditions contraires à la loi libanaise et aux engagements internationaux du Liban.
De même, il est détenu depuis son arrestation au Centre de détention du Ministère de la Défense, une prison officielle dont les cellules se trouvent en sous-sol et dans laquelle ni le Comité International de la Croix Rouge, ni les organisations humanitaires ne pénètrent en dépit du décret 8800 de 2002 du gouvernement libanais qui autorise l’ac cès du CICR à toutes les prisons libanaises. Selon les informations recueillies par SOLIDA (qui ont été retranscrites dans notre rapport publié le 5 octobre 2006 [1]), de très nombreuses personnes ont subi dans ce lieu des tortures et des conditions de détention assimilables à des traitements cruels, inhumains ou dégradants.
C’est la raison pour laquelle nous sommes très inquiets pour l’integrité physique et psychologique de M. Abou Rafeh, et pour la suite de la procédure judiciaire dans son affaire.
Aucune information ne filtrant sur sa situation, nous nous posons les questions suivantes :
Quelles sont les conditions actuelles de détention de Mahmoud Abou Rafeh ? Pourquoi, près de 8 mois apr&eg rave;s son arrestation n’a-t-il toujours pas bénéficié de l’assistance d’un avocat ? Pour quelle raison ne peut-il pas être transféré dans une prison civile qui garantirait ses droits, et diminuerait le risque qu’il soit victime d’un procès inéquitable ?
Enfin, dans l’intérêt de la Justice, nous demandons qu’il soit jugé dans des délais raisonnables ce qui garantira un droit à la vérité pour les familles des victimes présumées de ses actes.
Paris, le 19 Janvier 2007
[1] ‘Liban, le Centre de Détention du Ministère de la Défense : un obstacle majeur à la prévention de la torture’ – 5 Octob re 2006

محمود أبو رافع طواه النسيان في قبو وزارة الدفاع

إن حركة "سوليدا" ل- (دعم اللبنانيين المعتقلين اعتباطياً) تولي أهمية خاصة لوضع & #1605;حمود أبو رافع الذي مضى على اعتقاله في وزارة الدفاع 8 أشهر.
محمود أبو رافع الذي يبلغ من العمر 59 سنة متهم بكونه عضو في شبكة تتخذ من لبنان مسرحاً لنشاطاتها وتع ;مل لصالح الاستخبارات الإسرائيلية.
تمّ اعتقال أبو رافع في السابع من شهر يونيو / حزيران 2006 على يد جهاز المخابرات التابع للجيش اللبناني في ظروف محيرة تشبه عم لية الاختطاف فقام رجال في ملابس مدنية باعتراض سيارته عند الساعة الخامسة فجراً قبل أن يأخذوه مبتعدين تاركين سيارته مكانها تعمل. ولا بد من الإشارة هنا إلى أن مكان اعتقال ه بقي مخفيّاً لعدة أيام.
إن سلّمنا جدلاً أن هذه المعلومات صحيحة فلا يمكن تجاهل أن اعتقاله واستجوابه بدون وجود محاميه تمّا في ظروف تناهض القانون اللبناني ; وتعهدات لبنان الدولية.
ونشير أيضأً أن أبو رافع محتجز في مركز الاعتقال التابع لوزارة الدفاع اللبنانية، وهو سجن رسمي يتألف من زنزانات تقع تحت الأرض يحظر 93;لى اللجنة الدولية للصليب الأحمر والمنظمات الإنسانية ولوجها على الرغم من المرسوم رقم 8800 الصادر عن الحكومة اللبنانية عام 2002 والذي يسمح للجنة الدولية للصليب الأحمر بزيار ة السجون اللبنانية كافة. واستناداً إلى المعلومات التي جمعتها حركة "سوليدا" والتي نشرناها في تقريرنا الذي صدر في الخامس من شهر أكتوبر/تشرين الأول 2006 فأن العديد من الأشخ اص الدين اعتقلوا في هذا المكان تعرضوا للتعذيب ولظروف اعتقال متوحشة، ومذلة وغير إنسانية.
هذا ما يدفعنا للشعور بالقلق حيال وضع السيد أبو رافع الجسدي والن ;فسي ويحثنا كذلك على متابعة الإجراءات القضائية المرتبطة بقضيته.
لا بد من الملاحظة أنه لم يسرّب إلينا أي معلومات تتعلق بوضعه وهذا ما يدفعنا إلى التساؤل: م 75; هي ظروف احتجاز محمود أبو رافع الحالية؟ لماذا وبعد مضي 8 أشهر على اعتقاله لم يسمح له بعد بتوكيل محام؟ لماذا لا ينقل إلى سجن مدني حيث تكون حقوقه مصانة ويضمن له محاكمة عادلة ;؟
أخيراً وصوناً للعدالة، نناشد بأن يحاكم ضمن مهل معقولة ما يضمن إحقاق العدالة لعائلات الأشخاص الذين وقعوا ضحية لأعماله المزعومة.
باريس ;، 19 يناير/ كانوا الثاني 2007.