January 25/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 4,1-20. On another occasion he began to teach by the sea. A very large crowd gathered around him so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down. And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land. And he taught them at length in parables, and in the course of his instruction he said to them, Hear this! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain. And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold." He added, "Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear." And when he was alone, those present along with the Twelve questioned him about the parables. He answered them, "The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that 'they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.'" Jesus said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown. As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once and takes away the word sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who, when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy. But they have no root; they last only for a time. Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Those sown among thorns are another sort. They are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit. But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold."

Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources For 25/01/07
Hezbollah driven by Iran and Syria, Lebanese Premier claims-Times Online
France offers Lebanon 500 mln euro soft loan-Reuters
UN urges help for Lebanon, EU pledges more aid-Reuters
Lebanon returns to work after deadly protests-MSNBC
Hizballah Protests Meant to Weaken Western Resolve Against Iran -

Will the circus - and the nightmare - in Lebanon end?The Brunei Times
Siniora points finger at Damascus and
Embattled Lebanese PM seeks foreign aid boost-Reuters
Christian infighting is forbidden and should be stopped-Ya Libnan
Chirac: Lebanon Unrest Discourages Paris III Conference-Naharnet
Yesterday a day of shame as cancer of Iraq spread to Lebanon-Ya Libnan

US voices concern over Lebanon violence-People's Daily Online
Hizbollah fans flames of
3 dead, 100 hurt in Lebanon clashes-Jerusalem Post

New Report Says Environmental Risks Remain In South Lebanon-All Headline News
European Commission To Press Lebanon On Reforms-World Bank Group
Hezbollah-led protesters target Lebanon-Houston Chronicle
Hezbollah strikes causes chaos in Beirut-Times Online
Hezbollah's actions unacceptable - Moore-Liberal Democrats
Are Not on Our Side-The Weekly Standard
Paris Meeting Sparks UN Clash With Hezbollah-New York Sun
Iran, Syria Storing Weapons for Hizbullah-Arutz Sheva

The new cold war in Lebanon and Palestine
By Rami G. Khouri -Daily Star staff
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Lebanon and Palestine are the most dramatic examples of the new ideological battle that now defines much of the Middle East, where local players and medium-strength regional powers often interact with one another in parallel with foreign powers' interests and goals. While tensions were increasing in Beirut last weekend in anticipation of Tuesday's nationwide strike action by the Hizbullah-led opposition against the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, in Damascus the leaders of the two leading Palestinian political groups, Hamas and Fatah, were meeting under Syrian auspices to try and solve their dispute over who rules Palestine and defines its foreign policy vis-a-vis Israel.
If you were too young to remember the Cold War, study this dynamic closely, because it is a miniature version of the former global contest. It is possible that the Middle East-anchored new cold war we are living through these days may persist for many years, or it may be over in two or three years, depending on how both sides harness and use their competitive assets. For now, we can only identify some of the new rules and realities of the regional confrontation.
The two core powers who confront each other in the Middle East today are the United States on one side, and the Iran-Syrian tandem on the other. Major supporting actors and local allies include Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Europeans. Lebanon and Palestine are the two most interesting proxy wars in this battle. Iraq is, of course, also important, but the domestic tensions that have been unleashed there are more likely to determine the country's fate than actions by foreign powers. What makes Lebanon and Palestine so fascinating today is how they have rewritten the rules of Cold War proxy warfare, in which local actors fight ideological battles on behalf of their more powerful patrons and allies.
During the Cold War, rival ideological powers usually confronted one another from neighboring states, such as North and South Vietnam, Syria and Jordan, Iraq and Iran, Somalia and Ethiopia, and dozens of other such pairs of ideologically antagonistic states. In the Middle East
today, the competing political forces are usually found within the same country, and often share local legitimacy. Just as in the Cold War, they fight on many fronts, including the occasional clash or local insurrection, but more often via competing political ideologies and economic policies.
In Lebanon the Siniora government and the Hizbullah-led opposition are fighting an intense battle on many fronts, just as the Hamas and Fatah camps square off in Palestine. They do so as part of a local political power struggle, but also explicitly as part of the wider confrontation between the US and Iran-Syria. The fact that these face-offs now occur within Arab countries, rather than between different countries, reflects a bizarre reality: Most Arab countries - in some cases half a century or more after their birth - still have not achieved stable statehood based on the collective allegiance of satisfied citizens. Different groups not only compete for political control of the government, but for the even more basic ideological definition of the state and its policies.
The Fatah-Hamas talks in Damascus last weekend were perhaps most interesting for their location: in the Syrian capital. The substance and outcome of the talks are less dramatic matters, because they are largely known and also perhaps slightly irrelevant, sadly so. This is because the Palestinians will almost certainly agree on a national unity government based on the principles in the agreement reached last year by leading Palestinians in Israeli jails; yet a unity government will not have any serious impact on the burning issue of whether to make war or peace with Israel. There is simply too large a gap between Hamas' refusal to recognize and deal with Israel and Fatah's insistence on resuming peace talks with Israel for this to be bridged by a vague national unity government agreement whose main advantage is diplomatic imprecision.
Holding the meeting in Damascus also was significant because it highlighted the role that Syria hopes to play as a broker among different parties in the region, especially those who oppose the US and some of its Arab allies. Earlier this month Syria hosted Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and now it wants to show that it can achieve results on Palestine that are beyond the reach of the US, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel or any other third power. Syria's links with Hizbullah and other smaller Lebanese opposition groups give it continued influence in Lebanon.
Syrian and Iranian attempts to score points in their contest with the US by using their influence and alliances with junior partners in the region, such as Hamas, is classic cold war-type behavior.
***Rami G. Khouri writes a regular commentary for THE DAILY STAR.

The US is taking us for a ride on the peace process
By Ali Jarbawi -Daily Star
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
The Bush administration's Middle East policy has been a failure. Not only has the promised "new Middle East" not seen the light of day but, Iraq, the country Washington had designated as the fulcrum of democratic change in the region, has instead become a chaotic battleground costing thousands of Iraqi and tens of American lives every month.
With Iraq a swamp dragging down the administration, an always complicated region is becoming ever harder to handle for the United States. By developing its nuclear technology, Iran is bluntly challenging Washington. Syria is exerting varying degrees of influence in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. The Lebanese government, which is supported by the West, is facing a serious internal stand-off with Hizbullah. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is accepted in the West, now has to contend with a government formed by Hamas that the West shuns.
The Israeli government, meanwhile, is creaking from its defeat in Lebanon last year and corruption accusations. Even moderate Arab countries that rely on US support are complaining of the ineptitude of the administration in adapting its policies to the complications of the region.
The bipartisan Iraq Study Group (ISG), which was formed to investigate the situation in Iraq, was damning in its assessment. Contrary to the prevailing "wisdom" of the administration, the report affirmed the interrelatedness of the region's conflicts and problems and identified the resolution of the Arab-Israel conflict as central. While US President George W. Bush does not intend to follow the report's recommendations, he could not ignore it completely either. So when announcing his "new" Iraq policy, a policy at odds with the ISG findings, he also sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on a tour of the region to garner Arab support.
As always when the US is at a loss in the region, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict receives renewed attention. This time was no exception. The Quartet's "road map" was officially launched nearly four years ago, but was completely ignored by then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and the US did little. Now, all of a sudden, Rice has proclaimed herself interested in resuscitating the plan and remembered that Palestinians are suffering and deserve an end to their suffering in a state of their own.
Yet despite this sudden recollection, Rice had nothing new to offer. She met Israeli ministers Avigdor Liebermann, Tzipi Livni and Amir Peretz, held discussions with Abbas, came back to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, roamed various Arab capitals, and announced in every place her desire to find a political solution. But she didn't have a plan. She came, she said, to discover and listen, but the only things to discover were the increasing number of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and yet more Palestinian suffering.
Nevertheless, in return for promising to increase her efforts to find a solution, she received the desired Arab support for Bush's "new" Iraq strategy. Moderate Arab countries held up her promise as justification for their continued support of US policy. These "moderates" welcomed Rice's announcement of a three-way summit with Abbas and Olmert in the coming few weeks, because what's important to them is change, even if it is only a facade, that promises a "positive possibility" for the future.
Is there really a "positive possibility" in the general American attitude toward achieving a political solution? If "positive possibility" means seeking to achieve an end to the Israeli occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders (with minor and agreed-upon adjustments), and resolving the issue of refugees according to international resolutions, then yes. But this is not a priority of the current administration. Like previous administrations, perhaps even more, the Bush administration tends to adapt to what Israel wants.
Israel wants a long-term transitional stage. It is about to finish building the wall that lets it keep what it wants from the West Bank and leaves Palestinians the overcrowded leftovers. These leftovers will then form the body of a temporary state contained behind the wall. If the Palestinians and Arabs accept that, Rice will continue shuttling to seal "the deal." Other than that, there is no "positive possibility" for her to offer.
Should Palestinians and Arabs accept this "temporary" solution then? Is it as good as it gets? It should not be. The American regional predicament grows deeper every day. If Arabs were to stand united, they would be able to gain more than this minimal Israeli offer. Palestinians and Arabs should avoid any transitional solutions. They should avoid a return to a negotiating process that is open-ended, non-sequential and non-binding.
There is an alternative. Arabs in general, and Palestinians in particular, should insist on implementation of the Arab Initiative presented in Beirut at the Arab League summit of 2002. It provides a good basis for any negotiation process, and presents a clear and agreed-upon final goal that would shape the stages and mechanisms leading to this.
But if Palestinians and Arabs return to the same negotiating route as before, Rice, Bush and Olmert will take them for another "ride." That, unfortunately, is the most likely scenario and will be used as justification for transforming this "temporary" state into a permanent one.
***Ali Jarbawi is a professor of political science at Bir Zeit University. This commentary first appeared at, an online newsletter publishing contending views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

General strike imposes virtual travel blockade on embattled capital
By Lysandra Ohrstrom -Daily Star staff
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
BEIRUT: Mountains of smoldering tires, burning garbage, and rubble blocked all major routes in and out of Beirut Tuesday, including the only highways leading to the international airport and the port, causing daily life to grind to a halt once again.
Bands of teenage opposition supporters manned the makeshift barricades lining both highways linking Lebanon to Syria and the Airport Road, effectively imposing a travel embargo on the capital since early Tuesday morning.
Though Rafik Hariri International Airport officially remained open, most foreign carriers cancelled scheduled flights to and from Lebanon and about 300 travelers and 150 Chinese peacekeeping troops remained marooned inside.
"We have been locked in the airport all day," one civil aviation official told The Daily Star from his office inside the main passenger terminal. "Very few people have managed to escape today," he added. He was still in his office at 8 pm, where he expected to remain throughout the evening.
As The Daily Star went to press, reports emerged that the opposition was lifting the strike and reopening the roads.
A high-ranking official at Lebanon's national airline, Middle East Airlines (MEA), who refused to go on the record said the carrier was "living day by day" and had no idea what MEA's schedule would be like on Wednesday.
"We don't know anything and can only wait," he said on condition of anonymity.
"The roads are closed and people cannot leave the airport," he told The Daily Star. "A few got out and walked, but five planes have arrived and the passengers are just sitting in the airport. We are providing food and shelter to most of them until we figure out what to do next. "
Flights from Kuwait City, Dubai, Paris, Geneva, Frankfurt, and London all departed to Beirut after news of the airport blockade was announced. Each landed successfully, but arriving passengers were not able to leave the airport.
The head of the Civil Aviation Authority did not respond to calls to confirm rumors that stranded passengers would be flown to Cyprus.
"They knew [about the disturbances] and they wanted to come anyway," he explained.
A few would-be passengers who did attempt to leave Lebanon on Tuesday - and make the smoky 10-kilometer trek from Beirut with their baggage - were allegedly turned away by opposition supporters camped at the terminal entrance.
One eyewitness who reached the airport on foot said Hizbullah security men told two or three passengers they would have to change their tickets and refused to allow them Captain Roy Deffaro, the head of the MEA Pilots Syndicate, was among the many airport staffers who did not attend work Tuesday."I'm not flying because I'm not at the airport. There are burning tires outside my door," he said on the telephone from his home in Hazmieh. "Yes, the airport is officially open and officially we are not on strike, but unfortunately because of the situation right now we cannot fly."
Like other, Deffaro said he had no idea what would happen on Wednesday.
Since major roads remained impassable by car, most Beirutis stayed in their respective neighborhoods. For the few who did work, Tuesday was anything but business as usual. Alfa Taxi in Achrafieh was open, but only three of 15 drivers it employs came to work, either because they joined the strike or because they could not reach headquarters. "It doesn't matter that no one showed up because people were barely moving," said a manager who would only give his first name, Said. "We are going between Achrafieh and Furn al-Shebbak only, and you can't drive between East and West Beirut. No one knows what will happen tomorrow." The director general of roads and buildings at the Public Works and Transport Ministry was also unsure of whether roads would be open on Wednesday, but said he would go to work as he had done Tuesday. "Even today we don't know what the end of the day will look like," Fadi Nammar said. The opposition called an end to the strike shortly before 10 p.m. Though no debris was removed, witnesses said tire-burning had stopped. Traffic was seen on small streets in Ouzai, and a few shops opened their doors.

One day was more than enough
Opposition calls off strike but warns of 'far worse' to come if government refuses to give in
By Rym Ghazal -Daily Star staff
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
BEIRUT: The Hizbullah-led opposition's general strike against the government on Tuesday led to a nationwide protest that paralyzed the country and left its capital engulfed in barricades of blazing tires and bloodied by clashes that left at least three dead and over 130 wounded.
Late Tuesday, the opposition announced that it would lift its strike. Prior to the announcement, however, the man whom the crippling protest was aimed at unseating - Prime Minister Fouad Siniora - issued a brief, firm address to the nation in which he stood his ground and announced he would remain in office, even as the country appeared to be drawing to the verge of another civil war. "We are at a dangerous crossroads: Either we are heading to a civil war, or heading to dialogue," Siniora said in a televised address from inside the Grand Serail, where he has been residing since the beginning on December 1 of a sit-in in the heart of the capital aimed at deposing his government. The peaceful anti-government campaign had been escalating slowly over the past two months, until on Tuesday it suddenly surged and turned violent.
As The Daily Star went to press, unverified reports had emerged that at least seven had perished in street clashes. "We will stand together against intimidation. We will stand together against strife," Siniora said, calling on the opposition to "get off the streets" and return to dialogue.
Fear gripped the country as residents of the capital watched columns of smoke rising in all directions, fed by the blazing tires, cars and garbage that opposition protesters used to block all main routes into Beirut. It was the second time in less than six months that Lebanon was besieged, with its highways, main roads, ports and airport completely blocked off - the predicament reminiscent of the summer 2006 war with Israel.
Siniora was forced to cancel a flight to Paris, where he was to join the Paris III international donor conference for Lebanon on Thursday.
The premier called for an immediate extraordinary session of Parliament to defuse the crisis, pleading for "our brothers in the opposition" to join in.
In its announcement that the strike would end, the opposition said that the day's chaos had been a "warning.""This was a warning to the government," said Hizbullah MP Amin Cherri, reading a joint opposition statement. "The government has to respond to our demands, and if doesn't, then it should expect even greater escalation, far worse than today's," Cherri told The Daily Star.
Lebanese troops and police remained on high alert throughout the day, working to keep rival groups apart. Security forces made sporadic efforts to open roads but made little headway because of the crowds of protesters. Violent clashes erupted across the country, with two areas witnessing the return of old "fault lines" from the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War. The Shiite supporters of Hizbullah and Amal clashed with the Future Movement's Sunni supporters in the predominantly Sunni area of Corniche al-Mazraa. Stone-throwing and fistfights injured dozens of people and wreaked damage on cars and private property. At the same time, supporters of Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun clashed with followers of Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea in several predominantly Christian areas, in fights recalling the leaders' bitter rivalry in the late 1980s.
Lebanese officials were quoted as warning that the Aoun-Geagea struggle may turn into "a war of elimination."Many shops, schools and businesses were closed in Beirut, either because of business owners supporting the strike, or because employees could not get to work past fiery barricades.
Many commuters were stranded, and an eerie silence hung heavily over most of the capital's commercial districts."What is happening is a revolution and a coup d'etat," Geagea told local media.
"This is direct terrorism to paralyze the country," he said, going on to criticize the national security apparatus for failing to "guarantee safe and open passage for the Lebanese."After Defense Minister Elias Murr instructed the army to "avoid use of force," the troops remained on alert, with shots fired in the air and tear gas released whenever riots erupted. "Our campaign will escalate day by day," former Minister Suleiman Franjieh, an opposition leader, told Al-Manar television earlier on Tuesday. "As long as they won't listen to us, we will not let them rest." Some residents caught in the middle of the clashes between the two opposed Christian parties called on their religious leader, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, for help and for an end to clashes before the situation deteriorated into a violent intra-Christian war. Sfeir met Tuesday with the US ambassador to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman, but no statement was made to the media following the meeting.
The US State Department released a statement blaming the opposition for the violence and saying it was "deeply concerned" about Lebanese factions "allied with Syria" that "are trying to use violence, threats and intimidation to impose their political will on Lebanon.""Especially given the dangers of sectarian clashes, the United States calls on all parties to use peaceful and constitutional means to debate the political issues before them, and to exercise restraint," said the statement. Germany, which holds the rotating EU presidency, also called on both sides in Lebanon to halt violence that has killed three people and left scores of others injured, saying Tuesday that the only way to resolve the ongoing dispute there was through dialogue.
The German government said the European Union continues to strive for a peaceful future in Lebanon and that it would underline the point during Thursday's donor conference in Paris. - With agencies

Demonstrations bring both traffic and commerce to halt in Chouf, South
By Mohammed Zaatari and Maher Zeineddine -Daily Star correspondent
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
SOUTH LEBANON/ CHOUF: The South and the Chouf, like most of the country, saw protesters respond to the opposition's call for a general strike and civil disobedience on Tuesday. In Sidon, hundreds of opposition youths started protesting at dawn, shutting the area's roads by burning tires while chanting anti-government slogans.The Lebanese Army tried to prevent demonstrators from reaching a square that links Sidon to Jezzine, but protesters succeeded in doing so, cutting off roads and throwing stones at Civil Defense vehicles.
A group of young protesters attacked a reporter from Al-Mustaqbal and another journalist from Ash-Sharq radio, forcing the newspaper reporter to hand over a CD on which he had saved his photographs.The Abra road and several other streets in Sidon were reopened by security forces and Civil Defense personnel soon after protesters had blocked them. Clouds of thick black smoke covered the Siniq area, where partisans of the Amal Movement and Hizbullah cut the coastal road between Sidon and other Southern regions by burning tires and erecting sand barriers, preventing workers at the industrial city from reaching their jobs.
Witnesses told The Daily Star that when a number of shop owners tried to open their businesses, rioters hit them with chairs and sticks.
At around 7 a.m., Sidon's streets returned to normal activity, with cars and buses transporting the area's residents to schools and work. But dozens of merchants at Sidon's commercial souk were prevented from getting to work by supporters of the Popular Nasserite Organization, who created a human chain blocking the souk's entrance. Mohammad Derr, a merchant, was attacked while opening his business and his shop window was destroyed.Sources told The Daily Star that municipality workers demanded that owners of commercial institutions close their businesses, and threatened to withdraw municipality licenses from them if they refused.
Future Movement supporters in Sidon also gathered a few meters from the souk, shouting slogans in support of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the group's leader, MP Saad Hariri. A bomb was thrown near Hammoud Hospital without causing any damage.
The region's banks, institutions, Serail and markets along Riad al-Solh Street witnessed somewhat normal activity. But by evening, Sidon was mostly deserted, since sand barriers were erected to cut the Sidon-Tyre road and all roads north and south of the city. Security forces were eventually able to remove all but one barrier at the Siniq bridge. Tyre and Bint Jbeil responded to the opposition's request and closed all institutions, the National News Agency reported. Navigation activity was also halted in the ports at Tyre and Naqoura. The Marjayoun, Hasbayya and Khiam roads were also shut.
In the Chouf, Aley and Upper Metn, however, universities, schools, banks and commercial and industrial institutions were operating normally.
Area residents foiled an opposition attempt to burn tires on the Dmit-Jahiliyeh road in the Chouf. On the Dahr al-Wahesh road in Aley, a clash erupted between the Lebanese Army and the opposition, leaving two wounded, identified as Saleh Aridi and Rozba Zeineddine.
A group of about 25 opposition protesters shut the coastal road near the Khaldeh bridge. In Sofar, an armed clash left three people wounded, Ayad and Alaa Abdel-Khalek and Hafez Ahmadieh. The Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) issued a statement condemning the "regrettable" incident.
"In order to prevent sectarian strife prepared by [Hizbullah leader] Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and his masters in Damascus, the PSP has handed the man accused of the shooting in Sofar over to security forces," the statement said.

Security forces struggle to hold the line between rival mobs across the country
By Maria Abi-Habib -Special to The Daily Star
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
BEIRUT: Lebanon's army - backed by police forces - tried Tuesday to stamp out violence erupting from street protests, only to see it resume again in area after area. By the time The Daily Star went to press, at least three people had died and 133 others, including eight policemen, were wounded in clashes. Hotspots for Tuesday's clashes included Jounieh, Batroun, Chekka, Koura, Akkar and Tripoli in Northern Lebanon; Dekkwaneh, Nahr al-Mott and Jdeideh in Mount Lebanon; and Corniche al-Mazraa and Tariq al-Jdideh in Beirut. An Internal Security Forces (ISF) official told The Daily Star that he feared violence in Tripoli and Chekka could worsen overnight. The ISF official did not wish to be identified, as he was not authorized to speak to the media. "In the North protesters are using knives and guns," said one Emergency Medical Services source. "In the North every house has weapons and has easier access to them than in Beirut. In Beirut bottles and sticks are mostly used in clashes." Using bulldozers to scatter protesters, the army reopened Nahr al-Mott in the afternoon, after it was blockaded by demonstrators in the morning. Troops were deployed along Kesrouan's highway to ensure it remained open to traffic.
Despite repeated attempts to quell violence, clashes continued erupting in Tripoli and Chekka in the North. Violence between Hizbullah and Future Movement supporters killed at least two people in Tripoli. Supporters of the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement clashed in Chekka, leaving many wounded. "ISF units are monitoring the roads," said the ISF official. "About 21,000 forces - army and police - are present throughout Lebanon." Sources at EMS predicted that tensions in Corniche al-Mazraa could reignite. The area was the scene of intense clashes throughout the day, despite a large army presence.Security in Downtown Beirut was beefed up to 1,000 army personnel, according to a sergeant stationed there who wished to remain anonymous. All thoroughfares to the Parliament were blocked with two rows of cement blocks buttressing 2 meters of barbed wire.
"Security is nil," said Nader al-Fata, an employee at Bank of Beirut's Downtown branch. "In Downtown it's a bit safer as the Lebanese security forces are here." Most banks in the Downtown area were open. The Banque du Liban in Hamra had 20 troops on hand to "resist any attempt at looting," said one soldier, who declined to give his name as he was not authorized to comment.

Reactions to strike split: 'great success' or 'barbaric bazaar?'
Rivals trade charges over 'deteriorating situation'
Daily Star staff-Wednesday, January 24, 2007
BEIRUT: Some politicians called it a victory, others a defeat. Many said it violated the principles of freedom and democracy, while their opponents argued that it was the inevitable result of the government's failure to meet popular demands. Either way, Tuesday's strike and street violence indisputably served to widen divisions among the country's factions.The March 14 Forces accused the opposition on Tuesday of instigating violence and seeking the country's destruction. Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh said Tuesday that Hizbullah had shifted from a phase of "divine victory" to one of "divine defeat."  "The attempt to topple the current democratic regime will surely face defeat," he said.
In an interview on the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, Hamadeh said that the parties who called for Tuesday's strike and ordered the closing of all roads "are responsible for the deteriorating situation."Hamadeh called upon the Internal Security Forces to work on opening all roads, to avoid further tensions and "drastic repercussions on the country." Hamadeh said that Lebanese democracy will "triumph" in the end, and that the Lebanese ought to be patient, but at the same time "should stand against such devilish plans."
Former President Amin Gemayel said that the "aggressive behavior" of the opposition demonstrated that stands adopted by the March 14 Forces "were truthful." Gemayel urged Lebanese security forces to put an end to the "barbaric bazaar currently taking place."
In an interview on Future Television, Gemayel said that anyone who wanted to voice his opinion or instigate change "ought to have resorted to alternative democratic and civilized means instead of burning tires and closing down roads."Gemayel accused the opposition of monopolizing the process of political decision-making. He said that Tuesday's riots would fail to realize the opposition's goals, "for Premier Fouad Siniora will not resign, especially since the March 14 Forces and the international community all support his democratic and reformative stands."
A member of the Democratic Gathering parliamentary bloc, MP Akram Chehayeb, said that "anyone who looked at Beirut Tuesday would think that it had fallen victim to assaults from Israeli missiles."In a statement, Chehayeb said that thick black smoke confirmed that the opposition's movement was "far from being democratic and civilized.""We have reached certainty that while the government was a constructive entity, the March 8 Forces strive for destruction and chaos," he said.
Chehayeb said that the opposition parties were receiving orders from the Syrian regime, "which has always dreamt of humiliating the Lebanese."
The president of the Lebanese Forces executive committee, Samir Geagea, said that the multitude of events coordinated by the opposition, "instead of being a manifestation of democracy, were a revolution against all norms of democracy."
Speaking on LBC, Geagea said that riots "ought not to discourage the Lebanese and make them lose hope in their country."
Geagea called upon both the Lebanese Army and the security forces to be "less lenient" toward rioters, "who deserve to be rebuked."
For its part, the opposition held the government responsible for the deterioration of the situation on the ground.
The vice president of the Higher Shiite Council, Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, called on Siniora to step down "as a sacrifice for the Lebanese people."
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Qabalan urged both pro-government and opposition forces to avoid violence and spare the country national strife.
Addressing US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, he said: "If you care about Lebanon, leave us alone and let us resolve our problems by ourselves."
Qabalan also warned that Lebanon was at a crossroads. "We should reunite because Israeli threats are still lurking," he said.
For his part, President Emile Lahoud said Tuesday that what he described as the government's continuous disregard of the people's demands was not in the country's interests.Lahoud, who urged Lebanese leaders to resume national dialogue talks, received a telephone call of support from his Sudanese counterpart, Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Former Minister Talal Arslan said the opposition would not stop its movements until "this corrupted government leaves." Arslan said the opposition's movements were aimed at "protecting civil peace and preserving the Lebanese people's right for a decent living." Free Patriotic Movement official Gebran Bassil called Tuesday's strike "a great success."
In a statement, he said: "The Lebanese have the right to take to the streets to express their anger. Our movements are democratic and civilized compared to what the government is doing."Amal MP Ali Bazzi said that "if such movements happened anywhere in the world, the government would have resigned.""Tuesday's strike showed that the Lebanese people's will should prevail over the ruling power, which is monopolizing the decision-making," he said. Bazzi said the government was responsible for the current developments "and will be held accountable for any further escalation of the situation." - The Daily Star

The World Council of the Cedars Revolution
Representing the hopes and aspirations of many millions of Lebanese throughout the Diaspora
Tuesday 23rd January 2007
H.E. Ban Ki-Moon,Secretary General
United Nations - New York, NY USA
Dear Mr Secretary General,
The World Council for the Cedars Revolution (WCCR) is extremely concerned about the events and developments in Lebanon today which have been perpetrated by the pro-terrorist sponsor states, Iran and Syria through their terrorist militias Hezbollah and other affiliated terrorist organizations.
Our information is that Hezbollah terrorist groups comprising of women fully armed, dressed in their cover clothing, joined their regular militias to block and close all roads leading to the Airport in Beirut. This is definite proof that Hezbollah is willing to use its arsenal against the rest of the Lebanese Civil Society
It has become evident that the Lebanese Army which is charged with protecting the whole of the nation and the people of Lebanon, has now become split along political and confessional persuasions; for a section of the army has stood with the terrorists in blocking the roads and has refused to re-open them for public use.
The World Council for the Cedars Revolution as an NGO, has already initiated investigations in conjunction with other NGOs on the ground in Lebanon, seeking to find out who were the officers who refused to fulfill their responsibilities and duties in providing safety and protection for the people of Lebanon. The results of these investigations will be forwarded to the respective authorities and to the United Nations Security Council.
Once again we see an opportunity for the Lebanese Army to demonstrate its loyalty to the people of Lebanon, yet even at such a low level conflict the army has demonstrated that it is not ready to accept the mantle of national security. The inability or the lack of desire on the part of the Lebanese Army to protect its civil society could be another indication of the Army having bee infiltrated by Syrian and Iranian officers. This is causing extreme tension once again for the people of Lebanon who are calling for protective measures particularly from the United Nations Security Council.
The WCCR has, since the July 2006 War and UNSCR 1701, been calling for the mandating of UNSC Chapter 7 for the stability of Lebanon and the protection of democracy as well as the Lebanese civil Society. Today more than ever before we are witnessing the beginnings of a new conflict with terrorists attempting to overthrow a democratically elected government and take the country to the brink of war once again.
We express in the strongest possible means our desire for the UNSC to mandate Chapter 7 immediately and allow the UNIFIL forces to bring much needed stability to Lebanon.
For and on behalf of the World Council of the Cedars Revolution
Joseph P Baini