LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 16,15-18. He said to them, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
An Exercise on the Brink of Iraqization-By: Zuheir Kseibati Al-Hayat - 26/01/07
Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources For 26/01/07
Clashes Spread in Beirut Raising Fears of Civil War-Naharnet
Ban Urges Lebanon's Feuding Factions to Refrain from Violence-Naharnet
At least two killed in riot at Beirut university AP
Lebanese army imposes curfew in Beirut AP
Four dead in Beirut cast shadow over aid pledges AP
Hezbollah Won't Topple the Lebanese Government, Its Leader Says AP
University Quarrel Develops to Spiraling Violence in Beirut -Naharnet
U.N. Chief Urges Paris III Donors to Support Lebanon Reconstruction -Naharnet
Donors Pledge Billions of Dollars for the Saniora Government -Naharnet
Jund al Sham Fires at Army as it Deploys Near Ein el Hilweh -Naharnet
Iran, Saudi Hold Talks on Lebanon Crisis -Naharnet
Saniora Rejects Calls for Early Elections as Paris Gears up for Aid Conference -Naharnet
Nasrallah: Opposition Holding Back from Toppling Government -Naharnet
Aoun Says Erecting Blazing Roadblocks is 'Legal'-Naharnet
US to More Than Triple Aid to Lebanon-ABC News
Lebanon looks to aid conference for cash help-Washington Post
US Envoy Slams Canada Over Watch List-Wyoming News
Lebanon strike vanishes-Los Angeles Times
UN: Oil Spill off Lebanon Contained, Environmental Challenges Remain-Naharnet -Naharnet
Robert Fisk: 'I never believed I would see Lebanon become a ...Independent
Western powers accuse Iran and Syria of masterminding Lebanese ...World Socialist Web Site
Latest News Reports From the Daily Star For 25/01/07
Applaud one more tango in Paris-By Michael Karam 25.01.07
Next time around, Lebanon will be in a civil war-By Michael Young 25.01.07
ISF reports final count of 3 dead, 175 wounded, 135 arrested
Lebanese try to put disastrous day behind them
Protesters assault reporter and his children
Lebanon's future is more important than its politicians' pride
Bush lumps Hizbullah in with Al-Qaeda
Nasrallah says he can topple government whenever he wants
Hangover from strike is a headache for merchants
Airport flies back into action a day after strike
General strike imposes virtual travel blockade on embattled capital
As country licks its wounds, leaders scramble to assign blame for chaos
Donors promise generosity in Paris despite turmoil in Beirut
Female recruits join cluster-bomb clearance in South
'There is no higher responsibility than to protect the people of this country from danger'
US gunship carries out new air raid in Somalia
Lebanese army imposes curfew in Beirut
23 BEIRUT, Lebanon - The Lebanese army, struggling to restore order to the streets of the capital after violence Thursday, has imposed a nighttime curfew in Beirut, a military official said. The official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, told The Associated Press that the curfew would last from 8:30 p.m. Thursday until 6 a.m. Friday. The development came after at least one person was killed and more than two dozen were hurt in clashes among students at a university
Ban Urges Lebanon's Feuding Factions to Refrain from Violence
U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon on Thursday welcomed the billions of dollars pledged for Lebanon at the Paris III conference but urged the country's rival factions to refrain from violence and restore political stability. In opening remarks made at a press conference capping the donors' conference, Ban thanked French President Jacques Chirac for hosting the conference, which raised more than 7.6 billion dollars for Lebanon.
"By itself, this will not be enough. For economic reconstruction to be effective ... it will need a bedrock of political stability, national reconciliation and sustained dialogue between all the parties in Lebanon," he said. Ban appealed to all Lebanese and to their government "to exercise maximum restraint, refrain from violence and engage in continuous and sincere dialogue for the future and for an independent and democratic Lebanon."
Earlier in the day, Ban called for a generous response to the package, citing the need to "reduce (Lebanon's) heavy debt burden to a sustainable level, to stimulate growth and create employment."The U.N. chief, who was on the second leg of a nine-day, seven-nation foreign tour, made it clear that the success of the conference would be measured by the level of international contributions and the implementation of reforms.
"Therefore I encourage all Lebanese to engage in consultations in order to achieve a national consensus on the value and necessity of these reforms," he said. In an apparent reference to Syria and Iran, Ban called on "Lebanon's neighbors to fully respect its unity, independence and sovereignty."
"Lebanese democracy can only work if its leaders are free to make decisions and pursue reconciliation without fear of external pressure or interference," Ban said. He also alluded to the key support provided by the United Nations to Lebanon. "UNIFIL, strengthened since the conflict, continues to assist the (Lebanese) government and the Lebanese armed forces in a range of vital tasks," Ban said. He also deplored the exodus of Lebanon's youngest and brightest as the result of their country's political and financial turmoil. "It is tragic indeed that the current round of political and financial upheaval has led so many of the country's young and talented men and women to take their skills elsewhere," he noted. "If the brain drain continues, this will severely cripple the chances of progress." "I believe that this conference can help to stop that flow, and can give hope to all Lebanese that their country can enjoy sustainable peace and prosperity," he added.(AFP) Beirut, 25 Jan 07, 13:54
Clashes Spread in Beirut Raising Fears of Civil War
At least one person was killed and more than 47 people were wounded in spiraling violence between pro and anti-government factions in Beirut Thursday. Defense Minister Elias Murr ordered a nightime curfew to help the army enforce law and order. The army command said the curfew would last from 8:30 pm Thursday until 6 am Friday. Security sources said the casualties included 17 wounded soldiers, four of whom are officers.
They said at least 200 cars were smashed in the clashes pitting supporters of the Moustaqbal movement, headed by parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri, against an alliance grouping Hizbullah and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri's Amal movement. The clash reflects the sharp split between Sunni Muslims, represented by Moustaqbal, and Shiites, led by Hizbullah and Amal. Police sappers also defused a rocket that was directed at the Moustaqbal newspaper in Beirut, shortly before it was set to launch. "Luckily they discovered it. It would have resulted in a massacre. The newspaper is packed by journalists at this time of the evening," Editor Nassir al-Assad told Naharnet by telephone.
Staccato bursts of gunfire echoed across the streets as tongues of flame shot up in the sky from dozens of deserted cars.
The sudden outbreak of violence started as a quarrel between students from the Moustaqbal movement and members of the Amal movement at Beirut Arab University. Hariri, Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Berri and Premier Fouad Saniora issued separate statements urging restraint and calling on all followers of all the factions to withdraw from the streets. Nasrallah also Issued a Fatwa, or religious ruling, instructing his followers to cooperate with the army and withdraw from the streets. Ambulances, their sirens wailing, sped across the streets evacuating casualties to Beirut's hospitals. The state-run Lebanese University and other institutes suspended classes until Monday, in an effort to avoid the spread of violence.
The quarrel started around noontime at BAU and Amal tried to send reinforcements in mini busses from its stronghold in the district of Zokat Blatt to rescue their comrades besieged at the university's soccer stadium in the Sunni District of Tarik Jedideh. Helmeted troops of the Lebanese army moved into the BAU campus and opened fire in the air to disperse the mad crowd, said a student who was reached by Naharnet through his mobile telephone. "The situation is very tense. Moustaqbal supporters are at the basketball stadium and Amal followers are at the soccer stadium. Both factions are separated by army troops," said the student who asked not to be identified. Meanwhile, Residents of Tarik Jedideh, which is a stronghold for the Moustaqbal movement, rushed to back their student comrades, the student reported. He said followers of both factions used sticks, bottles and even broke desks to use them are weapons in the confrontation. Beirut, 25 Jan 07, 14:50
Four dead in Beirut cast shadow over aid pledges
By Nadim Ladki -BEIRUT (Reuters) - Four people were shot dead in clashes between pro- and anti-government activists in Lebanon on Thursday, casting a shadow over donor pledges of $7.6 billion to the U.S.-backed government facing a Hezbollah-led challenge.
Two opposition students and two other people were shot dead and 35 were injured, many by gunfire, at Beirut's Arab University, security sources said. Fighting started between students with sticks and stones on the university campus then spilled into nearby streets. It developed into exchanges of gunfire from assault rifles and pistols involving students and residents from both sides.
An opposition campaign against the government, which is struggling to recover from last year's war with Israel, has raised tensions between Sunnis and Shi'ites in Lebanon, still recovering from a 1975-90 civil war.
It was not immediately clear who opened fire but NBN and Al-Manar television, run by the opposition's Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah movement, blamed the shootings on pro-government gunmen loyal to Sunni leader Saad al-Hariri. Soldiers fired into the air to try to disperse the crowds and were later deployed in large numbers in an effort to control the clashes. Thick smoke rose from the area, where rioters had set cars and tyres ablaze.
Soldiers used military trucks to evacuate scores of civilians trapped on the streets by the violence.
Rival television stations blamed each other's camps for the fighting. Witnesses reported shots fired at students from rooftops in the mainly Sunni areas and attacks by a Shi'ite mob on a Sunni-run school in another area of the capital.
Hezbollah issued a statement urging its supporters to pull out of the streets around the university, while Hariri urged supporters to show self-restraint and calm."What everyone should do now is halt the strife ... We must all be united or we have to look for our country in the graveyard of history," Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a Shi'ite opposition leader, told local television stations by telephone.
Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said from Paris where he was at an aid conference: "I call on everyone to return to the voice of reason."
The clashes died down after the appeals but tension in several Beirut neighborhoods was high after darkness.
"It's a powder keg," analyst Oussama Safa told Reuters. "It doesn't seem to be a political decision to let it go there. It's spontaneous street violence."
The opposition launched nationwide protests on Tuesday which shut down much of Lebanon and sparked violence in which three people were killed and 176 wounded. The opposition wants veto power in government and early parliamentary elections to topple Siniora's cabinet. The prime minister and his main backer, parliamentary majority leader Hariri, have refused to give in to the demands. Lebanon won more than $7.6 billion in grants and soft loans at a Paris conference on Thursday to help it cope with a debt mountain and recover from war.Some donors hope to help the U.S.-backed Beirut government weather the threat from the opposition. Saudi Arabia headed the list of donors with a promise of $1.1 billion of development aid and grants, the United States pledged $770 million and the Arab Monetary Fund and World Bank offered funding of around $700 million apiece.
"The total sum collected for Lebanon amounts to a little more than $7.6 billion," French President Jacques Chirac told the conference after around 40 countries and organizations outlined their funding plans at the one-day meeting. "I'm overjoyed by this," he added to loud applause. Lebanon is still struggling to rebuild from its 1975-1990 civil war and is weighed down by $40 billion of debt, equal to 180 percent of gross domestic product. War between Israel and Shi'ite Hezbollah guerrillas last year left much of the country's infrastructure bombed and many Shi'ite villages and districts wrecked. (Additional reporting by Laila Bassam and Tom Perry in Beirut and Francois Murphy, Crispian Balmer and Arshad Mohammed in Paris)
Hezbollah Wont Topple the Lebanese Government, Its Leader Says
By NADA BAKRI-Published: January 25, 2007
BEIRUT, Lebanon Jan. 24 Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollahs leader, said Wednesday that Lebanons opposition movement had decided to stop short of toppling the government of Fouad Siniora, fearing civil strife. He warned, though, that Hezbollah and its allies would continue to ratchet up the pressure on Mr. Siniora in coming weeks and vowed not to back down on their demands.
The opposition has the political, popular and organizational strength to bring down the unconstitutional government today or tomorrow, Sheik Nasrallah told worshipers commemorating the Shiite holiday of Ashura in Beiruts southern suburbs. What has so far prevented the fall of the government that is clinging to power is not international support but the patriotic feelings of the opposition and its desire to preserve civil peace.
The speech followed a crippling and violent strike on Tuesday that brought life to a virtual standstill in Lebanon.
Sheik Nasrallah blamed what he called the government of militias for Tuesdays violence, insisting that the opposition had respected the rule of law in its protest. The war in July showed how many weapons we have, he said. But we did not resort to those weapons yesterday. Those who insist they have none, however, did use weapons. He was referring to accusations made on Tuesday by Hezbollah members that their supporters had been protesting peacefully when residents of the area started throwing stones at them.
The police said Tuesday that at least three people died in the violence and that 100 more were wounded throughout the country. It was the worst since Hezbollah began demanding more political power and began a series of protests late last year. For the past two months Lebanon has been gripped by a political crisis pitting the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies against the American- and Saudi-backed government of Mr. Siniora.
Hezbollah has demanded that Mr. Siniora step down or form a government of national unity that would give the opposition veto power and hold early parliamentary elections. Mr. Siniora has refused to resign, insisting that the opposition come off the streets and negotiate.
Sheik Nasrallah, at the end of November, called for a huge demonstration in the center of Beirut in an effort to paralyze the government. Hundreds of thousands of people came out on Dec. 1 and began a sit-in. The protesters camped out in tents, and Sheik Nasrallah called for them to remain until the government fell. The violence began Tuesday when groups of protesters set up roadblocks along major streets leading into Beirut, blocking them with burning tires, trucks and rubble. They set fire to vehicles and attacked cars trying to pass. Many of the clashes in Beirut took place in mixed neighborhoods, where young men on each side shouted epithets and hurled stones at one another.
Some of the most violent clashes took place on a highway north of Beirut, where supporters of Gen. Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian group and a Hezbollah ally, fought with men loyal to Samir Geagea, a government ally. Lebanon slowly inched back to life on Wednesday as cleaners removed roadblocks and debris from streets across the country and as the Lebanese tried to take stock of the political and social implications of Tuesdays action. Gunfire broke out again on Wednesday during the funeral of one of two people shot dead in the northern city of Tripoli a day earlier, wounding two mourners.
University Quarrel Develops to Spiraling Violence in Beirut
At least one person was killed and more than 30 were wounded in spiraling violence between pro and anti-government factions in Beirut Thursday.
Staccato bursts of gunfire echoed across the streets as tongues of flame shot up in the sky from dozens of deserted cars.
The sudden outbreak of violence started as a quarrel between students from the al-Moustaqbal movement of parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri and members of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri's Amal movement at Beirut Arab University. Hariri, Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Berri issued separate statements calling on their followers to practice restraint and withdraw from the streets. Ambulances, their sirens wailing, sped across the streets evacuating casualties to Beirut's hospitals. The state-run Lebanese University and other institutes suspended classes until Monday, in an effort to avoid the spread of violence. The quarrel started around noontime at BAU and Amal tried to send reinforcements in mini busses from its stronghold in the district of Zokat Blatt to rescue their comrades besieged at the university's soccer stadium in the Sunni District of Tarik Jedideh.
Helmeted troops of the Lebanese Army moved into the BAU campus and opened fire in the air to disperse the mad crowd, said a student who was reached by Naharnet through his mobile telephone. "The situation is very tense. Moustaqbal supporters are at the basketball stadium and Amal followers are at the soccer stadium. Both factions are separated by army troops," said the student who asked not to be identified.
Meanwhile, Residents of Tarik Jedideh, which is a stronghold for the Moustaqbal movement, rushed to back their student comrades, the student reported. He said followers of both factions used sticks, bottles and even broke desks to use them are weapons in the confrontation.
Beirut, 25 Jan 07, 14:50
Students clash at a Beirut university; 1 killed
Enlarge By Mohamed Azakir, Reuters
BEIRUT (AP) Government and opposition supporters clashed at a Beirut university campus Thursday, battering each other with sticks, stones and even furniture in new violence spilling over from Lebanon's political crisis. One person was reported dead.
Black smoke poured into the sky from cars engulfed in flames as armored vehicles full of troops moved in to try to keep the two sides apart. But the riot spread through the streets around Beirut Arab University, as students smashed parked cars in a battle that raged for hours.
The violence began with an argument between pro-government Sunni Muslims and supporters of the Shiite Hezbollah opposition movement in the university cafeteria, students said.
As the melee grew, Hezbollah supporters called in help, and residents from the surrounding Sunni neighborhood joined in. Dozens of vigilantes wearing blue and red construction hats and carrying makeshift weapons chair legs, pipes, garden tools, sticks and chains converged on the university and clashed with the police.
The army was called in with armored vehicles, firing tear gas and live rounds in the air to try to disperse the crowd.
Hezbollah's al-Manar TV reported one of the Shiite group's supporters was killed. Security officials could not confirm the death but reported 17 people wounded. Other TV stations reported that about 25 people were hurt.
The street fighting illustrated the challenge Lebanon faces, caught in a power struggle between the Hezbollah-led opposition and the U.S.-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. Many fear the violence could spiral out of control and even plunge the country into a new civil war.
The university melee came two days after a general strike called by the opposition turned into the worst day of violence since the political crisis began. The strike sparked opposition-government clashes around the country that killed three people and took on a dangerous sectarian tone, with fights between Sunni Muslims and Shiites.
Saniora on Thursday was in Paris at a conference of donor nations that promised more than $7 billion in aid to rebuild Lebanon after this summer's devastating Hezbollah-Israel war.
The trouble at the university located in the mainly Sunni Muslim neighborhood of Tarik el-Jadideh began with the argument in a cafeteria, students said. They said university security broke up the fight, but the Sunni supporters encircled the campus.
During the brawl, some students claimed they came under sniper fire. Mohammed Abdul-Sater, a 21-year-old Shiite student, said he saw at least three people wounded by gunfire.
"We are afraid about the future of the country," he said. "We are afraid about civil war."
As the battle spilled into the streets, people from outside the university joined in. Young men carrying sticks and wearing hard hats arrived and pelted each other with stones. Some flung pieces of furniture. Soldiers fired volleys of automatic rifle fire into the air, and residents of the area fled.
Seeking to prevent the trouble from spreading, Hezbollah's leadership issued a statement on al-Manar TV accusing pro-government factions of provoking the clashes and calling on its supporters to get off the streets to "avoid strife being inflamed" by government supporters.
Saad Hariri, leader of the parliamentary majority and the leading Sunni opponent of Hezbollah, also urged his supporters to exercise restraint.
The opposition has staged two months of demonstrations and sit-ins in a bid to topple Saniora's government. The prime minister has refused the opposition's demand for veto-wielding share of the Cabinet.
Lebanon fought a 15-year civil war between its Christian and Muslim communities, ending in 1990. The current political crisis has divided the country along different lines with Sunnis largely backing Saniora, Shiites behind Hezbollah, and Christians divided between the two camps.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Posted 1/25/2007 9:39 AM ET
Students clash at university in Beirut
25/01/2007 - 3:21:07 PM
Government and opposition supporters clashed at a Beirut university campus today, battering each other with sticks, stones and even pieces of furniture in new violence spilling over from Lebanons political crisis.
One person was reported dead.
Black smoke poured into the sky from cars engulfed in flames as armoured vehicles full of troops moved in to try to keep the two sides apart.
But the riot spread into the nearby streets around Beirut Arab University as students smashed parked cars and battled for hours.
The battle grew out out of a argument between pro-government Sunni Muslims and supporters of the Shiite Hezbollah opposition movement in the university cafeteria, students said.
As the melee grew, Hezbollah supporters called in help, and residents from the surrounding Sunni neighbourhood joined in.
Dozens of vigilantes wearing blue and red construction hats and carrying makeshift weapons chair legs, pipes, garden tools, sticks and chains - converged on the university and started clashing with the police.
The army was called in with armoured vehicles and fired tear gas and live fire in the air to disperse the crowd.
Hezbollahs al-Manar TV reported one of the Shiite groups supporters was killed.
Security officials could not confirm the death but reported 17 people injured. Other TV stations reported that about 25 people were hurt.
The growing street battle illustrated Lebanons struggle to contain violence sparked by the power struggle between the Hezbollah-led opposition and the US-backed government of prime minister Fuad Saniora.
Many fear the violence could spiral out of control and even plunge the country into a new civil war.
The university melee came two days after a general strike called by the opposition turned into the worst day of violence since the political crisis began.
The strike sparked opposition-government clashes around the country that killed three people and took on a dangerous sectarian tone, with fights between Sunni Muslims and Shiites.
Saniora was today in Paris at a conference of donor nations that promised nearly £4bn (6.1bn) in aid to rebuild after this summers devastating Hezbollah-Israel war.
The money aims to boost Sanioras government, but the chaos at home has raised doubts whether his government can properly use the money.
The trouble at the university located in the mainly Sunni Muslim neighbourhood of Tarik el-Jadideh began when an argument broke out in the university cafeteria between pro-government Sunni students and Hezbollah and other anti-government supporters.
They said university security broke up the fight, but the Sunni supporters encircled the campus.
Amid the brawl, some students claimed they came under fire from snipers nearby. Mohammed Abdul-Sater, a 21-year-old Shiite student, said he saw at least three people wounded by the gunfire.
We are afraid about the future of the country, he said. We are afraid about civil war, said Abdul-Sater.
As the battle spilled into the streets, people from outside the university joined in.
Young men carrying sticks and wearing hard hats came in and pelted each other with stones. Some flung pieces of furniture. Soldiers fired volleys of automatic rifle fire into the air, and residents of the area fled for cover.
Seeking to prevent the trouble from spreading, Hezbollahs leadership issued a statement on al-Manar accusing pro-government factions of provoking the clashes and calling on its supporters to get off the streets to avoid strife being inflamed by government supporters.
Saad Hariri, leader of the parliamentary majority and the leading Sunni opponent of Hezbollah, also urged his supporters to exercise restraint.
The opposition has staged two months of demonstrations and sit-ins in a bid to topple Sanioras government. The prime minister has refused the oppositions demand for veto-wielding share of the Cabinet.
Lebanon fought a 15-year civil war between its Christian and Muslim communities, ending in 1990.
The current political crisis has divided the country along different lines with Sunnis largely backing Saniora, Shiites behind Hezbollah, and Christians divided between the two camps.
List of Lebanon aid donors
POSTED: 10:53 a.m. EST, January 25, 2007
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(Reuters) -- Governments and organizations pledged over $7.6 billion on Thursday to help Lebanon rebuild its finances and recover from last year's war between Israel and Shi'ite Hezbollah guerrillas.
Full details of the various aid packages were not immediately available and it was not clear how many of the pledges were loans, grants or gifts.
Following are details of some of the pledges:
SAUDI ARABIA: Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Saudi Arabia would give $1.0 billion to help development projects and a further $100 million in budget support.
UNITED STATES: $770 million, conditional on approval of U.S. Congress. A senior U.S. official said it would include $250 million in cash transfers tied to economic reforms. A further $220 million will fund Lebanese military equipment and training. $184 million goes to support the international peacekeeping mission, $60 million to train and equip security forces, $50 million to fund reconstruction projects and $5.5 million for demining.
ARAB MONETARY FUND: $700 million over the next five years.
WORLD BANK: $700 million in additional funding to support implementation of the government's program. Up to $400 million could be made available this year.
FRANCE: 500 million euro ($649.4 million) loan "with very favorable conditions".
EUROPEAN UNION: Almost 400 million euros of additional aid in the form of grants and loans.
EUROPEAN INVESTMENT BANK: 960 million euros divided into 400 million euros for priority investments, notably in the electricity sector, and 560 million for the private sector.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: $300 million.
ARAB INVESTMENT BANK: $250 million.
ISLAMIC DEVELOPMENT BANK: Financial package of $250 million for social services and basic infrastructure.
BRITAIN: $48 million to U.N. agency dealing with refugees in Lebanon and $115 million over the next four years for reconstruction projects with no conditions.
BELGIUM: 20 million euros.
OMAN: $10 million.
ITALY: 120 million euros, made up of 65 million euros in low interest rate credits and a gift of 55 million euros. It also offered a suspension of Lebanon's commercial debt repayments to Italy.
SPAIN: 35 million euro grant in 2007-2008.
BRAZIL: $1 million donation.
MALAYSIA: $1 million, prepared to discuss rescheduling existing bond maturities.
SWEDEN: 4.5 million euros, all channeled through the United Nations Development Program.
AUSTRIA: 1 million euros to help improve living conditions and for economic reforms
SLOVENIA: 100,000 euros in 2007.
GREECE: 5 million euros for reconstruction.
IRELAND: 2 million euros, as grant with no conditions.
GERMANY: About 103 million euros, including about 63 million euros for reconstruction work and 40 million euros for equipping security forces on the Lebanese border.
NORWAY: $15 million for activities including coastal management, the petroleum sector, support for Palestinian refugees and work against cluster munitions.
EGYPT: $44 million for rebuilding infrastructure.
CANADA: 20 million Canadian dollars ($17 million).
DENMARK: $3.5 million, focused on improving lives of people in south Lebanon.
SOUTH KOREA: $1 million.
CHINA: 30 million yuan ($3.86 million).
AUSTRALIA: 5 million Australian dollars ($3.9 million) for U.N. and related relief activities, planning to allocate a further A$2 million to high priority community action programs.
Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Paris III Provides Lebanon with 7.6 Billion Dollars
International donors meeting in Paris on Thursday pledged more than 7.6 billion dollars in aid for Lebanon to bolster the Western-backed government in Beirut and help the country recover from war. Saudi Arabia, the United States, France and multilateral funds led the drive to raise the massive aid package at a donors' conference for Lebanon, which was partly ruined during the July-August war between Hizbullah and Israel.
The biggest pledges came from the World Bank and the European Investment Bank, which together contributed more than two billion dollars (1.5 billion euros). Saudi Arabia put forward 1.1 billion dollars (846 million euros), the United States gave 770 million dollars and France a loan of 500 million euros (650 million dollars). "The amount raised totals a little over 7.6 billion dollars," French President Jacques Chirac announced at the meeting attended by more than 40 countries and international organizations. The meeting was held two days after protests led by the Syrian-backed Hizbullah opposition erupted into violence, leaving three people dead and fueling fears Lebanon could slide back into the civil strife.
"We can't overcome all our problems alone. We need the support of the international community," Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Saniora told the gathering at a Paris convention center. Saniora has been facing calls from Hizbullah to step down and make way for a new government of national unity that would leave the Syrian- and Iranian-backed movement and its allies with veto power in cabinet.
The billions of dollars in aid were a clear sign of support for the embattled prime minister and provided a lifeline for his government as it battles its opponents and seeks to pull the country away from the brink of financial collapse.
Chirac opened the meeting with an appeal to help Lebanon, saying "a very substantial and immediate financial support from the international community is absolutely indispensable." Lebanese officials have said they need several billion dollars to rebuild villages and infrastructure devastated in the month-long war between Israel and Hizbullah. Lebanon's public debt has reached 41 billion dollars (32 billion euros), more than 180 percent of gross domestic product. Pledges for Lebanon's recovery also came from the Islamic Development Fund offering 250 million dollars and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development with 700 million dollars.
Britain offered 48 million dollars (37 million euros) to a UN agency to assist Palestinian refugees, many of whom are in Lebanon. Much of the aid is in form of grants, soft loans and direct support to Saniora government which has proposed a five-year reform plan that would see a hike in taxes and privatization.(AFP)Beirut, 25 Jan 07, 15:14
Iran, Saudi Hold Talks on Lebanon Crisis
Regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia have stepped up efforts to mediate a settlement to the ongoing political crisis in Lebanon, Iranian media reported Thursday. Iran, the main foreign backer of Hizbullah, held a series of contacts on Wednesday with Saudi Arabia, which supports Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government, state-run Iran television said. The secretary general of the Saudi National Security Council, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, held talks with his Iranian counterpart Ali Larijani on "the critical situation in Lebanon," the television said.
The two men, whose talks came the day after five people were killed in Lebanon in clashes between government and opposition supporters, "emphasized the necessity of finding a solution agreed by all Lebanese groups." The talks were held ahead of a donors' conference for Lebanon which opened in Paris on Thursday. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki also spoke by telephone with his Saudi counterpart Prince Saud al-Faisal to look into "ways to find an acceptable solution," the television added. It was Larijani's second meeting with Saudi officials in 10 days. On January 14, Larijani travelled to Riyadh for talks with King Abdullah and Prince Saoud. After those talks, Larijani told Beirut newspapers that Iran was keen to work with Saudi Arabia to resolve the crisis which has crippled Lebanon's public administration since Hizbullah and its allies quit the cabinet in November. "There is a problem inside Lebanon that we, along with the Saudis, wish to help to resolve," he said.
Both the Lebanese government and the Hizbullah-led opposition have expressed a readiness to accept the two governments' mediation.
Saniora on Wednesday called for improved relations with Iran, but said the ties must be between governments and not "through third parties," a reference to Hizbullah. Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the opposition was open to foreign mediation, particularly by Iran and Saudi Arabia, but added: "Any connivance between two countries or two governments, even ones we respect, cannot be imposed on Lebanon."(AFP-Naharnet)(AFP photo shows Larijani) Beirut, 25 Jan 07, 14:02
U.N. Chief Urges Paris III Donors to Support Lebanon Reconstruction
U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon on Thursday appealed to international donors gathered in Paris to help reduce Lebanon's heavy debt burden and called on its neighbors to fully respect Lebanese independence and sovereignty. Addressing the Paris III conference on Lebanon reconstruction, he noted that the Lebanese government had presented an ambitious and comprehensive package of concrete fiscal, economic and social reforms.
"I call on the international community to respond favorably and generously to this package," he added, citing the need to "reduce (Lebanon's) heavy debt burden to a sustainable level, to stimulate growth and create employment." Lebanon's public debt has reached 40.5 billion dollars, more than 180 percent of gross domestic product. More than 40 countries and international organizations were taking part in the one-day meeting to raise funds to help rebuild the country and shore up the government of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora.
Ban said that "political stability has to be the bedrock on which we consolidate economic recovery and reconstruction."The U.N. chief also urged all Lebanese to cooperate to achieve prosperity and called for dialogue among feuding factions In an apparent reference to Syria and Iran, he called on "Lebanon's neighbors to fully respect its unity, independence and sovereignty." "Lebanese democracy can only work if its leaders are free to make decisions and pursue reconciliation without fear of external pressure or interference," Ban said.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 25 Jan 07, 13:54
Jund al Sham Fires at Army as it Deploys Near Ein el Hilweh
Palestinian extremists of Jund al Sham on Thursday fired mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at Lebanese troops as they deployed outside the Ein el Hilweh refugee camp near the southern port city of Sidon, security officials said. The soldiers fired back at the Jund al Sham militants in an exchange that lasted about 10 minutes in the impoverished Taamir neighborhood on the outskirts of the Ein el Hilweh Palestinian camp, the officials said.
It was not clear why Jund al Sham opened fire. No casualties were reported in the incident. A similar clash between members of Jund al Sham and the army near Ein el Hilweh left two soldiers wounded two weeks ago. The army deployment, which began at 6:30 a.m. Thursday, followed a series of meetings between Sidon's political and spiritual leaders and Palestinian officials in Ein el Hilweh.(Naharnet-AP) (Photo shows armored personnel carriers deploying in Taamir) Beirut, 25 Jan 07, 08:53
OIC Urges Return to Dialogue Table After Deadly Clashes
The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has urged a return to dialogue in Lebanon after street clashes left five people dead and 133 wounded. OIC secretary general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu called Wednesday on all parties "to restore calm to all parts of Lebanon and provide an appropriate environment for a return to the dialogue table," a statement from the Jeddah-based organization said.
Ihsanoglu urged all Lebanese groups "to show wisdom and realize the danger threatening the future of Lebanon," following a one-day strike called by the Hizbullah-led opposition, which resulted in clashes with government supporters. The violent protests paralyzed Lebanon for a day and added to concerns over the stability of a country still bearing the scars of the 1975-1990 civil war and last summer's 34-day Israeli offensive on the country.
Calm returned to Lebanon in general on Wednesday but clashes broke out between pro and anti-government factions in the northern town of Tripoli.
Security sources said two people were wounded in the firefight during which automatic rifles and hand grenades were used.
Late Tuesday, the opposition said it "decided to suspend the strike which served as a warning to the illegitimate government." But it also warned of "more effective" measures if the government of Premier Fouad Saniora continued to reject opposition demands.The opposition wants to replace Saniora's government with a national unity cabinet in which it has veto power.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 25 Jan 07, 07:43
Saniora Rejects Calls for Early Elections as Paris Gears up for Aid Conference
Premier Fouad Saniora has rejected opposition calls for early elections to resolve the crisis gripping Lebanon and renewed his offer for dialogue.
"It would be impossible to hold elections that would create new problems in the current circumstances," said Saniora in Paris on the eve of an international donors' conference aimed at raising billions of dollars in aid for Lebanon.
Saniora arrived in the French capital Wednesday, a day after street clashes left five people dead and more than 133 wounded in Lebanon, still reeling from the July-August war between Israel and Hizbullah. "Our problems can only be resolved through dialogue, not confrontation," he told a news conference. Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has called for early elections based on a proposed new law that would set up a government of national unity. Saniora earlier had lunch with President Jacques Chirac who announced a 500-million-euro (650-million-dollar) loan as part of the donors' package that is to be unveiled on Thursday. The European Commission has pledged 400 million euros (520 million dollars) while the United States said it would offer 770 million dollars.
The Lebanese prime minister also called for improved relations with Hizbullah's main backer Iran, saying these must be on the level of governments and not "through third parties."Saniora said he expected the Paris III donors' conference to provide "very significant" financial support from Arab states and Western countries to help Lebanon become a haven of stability in the Middle East.
Experts predict the funds offered in the form of debt relief, low-cost loans and aid will likely total $4 billion to $7 billion. That compares to Lebanon's $41 billion of state debt, equivalent to about 185 percent of its annual economic output. Although they insist the aid will be for all of Lebanon not just for one man or his government the U.S. and other donor nations back Saniora and say Lebanon must be defended from meddling by Iran and Syria. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was expected to meet early Thursday with Saniora.
"The government of Lebanon may be stressed by what's going on, but I believe they are strong and will weather this crisis," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, the State Department's top Middle East diplomat, told reporters in Paris. The new aid will come with conditions mainly assurances that Saniora's government make good on economic and structural reforms announced this month. Welch also said that the conference is not a "political hand-out" for the Saniora government but is tied to "serious" economic reforms. "This is not a blank cheque," he told reporters. "These are serious economic proposals. We are not dealing with political hand-outs here," he said."The reform proposals made by this government of Lebanon are very important and far reaching," he added.(AFP-AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 25 Jan 07, 08:34
Next time around, Lebanon will be in a civil war
By Michael Young
Daily Star staff
Thursday, January 25, 2007
For the third time in almost a year Lebanon has averted a civil war, but we're nearing the end of the rope. If the Danish Embassy demonstrations and Hizbullah's mobilization in early December were, ultimately, manageable when it came to Christian-Sunni or Sunni-Shiite antagonism, what happened on Tuesday was, in its permutations, pretty much war. And if anything induced Hizbullah to suspend the protests, it was an awareness that if these continued for even a day, war was inevitable.
Not surprisingly, the truth of the moment had to be found outside Lebanon's borders. Government sources are going with this version: Saudi Arabia and Iran are currently engaged in trying to find a solution to the crisis in Lebanon. A few days ago, the Iranian official Ali Larijani traveled to Damascus to get Syria's views on a draft proposal for an agreement. The Syrians set several conditions: that the tribunal in the Hariri assassination be established only after the United Nations investigation is completed, by which time the opposition will have gained veto power in the government; and that the new government go through the process of endorsing the tribunal once again - effectively allowing Syria's allies to either block the institution or empty it of its content. The Saudis said no, and Hizbullah's secretary general, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, responded by ordering his people into the streets.
But by late Tuesday evening the tables were turned. At that point Hizbullah had cut off most roads between the eastern and western sectors of Beirut, as well as the airport road. The irresponsibility of those steps was staggering. Not only did the party take Lebanon back to the symbolism of the war years, but Beirut's Sunnis saw the move as trapping them in their half of the capital. The word "blockade" started being used, prompting the mufti to heatedly muster his community. Wael Abu Faour of the March 14 coalition warned that if the army did not reopen the roads, supporters of the majority would. Hizbullah backed down, aware, let's not forget, that a Sunni-Shiite confrontation is a red line for Iran.
However, that reality only reaffirmed how Hizbullah has been juggling contradictory agendas. The Iranians may not want sectarian discord, but what happened this week was fulfillment of the Syrian side of Hizbullah's agenda. The main obstacle remains the Hariri tribunal and Syria's refusal to permit its creation. How Tehran and Damascus will work out their clashing priorities is anybody's guess. You have to assume that with the Lebanese so close to doing battle, and given the dire implications of what this would mean for Hizbullah and its already dilapidated reputation in the Sunni Arab world, Iran will remind Nasrallah of who pays the checks. On the other hand, the Iranians realize that the tribunal might be fatal to the Syrian regime, depriving the Islamic Republic of a key asset in the Levant.
At a more parochial level, the opposition's actions were self-defeating for being built on a lie. If the benchmark of success was Hizbullah's ability to close roads, then Tuesday was indeed successful. However, that weapon has now been used up, and the government remains in place. The next time the opposition threatens to do something similar, we might as well load the guns or head for the shelters. On the other hand, what kind of confidence can anyone have in a party, and its Christian appendages in the Aounist movement and the Marada, that promises to be peaceful, only to practice intimidation? There is such a thing as Lebanese civil society, one hardened by the 1975-1990 war, and it will unite against such abuse.
The last six months have been a period of meltdown for Hizbullah. The party has been neutralized in the South, at least for the moment; its reputation in the Arab world lies in tatters because it is seen as an extension of Iran; domestically, Hizbullah is viewed more than ever as a menace to national coexistence and civil peace; few Lebanese, other than Hizbullah's own, believe that its insistence on participating in the political process means respect for the latter's rules, free from foreign interests; and none of Nasrallah's political rivals trust him anymore.
At the same time, Hizbullah has shown that under all that weaponry lie weak knees. The party's threshold has been surprisingly low in moments of internal crises. It took only three and a half weeks during the 2006 summer war with Israel for Nasrallah to announce that he was amenable to a cease-fire under any conditions. This was an acknowledgment that his Shiite community could not long endure living in public facilities, streets, and parks. Six days after the start of the December protests, Nasrallah retreated before a wall of Sunni opposition. He did organize a massive rally a few days later, but only to cover for the fact that the government had beaten Hizbullah to a draw in the Downtown. And on Tuesday evening, Hizbullah's decision to "suspend" the protests proved that the party could not transgress certain limits in bullying the majority. This may have exhibited good judgment, but it also exposed Hizbullah's vulnerabilities.
Then there is Michel Aoun, the big loser of the Tuesday protests. Until then, the general could count on support among the many floating Christians neither with March 8 nor March 14. His error was to so polarize the atmosphere by imposing a strike on all, that many of his coreligionists could only turn against him. The Aounists will not easily live down their siding with Shiite stone-throwers against Lebanese Forces youths at the Hazmiyeh roundabout, which many Christians, for better or worse, regard as "their" area. Nor would they have held the streets for very long without the army around to protect them. In Zahleh, Aoun's ally Elie Skaff was soundly humiliated by the refusal of even his own supporters to obey the strike order - an order that he sought to impose by force of arms early in the day. January 23 could be the beginning of Aoun's descent into terminal irrelevance, and even the cautious Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir was said to be livid with the general.
The big winner, on the other hand, was Samir Geagea, who seemed to have a plan (along with Walid Jumblatt and his Progressive Socialist Party) to counter the opposition. Rather than focusing on volatile areas bordering Shiite quarters - for example Ain al-Remmaneh - he went after the Aounists and cleared roads within the Christian heartland. For example, it was a Lebanese Forces push against the Aounists in Nahr al-Kalb that compelled the army to open the northern highway. Something similar happened in Jbeil. Where Aoun managed to alienate hitherto ambivalent Christians, Geagea may have brought some of them over to his side. In the struggle for Christian hearts and minds - and it's unfortunate how the hard-liners win out in such cases - Aoun was defeated in the very districts that he and his parliamentary bloc represent.
It was also Geagea who first publicized the ambiguous role played by the army. By the end of the day there was palpable anger in many areas of Lebanon, both Christian and Muslim, that the armed forces had failed to implement their promise to maintain roads open. Geagea could notch up that perceptiveness to his advantage.
The great mystery was the army's performance, or rather non-performance. Maybe it was defensible early in the day for the military command to avoid confrontations that might split its ranks. But by the later hours there were too many signs of implicit collusion between the army and the opposition, or simple lethargy in units, for things not to smell fishy. Keeping the airport road closed was unjustifiable, as was the behavior of soldiers actively preventing people from reaching their jobs. And it was a scandal that the army let Hizbullah cut off roads between both sides of the capital in the late afternoon. In many cases the meagerly manned roadblocks could have been cleared within minutes by troops.
Between 1990 and 2005 who appointed senior military commanders? Basically, the Syrians, Hizbullah, President Emile Lahoud, and Michel Murr, when he was defense minister. Many remaining officers were Aounists. Is this a problem today? Unless Army Commander Michel Suleiman convinces the Lebanese that the army is truly neutral, this legacy will come back to haunt him. There has been talk of Suleiman's presidential ambitions. Based on yesterday's actions, the general must undo a hefty knot of mistrust - and that probably includes the mistrust of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Where there is mistrust of the armed forces, there is also a tendency for people to resort to communal self-defense.
Today in Paris, Lebanon will be given a much-needed boost by the international community. That's good news, despite the reprehensible efforts of those who seek to deny Siniora and the majority any credit. Yet things are unlikely to improve soon. Nasrallah is confirming daily that his tactics are far more adept at damaging Lebanon than helping it, while Aoun is grasping at a presidency he will never get. If we're lucky, however, the Lebanese system of communal compromise will triumph over that brash pair, who in their own way can't seem to grasp its essential rules.
Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.
Applaud one more tango in Paris
By Michael Karam
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Sometimes we live in a hall of mirrors. The last time I saw burning tires on Lebanon's streets was in May 1992, when the incompetent government of then-Prime Minister Omar Karami could only watch as the Lebanese pound went into freefall. Karami was compelled to tender his resignation, and after the interim government of Rashid Solh had organized parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri took over. By February 1993, the Lebanese pound had stabilized and reconstruction could begin in earnest.
Back then the Christians were also divided over the merits of two men: Samir Geagea and Michel Aoun. To his detractors, Geagea was no more than a militia thug who would eventually languish in prison for 11 years. Aoun, despite the disgraceful manner of his departure in October 1990, became a beacon of hope from his French exile. Today, Geagea has done his time and is throwing his weight behind a government that appears to want to do the right thing economically. Aoun seems hell-bent on collaborating with anyone who will give him the keys to the Baabda Palace, even if they are the same people he railed against from France.
Is this 1992 redux? Not really. In 1992, there was much less at stake. The debt was only $2 billion - it had been as low as $400 million but that was before President Amin Gemayel went shopping, justifiably, on behalf of a woefully under-equipped Lebanese Army. Today, the debt stands at 190 percent of GDP, with roughly $3.2 billion worth of Lebanese paper that needs to be rolled over both this year and next. If that doesn't happen, the banking sector could take the mother of all hits.
Blaming the current fiscal situation on the cult of "Harirism" - as Aoun has coined it - is not fair. Hariri had a plan that on a level economic playing field could have worked. It gambled on 6 percent growth and massive foreign investment to finance the debt he knew would run up. No one appeared to complain back in the mid-1990s, when every draft budget went through Parliament. However, the remedies advocated at the time, such as privatization, were frequently blocked, while racketeering was seen as a necessary evil and lined the pockets of many who today use Lebanon's economic woes as ammunition against the government.
Which brings us to the here and now. Today, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora takes the begging bowl to Paris for a third donor conference in six years. It is a mission that must not fail. Unlike the 1992 government, Siniora's is as competent as Lebanon has ever had in identifying fiscal and economic priorities. It has an invite to a donor party and the backing of a West that does not want to see Lebanon become a failed state.
And what of the opposition? Other than throwing up billboards declaring that they too love life, but without debt (who doesn't?), neither Hizbullah nor the Aounists has put forward a credible economic alternative.
There was a time when Aoun had a plan. In 2005, he advocated privatization, reducing the interest on the debt and encouraging growth. He also claimed he wanted to create a framework that would enable Lebanon to become a regional financial center that protects and catalyzes private initiative. Since then, at least one of the economic advisers who helped draft that blueprint has deserted in disgust. Aoun has allied himself with Hizbullah, a party which, in the same year, told Executive magazine that it "does not presently have an economic policy." Go figure.
That is not to say that the government has got it all right. The document it has prepared for the donors in Paris is pretty toothless. It does say what is needed - privatization, good governance, transparency - but the "how" and the "by when" are largely absent; and in any case we have heard it all before. The government is either too scared to commit to specifics and rock the sectarian boat, or so sure of getting international financial support that it didn't feel it needed to elaborate. Either way it doesn't look good.
Siniora should aim to knock $10 billion off the debt to reduce interest payments by $1 billion, and he should seek to increase revenues by $2 billion to reduce the deficit. Privatization is high on the agenda - in fact the government should offer 50-year concessions, rather like extended build-operate-transfer contracts, for electricity, water and railways. But let's face it, Electricite du Liban, the electricity utility, is worthless and costs the government some $1 billion per year. It is corrupt and inefficient and riddled with sinecures. The obvious solution is to give it over to the professionals.
It is likely we will get the money - which estimates have put anywhere between $5 billion and $9 billion - but that's the easy part. Lebanon's economic problems are not that difficult to solve. It is will that is lacking. We must wish Siniora luck, but no one is holding their breath.
As tourists, and no doubt a few businessmen, were trapped at Beirut's airport on Tuesday, the clock that ticked with such robust confidence on Lebanon's future in the first half of 2006 was flung into fast rewind. May 1992 proved to be a positive watershed for Lebanon. Tuesday's drama threatened to take us to an altogether different place, and the bottom line is that all Lebanese should care about what happens in France today. Otherwise, it could be our last tango in Paris.
***Michael Karam is managing editor of Executive, a regional business monthly. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.
Hangover from strike is a headache for merchants
Fear of violence leads to another lost day
By Michael Bluhm -Daily Star staff
Thursday, January 25, 2007
BEIRUT: Regardless of which political camp they belong to, Lebanon's merchants were unanimous on one issue on Wednesday - sales were almost non-existent. Stores reopened throughout the capital, and deliveries kept shelves stocked, but customers were largely absent. Shop owners said city residents remained afraid after Tuesday's violence, and those consumers who did venture out stuck to stores in their respective neighborhoods. Traders typically estimated sales at about 25 percent of regular levels.
In the Dahiyeh, where knee-high piles of trash smoldered next to dumpsters on the sooty airport road, Osama Osman stood in the doorway of a fresh-produce shop and reported light business. "I didn't see anybody this morning," he said. "This week, nobody comes here."
On the street in front of the Municipal Stadium in Tariq al-Jdideh, Imad Fatallah summed up the sales scene at his department store: "No good - no money, no business."At Ashrafieh's ABC mall, the Rectangle Jaune clothing store had recorded one transaction by early afternoon - a customer returned an item. Usually by that time, sales surpass LL1 million, said employee Khalil Gemayel.
"It's miserable," he said. Caution caused many people to put off shopping Wednesday - at Rayan Pharmacy in Dahiyeh, owner Fatima Khalife said she opened her drugstore but was too scared to do any shopping elsewhere. "I don't want to look for anything today," she said, adding that the pharmacy's receipts tallied about 30 percent of a regular day. "I'm afraid."At a restaurant in Tariq al-Jdideh, the chef joked that the only patrons in the last two days were those who had worked up an appetite hurling stones. With the business climate paralyzed in Lebanon since the summer 2006 war with Israel, many entrepreneurs are considering closing here and looking for opportunity elsewhere, most likely in the Gulf, said Paul Ariss, president of the Syndicate of Restaurant Owners. "Sales are getting worse and worse," Ariss said. Tuesday "was a very dramatic blow, a very serious thing. Spending is going to be very squeezed. The whole industry is in a very bad mood."
Nabil Blaik, who returned from the US two years ago to invest $250,000 to open a stationery store in Tariq al-Jdideh, said he was contemplating moving back to the US. "It's no good right now," Blaik said. "It's slow, very slow. That's a busy area and [there's] nobody. I am losing my money here. I think I might go back." At the Houdoum men's clothing boutique in ABC, Jean Mansour said the mood and the outlook were bleak - people were coming to the mall only to take their minds off the worsening political situation, to relax and socialize - but not to spend.
"All the people now are afraid," Mansour said. "There's no light for the people. There's no hope."
Nasrallah says he can topple government whenever he wants
By Rym Ghazal -Daily Star staff
Thursday, January 25, 2007
BEIRUT: Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Wednesday that the opposition was holding back its efforts to bring down Premier Fouad Siniora's government for the sake of civil peace, but his main Christian ally promised "more surprises" in the days to come.
"The opposition has the political, popular and organizational strength to bring down the unconstitutional government tomorrow or the day after," Nasrallah added. "What has so far prevented the fall of this 'clique' that is clinging to power is not international support but the patriotic feelings of the opposition and its desire to preserve civil peace.""We are not an occupying force in Lebanon," he said. "We are above all these accusations and divisive statements. This is our country, just like it is everyone else's."Nasrallah's comments came after his ally, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, promised "more surprises" in the coming days, saying every action by the anti-government forces would depend on the reaction of the government. In a news conference held at his Rabieh residence Wednesday, Aoun warned the pro-government forces: "You can't imagine what we have in store." This came as opposing factions clashed for a second day in the North Lebanese city of Tripoli on Wednesday, leaving two wounded people.Tripoli, the country's second largest city, saw some of the heaviest fighting on Tuesday during the general strike called by the Hizbullah-led opposition. The fighting broke out Wednesday in Tripoli during the funeral of one of two men killed a day earlier, witnesses said. As some 2,000 government supporters headed for the cemetery in the Sunni neighborhood of Tabbaneh, some mourners fired assault rifles in the air in a traditional sign of mourning.
Gunmen on an overlooking hill in the rival neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen - a stronghold of the pro-opposition Alawites, a Shiite offshoot sect - opened fire, sending many mourners into a panic to escape the area. A battle ensued, involving automatic-rifle fire and the tossing of at least two grenades, according to witnesses and security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. But despite the clashes, the anti-government campaign is set to continue, with pledges by opposition leaders to further escalate the protest until they bring down the government. Speaking of Tuesday's clashes and blockades, Aoun claimed he had "personally called it off in the evening to prevent Christian strife.""We did not want further clashes to erupt among Lebanon's Christians," he said.
According to Aoun, blocking traffic with blazing roadblocks to force the resignation of Siniora was a "legal" action. "We did not attack people or property," said Aoun, "unlike Lebanese Forces [LF] militiamen who came down armed with guns and looking for blood."He accused the bodyguards of Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation chief Pierre Dagher of being among the armed men who clashed with the FPM.Aoun said seven of his supporters suffered bullet wounds during clashes with the LF.Dagher slammed Aoun's accusations, denying LBC's involvement in the incident.
Clashes erupted all throughout Lebanon Tuesday, with the more serious ones occurring in the Christian neighborhoods between rival Christian parties and no clashes reported in the Hizbullah-controlled areas.
The FPM leader accused the LF of trying to establish "a militia rule" in Lebanon by attacking his followers. "What kind of a government condemns the burning of tires but not the deadly attacks by armed men?" said Aoun. "Men from the LF were at the roadblocks even before the army itself," he added. Attacking Siniora, Aoun bestowed a new title on the premier's government, saying that "in addition to an unconstitutional government, it is now also a criminal government." Despite the clashes, Aoun declared the general strike "a success" and estimated that about 90 percent of Beirut had observed the protest.
Aoun was also one of the few politicians to praise the army, which came under fire by the March 14 camp for not keeping roads open and for not preventing the deadly clashes that claimed three lives Tuesday."The army was sandwiched, it couldn't really do anything," he said.
The Army Command Wednesday released a statement in which it thanked and commended the Lebanese Army's role in the general strike on Tuesday.
"Despite the unfortunate set of events on Tuesday, your great efforts and sacrifices prevented the situation from getting out of control," said the statement. "The army was working under extremely sensitive circumstances to protect the safety of the Lebanese citizens and their private properties," it added. "Several people took advantage of the strained situation and used personal weapons and violent tactics which led to the death and injury of several citizens and troops," it said.Meanwhile, Lebanese political sources said Saudi Arabia and Iran, backers of the main rivals in Lebanon's political crisis, are negotiating a deal to end the standoff.
They said Prince Bandar bin Sultan held talks with senior Iranian official Ali Larijani in Tehran to try to reach an agreement both the government and the opposition would accept. The Lebanese sources did not give many details on the proposed deal but one source said it covered formation of a unity government and an understanding on a UN-backed international court. The source said if there was an agreement in Tehran, the Saudis would present an initiative to resolve the crisis at an international aid conference for Lebanon in Paris. The head of the Future parliamentary bloc, MP Saad Hariri, slammed the opposition Wednesday, saying the March 14 Forces "will not allow some forces to restore the tutelage of the Syrian regime in Lebanon."
In a statement Wednesday, Hariri said the opposition was "protecting the tutelage regime, hampering the creation of an international tribunal [to try suspects in former Premier Rafik Hariri's assassination], canceling the Paris III conference and preventing the implementation of UN Resolution 1701."
"The legitimate and constitutional power will assume its national responsibilities no matter how they escalate the situations," he said. - With agencies
Bush lumps Hizbullah in with Al-Qaeda
Compiled by Daily Star staff -Thursday, January 25, 2007
US President George W. Bush has called Iranian-backed "Shiite extremists" as great a peril to his nation as Al-Qaeda, singling out Lebanon's Hizbullah as well as the Shiite militias which his war in Iraq helped to power. Back in Baghdad, Iraqi and US forces launched a major assault Wednesday to wrest control of one of the capital's districts from insurgents. In his annual State of the Union speech late Tuesday, Bush raised the "nightmare scenario" of a premature US pullout sparking an "epic battle between Shiite extremists backed by Iran and Sunni extremists aided by Al-Qaeda and supporters of the old regime." But despite his plea, the Democratic-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee dismissed Bush's plans to increase troop strength in Iraq as "not in the national interest," an unusual wartime repudiation of the resident. The vote was 12-9, largely along party lines.
An official from a top Shiite party in Iraq bristled at Bush's remarks, but some Sunni politicians welcomed his focus on the danger from Shiite militias, as well as Sunni insurgents."Comparing Shiite militias to Al-Qaeda is ridiculous," said the Shiite official, who asked not to be identified.
"They are protecting their own communities after a three-year onslaught by terrorists and only a few outlaws take revenge. How are the militias a threat to the United States?"There was no immediate official reaction from Tehran.
Iran has reached out to Saudi Arabia in an apparent effort to keep sectarian warfare in Iraq from igniting in Lebanon and beyond.
Bush said Sunni militants such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in Iraq, and Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden were just one part of a "totalitarian" threat from Islamist radicals. "In recent times, it has also become clear that we face an escalating danger from Shiite extremists who are just as hostile to America, and are also determined to dominate the Middle East," he told Congress.
"Many are known to take direction from the regime in Iran, which is funding and arming terrorists like Hizbullah - a group second only to Al-Qaeda in the American lives it has taken," Bush said, accusing "Hizbullah terrorists" of "seeking to undermine Lebanon's legitimately elected government."
Two weeks after unveiling a new strategy centered on sending 21,500 more troops into battle, the embattled president gave no ground to his critics and urged lawmakers and the US public: "Give it a chance to work."
"On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. So let us find our resolve, and turn events towards victory," he said, as lawmakers prepared to take up symbolic legislation sharply critical of deepening US military involvement in the war. The president also acknowledged a dramatic upsurge in sectarian violence, telling Americans leery of seeing US troops caught in the crossfire: "This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in." "If US forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides," he said. "We could expect an epic battle between Shiite extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by Al-Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country, and in time the entire region could be drawn into the conflict," he said.
As part of Bush's plan to secure Baghdad, US helicopters attacked gunmen holed up inside high-rise buildings in what the US military said was an operation to regain control of Haifa Street, a major road cutting through the heart of the city.
Thirty insurgents were killed and 35 detained during day- long gun battles in the area, Iraq's Defence Ministry said.
US and Iraqi troops backed by Apache attack helicopters and armored Stryker vehicles firing their heavy machine guns fought militants in Haifa Street in a battle that began around daybreak, said US military spokesman Major Steven Lamb.
He said US troops also fired mortars after coming under assault rifle, mortar and rocket-propelled grenade attack during the operation to restore Iraqi security control of the Sunni insurgent stronghold. He had no details on casualties, but a local resident said he had counted six bodies, all men, one of whom had a rifle lying next to him. A local journalist said he helped transport 37 wounded people to hospital, including women and children, in three ambulances that managed to get through the security cordon.
The Iraqi government said then the area was riddled with "terrorist hideouts" and said it had captured many foreign Arab fighters linked to Al-Qaeda in that operation two weeks ago. At least 22 other Iraqis were killed in attacks, including four members of a single family in Kut, southeast of Baghdad, security sources said. - Agencies
Protesters assault reporter and his children
Daily Star staff-Thursday, January 25, 2007
BEIRUT: The National News Agency correspondent in Baalbek, Morshed Dandash, was injured - like several other journalists and reporters - in clashes that erupted during the opposition strike on Tuesday. Dandash told The Daily Star on Wednesday that he was assaulted while working at Baalbek's western entrance."We thought we would be kidnapped," said Dandash, who was accompanied by his children Yara, 21, and Ramy, 17.
"We want to kill you," he quoted the protesters as saying. The family was hit with stones, sticks and even firearms, leaving the two children in need of medical care. "We were transported to Dar al-Amal Hospital ... I am fine but I transported my kids to another hospital for fear of being struck again," he said. Dandash said Hizbullah officials vowed to open investigation into the incident and he thanked Information Minister Ghazi Aridi, security officials and religious figures for showing concern. - The Daily Star
ISF reports final count of 3 dead, 175 wounded, 135 arrested
By Theodore May -Special to The Daily Star
Thursday, January 25, 2007
BEIRUT: A day after an opposition strike paralyzed Lebanon and sparked a round of sectarian violence, the numbers of those killed, wounded and arrested began to come into focus. According to the head of the Internal Security Forces, three people died and 175 were wounded in clashes between opposition and government supporters on Tuesday. The ISF said the three dead were Riyadh Abi Khattar, Bilal Hayek and Khaled Ahmed Khaled. ISF chief Ashraf Rifi said that the violence, which spread throughout the country but was most intense in the North and in Beirut, resulted in 135 arrests. The clashes began after the Hizbullah-led opposition imposed roadblocks designed to shut down the country for a day. The strike had been dubbed "the next phase" in an almost two-month-old campaign by the opposition to bring down the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
For some Lebanese, the street violence called to mind the fighting of the 1975-1990 Civil War and sparked fears of worse yet to come.
Rifi said Wednesday that two Sunnis had been killed during the previous day's clashes in Tripoli and that a member of the Lebanese Forces party had been killed in Batroun. A source at the Military Court said that a fourth person had died in Rouweissat Sofar and that a member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party was in serious condition due to related violence in the area.
Funeral services for Abi Khattar were to be held Thursday at 3 p.m. at Mar Mikhail Church in Batroun. Funerals for Hayek and Khaled were held on Wednesday in Tripoli. Rifi said that of the 175 wounded, 51 sustained wounds from gunfire. Rifi attributed the remaining wounds to various sources, "mostly" the result of sectarian skirmishes, he said.
Included among the wounded were three bodyguards of former MP Fares Soueid. Soueid himself was unscathed by reportedly random gunfire from security forces to disperse a crowd. "We are satisfied with the behavior of all our forces because we had to handle delicate situations carefully," Rifi said. In addition to wounds sustained in clashes, smoke inhalation was another serious mechanism of injury. Maher Jamaleddine, president of the Sahel Hospital, said his facility saw 13 patients related to the demonstrations, and that 12 of them had suffered from dyspnea, which involves difficulty with breathing and can be brought on by excessive smoke inhalation. The majority of the 135 arrests made were in Sidon, Beirut, Nahr al-Mott and in the Chouf, Rifi said. Sources at the Military Court said those arrested were charged with inciting violence, attacking security forces, the possession of unlicensed weapons and discharging a firearm in a residential area.
Military Investigative Magistrate Jean Fahd was to determine further legal action based on ongoing investigations. The source at the Military Court said a suspect believed to be responsible for Abi Kattar's death and the wounding of four others had been arrested. While nobody has been arrested in connection with the deaths of the men in Tripoli, the army has a main suspect in the killings, the source added.
Lebanese try to put disastrous day behind them
'Today everything is normal again. this is how the lebanese live'
By Iman Azzi -Daily Star staff
Thursday, January 25, 2007
BEIRUT: Smoke was still rising from the remains of burned tires Wednesday following the nationwide opposition blockade of major roads across Lebanon the previous day. Employees of waste-management companies, local residents and city employees worked to clear the mountains of sand, flipped-over dumpsters and smoldering tires. "I opened [on Tuesday] but was forced to close when they started clashing outside," Walid Kadi, 30, told The Daily Star, standing behind the counter of an electrical-appliance shop in Corniche al-Mazraa, which witnessed some of the most intense clashes in the capital on Tuesday. Opposition and pro-government supporters hurled rocks, bottles and insults at each other. Many were injured and the army deployed heavily to intervene. Three were killed in clashes around the country. "But today everything is normal again. This is how the Lebanese live. One day, we're in the streets, the second day we forget it all," Kadi said.
Outside, children rode bikes past armored personnel carriers parked on several corners. At least three remained, and just as many Sukleen garbage trucks, flanked by several employees. Only 24 hours after the road was covered with rubble, cars whizzed by as fast as ever.
Down the road, Samir Hotait sat chatting to a friend in a shop. "Business is slow today but we're open. I came yesterday but didn't bother to open when I saw the opposition supporters standing outside," Hotait, 26, explained. "One of the company cars was damaged when too many of them stood on its roof." Outside his shop, four Lebanese soldiers stood guard, behind them a large poster depicting the four major opposition leaders plastered in the heat of the clashes on Tuesday. Hotait says no one in the predominantly pro-government neighborhood has dared to take it down.
"Of course I want it down but I'm not going to be the one to do it. What if the wrong person sees me?" Hotait said, afraid it would renew clashes.
Policemen directing traffic and Sukleen workers wore surgical masks due to the thick residue in the air left behind by the burning tires.
In Hazmieh, the Port Said roundabout was spotless by Wednesday afternoon, save for dark patches where tire ash had stained the concrete. A restaurant and a bookstore were vandalized and two employees were assaulted during the blockade.
"I had to close, there were too many of them here," said a man named Sarkis who works in a shoe store. "But as soon as they left last night we all came out to clear our road." Although stores and streets opened in Zahle, schools and universities remained closed
on Wednesday. The Lebanese Forces organized a parade with fireworks in the streets of Zahle Tuesday night to celebrate the end of the opposition's day-long strike. In the coastal city of Sidon, residents woke up to see their entire city still covered by a thick coat of black smoke. A number of residents worked hand in hand with the Civil Defense and workers from Sidon's Municipality to clean the ash and rubble from the roads so shops, schools, and banks could resume their weekday schedules. In addition to political discords between forces from the opposition and the March 14 Forces, Sidon's streets were home to a "war of pictures," where pictures of political leaders were burned. The army erected checkpoints on Sidon's main roads and roundabouts to deter further vandalism.Also in the South, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon's state of alert status remained unchanged throughout Tuesday, a UNIFIL spokesperson confirmed to The Daily Star, although the number of UNIFIL patrols was less due to the blocked roads. - With additional reporting by Mohammed Zaatari
An Exercise on the Brink of Iraqization
Zuheir Kseibati Al-Hayat - 25/01/07//
If Bloody Tuesday was merely a message as claimed by those opposed to the March 14 Forces, we may be tempted to ask, how then do civil, sectarian or confessional wars - which people find difficult to believe are not yet at the doorstep of their nation and its capital - begin, and whether January 23, 2007 is no more than a revised version of April 13, 1975.
The specter that could be seen through the haze of Bloody Tuesday was that of new lines of confrontations that have become a reality in the hearts of many amongst the Lebanese people.
There were also lines marking the strongholds of each of the opposition camps, who cannot ignore the fact that the strike they launched only served to cast serious doubts on the possibility of saving this nation from an imminent disaster, while they claim that the purpose was saving the nation from the government and its supporters.
It was an excellently executed Iraqi scene: masked men, victory banners flying over ruins, Sunni supporters of the Future Current Movement, holding off waves of humans unleashed by the Shiite members of the Amal and Hezbollah movements, as clashes between the followers of both Michel Aoun and Samir Gaga raged not far away, and which fortunately did not spread into the heart of what are known as the Christian areas.
There were also rumors of snipers taking part in the shootout, and the summoning of arm enforcements, hours after the protestors' siege of Beirut.
Sandbag barricades complete the specter, making it seem very much like the aftermath of the post office incident in 1975 except for one, very critical difference, namely: the chaos and the outpour of sentiments of defiance will drive Lebanon fast into a double catastrophe on the sectarian and ideological levels, no matter what is being said about the democratic right of self expression.
Adding insult to injury, some perceive the incidents of this dark day as a successful exercise in testing the capabilities of some forces, and the solidarity among its members as they tighten the noose around the government's neck, and challenge it to oppress or break their street protests that turned into clashes with arms, staffs and knives, and the targeting of those seeking the safety of their homes.
It is unfortunate that the opposition is not able to recognize that its 'escalation' is actually pouring more fuel onto the blazing inferno of anger that has been raging since the first day of the Israeli war ceasefire, uncovering the extent of the calamity sustained by this entire nation with all its forces and sects.
It would not be an exaggeration to describe the actions of some of the people of Lebanon in the course of their rivalry between brethren, fed by winds blowing from abroad, as a breeding of calamities, the impact of which will be beyond anyone's ability to contain, just like no one was able to prevent the siege of the capital that occurred in a matter of hours, and the seizing of civilians as hostages for a graver imminent threat, as it is only then that searching for culprits becomes insignificant.
The opposition's declaration that it has succeeded in delivering a message does not by any account bring the opponents back to the negotiating table so long as those who declared war on a government they call illegitimate are still holding to, or hinting to be holding to, more and different alternatives within the strategy of snowballing escalation.
What could be of significance is the fact that prior to the start of the sit-in that paralyzed the heart of Beirut, many of the Lebanese would never have believed that a change in the government authority could justify risking the fate of a nation.
Also of significance is the fact that the outcome of Bloody Tuesday was to pump copious amounts of blood into the veins of sedition.
Damn this sedition, as goodwill will not save the Lebanese people. As a matter of fact, nothing could now succeed in convincing them that keeping them prisoners of the nightmare of the imminent war is an unavoidable price that must be paid in the form of an added value tax for a tomorrow that smells of less corruption, a tomorrow in which justice is based on partnership, the composition of which is not the nation's only protection against turmoil, as this would be the shortest way to a fragile stability, constantly marred with seasonal tremors.
What is left to complete the specter of war between brethren and foes? Smoke, fires, arms, rumors of snipers and conquests, and questions over the military establishment's loyalty to the political will of the country that contrast the unanimous applauding of its role as a safeguard of liberties upon the onset of the crisis triggered by the resignation of the Shiite ministers, and the foiling of a drill to cordon the presidential headquarters.
Masked men in Baghdad and in Beirut; winds of Iraqization that will not stop at anyone's doorstep.
New lines of confrontation are being drawn, as a question with an obvious answer surfaces: Was it 'national' and local will that led to the eruption of this kind of war that threatens to erase Lebanon from existence, or was it the herd instinct pushing everyone toward the abyss, where an entire nation is slaughtered in order to slough the skin of a regime?
SOLIDA PRESS RELEASE - Hariri's case -- Affaire Hariri
From: firstname.lastname@example.org View Contact Details
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2007 14:22:04 +0100 (CET)
(La version française suit Arabic below)
The Hariri Investigation
Human Rights Violations Jeopardize the Uncovering of the Truth
At least 8 individuals are believed to be detained in the central prison of Roumieh as part of the investigation into the February 14, 2005 assassination in Beirut of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.
An International Investigation Commission, first headed by Mr. Detlev Mehlis, then by Mr. Serge Brammertz, has been conducting the inquiry into the assassination in coordination with the Lebanese judiciary. At least 8 individuals are held as part of this investigation. They are:
- Ayman TARABAY
- Mustapha Talal MESTO
- Ahmad ABDEL AAL
- Mahmoud ABDEL AAL
- General Jamil AL SAYED
- General Raymond AZAR
- General Ali EL HAJ
- General Mustapha HAMDANE
These 8 individuals have now been held for more than a year without any charges having being brought against them in the case. Their arrest, depending on each individual case, was based on either the recommendations made by the International Investigat ion Commission or investigations conducted by the Lebanese judiciary. Yet, more than a year after their arrest, it appears that no evidentiary material was uncovered to formally indict these individuals. The Brammertz Commissions latest report dated December 12, 2006 explicitly states that the Commission has conveyed information to the Lebanese judiciary concerning individuals who are being held, which will help the Lebanese authorities take measures they deem appropriate or necessary regarding their detention and reaffirms the sole responsibility of the Lebanese judiciary in decisions pertaining to the continued detention of these persons.
These statements have not been acted on and it is therefore apparent that these individuals are today victims of arbitrary detention, since no accusations or charges have been held against them that could justify their continued detention. Their detention is presumed to be under the appl icable procedures pertaining to the operation of the Judicial Council, which is the highest judiciary authority in the country, and authorizing the indefinite detention of suspects. However, this provision is in violation of Article 9.2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Lebanon is a signatory and which stipulates that Anyone who is arrested ( ) shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.
Furthermore, their detention conditions are questionable to the extent that the individuals have been subjected to prolonged isolation from the beginning of their detention period, which was recognized as early as 1992 by the United Nations Committee on Human Rights as a violation of Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Only Ayman Tarabay and Mustapha Talal Mesto have been rec ently given a reprieve against this inhuman treatment, when they were transferred on December 7, 2006 to another section of the prison where they are no longer in isolation, after 1 year and 3 months in total isolation.
According to some information, Ahmad Abdel Aal, Ayman Tarabay and Mustapha Talal Mesto also suffer from serious health problems.
At this time, we request Examining Judge Elias Eid and Prosecutor Said Mirza to take the required decisions pertaining to these detentions in order to avoid that arbitrary detentions which are already prolonged, and ill treatments, occur prior to the convening of the International Tribunal whose work would then be marred by procedural irregularities under international law.
Moreover, we again remind the Lebanese authorities of the existing prohibition against any ill treatment of the detainees, the principle of the presumption of innocence, and Lebanons international commitments, particularly t he International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which stipulates the norms pertaining to the right to a fair trial.
SOLIDA reserves its right to file a complaint with the competent authorities at the international level to investigate the judicial status of these individuals.
January 25, 2007
Les violations des droits des lHomme risquent de nuire à la révélation de la vérité
Au moins 8 personnes seraient détenues à la prison centrale de Roumieh dans le cadre de linvestigation sur lassassinat de lancien Premier Ministre Rafic Hariri, qui a eu lieu le 14 février 2005 à Beyrouth.
Une Commission denquête interna tionale, présidée dabord par Monsieur Detlev Mehlis, puis par Monsieur Serge Brammertz, mène lenquête sur cet attentat en coordination avec la Justice libanaise. Dans le cadre de cette investigation, au moins huit personnes sont détenues. Il sagit de :
- Ayman TARABAY
- Moustapha Talal MESTO
- Ahmad ABDEL AAL
- Mahmoud ABDEL AAL
- Général Jamil AL SAYED
- Général Raymond AZAR
< /span>- Général Ali EL HAJ
- Général Moustapha HAMDANE
Ces huit personnes seraient détenues depuis près dun an et demi sans quaucune charge ne soit retenue contre elles dans laffaire. Leur arrestation se basait, selon les cas, soit sur des recommandations de la commission denquête internationale, soit sur les investigations de la Justice libanaise. Néanmoins, plus dune année après leur arrestation, il semble quaucun élement ne soit encore apparu qui permettrait de porter formellement des accusations à lencontre de ces détenus. Le récent rapport de Monsieur Brammertz en date du 12 décembre 2006 indique que la commission a transmis à la justice libanaise d es informations concernant des individus qui sont en détention, sachant que cela pourra aider les autorités libanaises à prendre les mesures quelles considèrent appropriées ou nécessaires concernant leur détention et réaffirme lexclusive responsabilité de la justice libanaise dans les décisions relatives au maintien en détention de ces personnes.
Ces déclarations nont pas été suivies deffet, et il semble que ces personnes soient aujourdhui victimes dune détention arbitraire, aucune charge qui pourrait justifier leur maintien en détention nayant été retenue contre elles. Leur détention se déroulerait en application des procédures en vigueur liées au fonctionnement du Conseil de Justice, la plus haute instance judiciaire du pays, qui autorise la détention illimitée de suspects, mais qui est en contradiction avec larticle 9.2 du Pacte International relat if aux droits civils et politiques, auquel le Liban est partie, et qui stipule que Tout individu arrêté (...) recevra notification, dans le plus court délai, de toute accusation portée contre lui.
Leurs conditions de détention sont par ailleurs criticables dans la mesure où elles sont soumises à une mesure disolement prolongé, depuis le début de leur détention, ce qui a été reconnu dès 1992 par le Comité des Droits de lHomme des Nations Unies comme une violation de larticle 7 du Pacte International relatif aux Droits Civils et Politiques, interdisant la torture et les traitements cruels, inhumains ou dégradants.
Seuls Ayman TARABAY et Mustapha Talal MESTO ont été soustraits à ce traitement inhumain et ils ont été transférés le 7 décembre 2006 dans une autre section de la prison où ils ne sont plus isolés, après 1 an et 3 mois à lisolement complet.
Ahmad ABDEL AAL, Ayman TARABAY et Mustapha Talal MESTO présenteraient selon certaines informations de graves problèmes de santé.
Nous demandons dès aujourdhui au juge dinstruction Elias EID, et au procureur Saïd MIRZA de prendre les décisions qui simposent concernant ces détentions, ceci afin déviter que des détentions arbitraires et de surcroît prolongées, ainsi que des mauvais traitements naient lieu en amont du tribunal international, dont le travail risque dès lors dêtre entâché de vices de procédures au regard du droit international.
Par ailleurs nous rappelons une nouvelle fois aux autorités libanaises linterdiction de tout mauvais traitement à lencontre des détenus, le principe de la présomption dinnocence , et les engagements internationaux du Liban, notamment le pacte international relatif aux droits civils et politiques, qui prévoit les normes relatives au droit à un procès équitable.
SOLIDA se réserve le droit de saisir les instances compétentes au niveau international pour faire examiner la situation judiciaire de ces personnes.
Beyrouth, le 25 Janvier 2007
إنّ انتهاكات حقوق الإنسان تهددّ بأن تشكل عائقاً أساسي 75;ً أمام رفع النقاب عن الحقيقة
هناك على الأقل 8 أشخاص معتقلين في سجن رومية المركزي في إطار التحقيقات حول اغتيال رئيس الوزراء السابق رفيق الحريري، في الرابع عشر من & #1588;هر شباط/فبراير عام 2005 في بيروت.
تتولى التحقيق حول هذه الجريمة لجنة تحقيق دولية بقيادة ً السيد دتليف ميليس أولا ثم تلاه السيد سيرج بريميرتس وذلك بالتنسيق مع القضا&# 1569; اللبناني. وفي سياق هذا التحقيق تمّ اعتقال على الأقل ثمانية أشخاص هم:
- أيمن طربيه
- مصطفى تلال مستو
- أحمد عبد العال
- محمود عبد العال
- اللواء جمي 604; السيد
- اللواء ريمون عازار
- اللواء علي الحج
- اللواء مصطفى حمدان
مضى على اعتقال هؤلاء الأشخاص أكثر من سنة من دون أن توجه بحقهم أي تهم متعلقة بهذه ; القضية. وإن اعتقالهم يستند إما إلى توصيات لجنة التحقيق الدولية وإما إلى تحقيقات القضاء اللبناني وذلك باختلاف كل قضية. ولكن وبعد مصي سنة على اعتقالهم لم يتم رفع الن 02;اب عن أي عنصر أو معطيات جديدة من شأنها توجيه اتهامات رسمية بحق هؤلاء المتهمين.ويشير التقرير الصادر عن السيد بريميرتس والمؤرخ بتاريخ 12 ديسمبر / كانون الأول 2006 أن لجنة التح 602;يق الدولية سلمت القضاء اللبناني معلومات " حول أشخاص محتجزين، علماً أنه من شأن هذه المعطيات أن تساعد السلطات اللبنانية على اتخاذ التدابير التي تراها ضرورية أو مناسب& #1577; والمتعلقة بمسألة احتجازهم" وأعاد التقرير كذلك التأكيد على أن القضاء اللبناني هو الوحيد الذي يمكنه أن يتخذ القرارات المتعلقة باعتقال هؤلاء الأشخاص.
هذه التصر¡ 0;حات لم تؤخذ بعين الاعتبار ولم تتم ملاحقتها أو العمل بها ويبدو أن هؤلاء الأشخاص المذكورين أعلاه هم اليوم ضحايا للاعتقال التعسفي سيما أنه لم توجه بحقهم أي تهم من شأنها 1;ن تبرر إبقاءهم قيد الاحتجاز. هم اليوم معتقلين بموجب الإجراءات حيز التنفيذ المرتبطة بعمل المجلس العدلي الذي يعتبر المرجع القضائي الأعلى في البلد وهو الذي يتيح اعتقال المشتبه بهم لفترة غير محددة لكن يجد الذكر هنا أنه يتعارض وأحكام المادة 9.2 من الميثاق العالمي حول الحقوق المدنية والسياسية ولبنان عضو فيه. يلحظ هذا الميثاق: " يحق لكل شخص 605;عتقل (...) أن يتلقى في أقرب مهلة إنذارا يتضمن التهم الكافة الموجهة ضده"
لا بد من الإشارة هنا إلى أنه يمكن توجيه الانتقادات لظروف اعتقالهم، حيث أنه تمّ وضعهم ومنذ اليو& #1605; الأول لاعتقالهم في سجن انفرادي، وتعتبر لجنة حقوق الإنسان التابعة للأمم المتحدة منذ العام 1992 هذا الإجراء انتهاكاً للبند السابع للميثاق العالمي حول الحقوق المدن&# 1610;ة والسياسية، مانعة أعمال التعذيب والممارسات المتوحشة، والمذلة وغير الإنسانية.
وتم مؤخراً تجنيب أيمن طربيه ومصطفى طلال مستو هذه الممارسات غير الإنسانية إذ نقلا 601;ي السابع من شهر ديسمبر/كانون الأول 2006 إلى قسم آخر من السجن حيث تم إخراجهما من الحجز الانفرادي بعد سنة وثلاثة أشهر.
ووفق معلومات أكيدة يعاني كل من أحمد عبد العال، وأيم 6; طربيه ومصطفى طلال مستو مشاكل صحية خطيرة.
نطالب اليوم قاضي التحقيق إلياس عيد والمدعي العام سعيد ميرزا باتخاذ التدابير اللازمة المتعلقة بهؤلاء المحتجزين، وذلك ل 605;نع عمليات الاحتجاز التعسفية والمطولة والممارسات السيئة أن تؤثر سلباً على المحكمة الدولية، علماً أن عمل هذه الأخيرة يواجه اليوم بعض الانتقادات المتعلقة بارتكاب بع&# 1590; الإجراءات التي تناهض حقوق الإنسان العالمية.
ونحن نذكر مجدداً السلطات اللبنانية أنها يجب أن تمتنع عن القيام بأي أعمال تعذيب بحق المحتجزين، كما نذكرها بمبدأ أن &# 1575;لمتهم بريء حتى تثبت إدانته وبتعهدات لبنان الدولية ولا سيما الميثاق الدولي حول الحقوق المدنية والسياسية التي تنصّ على المعايير المتعلقة بالحق بالحصول على محاكمة عا دلة.
وتحتفظ "سوليدا" بحق رفع هذه القضية أمام السلطات الدولية المختصة لدرس الوضع القانوني والقاضي لهؤلاء الأشخاص.
بيروت، في 25 يناير/كانون الثاني 2007