January 04/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 1,29-34. The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, 'A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.' I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel."John testified further, saying, "I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.'  Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God."

Free Opinions
Sadam, a rope, and a great escape -By Michael Young 04.01.07
Why is everyone ignoring the Boutros proposal? By Eugen Sensenig-Dabbous 04.01.07
Erdogan's visit offers a chance, but only if Lebanon helps itself -Daily Star 04.01.07
National American Coptic Assembly- NACA

The Message of Egyptian Coptic Christians in 2007/03.01.07

Latest news from the Daily Stor for January 04/07
Saudi king hosted top Hizbullah members for talks
Jailed Hizbullah fighter sees swap as key to release
Erdogan urges Lebanese to spare region new sectarian divisions
Higher Shiite Council says only unity government can tackle economic crisis
Bishops warn protests harming country
Major milestones were numerous in 2006
Lebanese business embraces government's reform plan
Will Paris III conference save Lebanon's flailing economy?
Head of Shiite party accuses Al-Akhbar daily of slander
Armenian protest mocks Turkey's peacemaking credentials
SSNP denies report that it planned to bomb Phalange rally in Koura
Confusion reigns as displaced from two wars demand just compensation
New study detects traces of uranium in South

Latest news from Miscellaneous sources for January 04/07
Pro-Syrian Parliamentary Deputy Allegedly Involved in Lebanon Terror-Naharnet
Italy's Energy Group Denies Trying to Pay Ransom to Free Hostages, including Lebanese-Naharnet
Lebanese Armenians Protest against Erdogan's Visit-Naharnet
Erdogan Warns against Spill Over of Sunni-Shiite Conflict -Naharnet

Maronite Bishops call for a Domestic salvation initiative-Naharnet
Turkish premier 'ready to mediate' in Lebanon crisis-Monsters and
Fatah official: Hamas training in Iran, Lebanon-Ynetnews
Six Hizbullah Fighters Detained During Lebanon War Seek Prisoners ...Naharnet
Turkish PM Arrives in Beirut as Moussa's Return Unconfirmed-Naharnet
Israeli Army Chief: Israel Failed to Achieve Objectives in Lebanon War-Naharnet
Israeli Warplanes Monitor Lebanon's Borders with Syria-Naharnet
Saniora Announces Six-Point Socio-Economic Reform Program-Naharnet
Fortune Teller Predicts Blood and Thunder in Lebanon-Naharnet
Hayek Predicts String of Dreadful Prophecies for 2007 Ahead of a Prosperous Lebanon-Naharnet
Aoun to Saniora: Stop Being Stubborn-Naharnet
Has Lebanon's Cedar revolt come undone?Christian Science Monitor
Israeli army chief terms war in Lebanon success-People's Daily Online
Turkish PM in Beirut Today as Moussa's Return Unconfirmed-Naharnet
Restless Natives-PEJ News - Victoria,BC,Canada
Is Syria a reforming character?Economist - UK
Hezbollah Sees No End To Demonstration-All Headline News

The best photographs of 2006-Guardian Unlimited

Maronite Bishops call for a Domestic salvation initiative
The Maronite bishops on Wednesday said differences
Over the international tribunal to try suspects in Ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's assassination and related crimes were Lebanon's main "malady" and called for dialogue to "form an authority that would lead the country out of its ordeal." The Bishops, in a statement released after their monthly meeting under Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, said the "international tribunal is the main malady of the Lebanese situation." The statement added that "some of the Lebanese insist on forming it to put an end to the serial assassinations that target Lebanon's best men, while others –the majority of which is made up of non-Lebanese- want to block its formation … fearing that disclosing the truth would harm their interests." Noting that constitutional institutes have been paralyzed by the ongoing conflict between the three main authorities –The president, the government and parliament speaker- the statement called for "dialogue based on the principles that we had previously announced to form an authority that would lead the country out of its ordeal." It called the various factions to launch "an initiative of salvation and good will from within" Lebanon to help settle the crisis. Beirut, 03 Jan 07, 16:12

Pro-Syrian Parliamentary Deputy Allegedly Involved in Lebanon Terror
A Jailed Syrian Social National Party (SSNP) member was reported Wednesday to have "testified" to interrogators that his party superior and parliament member Assad Hardan ordered him to detonate an explosive charge at a restaurant hosting a rally organized by the rival Phalange party. The Daily al-Mustaqbal quoted Jailed SSNP member Tony Mansour as saying the bombing operation was to be carried out at a restaurant in the northern Koura province on Jan. 15, 2005, where the Phalange Party was to organize a rally attended by ex-President Amin Gemayel and his son, Pierre, who was killed last Nov. 21 by unidentified gunmen who opened fire at his car in east Beirut's suburb of New Jdaideh. The failed attempt was to be carried out just 29 days before the assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri by blowing up his motorcade in Beirut. Mansour, who was arrested along with six other SSNP members in a major police bust at their hideouts in Koura last month, told investigators that after the Phalange Party set the date for its rally, Hardan ordered him to "obstruct" the event. "To carry out the order, Mansour and some of his aides headed to the rally's venue on Jan. 13 (2005) … and started planting a 15-kilogram explosive charge made up of T.N.T., but he was surprised to find out that the timer to be used had a fabrication defect, so he had to postpone the assignment" the report said.
Mansour, the report added, "also testified that it was decided to re-plant the explosive charge hours before the rally was to start. So he headed to the restaurant accompanied by his aides, only to be surprised by a security dragnet surrounding the venue, which forced him to abort the plan."Disclosing Hardan's alleged involvement in the reported operation would further complicate the already tense Lebanese situation.
Members of the legislature enjoy parliamentary immunity that prevents the judiciary from interrogating them, unless they were stripped of such a cover by a parliamentary vote. Parliament adjourned its regular legislative cycle on Dec. 31 and it will convene again in March, which means that the Hardan case will not deliberated before the house starts its regular spring activity. Police had confiscated 200 kilograms of T.N.T. paste, detonators and timing equipment from SSNP hideouts in Koura during the December raid. The SSNP is a pro-Syrian group that supports the Hizbullah-led ongoing protest aimed at toppling the majority government of Premier Fouad Saniora. The group had said in a statement that all the explosives and related equipment confiscated by police were left over from its resistance activity against Israel in the 1980s. However, al-Mustaqbal said investigators established that the confiscated T.N.T. paste and detonators were "brought into Lebanon in the year 2000." Beirut, 03 Jan 07, 17:00

Italy's Energy Group Denies Trying to Pay Ransom to Free Hostages, including Lebanese
Italian energy group ENI denied Wednesday trying to pay a bribe to obtain the release of four of its workers, including a Lebanese, abducted nearly four weeks ago in southern Nigeria. "ENI is working with the Nigerian authorities and the (Italian foreign ministry) crisis unit for a positive resolution to the deplorable affair of the kidnapping of its employees in Nigeria," ENI said in a statement. "ENI has had no direct contact with anyone except the Italian foreign ministry and the Nigerian authorities," it said. The separatist Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said Tuesday that ENI subsidiary Agip had "commissioned a fraud well known in the Delta to effect this plan. It involved paying 70 million naira (538,000 dollars, 405,000 euros) to those supposed to be guarding the hostages."
MEND militants abducted three Italians and one Lebanese national on December 7 during an attack on an oil installation owned by Agip in Brass, in Nigeria's southern Bayelsa State. "A middleman brought 70 million naira to one of our camps where the attempt was immediately reported. Needless to say, the money has been confiscated and will be put to better use," MEND said in a statement, reaffirming that the hostages would only be exchanged for people it wants freed.
MEND is demanding that Nigerian authorities release former Bayelsa State governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, jailed on corruption charges, as well as separatist leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari and other detainees from the Niger Delta. The group also wants a larger share for southern Nigerians in oil revenues, which account for almost all the country's foreign exchange income, and compensation for communities affected by oil pollution.(AFP) Beirut, 03 Jan 07, 20:08

Lebanese Armenians Protest against Erdogan's Visit
Lebanese of Armenian descent on Wednesday protested against the visit to Beirut by Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Representatives of the three Lebanese-Armenian political parties, the Tashnaq, the Hunchakian and the Ramgavar also took part in the sit-in at Beirut's northern entrance. The protestors waved placards denouncing what Armenians describe as the1915-1923 genocide committed by Ottoman Turkey against civilian Armenians. The protestors denounced "Turkey's intervention in Lebanon's affairs," according to a statement distributed by the organizing committee.
The statement said Lebanese of Armenian descent "stress their rejection of this visit as well as any Turkish interference in Lebanon's internal affairs."
It stated that Turkey and Israel are "strategic allies. and therefore, Turkey's interference in Lebanon … would stem from their joint interests."
It also said Erdogan's visit to Lebanon is "a step towards crystallizing Turkey's aspirations to dominate the region which it had ruled for four centuries."
The statement stressed that Armenians want Turkey to acknowledge committing the 1915-1923 massacres that they say claimed the lives of 1.5 million civilian Armenians. Beirut, 03 Jan 07, 19:56

Erdogan Warns against Spill Over of Sunni-Shiite Conflict
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sounded the alarm Wednesday stressing that Sunni-Shiite conflict in Lebanon would affect the whole Middle East.
Erdogan, who flew in earlier in the day for a 12-hour visit, told reporters after meeting his counterpart Fouad Saniora: "I Informed Permier Saniora that inter-sect differences (between Sunnis and Shiites) would reflect on the whole region. All the sides in Lebanon and the region should move to solve this problem."
The Turkish Premier Said his country "supports putting the shebaa farms under the custody of the United Nations."
Israel occupied the farms, located in southeast Lebanon, from Syrian control in 1967. Lebanon says the farms are Lebanese territory that the Jewish state should withdraw from, but Israel says the territory belongs to Syria. Syria refuses to demarcate its borders with Lebanon which would settle the sovereignty question over the farms. The Saniora government is trying to rally international support for its call to put the farms under U.N. control pending settlement of the border question with Syria. Erdogan, who visited Iran and Syria last month, said he did not discuss the Shebaa Farms issue with Israeli officials "that is why we don't know exactly their stand on the withdrawal issue."Saniora, in the joint news conference, said he thanked Erdogan for Turkey's humanitarian help to Lebanon during the 34-day war between Hizbullah and Israel last summer and its participation in the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) that is patrolling a 23-kilometer-deep demilitarized zone of south Lebanon abutting Israel's borders.
After meeting Saniora, Erdogan flew to south Lebanon aboard a Turkish helicopter where he inspected his troops serving with UNIFIL at the village of Shaaitiyeh.
Erdogan greeted the troops at the occasion of al-Adha holiday and praised their peacekeeping effort in south Lebanon. Turkey contributed 261 soldiers to UNIFIL, mainly engineers helping with reconstruction of the war-ravaged Lebanon. The Turkish prime minister is to hold separate talks later in the day with President Emile Lahoud, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri ,parliamentary Majority leader Saad Hariri and the head of Hizbullah's Parliamentary bloc Mohammed Raad before holding a second round of talks with Saniora. Erdogan's visit coincided with reports that the promised return of Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa to resume his mediation in the Lebanese crisis will not take place unless rival Lebanese factions show "flexibility" in their stands.
The Lebanese media on Wednesday quoted Egyptian ambassador Hussein Darrar as saying that Moussa's return to Beirut was not yet confirmed.
Darrar was quoted by the daily Al Balad as saying Moussa "is very much interested (in coming back) and is willing to return (to Beirut) provided he found flexibility in the stands" by the pro- and anti-government sides.
As Safir newspaper, however, quoted Darrar as saying that Moussa will not return to Beirut unless the Lebanese leaders "put forward new proposals" to help settle the crippling political crisis. Beirut, 03 Jan 07, 08:34

Turkish PM Arrives in Beirut as Moussa's Return Unconfirmed
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Beirut on Wednesday to meet political leaders amid reports that the promised return of Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa to resume mediation here will not take place unless rival Lebanese camps show "flexibility" in their stands.
Erdogan's one-day visit would include meetings with President Emile Lahoud, Prime Minister Fouad Saniora, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri.
The Turkish premier will also examine Turkish troops serving with the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon.
The statement said the Erdogan will discuss Turkey's "contributions to UNIFIL and the country's reconstruction and what (Turkey) can do to contribute to efforts to overcome the current government crisis in Lebanon."
Turkey currently has 261 soldiers serving with UNIFIL, mainly engineers helping with reconstruction after the 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah.
The Lebanese media on Wednesday quoted Egyptian ambassador Hussein Darrar as saying that Moussa's return to Beirut was not yet confirmed.
Darrar was quoted by the daily Al Balad as saying Moussa "is very much interested (in coming back) and is willing to return (to Beirut) provided he found flexibility in the stands" by the pro- and anti-government sides.
As Safir newspaper, however, quoted Darrar as saying that Moussa will not return to Beirut unless the Lebanese leaders "put forward new proposals" to help settle the crippling political crisis. Darrar made his remarks after meeting Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, Gen. Michel Aoun of the Free Patriotic Movement and Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
Moussa had announced that he would continue his mediation after the New Year and Adha holiday.
Meanwhile, Hizbullah deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem was quoted by Al Balad as saying the Hizbullah-led opposition will "decide this week on ways to step up its campaign against the government." Predominantly Hizbullah protestors have been camping outside the Grand Serail in downtown Beirut since Dec.1 seeking to topple Saniora. Beirut, 03 Jan 07, 08:34

National American Coptic Assembly- NACA
 Washington DC
 The Message of Egyptian Coptic Christians in 2007
 Over the past fourteen Hundred years Coptic Christian in Egypt endured all forms of discrimination exerted by Muslim extremists. Since the Arab envision to Egypt in 650 AD, Copts have been always terrorized by Islamists fundamentals. Copts have compelled by Muslim leaders to relinquish their native Coptic language and adopt the Arabic one. They have been called by Al Azhar (the most prominent Islamic institution In Egypt) as infidels and rouges elements because of religion. They also have been subjected to all kind of hate crimes including, the abduction of young Coptic girls, the killing of Coptic Women and children and the destruction of their places of worship.
Over the past forty years, the government of Egypt has endorsed and fostered an environment of Islamic radicalism to recruit more Muslim fundamentals. This phenomenon played a key role to force Islam on Coptic girls and enhance the isolation of the Coptic community in Egypt. As a result of citing in the constitution that Islam is the main source of legislation in Egypt, Coptic Christians has lost the freedom of religion including the right to build churches and the right to worship free respect.
During the 80s and under the Mubark administration, Islamic militants instigated several violent episodes against the Copts and western tourists, attacked, sacked and burned churches and Coptic businesses.
During the recent package of constitutional reform that took place in 2006, Mubark did not insert any constitutional provisions that enhance the rights of Christians in Egypt. On the contrary, he kept the provision that emphasizing the role of Islam as the main source of legislation.
 Enclosed are some of the incidents that demonstrate the violence endured by Copts over the past 25 years:
 July 1980: St. Mary church in Cairo has been burned by Islamic Militant
 June, 1981: 80 Coptic Christian were slaughtered in there houses, in the vicinity of El zauia El hamra, Cairo, Egypt
 July, 1981 St. Mary Church was bombed by Muslim radicals, in the vicinity of Shoubra, Cairo, Egypt. Seven people were killed in the attack.
 March 1990: Rumors that Copts are using Muslim girls in a white slave trade prompts two weeks of violence in Abu Quraqa (250 kms s. of Cairo). Churches, shops, houses and cars are firebombed and two Christians are kidnapped but there are no deaths or injuries. (Note: There are constant complaints of harassment by Islamic militants during this period. This harassment includes, as noted earlier, the spreading of false rumors, extortion and violence up to and including murder, often with the tacit approval or even participation of local officials. Such incidents, short of murder, will not be noted here unless they deserve special attention.)
 May 1990: Father Bishoy Hanna was killed by Muslim extremists along with his wife and five more people at his church in the province of Alexandria, Egypt.
 June 1990: A Christian liquor store owner is attacked by Islamic militants with swords and chains.
 1990: In Minshiat at Nassar (310 km s. of Cairo) workers repairing a Church are attacked by Islamic Militants.
 September 20-22 1991: Militant Muslims commit a wave of violence against Christian churches and shops in Imbabah, a suburb of Cairo. Police refuse to take reports of many incidents and discourage future reports. Some Copts who attempt to make reports are arrested. Also, after being harassed by a Muslim customer, a Christian butcher shoots and wounds him.
 March 11 1992: 3 people are killed and more injured in a gun battle between Christians and Muslims in the village of Sanbau (350 kms. of Cairo).
 April 29 1992: A church is stoned in Imbabah.
 May 4 1992: 11 Copts and two Muslims attempting to defend them are killed by gunmen, believed to be Islamic militants, in Sanabu. The authorities dismiss this as being part of a local "blood feud."
 October 27 1992: Four gunmen, believed to be Islamic militants, kill a Christian jeweler and his assistant.
 November 1 1992: Gunmen, believed to be Islamic militants, wound 10 Copts in an attack on a bus returning to Dayrut (310 kms of Cairo) from Cairo.
 December 20 1992: A Coptic weekly, Al-Watan, urges the government to stop what is called a new invasion of the schools by Islamic extremists. Headmasters are discriminating against Copts and forcing female students to wear veils. "Fanatic teachers" are also discriminating against their Coptic students. The Article notes that the government is opposed to this but is not doing enough to stop it.
 January 4 1993: In two separate assaults, gunmen, believed to be Islamic militants, kill one Copt and wound another.
 A Coptic church in Dayrut is firebombed.
 February 23 1993: In a Reuters article, Copts complain of discrimination including: job discrimination; discrimination by government both in the awarding of scholarships and upper government jobs; an informal Muslim boycott of Copt stores; discrimination and segregation by teachers and school officials; and the removal of all reference to Copts and Christianity from many school curriculums. This has resulted in the emigration of as much as a half million in the past ten years. Although the government protects the Copts from physical threats, the Copts complain that most government action is due to the threats to the state and foreign tourists rather than any concern for the Copts.
 March 1993: A report issued by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights accuses the government of abdicating its responsibility to protect Christians from Islamic extremists. It notes that attacks occur in the sight and sometimes with the help of security and local government authorities. It further accuses the government of doing little about such incidents until it became clear that they were also a threat to "the political system and the lives of those in power."
 March 1 1993: Egypt bans from mosques "scholars preach militant thoughts" due to attacks upon tourists and Christians. (Note: the government has been engaging in increasing levels of repression against Islamic militants throughout this period. This ranges from arrests to gun battles involving hundreds of police, government troops and Islamic militants. For the most part, the details of these actions are not documented here. Also, as noted earlier, many believe that this government action is due to the threat the militants pose to the state and foreign tourists rather than any wish to protect the Copts.)
 April 20 1993: A Copt school teacher is shot and wounded in Dayrut by gunmen, believed to be Islamic militants. Five Islamic militants are arrested in Aswan for planning to violently disrupt a non-Muslim festival which coincides with the Coptic Easter.
 April 24 1993: Assailants, believed to be Islamic militants, attack with knives and wound two Coptic high school students.
 May 19 1993: In a roundup of Islamic militants, the government seizes numerous books, cassettes and videotapes calling for violence and discrimination against the Copts.
 July 22 1993: A Copt physician is shot by gunmen, believed to be Islamic militants, in Manfalout (350 km south of Cairo).
 August 8 1993: Gunmen, believed to be Islamic militants, in Dayrut wound a Copt in his brother's pharmacy.
 August 24 1993: Gunmen, believed to be Islamic militants, kill a Christian student in Anboub (300 kms of Cairo).
 September 21 1993: Gunmen, believed to be Islamic militants, kill a Copt schoolteacher in Dayrut.
 October 20 1993: Gunmen, believed to be Islamic militants, open fire in a Christian owned pharmacy killing one and injuring two.
 January 27 1994: A senior Copt police official is wounded in an attack by gunmen believed to be Islamic militants. His driver and bodyguard are killed.
 April 25 1994: Egyptians are upset at an upcoming convention on minorities in the Middle East. They say that the Copts are not a minority and are an integral part of Egyptian society. They attribute the conference to foreign interference.
 March 4 1994: An Islamic militant, believed to be guilty of two shooting attacks on Coptic churches in Mir (300 kms of Cairo) in the previous week, is arrested.
 March 11 1994: Gunmen, believed to be Islamic militants, kill 5 including two monks outside a church in Qussiyah (300 kms of Cairo).
 June 26 1994: A Coptic weekly accuses the government of working to increase the wave of bigotry, antipathy and hatred against Copts.
 July 17 1994: Pope Shenouda III of the Egyptian Coptic Church in an outspoken interview complains of discrimination against Copts in Egypt. He says that Copts play little part in public life and face problems building and repairing churches. He complains that Copts have trouble obtaining voting cards from police, thus preventing many of them from voting. He also refers to Copts being killed by Islamic militants in southern Egypt and Copt houses being destroyed without compensation from the state.
 September 1 1994: Islamic militants shoot dead 2 policemen guarding a Coptic church in southern Egypt. Note: In general the government actively opposes attacks by Islamic militants on Copts and prosecutes the perpetrators of these attacks to the full extent of the law. This is probably more a result the fact that the Islamic militants oppose the government than a desire to protect the Copts.
 November 11 1994: Islamic militants kill 2 men in southern Egypt including a Christian government official.
 November 22 1994: Suspected Islamic militants kill a Christian security guard in the southern Egyptian province of Minya.
 February 25 1995: Suspected Islamic militants shoot dead a Christian civilian and wound another in a southern Egyptian village.
 March 11 1995: Suspected Islamic militants shoot dead a Copt village elder in southern Egypt.
 June 4 1995: Islamic militants seeking to avenge a dead relative kill 9 people, including 3 Copts, in 4 separate attacks in southern Egypt.
 June 8 1995: Suspected Islamic militants shoot dead a wealthy Copt pharmacist for making a donation of property to his local parish.
 August 13 1995: 6 are killed after a fight breaks out over a Copt girl who converted to Islam in a northern Egyptian province.
 August 29-30 1995: In 2 separate incidents, suspected Islamic militants shoot dead 4 Copts in southern Egypt.
 September 2 1995: Suspected Islamic militants shoot dead a Copt who works for a local council in southern Egypt.
 Update 26 March 1997
 7 November 1995: According to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, within the past 10 months, Islamic extremists have assassinated 74 police and 24 Copts in southern Egypt.
 4 December 1995: Gunmen in a car shot dead three Coptic Christian men and wounded two others in a hit and run attack near the town of Abu Qurqas, In a separate attack in the same area and at the same time, gunmen shot and killed policeman Mustafa Khalil Mohamed.
 9 December 1995: Forty people were killed and between 400 -700 injured during Egypt=s general elections. Thousands of Christians could not find their names on the lists and constituencies where Copts ran as candidates, their rivals distributed leaflets saying Moslems should not vote for non-Moslems.
 12 December 1995: President Mubarak appointed 10 MPs and the Speaker using his constitutional privilege to enlarge the assembly with women and members of the Coptic community.
 12 January 1996: A Christian farmer was killed by unidentified gunmen in the village of Abu Obeid in Minya Province.
 26 February 1996: Eight Copts and three others were killed in Assuit Province in Southern Egypt. At least 47 people have died in the past two moths in Assuit and Menia Provinces. Most of these were policemen and suspected police informers (non-Copts).
 In a separate incident mobs set fire to 41 houses in a predominantly-Christian village in the governorate of Sharqiya after a row over a reported Church expansion. Four were injured and 50 arrested in the incident.
 7 August 1996: The body of a Coptic student was found in the vicinity of Abu Qurqas.
 26 August 1996: Four, including three Copts, were killed in the southern village of Nazlet Roman near the town of Abu Qurqas in Minya province. One Copt was also wounded in the attack. The five were members of the newly-formed patrols encouraged by the government to help police hunt militants using nearby fields and mountains as hideouts. A total of 23 people, not all of them Copts, have been killed in attacks during August.
 4 September 1996: The American Coptic Union urged the U.S. Congress to investigate the killings of Christians in Egypt and to postpone aid to Egypt until basic rights and security were secured for all citizens.
 24 January 1997: A new political party, al Wasat, was launched. Its members are Copts and former members of the Muslim Brotherhood and its goal is to heal the breaches between the two religions. It is not viewed as strong or very likely to have much influence over Egyptian politics.
 February 1997: The State Department=s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1996 reported that during 1996 at least 22 Copts were killed in upper Egypt where 30-40% of the population are Christians. There were also reports of acts of violence against Coptic Churches and Copt-owned businesses.
 Government discriminatory practices against the Coptic community included: suspected statistical under representation of the size of the Christian population; anti-Christian discrimination in education; production of some Islamic television programs with anti-Christian themes; job discrimination in the police, armed forces and other agencies.
 12 February 1997: Ten Coptic youth were killed in an attack on a Church in southern Egypt. The youth were attending a prayer service at the Church. Police believed the killings were orchestrated by the group Gama'a al-Islamiya, the largest of the militant Islamic organizations in the country. The Gama'a has attacked the Coptic community only sporadically, concentrating attacks on police and police informers regardless of religion, and they denied involvement in this attack.
 Moslem and Christian community leaders have unanimously condemned the attacks. It was the worst attack on the Coptic community in almost a year.
 Police also suspect the same gunmen in an attack which killed three Coptic Christians. They were found dead near Abu Qurqas in Minya Province.
 15 March 1997: Gunmen killed 13, including nine Copts, in a predominantly Christian hamlet 300 miles south of Cairo. Though attacks on the Coptic community have increased in recent months, the overall level of violence has sharply decreased from a peak of 415 deaths in 1995 to 187 during 1996, and Islamic militants are clearly on the defensive.
 Update June 1999
 March 22 1997 A total of 21 Copts were killed by Islamic extremists in February and there was a growing fear that there could be a migration of Copts from Southern Egypt because of the growing fear of attack. (AP)
 April 10 1997 Copts were killed in two attacks. A total of 13 Copts were killed by Islamic militants who released a statement clarifying that the Copts had not been targeted specifically. (Facts on File) May 3 1997 The Interior Minister said that one of the faults of the Moslem brotherhood was that they want to segregate the Copts. (BBC)  October 14 1997 Two Copts and nine police were killed by militants in the South. (New York Times).
 November 1998, four Policemen tortured seventy Copts because of their religious affiliation, El Kosheh, Shouag Egypt.
 December 2000, 20 Copts burned to death by Muslims in El Kosheh, Shouag Egypt  January 2006, Muslim Youth Attack Copts in a Village near Luxor, Egypt
 April 2006, Muslims stormed four churches in Alexandria and kill one person.  We, as Coptic Christian urge all the governmental and nongovernmental institution worldwide to pay more attention to the daily suffering of Christians in Egypt.

Aoun to Saniora: Stop Being Stubborn
Free Patriotic Movement leader Gen. Michel Aoun has renewed his call for Premier Fouad Saniora to step down as a way out of the political impasse.
"Your Excellency, the prime minister, stop being stubborn ... Go home," Aoun said in a televised statement Saturday from his home in Rabieh.
"That's better for you because you are unable to steer the ship no matter how much support you get from abroad. Please step down."
Aoun, who also visited Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir in Bkirki Saturday, hoped "all Lebanese parties" would accept the church's "entire" principles.
The church on Wednesday called for early presidential elections to help settle the serious crisis which is threatening to split Lebanon.
The council of Maronite Bishops, in a declaration of the church's principles, also urged leaders of the community and other Lebanese spiritual groups to agree on a "code of honor" to settle differences through dialogue, reject violence and armed confrontations and refrain from agitation.
Aoun denied that the church had asked him to "leave the streets.""We spent two months at the dialogue table…and we weren't able to solve problems through dialogue," he said. "We resorted to the streets through peaceful protests which will remain peaceful," Aoun said about the open-ended sit-in that the March 8 forces and the FPM have been staging since December 1. Beirut, 10 Dec 06, 11:21

Israeli Army Chief: Israel Failed to Achieve Objectives in Lebanon War
Israeli chief of staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz has admitted that Israel failed to achieve all its objectives in its summer war against Hizbullah, but refused to resign as a result. Summing up internal army inquiries into the war, which ended inconclusively in a cease-fire after 34 days of fighting, Halutz said Israeli forces caused considerable damage to Hizbullah and killed "hundreds of terrorists."
At a briefing for Israeli military correspondents carried by local TV channels, he added, "We were not successful in reducing the short-range rocket fire on Israel's north until the cease-fire." Hizbullah fired about 4,000 rockets at Israel during the fighting. Israel pounded Lebanon with air strikes at Hizbullah targets and infrastructure, and ground forces swept through south Lebanon. "We attacked the Katyushas (rockets), but unsuccessfully," he said.
"There were cases in which officers did not carry out their assignments, and cases in which officers objected on moral grounds to their orders," Halutz said, an apparent reference to resistance against attacking south Lebanese towns and villages. He said these instances of refusal "ran counter to the army's basic values." He said a senior officer was suspended as a result. Halutz said it would be a mistake to use the military now to try to free the two Israeli soldiers captured in a cross-border Hizbullah raid, which set off the fighting -- though that was one of the goals stated at the outset of the conflict. Halutz, who is under pressure to stop down because of the shortcomings of the war, said he decided to stay on and "correct what can be corrected." He said resignation now would be "running away," adding, "I have not heard my superiors calling on me to resign. If they do, I will respond." He noted conclusions of an inquiry by a former chief of staff that included vague definitions of goals and faulty work in command centers. Halutz indicated that reserve soldiers would be called up for longer annual service to undergo better training, and said a plan to shorten the length of regular service, now set at three years, would be delayed. A committee appointed by the government is in the midst of its investigation of the war and its outcome. The internal army inquiries did not call for resignations, but the government committee has the power to do so.
Halutz said if that committee called for his resignation, "of course" he would comply. Defense Minister Amir Peretz has made the same pledge.
The conflict ended Aug. 14 with a U.N. Security Council resolution that posted a reinforced peacekeeping force in south Lebanon with a mandate to keep the area clear of armed forces.
The fighting left more than 1,200 people killed in Lebanon. Lebanon's Higher Relief Council, a government group, says the majority of those were Lebanese civilians. UNICEF also says most of those killed were civilians, and that about a third of them were children.
Israel claimed 600 Hizbulah fighters were killed but that figure was not substantiated, with the group acknowledging only 250 of its fighters killed.(AP-Naharnet)(AFP file photo of Halutz) Beirut, 03 Jan 07, 11:21

Saddam, a rope, and a great escape
By Michael Young -Daily Star staff
Thursday, January 04, 2007
The trouble with Saddam Hussein's execution was that, in its sordidness, it was a fitting finale for an aging despot who once dispatched tens of thousands of people in a like manner; but it was also unfortunate for what was demanded of that particular Iraqi moment. In recent days, there has been outrage against the way Saddam was hanged. Much offense was taken from the fact that in his final moments he had to endure the insults of onlookers. Something more solemn was apparently required, so the putting to death would look like a meaningful sacrifice rather than a squalid settling of scores. Near the end, someone in the room declared: "Long live Mohammad Baqer al-Sadr." It seemed suitable that that name would come up - the name of the founder of the Daawa party, whom Saddam had ordered murdered in spring 1980, along with his sister, the pious Bint al-Huda. His killing was a fundamental moment in the Iraqi leader's unremitting struggle to ward off the Tikriti regime's Shiite nemesis. As fate would have it, those Shiites for whom Saddam had displayed such contempt were the ones dropping him into the pit, on the orders of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, an official of Daawa.
There was also much commotion about the timing and haste of the execution. Saddam was hanged on Eid al-Adha, transgressing Iraqi law; the trapdoor was opened while he was in the middle of a sentence bearing witness that Mohammad was God's Prophet; and so forth. The imagery was unsettling, but the criticism missed the point. For a man who had ordered the bombing or plundering of myriad holy sites, whose intelligence services had murdered thousands of prisoners in their cells just to make more room for new ones, whose soldiers had slaughtered with unflinching barbarism hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, the hangman's rope was almost too polite a way to go - more than Saddam deserved. But it is not Saddam who should be the issue here; it is those who were cheated by his abrupt elimination.
It is the Kurds, who never got to see Saddam offer more details on the successive, genocidal Anfal campaigns of 1988. It is the Shiites, who were crushed after rising up against the Baathists in 1991 upon the advice of President George H.W. Bush, that tedious ghoul of political realism who must have been as surprised as anybody when the Iraqis took him seriously. It is the countless others, of all religions and sects, whose sons, daughters, siblings or parents ended up in Saddam's archipelago of prisons, detention centers, intelligence headquarters and torture chambers, to be beaten, raped, maimed or exterminated. To think of Saddam, to focus on his final moments of distress when there are so many others to think about, is almost obscene. But then there is the silence.
In the introduction to his book "Cruelty and Silence," the Iraqi author Kanan Makiya wrote: "If cruelty is individual, then silence is collective ... Breaking the silence as a way of dealing with the legacy of cruelty is thus necessarily a collective act." Saddam's execution has reimposed a measure of silence, when his trial was supposed to serve precisely the opposite end. And where there is silence there is the perpetuation of the individualization of cruelty: At the very moment when his neck snapped, Saddam's crimes were again his own; no longer Iraq's.
In fact, Makiya's phrase was less abstract. He was talking specifically about the silence of Arab intellectuals when it came to confronting the brutality of Saddam's rule. For far too many in the region, the Iraqi leader became an embodiment of Arab greatness, pride and resilience. That such an attitude only exposed the Arab world's pathologies went unheeded. Saddam, whose understanding of power meant a careful manipulation of its symbols, saw that the essence of absolute leadership was the tyrant's ability to transform himself into a harsh father. Pitilessness could transform rare mercy into a magnificent favor. The flipside of existential fear is irrational love, and like Stalin, Saddam was loved most by those who feared him most. This is the essence of cowardliness.
One could excuse that phenomenon among the Iraqis, whose lives were in constant danger under the Baathists. But what justified the reaction of so many Arabs outside Iraq, who could never work up indignation over the regime's crimes yet now stand jowls trembling in condemnation of Saddam's hanging? Forgive the Palestinians their suffering, but weren't the victims of Israeli repression in a better position than most to ponder Saddam's savagery when accepting his compensation money for suicide bombings? Grant Arab intellectuals a dearth of heroes, but what kind of person shuffles into Baghdad on a dictator's expense account while free-minded Iraqis are being forcibly silenced? Spare a kind thought for the disillusioned purveyors of Arab solidarity, but can you explain why that solidarity was largely absent when the Iraqis overran Kuwait?
Makiya was right: The silence surrounding Saddam was collective, and it was far more striking than the ejaculations of resentment that on a daily basis are directed against the botched American adventure in Iraq. During the war against Iran, during Anfal, during the Shiite intifada, during the years of sanctions - sanctions that Saddam used to consolidate his own power by deepening the suffering of his people - the Arab world remained silent. Those were the years of Syrian-Iraqi reconciliation; of rapprochement between the Gulf states and Baghdad; of French, Russian and Chinese greed for Iraqi oil contracts. Had Saddam not been chased into a hole by a foreign army, he would still be tormenting his people, dusting his throne so that one of his homicidal sons might succeed him.
Saddam's execution was a lost opportunity for human rights in Iraq and the Arab world. I admit to taking much more satisfaction in seeing a despot corroding in a cell than being granted the freedom of a brisk death. Nor do I find that the death penalty has in any way ever dispensed "justice." But as we throw our two cents' worth into determining whether hanging was a worthy ending for Saddam, we would do better to disregard the monster and, instead, pay homage to the monster's victims.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.

Head of Shiite party accuses Al-Akhbar daily of slander
Daily Star staff-Thursday, January 04, 2007
BEIRUT: The head of the Free Shiite Movement, Sheikh Mohammad Hajj Hassan, lashed out Wednesday at Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar for publishing an article accusing him of swindling, saying it was part of a systematic campaign organized by Hizbullah to ruin his reputation.
In a news conference Wednesday at the Press Federation, Hassan said he filed a lawsuit against the newspaper, journalist Wafiq Qanso, and Hizbullah-led Al-Manar television channel for publishing "false information."
Hassan asked for "an official and public apology" from Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, "for the dishonest acts of some Hizbullah members."
He considered the documentary aired by Al-Manar Friday based on the article written by Al-Akhbar's Qanso, to be "incitement for his murder."
Al-Akhbar had published an extended biography on Hassan accusing him of fraud, and describing him as an impostor who has not truly earned his position as a Shiite cleric.
Hassan also accused Hizbullah of working, along with its allies Syria and Iran, on impeding the formation of an international court to try the killers of former Premier Rafik Hariri. He accused Iran of wanting to transform South Lebanon into a "Shiite military canton, to serve its growing nuclear aspirations."
"As for the Syrian Baath regime, by now we should have come to the conclusion that it works on stirring sectarian conflicts among the Lebanese."
Hassan said the establishment of an international court "is a necessity to unravel the truth behind Hariri's murder, as well as on the string of political assassinations that occurred over the past couple of years." "But," he added, "a number of dark forces, among which is Hizbullah, are working on jeopardizing this plan so that chaos and conflict can prevail in the country." - The Daily Star

Armenian protest mocks Turkey's peacemaking credentials
By Maria Abi-Habib -Special to The Daily Star
Thursday, January 04, 2007
BEIRUT: About 300 Armenian-Lebanese protested Wednesday's visit to Beirut by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, arguing that his country's bloody past made it impossible for him to foster reconciliation among Lebanon's squabbling political parties.
"I know what Turkey has done in its past - it murdered Arabs, Armenians and Kurds, all those who wanted to live with Turks," said Shiraz Djeredjian, an American University of Beirut student. "Now Turkey is coming because they want to join the EU, but we know they can't be mediators. It's not in their culture to be peacekeepers; their culture is blood and murder - murder is in their blood."
Erdogan visited Lebanon to help broker an agreement between the Lebanese government and its opposition.
Turkish peacekeeping troops which constitute part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) were also on the visit's agenda.
Yet the Armenian diaspora in Lebanon is skeptical about Turkey's intentions.
"The main issue is that we know [Turkey's] history and I don't trust them," said Vatche Moughalian, 31. "Just recently Turkey refused to open its sea ports to Cyprus. They are coming here to show they can be mediators to get into the EU. Let them try to sort out their own country's relations first. Then maybe we'll start trusting them."
Turkey does not recognize the killing of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915-17 or accept that the massacres were attempted genocide. Instead, Turkey claims the deaths were the result of inter-ethnic discord, disease and famine that plagued the region during World War I.
Turkey's vehement genocide denial is one of several obstacles the country faces in its bid to join the EU. Out of 27 EU countries, 12 believe the Armenian deaths were genocidal.
Lebanon's Parliament officially recognized the genocide in 2000, the only Middle Eastern country to do so. In total, 16 countries worldwide officially believe Turkey attempted Armenian genocide.
Armenians were forced to flee from Turkey through Syria. Many survivors settled in Lebanon. By 1926 there were 75,000 Armenians in Lebanon.
"In Lebanon we are diverse peoples living together," said Shadia Hashem, who is not Armenian but attended the protest to show her solidarity. "How can the government bring someone from Turkey when that country has historically divided and persecuted non-Turks?"
In the Ottoman Empire, which included Lebanon, non-Turks and non-Muslims often bore the brunt of discrimination.
Many protesters were thankful for the support Lebanon's government has given to Armenians, though they were offended Erdogan was invited to Beirut.
"We don't want Turkish troops or politicians in Lebanon, as Lebanon is our second home and we love it," said Vanig Dakessian. "How can a country that [created] genocides in the 20th century - not only of Armenians - come to make peace without first apologizing?"

SSNP denies report that it planned to bomb Phalange rally in Koura
Judicial source says party members acted independently of leadership
By Rym Ghazal -Daily Star staff
Thursday, January 04, 2007
BEIRUT: The Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) on Wednesday slammed a report published in the Al-Mustaqbal newspaper which claimed that a jailed SSNP member had confessed to being ordered to bomb a restaurant hosting a Phalange Party gathering in 2005.
The SSNP said in a statement on Wednesday that the report is "a blatant lie and a continuation of a political campaign against the SSNP aimed at stirring sectarian and political strife."
A report published by the local daily, which is owned by the late Premier Rafik Hariri's family, quoted jailed SSNP member Tony Mansour as "testifying" that his party superior and MP Assad Hardan ordered him to carry out a bombing operation in the northern Koura province on January 15, 2005.
At the time, the Phalange Party had organized a rally that was attended by former President Amin Gemayel and his son, Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, who was killed on November 21, 2006, by unidentified gunmen who opened fire at his car in the east Beirut suburb of Jdeideh.
Mansour was arrested along with six other SSNP members during a police raid last month at the member's homes in Koura, where large quantities of explosives, detonators and timers were confiscated by the Internal Security Forces.
The party later declared that all the confiscated weapons were left over from its resistance activity against Israel in the 1980s, with the exception of the explosives, which the police reported were "modern."
When contacted by The Daily Star, a spokesperson for the Phalange Party said he would not comment on the report "as it was not directly issued from the judiciary."
A judicial source told The Daily Star that the report published by Al-Mustaqbal was "slightly exaggerated."
However, the source said that Hardan had criticized Mansour and others for not putting a stop to rallies that "provoke" the SSNP.
The source said that because of that criticism, a group of SSNP members met independently and discussed ways to hamper the Phalange celebration. They decided to plant a "four-kilogram" explosive but the timer didn't work and so the operation was canceled.
The same source said that the judiciary is looking for ways to interrogate Hardan, but since he is an MP, he is protected by parliamentary immunity. The judiciary is prevented from interrogating MPs unless they are stripped of such cover by a parliamentary vote.
The SSNP called on the Lebanese judiciary to intervene in what they called "fabrications" and "slander" by the Al-Mustaqbal newspaper against the party and its jailed members.
The Al-Mustapbal report stated that in order "to carry out the order, Mansour and some of his aides headed to the rally's venue on January 13, [2005] ... and started planting a 15-kilogram explosive charge made up of T.N.T., but he was surprised to find out that the timer to be used had a fabrication defect, so he had to postpone the assignment." The paper said the failed attempt was to be carried out just 29 days before Hariri was assassinated in a car bomb in Beirut.

Saudi king hosted top Hizbullah members for talks
Senior political source reports 'signals of goodwill ... but no tangible results'

By Nada Bakri
Daily Star staff
Thursday, January 04, 2007
BEIRUT: Saudi King Abdullah held talks on Lebanon's political crisis with Hizbullah officials last week in his first such contact with the party, Al-Akhbar newspaper and the Reuters news agency said Wednesday. Hizbullah officials would neither confirm nor deny the meeting when contacted by The Daily Star.
Hizbullah's deputy leader, Sheikh Naim Qassem, and resigned Electricity and Water Minister Mohammad Fneish flew to Jeddah on a private Saudi jet on Dec. 26 for the meeting with the monarch and his foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, a senior political source told Reuters.
The three-day visit was aimed at easing tension between the mainly Sunni kingdom and Hizbullah, which is leading an opposition campaign to force the Lebanese government to share more power or resign. Saudi Arabia is a major backer of Premier Fouad Siniora and has been critical of Hizbullah.
"What came out of the meeting were signals of goodwill from both sides to improve ties, but no tangible results," the source said, adding that the two sides had discussed their differences and rising Sunni-Shiite tension in Lebanon. There was no immediate comment from Saudi officials.
Al-Akhbar said the Saudis had also invited Hizbullah's secretary general, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, to visit the kingdom for last week's hajj to Mecca. He declined on security grounds.
Qassem said Monday that he saw little chance of an early end to the standoff with Siniora's government, adding that the opposition would meet soon to decide how to press its campaign.
Meanwhile, Siniora and some of his ministers met Wednesday to discuss the package of economic reforms he unveiled on Tuesday and which will be presented at the Paris III donor conference later this month. Siniora has called for a Cabinet session on Thursday to adopt the paper despite the controversy over his government's legitimacy following the resignation of six ministers - including all five Shiites - in November.
In a statement released on Wednesday, President Emile Lahoud argued that the session should not take place.
"The call for a Cabinet session is considered a violation of the Constitution and the session will be considered nonexistent because the Cabinet has lost its legitimacy following the resignation of [the Shiite] ministers," the statement read.
Lahoud reiterated his view that any Cabinet session held since November 11, 2006, the date when the ministers resigned, was unconstitutional.
Hizbullah MP Amin Cherri said the opposition ministers will not attend the session or discuss their remarks on the paper because they consider the government unconstitutional.
"This government is illegitimate and unconstitutional despite the topic it is discussing," the MP told The Daily Star.
"Any reform paper or economic reforms require national consensus ... Of course we will not participate in the session and any decision this government will reach will be considered illegitimate," he added.
Economy Minister Sami Haddad dismissed any opposition objection to the reform package as "political."
Haddad said the paper was prepared before the summer 2006 war with Israel, when the five Shiite ministers were still in the government, and was discussed with opposition leaders, including MP Michel Aoun and former Premier Omar Karami.
"Those who are objecting to the paper are not suggesting an alternative one but are saying we want to be with you in the government ... and as for the articles of the paper they never objected to them in the past," the minister said.
The Lebanese Forces (LF) parliamentary bloc said after its weekly meeting on Wednesday that Lebanon is in dire need of the economic reforms.
"What we strongly need is the economic and social reform programs the government has prepared and the Paris III conference," the LF statement said.
The opposition has been staging an open-ended demonstration near the Grand Serail in Beirut since December 1 to demand that Siniora's share more power or step down to allow early elections or the formation of a unity government.
The opposition has threatened to escalate its campaign to
civil disobedience such as blocking roads and shutting the airport and the port.
The five Shiite ministers and one Christian minister aligned with Lahoud quit the Cabinet after a national dialogue on several contentious issues failed. The resignation upset the sectarian balance of the government, leaving it dominated by Sunnis, Christians and Druze.
Siniora said the Paris III conference is a golden opportunity for Lebanon to implement necessary reforms and stimulate the economy while obtaining badly needed financial support to help Lebanon recover from the devastating war with Israel in July and August. - With agencies