DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 13,18-23. Hear then the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold."
Openions A must read Report
Report: Syria still lingers in Lebanon.By Barbara Slavin, USA TODAY. July 27/07
In focus: The aftershocks of war-Al-Ahram Weekly. July 28/07
Lebanon's new Shiite political party slams Aoun.Ya Libnan. July 28/07
Work hard and fast for a fair peace, not to rescue failed leaders. Daily Star 28/07
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources
for July 28/07
Siniora accuses Nasrallah of distorting facts.Daily Star
Palestinians: Hezbollah influence in West Bank on the wane.Ha'aretz
Israel: Hezbollah has restored long-range missile arsenal.Ha'aretz
U.S. State Department Scraps Baabda Embassy Plans-Naharnet
Rice: Lebanese Should Elect President 'Without Reference to Syrian Occupation'-Naharnet
Rice for Measures to Punish those Responsible for Arms Smuggling ...Naharnet
Lebanese Soldiers Fighting for Unity, Honor, Slain Colleagues-Naharnet
Byblos Festival Pushes Ahead-Naharnet
New French Bid Has Little Chance to End Lebanon Crisis-Naharnet
Aoun in Germany: Syrians Helped us in the Past and Will do in the Future-Naharnet
Aoun's FPM Denies Official Syrian Media Reports-Naharnet
Israeli Warplanes Buzz Lebanon-Naharnet
France unlikely to repeat Libya triumph in Lebanon-Reuters South Africa
Ramon: I voted for Lebanon invasion to support Olmert-Ha'aretz
Israeli navy commander resigning over failure in 2006 Lebanon war-International Herald Tribune
Lebanese army bombards Islamic militants in north Lebanon refugee camp-International Herald Tribune
Art of war: Open-air exhibition in Dahiyeh takes visitors on a ...Daily Star
Lebanon's Shura Council pressed to bar by-elections-Daily Star
Lebanese Army engages in house-to-house fighting in heart of Nahr al-Bared-Daily Star
Lahoud rejects parcel from Israeli source in US-Daily Star
Siniora accuses Nasrallah of distorting facts-Daily Star
Nothing has been finalized ahead of Kouchner's visit to Beirut-Daily Star
Civil Defense worker dies in rescue operation-Daily Star
Report: Israel's vice premier wanted ground war-Daily Star
Germany installs scanning machine at border crossing-Daily Star
Envoy ends nearly three years as France's voice at United Nations-Daily Star
NGOs slam 'random' arrests of Iraqis-Daily Star
Ministers assure donors reform plans still on track-Daily Star
Lebanon sees 2007 economic slump - BCI-Daily Star
Electricite du Liban vows to curb power rationing. Daily Star
Art of war: Open-air exhibition in Dahiyeh takes visitors on a tour of conflict. Daily Star
Surf's finally up for Lebanese Yachting Federation. Daily Star
Report: Syria still lingers in Lebanon
By Barbara Slavin, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON Two years after claiming to withdraw, Syria still occupies up to 180 square miles (4.5%) of neighboring Lebanon and smuggles arms to militants there, says a report by a Lebanese democracy group.
Current and former U.S. officials, along with regional experts, say the findings of the report are credible and largely in line with U.S. intelligence.
The report was put together by the International Lebanese Committee for U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, a private group of Lebanese businesspeople, democracy advocates and exiles. Surveyors scrutinized the central and northern two-thirds of the 227-mile border between Lebanon and Syria. The southern portion, patrolled by United Nations peacekeepers under a cease-fire agreement that ended last summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah militants, was not surveyed.
The report concludes that Syria maintains army camps in Lebanon, along with "dozens of smuggling passages" used to "infiltrate foreign fighters and weapons." It adds that Palestinian militants and members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard allied with Syria remain on Lebanese soil.
Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer in Lebanon and Middle East specialist on the White House National Security Council, said the findings "look very credible to me. The areas indicated on the border have long been in de facto Syrian control."
government | United Nations peacekeepers
Augustus Richard Norton, a Middle East expert at Boston University and author of Hezbollah, a new book on the Shiite militant group, said the report appeared "credible to a considerable extent, bearing in mind that much of the border has been disputed since Lebanon's independence" in 1943.
France ruled Syria and Lebanon after World War I, which broke up Ottoman Turkish control of most of the Middle East.
Kristen Silverberg, an assistant secretary of State, said the border survey underscores the challenges facing Lebanon's pro-Western government.
"There is mounting evidence of illegal weapons shipments passing from Syria into Lebanon, which destabilizes the country and the region," she said.
Syria refuses to formally demarcate the border and has no embassy in Lebanon, which it has asserted in the past is part of a greater Syria.
The Syrian government sent troops into Lebanon in 1976 to try to stem a civil war a move that began a 29-year occupation. Under pressure from the United Nations, it withdrew 14,000 troops in 2005 after the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. A U.N. tribunal is investigating allegations that Syria was behind that murder and those of other Lebanese politicians.
Last month, a car bomb killed another anti-Syrian politician, parliament member Walid Eido. A bomb also killed six U.N. peacekeepers from Spain. Katyusha rockets were fired from southern Lebanon into northern Israel for the first time in a year.
Fighting has gone on for weeks between Lebanese troops and Islamic extremists in a Palestinian refugee camp in the north near the Syrian border. Lebanon's government says the militants are led by extremists who slipped in from Syria, which Syria denies.
Lebanon's pro-Syrian factions, including its president and parliamentary speaker, are locked in a power struggle with anti-Syrian Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and his allies. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon complained last month that arms for Hezbollah and Palestinian militants are shipped from Syria into Lebanon. A U.N. border assessment team chided Syria for refusing to recognize the frontier with Lebanon. Israel also violates Lebanese territory, Ban said, with up to 32 flights a day of unmanned surveillance aircraft over the country.
Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Jaafari disputed the new report, calling it "baseless, null and void." He said Syria has abided by U.N. resolutions and favors demarcating the border.
New French Bid Has Little Chance to End Lebanon Crisis
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner arrives in Lebanon late on Friday in a bid to achieve a breakthrough in resuming talks between the feuding political sides that observers say has little chance of success. Kouchner is scheduled to meet Lebanese leaders on Saturday and Sunday to encourage them to end an eight-month power struggle between Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government and the Hizbullah-led opposition.
He will be picking up where he left off during talks in France earlier this month between the two sides -- and trying to get them to follow through.
But experts and political observers said there was little likelihood of a breakthrough during Kouchner's two-day trip, given that each side is refusing to budge.
"I think he might be able to get them to sit down and talk to each other, but I don't see them agreeing on a national unity government before the presidential elections and I don't see them agreeing on a president," said Paul Salem, head of the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Center, a think tank.
"So I don't think his mission at this time will succeed," he told AFP. Hizbullah is pushing for the opposition to be better represented in government in order to give it veto power. The majority, however, insists that this can only happen if Hizbullah agrees to stop blocking parliamentary sessions in order to ensure the quorum needed for the presidential elections to replace pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud by a November 25 deadline.
Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh said this week's unsuccessful visit to Beirut by French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran to pave the way for Kouchner had tempered Paris' expectations. "I think France has reduced its ambition as far as resolving the crisis and Kouchner's visit marks but a step in the negotiations rather than a final one," Hamadeh, a prominent member of the ruling majority, told AFP. Nawaf Mousawi, in charge of international relations for Hizbullah, said earlier this week that his party was keen on the French initiative succeeding, but he insisted that this could only take place once a government of national unity had been formed.
"We must not waste time in discussions," Musawi said. "A national unity government must be put in place and it would be up to that government to discuss lingering problems." The resignation in November of six pro-Syrian ministers, five of them Shiite, sparked the country's worst political crisis since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war. At the Carnegie center, Salem said he believed the major stumbling block to France's diplomatic efforts was the United States on the one hand and Syria on the other. "The U.S. does not want to accommodate Hizbullah, Syria or Iran in Lebanon," he said. "And Syria does not want to accommodate the ruling majority or the United States in Lebanon."
Syria was the main powerbroker in Lebanon until its forced withdrawal from the country in 2005. Salem said he believed all players would wait until the 11th hour before reaching a compromise that would allow the presidential elections to take place. That would avoid a dangerous power vacuum or even the creation of two rival governments that would plunge the country into further chaos, he said. "If there is going to be a deal it's going to be at the last minute," Salem said. "Because like a poker game, you don't show your cards early. You show them at the very end -- and we're not there yet."(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 27 Jul 07, 06:28
Lebanese Soldiers Fighting for Unity, Honor, Slain Colleagues
Peering at plumes of smoke billowing from a refugee camp in northern Lebanon, where the army has been battling Islamists for nearly 10 weeks, the soldier summed up the army's resolve. "We have to win because Lebanon's future is at stake," the commando shouted, his voice almost drowned out by the sound of blasts and sniper fire nearby. "The army is the last remaining symbol of national unity in Lebanon," he added. Divisions there have grown deeper since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
His sleeves rolled up, the green-eyed 27-year-old wiped sweat from his tanned forehead under a blazing sun on a road skirting the battered shantytown that borders the pale blue waters of the eastern Mediterranean. Since the standoff with the shadowy Fatah al-Islam militia began on May 20 after a bank robbery, the army has launched a relentless campaign to crush the Islamists in Nahr al-Bared.
Day and night special forces battle their way along the narrow alleyways of the camp where the diehard militants are entrenched, as artillery and tank fire try to pin down the Islamists. Nearly 10 weeks of fighting have cost the army dear, with a toll of 120 dead -- double the number of soldiers killed in the devastating Israel-Hizbullah war of summer 2006, in which it was largely uninvolved. Little is known about the actual fighting inside the camp as the army has remained quiet about operations and kept Nahr al-Bared off limits to civilians and journalists.
Of the camp's 31,000 residents, only the families of the Islamist fighters remain, prompting the army to accuse the extremists of using them as human shields.
"If it were not for the women and children we would have finished the job a long time ago," said another soldier. "What we are doing is big, gigantic. With very limited means, we are facing well-armed, hyper-mobile and savage terrorists who are ready to die," he said. Although the army death toll is high, the soldiers' morale seems good. "Spirits are high. Even those wounded want to go back to the battlefront," he said, adding: "And my mother keeps calling me to tell me 'God bless you, and keep it up, my son'." The Islamists still holed up in a tiny area of the camp have put up fierce resistance.
They continue to launch rockets, hunt down soldiers with sniper fire and place booby-traps in evacuated buildings in a bid to kill the advancing troops. More than once it has taken the army several days to retrieve the bodies of slain soldiers from under the rubble because of the intensity of the fighting. "We have meager means and they are on home turf, as the army has never entered the camp before. And for decades there were underground bunkers built there against Israeli air strikes," said another commando. "But we are winning because we are acting from the heart," he added, beating a clenched fist on his chest. "We have soldiers who were slaughtered on May 20 in the most savage ways, and we have others who are dying every day. We cannot stop," said another soldier. He lost 14 comrades that day.
"Every time I get tired or depressed or frustrated I think of them. They are what drives me to keep fighting," he said.
On May 20, several soldiers were taken by surprise by the Islamists who executed them in their sleep. Several other off-duty troops also suffered gruesome deaths when they were slaughtered with knives. "If it were not for the local civilian residents who immediately rushed to the rescue with their guns and assault-rifles, the army would have suffered more fatalities on May 20," said one soldier. Since the end of the civil war the army has enjoyed widespread backing across the nation and has so far survived the turbulence and deep divisions on the political front.
It was at Nahr al-Bared that the army for the first time in decades entered one of Lebanon's 12 Palestinian camps, where security is traditionally left to local factions.
"We have to prove, once and for all, that the army is capable of deploying across all the territory, controlling all the regions and protecting all citizens," said one soldier.
"And despite the horror that we are witnessing, there is something good about this war -- we saw that the army was a unifying factor for the Lebanese people, who remain divided on most other things in the country," he said. Pointing to a white and red Lebanese flag fluttering in the breeze over a destroyed building seized from Islamists in the camp, the soldier added: "Muslims and Christians, we are living, fighting and dying together under one flag." (AFP) Beirut, 27 Jul 07, 09:53
Rice: Lebanese Should Elect President 'Without Reference to Syrian Occupation'
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said the U.N. Security Council should consider implementing measures to punish those responsible for arms smuggling from Syria to Lebanon. "I think the United Nations Security Council owes it to Lebanon and it owes it to its own resolution to look very seriously at how this is happening and to propose ways that the perpetrators could be deterred from doing it or punished if they continue to do it," Rice said in an interview on Al-Hurra television channel Thursday. While agreeing that the smuggling of arms is a violation of Security Council resolution 1701 and a serious problem for its implementation, Rice confirmed that the Europeans are working with the Lebanese government "to try to enhance the capability of the Lebanese army to deal with this."
"The Lebanese army has intercepted several shipments the Lebanese have made available information about some of this smuggling," she said.
Rice also reiterated the need to elect a president for Lebanon "without intimidation" or "foreign interference," stressing that the election of a new head of state "will be, of course, a matter for the Lebanese."
"The Lebanese people will make that decision," she said. "They need to be able to make it without foreign interference. And that is our concern: that they need to be able to make it without intimidation; they need to be able to make it without reference to a past in which, for instance, Syria occupied Lebanese territory.
"They need a president who is committed to Lebanese sovereignty and committed to Lebanese democracy," Rice added.
"But I would just say one thing to the Lebanese people. This, in some ways, has been a difficult time because it's a difficult anniversary, the terrible times of the war a year ago when Lebanon suffered so much. And the international community and the United States have tried to respond to help the Lebanese people rebuild," she said in reference to last summer's Israel-Hizbullah war. "The Lebanese Government has also responded. The government of Prime Minister (Fouad) Saniora has done remarkable things. When you think that the Lebanese army is actually now deployed throughout the country for the first time in decades, that they are actually fighting (Fatah al-Islam) terrorists on behalf of the Lebanese people, these are real accomplishments," Rice acknowledged. She said, however, that there's more work to be done, "but Lebanon has good friends in the international community and good friends of a democratic and sovereign Lebanon." Beirut, 27 Jul 07, 07:24
Byblos Festival Pushes Ahead
Lebanon's Byblos Festival will open as scheduled this weekend despite continuing political tension and security worries in the country, the organizers said on Friday.
The Mediterranean country's usually vibrant cultural scene has been massively curtailed since last year's devastating war between Israel and the militia of Lebanon's Hizbullah movement, with two other major festivals cancelled. But in Byblos, the show will go on, albeit with fewer stars on the bill than originally planned.
"We have decided to go ahead with the festival, having considered cancelling it like the other festivals, because of the uncertain atmosphere," festival communications director Mona Hakim told AFP. Festivities kick off on Saturday with a concert by French rockers Nouvelle Vague in the ancient Phoenician fortress of Jbail, 38 kilometers (24 miles) north of Beirut. Italian tenor Alessandro Safina will give two recitals on August 2 and 3, while a Lebanese opera about Zenobie, the legendary queen of Palmyra, will be shown from August 15 to 19.
The festival comes to a close on August 29 with a concert by veteran U.S. funk group Kool and the Gang.
Lebanon's two main festivals -- Beiteddine just outside of Beirut, and the Baalbek Festival in the Bekaa Valley -- were earlier cancelled for the second straight year on security concerns, including a concert by Colombian-Lebanese star Shakira.
The Beiteddine organizers did put on a show by maverick British violinist Nigel Kennedy last week in Beirut, and Baalbek spokeswoman Maya Halabi told AFP that they planned to put on some sort of show in October. Last summer, instead of droves of culture vultures descending on the country, tens of thousands of foreigners fled in a massive evacuation from a war that killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians. Tourism Minister Joseph Sarkis had announced only two months ago that the festivals would go ahead despite a political crisis that has gripped the country since November.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 27 Jul 07, 17:15
Israeli Warplanes Buzz Lebanon
Israeli warplanes flew apparent reconnaissance missions at low altitude over southern, central and eastern Lebanon Friday cracking sonic booms, but no interception was reported. At least three jetfighters penetrated Lebanese airspace at mid-morning flying over U.N.-policed areas of south Lebanon and breaking the sound barrier.
The jet fighters also flew low over Mount Lebanon and the Bekaa valley. The over flights were not intercepted by air defenses, although some of the jets fired scarlet balloons in a routine preemptive procedure to deflect heat seeking missiles. Beirut, 27 Jul 07, 13:56
U.S. State Department Scraps Baabda Embassy Plans
The U.S. State Department has suspended plans to build a new embassy compound in suburban Baabda on the central Lebanese Mountain ridge overlooking southern Beirut, spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday.
He said the decision not to proceed with the construction of the embassy in Baabda was made on July 6. "I think they're going to keep the property," he said. The decision "came about because of a changed situation on the ground," he added. McCormack made the comment during his daily press briefing Thursday, a day after ABC news network quoted a State Department official as saying plans to build the compound near the Presidential Palace have been put on hold indefinitely. ABC reported that ambassador Jeffrey Feltman sent a classified cable to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on May 31, saying his staff "unanimously opposes construction" of the compound in Baabda which overlooks Beirut's southern suburbs - a Hizbullah stronghold.
According to the report, Feltman also told Rice that his staff would be "an easy target" for Hizbullah and that U.S. diplomats would "be under siege" during any conflict.
ABC quoted U.S. officials as saying that Baabda is controlled by Hizbullah and not the Lebanese government, adding that the Shiite group "could sever access to the area at will."The network said that U.S. military personnel had told State Department officials that the army would have evacuated the staff had the embassy been located at the Baabda site during last summer's Israel-Hizbullah war. The report said the land was purchased by the U.S two years ago for more than $22 million.(Photo courtesy of ABC News Network shows the construction site in Baabda) Beirut, 27 Jul 07, 12:25
Aoun in Germany: Syrians Helped us in the Past and Will do in the Future
Free Patriotic Movement Leader Gen. Michel Aoun was quoted by Syria's official news agency as saying Thursday: "Our Syrian brethren have helped us in the past and they will help us in the future." "We had reached an understanding (in the past) and we will also reach an understanding with them in the future politically, economically and socially," Aoun told a news conference in Berlin after talks with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, according to a report by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA). Aoun, according to the report, said the problem in Lebanese-Syrian relations is "a mere media problem and not a political problem. Some (factions) want to direct accusations against Syria to distort its image. This media problem has been imposed on the world to implement some people's objectives internally and externally." Commenting on the chain of killings that has struck Lebanon, Aoun was quoted as saying: "The assassinations that happened in Lebanon are the making of hands and criminals that remain unknown because certain (forces) do not want them to be known. What is important for them is to drag this crisis into the hallways of the United Nations to distort Syria's reputation."
He accused Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's Government of corruption. "Corruption in Lebanon is part of the government plan," Aoun was quoted as saying. He expressed "hope that the Saniora Government ministers be interrogated" on corruption charges. He held the Saniora government responsible for the presence of Fatah al-Islam group in Lebanon "if not in connivance with it.""Where were the Lebanese Intelligence agencies when members of the organization entered Lebanon? Where were these agencies when the organization stored tons of equipment and ammunition in Nahr al-Bared?" Aoun asked.
"Maybe they were (busy) monitoring our movements in our homes," he replied. Aoun said his ongoing European tour aims at "clarifying positions and real viewpoints regarding the Lebanese crisis."Aoun accused some factions that he did not identify of "distorting Lebanon's real image and leading the public opinion to believe in the presence of a peaceful government that wants to make Lebanon a stable and sovereign state, and an opposition that aims at sabotaging it (Lebanon) and making wars against others."The SANA report said Aoun "criticized western support that is being used in favor of the illegitimate Saniora Government to impose solutions rather than finding a settlement. The government side has no other solution but launching war on us."He described his relationship with Hizbullah as "distinguished," according to the report which also said Aoun "stressed on the necessity of achieving national entente in Lebanon and the formation of a national unity government to end the political crisis and avert any confrontations that could happen." Beirut, 26 Jul 07, 17:40
Aoun's FPM Denies Official Syrian Media Reports
The Free Patriotic Movement denied Thursday remarks attributed by official Syrian media to its leader Michel Aoun earlier in the day.
The FPM, in a statement posted on its web site, said "some Lebanese" radio and television stations quoted from the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) and the Sham Press Website a statement allegedly made by Aoun in Germany. "FPM stresses that the statement attributed to Gen. Aoun is totally baseless. All the statements that General Aoun made in Germany and that have been distributed to the media, did not include what was included in the mentioned statement," the statement said. Beirut, 26 Jul 07, 20:07
Lebanon War Topples Israeli Navy Commander
The Israeli navy commander, Admiral David Ben Bashat, has resigned his post over failures during last summer's Israel-Hizbullah war, senior security officials said Thursday. Ben Bashat, 53, is just the latest high ranking Israeli to step down after the inconclusive war, in which Hizbullah fighters fired almost 4,000 rockets at northern Israel despite a full-scale offensive of Israeli ground, sea and air forces.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz, the army chief of staff during the conflict, Dan Halutz, and an area military commander resigned earlier. The war also cost Prime Minister Ehud Olmert most of his public support, and he faces pressure to step down. A government inquiry's preliminary report on April 30 heaped scathing criticism on all three senior officials but directed its sharpest barbs at Olmert, blaming him for hasty decisions and failure to set out attainable objectives.
The navy's main failure during the 34-day war was a Hizbullah missile attack on a navy boat that killed four sailors on July 14, 2006. It emerged that since Israel did not believe Hizbullah had weapons to attack its ships, the navy did not activate the on-board anti-missile system.
The inquiry commission is expected to present its final report by early next year, and the incident with the missile boat is likely to be considered, with harsh conclusions about the navy command. The security officials said Ben Bashat would stay on until a new commander is ready to replace him, probably by October. He directed Israel's navy for three years.(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 27 Jul 07, 10:07
Steinmeier to Aoun: Respect Democracy and State Institutions
Free Patriotic Movement leader Michael Aoun, currently on a European tour, has been pressured by Germany to soften his movement's opposition to Premier Fouad Saniora's Government, respect democracy and state institutions. The German News Agency DPA said Aoun faced "mounting pressures from German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier aimed at leading him into softening his movement's armed opposition to the Lebanese Government"
However, Aoun's FPM is not known to have an armed militia, but it is allied with the Hizbullah-led opposition against the Saniora Government.
The German foreign minister urged Aoun to take part in "honest political dialogue between the Lebanese factions to settle the political crisis," DPA said.
It quoted an unnamed foreign ministry spokesman as saying Steinmeier "explained to Aoun that adopting democratic means is a must, stressing on the importance of respecting the democratically elected Lebanese institutions."
"Maintaining the state's independence, sovereignty and stability is in the interest of all the Lebanese factions as the presidential election schedule nears," Steinmeier stressed. Beirut, 26 Jul 07, 18:00