June 25/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 1,57-66.80. When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, "No. He will be called John." But they answered her, "There is no one among your relatives who has this name." So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, "John is his name," and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, "What, then, will this child be?" For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Free Opinion
Arabs Succeed in Lebanon?By: Abdullah Iskandar-Dar Al-Hayat-June 25/07
The Truth About Fatah al-Islam's Uprising in Lebanon-By: Prof. Barry Rubin. Global Politician. June 25/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for June 25/06/07
Lebanon bombing kills five Spanish troops-AP
Rice for 'Strong Message" to stop Syrian Intimidation in Lebanon
Lebanese Army Kills Six Terrorists in Tripoli
More Army Losses as Militants Set Fatal Booby Traps
Fighting kills 10 in Lebanon-ABC Online
Four killed in north Lebanon gunbattle
-Brisbane Times
Moussa Leaves Beirut as No Solution Looms in the Horizon
Syria's allies torpedoed Arab league's Lebanon mission-Ya Libnan
Foreign Powers Control Lebanon's Destiny!-Naharnet
Lebanon's Sunni population at odds-Baltimore Sun
Three Aussies detained in Lebanon
Outsiders pull the strings in Lebanon, say experts-Peninsula On-line
Mired in crises, Lebanon endures-Detroit Free Press
France postpones Lebanon meeting until mid-July-European Jewish Press

Iraq tribunal sentences 'Chemical Ali' to hang-AP

Lebanon bomb kills 5 U.N. peacekeepers
By SAM F. GHATTAS, Associated Press Writer
BEIRUT, Lebanon - A bomb apparently targeting U.N. peacekeepers exploded by the side of a road in southern Lebanon on Sunday, killing five Spanish troops and injuring at least three, a senior Lebanese military official said.
The senior official in Beirut said a mine may have caused the explosion, but another security official based in southern Lebanon said a bomb detonated at the side of a road about four miles north of the Israeli border town of Metulla. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
In Madrid, the Spanish Defense Ministry confirmed at least four Spanish peacekeepers were killed and three injured. Medical teams with the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, were working in the area, a ministry spokesman said.
White smoke billowed from the armored personnel carrier, which was thrown by the force of the explosion to the side of the road. Fire engines rushed to the area to put out the flames.
Witnesses reported another explosion shortly afterward but it was believed to be either ammunition or the vehicle's fuel tank blowing up.
Sunday's deadly explosion was the first time that UNIFIL has come under attack since it was reinforced last summer after the war between Hezbollah guerrillas and Israeli forces in Lebanon. The 13,000-member U.N. force from 30 countries along with 15,000 Lebanese troops patrols a zone along Lebanese-Israeli border.
Lebanese President Emile Lahoud "strongly denounced" the bombing, saying it was intended to destabilize Lebanon.
In a statement on its television station Al-Manar, Hezbollah also denounced the attack, calling it a "suspicious act." The militant group has had good relations with UNIFIL since the troops were first deployed in Lebanon in 1978.
There have been warnings that the peacekeepers could come under terror attacks, particularly from al-Qaida and its sympathizers. Media reports earlier this month said interrogations by Lebanese authorities with captured militants revealed plots to attack the force.
Those warnings became more serious after Fatah Islam, an Islamic militant group, began fighting Lebanese troops in a northern Lebanon Palestinian refugee camp five weeks ago. The militants have threatened to take their battle outside northern Lebanon and other militant groups have issued Internet statements supporting Fatah Islam.
Earlier Sunday, the state-run National News Agency said the Spanish battalion had organized a celebration in its headquarters in Ibl el-Saqi near Marjayoun to mark the anniversary of St. John the Baptist — the patron saint of King Juan Carlos. The celebration was attended by UNIFIL commander, Gen. Claudio Graziano of Italy.
Southern Lebanon has been largely quiet after the summer war that killed more than 1,200 people, most of them in Lebanon. Rockets were fired on Israel a week ago, causing damage but no casualties in an attack that was blamed on radical Palestinians or sympathizers with Fatah Islam.
The attack on the peacekeepers comes amid growing instability in Lebanon.
Along with the northern fighting and the southern rocket attack, about a half dozen bombs have exploded in residential neighborhoods in the Beirut area since the Fatah Islam-army fighting erupted May 20. One of the Beirut bombs killed a prominent anti-Syrian member of the country's Parliament.
On Sunday, Lebanese troops raided an apartment complex suspected of housing Islamic militants in the northern port city of Tripoli, sparking a gunbattle that left 10 people dead, including a soldier and six gunmen, security officials said.
The fighting marked a new escalation in the army's battle with Islamic militants, as the fighting shifted from the besieged Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared on Tripoli's outskirts back to the city itself.
A soldier, a policeman and two family members were killed in Sunday's confrontation, the security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. They said six of the gunmen were also killed — three Saudis, an ethnic Chechen and two Lebanese who also held European citizenships.
According to the officials, at least two of the militants had been living there for some time. Others took refuge there with them on Saturday.
Before Sunday's gunbattle, Tripoli had not seen fighting since the first week of the conflict with Fatah Islam militants at Nahr el-Bared, Lebanon's worst internal violence since the 1975-90 civil war.
Associated Press Writer Mar Roman in Madrid, Spain contributed to this report.

Lebanese Army Kills Six Terrorists in Tripoli
Lebanese troops killed six Islamist terrorists in fierce clashes that injured at least 12 civilians in the northern town of Tripoli Sunday.
Reliable sources told Naharnet the terrorists included three Saudis, a Russian from Chechnya and two Lebanese.
The clashes, which started with an army bust targeting a terrorist hideout in Tripoli's Abu Samra district late Saturday, also killed a soldier, a police officer and two civilians. The police officer, Khaled Khodor, was visiting his father in law Mohammed Abdul Rahman zeeb at the Shahal residential compound when the clashes broke out. The terrorists killed Zeeb, Khodor and his four-year-old daughter, the sources said. The clashes appear to be a spill over from the ongoing confrontation with terrorists in the Nahr al-Bared camp. Security sources said the clashes broke out late Saturday as an army unit busted the Shahal residential compound in search of "wanted terrorists affiliated with Fatah al-Islam."The army unit, according to the sources, came under fire as the troops tried to search the building. The compound was pounded by tank cannons and the troops stormed it behind a curtain of heavy automatic fire after residents were evacuated, the sources said.
The army confiscated "large quantities" of weapons and explosives from the Shahal compound during the bust, the sources said. Army units besieged surrounding olive groves and launched a hunt for other terrorists believed led by a Lebanese Basil as-Sayed, a reputed Salafist from north Lebanon. One source, however, said Sayed was killed in the clash at the Shahal compound. The clashes, the first in Tripoli since outbreak of the confrontation with Fatah al-Islam terrorists on May 20, followed a proposal by the Salafi movement in north Lebanon for the formation of a "Sharia Islamist court" to try Fatah al-Islam terrorists holed up in a tiny enclave at the heart of Nahr al-Bared camp, 12 kilometers north of Tripoli. The majority government of Premier Fouad Saniora has not commented on the call. However, government sources told Naharnet it is "impossible for any Lebanese authority to accept trying any terrorists by any court other than the military tribunal." Beirut, 24 Jun 07, 09:58

Rice for "Strong Message" to stop Syrian Intimidation in Lebanon
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Sunday on the international community to send a "very strong message" to Syria that any continued interference in Lebanon would not be tolerated. Asked about the failure of the latest Arab League mission to re-launch an inter-Lebanese dialogue, Rice decried what she said were Syrian intimidation attempts in Lebanon. "There needs to be a very strong message to Syria that that is not going to be tolerated," she told journalists flying with her to Paris, where she is set to participate Monday in a conference on Sudan's Darfur region. "So anyone who talks to Syria needs to be sending that very strong message," she added. Rice, who is scheduled to meet Lebanon's pro-Western Prime Minister Fouad Saniora on Tuesday, met last month with her Syrian counterpart Walid Mouallem for the first time since the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, which Washington claims was ordered by Damascus.
Asked whether she was planning a new meeting with Mouallem, Rice simply said "there is no plan currently."(AFP) Beirut, 24 Jun 07, 16:59

Foreign Powers Control Lebanon's Destiny!
Failure of the latest Arab League mission to broker dialogue between Lebanon's Western-backed government and the Hizbullah-led opposition, which is supported by Syria and Iran, leaves the nation's destiny in the hands of foreign powers, Analysts say. "Last-minute hardening of positions, especially by the opposition, ensured that the Arab League mission would fail," an Arab diplomat told Agence France Presse. "The solution is no longer in the hands of the Lebanese themselves, but with foreign powers that support one or other camp," said the diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity. The league delegation headed by Secretary General Amr Moussa left Beirut empty-handed on Friday after four days of trying to persuade the feuding camps to talk and end seven months of political paralysis.
While Moussa's proposal for new dialogue "made some headway, the opposition demanded the unconditional formation of a national unity government," the Arab source said. "They (opposition) refused to give guarantees demanded by those in power on the continuity of this government and the holding of presidential elections" scheduled in September to elect a successor to pro-Damascus President Emile Lahoud.
The source, who took part in the talks, said the Arab League had hoped to achieve a breakthrough that would limit foreign intervention in Lebanese affairs.
"This failure means that Lebanon has now become no more than a currency to be bartered between regional interests." Moussa admitted failure on Friday but said some progress had been made toward dialogue with a view to forming a unity government and holding presidential elections in September.
He added that he was ready to resume the mediation mission in case progress was achieved by the local factions. Parliament speaker Nabih Berri, the opposition negotiator, underlined in the talks that Syria's role cannot be ignored, the Arab diplomat said, quoting him as saying that "a solution lies in talks between Saudi Arabia and Syria." Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh called the mediation breakdown "a Syrian slap in the face for Arabs, and a warning. Damascus wants it known that without Syria there will be no stability in Lebanon."
On Thursday, Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Shara said "our allies in Lebanon are stronger than the other parties," referring to the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora. Syria has so far closed three border crossings with its tiny neighbor to the west, leaving open only the Jdeidet Yabus post on the main Beirut to Damascus highway. "All eyes will now turn to Saudi Arabia and France through talks with Iran which could result in a softening of Hizbullah's position," analyst Ghassan Ezzeh said. Paris plans to host an informal meeting of Lebanese leaders in mid-July in an initiative supported by both Riyadh and Tehran.
"Iran, which has good relations with Saudi Arabia because of fears of mounting tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, is more disposed than Syria to help in reaching a solution in Lebanon," Ezzeh said.
Talal Selman, owner of the As-Safir daily which is close to the opposition, in a front-page editorial blamed the United States for the mediation's failure.
"From the beginning, Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman (in Beirut) did not support the Arab initiative, saying that Amr Moussa was persona non grata and was interfering in matters which did not concern him. "He pressured the anti-Syria camp not to comply with the Arab mediation because America did not want the opposition -- especially Hizbullah -- to have a say in the destiny of Lebanon," Salman claimed. Ezzeh said that unlike some Syrian allies in Lebanon, Hizbullah did not favor forming a parallel opposition government to Saniora's administration. Hezbollah MP Hassan Huballah also blamed Washington. "The U.S. pushed those in power in Lebanon to reject a unity government, which is the opposition's main demand because it is the only possible salvation," Huballah said in a speech in the southern port of Tyre.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 24 Jun 07, 11:09

More Army Losses as Militants Set Fatal Booby Traps

Three Lebanese soldiers were killed on Saturday when fatal booby traps set by Fatah al-Islam militants blew up in the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared, a military communiqué said. A fourth soldier was also seriously wounded by the explosion, said the communiqué issued by the Lebanese army command on the 35th day of the siege of Nahr al-Bared on the outskirts of the port city of Tripoli. Saturday's fatalities raised to at least 147 the number of people killed since May 20 in the deadliest violence since the 1975-1990 civil war. The dead include 79 soldiers. At least 51 militants are belived to have been killed.
The latest clashes came a day after an Arab League delegation admitted failure in its latest bid to reconcile Lebanon's deeply divided anti- and pro-Syrian political camps. Artillery continued to pound Fatah al-Islam in response to the Islamists' sniper fire and assaults. The brutal standoff continued despite Defense Minister Elias Murr saying on Thursday that the onslaught against Fatah al-Islam terrorists "has ended." Fires burned inside Nahr al-Bared and a pall of smoke hung over what has been known as the "old camp" on the southern tip of Nahr al-Bared into which the remaining militants have withdrawn.
Their original stronghold in the "new camp" -- a high-rise spillover to the north from the original refugee camp whose boundaries were set by the United Nations in 1948 -- is now a wasteland of shattered concrete. Sheikh Mustafa Dawood, who leads Palestinian clerics trying to broker a ceasefire, entered the camp on Friday and met Fatah al-Islam spokesman Shahine Shahine who expressed a desire to honor a unilateral truce "in the hope of reaching a happy outcome."
But Dawood told AFP that Shahine also said "if there is shooting at us we will be forced to respond."
The go-betweens are seeking a peaceful conclusion to the standoff despite determination within the government and the high command that it can only end in crushing defeat for the militants. The army demands the unconditional surrender of the fighters, many of them thought to be hardened veterans of the Iraq insurgency.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 23 Jun 07, 12:10

Arabs Succeed in Lebanon?
Abdullah Iskandar Al-Hayat - 24/06/07//
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa has come to Beirut with a unanimous Arab resolution to resolve the current internal crisis in Lebanon. He did not come this time on a mission of mediation, like his last visit. As it is about a unanimous resolution this time, an Arab ministerial-level delegation had accompanied him to assert the interest and the continuity to work on the enforcement of such decision.
The task of a mediator is to listen to the positions of both sides of the conflict and seek to reach a compromise that they both accept. This means that there is a wide margin for negotiations about the terms of such compromise. But following up on the execution of a resolution requires notifying the parties involved in the conflict that what was before them was the fruit of the Arab opinion on how to resolve the dispute, and that what is required is to agree on application mechanisms.
The AL secretary-general is known for his diplomacy, patience and keenness to halt the deterioration in Lebanon. He is well aware of the fatal damage Lebanon was facing as a result of the explosive situation as much as he is aware of the complications this situation would have on the status of the Arabs in general. He acted, at least publicly, as though he was on a mediation mission to make it easier for all parties to respond to the Arab resolution. Yet, some parties, especially in the Opposition, exploited this diplomatic conduct to push for a return to negotiations in order to destroy the basis on which the Arab resolution was founded and thwart its aims. Consequently, those stood in the face of the Arab resolution and blocked it.
It was not by way of chance that Moussa started his talks with all the parties he met in Lebanon by reading the articles of the Arab resolution. He wanted to tell every one that the Arabs are unanimous about these bases for solution and that they only had to agree on the application mechanisms. This resolution addresses the national unity government, the presidential elections, security and economy.
There are many and contradicting stories about what happened in the shuttle visits the Arab delegation paid to the Lebanese leaders in Beirut. But there is a common factor which is that the Opposition stuck with an article about the government, its receiving the blocked third and reconsidering the decisions of the current government - i.e. the international court. But, at the same time, they rejected all the measures that guarantee holding the presidential elections as scheduled and putting an end to the sit-in in front of the palace, and refused to commit to activating the resolutions reached in the previous dialogue in regards to security.
Regardless of the justifications given by the Opposition; having the right to rule, mistrusting the majority and etc, boycotting the Arab resolution reveals that its Syrian ally was not serious about the necessity of an internal Lebanese understanding on the solution when it approved the decision in Cairo. This Cairo approval was rather meant to avoid a clash with the Arab consensus, until the Lebanese allies block the decision when it comes to application. This was clear when the figureheads of the Oppositions agreed on a memo of understanding but then retracted it after "reconsideration" on the pretext they needed additional guarantees in articles that were not included in the memo.
A second proof, if there was a need for any, is the enthusiasm the Opposition showed toward the French initiative to host an inter-Lebanese dialogue. If they accepted this initiative to reach an understanding, the factors of such understanding were provided by the Arab sponsorship. But the aim behind this enthusiasm is to highlight the European recognition of a Syrian-Iranian regional role in an attempt to restore the relations of these two states with the West through Lebanon.
This is what Moussa picked up on when he stressed that the solution was with the Lebanese people, highlighting the Arab responsibility in Lebanon and the Arab consensus to reach a solution there. He wanted to stress that any consultation with the regional powers should be done through the AL on the basis that, according to this resolution, the current government represents legitimacy. The aim is to create suitable circumstances to return to the legitimate institutions in line with the constitution in order to safeguard the sovereignty and security of the country. This means that any attempt to overlook this Arab stance risks what the secretary-general called "very, very great harms". It remains that the Arabs and the AL Council find means to prevent this great damage, whether through convincing the Opposition or through effective pressure. This is what Moussa alluded to when he announced he would go on a regional tour that should bring success to his mission.
We hope the Arab effort in Lebanon this time becomes the exception that sets up a new rule for another way to handle Arab crises than recording stances and regretting the losses

The Truth About Fatah al-Islam's Uprising in Lebanon
Prof. Barry Rubin - 6/24/2007
Fatah al-Islam, a Palestinian Islamist group, has been waging an uprising in Lebanon which has attracted huge media coverage. Most journalists identify this group with al-Qa'ida or are just plain confused as to its identity. In fact, what is happening is a major deception operation by Syria, a rather typical case of how radical forces in the region fool the West, score against their adversaries, and avoid any retaliation for their deeds.

Let's first describe the story briefly, then explain the motives and proof behind it. An outline goes like this:
Step1: Syria wants to sponsor violence and terrorism in Lebanon to bring that country back under its control and intimidate the Lebanese from supporting an international tribunal to investigate and punish those responsible for murdering Lebanon's most popular politician, former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, and 22 bystanders on February 14, 2005. Since all the evidence points at Syria's leaders as the murderers, killing the investigation is their highest priority. The timing of this uprising came at the very moment that the UN Security Council was voting to hold the tribunal.
Step2: Organize and order a shadowy group of terrorists, called Fatah al-Islam, to disrupt Lebanon.
Step3: And this is the scheme's most clever part, blame the terrorism on your victim, Lebanon's own government, and your enemy, the United States. Get some gullible or ideologically inclined journalists to talk to Syrian officials, be fed this line, and then spread it throughout the world.
So how do we know that the uprising in the Palestinian camp of Nahr al-Bared in northern Lebanon, which killed well over 100 people and led the Lebanese army to shell the camp, was a Syrian operation?
Well, first, the group itself, Fatah al-Islam, is merely part of an older group, Fatah al-Intifada, which has been a Syrian front group for almost 25 years. That is a rather strong hint of who these people are and from where their pay and arms come. But there is much more.
The leader of this group is a man by the name of Colonel Abu Khaled al-Amleh. And he lives and operates out of Damascus, Syria. The Syrians do not let terrorist groups function in the country unless the regime likes them and finds them useful. That is also a major piece of evidence. But we are just getting started.
The field commander of the group is a man named Shaker al-Absi. He has been working as a Syrian agent since 1983. In 2003, Absi joined the insurgency in Iraq against the Western forces there. Of course, Syria is the insurgency's main sponsor. Hundreds of fighters cross the Syria-Iraq border; reportedly there is a special government bus that takes them to a good jumping-off point. This record reinforces the idea that Absi is working for Syria.
In Iraq, Absi worked with Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qa'ida--Usama bin Ladin's group--there. There is no inconsistency here. After all, when Syria helps the insurgency, most of the forces they assist are led by al-Qa'ida. While al-Qa'ida is by no means controlled by Syria, the radical duo has some common interests.
Mr. Absi was involved in the murder of a U.S. diplomat, Lawrence Foley, in Jordan on October 28, 2003. Naturally, the Jordanians wanted Syria to extradite him so he could be questioned and punished. Syria refused, clearly because its regime would not benefit from having Absi tell what he knew, especially about Syria's own role in his activities. In 2004, Jordan sentenced Absi to death in absentia.
So instead of turning him over to Jordan, the Syrian authorities announced that they were going to punish Absi themselves. Accordingly, they claimed Absi was sentenced to three years imprisonment for his violent actions in their own country. Three years is a joke. Terrorists who attack the Syrian regime are put to death or given very long sentences. Often, they happen to die conveniently in a manner that used to be described as "shot while trying to escape."
And of course there is no evidence that Absi was ever in prison and certainly not for three years, since only two years later he is back in business as a terrorist. For all we know during this period in between he was living very nicely and engaged in training himself and others.
On being "released," in November 2005, Absi came back to Syria and went to Lebanon. Again, if the Syrian government thought he would do anything against their interests there he would not have been allowed to go so easily and conveniently. Immediately, Absi "split" his old group and began Fatah al-Islam. The ideology of the group, merging Arab nationalism and Islamism, is very much in line with Syria's current political doctrine.
Within Lebanon today, independent and pro-government newspapers have run detailed articles about Absi, his Syrian credentials, and the motives of Damascus for bashing Lebanon. Since Hariri's murder three years ago, there have been 15 major terrorist attacks, mostly aimed at assassinating critics of Syrian attempts to dominate Lebanon. There is a pattern here.
Meanwhile, Syrian officials have been briefing some Western journalists, who know no Arabic and have no serious background in studying the Middle East. They tell these people that Fatah al-Islam is a front for Lebanon's government and even the United States. There is no evidence that this is true. What is telling is that the articles published use precisely the same phrases employed by Syrian officials about 48 hours earlier.
The situation in Lebanon is complicated. But the majority of Lebanese want their country to be independent. They suffered under 20 years of Syrian occupation which looted the country and repressed its people systematically. The moderate, democratic leadership needs and deserves Western support against a terrorist offensive directed by the neighboring dictatorship. It would be a pity to be fooled, by such transparent schemes as the Fatah al-Islam affair, into supporting the oppressors.
**Prof. Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary university. His new book is The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan).