June 29/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 7,21-29. Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?' Then I will declare to them solemnly, 'I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.' Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined." When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

Free Opinion
Four Governments for Two Peoples.By: Ghassan Ayyash. June 29/07
The dismantling of Resolution 1701.By Michael Young. June 29/07
Siniora's allies at home can learn a lesson from his friends abroad-Daily Star. June 29/07
The Significance of the Meeting between Rice and Siniora-Dar Al-Hayat-Jube 29/07

Losing Lebanon-Los Angeles Times-June 29/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for June 2906/07
Rice Predicts 'Excellent Relationship" with France Over Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan-Naharnet
Lebanese Army Kills Six Militants in North Lebanon-Naharnet
Safe Haven Set Up for Refugees Remaining at Nahr al-Bared-Naharnet
Zapatero: Spain Committed to Mideast Peace Despite Lebanon Blast-Naharnet
Two Danes Released from Lebanon, One Still Held-Naharnet
Lebanese PM Wants UN Force to Remain-Washington Post
Lebanese troops, gunmen clash in north Lebanon-Reuters
Lahoud calls for 6-member 'salvation cabinet' during rare visit to ...Daily Star
WORLD IN BRIEF-Washington Post
Lebanese Army resumes shelling of Nahr al-Bared
-Daily Star
UN team finds border security lacking
-Daily Star
Siniora accuses Syria of sending arms to camps
-Daily Star
Rivals agree on ideal traits of president
-Daily Star
Moussa lays blame on Lebanese for inability to broker accord
-Daily Star
Erection of barriers stokes fears in Ain al-Hilweh
-Daily Star
Authorities release sketch of suspect in UNIFIL bombing
-Daily Star
Australian boxer may be among 4 arrested suspects
-Daily Star
Hizbullah preparing for next war with Israel - analysts
-Daily Star
Lebanese NGOs work to ease pain caused by torture-Daily Star
Fear of bombings prompts revellers to seek high ground
-Daily Star
MEA to buy 2 new aircraft with Fransabank financing
-Daily Star

Zapatero: Spain Committed to Mideast Peace Despite Lebanon Blast
Spanish Premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has said his country remained committed to peace in the Middle East despite the deaths of several Spaniards in a car bomb attack in south Lebanon. Six soldiers, part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), were killed Sunday when a car bomb struck their personnel carrier as they patrolled the main road between the towns of Marjayoun and Khiam. "We paid a very high price but this has not changed our commitment to peace in the Middle East or our support to the United Nations as the main body to bring it about," Zapatero told parliament Wednesday in his first comments on the deaths. "They lived together, patrolled together and together they gave their lives for the same cause. Their cause was the cause of peace and solidarity," he added. Zapatero attended a state funeral for the six soldiers, three Spaniards and three Colombians serving in the Spanish armed forces, held Tuesday outside Madrid, but he did not speak publicly at the event. Two other Spanish soldiers were seriously injured as a result of the blast, the first deadly attack on the U.N.'s peacekeeping force in Lebanon since last summer's Israel-Hizbullah war.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 28 Jun 07, 07:27

Rice Predicts "Excellent Relationship" with France Over Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice predicted "a really excellent relationship" with France over Lebanon, Syria and Afghanistan.
Her stand followed her first meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy and members of his cabinet. Rice, who had met Sarkozy ahead of an international conference on Darfur, told reporters on her flight home Tuesday that the French leader wanted "the strongest possible relationship with the U.S."
"We are going to have differences," she added, but "I think they want to really invigorate U.S.-French cooperation." She cited France's decision to keep its troops in Afghanistan and step up its training of an Afghan army. "These were strong signals that they want a very strong relationship, so I think it will be a really excellent relationship," Rice said. Other reassuring signs, officials said, include what Rice called Sarkozy's "very strong interest in Lebanon," and his promise not to resume serious dialogue with Syria, at least for the time being.
"President Chirac's administration had a very strong interest in Lebanon and I think that this Sarkozy administration is signaling that they will have a very strong interest in Lebanon and continue to work with the U.S. on behalf of the democratically elected government" of President Fouad Saniora, Rice said
Tuesday. Rice also met in Paris with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, with whom she spent a great deal of time Monday during an international conference on Kosovo. She was also given a "magnificent" reception by French Defense Minister Herve Morin, complete with a rendering of the Marseillaise. "I don't know about you, but the French national anthem is still stirring to me," she told reporters.
Rice was regaled with lavish attention throughout her visit to Paris. At the Elysee Palace, Sarkozy gave her a bouquet of flowers, at the Quai d'Orsay, Kouchner kissed her on both cheeks. In return, Rice said the United States would be forever indebted to France for the support of the Marquis de Lafayette, a French aristocrat who served as a general in the U.S. war of independence against Britain in the late 18th century. "I think some would say that there might not have been a United States of America but for your help," she said during a joint press conference Sunday with Kouchner.
U.S.-French relations turned sour after French president Jacques Chirac threatened to veto a U.N. resolution authorizing the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
They improved greatly with U.S. President George W. Bush's visit to France two years ago, and blossomed further with the May 6 election of Sarkozy, who from the start of his campaign advocated better relations with Washington. Rice aides said the level of confidence rose even more when Sarkozy picked Kouchner as his top diplomat, since his interest in humanitarian causes matches the Bush administration's efforts in defending freedom worldwide.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 27 Jun 07, 18:47

Lebanese Army Kills Six Militants in North Lebanon
Lebanese troops on Thursday killed six Fatah al-Islam militants during clashes in the wilds near the town of Qalamoun in northern Lebanon, military sources said.
They said a number of soldiers were also slightly wounded in the army operation that began at daybreak Thursday, after an army raid, acting on a tip-off that Fatah al-Islam militants were using the mountainous area as a hide-out. Troops, backed by helicopters, pursued the fighters who had taken refuge in Qalamoun's forests and caves. A military official said the militants were eliminated in the operation, but the army was still combing the area.
"The operation has not ended yet because the army is still cleaning the area of booby traps and checking to see whether the (slain) gunmen's bodies were rigged with bombs," the official told The Associated Press. Hospital officials in Qalamoun also said six militants were killed in the clash -- three Saudis, two Lebanese and a sixth man whose nationality was not immediately known. But a security official in Beirut identified the slain fighters as three Saudis, two Syrians and an Iraqi. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy. Talal Dankar, Qalamoun's mayor, said life in the town was not affected because the fighting raged in remote mountainous areas. "We first heard the din of gunfire before fighting intensified. We saw the army bringing in reinforcements to the mountainous area above Qalamoun," Dankar told LBCI TV. "The army has eliminated the gunmen."
The mountainous site was near where Fatah al-Islam militants mounted a deadly ambush on the army at the outbreak of the violence last month.
According to a count from official figures, at least 167 people, including 82 soldiers, have now been killed in and around the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared, where Fatah al-Islam militants have been locked in fierce fighting with the Lebanese army since May 20. Fatah al-Islam leaders have threatened to take the fighting with the Lebanese army outside the camp if it continues its military offensive. Last Sunday, Lebanese troops raided an apartment complex in Tripoli suspected of housing Islamic militants, sparking a gunbattle that left 10 people dead, including six militants.
The fighting in Nahr al-Bared has been Lebanon's worst violence since the 1975-90 civil war. Last week, Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr declared victory over Fatah al-Islam, but heavy machine gun fire and bursts of artillery shells have continued to reverberate across the camp. The Lebanese army on Wednesday accused the militants still barricaded in Nahr al-Bared of hiding among Palestinian civilians trapped in the camp and confiscating humanitarian aid sent to them. In a statement, the army urged Palestinians inside the camp to persuade the fighters to turn themselves in. Murr said Tuesday that some 300 Islamic militants have been killed or wounded in the fighting, leaving only a few dozen fighters hiding in the besieged camp.(AP-AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 28 Jun 07, 09:15

Saniora Seeking Renewal of U.N. Force's Mandate
Prime Minister Fouad Saniora has asked the United Nations to renew the mandate of international peacekeepers in Lebanon, despite a car bomb attack last weekend that killed six U.N. troops in southern Lebanon. "I am in no position to tell now" who was behind the Sunday car bombing in southern Lebanon that killed the Spanish peacekeepers -- three of them Colombian immigrants, Saniora told a news conference in Paris on Wednesday, adding that the investigation was continuing.
"I think the whole world is looking at this seriously. This is an affront against the international community, against security and stability in Lebanon," he said.
Saniora said he was talking to every member country of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), and was hearing an "unequivocal commitment." Later, Saniora arrived in Rome to receive the support of Premier Romano Prodi of Italy, which is the leading contributor to UNIFIL.
"The perpetrators of such a criminal incident really wanted to blackmail the UNIFIL forces and subject them to intimidation," Saniora said at a joint news conference with Prodi. "I am quite certain that the consolidated and firm position by all the nations that constitute the UNIFIL forces will really send a strong and right message to the perpetrators," Saniora added.
Earlier in Paris, Saniora said he has asked U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to renew the UNIFIL mandate, which expires at the end of August. The 13,000-member force from 30 countries, deployed nearly a year ago, is to implement a U.N. Security Council resolution that ended the 34-day war last summer between Israel and the Syrian and Iranian-backed Hizbullah. UNIFIL's job also includes creating an area free of weapons in southern Lebanon and bringing peace to the Lebanon-Israel border. Saniora on Wednesday met with Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. A day earlier, he met with President Nicolas Sarkozy and visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. France is trying to organize a conference on the Lebanese conflict bringing together representatives of various parties involved, and Saniora said he supported it. However, he held out scant hope that such an initiative could bring peace, saying that the "first goal" of such a conference was, above all, "to break the ice." Kouchner told reporters, "We stand by our Lebanese friends, stand by all of the Lebanese communities -- all of the communities, I'm telling you -- and if we can be useful by bringing them together, we'll furnish a venue where they can speak."
Lebanon is facing its most serious political crisis since the end of the 1975-90 civil war. Saniora's government and the Hizbullah-led opposition are locked in a fierce power struggle. Rival Lebanese politicians have not met since a national dialogue conference ended last year without agreement.
Paris has had some difficulties in arranging the conference. An initial end-of-June date was extended to mid-July, but neither the French Foreign Ministry nor Saniora has been able to pinpoint a date. Saniora said that a proposal for a meeting by the Arab League has hampered putting together a Paris conference. The French proposal came first, the prime minister said, and "the climate is favorable to moving forward with the French proposal." Dialogue is the only way to resolve Lebanon's problems, Saniora said. "We want Lebanon to be a nation, not a battlefield."(AP-Naharnet)(AP photo shows Saniora shaking hands with Prodi before talks in Rome.) Beirut, 28 Jun 07, 07:24

Two Danes Released from Lebanon, One Still Held
Two Danish nationals detained in Lebanon since last weekend were freed Wednesday, the foreign ministry in Copenhagen said.
The two men were arrested over suspected involvement in unrest in northern Lebanon, ministry official Lars Tuesen told Agence France Presse, "but it was established that they had nothing to do with this violence."A third Danish citizen and a Palestinian with Danish residency have been detained in Lebanon for the last month, he added. They are also suspected of being involved in the fighting between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army at the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared near Tripoli, Tuesen said. The National News Agency said Wednesday that Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller will visit Lebanon on July 6. He will meet with Speaker Nabih Berri, Premier Fouad Saniora and Culture Minister Tarek Mitri during his one-day visit, NNA said.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 28 Jun 07, 07:35

Safe Haven Set Up for Refugees Remaining at Nahr al-Bared
A safe haven has been set up inside a bombed-out refugee camp in Lebanon for civilians trapped by almost 40 days of fighting between the army and Islamist militiamen, a Palestinian camp official said. Sporadic gunfire erupted around the Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon on Wednesday, but there was no major army bombardment of Fatah al-Islam militia positions, an AFP correspondent said. Hundreds of civilians are believed trapped in the camp -- which housed about 31,000 refugees before the deadly standoff erupted on May 20. A spokesman for the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine said his group and other Palestinian movements were protecting the remaining civilians in an area in the south of the camp."This is in line with an agreement with the army under which a secure zone has been set up," Fathi Kuleib told Agence France Presse. Fatah al-Islam fighters were initially holed up in the north of the shantytown but are now entrenched in the older southern part, a warren of streets and bombed out buildings that are difficult to control. An army spokesman said Fatah al-Islam, a group which shares the same ideology as Al-Qaeda, was not holding precise positions in the camp but was shooting sporadically at the army before disappearing. A Lebanese defence source said more than 200 Islamists had been killed and 100 others wounded since the start of the fighting in the camp and the nearby city of Tripoli but these figures could not be confirmed with Fatah al-Islam.
According to an earlier count based on official figures, at least 162 people, including 82 soldiers have been killed. The group, which emerged in the refugee camp only in November last year, is made up of Palestinian and other Arab Islamists. Press reports in Sydney said a champion Australian boxer was one of four men being held in Lebanon on suspicion of terrorist activity after being arrested near Tripoli last week.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 27 Jun 07, 17:59

The dismantling of Resolution 1701
By Michael Young -Daily Star staff
Thursday, June 28, 2007
For those following events in South Lebanon, the deadly attack on Sunday against soldiers of the Spanish contingent of UNIFIL was expected. Among the United Nations troops, it was the Spaniards who had the reputation for most forcefully implementing their mandate. The undermining of UN Security Resolution 1701 has, plainly, started. However, before we assume that the South is on the verge of turning into a new Iraq, with foreign troops transformed into walking targets, a more subtle degradation of the resolution may be in the works.
There were probably two principal reasons, aside from the kill factor, for the car-bomb attack against the soldiers. The first was to make UNIFIL more timorous in its patrolling of the border area, in such a way that, with the removal of Lebanese Army units to fight in Nahr al-Bared, more room would be cleared up for Hizbullah to rebuild its military infrastructure south of the Litani River. That's not to say that Hizbullah detonated the device that killed the UN soldiers, but it's very difficult to accept that the party was unaware of what was about to take place. Hizbullah, for all its declarations of sympathy for UNIFIL, views the international force and the Lebanese Army as grave obstacles to the pursuit of "resistance" in the South. For an organization that could not survive without armed struggle, that recently saw its Hamas comrades establish an autonomous territory alongside Israel in Gaza, now is the time to act, in collaboration with Iran and Syria, to again make of South Lebanon a front line against Israel.
The attack was also a warning to the UN not to contemplate sending observers along the Syrian-Lebanese border to prevent the supply of weapons to Hizbullah. Syrian officials have consistently spoken against such a deployment, and even threatened to close the borders with Lebanon. However, it's not clear the Syrians can do so without Iraq and Jordan closing their crossing points with Syria. Amman and Baghdad have not publicly said they would retaliate in this way, but there were reports last week that they might, which supposedly prompted Damascus to leave the Masnaa crossing open. If the information is correct, then Syria's most effective way of blocking an observer mission might be to hit UNIFIL through its Palestinian proxies in Lebanon, showing what would happen if the force expanded out of the South.
Even an academic sympathetic to the Syrian regime saw its hand in what happened last weekend. On his blog, Joshua Landis wrote: "I think the bombing of the UNIFIL troops was an indication of the troubles that the UN can look forward to if it presses the Syrians or their ally Hizbullah."

The oddest statement, however, came from the Siniora government. Information Minister Ghazi Aridi noted that "[t]here is a link between the attack which targeted the Spanish contingent of UNIFIL and the fighting between the Lebanese Army and the terrorists of Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared." He went on to say, "Lebanon is the victim of a terrorist wave striking from the North to the South in which the latest target was the Spanish contingent. This attack was preceded by confessions from arrested terrorists about preparations against UNIFIL."
You have to wonder what Aridi was talking about. He and his political allies have been arguing, with considerable legitimacy, that Lebanon is today facing a Syrian effort to return to the country and torpedo the Hariri tribunal. In that case why fall back on a charade - a Syrian-created charade at that - that everything going wrong is the work of an obscure Salafist group facing annihilation in Nahr al-Bared? Once that fight is over and the bombings and killings continue, who will the Siniora government then blame? Indeed, who do we blame for the bombings and killings in 2005, when Fatah al-Islam wasn't even present in Lebanon?
Perhaps the Siniora government doesn't want to state the obvious: that what is going on in the South might involve Hizbullah more than it is prudent to admit at a moment of ambient sectarian tension. Maybe that's why Walid Jumblatt last week thanked Hizbullah for distancing itself from the rocket attack against Kiryat Shmona two Sundays ago. However, for the government to keep lines open is different than falling back on an absurd line of reasoning where it only discredits itself. By going along with the argument that an alleged Al-Qaeda group is the one targeting UNIFIL, the authorities are downplaying that what is taking place is the methodical dismantling of Resolution 1701. And that's not Al-Qaeda's priority; it is Iran's and Syria's priority, and Hizbullah's.
The killing of the soldiers is worrisome for other reasons. If the European contingents that form the backbone of UNIFIL become more timid in the South (and according to a senior March 14 politician, the Sunday bombing "scared" their governments), there is a risk that they will become gradually more dependent on Hizbullah, which has the most interest in neutralizing their mandate. Already, the word out among many journalists is that Hizbullah is protecting UNIFIL forces far more than UNIFIL is protecting the inhabitants of South Lebanon. If that view becomes generalized, if it reflects the reality of the situation in the border area, than we can start kissing Resolution 1701 goodbye.
Perhaps most disquieting is that if the UNIFIL mandate begins breaking apart, it will be Israel that looks for ways around Resolution 1701 to defend its northern border. This would suit Hizbullah and its Iranian and Syrian patrons just fine, since it's the Israelis who would take the blame for returning South Lebanon to where it was before the summer 2006 war.
But the Israeli shift may come with an addendum: the next war in Lebanon, if there is one, could become a regional war. That's why the UN must do some serious thinking about how to respond to the Sunday bombing, beyond issuing verbal condemnations. And that's why it must press forward with controlling the Syrian-Lebanese border, even if there are electronic means to ensure that UN troops are not sitting ducks.
***Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.

Siniora's allies at home can learn a lesson from his friends abroad

By The Daily Star - Editorial
Thursday, June 28, 2007
During his visit to Europe this week, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has been receiving royal treatment from the top-level officials of some of the most powerful countries in the world. Leaders from the United States, France, Italy and the United Nations have used their meetings with the premier to reiterate various versions of what has become a familiar refrain: The international community is unwavering in its support for Siniora's "democratically elected" government.
As the most high-profile leader of the Lebanese state, Siniora himself has been the focus of much of the international community's praise. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for example, said on Tuesday that she had been keen to express to the premier how much she and other American and international officials "admire his leadership," especially in view of the fact that he "has led his country through extraordinarily difficult times." Rice also pointed out that her country is not the only country that is actively shoring up the Lebanese premier; rather, the United States is just one of many international partners which have voiced full support for Siniora and his government.
The problem is that here in Lebanon, Siniora has not been given the same unequivocal backing. Not only has he had to face a serious challenge to his legitimacy from the opposition, but he has also had to contend with divergent voices within his own alliance, the March 14 Forces. Siniora's ruling coalition includes a wide assortment of factional leaders whose objectives frequently seem at odds with his own, and indeed often contradictory to the basic principles of democracy. As a result of the mixing of so many contradictory platforms and special interests, the March 14 alliance quite often appears rudderless.
The ruling coalition's lack of a center of gravity has proven to be one of the major obstacles to reaching a solution that would end this country's crippling political impasse. With so many separate poles of power in the March 14 Forces, any one faction has the ability to easily disrupt efforts to broker an agreement or create new impasse by making inflammatory remarks or airing their uncompromising stances. Even though the opposition is also comprised of an odd assortment of parties, some of whom at times appear loyal to foreign agendas, everyone knows that the real political weight and leadership off that alliance rests with the Lebanese Hizbullah. Identifying the mainstay of the ruling coalition, on the other hand, is not as simple, since no single leader speaks on their behalf with an authoritative voice.
Siniora's allies here in Lebanon would do well to take a cue from the international community,which has paid tribute to Siniora in emphasizing his role as the most important leader in this country. Breaking Lebanon's political deadlock will require that all of the parties in the March 14 Forces defer to Siniora's leadership and grant him the latitude to broker an accord as he sees fit. All of the support in the world will do little for Siniora if he does not secure the full backing of all of his allies at home.

The Significance of the Meeting between Rice and Siniora

Randa Takieddin Al-Hayat - 27/06/07//
The one and a half hour meeting between the Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice has a great significance. Shortly before meeting Siniora, Rice met with the new French President Nicolas Sarkozy and urged him to support and strengthen the position of the Lebanese government and its head since it came as a result of a democratic process and represents legitimacy in Lebanon. Rice also called upon Sarkozy and his foreign minister Bernard Kouchner to take a clear stand on the side of the March 14 forces, and avoid playing the role of the mediator who stands at an equal distance from the various Lebanese parties.
The US administration which followed the policies of former French President Jacques Chirac with regard to Lebanon and Syria, particularly after it adopted Security Council Resolution 1559, wanted to make sure of the nature of the new French direction in Lebanon. Ever since he came to power, Sarkozy stressed that he supported the majority in Lebanon. This has been clear during his meeting with the head of the Future Trend, deputy Saad al-Hariri, shortly before the end of Chirac's term in the presidency. Sarkozy never announced that he changed his policy toward Lebanon but always insisted on the country's sovereignty and independence.
However, the meeting called by Kouchner to gather all Lebanese parties in France gave cause for concern to the American side which came to believe that the French foreign ministry has gone back on its backing of the majority particularly as the French foreign minister received general Michel Aoun twice and invited Hezbollah to take part in the meeting under preparation. Nevertheless, France stresses that there is no change in its policy toward Lebanon. It backs the democratic forces in Lebanon and the Siniora government. The proof of this is that Sarkozy received Siniora and the ministerial delegation that accompanied him in the Elysee Palace.
The support given to Siniora at this stage by such international parties as the United States and France is very important because the fall of the Siniora government would mean the fall of democracy in Lebanon and its failure to regain full sovereignty while Syrian and Iranian interventions remain on the political and security arena. In this regard the most important thing said by the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, during his meeting with the foreign press in Paris, expediting the establishment of the international court is necessary because it is the only way to protect Lebanon from assassinations. He added that the role of the investigations committee is essential for Lebanon because that body can expose those involved in the various crimes seen by that country which has become open to various battlefronts.
The Lebanese army deserves to be hailed as it is fighting against forces that have been exported to Lebanon to destabilize it. The army also needs tangible support and equipment from all countries that want to defend democracy, legitimacy and sovereignty. For words are not enough in the face of crimes and terrorist operations. What is required is the sending of equipment and support in deeds.
In her talks with French officials, Rice also dwelled negatively on the positions of President Emile Lahoud whom Washington considers to be the symbol of Syrian hegemony over Lebanon and the symbol of the forces that obstruct the path of democracy and sovereignty there.
Rice also wanted through her meeting with Siniora to bolster the position of the head of a government besieged by forces that do not recognize an independent and sovereign Lebanon and do not want it to recover its health away from foreign interventions.
The conflict now before the elections due for the Lebanese presidency is raging between regional forces that hinder the path towards sovereignty and international forces that want to support democracy and openness to modernity, the west and the world instead of leaving Lebanon hostage to regimes that live in isolation and that impose their hegemony through crimes, assassinations and terrorism

Losing Lebanon
As lawmakers and peacekeepers die, Syria looks to regain its grip on the country. Where is the West?
June 28, 2007- EDITORIAL-
Los Angeles Times-June 29/07
WHILE THE hapless West stands by, a Syrian campaign to retake Lebanon is unfolding as crudely as the plot of Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None."
One by one, three anti-Syrian members of the Lebanese parliament have been murdered, reducing the majority of independent Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to a slim six seats. President Emile Lahoud, a puppet of Syria, and the pro-Syrian speaker, Nabih Berri, refuse to allow elections to be held to replace them. But that's perhaps a moot point, as Berri hasn't allowed the parliament to meet at all since last summer. The parliament should have elected a new president in 2004, but under Syrian threat, then-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri — in whose subsequent murder Damascus is also implicated — extended Lahoud's term three more years. Now the parliament must elect a new president by September, and Damascus and its allies rightly fear that the current body will not anoint another Syrian lapdog. There can be no benign interpretation of the latest assassinations.
In 2004, the U.N. Security Council resolved that Lebanon should hold free and fair elections "devised without foreign interference or influence." That promise has not been kept. Now the Cedar Revolution, which forced Syria to end its military occupation of Lebanon, is unraveling. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Siniora on Tuesday in Paris, but where is the U.S. or U.N. plan for free Lebanese elections? If the Lebanese parliament cannot meet in Beirut without the fear of Hezbollah- or Syrian-inspired violence, and if the United Nations cannot guarantee its safety, then let the parliament sit in exile — perhaps in New York.
The international community ought to have been jolted out of its passivity by the car-bombing last week that killed six U.N. peacekeepers — three Spaniards and three Colombians — in southern Lebanon. Syria condemned the bombing, but it was widely interpreted as yet another warning to the United Nations not to proceed with the tribunal looking into the Hariri assassination if it does not wish to see Lebanon further destabilized. Syrian President Bashar Assad has signaled that keeping the tribunal from indicting senior Syrians is a critical, perhaps even existential, priority. Although this page has endorsed engagement with Syria, there can be no compromise on the work of the tribunal, which is as vital as any war crimes tribunal. And there can be no retreat from Lebanon's right to sovereignty.
Damascus certainly has an interest in seeing a friendly government come to power in Beirut. Stopping the violence and allowing elections to proceed is a better way to achieve that goal.

Four Governments for Two Peoples
Ghassan Ayyash - Al-Hayat - 28/06/07//
The peoples of Palestine and Lebanon are the Arab 'Mashreq' countries' mostly in need of stability and unity. Despite differences in economic and social problems, the two countries are suffering economic straits that require stability at the state level in order to face serious security challenges that can affect their economic and social situations. However, the two countries are heading towards a sharp split in power, leading to the establishment of two governments in each.
After Hamas took over Gaza and adhered to the legitimacy of the government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, President Mahmoud Abbas sacked the government and put together an emergency one. In Lebanon, with faltering Arab mediation, the opposition tends to form a second government to which President Emile Lahoud had repeatedly hinted, as he is averse to handing over power to the existing government when his term expires next fall. This division in executive power is tantamount to an economic suicide for Palestine and Lebanon.
Palestine does not need this division to have its economic problems exacerbated. The poor in Gaza are the first victims of this tragic separation from the West Bank. The Palestinian economy did not wait for the separation of Gaza from the West Bank to record extremely perilous negative indicators, as it has been continuously deteriorating for six years, due to an Israeli blockade that is enhanced by the separation wall and by the destruction of infrastructure and confiscation of land, as well as hindering movement of trade between the two parts of Palestine, and between them and the outside world.
Palestinian society has been already suffering from a high rate of poverty as the proportion of the population living under the poverty line rose sharply from 21% in 1999 to 60% in 2003. And 100 000 Palestinians have lost their jobs since the second 'Intifada' and the percentage of workers who are paid below the poverty line stands at about 60% after it was 43% in the year 2000.
Even Near East Consulting (NEC) Foundation revealed that the number of Palestinian families living below poverty line soared from 50% at the end of the third quarter of last year to 66% late the same year, which meant continued and accelerated social degeneration, especially in Gaza, even before the recent events. What will the situation be like in the era of two governments, one of which is suffering from international isolation?
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in their latest reports on Palestinian economy indicated a decline in government consumption and investment due to the financial embargo and the donor countries' aversion to provide aid to the Palestinian National Authority. Public investment dropped to $180 million in 2006, about half of the previous year. If we had a look at the extent of Palestinian economy reliance on the public sector and the economic and social disparities between the West Bank and Gaza, we would realize the additional difficulties awaiting the Palestinians in Gaza as a result of having a government in the Gaza Strip independent from the authority of President Mahmoud Abbas.
As for Lebanon, it is true that economic and social circumstances there are greatly different from the conditions in Palestine. However, the Lebanese economy would similarly be affected negatively if President Lahoud formed a second government. The Lebanese economy, in the first place, would witness a decline in foreign investments that can never be established in a country with two governments locked in a conflict over legitimacy. Moreover, domestic investment, in turn, would shrink because the constitutional division to the extent of having two governments on the ground would render investing a risk that nobody would take. In addition, the conflict between two authorities would complicate the work of the private institutions and confuse them, making access to new investors unlikely.
The decline of internal and external investment will double the problems that have been facing economic growth in Lebanon since the outbreak of the war with Israel last summer, which continued with the political crisis and the seven month old protest in the heart of the commercial center of Beirut.
Mid last year, expectations indicated that economic growth will reach 6% at the end of the year, but the war and the political crisis that followed have made growth last year a zero. It seems that because of the complicated political crisis, growth in the past months of the current year was negative and, according to unannounced estimates of the Bank of Lebanon, growth rates continued to decline since about a year ago. The question is to what extent the growth rate would decline if the second half of 2007 witnessed the emergence of another government claiming legitimacy and challenging the legitimacy of the government of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora? Not only investors would be have to patient but also loans and foreign aid approved at the 'Paris 3' conference would have to be delayed. This would affect the public and private sectors and block financial reform and the other reforms in the government's program.
The emergence of the second government would result in immense confusion in management, especially the country's management of funds, because it would create many problems at the level of public expenditure if the ministries were taken over by various ministers.
The Bank of Lebanon might play a reconciliatory role or substitute the two governments in covering expenditure, as it efficiently did before, in the era of the two governments in the year 1988. It would be harder this time, though.
In previous experiences, the Central Bank was able to almost completely hold the financial decision because government spending at the time was almost entirely depending on the Bank of Lebanon loans, as State imports did not exceed 9% of total expenditure and the bank's share of public debt funding was not as it is now. At present, imports cover 70% of expenditure and the banks finances half of the public debt, which makes the Bank of Lebanon less capable of controlling the financial decision like before, as long as expenditure does not chiefly depend on loans.
The political conflict is comprehensible and justifiable and there is no objection to it as it is natural in societies. But it always leads to better outcome if the results of the conflict are resolved in accordance with public opinion, freely and without pressure. What is hard to understand is the used tools and means in this conflict which would only lead to mass suicide, such as the existence of two governments in one country

(MED) Lebanon: Italy mulls easing army rules of engagement
ROME, 28 giu (Velino) - “The rules of engagement are unchanged, but this does not mean that they must remain so permanently.” In a hearing of the defence and foreign affairs committee of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Italy’s defence minister, Arturo Parisi, admitted that the United nations can re-consider the rules that govern the limits within which peace-keeping troops of UNIFIL II in Lebanon, including Italians, may open fire or take part in combat. After the attack that killed six blue helmets in the Spanish contingent in Lebanon, the Italian Government may increase security measures for all Unifil II troops, defence sources say, and also is considering giving them beefed up rules of engagement as envisaged by the UN.
The UN mission in Lebanon’s mandate comes to an end at the end of August and the Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, who made an official trip to Rome Wednesday for talks with Italian counterpart Romano Prodi, already has asked participating states to extend the mandate. But according to Emanuele Sommario, a researcher in international law at the Santa Anna Scuola Superiore in Pisa, “the rules of engagement in theory can change even earlier, for instance if there is a proven need for security, so long as this does not contravene the terms of the mandate.”
It would be down to Signor Parisi to convince the other UN countries taking part in the mission, above all Spain and France, of the need to modify the rules of engagement, the expert added. What remains to be seen, however, is whether the doughty defence minister can count on the same broad political support from the Government coalition with which the original mission to Lebanon was approved, Italy watchers say.
“The rules of engagement are unchanged, but this does not mean that they must remain so permanently.” In a hearing of the defence and foreign affairs committee of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Italy’s defence minister, Arturo Parisi, admitted that the United nations can re-consider the rules that govern the limits within which peace-keeping troops of UNIFIL II in Lebanon, including Italians, may open fire or take part in combat. After the attack that killed six blue helmets in the Spanish contingent in Lebanon, the Italian Government may increase security measures for all Unifil II troops, defence sources say, and also is considering giving them beefed up rules of engagement as envisaged by the UN.
The UN mission in Lebanon’s mandate comes to an end at the end of August and the Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, who made an official trip to Rome Wednesday for talks with Italian counterpart Romano Prodi, already has asked participating states to extend the mandate. But according to Emanuele Sommario, a researcher in international law at the Santa Anna Scuola Superiore in Pisa, “the rules of engagement in theory can change even earlier, for instance if there is a proven need for security, so long as this does not contravene the terms of the mandate.”
It would be down to Signor Parisi to convince the other UN countries taking part in the mission, above all Spain and France, of the need to modify the rules of engagement, the expert added. What remains to be seen, however, is whether the doughty defence minister can count on the same broad political support from the Government coalition with which the original mission to Lebanon was approved, Italy watchers say.
(Daniel Mosseri)