June 4/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 16,12-15. I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you

Free Opinion
Lebanese Agreement & International Resolutions. By: Abdullah Iskandar. June 4/07
A Tribunal and A Government. By: Jihad el-Khazen. June 4/07
Squandering the Assad legacy. By Zvi Bar'el. Haaretz June 4/07
On Generals and Admirals. By: by Uri Avnery/Media Monitors Network/June 4/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for June 4/05/07
Fighting continues in Lebanon camp-AP
Fatah al-Islam's Plot: 9/11-Style Lebanon Attack-Naharnet
Fatah al-Islam Militants Besieged in One Square kilometer of Nahr al-Bared-Naharnet
Samir Kassir Prize Goes to Moroccan and Lebanese-Naharnet
Saniora Pledges to Uproot Fatah al-Islam-Naharnet
Syria Refuses to Cooperate with the Hariri Tribunal-Naharnet
Lebanese gunship unleashed on militants. Carlsbad Current Argus
Siniora warns militants to give up.PRESS TV
Militants scoff at Siniora's offer.Gulf News
Syria won't deal with Hariri tribunal.Jerusalem Post
Brief chronology of the 1967 Mideast War.International Herald Tribune
Ministers to be told of Syrian arming.Ha'aretz
Squandering the Assad legacy.Ha'aretz
War threat looms over Syria.Deccan Herald
The Lebanese Tragedy: a bit of suspicion.Middle East Online
Lebanon clamp vow.Gulf Daily News

Fatah al-Islam's Plot: 9/11-Style Lebanon Attack
An Nahar newspaper said Sunday that Fatah al-Islam militants, whose fighters are besieged at the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, were planning a September 11-style attack on Lebanon. It said interrogation of arrested fighters revealed that the attacks on a hotel, embassies and tunnels would have caused destruction similar to the 9/11 attacks in the United States. "Fatah al-Islam planned to attack a large hotel in the capital using four suicide truck bombs at the same time as launching suicide attacks on embassies in east and west Beirut," the paper said. The planned attacks' explosives, that have made their way from Syria, were seized in a weapons depot in the northern port city of Tripoli, the daily said. An Nahar also said the group "planned to launch attacks on the Shekka tunnel linking Beirut to Tripoli with the aim of cutting off the north and proclaiming an Islamic state there." The Lebanese army is locked in deadly battles with the militants since May 20. But fighting intensified on Friday when the military made a push against Fatah al-Islam which has vowed to fight to death inside Nahr al-Bared. White smoke rose from the camp Sunday as the Lebanese army resumed its bombardment of the militants holed up there.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 03 Jun 07, 07:56

Lebanese gunship unleashed on militants
By Zeina Karam
The Associated Press
Article Launched: 06/03/2007 01:00:00 AM MDT
Tripoli, Lebanon - A missile-firing helicopter joined the Lebanese army offensive against al-Qaeda-inspired militants Saturday, the second day of a push against Islamic fighters vowing a fight to the death inside a Palestinian refugee camp. Army tanks shelled militant hideouts in the Nahr el-Bared camp by this northern port city, blasting upper floors of buildings where the militants had placed snipers. A Lebanese air force helicopter fired two missiles and strafed militant positions in the first use of airpower since fighting began with the Fatah Islam group May 20. The air attack was an apparent attempt to block an escape route to the Mediterranean Sea.
Four soldiers were killed and 10 wounded Saturday in the offensive aimed at uprooting al-Qaeda-inspired gunmen barricaded in the refugee camp.
The casualties raised the army's deaths to 38 in two weeks. At least 20 civilians and about 60 militants were killed by Friday, but casualties in the camp in the past two days were unknown because relief organizations were banned from entering. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said about 250 members of Fatah Islam were still inside the camp. He promised Palestinians who fled Nar -el-Bared that they will be able to return and the camp will be rebuilt.
The militants "have no choice but to surrender," Siniora told Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television, adding that the government would "assure this group justice and a fair trial." There were signs that Palestinians trapped inside the camp were trying to squeeze the militants out. Abu Jaber, an official of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - a key Palestinian guerrilla faction that has stayed out of the fighting - told Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. television that Palestinians were trying to "isolate" the militants by locking up houses and barricading camp neighborhoods to keep them out. Some Lebanese security officials consider the militants to be part of a radical Sunni Muslim group tied to al-Qaeda or inspired by al-Qaeda's militancy and doctrine. Siniora and others believe it is linked with Syrian military intelligence aimed at destabilizing Lebanon - a claim Syria denies. Jaber said 17 people had been wounded in the camp and about 400 houses destroyed in shelling Saturday.
"We hope that the army realizes that the shells are falling on the heads of innocent people," Jaber said by cellphone from Nahr el-Bared. Most of the camp's 31,000 refugees fled to the nearby Beddawi camp earlier in the fighting, but at least 5,000 are believed still inside.

Siniora warns militants to give up‎
Sun, 03 Jun 2007 10:17:59
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has warned the al-Qaeda-linked militant groups in Nahr al-Bared to surrender or be crushed.
In an interview with Al-Arabiya television on Saturday, Siniora said "This is a terrorist gang. They have to surrender themselves and their arms."
The premier said the camp's population had fallen from more than 31,000 to less than 3,000, including the gunmen, after civilians fled following the outbreak of fighting on May 20. He accused the so-called Fatah al-Islam of preventing the remaining civilians from leaving the camp in an apparent bid to use them as human shields.
Earlier, an army spokesman said "the battles will continue until we put an end to the phenomenon" of Fatah al-Islam. "The only choice for the gunmen is to give themselves up," he said adding, the army wanted a "quick end" to the crisis and called on the militants to "return to reason." But Fatah al-Islam spokesman Abu Salim Taha vowed, "We will not surrender."

Militants scoff at Siniora's offer
Beirut: Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora repeated a warning yesterday to militants holed up in a northern refugee camp that they must surrender or be crushed, as intense fighting continued to rage."This is a terrorist gang," Siniora said of Fatah Al Islam in an interview with Al Arabiya television. "They have to surrender themselves and their arms."He said that if the Islamists give up "they will face a fair trial," but added that the army was carrying out missions against the Nahr Al Bared camp "like surgical operations in order to eradicate this phenomenon". Before Siniora made his latest threat, a spokesman for the militants had vowed that they would fight to the last man. The premier said the camp's population had fallen from more than 31,000 to less than 3,000, including the gunmen, after civilians fled following the outbreak of fighting on May 20.He accused Fatah Al Islam, of which he said there were about 250 men, of preventing the remaining civilians from leaving the camp in an apparent bid to use them as human shields.
We won't surrender
Earlier, an army spokesman said "the battles will continue until we put an end to the phenomenon" of Fatah Al Islam. "The only choice for the gunmen is to give themselves up."The army said it wanted a "quick end" to the crisis and called on the militants to "return to reason".But Fatah Al Islam spokesman Abu Salim Taha vowed: "We will not surrender and we will fight until the last drop of blood."The Nahr Al Bared camp will not fall despite the destructive shelling, and the army will not be able to enter," Taha said. Shaikh Mohammad Al Hajj, a member of a delegation of Palestinian clerics attempting to broker a negotiated solution, called for a halt to the shelling. But the Hamas movement of Palestinian Prime Minister Esmail Haniya said the "tangible progress" made by the army in clearing the camp's northern and eastern edges of militants might help mediation efforts. "This is a victory that could open the way for a political settlement," spokesman Ali Baraka said.
Unequal force: Lebanese big guns against small arms
Lebanese artillery pieces hold the high ground overlooking the northeast corner of Nahr Al Bared colony. Every five minutes a 155mm shell whistles over the heads of journalists, who are being kept some distance away by soldiers, and slams into a building where the extremists are thought to be holed up.
Windows rattled in the building where the journalists are confined one kilometre from the camp's southern entrance as another shell whooshed overhead and exploded two seconds later. Then the bombardment intensified as several artillery pieces fired at once in a barrage that was followed by the thud and flash of at least six impacts.
The ensuing silence was punctured by the rattle of automatic weapons from the camp, a defiant response to superior fire power - bullets and the occasional anti-tank rocket against heavy guns.

Ministers to be told of Syrian arming
By Aluf Benn
The security cabinet will hear intelligence updates on the arming of Syrian forces in a briefing this week. Intelligence sources said they did not believe Syria was preparing for war, despite the fact it is rearming. Israel's main concern is the possibility that Syria might try to take control of a small area of the Golan to use as a bargaining chip for continued negotiations for the whole territory, as Egypt did with Sinai. Sources said this week they believed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was being assisted by Turkey to ascertain Syria's intentions.

Brief chronology of the 1967 Mideast War
The Associated PressPublished: June 2, 2007
JERUSALEM: Here is a brief chronology of the 1967 Six Day War.
May 1967: Mideast tensions rise as Egypt's leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, sends troops into the Sinai Peninsula, orders the removal of U.N. peacekeepers there, and closes the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. Jordan joins the Egypt-Syria military alliance against Israel, while Iraq and other Arab states offer small expeditionary forces. Israel mobilizes its reserves.
June 5: In a dramatic strike that decides the course of the war, the Israeli air force destroys 400 aircraft of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq, most of them on the tarmac. Three Israeli divisions move against seven Egyptian divisions and about 1,000 Egyptian tanks, capturing the Sinai Peninsula after four days of battle.
Israel asks Jordan to stay out of the fighting, but Jordanian troops open fire along the armistice line with Israel. In the afternoon, Israel counterattacks.
June 7: Israeli troops capture Jerusalem's Old City, including shrines sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and take control of the entire West Bank. Jordan accepts a cease-fire.
June 8: Egypt accepts a cease-fire.
June 9: Israeli forces attack Syrian positions on the strategic Golan Heights, from where Syrian forces shelled Israeli farming villages before the war's outbreak.
June 10: Israeli troops occupy the Syrian town of Kuneitra. Syria accepts a cease-fire.
Israel: 679 dead, 2,563 wounded
Arab countries: Approximately 21,000 dead, 45,000 wounded

Squandering the Assad legacy
By Zvi Bar'el
When Bashar Assad was appointed president of Syria seven years ago, the constitution had to be changed. Back then the president-elect was too young - less than 40 years old, the age required by the constitution to assume the post. The political echelon rushed to implement the required change and the 34-year-old Assad became president. After last week's referendum, which, as expected, approved another seven-year term for him, with an overwhelming majority of 97 percent of the votes, people are already talking about Hafez Assad's next term in office. There is no mistake here - Hafez is the name of Bashar's son, and since it is customary in Syria to transfer the regime from father to son, it appears as though Hafez, the grandson, also has a respectable future ahead of him.
There was no need to wait for Bashar to complete his full term in office to reach the conclusion that he is not exactly a copy of his father. A summary published last week by an Arab commentator in the Al Khayyat newspaper pointed to a series of mistakes Bashar made as a leader: He has lost Lebanon, he has undermined Syria's status in the Arab world, he is responsible for the deterioration of the Syrian economy, he has forbidden freedom of expression and he has been unable to advance the peace process with Israel. This month, Assad's regime is expected to turn from suspect into the convicted party with regard to the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, following the UN Security Council's decision to set up an international tribunal and to hold a trial, contrary to Assad's will and despite the threats issued by Hezbollah's spiritual leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
Assad will thus chalk up yet another humiliating defeat with regard to the most important heritage his father left in his hands: to hold onto Lebanon at all costs and turn it into a Syrian province. Meanwhile, it appears that Lebanon is casting a giant shadow on Assad's regime. The government of Fouad Siniora continues to stay in office despite Assad's attempts to topple it; the violent events in the Naher al-Barad refugee camp have taken on a life of their own, apparently contrary to the interests of both Syria and Nasrallah. And even if it were possible to attribute Hezbollah with an achievement during last year's Second Lebanon War, Assad came and turned this affair into his own, and Syria's, loss.
Last week, a UN team went to examine the security situation along the Lebanese-Syrian border, against Syria's will. It seems as though in the near future a joint team of the UN multinational force and the Lebanese army will begin patrolling this border. But while the distrust of Assad's declarations about not permitting the transfer of arms from Syria to Hezbollah is a matter between Syria and Lebanon, and between Assad and Israel, this is not the case regarding the speech Assad made shortly before the end of last year's war. In that speech he called the Arab leaders "half-men" for not coming to Hezbollah's aid and for not standing up against Israel. The result was an immediate freeze of relations with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. The relations between Syria and these countries, which had not been characterized by warmth even before the speech, pushed Assad almost completely outside the arena of events in the Arab world. Ahead of last March's Arab summit in Riyadh, Assad was forced, in interviews he gave to the Saudi media, to describe his ties with King Abdullah as extremely cordial and was almost made to apologize for his previous remarks. This is the same Saudi Arabia that was pushing for the establishment of the international tribunal, and the same Assad who was forced to swallow the Saudi initiative.
Assad does not have any real ties with Abdullah, the Jordanian king, and his conversations with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak are rare. At the same time, the Syrian president is not as isolated as is usually assumed in Israel. He enjoys close ties with the leaders of, and in particular with investors from, the Gulf states. These investors continue to develop the Syrian tourism industry. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also considers Assad a personal friend. Of course, when it comes to ties with Iran, Assad can remain relaxed, although relations between Syria and Iran suffered last year as a result of various arguments. But Assad can also gaze wistfully at the picture of his father, who was one of the most relevant figures in the Middle East, in contrast to the marginal position he has fallen into.
Assad can also look at his neighbor in Jordan with envy and see how a similar age is not a guarantee of similar political capability. In contrast to the political and economic activity of King Abdullah, who has put Jordan on the map of the Middle East, Assad is wallowing around in neighborhood politics. To all this has to be added the seven years during which the Syrian economy has been frozen. The data Syrian Economic Minister Amer Lutfi gave to the Al-Baath newspaper last week speak of a predict 7 percent growth in the coming year, as opposed to 5.6 percent in 2006. But the figures issued by the World Bank speak about an average growth rate of 3 percent during the past two years.
Syria talks about extending privatization and about a considerable increase in private sector contributions to GNP, but economists point out that the private sector is still floundering and continuing to produce goods for which there is no demand on foreign markets, whether Arab or Western. Even though there was an increase in per capita income over the past two years, it has to be remembered that we are talking about a monthly increase of $88 per capita, as opposed to $63 per capita in 2000. In nominal terms, this is a significant amount, but in fact, and in view of the inflation in Syria, this is a worrisome figure, which joins the meteoric rise in prices caused by the influx of Iraqi refugees into the country. This phenomenon has given a tremendous push to the real estate market in Syria. However, this is a temporary period of growth at the end of which the country is likely to find itself in an even worse crisis - without the government being able to present a suitable long-term plan to fight either this crisis or the oil crisis that is expected in view of the depletion of the country's oil reserves.
In contrast to these data, Dr. Moheyddine Al-Ladkani, the secretary-general of the opposition Syrian Democratic Stream, published an investigative report according to which the Assad family, including its cousins in Syria, has assets worth an estimated $40 billion, which also encompass income generated from joint projects in Lebanon, exclusive franchises and fees for granting permits for investment in Syria.
Reports about corruption among members of the ruling family are not something new, and the practice of granting franchises to family members is also well-known. But when the president raises the banner of a war against corruption as the symbol of his regime, it is difficult to accept such talk. And yet another small matter: When Assad gave his inaugural speech in the summer of 2000, a short while after the Israel Defense Forces had withdrawn from Lebanon, he referred in his remarks to the structure of society and to democracy. "Do rights, freedom of expression or transparency constitute democracy?" he asked. "No, they are its results. Democracy is to say that what we are entitled to, others are also entitled to." A good idea, had it not been for the speech's continuation in which Assad explained that in fact democracy could not be a universal term.
"Every building has a suitable basis," and therefore the democracy of the West is the product of its history and its experiences, and Syrian democracy is the product of its history and Syrian society. This means that Western democracy is not necessarily suitable for Syria. "We cannot adopt the democracy of others for our country," Assad said on that occasion, without forgetting the status of women who, he said, are vital for the blossoming of society because "the woman is the one who prepares the men to play their role in society." A study of the list of political prisoners and an examination of the official press, which has not yet changed, point to the fact that over seven years Assad merely "studied" the matter. Perhaps in the next seven years, a miracle will happen.

War threat looms over Syria
From Michael Jansen, DH News Service, Jerusalem:
There are rumours that this time Israel may launch an war with Syria in this summer. These rumours began to spread soon after Israels disastrous July-August 2006 war with Hizbollah in Lebanon. As the 40th anniversary of the June 67’ war approaches, Israel is once again mobilising troops in the north near the ceasefire lines with Syria. There are rumours that this time Israel may launch an war with Syria in this summer. These rumours began to spread soon after Israel’s disastrous July-August 2006 war with Hizbollah in Lebanon. Soon after that conflict, Damascus once again proposed negotiations with Israel over the Golan Heights, occupied by the Jewish state in June, 1967. Damascus made such a move because it thought Israel’s humiliation in Lebanon would prompt the Jewish state to negotiate with Syria on its terms.
But Israel promptly rejected the proposal, by Syrian Presi- dent Bashar al-Assad, and dismissed reports that Israelis had been discussing a Golan-for-peace deal with Syrians for several months. There have also been reports in the Israeli press that Washington had put pressure on Israel to keep its distance from Syria in order to put pressure on Assad to cut ties with Palestinian res0istance groups and Hizbollah and also seal its borders with Iraq to halt the entry of jihadi fighters.
Israel would, however, have a great deal to gain if it were to win a war with Syria.The deeply unpopular government headed by Ehud Olmert and the Israeli armed forces, will regain the lost credibility when Hizbollah defeated Israel in last summer's war. Olmert can give his Kadima party a new lease of life for a new round of parliamentary elections. His Labour party partner would appoint a new defence minister to replace Amir Peretz, who failed to defeat the Hizbollahs.
Military dominance
Israel would also regain military dominance as well as the political initiative. They would recoup their rapport with the US and, once again, demonstrate that Israel is its most valuable strategic asset in strife-torn West Asia.
By waging a successful war with Syria, Israel could also expect to impose on Damascus its terms for peace. These terms would include a demand for the Syrians to halt their support for Palestinian militants – particularly Hamas and Islamic Jihad – and cut their ties with Iran, which Israel sees as its most serious adversary in the region.
Israel would also argue that it could withdraw from the Golan Heights, which it occupied in 1967, only by stages and in return demand that they could continue to use Golan water and the region would be demilitarised, said an analyst.
If Israel were to return the Golan, it would gain peace on the two remaning Arab frontiers, the Syrian and Lebanese as the Shebaa farms area demanded by Lebanon would also return to Lebanese control along with the Golan. Once these frontiers are stabilised, Israel would have drawn its borders with all the neighbouring Arab states. Egypt and Jordan defined their frontiers with Israel in 1979 and 1994 peace agreements.
If Israel were to reach accommodations with the Arab states, it would have a free hand to deal with the Palestinians as it wishes. Israel could then go ahead with its plan to isolate Gaza and parcel out small parcels of West Bank land to Palestinians, leaving them with contained and impoverished bantustans rather than the state to which they aspire.

Fatah al-Islam Militants Besieged in One Square kilometer of Nahr al-Bared
The Lebanese army has besieged Fatah al-Islam militants in a one square kilometer enclave in the center of the northern Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp as the troops inched their way in to uproot them. Meanwhile, army gunners pounded Fatah al-Islam positions with 155-mm howitzers and tank cannons on Saturday as commando units inched their way in, storming deserted buildings and clearing them off mines and explosive charges. Premier Fouad Saniora, in a television interview, said there was no room for "reconciliation, entente or settlement" with Fatah al-Islam, stressing that the government was coordinating efforts with the army to "uproot the terrorists."Earlier, the army called on civilians in Nahr al-Bared to "oust intruders and criminals."The army lost six "martyrs" in 36 hours of fierce clashes, while Fatah al-Islam lost at least 52 fighters. The army also rounded up a dozen Fatah al-Islam militants, three of them wounded, during fierce fighting behind a screen of heavy shelling by howitzers and tank cannons.
Army troops also opened up at Fatah al-Islam sniping nests with .50-caliber machine guns mounted on armored personnel carriers to cover advance of commando units that try to storm buildings booby-trapped by the militants. Witnesses said Fatah al-Islam militants have also booby-trapped donkeys and dogs and set them in the direction of army lines, but the animals were shot and detonated before reaching army positions. Witnesses said 10 Fatah al-Islam suicide bombers blew themselves up at al-Thawra mosque and an adjacent building in the besieged camp. They said the militants were using mosques and medical centers as combat outposts in an apparent effort to force the army attack such targets. The army, however, said in a communiqué that holy sites and medical centers have been pacified.
Muslim Clergymen stressed in Friday sermons that mosques should not be used for other purposes than praying. Meanwhile, Islamist fighters evacuated families and dependents from the Ein al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp near the southern port city of Sidon, witnesses said. The move coincided with the army's advance towards Fatah al-Islam's remaining outposts in Nahr al-Bared. Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's majority government, which says Fatah al-Islam is a mere terrorist network sponsored by Syria, has taken a decision to uproot the militants. The government has made the militants a "surrender or die" offer, but Fatah al-Islam said it would fight to the bitter end. Palestine Liberation Organization representative in Lebanon Abbas Zaki has said the Nahr al-Bared camp was like a "hijacked plane or ship. Our people have been hijacked by the Fatah al-Islam gang."Uprooting Fatah al-Islam, Zaki added, would guarantee future of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, estimated at about 400,000 people. Beirut, 01 Jun 07, 10:02

Samir Kassir Prize Goes to Moroccan and Lebanese
Moroccan journalist Ahmed Reda Benshemsi and Lebanese student Rita Shemaly on Saturday were awarded the Samir Kassir press freedom prize, named after the Franco-Lebanese correspondent killed in an attack in Beirut in June 2005. The prizes -- 15,000 euros (20,150 dollars) for the journalist and 10,000 euros (13,440 dollars) for the student -- were presented by European Commission delegation leader Patrick Laurent and Gisele Khoury-Kassir, widow of the slain journalist and president of the Samir Kassir Foundation. Benshemsi, 33, won his prize for an article on "The cult of personality," published on July 29, 2006 in the Moroccan weekly TelQuel. Shemaly, 24, from Saint Joseph University political science faculty in Beirut, received her prize for her June 2006 thesis entitled "The Lebanese National Community at the Test of Spring 2005: Between Myth and Reality". Deeply divided Lebanon was shaken by the February 2005 killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others in a massive bomb blast in Beirut. Immense international and domestic pressure led Syria -- the country's powerbroker for nearly three decades -- to pulling its troops out of its smaller neighbor in April that year. Kassir, a prominent anti-Syrian journalist, was blown up in his car near his home the following June 2.
A Christian of Palestinian origin who held Lebanese and French nationalities, Kassir was an editorial writer for the leading An-Nahar newspaper.(AFP-Naharnet)
Beirut, 02 Jun 07, 20:01

Saniora Pledges to Uproot Fatah al-Islam
Prime Minister Fouad Saniora vowed Saturday to "uproot" Fatah al-Islam terrorists fighting the Lebanese army in the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared. Saniora, talking to al-Arabiya television network, said Fatah al-Islam militants were "associated with Syrian intelligence agencies. They have no option but to surrender.""They have to surrender to the (Lebanese) state and justice ... and they will face a fair trial," he said. "There can be no reconciliation, entente or settlement with this terrorist group," Saniora stressed. Saniora said Fatah al-Islam had about 250 fighters and "the army is currently carrying out surgical operations in order to uproot this phenomenon." "The political authorities are coordinating with the army command in order to uproot this group," he said.
Saniora said Nahr al-Bared's population dropped from more than 31,000 to less than 3,000, including the gunmen, after civilians fled following the outbreak of fighting on May 20. He said Fatah al-Islam has used fire power to prevent the remaining civilians from leaving the camp, in an apparent bid to use them as human shields.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 02 Jun 07, 18:51

Syria Refuses to Cooperate with the Hariri Tribunal

Syria will not cooperate with the U.N. tribunal created to try suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem reiterated on Friday. U.N Resolution 1757, adopted on Wednesday by the Security Council, "has no bearing on Syria, and we have informed the Security Council that we will not cooperate with this tribunal," Muallem told a joint news conference in Damascus with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki.
"Syria has reiterated on several occasions that the tribunal concerns only Lebanon," he said. "Syria will not abandon its sovereignty."
The legally binding resolution set June 10 a deadline to put into effect an agreement on the tribunal. Muallem said adopting the resolution "infringes on Lebanese sovereignty," and deplored "the speed with which the Security Council decided on a tribunal without unanimity either at international or Lebanese levels."
"It would have been better to have a consensus among the Lebanese on the tribunal," he added. "We hope that the Lebanese use dialogue to reach an agreement that will end divisions and guarantee security and stability," he said, adding that Damascus would continue to support everything aimed at creating consensus and working towards stability and peace in Lebanon. Ten of the Security Council's 15 members voted in favor of Wednesday's resolution, with veto-wielding permanent members Russia and China abstaining, along with Indonesia, Qatar and South Africa. The UN vote was hailed by anti-Syrian Hariri supporters in Lebanon but it stirred up fears of more instability in the deeply divided country. The pro-Damascus Shiite movement Hizbullah condemned the U.N. vote as illegal and "an aggressive interference in (Lebanon's) internal affairs." Syria, Lebanon's former power broker, was widely blamed for the Hariri killing but has denied involvement in it.(AFP-Naharnet)
Beirut, 01 Jun 07, 17:01

Lebanese Agreement & International Resolutions
Abdullah Iskandar Al-Hayat - 03/06/07//
It is believed that Lebanese President Emile Lahoud may form another government before the end of his constitutional term. He had said that, if his term comes to an end before a new president is elected, he will resort to 'constitutional' options which did not include allowing the incumbent Cabinet to take over the executive power, as stated in the Taif Agreement in case election is marred. Regardless of the constitutional option Lahoud will resort to, or the backing he will certainly receive from Lebanese opposition, the other government will not have any Arab or international recognition. Siniora's government would remain the only constitutionally and diplomatically recognized authority, as it was nominated by parliamentary majority and won its confidence, as was the case with the President. Any government which is not approved by the parliament will have no weight in terms of the two aspects mentioned.
This is the Taif Agreement which matched the old constitution and the covenants that accompanied it. Any government which is not approved by the parliament and its binding consultations will be a coup government no matter how experts would justify its legitimacy from a political standpoint. Siniora's government will remain the only legitimate government until a new president is elected.
At any rate, this issue remains a big challenge ahead of the Lebanese, but it can be overcome without the Lebanese sustaining heavy losses only by reaching agreement over a president to be elected by parliament before the constitutional ultimatum. This is a fact which opponents and exponents agree on.
While the next few days are very important, in the light of that due election, the Lebanese army engages in a military battle, the fiercest since it became an independent, united army. The outcome of this battle in Nahr el-Bared camp with Fatah al-Islam militants will determine the fate of that army and other legitimate institutions.
Regardless of the nature of the militants, who sought to undermine stability, and regardless of the attempts to politically exploit the situation in the first days of fighting and each camp holding the other responsible for the eruption of fighting, all the Lebanese approved supporting the political position of the army as a backbone in maintaining security. This agreement has appeared in previous stages of the crisis, but this time it provides for a direct confrontation with the militants who had breached the country's sovereignty, diversity and pluralism. Thus, it became possible to dismantle the booby-trapped Lebanese-Palestinian conflict and the trap of using the army in purposes other than maintaining security; and this is another fact on which the Lebanese agreed.
During this battle, which I think has erupted to coincide with the endorsement of the international tribunal in the UN Security Council and to show that Lebanon will have troubles due to that decision, the Security Council has issued resolution 1757. Some see that the resolution violates Lebanon's sovereignty, politicizes the tribunal, is unconstitutional and illegal, and that they will not deal with it. However, those should read Russian UN ambassador Churkin's comments on the resolution. He said his country abstained from voting because it preferred the resolution to be endorsed in Lebanese institutions and because the resolution included later legal complications. However, he said - and this is more important - that his country did not use the Veto as it is convinced that the international tribunal must be established and the truth about assassinations in Lebanon must be uncovered.
He concluded that the resolution was endorsed in the Security Council, became an international document, and endorsed under Chapter 7, which makes it binding to all parties and countries including Russia, China and even Qatar. This is an international reality which denunciations cannot belittle. Some have paid dearly when they ignored the meaning of binding resolutions (starting from the former apartheid regime in South Africa and those who committed crimes against humanity in the black continent up to the ruling regimes in Balkan which committed similar crimes).
Hariri's assassination was considered by a Security Council resolution as a terrorist crime subjected to the international resolutions related to terrorism. In all cases, the tribunal has become an international reality, and the Lebanese have to deal with it on this ground. The internal reservations about the tribunal, especially from Hezbollah which is classified by Western countries as a terrorist organization, will never be alleviated unless Hezbollah engages in protecting the State and its institutions, thus forestalling any interpretations that may lead to calculations far from Hariri's assassination and related crimes. This is a third fact that cannot be ignored later.
It is not coincidence that the important international resolutions issued by the Security Council on Lebanon have tackled the most controversial and sensitive issues. Resolution 1559 has tackled sovereignty and the State's legitimacy represented in its official institutions. Resolution 1701 has tackled resistance and the State's right to spread its presence over all Lebanese lands. Resolution 1757 has tackled disclosure of the truth of Hariri's assassination.
The issuance of these resolutions is not just a reflection of the American attack, as they have received Arab approval and unanimity too. Rather, these resolutions are an Arab demand for saving religious and political coexistence in Lebanon. Arabs, including Qatar, pay huge money to stress the possibility of that coexistence in the world in light of the anti-terror war.
All these reasons and facts represent a minimum space of agreement among the Lebanese, on which they should build to cross the presidential election. This does not mean that all will adopt the same political stance, but it means that that space exists regardless of cunning and provocation. The victims of expanding that space are those who refuse to admit that Lebanon should be multiple, independent, and sovereign on all its territories

Ayoon Wa Azan (A Tribunal and A Government )
Jihad el-Khazen Al-Hayat - 02/06/07//
I tried to monitor the reactions to the Security Council resolution on the establishment of a tribunal of an international character to consider the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and his companions and other terrorist crimes. I am not surprised, as I do not see anything new. Those who supported the tribunal still maintain their stand for their public reasons, and those who refused it have repeated their viewpoints.
I was certain that the tribunal would be established. I wrote my opinion every time I wrote on the issue. I prefer a tribunal whose establishment should be approved of by the Lebanese, so it would be better than an external resolution on behalf of Lebanon. However, the opponents of the tribunal have maintained until the last moment the belief that they could prevent it.
Since the first day, the Lebanese crisis has been one of tribunal and government and both are interrelated. There cannot be agreement on the tribunal without a government or on government without a tribunal. Representatives of Amal and Hezbollah left the government when the tribunal was put up. Subsequent negotiations, whether directly or through intermediaries, to bridge the gap between the two parties failed until we reached a UN Security Council resolution to establish an international tribunal.
Of course, there is still an opportunity until the 10th of this month for the Lebanese to agree on the tribunal so that there will be no need for an international resolution. But I am not optimistic. The parties that failed to reach agreement for more than a year will not reach an agreement in a week, especially as there are external actors that play a part in important local roles.
There is no need here to review, discuss and explain the pros and cons of the standpoint of each party. These attitudes are known and my opinion will not change the conviction of a single reader, because the convictions of both sides are deeply rooted and will not change, no matter what I or anybody else may say.
What I can do here is to review the Syrian stance. I have had the opportunity to meet President Bashar Assad twice - a year ago and a month ago. Each meeting lasted for more than two hours. I also met and listened to Vice President Farouk al-Shara and other ministers directly.
The declared Syrian stand is that the Lebanese government and the tribunal is a Lebanese affair and that Syria does not interfere in it. However, Syria is opposed to the tribunal and considers it a plan to harm Syria.
President Assad returned to the subject in June 2004 when former French President, Jacques Chirac, met US President George W. Bush in Normandy, on the sidelines of the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Allied landing there. France decided to 'sell' Syria to the Americans to alleviate the American hostility to France because of its opposition to the war on Iraq. Opposition went beyond political controversy to hatred.
I know that Mr. Farouk al-Shara informed President Emile Lahoud in the beginning that there would be no extension of his tenure and that Suleiman Franjieh was informed that he was Damascus' candidate for the Lebanese presidency and he was asked to announce his candidacy only in the last week so that the matter would not 'spread'. The Syrian situation changed completely after rumors had it that the Security Council was against the Syrian presence in Lebanon. The Syrian regime decided that it needed a seasoned, reliable ally in the next crisis; hence the extension of President Lahoud's term in office, which caused more problems than could be solved. Then came the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
I have been convinced since February 14, 2005, that the assassination of Premier Hariri is such a great incident that those who perpetrated, incited or planned it cannot be allowed to remain at large. I have also been convinced that there is no deal that could be concluded to settle the issue.
Last year, I heard a query many times: Kamal Jumblatt, Mufti Hassan Khaled, President Rene Muawwad, and President Bashir Gemayel were killed, and Imam Musa Sadr disappeared, so why is the assassination of Rafik Hariri different? It is different for many reasons, notably because of the fact that the previous murders occurred at a time when Lebanon was in a civil war, in which tens of thousands of people were killed. Also, Rafik Hariri had had direct relations with the most prominent Arab and world leaders. President Chirac's stand, in particular, cannot be interpreted politically only; the personal side in it was very obvious, but Syria was immediately accused of the murder. Syria has known enemies, who found in the brutal assassination of Hariri an excuse for pursuing the implementation of an old agenda, which was not possible without the assassination; hence the Security Council's successive resolutions.
I write after the event. It is said that hindsight after an event is always 20/20. I say that the Syrian regime should have thought that it would be accused of the assassination of Rafik Hariri in all cases and that the crime would be exploited to destroy the interests of Syria in Lebanon, its other alliances and its dealing with the American presence in Iraq. Granted again that I write after the event, I say that it was in the interest of the Syrian regime and all security services to see the whole picture, calculate the risks and dangers that surrounded the regime and protect the life of Rafik Hariri. However, the security system has never been wise in any country.
Today, I do not accuse or exonerate any one, but I wait for the rulings of an international tribunal and am prepared to accept them. The blood of all martyrs asks for justice.

On Generals and Admirals
by Uri Avnery
(Saturday, June 2, 2007)
"This mantra, repeated by the media thousands of times, is easy to absorb and frees one from any obligation to make concessions or efforts. It destroyed, in the hearts of the people, any belief in peace and caused terrible damage to the Israeli peace camp. The peace camp was turned into an arid desert, with only a few small oases left. This has not changed to this very day."
"Nothing succeeds like success," says a typical American adage. The Israeli version, also typical, is: "Nothing succeeds like failure."
It seems that no one has any chance of winning an election here until they have proven, beyond any reasonable doubt, that they are a total failure. So it is quite possible that in the next general elections there will be only two candidates for the job of Prime Minister: Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak.
To recall: Netanyahu was elected Prime Minister in 1996. After serving barely half his term of office, he was toppled. To replace him, a large majority elected Ehud Barak. The whole country breathed an almost audible sigh of relief, and masses of people saluted him in Tel-Aviv's Rabin Square as the man who had delivered Israel from a nightmare. Less than two years later, Barak was swept aside by an even larger majority.
Everybody expects the Kadima party to disappear at the next elections as suddenly as it appeared a year and a half ago - like the gourd in the Book of Jonah (4, 10) "which came up in a night and perished in a night." But if, by a miracle, Ehud Olmert is also a candidate for Prime Minister, we shall have the choice between three well documented failures.
In other democracies, such people disappear after elections, in England to raise roses or in the US to make speeches for huge honoraria. Here they go from strength to strength.
Some clever public relations hacks have found a substitute for the word "failure". From now on, don't say "failure"' say "experience".
Netanyahu, Barak and Olmert never tire of repeating this sentence: "I have learned from experience."
What have they learned? That's a secret. But how pitiful are their rivals, who have no experience! What do they have that they can learn from? What experience do they have? These three have already been prime ministers. They have experienced crises. True, they have made a mess of every one of them. So what? That's all for the best. Next time they will not fail again.
They have a model to imitate. Yitzhak Rabin was elected Prime Minister in 1974. He served for three years, until his government fell (because a squadron of fighter planes given us by the US arrived in Israel at the beginning of Holy Shabbat). His term in office was gray. It was marred by the corruption affairs of his party colleagues. Rabin did not fail any important test, but neither did he shine.
When he arrived at the Prime Minister's office for the second time, 14 years later, he brought about one of the most profound changes in the history of the state. He recognized the Palestinian Liberation Organization and was responsible for the Oslo accords. Many believe, today, that he was one of the greatest Prime Ministers in the annals of Israel.
But he was an exception. The rule was defined by Field Marshal Charles Francois Dumouriez when, after the Restoration, he said about the courtiers of the Bourbon kings: "They have forgotten nothing and learned nothing."
Last week, primary elections took place in the Labor Party, which calls itself Social-Democratic and pretends, whenever it remembers, to be the "Leader of the Peace Camp".
Five candidates competed for the leadership of the party, including: 1 former Chief of Staff, 2 generals, 1 admiral, 2 former chiefs of the Secret Services (1 of the Mossad, 1 of the Shin Bet), 1 Minister of Defense. (Some have worn more than one hat.)
Barak's election slogan was: "Only I can conduct the next war!" In the first round, he won a significant victory over his principal rival, Ami Ayalon (36.6% to 30.6%). Next week, the two will face each other in the second round.
What is the difference between them? Both were born in kibbutzim and left them long ago. They have similar views about national and social issues. Is the main difference between them that one is a general and the other an admiral (a title stemming from the Arabic Amir al-Bakhar, Prince of the Sea)?
Fortunately, I do not have to vote in these primaries. I am not, and have never been, a member of the Labor Party in any of its many incarnations.
But that does not get me off the hook. I must ask myself: if I were a member of this poor party, which of the two would I choose?
I would not be able to vote for Ehud Barak. Even if I wanted to, my hand would not obey.
I once called him a "peace criminal", as distinct from a "war criminal". A peace criminal is a person who commits a crime against peace. I believe that Barak is responsible for the greatest crime against Israeli-Palestinian peace ever committed, more grievous even than the sins of David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Shamir or Ariel Sharon.
In 2000, Barak persuaded President Bill Clinton to convene a conference at Camp David, and Clinton pressured Yasser Arafat to attend. The whole initiative was a mixture of arrogance and ignorance as far as the Arab world was concerned - two of Barak's most obvious traits. Nothing was prepared in advance, no committee sat to identify the areas of agreement and disagreement, nobody even bothered to set an agenda.
Yossi Sarid, then a minister in Barak's government, confirmed this week what I asserted then: Barak had brought with him an offer that he believed the Palestinians would not be able to resist. But in fact it was far from the minimum any Palestinian leader could possibly accept. To cover his shame, Barak invented the pretext that his real aim all along had been to "unmask" Arafat. [1]
Barak's real crime was not his conduct during the conference, but what he did afterwards. When he came home, he propagated a mantra consisting of five sentences: "I made unprecedentedly generous offers / I turned every stone to achieve peace / The Palestinians refused everything / There is nobody to talk with / We have no partner for peace." [2]
This mantra, repeated by the media thousands of times, is easy to absorb and frees one from any obligation to make concessions or efforts. It destroyed, in the hearts of the people, any belief in peace and caused terrible damage to the Israeli peace camp. The peace camp was turned into an arid desert, with only a few small oases left. This has not changed to this very day.
To this central crime, minor ones were added: the willful abandonment of the peace negotiation with Syria a moment before final agreement could be achieved; the lack of dialogue with Hizbullah and Syria on the eve of the withdrawal from South Lebanon; the mass killings of Arab citizens by the police in October 2000; the permission granted to Ariel Sharon to visit the Temple Mount - the provocation that ignited the 2nd intifada.
I have a story of my own, which I am telling here for the first time. It throws some light, I believe, on the nature of Barak and his people.
After the failure of Camp David and the outbreak of the new intifada, a general election again took place - Barak against Sharon. All the polls foresaw a resounding defeat for Barak.
On election day, at about 4 p.m., my phone rang. The person at the other end identified himself as Tal Silberstein, Barak's chief advisor, and said that he was calling me on behalf of his boss. He told me that in the last few hours a dramatic change in favor of Barak had taken place, and begged me to use my influence to induce the leaders of the Arab community to call upon the Arab citizens to go to the ballot boxes and vote for Barak. "That is all we need to win," he said. (It was generally assumed that most of the Arab citizens would abstain from voting, in protest at Barak's role in the October killings.)
I called Knesset Member Azmi Bishara and told him about the conversation. "One, it's too late, and two, I don't believe him," he answered. And he was right: the "change" never happened, at that hour Barak's overwhelming defeat was already assured. Barak's man just told me a brazen lie, in order to make his defeat a little less complete.
The question is, would I now vote for Ayalon?
The Prince of the Sea has some good points. Together with Sari Nusseibeh, in 2002 he published a declaration of principles for Israeli-Palestinian peace. It was not as far-reaching as the later Geneva Initiative (not to mention the Gush Shalom Draft Peace Agreement which preceded it) but was certainly a step in the right direction. However, there was no follow-up. It was as if Ayalon had forgotten all about it. He did not take part in any of the protest actions against the continued occupation, the building of the Wall and the enlargement of the settlements.
On the contrary, more than once he declared that his heart was with the settlers, that he understands and respects them, that they are today's real pioneers, etc. Sure, that could be de Gaulle-like posturing, but who knows?
Truth is, nobody really knows about his views and his plans. We know only that he has spent most of his life in the military complex. There his character and world-view were formed. And it is also quite impossible to know whether he succeeded or failed there.
Ayalon has already shown that his decisions are very, very unpredictable. He has already contradicted himself several times. His opponents accuse him of being a zigzagger. One thing only is sure about him: that nothing is sure.
A European saying goes: "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't." Some of the wavering voters will act on this.
As a friend told me: "Barak is predictable. Ayalon is unpredictable. So perhaps Barak is better."
This argument works both ways. It's certain that nothing good will come out of Barak. Perhaps nothing good will come out of Ayalon either, but when a person is unpredictable, you don't know. He can surprise for the better. And almost any surprise would be better than the present situation.
Fortunately, I don't have to decide.
[1]. "The Reality of Barak's "Generous" Offers"
by Gush Shalom
[2]. "Camp David Peace Proposal of July, 2000: Frequently Asked Questions"
by Palestinian Negotiating Team


Making a bad situation worse
By Manal Alafrangi, Staff Writer
Lebanese politics is undoubtedly complicated. But one thing is clear and simple: at the heart of the current crisis concerning the Nahr Al Bared Palestinian refugee camp is the fact that not a single political party in Lebanon has spoken out against the indiscriminate shelling there.
Hezbollah took a position in support of the army, alongside the Lebanese Communist Party and other smaller parties - although the former offered criticism of both sides. General Michel Aoun, the main Christian opposition leader (who was very vocal against the Israeli war on his country last summer and surprised many by showing staunch support for Hezbollah) also expressed unconditional support for the Lebanese army. It was as if there was a discreet competition of who can show the most support amongst the various Lebanese factions. All this despite the fact that innocent lives are caught in the crossfire with no way out.
The point of contention is Fatah Al Islam, which is a small, fanatical group that should have been dealt with not through tanks and fierce gun battles but as a security matter (the organisation, which the head of the International Security Forces called "imitation Al Qaida", is said to consist mainly of northern Lebanese and foreign Arab fighters). The Lebanese army's assault has only exacerbated the situation. Any observer can see that such firepower, which risks the lives of innocent civilians, is not required to resolve this matter. At the end of the day, this militant group stands a zero chance of winning a battle against the increasingly popular army.
It seems things don't get better for the Palestinians. Today, they stand weak both regionally and internationally and the domestic situation remains very grim. But more than anything, the Palestinians are suffering from utter and complete isolation. Only recently, the official statement of the Arab League offered support to the Lebanese army, omitting to mention the injustice caused by them. Military assistance was also offered.
Competing factions
All Palestinians are suffering from their own leadership, which today comprises Fatah and Hamas. The two competing factions have distanced themselves from Fatah Al Islam and, in fact, Fatah has actually backed the Lebanese army in its "efforts". No one from the Palestinian National Authority has come out strongly condemning the indiscriminate civilian deaths in the camps as a result of the Lebanese army assault. The situation inside the Occupied Territories is equally depressing.
When it comes to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon one can't help but wonder if there is a conspiracy or a conscious effort against them. The situation is getting increasingly dire, with no water, electricity or medicine supplies.
Battle or no battle, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have suffered inhuman circumstances throughout the years. They have been denied all civil rights, which is something that can make a world of difference for them in the period they spend there until their eventual return to their homeland, Palestine. These refugees face many employment restrictions - they are barred from most of the main professions. They are also restricted from living outside the camps because they are not entitled to buy property. The Lebanese army (which didn't make its presence felt in more crucial times, like last summer) is unquestionably being indiscriminate in its bombardment of the camp. We hear news of the camp's market being bombed as well as mosques and hospitals or clinics. Besides, tanks are being used.
Thus far, Palestinian refugees from Nahr Al Bared are only being relocated to other refugee camps. The question that begs itself is how come they have not been offered temporary shelter in nearby Lebanese sites? Where is Hezbollah and other parties and why aren't they reacting to this human tragedy?
On the other hand, America - sticking to tradition - has sent shipments of weapons and ammunition to Lebanon to assist the army in its "mission". As expected, no comment was made about the civilians caught in the middle. The standoff between the Lebanese army and Fatah Al Islam should have brought international focus on the plight of the 400,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon. It's time that recognition is granted to them, after the hopeless conditions they have experienced for more than 50 years. Maybe, just maybe, something positive will come out of this terrifying crisis.