LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
March 16/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 11,14-23. He was driving out a demon (that was) mute, and when the demon had gone out, the mute person spoke and the crowds were amazed. Some of them said, "By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons." Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven. But he knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons. If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that (I) drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe.  But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Free Opinions
Syria's Declining Role.By:Hassan Haydar . March 16/07
It's futile to try to solve all of Lebanon's problems in a few sittings. Daily Star. March 16/07

Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources For March 16/07
World Powers Agree on UN Sanctions Against Iran Voice of America
Draft UN sanctions spur Ahmadinejad-
USA Today
Hamas and Fatah Agree on Unity Government-New York Times
UN force not finding Hezbollah's guns USA Today
Iran's Buildup in Gaza-FrontPage magazine.com,
Rafsanjani: Resistance Not Only Islamic After Aoun's Ties with Hizbullah
Aoun Threatens Majority with Bloody Battle and Neck Breaking Tactics
Hizbullah's Military Moves Criticized By U.N.

Arms Smuggling in Lebanon, Israeli Overflights Worry U.N.
Hariri Vows Nonstop Talks with Berri until Settlement is Reached
U.S.-Syria Talks Seen Aimed at Easing Isolation

Solana: Lebanon, Iraq Stability Key to Normalizing Ties with Syria-Naharnet
Conflicting reports over Lebanon arrests-Euronews.net
Inquiry To Issue Lebanon War Review-Guardian Unlimited
UN chief criticizes Israel, Lebanon for violating resolution-International Herald Tribune

Latest News Reports From the Daily Star For March 15/07
Hariri says failure to reach accord 'impossible'
Solana urges Assad to work for peace in Lebanon
UN chief meets Israeli officials to discuss progress on Resolution 1701
Israeli media anticipates Olmert ouster after report on war
Rainy weather to continue into Thursday
Dar al-Fatwa urges Muslims to reject violence
Sayyed arrest, detention 'officially' Lebanese affair
Top judge, lawyer discuss ways to safeguard judiciary
Ruling alliance blames Syria for 'string' of killings
March 14 passes quietly amid stalemate
Aoun warns ruling coalition against 'messing' with Constitution
UNIFIL naval contingent enjoys smooth sailing off Lebanese coast

Syrians, Palestinians deny links to Ain Alaq blasts
Dutch grant prosthetics center $400,000
2 children die of smoke inhalation in fire
Film casts light on Lebanese prison system
School holds mock UN session on tribunal
'Hello' campaign latest salvo in ads battle


Hariri Vows Nonstop Talks with Berri until Settlement is Reached
Future Movement leader Saad Hariri has vowed nonstop talks with opposition Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri until a settlement to the nearly four-month-old political impasse is reached. "For my part, I will keep on meeting with Speaker Berri day and night if necessary to resolve the crisis," Hariri told reporters at the end of his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday.
"A settlement is obligatory," Hariri said during his short visit to Cairo. Hariri, in his capacity as representative of the pro-government March 14 coalition, held a fourth round of talks with Berri on behalf of the Hizbullah-led opposition, upon arrival in Beirut Wednesday night in a bid to end the stalemate which has crippled Lebanon's institutions. A short statement released by Berri's office on Thursday said: "progress will continue until a settlement is reached."
Hariri said from Cairo that he has presented a number of ideas to be considered by the opposition, adding that the rival camp has welcomed the new proposals. "In my opinion, there is a positive reaction from the other side," Hariri said.
He assured that Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran were exerting efforts to ease tensions in Lebanon, adding that they are applying pressure on certain "sides and nations, particularly Syria, to come out with a solution."Hariri stressed that it is not the wish of the March 14 camp to rule Lebanon exclusively, insisting that his group wants a non-crippling partnership."We want partnership where together, as Lebanese, we can work for the interests of Lebanon alone," Hariri pledged. Beirut, 15 Mar 07, 08:08

Hizbullah's Military Moves Criticized By U.N.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern about the "reported activities of unauthorized armed elements" in Lebanon and urged Israel to end its air incursions into Lebanese airspace. The report, a copy of which was obtained by Agence France Presse, reviews implementation of Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah guerrillas last August.  "I am concerned by the reported activities of unauthorized armed elements outside of UNIFIL's (the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon) area of operations," Ban said, insisting that successful implementation of 1701 requires "the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon." Referring to Israel's repeated concerns over arms smuggling into Lebanon from Syria, Ban noted that information provided by the Israeli military was "substantial."
But, he said, "its authentication would require independent military assessment." He meanwhile called on Israel "to review its policy of overflights through Lebanese airspace, which are a continuing violation of 1701, and most urgently to provide the United Nations with all information on cluster munitions" fired during last year's conflict. The U.N. secretary general noted that Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora had expressed his country's "frustration with continuing Israeli overflights, the rising civilian toll caused by Israeli cluster bombs and slow progress on the issue of the (disputed) Shebaa Farms."
Israel says the overflights are necessary to monitor what it charges is rampant arms smuggling to Hizbullah from neighboring Syria. Meanwhile, Ban appealed to Syria, Iran and other regional states "to do all they can to ensure the provisions of Resolution 1701 are fully respected."
On the Shebaa Farms, Ban noted that "there is no alternative but to move forward on this issue, albeit with due diligence."
He pressed for the "full cooperation" of Lebanon, Syria and Israel in helping develop "an accurate territorial definition" of the disputed territory.
Lebanon has claimed sovereignty over the 25 square kilometers (10 square miles) of land located along the Lebanon-Syria-Israeli borders which Israel captured from Syria during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and then annexed along with the rest of the Golan Heights.
The U.N. has offered to manage the territory, which has been a central pretext for Hizbullah's ongoing battle against the Jewish state after Israel's withdrawal from the rest of Lebanon in 2000, until a final settlement is negotiated. The secretary general also cited growing criticism in Israel that 1701 has failed to address "issues of most concern to Israelis" such as the return of soldiers captured by Hizbullah and the reported arms smuggling across the Syrian-Lebanese border. Visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni raised the issue along with all aspects of implementation of 1701 in a meeting with Ban Wednesday, which was also attended by Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz.(AFP)  Beirut, 15 Mar 07, 15:34

Rafsanjani: Resistance Not Restricted to Muslimns After Aoun Joined It

Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has said that Gen. Michel Aoun has joined Hizbullah's resistance which "indicates that it is not restricted to Muslims.""Gen. Michel Aoun's affiliation with the resistance is an indication that the resistance of the Lebanese people is not restricted to Muslims, but is a resistance adopted by the oppressed against oppressors," Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted Rafsanjani as telling Lebanon's Islamic Action Front Leader Fathi Yakan on Wednesday. Rafsanjani praised the resistance "adopted by all Lebanese groups to confront the enemies' schemes and actions," IRNA said. He also lauded the Islamic Action Front, which he described as a Sunni resistance group, saying its cooperation with Hizbullah has "thwarted several plots aimed at creating discord among Muslims." Rafsanjani also touched on the common viewpoints among the various Islamic sects, stressing the "importance of avoiding minor differences." He also said that Iran's aid to refugees of Kosovo and the Palestinian territories was an example of Islamic humanitarian values. Muslims should avoid extremist religious differences and exert efforts to uphold the dignity of Islam, IRNA quoted Rafsanjani as telling Yakan. Yakan, for his part, briefed Rafsanjani on the latest developments in Lebanon, and urged all Muslims to preserve "the greatness of Islam." Beirut, 15 Mar 07, 10:42

Syria's Declining Role
Hassan Haydar Al-Hayat - 15/03/07//
Some Lebanese and Arabs, and perhaps some of the world, fear that the sheepish start of dialogue between the US, Syria and Iran on Iraq may turn into a 'deal' between these parties to include other areas of conflict, mainly Lebanon. Therefore, the deal will be at the expense of Lebanon, as well as the whole Arab regional system, and in the interest of Damascus and Tehran. But these fears, even though they are justified due to Washington's precedents in dealing in a pragmatic way concerning its priorities, are realistically baseless in light of the current balances of power between the US and its two 'enemies' in the region, especially Syria.
What may seem at first sight as aspects of strength and pressure trump cards in the hands of the two allied regimes immediately turns out to be points of weakness and regression. The two countries are economically worn out and politically isolated, although they, along with some of their allies, are behaving in a 'macho' way. The channel of dialogue opened by Saudi Arabia for Tehran, and which then included the US, is just a call on it to return to the limits of its regional role, which it overstepped because of the confusion of, or rather, the absence of the Arab role, after it exploited Washington's need for it in the beginning of the US war on Afghanistan. Iran has also benefited from a catalogue of mistakes committed by the US in Iraq. The Saudi initiative came after the war in Lebanon last summer had sounded the alarm to the Arabs that they are losing the ability to make the decision of peace and war in their region, and that it is becoming an Iranian decision, as well as the fact that they should curb Tehran's overstepping boundaries and controlling Arab files as influence trump cards.
Being aware of its limited capability, Iran immediately accepted the opportunity, hoping that this would forestall the imposition of economic sanctions by the Security Council, especially as it is facing a difficulty in funding its nuclear program, which made Russia complain about Iran's failure to pay its dues. Moreover, the continuous American pressure on Iran, through the mobilization of forces and hints of striking Iran unless the latter stops its enrichment program, aggravates its expenditure on developing its military systems and drains its resources. This is why Iran seems to be ready to make concessions that may leave impacts on the region, although some may consider them temporary until the end of Bush's term in office.
As for Syria, it is far weaker, because it linked itself to an alliance outside the Arab system and chose Iran as a main political and economic support, except for some modest 'supplies' from Qatar after the Lebanese outlet was closed down. So, what is offered to Syria is far less than what may be offered to Iran in return for its cooperation. It is true that the price, which Damascus may obtain, will in fact be paid by it, because it will accept to return to the Arab solidarity and play a positive role in Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine. This means that Syria will renounce its policy of obstruction in these files, in return for guarantees for having its regime preserved and its influence restored, after the Arabs discovered that they no longer need its mediated role with Iran, and that the latter has taken the former's place in making successful reconciliation between the Palestinians, and perhaps between the Lebanese, as well as the Iraqis, at a later stage.
Syria has started to lose its role in Lebanon since it has failed to put the Taif Agreement into effect and withdraw gradually from its territory. This led to Security Council Resolution 1559, which forced it to commit another gross mistake: amending the Constitution to extend the president's term in office. Syria devoted itself as a party to, not an 'arbitrator' in, the disputes of this country as was supposed, thanks to the Arab and foreign authorization granted to it. In the near future, Syria may lose any possible role forever, if the International Tribunal indicts any of its officials, no matter how low-ranking he may be. This explains its desperate attempts to forestall its establishment

Solana: Lebanon, Iraq Stability Key to Normalizing Ties with Syria
Europe's drive to thaw relations with Syria hinges on the willingness of Damascus to help stabilize the Middle East, notably Lebanon and Iraq, the EU's foreign policy chief said Thursday. Javier Solana, who met with President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Wednesday, urged Syria to work for peace and security in Lebanon. Syria is slowly emerging from two years of isolation. It attended a conference in Baghdad last weekend on ways to stabilize Iraq and then Solana and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey visited Damascus. Solana's visit to the Syrian capital was his first in two years. Syrians say the West now understands it is essential to engage their country to calm regional trouble spots. Yet "there are still important problems" blocking a normalization of relations, Solana told reporters on arrival at an EU-Southeast Asia foreign ministers meeting in the southern German city of Nuremberg. "We still have some issues to be resolved and we have to keep on pushing" Damascus on its role in Lebanon, its alleged support for terrorist organizations and lack of support for the Middle East peace process, he said. He said the EU was ready to engage Syria in a dialogue on these issues, adding that there would be a "follow-up" to his Damascus visit. He did not elaborate. The EU wants Syria to endorse an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes.(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 15 Mar 07, 13:07

U.S.-Syria Talks Seen Aimed at Easing Isolation
U.S. and European officials are talking to Syria two years after an undeclared boycott, signaling a possible easing of its international isolation.
Syria had its first high-level contacts with the U.S. in two years at a weekend conference in Baghdad on possible ways to stabilize Iraq. A high-ranking U.S. diplomat visited Damascus on Tuesday, followed Wednesday by the European Union's foreign policy chief.
Syrians are boasting that the West has finally realized the inevitability of engaging Syria to calm regional trouble spots such as Lebanon and Iraq.
"It is a recognition of the positive and important role that Syria can play in the region," said Elias Murad, editor in chief of Syria's official Al-Baath newspaper. "The policy of isolating (Syria) has proved to be a failure."But Syrian and Western officials have both warned that the renewed contacts do not necessarily mean relations are warming. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Wednesday his meeting with President Bashar Assad was "good and frank" and that Syria now has an opportunity to end its international isolation. But he linked further discussions to Syria making the "proper decisions" to increase regional stability.
"It's time now to focus on facts and to support sayings with deeds," Solana said. Syria's Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa also cautioned Tuesday that it will take "deep dialogue and a long time for mutual doubts to be removed." Still, this week's visits by Solana and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey the most senior American official to visit Syria in two years are considered to be a diplomatic victory for Damascus, which was largely shunned since the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Many blame the Damascus regime the ultimate power broker in Lebanon at the time for the killing, a charge Syria denies.
Washington pulled out its ambassador to Syria and European leaders stopped visiting following Hariri's assassination. "Syria stands today on the threshold of a decisive moment in its Arab and international relationships," wrote Sahar Baasiri, a columnist in Lebanon's leading newspaper, An-Nahar newspaper. Syria's alienation grew to include some of its Arab neighbors, including regional power Saudi Arabia, after Assad openly allied himself with Persian Iran over their mutual support for Hizbullah and Hamas. Assad in August further insulted moderate Arab countries after calling some Arab leaders "half men" over their disapproval of Hizbullah's capture of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid in July a move that sparked the deadly 34-day war between Hizbullah and Israel. Trying to break its isolation, Syria recently sent signals that it would be willing to work with the international community on the Mideast's hot spots. "I would like to stress that Syria will always stay part of the solution that seeks the security and stability of the region," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Wednesday.
At the Baghdad conference on Saturday, Syria and Iran both pledged to help stem violence in Iraq. Syria is also credited with facilitating the recent Palestinian dialogue that culminated last month with an agreement to form a coalition Palestinian government, signed by moderate Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal. A Saudi official said Syria has been trying to mend its ties with the kingdom. But he said Saudi Arabia has preconditions, most of them involving Lebanon. The Saudis, like the U.S. and Europe, demand that Syria stop its support for Hizbullah, which has been holding protests in Beirut aimed at toppling the government. "Solana's Syrian mission ... will not open the doors in Washington that have been closed in Syria's face unless Syria strictly commits to certain conditions relating to Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine and even Iran," wrote Sateh Noureddine, managing editor of Beirut's As-Safir newspaper.(AP) Beirut, 15 Mar 07, 12:40

Arms Smuggling in Lebanon, Israeli Overflights Worry U.N.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern about the "reported activities of unauthorized armed elements" in Lebanon and urged Israel to end its violations of Lebanese airspace. The report reviews implementation of Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah fighters last August. "I am concerned by the reported activities of unauthorized armed elements outside of UNIFIL (U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon)'s areas of operations," Ban said, insisting that successful implementation of 1701 requires "the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon."
Referring to Israel's repeated concerns over arms smuggling into Lebanon from Syria, Ban noted that information provided by the Israeli military was "substantial." But, he said, "its authentication would require independent military assessment."
He also called on Israel "to review its policy of overflights through Lebanese airspace, which are a continuing violation of 1701, and most urgently to provide the United Nations with all information on cluster munitions" fired during the July-August war. The U.N. secretary general noted that Lebanese Premier Fouad Saniora had expressed his country's "frustration with continuing Israeli overflights, the rising civilian toll caused by Israeli cluster bombs and slow progress on the issue of the (disputed) Shebaa Farms" area. Israel says the overflights are necessary to monitor alleged arms smuggling to Hizbullah from Syria. Meanwhile Ban appealed to Syria, Iran and other regional states "to do all they can to ensure the provisions of Resolution 1701 are fully respected." On the Shebaa Farms, Ban noted that "there is no alternative but to move forward on this issue, albeit with due diligence."
He pressed for the "full cooperation" of Lebanon, Syria and Israel in helping develop "an accurate territorial definition" of the disputed territory.
Lebanon has claimed sovereignty over the zone which Israel captured from Syria during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and then annexed along with the rest of the Golan Heights. The U.N. has offered to manage the territory, which has been a central pretext for Hizbullah's ongoing battle against the Jewish state after Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, until a final settlement is negotiated.
The secretary general also cited growing criticism in Israel that 1701 has failed to address "issues of most concern to Israelis" such as the return of soldiers captured by Hizbullah and the Palestinian militant movement Hamas and the reported arms smuggling across the Syrian-Lebanese border.
Visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni raised the issue along with all aspects of implementation of 1701 in a meeting with Ban in New York Wednesday, which was also attended by Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz. "As far as Israel is concerned," Peretz said, "prevention of weapons smuggling is key to keeping stability in southern Lebanon."(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 15 Mar 07, 07:23

Aoun Threatens Majority with Bloody Battle and Neck Breaking Tactics
General Michel Aoun has launched a vehement attack on the pro-government March 14 coalition, telling them "your necks will be broken" before the public's willpower is wrecked. Aoun said March 14 does not advocate "freedom, independence and sovereignty because after liberation (from Syrian tutelage of Lebanon in 2005) those who used to believe Syria's presence was essential and legitimate are now governing Lebanon."
His comments were made on Wednesday to senior members of his Free Patriotic Movement at Rabieh Guest House. He accused March 14 of "marginalizing" the role of the Christians, stressing, however, that the FPM enjoyed "a stronger position in the Christian community."Addressing the pro-government camp, Aoun said: "They want to break that willpower, your necks will be broken and that willpower will not."
Aoun reiterated his refusal to alienate Hizbullah, saying the key solution to the ongoing political crisis was to restore trust among the rival political parties. Beirut, 15 Mar 07, 11:07


U.N. chief criticizes Israel, Lebanon
March 15, 2007
By EDITH M. LEDERER Associated Press Writer
2007 The Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday criticized Israel and Lebanon for violating the resolution that ended last summer's Israeli-Hezbollah war, and suggested an independent mission examine the monitoring of their border amid allegations of arms smuggling.
In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Ban cited violations by both countries of the U.N.-drawn boundary known as the Blue Line, Israeli claims of arms smuggling across the Lebanese-Syrian border, and Hezbollah claims that it is rebuilding its armed presence and has plenty of weapons. In considering further steps to ensure full implementation of the arms embargo in the resolution, the new U.N. chief suggested that council members "consider supporting an independent assessment mission to consider the monitoring of the border." He said the authentication of detailed information from Israel about alleged breaches of the arms embargo across the Lebanese-Syrian border would require independent military assessment.
Security Council Resolution 1701 authorized the cease-fire that brought an end to 34 days of fighting between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas on Aug. 14. The war was triggered after Hezbollah guerrillas crossed Israel's northern border, killed three soldiers and returned to Lebanon with two captured Israeli soldiers. The resolution called for both sides to respect the Blue Line drawn by the U.N. after Israel ended its 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000. It authorized 15,000 U.N. peacekeepers to help Lebanese troops take control of south Lebanon, which had been under de facto control of Hezbollah. And it instituted an arms embargo that blocks any entity in Lebanon except the national government from obtaining weapons from abroad.
In the report, Ban warned that without progress on "core issues" including Israeli and Lebanese prisoners, the disputed Shebaa Farms area, halting Israeli over-flights of Lebanon, and respect for the arms embargo "progress on 1701 could be severely tested in the months to come." He singled out a significant increase in Israeli air violations by military jets and unmanned aerial vehicles in February and early March.
While the Lebanese government continues to protest that the over-flights are a serious cease-fire violation, he said Israel maintains they are "a necessary security measure" until the two abducted Israeli soldiers are released and the arms embargo is fully respected. He urged Israel to reconsider its policy. Ban said he was nonetheless pleased that the overall commitment of the governments of Israel and Lebanon to the resolution "remains strong." He said he also was encouraged by the near full deployment of the U.N. peacekeeping force known as UNIFIL and the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon and the absence of any other "positions" along the Blue Line, an apparent reference to Hezbollah militants who controlled the south. "However, this report is submitted against the background of an acute and continuing political crisis in Lebanon and mounting Israeli concerns about the unauthorized transfer of arms across the Lebanese-Syria border," he said.
Ban called on all Lebanese parties to recommit to the government's seven-point plan, which says in part that the Lebanese state should be the only authority and should be the only one with weapons. "An understanding that incorporates the principles of no rearmament of unauthorized groups and no movement of arms other than through the consent" of the Lebanese armed forces "should also be encouraged, especially in the current volatile security environment in the country," he said. Ban also said the Shebaa Farms, captured by Israel during the 1967 war, "remains a key issue" in implementing the resolution. The United Nations determined that the area is Syrian. But Lebanon claims Shebaa Farms a claim backed by Syria and Hezbollah continues to fight over the disputed land, arguing that Israel's occupation justifies its "resistance."

U.N. force not finding Hezbollah's guns
By Andrew Mills, Special for USA TODAY
March 15, 2006
IBL AS-SAQI, Lebanon United Nations troops patrolling southern Lebanon have found few arms caches there. That has heightened concerns about Hezbollah making preparations elsewhere for another war with Israel. About 13,000 U.N. troops have been tasked with creating a weapons-free buffer zone north of the Israeli border. They say they have found little in the area besides abandoned bunkers and spent missile launchers.
"The vast majority of bunkers, positions and facilities that we've come across are those which are redundant. There is no sign of maintenance," says Liam McDowall, a spokesman for the U.N. force in Lebanon. "And the vast majority of explosive devices, improvised explosive devices, shells, missiles, again, are inoperable."
Meanwhile, Hezbollah has openly bragged of stockpiling 33,000 missiles and regrouping its fighters in case of another war with Israel. "We in the resistance have weapons, and we openly declare that we have weapons, that we are completing our preparedness for a greater and more dangerous stage," Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader, said last month.
Hezbollah, a Shiite militia backed by Iran, is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel. Its political wing holds 14 seats in the Lebanese parliament. The U.S.-backed Lebanese government has disavowed any responsibility for Hezbollah but has been unable or unwilling to disarm it. War broke out in July when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers. Under a cease-fire agreement reached in August after 34 days of fighting, U.N. soldiers were given the job of ensuring that no armed militias operate in a 12-mile area that runs from the Israeli border north to the Litani River. "I can ensure that from the Litani to the border, there is no illegal armament. I am sure," says Maj. Pedro Diaz of Spain's 1,100-man contingent in the U.N. force.
However, the U.N. force has no jurisdiction north of the Litani. Missiles fired from steep mountainsides there could reach northern Israel. Local leaders say Hezbollah has recently increased its presence in the area. "They used this land during the war, and nothing has changed. In fact, there are more fighters here now than there were," says Hafez Kirwan, the leader of As-Srairi village, a Druze community. Patrick Clawson, deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says Hezbollah may be fortifying its positions north of the Litani: "Like a good professional military, Hezbollah is preparing both for a possible new offensive and to defend (its) positions in depth if Israel attacks or hits back."
 The U.N. force may lack the enforcement power it needs to stop Hezbollah from stockpiling arms, said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a visiting fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. Even within the buffer zone, the troops are not authorized to conduct invasive searches of homes for weapons. "The U.N. resolution specifies that (the force's) task is to make life difficult for Hezbollah, yes, but not to disarm it," she said. "Disarming it entails actively snooping for arms caches in other words, having the right to search homes, which it has not been given." Hezbollah leaders say they are not actively seeking conflict with Israel but will respond if attacked. "It's not a secret that the resistance is still preparing for any war that comes," said Nawar Sahali, a Hezbollah member of Lebanon's parliament. "If there is a day when Israel attacks and the (U.N.) won't stop them and the Lebanese army will not stop them, the job of the resistance is to stop any aggression," Sahali said. "But we hope that there will be no war."
Find this article at:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-03-14-hezbollah-guns_N.htm
Contributing: Barbara Slavin in Washington

Rice to visit Mideast next week
By A
rshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday she will visit the Middle East next week and spoke favorably of a Saudi peace plan, despite analysts' skepticism that it can work. There is growing interest in the Saudi plan drawn up at a 2002 Arab League summit in Beirut in which Arab nations offered Israel normal ties in return for full withdrawal from land it occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has recently praised elements of the plan, although its call for Israel to withdraw to pre-1967 borders and to grant Palestinians a right of return to Israel would appear politically impossible for him. Asked about the Saudi plan at a news conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Rice spoke of "the clear need for an Israeli-Arab reconciliation to accompany the ... resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
 "I always think it is a favorable matter when people are talking about resolution of long-standing conflicts," she said, declining to comment on the specifics of the Saudi proposal.
Livni said: "In order to send a clear message also to the Arab world we said that some parts of this initiative are of course positive." But she suggested the right of return for Palestinian refugees was problematic and would undermine the two-state solution of separate Israeli and Palestinian states. "I would like to see Arab leaders normalize their relations with Israel without waiting for peace between Israel and the Palestinians to be completed," she added.

 Many doubt that Rice, who held talks with Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a visit to the region last month, can achieve much given deep divides among the Palestinians and the political weakness of the Olmert government. Palestinian officials said Abbas of Fatah and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas agreed on the make-up of a Palestinian unity government on Wednesday and will submit it to parliament for approval on Saturday. It is unclear whether such a government will comply with international conditions that it recognize Israel, renounce violence and respect past peace agreements. If it does not, Israel and the United States are unlikely to deal with it, making progress on a peace agreement even more elusive. Rice did not offer details about her trip late next week but she is expected to meet Israeli and Palestinian officials. Egypt's presidential spokesman has said she will visit Egypt ahead of a March 28-29 Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia.

 Middle East analysts suggested the revived talk of the Saudi initiative may reflect a U.S. desire to curry favor with Saudi Arabia to gain its help in quelling the violence in neighboring Iraq. "We need the help of the Saudis in Iraq. This was a major initiative on their part. It gives them credibility and prestige to have us talking about it again." said Edward Walker, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt. Aaron Miller, a former U.S. State Department Middle East negotiator, questioned whether the renewed talk of the Saudi proposal would lead to anything given its call for Israel to return to 1967 borders and for Palestinian refugees to have a right of return. "The Saudi initiative is not an initiative. It is a set of principles which I am persuaded neither the Arabs nor the Israelis can adhere to. The Israelis can't do what (it) calls for and the Arabs are not prepared to reciprocate," said Miller. "I don't take a whole lot of this seriously."

(c) Reuters 2007. All rights reserved.