LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 18,9-14. He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, 'O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity--greedy, dishonest, adulterous--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.' But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.' I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted
Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources For March 18/07
Ain el Tineh 5: Berri Speaks of Good News Soon-Naharnet
De Villepin Cites Israel-Hizbullah War as Example of U.S.-French Cooperation-Naharnet
Ban to Lebanon after Cairo-Riyadh Visits-Naharnet
Bush Discusses Lebanon with Mubarak, Saudi King-Naharnet
Fatah Islam Chief Challenges Lebanese Authorities to Prove Involvement in Bus Blasts-Naharnet
Syria Welcomes the U.N. Report on the Hariri Killing-Naharnet
European-American Summit to Discuss Middle East-Naharnet
Analysts: New Sanctions Unlikely to Hurt Iran-Naharnet
China Endorses Private Property Rights, Moving Further Toward Capitalism-Naharnet
Samir Kassir Honored for Bravery-Naharnet
Report: Syria spurns Solana's incentives-Jerusalem Post
Iran to back decisions leading to settlement of Lebanon's crisis-Islamic Republic News Agency
Former Soldier Returns From Lebanon-newswire.co.nz
What's behind the American/European policy shift towards Syria?Al-Jazeerah.info
UN force not finding Hezbollah's guns-Lebanese Lobby
Security agency says Hezbollah support for Palestinian militants ...International Herald Tribune
Interpol Seeks Former Iranian Officials for 1994 Argentina Bomb-Bloomberg
Olmert's unexpected truth-The Brunei Times
Iran: The Real Problem-Stanford Review
Syria: Which way? MidEast Web Views
Lebanese Druze Leader Walid Jumblatt: I Apologize to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for Comparing Snakes, Whales and Wild Beasts to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad
Following are excerpts from an interview with Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, which aired on LBC TV on February 23, 2007:
Walid Jumblatt: We are facing someone [Iran] who has an army, money, and a political plan for the Arab Islamic Middle East, and one of its frontline bases is Hassan Nasrallah and Hizbullah in Lebanon. When we consider their ideological writings, such as the books by Hazem Saghiyeh and Naim Al-Qassem, we realize that we and they cannot meet half way.
Interviewer: It is impossible to meet half way with this plan?
Walid Jumblatt: Yes, because this is a plan of abolishment.
Interviewer: Abolishment of whom?
Walid Jumblatt: It is a plan to establish a Hizbullah state in Lebanon, at the expense of pluralism, of the Taif Agreement, of free economy, and of the free press.
[Hizbullah] said its weapons were “sacred weapons,” and we disagreed. Now they are talking about "divine weapons." A truck [with Hizbullah weapons] was driving around Beirut – and it was confiscated in Al-Hazmiya. [Hizbullah] said it was loaded with "divine weapons," and demanded their return. With all due respect to Hassan Nasrallah and the others, we participated, unfortunately, in the civil war in the past, and we know that the range of 60 mm mortars is 500 meters at most. It is meant for urban warfare, not for Haifa, "beyond Haifa," or "beyond beyond Haifa." It is meant for urban warfare.
We see their rallies. These are not rallies of sorrow and grief for the days of Karbala. There is a kind of activity that is legitimate to express grief over Hussein, but when you see how they salute with their fists... It reminds me of the films by director Leni Riefenstahl, who used to film Adolf Hitler's rallies. Adolf Hitler, no more no less... When Hassan Nasrallah speaks, he speaks to himself. He doesn't speak to the public, but to himself...
Interviewer: How come?
Walid Jumblatt: Who is he addressing? Let's forget about Hassan Nasrallah for a moment. There is nothing more dangerous than mass rallies, because anybody might forget himself there.
Interviewer: Including you?
Walid Jumblatt: Yes, including me. Nothing is more dangerous.
Interviewer: Do you regret what you said on February 14, 2007?
Walid Jumblatt: No, but the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty against Animals contacted me, and said that they reject the comparison of snakes, whales, and wild beasts to Bashar Al-Assad. I apologize to that society. But I don't regret anything else I said.
Ain el Tineh 5: Berri Speaks of Good News Soon
Speaker Nabih Berri and legislator Saad Hariri have held fifth round of talks in Ain el Tineh in an effort to find a solution to Lebanon's crisis before the Arab summit. An Nahar daily said that Berri told his visitors after Friday's two-hour meeting in his mansion that the Lebanese are hopefully going "to hear good things in the next couple of days." "This should be done before the Arab summit," he said. The Arab League summit is scheduled to be held in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on March 28-29. A joint statement issued by the two leaders' offices after their meeting said dialogue was "ongoing with the best intentions and positive atmosphere to reach a solution as soon as possible."
Before the fifth round of talks, conflicting reports emerged Friday about an alleged settlement between Berri and Hariri on the procedural track regarding the establishment of an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes.
An Nahar on Friday quoted Berri as saying: "I can say that procedures for the international tribunal have been established." However, sources at Hariri's office said such published remarks are "unrealistic and do not support chances for a settlement." An Nahar said that Hariri will travel to Paris in the weekend and talks will continue after his return to Beirut. Beirut, 17 Mar 07, 07:43
De Villepin Cites Israel-Hizbullah War as Example of U.S.-French Cooperation
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has urged for cooperation between the United States and France to resolve crises in the Middle East.
De Villepin, in a speech Friday at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, also pointed to American and French collaboration in helping resolve last summer's Israel-Hizbullah war. "It's when we act together that we are most effective. This can be seen in the case of Lebanon," he said. De Villepin called for efforts to simultaneously resolve what he said are a growing number of crises in the region. Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are actively working to do so, he said, citing Saudi Arabia's efforts to broker an agreement between Fatah and Hamas to form a Palestinian unity government.
"Five years ago, there was only one crisis, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, but now there are four," including Iraq, Iran and between Lebanon and Syria, he said. He said the regional peace process could be anchored by restoring stability in Lebanon, with Syria supporting a sovereign and stable Lebanon in exchange for a renewed partnership with Europe. Israel and Syria should also be encouraged to sign a formal peace treaty, he said.
He said European and U.S. aid to the Palestinians should be restored as soon as their national unity government is inaugurated. Israel and Palestinians should begin building confidence between them and the international community should set a date for the creation of a Palestinian state, he said.
De Villepin also said the U.S. should pull out of Iraq within one year and work with Iraq's neighbors and Europe to resolve the crisis.
He said the situation in Iraq would grow "even more dangerous" unless a framework is established for ending the crisis that included "a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops." "I believe that it should take place within a year," de Villepin said. "That will allow Iraqis to feel that their future is in their hands and put them back on the path of national sovereignty." The Bush administration has opposed any timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq.
De Villepin called an Iran with nuclear weapons capability "unacceptable," but said the solution is diplomacy. He praised the United Nations resolution adopted in December to set sanctions if Iran refuses to suspend uranium enrichment. "The United States has a major role to play to end the crisis. My conviction is that when the time comes, it will take place through the engagement of a real bilateral dialogue with Tehran," he said.(AP-Naharnet)
Beirut, 17 Mar 07, 09:35
Bush Discusses Lebanon with Mubarak, Saudi King
U.S. President George Bush discussed on Friday the situation in Lebanon with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, White House spokesman Tony Snow said. Bush and the Saudi ruler "talked about Iran, the situation in Lebanon, and also the president thanked the king for Saudi Arabia's participation in the recent conference in Iraq," the spokesman said. An international conference was held last Saturday in Baghdad in an effort to restore stability in Iraq. Bush and King Abdullah also "discussed the effort to advance toward a Palestinian state and also peace between Israelis and Palestinians," Snow told reporters. Bush thanked Mubarak for Egypt's participation in the Iraq conference, and discussed the situation in the war-torn country, "the Israeli-Palestinian situation, Lebanon, and a forthcoming trip to the region by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice," said Snow.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 16 Mar 07, 21:47
Fatah Islam Chief Challenges Lebanese Authorities to Prove Involvement in Bus Blasts
The chief of Fatah Islam has denied allegations that it is linked with the al-Qaida terror network and that it was responsible for the twin bus bombings in Ain Alaq. "Our movement is not allied with any regime, nor with any organization on earth," Fatah Islam leader Shaker Abssi was quoted as saying in Friday's edition of L'Orient Le Jour daily. Interior Minister Hassan Sabaa and police chief General Ashraf Rifi said this week that Fatah Islam was an alias for Fatah-Intifada, a radical Palestinian group they said works closely with Syrian intelligence.
Sabaa said four Fatah Islam members carrying Syrian nationality had been arrested and two suspects were still at large. He said the suspects admitted carrying out the February 13 bus bombings. Fatah Islam swiftly denied any involvement and accused the government of preparing an offensive against the dozen or so camps in Lebanon, which house more than half of the country's nearly 400,000 Palestinian refugees.
Abssi, who is holed up with armed supporters in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon warned that "if an offensive is launched against us, our response will be fierce." He also challenged Lebanese authorities to present proof of the group's involvement in last month's bombing.
"Since the birth of our movement was announced, we have been under tight surveillance by the security services," he told the French language daily. "I challenge them to prove that we have had any encounters with the people that are accused." Abssi denied accusations by Syrian Interior Minister Bassam Abdel Majid that the Palestinian militant has been jailed in Syria because of links with al-Qaida and for planning terrorist attacks.
"I was jailed in Syria, but not over links with al-Qaida as he has claimed," Abssi said. "I was jailed because I was accused of having planned to carry out an operation in the (Syrian) Golan (territory occupied by Israel), as well as of having carried and smuggled arms into Palestine," he said.(AFP-Naharnet)
Beirut, 16 Mar 07, 20:32
Ban to Lebanon after Cairo-Riyadh Visits
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will pay an official visit to Lebanon on March 30, a government source told Agence France Presse on Friday.
"During his visit, Mr. Ban will be received by (Prime Minister Fouad) Saniora," the source said. It will be the first trip to Lebanon by the new U.N. chief, who took over from Kofi Annan on January 1. Ban is due to visit Egypt on March 23, probably followed by Riyadh where he has been invited by Arab League chief Amr Mussa to attend an Arab summit on March 28 and 29. Lebanon's four-month-old political crisis will be one of the major topics discussed at the Riyadh summit. Predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia supports the Western-backed Saniora government in Beirut, while the opposition in Lebanon is led by the Shiite Hezbollah movement backed by Iran and Syria. Arab diplomatic sources in Riyadh told AFP on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia was working on hosting a reconciliation meeting next week between Lebanon's anti-Syrian parliamentary majority and the largely pro-Damascus opposition. Such a meeting would depend on the attitude of Syria, the former powerbroker in Lebanon. Relations between Riyadh and Damascus are currently at an all-time low. On Wednesday, the U.N. chief told the Security Council that he was concerned about reports of arms smuggling from Syria to Lebanon, and he also asked Israel to stop its warplanes from penetrating Lebanese airspace in breach of Resolution 1701 which ended last year's 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah.(AFP) Beirut, 16 Mar 07, 15:57
Fatah Islam Chief Challenges Lebanese Authorities to Prove Involvement in Bus Blasts
The chief of Fatah Islam has denied allegations that it is linked with the al-Qaida terror network and that it was responsible for the twin bus bombings in Ain Alaq. "Our movement is not allied with any regime, nor with any organization on earth," Fatah Islam leader Shaker Abssi was quoted as saying in Friday's edition of L'Orient Le Jour daily. Interior Minister Hassan Sabaa and police chief General Ashraf Rifi said this week that Fatah Islam was an alias for Fatah-Intifada, a radical Palestinian group they said works closely with Syrian intelligence. Sabaa said four Fatah Islam members carrying Syrian nationality had been arrested and two suspects were still at large. He said the suspects admitted carrying out the February 13 bus bombings.
Fatah Islam swiftly denied any involvement and accused the government of preparing an offensive against the dozen or so camps in Lebanon, which house more than half of the country's nearly 400,000 Palestinian refugees. Abssi, who is holed up with armed supporters in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon warned that "if an offensive is launched against us, our response will be fierce."He also challenged Lebanese authorities to present proof of the group's involvement in last month's bombing."Since the birth of our movement was announced, we have been under tight surveillance by the security services," he told the French language daily. "I challenge them to prove that we have had any encounters with the people that are accused."
Abssi denied accusations by Syrian Interior Minister Bassam Abdel Majid that the Palestinian militant has been jailed in Syria because of links with al-Qaida and for planning terrorist attacks. "I was jailed in Syria, but not over links with al-Qaida as he has claimed," Abssi said.
"I was jailed because I was accused of having planned to carry out an operation in the (Syrian) Golan (territory occupied by Israel), as well as of having carried and smuggled arms into Palestine," he said.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 16 Mar 07, 20:32
Hizbullah’s representative in Iran, Abdallah Safialdeen: Hizbullah won’t need large-scale War. It will be able to walk into palestine, once the Americans Leave Iraq
Following are excerpts from an address by Abdallah Safialdeen, Hizbullah’s
representative in Iran, which aired on Channel 4, Iranian TV, on March 4, 2007.
Abdallah Safialdeen: The day that Hizbullah won the war shaped the future of the region. It led to what we are witnessing today: America’s actions, the domestic problems of the Zionist regime, the confusion of Europe… The Europeans are very confused now, and don’t know what to do. The horse that they put their money on – Israel – can no longer fulfill the role it played in the past. America has not had any success anywhere in the region. In our opinion, the harbinger of this lack of success was the victory of Hizbullah, the bitter defeat of the Zionist regime, and its incompetence in the region. You should know that… Do you know what an American withdrawal from Iraq will mean? It will mean that Israel will lose its support. It will mean that the Lebanese Hizbullah will not need a large-scale war in order to enter Palestine. Hizbullah will be able to simply walk into Palestine. Rest assured that the day the American forces leave Iraq, the Israelis will leave the region along with them. What was one of the reasons for Olmert’s recent visit to America? He went there in order to say to the Democrats: “Don’t say that the American army will leave Iraq, because this would mean the annihilation of the Zionist regime.” This is because the annihilation of the Zionist regime has begun. Like some of our friends say, Palestine is no longer a problem for us, because the Americans will be forced to leave Iraq. With or without a war against Iran, they will be forced to do so. The moment they leave Iraq, you, the Muslims of the world, can walk into Palestine, because Israel will no longer exist. It will be over and done with. Even with America’s [help], Israel could not do a thing. The Americans will be kicked out of the region, without accomplishing anything. The American forces will be kicked out of the region, in disgrace, humiliation, and defeat. Therefore, this victory was very important. It was a landmark in the history of the Islamic world and the entire region.
A new face of jihad vows attacks on U.S.
By Souad Mekhennet and Michael Moss – International Herald Tribune
Friday, March 16, 2007
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Deep in a violent and lawless slum just north of this coastal city, 12 men whose faces were shrouded by scarves drilled with Kalashnikovs. In unison, they lunged in one direction, turned and lunged in another. "Allah-u akbar," the men shouted in praise to God as they fired their machine guns into a wall. The men belong to a new militant Islamic organization called Fatah al Islam, whose leader, a fugitive Palestinian named Shakir al-Abssi, has set up operations in a refugee camp here where he trains fighters and spreads the ideology of Al Qaeda. He has solid terrorist credentials. A former associate of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda of Mesopotamia who was killed last summer, Abssi was sentenced to death in absentia along with Zarqawi in the 2002 assassination of an American diplomat in Jordan, Laurence Foley. Just four months after arriving here from Syria, Abssi has a militia that intelligence officials estimate at 150 men and an arsenal of explosives, rockets and even an antiaircraft gun.
During a recent interview with The New York Times, Abssi displayed his makeshift training facility and his strident message that America needed to be punished for its presence in the Islamic world. "The only way to achieve our rights is by force," he said. "This is the way America deals with us. So when the Americans feel that their lives and their economy are threatened, they will know that they should leave." Abssi's organization is the image of what intelligence officials have warned is the re-emergence of Al Qaeda. Shattered after 2001, the organization founded by Osama bin Laden is now reforming as an alliance of small groups around the world that share a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam but have developed their own independent terror capabilities, these officials have said. If Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who has acknowledged directing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and a string of other terror plots, represents the previous generation of Qaeda leaders, Abssi and others like him represent the new. American and Middle Eastern intelligence officials say he is viewed as a dangerous militant who can assemble small teams of operatives with acute military skill. "Guys like Abssi have the capability on the ground that Al Qaeda has lost and is looking to tap into," said an American intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity. Abssi has shown himself to be a canny operator. Despite being on terrorism watch lists around the world, he has set himself up in a Palestinian refugee camp where, because of Lebanese politics, he is largely shielded from the government. The camp also gives him ready access to a pool of recruits, young Palestinians whose militant vision has evolved from the struggle against Israel to a larger Islamic cause. Intelligence officials here say that he has also exploited another source of manpower: they estimate he has 50 militants from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries fresh from fighting with the insurgency in Iraq.
The officials say they fear that he is seeking to establish himself as a terror leader on the order of Zarqawi. "He is trying to fill a void and do so in a high-profile manner that will attract the attention of supporters," the American intelligence official said. Abssi has recently taken on a communications adviser, Abu al-Hassan, 24, a journalism student who dropped out of college to join Fatah al Islam. His current project: a newsmagazine aimed at attracting recruits. The arc of Abssi's life shows the allure of Al Qaeda for Arab militants. Born in Palestine, from which he and family were evicted by the Israelis, Abssi, 51, said he stopped studying medicine to fly planes for Yasir Arafat. He then staged attacks on Israel from his own base in Syria. After he was imprisoned in Syria for three years on terrorism charges, he said he broadened his targets to include Americans in Jordan.
The Times arranged to speak with Abssi through a series of intermediaries, who helped set up meetings in his headquarters at the Nahr al Bared refugee camp. Abssi, a soft-spoken man with salt-and-pepper hair, was interviewed in a bare room inside a small cinderblock building on the edge of a field where training was under way. About 80 men were in the compound, performing various tasks, including one who manned an antiaircraft gun. As Abssi spoke, two aides took notes, while a third fiddled with a submachine gun. A bazooka leaned against the wall behind him. In a 90-minute interview, his first with Western reporters, Abssi said he shared Al Qaeda's fundamentalist interpretation and endorsed the creation of a global Islamic nation. He said killing American soldiers in Iraq was no longer enough to convince the American public that its government should abandon what many Muslims view as a war against Islam. "We have every legitimate right to do such acts, for isn't it America that comes to our region and kills innocents and children?" Abssi said. "It is our right to hit them in their homes the same as they hit us in our homes. "We are not afraid of being named terrorists," he added. "But I want to ask, is someone who detonates one kilogram a terrorist while someone who detonates tons in Arab and Islamic cities not a terrorist?" When asked, Abssi refused to say what his targets might be.
[This week, Lebanese law enforcement officials said they arrested four men from Fatah al Islam in Beirut and other Lebanese cities and were charging them with the February bombing of two commuter buses carrying Lebanese Christians. Abssi denies any involvement and says he has no plans to strike within Lebanon.]
Fertile Soil for Militants
Inside the Palestinian camp, Abssi seems to be building his operation with little interference. Major General Achraf Rifi, general director of Lebanon's Internal Security Forces, says the government does not have authority to enter a Palestinian camp — even though Abssi is now wanted in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria on terrorism charges. To enter the camps, he said, "We would need an agreement from other Arab countries." He said that instead the government was tightening its cordon around the camp to make it harder for Abssi or his men to slip in and out. Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon have long been fertile ground for militancy, particularly focused on the fight against Israel. But militants in those camps now have a broader vision. In Ain el Hilwe camp, an hour's drive south of Beirut, another radical Sunni group, Asbat al Ansar, has been sending fighters to Iraq since the start of the war, its leaders acknowledged in interviews.
"The U.S. is oppressing a lot of people," the group's deputy commander, who goes by the name of Abu Sharif, said in a room strewn with Kalashnikovs. "They are killing a lot of innocents, but one day they are getting paid back." A leading sheik in the camp, Jamal Hatad, has a television studio that broadcasts 12 hours a day with shows ranging from viewer call-ins to video of Bin Laden's statements and parents proudly displaying photographs of their martyred children. "I was happy," Hamad Mustaf Ayasin, 70, recalled in hearing last fall that his 35-year-old son, Ahmed, had died in Iraq fighting American troops near the Syrian border. "The U.S. is against Muslims all over the world." On the streets of the camp, one young man after another said dying in Iraq was no longer their only dream. "If I had the chance to do any kind of operation against anyone who is against Islam, inside or outside of the United States, I would do the operation," said Mohamed, an 18-year-old student, who declined to give his last name. Hussein Hamdan, 19, who keeps a poster of Osama bin Laden in the bedroom he shares with two sisters, is a street tough attuned to religious fundamentalism. He dropped out of school at age 10, spent 18 months in jail on assault charges, and in March — "just to make a statement," he said — took a razor and repeatedly slashed both his forearms. "I want to become a mujahedeen and go to jihad in any country where there are Jews or Americans to fight against them," he said. Lebanon has increasingly become a source of terror suspects. One of the Sept. 11 hijackers came from Lebanon, as did six men charged with planting bombs on German trains last summer. Two other Lebanese men and a Palestinian were among those accused last spring of plotting to blow up the PATH train tunnels beneath the Hudson River.
The Killing of Innocents
Abssi said he derived much of his spiritual guidance from Abu Abdullah Muhammad al-Bukhari, a ninth-century Islamic scholar. A recent study by the Defense Department's Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, New York, listed Bukhari among the 20 Islamic scholars who had greater influence today among militant Arabs than Bin Laden. "Originally, the killing of innocents and children was forbidden," Abssi said. "However, there are situations in which the killing of such is permissible. One of these exceptions is those that kill our women and children." "Osama bin Laden does make the fatwas," Abssi said, using the Arabic word for Islamic legal pronouncements. "Should his fatwas follow the Sunnah," or Islamic law, he said, "we will carry them out." His closest known association with Zarqawi involved the killing of Foley. In previously undisclosed court records obtained by The Times, Jordanian officials say that Abssi helped organize the assassination, working closely with Zarqawi.
A senior administrator for the United States Agency for International Development, Foley was leaving his home in Amman on Oct. 28, 2002, when he was shot at close range by a man who had hidden in his garage. Seven bullets from a 7-millimeter pistol struck his neck, face, chest and stomach, the Jordanian government said in court papers. Eleven men were charged in the case, and two men have been hanged, including the gunman, Salem Sa'ad Salem bin Saweed. According to the court records, Saweed met Abssi five years earlier in Syria, where they became friends and "arranged military operations against American and Jewish interests in Jordan." Zarqawi provided the $10,000, along with $32,000 more for additional attacks, the court papers say. But in meeting Saweed, Zarqawi told him to work through Abssi, who helped the gunman with money, logistics and training in weapons and explosives. Saweed and an accomplice in Jordan chose Foley as a target by watching his neighborhood for cars bearing diplomatic plates.
A Valid Target
In the interview with The Times, Abssi acknowledged working with Zarqawi. He said he played no part in Foley's death, but considered him a valid target. "I don't know what Foley's role was but I can say that any person that comes to our region with a military, security or political aim, then he is a legitimate target," he said. [Foley's widow, Virginia Foley, said Wednesday that she thought her husband's killers had either been killed or jailed. "I'm appalled and surprised that there is still somebody out there," she said, when told of Abssi's current activities.] The American intelligence official said the prosecution of Foley's killers was under the control of the Jordanians. At the time of Foley's death, Abssi had been in jail for two months, having been arrested on charges of plotting attacks inside Syria. He ultimately served three years in prison, says Mounir Ali, a spokesman for the Ministry of Information.
Ali denied recent reports in Lebanon that Syria sent Abssi to that country to stir trouble there. "This accusation is baseless," Ali said. "After he was set free he restarted his terrorist activities by training elements in favor of Al Qaeda." He said Syria sought his arrest in late January, but discovered Abssi had "disappeared, and no one knew where he went." Late last November, Abssi moved into the Palestinian camp here, seized three compounds held by a secular group, Fatah al Intifada, raised his group's black flag, and issued a declaration saying he was bringing religion to the Palestinian cause. Abssi reappeared on Jordan's radar in January when police had a three-hour battle with two suspected terrorists in the northern Jordanian city of Irbid, killing one of the men. Authorities say they learned that Abssi had sent the men. A short while later, Lebanese authorities picked up two Saudi Arabian men leaving Abssi's camp, and learned both men had fought in Iraq. Two more men were found leaving the camp in February, Rifi said.
Rifi said officials were trying to learn as much as possible about Abssi's operation from sources and surveillance, but it was clear that their information was limited. In questioning people, security officials are showing a photograph of Abssi that is 30 years old, though it displays his most distinctive feature — two moles, one on each side of his nose. The apparent inability to apprehend Abssi provokes fury in the men who are hunting him. A security official in one of the countries where he is wanted scowled when asked why Abssi was operating freely: "I can go lots of places to grab people, but I can't grab him." In the interview with The Times, Abssi said he had been largely warmly received in the Palestinian camp, and that he was optimistic about his cause. "One of the reasons for choosing this camp is our belief that the people here are close to God as they feel the same suffering as our brothers in Palestine," he said. "Today's youth, when they see what is happening in Palestine and Iraq, it enthuses them to join the way of the right and jihad," he said. "These people have now started to adopt the right path."
Chief investigator narrows motive for assassination of former Lebanese prime minister to his political activities
The Associated Press - Friday, March 16, 2007
UNITED NATIONS: The chief investigator probing the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri said his team has narrowed the possible motive for killing the wealthy tycoon to his political activities. In his fifth report to the U.N. Security Council, Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz on Thursday raised the possibility that the decision to kill Hariri was made before he embarked on a "rapprochement" with Syrian and Lebanese political figures. The report provided some new evidence and some tantalizing clues about the ongoing investigation into the killing of Hariri and 22 others in Beirut on Feb. 14, 2005. That was the day Lebanon's parliament was scheduled to debate a new electoral law to be used in upcoming elections where Hariri was perceived as the leading candidate, Brammertz said. One hypothesis being considered by the commission, he said, "is that those who decided upon the assassination saw it as beneficial to kill him before he formally began his election campaign, especially given the perception in the media at the time that he was likely to win." Another hypothesis is that in the period immediately before his death, "Hariri and others in the national and international political arena were taking steps to defuse the tensions that had arisen between him and others on the political stage."
"These initiatives apparently included the development of diplomatic and political dialogue between Syrian and Lebanese individuals and Hariri," Brammertz said. "This dialogue had previously been managed through other Syrian and Lebanese channels, which had apparently fueled misperceptions and aggravated the already tense political environment." "This leads to a possible situation in the last weeks before his murder in which two tracks, not necessarily linked, were running in parallel. On one track, Hariri was engaged in rapprochement initiatives and on the other, preparations for his assassination were underway," Brammertz said.
A 2005 report by Brammertz' predecessor implicated Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services in Hariri's assassination. Syria denied any involvement but was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, ending a 29-year presence. Four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals, accused of involvement in Hariri's murder, have been under arrest for 15 months. Brammertz said Damascus' cooperation with his investigators "remains generally satisfactory." In December he criticized 10 other countries for failing to respond to 22 requests from the commission. But he said Thursday that as a result of meetings with key ambassadors "almost all outstanding matters were resolved to the commission's satisfaction."
The chief investigator said during the past three months, the commission's understanding of the facts "has advanced substantially, producing valuable links within and between the main components of the case." "The aim remains to link together the most responsible perpetrators with others who knew about the crime, those who participated in the execution of it, and those who assisted in the preparation of the necessary components for its execution," Brammertz said. He said the International Independent Investigation Commission, which he heads, "has made progress in collecting new evidence and in expanding the forms of evidence collected." This enabled the commission to narrow its focus in a number of areas, particularly in establishing a motive for the assassination, he said. Since December, the commission has conducted 42 interviews related to the Hariri case. The team has identified about 250 people for interviews and hopes to conduct about 50 in the next three months.
In the last report, Brammertz said a single blast from a Mitsubishi van packed with high explosives was likely detonated by a man who did not spend his youth in Lebanon but spent his last two or three months in the country. To advance the line of inquiry into the man's origins, the commission collected 112 samples of genetic material from 28 locations in Syria and Lebanon and in the coming weeks it will collect samples from three other countries in the region, he said. Additional countries will also be sampled, Brammertz said. "The issue of a victim who was killed at the crime scene, found in a location where normally he should have been protected from the blast continues to be investigated," he said, without elaborating. "The issue of alleged tampering with the crime scene and obstruction of the investigation as a result of removal of artifacts remains under investigation."
Brammertz said his team is continuing investigations into the acquisition and storage of the Mitsubishi van and the group that executed the crime. He said detailed examination of six mobile cellular telephone SIM cards allegedly used by the team that carried out the assassination provided "further information of interest ... including possible surveillance and reconnaissance activity, possible practice runs or earlier attempts to kill Rafik Hariri." Brammertz said the probe is taking place in a "volatile political and security environment" which has hampered his ability to retain staff and to finish the investigation "in a timely fashion." In a letter to the Security Council transmitting the report, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the Lebanese government's request to extend the commission's mandate for one year from June 15 when the current mandate ends.
Syria says Brammertz to notify Ban on controversial issue of 10 nations
Syria said Friday UN top prosecutor Serge Brammertz, investigating murder of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri, would notify UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon with names of 10 countries failing to cooperate with the investigation commission.
There is a compromise among parties concerned that names of the 10 countries will be handed over to Ban in a separate letter to take note of them, Ambassador Bashar Al-Jaafari, Syria's envoy to UN, told the Syrian radio.
He said Brammertz commission had prepared a mechanism to facilitate resolution of outstanding issues with these 10 countries.
Jaafari said the report of Brammertz was positive regarding how Syria was cooperating with the investigation commission.
Brammertz said in his report to the UN Security Council (UNSC) yesterday that syria's cooperation with his panel remains "generally satisfactory".
Syria "continued to provide the Commission with assistance in response to its requests within the appropriate timescales, and the Commission is grateful for the logistical and security arrangements provided by Syrian authorities for its activities in Syria," Brammertz said.
Jaafari said the last three missions of the commission in Syria received great facilitations and coordination.
Jaafari said Brammertz's report did not mention the 10 countries.
But Brammertz said "almost all outstanding matters (with these states) were resolved to the Commission's satisfaction, with responses received, and where appropriate, mechanisms introduced to facilitate the resolution of pending issues."KUNA