March 22/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 5,17-30. But Jesus answered them, "My Father is at work until now, so I am at work."For this reason the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God. Jesus answered and said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also. For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes. Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to his Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself. And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation. I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.

Free Opinion
Why won't Lebanese leaders show concern for their nation's children?Daily Star 22 March/07

Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources For March 22/07
Saudi Throws Weight to Defuse Tensions After Berri Attacks Majority-Naharnet
Saudi Arabia Tries to Contain Regional Tensions Ahead of Arab Summit-Naharnet
Assad: No Syrian Will Be Tried by International Tribunal-Naharnet
Rising Demand for Prosthetics in Aftermath of Israeli Offensive-Naharnet
Shabaa Farms: Lebanese or Syrian?Naharnet
An internal matter-Agoravox

Rival Lebanese politicians trade accusations, dampen hopes ...International Herald Tribune
Tensions rise in Lebanon as hopes for deal fade-Washington Post
Gulf Arabs boost aid to Sunni militants in Lebanon-Reuters
Lebanon committing 'tourism suicide'-Gulf News
Belgian foreign minister visits peacekeepers in southern Lebanon-Monsters and
UN denies receiving Lebanese request to establish border control ...Kuwait News Agency
The Arab Peace Initiative in a Changing Mideast-Arab News
Syria & Saudi have overcome strained ties says Assad-Ya Libnan

First U.S. Contact with Hamas-Fatah Coalition-Naharnet
Latest News Reports From The Daily Star For March 21/07
Pro-government MPs turn up to put pressure on speaker
Berri accuses ruling coalition of trying to 'end the dialogue'
British Defense Ministry bans 'dumb' cluster bombs
Visiting Belgian foreign minister sees a lot but offers no comment
Hogassapian publishes 'code' of rights and duties
Fatfat gets down to details over Cite Sportive
PSP takes issue with Assad's advice to Lebanese
Itinerary set for two-day visit by UN chief
Gemayel denies presidential aspirations
Sfeir urges politicians to show respect toward one another
Prosecutor files embezzlement charges against seven doctors
Qabalan: Crisis is causing citizens 'misery'
Student political parties trade blame for fisticuffs at LU campus
Army keeps cordon around refugee camp near Tripoli after clashes
Southern farmers demonstrate value of de-mining by getting back to work
Pollster sees hope for repairing strained relations between Americans and Muslims

Saudi Throws Weight to Defuse Tensions After Berri Attacks Majority
Saudi Arabia hastily stepped in to contain the crisis in Lebanon after Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri's accusations that the ruling majority was seeking to blow efforts for a settlement signaled a rise in tensions in the nearly four-month-old stalemate. The daily An Nahar on Wednesday said Saudi ambassador to Lebanon Abdul Aziz Khoja contacted the concerned parties in a bid to defuse tensions before they spread and get out of hand. It quoted well-informed sources as saying that Riyadh threw its weight behind the various Lebanese groups to persuade them to facilitate the ongoing talks between Berri and legislator Saad Hariri ahead of an Arab summit scheduled in Riyadh March 28-29. Berri and Hariri have held several rounds of talks over the past two weeks in an effort to resolve the crisis that has crippled the institutions. But Berri on Tuesday accused the ruling majority of seeking to "end the dialogue." However, he kept the door open for further talks, saying "the arm is extended to rescue Lebanon." His comments came after pro-government legislators rallied inside the parliament building in Nijmeh Square in downtown Beirut to persuade the speaker to convene a session to ratify the formation of an international tribunal that would try suspects in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes.
Khoja quickly issued a statement hailing Berri for his readiness to keep up talks and for "his belief that dialogue is the only way to save the country." Beirut, 21 Mar 07, 08:08

Shabaa Farms: Lebanese or Syrian?
The daily An Nahar on Wednesday said that the United Nations has been "carefully examining" maps which proved that the controversial Shabaa Farms area was Lebanese, not Syrian. The terse report said the U.N. had obtained the maps from "concerned French sides." The controversial Farms are the last post still held by Israel after the Jewish state withdrew its forces from south Lebanon in 2000. The U.N. says the area belongs to Syria while Damascus says the zone falls in Lebanese territory. Lebanon has claimed sovereignty over the 25 square kilometers of land located along the Lebanon-Syria-Israel borders which the Jewish state captured from Syria during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and then annexed along with the rest of the Golan Heights. Beirut, 21 Mar 07, 12:15

Saudi Arabia Tries to Contain Regional Tensions Ahead of Arab Summit
Saudi Arabia hopes its active diplomacy ahead of next week's Arab summit will yield a breakthrough in Lebanon, Arab support for the new Palestinian government and agreement to promote stability in Iraq, a Saudi official has said. The formation of the Palestinian unity cabinet will enable the March 28-29 gathering in Riyadh to work on reviving the Middle East peace process on the basis of an Arab peace plan, the official told Agence France Presse Tuesday. He said the kingdom was hopeful that contacts under way to break the deadlock between Lebanon's pro- and anti-government camps would produce an agreement. That would allow for a "unified delegation" to show up at the Arab League's first annual summit to be held in the Saudi capital.
An Nahar newspaper said Wednesday that Premier Fouad Saniora received an invitation to attend the meeting. But sources close to the prime minister said that he hasn't decided upon the issue yet.
But "we must be cautious because (a deal) might fall through at the last minute," the Saudi official said. "What we are seeing and hearing creates optimism, but what matters is to reach agreement on the last points, which are usually sensitive." Speaker Nabih Berri of the opposition and legislator Saad Hariri as representative of the pro-government March 14 forces have held a series of meetings in the past two weeks. They are trying to end the standoff which began when six pro-Syrian ministers walked out of the government in November. But Berri on Tuesday accused the majority of blocking a settlement to the crisis. An Nahar said that after the speaker's speech, Saudi Arabia urged both sides to remain calm and facilitate the ongoing dialogue between the two leaders. Efforts to end the stalemate were stepped up after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad discussed the crisis with King Abdullah during a landmark visit to Saudi Arabia on March 3.
The leaders of the regional Sunni and Shiite heavyweights also agreed to fight Sunni-Shiite strife, the official Saudi media said after the meeting, which was overshadowed by the sectarian bloodshed in Iraq. King Abdullah met in Riyadh last week with both the president of Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region, Massud Barzani, and former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Arab diplomatic sources said Riyadh also hosted meetings of Iraqi politicians last week, but they could not provide details. "The important thing is to have a positive Arab role that would help Iraqi factions reach stability. This is the objective of the kingdom's contacts," the Saudi official said. The official said the formation of a Palestinian unity government joining the Islamist Hamas and the secular Fatah party under a Saudi-brokered agreement last month "will enable the summit to discuss ways of providing political and economic aid to the Palestinians."Arab leaders can now focus on "formulating a plan of action to activate the peace process on the basis of the Arab initiative" he said. The Saudi-authored blueprint, endorsed at a 2002 Arab summit, offers normalization of ties with Israel in exchange for its withdrawal from Arab lands seized in the 1967 Middle East war and the establishment of a Palestinian state.Israel objects in particular to clauses on the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

The summit will be preceded by meetings of economy ministers of the 22-member Arab League on March 25 and then of the foreign ministers.(AFP-Naharnet) (AP photo shows Berri speaking during Tuesday's press conference in Ain el Tineh) Beirut, 21 Mar 07, 07:52

Rising Demand for Prosthetics in Aftermath of Israeli Offensive
Prosthetic limb-fitting centers in southern Lebanon are struggling to cope with the rising toll from the one million unexploded munitions left over from last summer's Israeli offensive on the country. To cope with the demand, the Canadian-financed Lebanese Welfare Association for the Handicapped has opened a new center in the southern market town of Nabatiyeh, in an area that bore the brunt of Israel's July-August offensive.
"Since our center opened in Nabatiyeh (two days ago) we have already had 35 requests for prosthetic arms and legs," said the center's director Bassam Singer. Also, a center opened in the coastal town of Sarafand after Israel's 1996 Grapes of Wrath bombardment of southern Lebanon, saw a huge increase in demand for prosthetics in the aftermath of the 34-day war with Hizbullah in 2006. "The Sarafand prosthetic center is overwhelmed with people seeking limbs," said director Talal Berri. Cluster munitions spread bomblets over a wide area from a single container. The bomblets often do not explode on impact, but can do so later at the slightest touch, making them similar to anti-personnel landmines.
It is thought that up to 40 percent of the bombs did not explode when they hit the ground, becoming deadly traps for the unwary.
Singer and Berri both say they continue to see a steady stream of casualties from the unexploded bomblets, mines, shells and rockets that litter the fields and villages of southern Lebanon, often concealed under rubble. Legs are much more in demand than arms, as most of the bomblets detonate under foot, shattering the lower limbs. Doctors have carried out more than 170 amputations since the start of the war on July 12, 75 of them since fighting ended on August 14, Berri said. Dalya Farran, spokeswoman for the U.N. Mine Action Coordination Center, said around one million unexploded bomblets remain scattered around the south. That figure comes on top of around half-a-million mainly anti-personnel mines left by Israeli troops when they withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000. Farran says 222 people -- including 190 civilians, the rest soldiers or deminers -- have been killed or wounded by bomblets and mines over the last six months. Of the wounded civilians, 110 need prosthetic limbs. According to an AFP tally, 27 people have been killed by unexploded ordnance since the end of the 2006 war. The war victims aid group Handicap International says 98 percent of cluster bomb victims are civilians. Last year it said that of 11,044 cases recorded in 23 countries, just 125 were military and another 59 were deminers.
"My son stepped on a bomblet when he was going to help people while working for the civil defense during last summer's war," says the mother of Mohammed Nahle, 31, leaning on her for support as he learns to use his artificial limb. Hussein Jawad, 42, has come here (to Sarafand) to find a replacement for his arm that was torn off in an Israeli air strike as he delivered bread in the southern village of Bayyada.
A new limb costs between 1,000 and 1,800 dollars, a fortune for most inhabitants of southern Lebanon where the economy is still reeling from the Israeli bombardment. The victims have paid the entire cost of the limbs themselves, although a few of them have secured funding from relatives, friends or charities.(AFP) Beirut, 21 Mar 07, 08:24

Berri Accuses Majority of Blocking Lebanon Settlement
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri accused the ruling majority of blocking efforts for a settlement to the ongoing political crisis that has crippled Lebanon for nearly four months. "Their objective is to end the dialogue," Berri told a news conference from his Ain el-Tineh mansion. "As long as their aim is to terminate the dialogue … my answer is: 'continuation of dialogue and out-stretched hand," he said. Berri, a close Hizbullah ally, said that progress had been made during talks with MP Saad Hariri, in his capacity as representative of the pro-government March 14 coalition, over the past two weeks.
However, he said that the only point of contention was the formation of a new cabinet based on a 19-11 formula, a demand repeatedly rejected by the majority. His remarks came after pro-government legislators rallied inside the parliament to urge Berri to convene a session to endorse the formation of the international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri. Hizbullah lawmaker Ali Ammar also said it was the pro-government camp which was "disrupting all initiatives, settlements and ongoing dialogue in the country."
MP Walid Jumblat earlier accused Berri of "hijacking" the parliament upon orders from Syria and Iran. Jumblat said he hoped Berri would open the first ordinary parliament session for this year "without having other countries, such as Iran and Syria, dictate to him" not to convene the assembly.
"Here is (the place) for dialogue," Jumblat told reporters upon arrival at parliament building in Nijmeh Square at 10 a.m. He said parliament is "where the fate of the international tribunal and other laws is decided." MP Antoine Andraos said the legislators "came to parliament to request the opening of an ordinary session in order to allow MPs to ratify the convention between Lebanon and the U.N. to set up the international tribunal."
March 14 has accused the opposition of blocking the creation of the court under pressure from Damascus which has been blamed for Hariri's February 2005 assassination. Parliament convenes twice a year in two ordinary sessions -- the first starts mid-march until the end of May and the second from the middle of October through the end of December.(AFP photo shows pro-government legislators sitting on the stairs outside the parliament hall)
Beirut, 20 Mar 07, 07:50

Why won't Lebanese leaders show concern for their nation's children?
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Editorial-Daily Star
Some regional political figures are wagering rather heavily on the notion that the upcoming Arab League summit in Riyadh can be a catalyst for the resolution of several stubborn problems. Notwithstanding the league's track record of aimless policy and empty rhetoric, there is little risk in trying to make a break with the past by allowing such optimism to build momentum. In the event that the summit fails to live up to its billing, however, each participating country would be well advised to have a "Plan B" that insulates it against the effects of a diplomatic train wreck. Vicious rhetoric against one's domestic political rivals hardly qualifies as contingency planning, but many Lebanese politicians seem to think otherwise.
Even as some players try to dilute the tension that has been building throughout the Middle East, others remain convinced that conflict is inevitable and perhaps even desirable. Lebanon and several other countries are already being used as arenas for various regional and world players to test their respective strengths and make the necessary preparations for the anticipated outbreak of greater struggles. Iran and America are just the most visible antagonists in a behind-the-scenes race to prepare for war, either directly or by proxy, on one or more fronts.
No country in the Middle East can look upon such preparations without alarm, but Lebanon's diversity, location, and size make it especially vulnerable. Given this unenviable position, one would expect both the government and the opposition to set aside their differences in order to keep the country from becoming an intersection at which competing interests from both inside and outside the region collide. Lives and livelihoods are at stake, as are the futures of Lebanese children who should not have to bear the weight of errors committed by their parents and grandparents.
In a perfect world, Lebanon's squabbling politicians would put up a united front and tell their respective foreign patrons to find another venue if they want to get rough. There are no real ideas at stake, after all. The two camps are not debating substantive issues; they are only trading blame for the current crisis. The government seems content to ignore the sentiments of half the population, and the opposition seems to think it has the right to impose changes without defining them first. It is therefore unlikely that a show of unity will take place, and with a divided leadership, the Lebanese people will remain exposed to the dangers that are threatening this region. They and their children may once again have to pay the price of their leaders' failures.

Rival Lebanese politicians trade accusations, dampen hopes for speedy reconciliation
The Associated Press [From the International Herald Tribune]
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
BEIRUT, Lebanon: Pro-government lawmakers and their Hezbollah rivals on Tuesday dampened hopes that recent negotiations between the two camps in Lebanon would lead to an end to the country's four month long political crisis. Several rounds of talks this month between Saad Hariri, head of the pro-government parliament majority, and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri from opposition ranks aligned with Hezbollah, defused some of the tension permeating Lebanon and revived hopes of a reconciliation.
But tensions escalated anew Tuesday, with 45 pro-government legislators gathering in the parliament to protest Berri's refusal to convene a session on the crisis. Berri has said he would not convene the parliament before opposition demands for a national unity government are met. He has also said that even though the constitution stipulates the parliament convene for the spring session on the first Tuesday after March 15, this was not mandatory. Walid Jumblatt, a Druse lawmaker and key government supporter, accused Berri of "hijacking" the parliament upon orders from Iran and Syria — the main Hezbollah backers. Dialogue, said Jumblatt, can only be beneficial in parliament.
Christian pro-government legislator George Adwan accused Berri of failing to live up to his constitutional duties. "We came here today because it is our constitutional duty," he told reporters during the protest in parliament.
Berri lashed back later Tuesday, accusing the parliamentary majority of blocking efforts for a settlement to the crisis and criticizing the protest inside the parliament as a move "to stop the dialogue." "My answer to them is continuing the dialogue," Berri added. Hariri is Sunni Muslim and his community backs Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's pro-Western government. Berri is a Shiite Muslim, and his party Amal and its Hezbollah ally draw their support from the country's Shiite community. The Hezbollah-led opposition has been staging protests and an open ended sit in downtown Beirut since Dec. 1 in a bid to topple Saniora's government.
The opposition demands the government give it a veto-wielding share of the Cabinet. Saniora has refused this, and is supported by the majority in parliament. The confrontation has stirred political and sectarian tensions that have threaten to tear the country apart. Nine people were killed in street clashes since December between pro- and anti-government supporters. The opposition and Lebanon's pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud consider Saniora's government to be illegal after five Shiite ministers and a pro-Hezbollah Christian minister resigned in November. The pro-government, anti-Syrian camp wants parliament to convene so that it can give the go-ahead for the creation of an international tribunal to try suspects in the Feb. 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The Hezbollah-led front has demanded modifications to the proposal for the international court.
But at the protest Tuesday, Jumblatt said the parliament is "where the fate of the international tribunal and other laws is decided" and demanded the assembly convene the assembly. The anti-Syrian majority has 70 members in the 127-seat parliament.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah lawmaker Ali Ammar, on the way to his office in the parliament building, said it was the pro-government camp which was "disrupting all initiatives, settlements and ongoing dialogue in the country." Ammar did not elaborate.

UN inquiry says al-Hariri murder likely political
21 Mar 2007 19:50:21 GMT Source: Reuters
By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, March 21 (Reuters) - The murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri was tied to his political activities and a special tribunal should be set up to try his killers, the head of a U.N. inquiry said on Wednesday. Serge Brammertz told the U.N. Security Council that when his investigation into the assassination of Hariri and 22 others on Feb. 14, 2005, was completed, the next logical step was for the results to be given to a specially created court, which is still in dispute in Beirut. "It's absolutely the next logical step after an investigation commission to have a tribunal," the Belgian prosecutor told reporters after briefing the council. "Without this step it would complicated or difficult to justify even the existence of the commission." He said his investigation had narrowed its focus to motives for the assassination linked to the political activities of Hariri, who opposed Syria's domination of Lebanon, and outlined several factors that likely "created the environment in which the intent to kill Rafik Hariri arose." "These include: the inception of resolution 1559 and the implications of its implementation; the extension of the term of President Lahoud; the dynamics between Hariri and other political parties and leaders in Lebanon, Syria and other countries and preparation ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2005," Brammertz told the council. The U.N. Security Council resolution 1559 was passed in September 2004 and called upon foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon and for all local militia to disarm.
Syria denies involvement in the Hariri slaying, which took place after the former prime minister accused Damascus of meddling in Lebanese politics. Street protests in Lebanon after the killing prompted Syria to withdraw forces that had been in the country for 22 years. The Lebanese government and the Security Council have approved plans to establish a special court to try Hariri's killers, over objections from the Hezbollah-led opposition, which fears the tribunal may be used as a political tool in its current form, and Lebanon's pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud.
But the tribunal is yet to be ratified by the Lebanese parliament to allow it to come into force. Lebanon's parliament speaker Nabih Berri, a key opposition leader, has not yet said when he will convene parliament. Brammertz said when his inquiry was complete it would be handed over to a prosecutor, who would finalize the investigation and prepare indictments for those accused of planning the suicide bombing that killed Hariri. Brammertz asked the Security Council to extend the mandate of his investigation for another year beyond it's current June deadline. French U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere said it would be likely the council would approve this request. The Security Council has also asked Brammertz to look at 16 other politically motivated cases, including the Nov. 21 assassination of Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel.

UN Hariri probe 'to be extended'
By Jane O'Brien - BBC News, United Nations
UN investigators are expected to get an extra year for their inquiry into the murder of a former Lebanese leader. Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed two years ago in a murder the UN says was "probably" politically motivated. Previous UN reports have implicated Syria, whose involvement in Lebanese affairs Mr Hariri had strongly opposed. In its latest report, the Investigating Commission said the killing may have been an attempt to derail elections which Mr Hariri was expected to win. The head of the commission, Serge Brammertz, says his inquiry has reached a critical point and he needs more time to pursue promising new evidence. French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said he expected the Security Council to agree to a year's extension.
Phone records Mr Brammertz's team is examining calls made via six mobile phones used by the bombers and which they hope could lead directly to those responsible for the attack. Mr Brammertz said his commission has identified "further information of interest... including possible surveillance and reconnaissance activity, possible practice-runs or earlier attempts to kill Rafik Hariri". The identity of one of the bombers who was killed in the blast is still unknown, but DNA tests on 33 body parts have suggested that he was not a native of Lebanon. The team may be able to trace his home country from the high levels of lead he was exposed to as a child. Geographical samples have been taken from a number of Middle East regions including Syria. The commission has also widened its inquiry to include attacks on its own team, the murder of Lebanese minister Pierre Gemayel in 2006 and the Ain Alaq bus bombings near Beirut last month.
But the issue of how to prosecute anybody implicated by the investigation remains contentious - even though Mr Brammertz says it is essential. "It's absolutely the next logical step after the investigation to commission a tribunal," he told the BBC. "Without this step it would be complicated or difficult to justify even the existence of this [investigative] commission."
The UN has signed an accord that would create an international tribunal but the move has been opposed by Syria and Lebanese President Emile Lahoud. The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has said any Syrian suspects would be tried in Syria and he would not release them to a tribunal. And if Lebanon fails to ratify the proposal, the Security Council may consider independently authorising a tribunal as it did in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. "But the general feeling is that it's better to let the Lebanese parties themselves reach a solution rather than push it too hard from New York," said Colin Keating, executive director of the Security Council Report think-tank and former New Zealand UN ambassador. "Also, it was always known that extradition issues would have to be resolved. Simply establishing a tribunal doesn't cross that bridge - but we still have many months to go before it's an issue," he said.
A summit of the Arab League is due to be held in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh next week in the hope of building a consensus that will allow the tribunal to go ahead. Mr Keating said people would be waiting to see the outcome of that before considering any further action.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Assad refuses to cooperate with Lebanon int’l tribunal
Wednesday, 21 March, 2007
Damascus- Syrian President Bashar Assad has reiterated that if any Syrian was found implicated in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri, then he will be tried by a Syrian, not an international court. Assad, in an interview with France 2 television station on Tuesday, said "anybody who has a hand in this case (Hariri's murder) would be considered a traitor by the Syrian law." "This person will be tried by a Syrian court and his punishment will be greater than any sentence issued by another court," Assad said, in reference to the formation of a U.N.-backed international tribunal that would try suspects in the Hariri killing. Assad considers cooperating with the tribunal will infringe on Syria’s sovereignty. "We won't give up our sovereignty," he said. When asked about accusations of Syria's involvement in the Feb. 2005 assassination, Assad said: "No one can hurl accusations without any evidence, be it President (Jacques) Chirac or any other person." Those who "want to accuse Syria have to present evidence," he stressed. Assad said Chirac's desire to "isolate Syria" hasn't led to "positive results."Sources: Naharnet, Ya Libnan