March 23/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 5,31-47. If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony cannot be verified. But there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true. You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth. I do not accept testimony from a human being, but I say this so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light. But I have testimony greater than John's. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent. You search the scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life.  I do not accept human praise; moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father: the one who will accuse you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?"

Free Opinion
When Lebanon Is Hijacked by Armed Extremism-Dar Al-Hayat
Syria's 'engagers' can't ignore Brammertz - By Michael Young

Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources For March 23/07
Death sentence on Fatah Islam
Bomb Dismantled at American University of Beirut
Jumblat Hits back at Berri, Dialogue Takes Recess
Khoja Urges Renewed Berri-Hariri Talks
UN inquiry says al-Hariri murder likely political-Washington Post
Lebanon needs Makkah-type deal-Gulf News
Analysis: No end for UN Lebanon probe-United Press International

Transcript of Pres. Assad Interview with France2-Naharnet
UN Hariri investigator asks Security Council for one-year extension-JURIST
Assad: 'Syria is not rearming Hizbullah'-Jerusalem Post
No end for UN Lebanon probe-Monsters and
Berri Accuses Majority of Blocking Lebanon Settlement-Naharnet
Belgian foreign minister says Syria is not helping Lebanon crisis-EUX.TV
Belgium expresses concern over political standoff in Lebanon-People's Daily Online

Bolton admits Lebanon truce block-
BBC News
Panel to release Olmert's Lebanon war testimony-Reuters

Latest News Reports From The Daily Star For March 22/07
Brammertz sees 'progress' in Hariri probe
Berri-Hariri dialogue back on track despite doubts
Rizk puts electoral law above 'narrow' purposes
March 14 Forces reject Skaff attack on Sabaa
Mouawad presents reform program in Germany
Assad: Only Syria would try Syrians in Hariri case
FPM marks Mother's Day with focus on Lebanese thought to be held in Syria
UNIFIL, Lebanese and Israeli armies hold 'constructive' talks
Feltman says military aid has begun to arrive
Jumblatt cancels news conference 'in deference to March 14 Forces'
Belgian minister accuses Damascus of prolonging crisis
UN relief agency receives $22 million to rehabilitate refugee camps in Lebanon

Fatah al-Islam hunting for gunman who killed their comrade
PLO chief heaps more pressure on Fatah al-Islam
Autism Society celebrates grant from Canadian government
Charitable groups use actors, sets and stage lights to teach women and children about rights

Bomb Dismantled at American University of Beirut
Police sappers on Thursday dismantled a bomb at the American University of Beirut, the latest in a series of explosives discovered in Lebanon, security officials said. They said the 200-gram TNT stick concealed in a paper bag was found near the elevator next to Issam Fares Hall, a building off the main campus. The officials said a wick and a detonator were tied to the bomb which was ready to explode. The bomb was taken to a police barracks for investigation. They said investigation was underway to determine how the bomb got into AUB, whose entrances are guarded by policemen in addition to the university's own security guards. A statement issued by AUB acting President Maroun Kisirwani said a university janitor found the bag at 9:30 a.m. that was left in the courtyard in front of Issam Fares Hall.
"Police and campus security were immediately called to the scene and the bomb was dismantled by the Internal Security Forces," Kisirwani added.
He said the hall was due to host "an AUB workers' syndicate meeting at 11:00 am." Kisirwani said the syndicate meeting took place on time. Lebanese authorities have repeatedly discovered arms and unexploded bombs in various areas in the country in the past few months. Earlier Thursday a young man made a hoax telephone call to police claiming that he found a bomb inside Gebran College in Beirut's Bir Hassan neighborhood. Security sources said police explosives experts rushed to the scene but did not find anything. Beirut, 22 Mar 07, 12:32

Jumblat Hits back at Berri, Dialogue Takes Recess
Druze leader Walid Jumblat hit back at Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, charging him that he no longer symbolized the legislative body after receiving instructions from Iran and Syria. Berri "is no longer Parliament Speaker after taking instructions from Iran and Syria," Jumblat told BBC on Wednesday.
"He is rather a political side who has hijacked the parliament … and assigned by the Syrians to improve their image ahead of the (Arab League) summit" due to take place in the Saudi capital of Riyadh March 28-29. Jumblat was responding to a news conference held by Berri on Tuesday in which he accused the pro-government camp of torpedoing efforts for a settlement to the ongoing political crisis.
"Their objective is to end the dialogue," Berri said in reference to the series of talks he recently held with MP Saad Hariri in a bid to resolve the nearly four-month-old standoff. Jumblat criticized Berri's news conference, saying it was "murky and full of political and constitutional errors."
Berri's press conference came after pro-government legislators rallied inside the parliament to urge him to convene a session to ratify the formation of the international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri. Meanwhile, Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh told The Daily Star in remarks published Thursday that pressure on Parliament would continue until a session in convened. Hamadeh said that such pressure was not aimed at scurrying the Hariri-Berri talks or at the speaker himself. "There are many other issues pending for debate in Parliament, not just the matter of the tribunal, other issues of concern to all the Lebanese, including the 2006 budget," Hamadeh said. The daily An Nahar said Berri and Hariri were not expected to meet Thursday, just as there was no meeting between the two men on Wednesday. Beirut, 22 Mar 07, 08:36

Belgian FM: Syria Unwilling to Help End Lebanon Crisis
Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht accused Syria on Wednesday of not wanting to help solve Lebanon's crisis, by opposing an international court to try ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's suspected assassins. "If you ask me if Syria is disposed to contribute to a solution, frankly my reply is 'no,'" De Gucht told reporters after talks with Prime Minister Fouad Saniora at the Grand Serail. "The Syrians must lift their embargo against this court. It is to Syria's advantage," he said. Speaking of his recent visit to Damascus, De Gucht said that Syrian President Bashar Assad had told him "even if a court were set up, it would never see his nationals before it." The United Nations had given the green light for an international court to try suspects in the February 2005 killing of Hariri, for which Syria has been widely accused. Damascus vehemently denies involvement. However, Speaker Nabih Berri is refusing to call for a parliament session to give its go-ahead for the tribunal. In a televised interview in Paris on Tuesday, Assad again ruled out an appearance in the dock of any Syrian. "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 told France 2 television from Damascus.
De Gucht also met with Berri in Ain el-Tineh. "I told Mr. Berri that the first thing to do is to summon parliament ... and I hope that one will have the wisdom to do it," said De Gucht, who also met legislator Saad Hariri, the son of the slain ex-premier, and Druze leader Walid Jumblat.(AFP-Naharnet) (AFP photo shows De Gucht meeting with Berri) Beirut, 21 Mar 07, 20:06

Transcript of Pres. Assad Interview with France2
Pres. Bashar Assad on Wednesday said that Syria is a pivotal part of the region's issues; Palestine, the situation in Lebanon, Iraq, terrorism and any other issue. "We are a basic part of the solution; it was not possible to isolate Syria. I think what has changed is not Syria's stance… our stances are firm... What has been changed is the others' understanding to the importance of Syria," Pres.Assad told France TV 2 and 5 in an interview with French Journalist Thierry Thuillier.
"I believe that what is happening now of the return of the European envoys to Syria is the normal think," the President said.
On Syria's ties with France, Pres.Assad added that relations among different institutions were not affected by the political ties.
"Impacts were on the political level because we can't separate the relation of presidents from the Foreign Ministry, and the political field... but presidents of states are responsible for the foreign policy, so we can put it in the frame of relation between presidents.. Not between the two countries," Pres.Assad said.
He added "Europe and France are almost absent in the political arena, and this is not good for us, we are not satisfied with this situation, but this is temporal and couldn't last forever."
On French Pres.Jacques Chirac accusation of Syria regarding Hariri assassination, Pres. Assad underlined " it is not possible for a person in the level of president to accuse anyone without evidences… whom he wants to accuse Syria, whether he is Pres.Chirac or any other person, he should give evidence… relations among countries should be built on realities and interests not on personal emotions."
Regarding ways of returning ties between Syria and France to normal, Pres. Assad said that it is necessary to put clear bases for these relations, first, respect of each country to the other, second it is not possible to build the relation with Syria through a third side. The relation with France is historic and relations should be direct through direct interests.
Concerning Syria's work paper on Lebanon in the Arab forthcoming Summit of Riyadh, the President stressed "I think the most important proposal for any political standoff in any country is to return to the constitution. There are two constitutional proposals in Lebanon, the early elections or the national unity government, and I think that either solution is true and normal as far as the constitution is there."
"Any solution in Lebanon that won't take into consideration the Lebanese consensus means instability in Lebanon, we should find the common factors which realize consensus, at that time, we can play a role, not pressure, I don't like the word pressures, I'd like dialogue… as we did with the Palestinians, we held dialogue without any pressures," Pres. Assad noted.
Regarding the international tribunal, the President underlined that it is part of the Lebanese consensus and the national unity government, "there is no difference on the court as a principle... the difference is on the proposed draft and the law it will be based on."
"From the beginning, we backed international efforts regarding this subject... investigation committees and the tribunal… but, the court has no relation to Syria… the court is an agreement between the UN ,or Security Council, and the
Lebanese government… it needs a modification in items by the Lebanese constitution. We support the tribunal if it helps reach positive outcomes concerning investigation and if it is professional and not politicized," Pres. Assad went on.
On the President's response if the court referred to any Syrian relation to Hariri assassination, he said "this needs evidence... I previously said that any person who might be involved in this matter is considered a traitor on the national level and within the Syria law… This person will be tried by a Syrian court and his punishment will be greater than any sentence issued by another court, But we will not abandon our sovereignty in this subject."
On UN report about weapon smuggling to Lebanon particularly to Hizbullah, Pres. Assad said that "this accusation is rejected, saying that the European intelligence is existed in Lebanon with their Lebanese allies, so where are the evidences?"
The president added that " Hizbullah announced, before and after war, that it has big capabilities and it is not necessary for them have arms ….what happens is running away from the basic problem…they have to work towards the solution of peace in the Middle East before they talk about missile or thousands of missiles by any side or organization in our region".
Answering a question on deployment of any UN forces along the Syrian-Lebanese borders, the President indicated that "we announced that we reject any deployment of international forces because this means "war announcement" .We agreed on technical cooperation with sides in this regard, many of the European states proposed this issue which is monitoring the Syrian –Lebanese borders.
On the deployment of UN forces in South Lebanon, Pres. Assad added" our stance is declared….before the war and before 1701 resolution we stressed the necessity to boost UNIFIL forces in South Lebanon and the truth is that US intended to decrease these forces, so we agreed on 1701 resolution, regardless of the non- objective and non-positive items in this resolution." For us boosting UNIFIL including the current UN forces authority is something right and positive." Pres.Assad added.
Regarding Syria's participation in Baghdad Summit and Syria' role to stop civil war there, the President said " any solution must be Iraqi one and our role is to help the Iraqis, and what we are doing is to start dialogue with all parties whether they are supporting the political process or opposing it, aiming at finding the common grounds in this regard."
Pres. Assad added that Syria' viewpoint is that after reaching these common bases, there must be an Iraqi national conference and not international one …..a national conference with international and regional support to help the Iraqis create a dialogue.
On accusing Syria of allowing terrorists to infiltrate through its borders into Iraq, Pres. Bashar Assad replied "US Administration always blames its failure on others and doesn't admit its failure …..The problem in Iraq is political and their political failure in Iraq led to this chaos." In regard to Syria's role to control borders the President added that this thing must be done by the two sides and not by one side.
Regarding the repercussions of the US incorrect policy in Iraq and the region, Assad said that any chaos in a country will affect the other, and may be the whole Middle East due to the similarity of social nature in our region, and its not in our interest that there is disorder along the borders because we will pay the price in a day in the same way .US and Britain are fully responsible of this confusion in the whole region."
On the Syrian –Iranian relations, Pres.Assad said that Iran is an important country in the Middle East and Syria' relations with Iran or the rest of region's states are very important for security in the region, so we have to establish good relations with Iran as a part of work for security, adding that Iran has right to posses nuclear weapon for peaceful purposes in line with the international law and this is also a right for all countries in the world.
The President underlined that " we presented a draft law to UN Security Council in 2003 on freeing the Middle East from all weapons of mass destruction and we are asking for justice in this regard because Israel possesses nuclear weapons so this issue must be implemented on everybody not selectively towards a state without the other.
Answering a question on if there are secret negotiations between Syria and Israel, Assad stressed " no …we fully reject the principle of secret negotiations …we don’t hide anything …..If we are talking publicly about peace so why we hide peace from the people...if people support peace process why we hide it." peace process needs a popular support …at the end when you want to sign the agreement so it should be in public and if there is no popular support for the details of the negotiations so there will not be a popular backing to the agreement, so, you will not reach any positive result or you cannot sign the agreement, so this principle is fully rejected.
On Syria's readiness to establish peace with Israel, Pres. Assad said.. Sure "this is a firm principle to Syria and we do not change it …it is a matter of right …..We have a right in the whole land and all occupied territories must be restored and any other details are possible to be negotiated but not the land, because it is a Syrian land. SANA - Naharnet

When Lebanon Is Hijacked by Armed Extremism
Zuheir Kseibati Al-Hayat - 22/03/07//
Among the paradoxes of the turbulent day of March 20 that shattered the silence cast by mysteries over the Ain el-Tineh dialogue between Speaker Nabih Berry and leader of the Future bloc MP Saad al-Hariri, is that a breakthrough has been made for the first time since the beginning of the dialogue, which revived the feelings of bitterness between Berry and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
The breakthrough was made by the speaker's disclosure of his proposals for reaching a solution in Lebanon, triggering yet another paradox, namely: MP Walid Jumblatt, who provoked what he referred to as Berry's 'clarity of mind', stood to receive the credit for creating a conducive atmosphere that encouraged the head of the Amal Movement to challengingly unveil the elements of the solution.
While Berry sought to put the loyalists in a corner, accusing them of thwarting his dialogue with Hariri, throwing them all in a race against time on the eve of the Arab Summit in Riyadh.
The people of Lebanon and Arab parties seeking to cool off the heat of crises seem to be deriving little encouragement from past experiences with dialogue and consultation sessions. Therefore, the odds of reaching a solution only a week before the summit have become tantamount to a miracle.
If Berry's statement on Tuesday that the majority of MPs have begun to move - which the opposition insists on considering as 'folkloric' - was a fatal blow dealt to his dialogue with Hariri, it betrays his bitterness about being embarrassed by charges of hijacking Parliament. These statements will require more Saudi efforts to alleviate the crises and fears, before clarity of the mind is restored and, with it, a more pressing need for a miracle.
Despite all this, and as a reason for the reaction of Berry, who did not wash his hands of the dialogue with Hariri to irritate the majority - or to vex Jumblatt - as though the leader of the Future bloc does not belong to the majority, and is not among its main pillars, the ripples from this turbulent day did not overthrow the positive aspect of what the opposition touts as a distinction between the voices of the loyalists.
Indeed, Hezbollah's renewed pledge to offer all the needed guarantees to facilitate reaching a solution, which was simultaneous with Berry's unveiling of his proposal, may be seen as an attempt to accelerate the Ain el-Tineh dialogue to help the opposition escape the dead-end predicament of the sit-in in the heart of Beirut.
All sides find themselves locked in the boycott impasse and the sit-in, in the predicament of reviving confidence in all or some of the legitimacies, while the majority of the Lebanese seem to have lost confidence in the ability of the embroiled leaderships, or the leaderships that have embroiled the country, to achieve the miracle of saving Lebanon from the fatal blow, namely: the possibility of another Israeli war and the clouds of security quakes, which rumors say will coincide with the clear skies of April and may even extend to the date of the presidential elections.
While it is true that some of these leaderships are keen on reaching a solution, it is also true and unquestionable that these leaderships have not totally abandoned the options of venting external crises on or via Lebanese soil.
While Speaker Nabih Berry deserves to be credited for his keenness to assure everyone of maintaining the entailments of the presidential elections, even in the worst case scenario of a botched dialogue, everyone in Lebanon has come to realize that the 'ghosts'' manipulation of the security line is more than enough to thwart all the good intentions and proposals of solutions, and that the domestic scene in Lebanon is incapable of advancing along any dialogue paths without an umbrella of a regional-international consensus.
The question is: will it hold?
Some opposition figures were able to gather from the events of this turbulent day - especially Jumblatt's failure to see any tangible outcome of the Berry-Hariri dialogue - evidence to the majority's lack of seriousness and its alignment behind the option of the dialogue, which is what these figures have been warning against.
However, supporting their evidence by referring to Jumblatt's upholding of the Parliament as 'the only venue for a fruitful dialogue', while supporting accusations leveled against the opposition by the majority and betting on the element of time to disperse the unity of the majority in a prelude to evade the most major commitment that would facilitate reaching a solution, namely: sanctioning the International Tribunal.
At any rate, amid a crossfire of accusations including the 'raping' and 'hijacking' of the parliament, it is becoming increasingly clear that Berry, blamed by official government figures for the rift between Parliament's steadfast, albeit, parallelized legitimacy, and the government's legitimacy, which is the constant target of the opposition's darts, has not given up all hopes in Hariri, keeping open the sole dialogue channel created as a result of gruesome Saudi efforts in coordination with Tehran.
Nevertheless, if the most prominent aspect of Berry's proposed solution, unveiled after bitter silence, was to transform the responsible third within a broad government into an 'allied' third - a demand that the majority sees as fatal - then a puzzling question emerges: what would guarantee the progress of the mission of the proposed four-party committee until the formula governing the embellishment of the International Tribunal is jointly and consensually approved?
The clarity of the mind of all leaderships, diffusing of the re-emerging simmering rivalries, such as the one between Berry and Jumblatt, is a pressing Lebanese demand, the aim of which is to prevent these leaderships from becoming the overwhelming majority while they become a silent minority, haunted by the past, and the deadly anxiety from an unknown of tomorrow.
Hope remains, however, that dialogue will race ahead of the dreadful sparks, making it possible to avoid minefields, like the Nahr El-Bared refugee camp, or the repetition of the Beqa'a clashes, and prevent the opening of new dark chapters of armed extremism

Syria's 'engagers' can't ignore Brammertz
By Michael Young -Daily Star staff
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Why is it that in the matter of Syria, the Europeans are such gluttons for punishment? Last week, the European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, traveled to Damascus to "engage" the regime of President Bashar Assad and deliver a message that the key to Syria's salvation was a change in its behavior toward Lebanon. The Syrian response came almost immediately: Nothing has changed or will change in Lebanon, whether with respect to the Hariri tribunal or Lebanese sovereignty.
The EU "dialogue" with Syria comes at a complicated moment. The Assad regime has felt a whiff of fresh oxygen through various recent foreign offers to talk. Last week the United States organized a conference in Baghdad on Iraq's future at which the Syrians were invited. The Arab summit is coming, and some optimists still think that they can reconcile the Syrian and Saudi leaders. And the EU, keen to do something, even something futile, recently decided to turn the page with Syria. However, when the French balked, the consensus was to send Solana as sole European representative - to preserve EU unity and prevent the kind of amateurishness that surrounded the Belgian foreign minister's visit to Damascus earlier this month, during which the Syrians denied they would hand suspects over to the Hariri tribunal. The minister, Karel de Gucht, expressed "disappointment" with the Syrian position - a word that will clutter the European lexicon on Syria in the months to come. Assad also told Solana he was not interested in concluding an association agreement with the EU, denying the Europeans more leverage over Damascus.
The Europeans, but also the Americans and Arabs, must be much clearer on where discussions with Syria are going, because the implications of engagement have just become much starker. In his latest report, the United Nations investigator Serge Brammertz all but confirmed that Syria was involved in Rafik Hariri's assassination. After explaining the political context affecting relations between Hariri on the one hand and Syria and its local allies on the other in the period leading up to the former prime minister's murder, investigators wrote, in paragraph 63 of their report: "[A] working hypothesis is that the initial decision to kill Hariri was taken before the later attempts at rapprochement [between him and Syria and other Lebanese officials] got underway and most likely before early January 2005. 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's caveats notwithstanding, what the investigator is saying is quite obvious: Despite efforts to bridge the differences between Hariri and the Syrians, the assassination plot remained on course; therefore the Syrians and their Lebanese allies continue to be prime suspects in Hariri's killing. Why would Brammertz bother to mention these two developments together if he didn't have a strong suspicion that they were linked - though he mentions the possibility that perhaps they were not? And even then, his wording can be read to mean other things: for example, that those planning Hariri's murder simply ignored the parallel reconciliation efforts; or perhaps that those engaged in such efforts were sincere, and were not trying to lull Hariri into a false sense of security in order to make his elimination easier. The latter point could be a significant one if we recall that in the weeks leading up to February 14, 2005, Hariri was meeting regularly with Hizbullah's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
The Syrians know the implications of the UN report, which is why the Assad regime seems to have taken a strategic decision to confront the international community, whatever the costs. Allowing the Hariri tribunal to go forward in any way, the Syrians plainly believe, will spell disaster. Better to reject everything and shift the tricky burden of creating the tribunal under Chapter VII of the UN Charter onto the Security Council's shoulders. That's what makes an Arab, European or American breakthrough with Syria unlikely; and it's why we should expect no progress in Lebanon until the tribunal issue is resolved. The dialogue between parliamentarian Saad Hariri and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri was a charade designed to satisfy the Saudis before the Arab League summit and calm the Lebanese street. On Tuesday, Berri feigned outrage with the majority's behavior, partly to cover for the fact that neither Syria nor Hizbullah has given him any margin of maneuver to arrive at a mutually acceptable deal with Hariri. Nothing indicates we will soon emerge from the current crisis.
It is a good time to impose guiding principles for future European, American, and Arab engagement of Syria when it comes to Lebanon. The Bush administration in particular cannot afford to leave its Syria policy vague. The possibility of a strong electoral backlash against the administration's behavior in the Middle East in two years' time could mean that even the consensus on Lebanon in Washington will break down. Syria is hoping to outrun the international community, and the only way to avoid this is for the latter to unite around some basic tenets.
The first is a statement by the five permanent members of the Security Council affirming that the Hariri tribunal will be established, whatever the circumstances, even under Chapter VII if necessary. Failing to create the tribunal, the five must insist, would cast doubt on their own credibility. This line is generally accepted today, even if no state, including Lebanon, is eager to set up a tribunal under sole UN authority. But Syria is playing brinksmanship. A statement dashing Syrian hopes would help in this regard, and Russia is the best placed to deliver it.
A second guideline is to inform Syria that it can expect no serious exchanges on matters of concern to it until it meets several specific benchmarks. It must give its Lebanese allies the green light to vote in favor of the Hariri tribunal during the current session of Parliament; and it must offer guarantees that it will cease interfering in Lebanese affairs, arming Hizbullah, and using faux Al-Qaeda groups like Fatah al-Islam to advance its aims. These conditions are hardly onerous. After all, they are spelled out in Security Council resolutions starting with Resolution 1559, so concerned states would only be implementing international law.
A third guideline is to demand that Assad himself, or Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, unambiguously declare that Syria accepts the authority of the Hariri tribunal, supports its immediate establishment, and will agree to place any Syrian suspect at the tribunal's disposal. And fourth, the permanent five in particular must reaffirm that there can be no negotiations with Syria over Lebanon that would, in one way or another, contradict prior Security Council resolutions and undermine Lebanese sovereignty. Any deliberations with Syria involving Lebanon must be largely limited to implementing Security Council resolutions.
Until such principles are formalized by the Arab states, the EU, the US, and Russia in their dealings with the Assad regime, Syria will continue to hold Lebanon hostage. It makes no sense for states to back an investigation into Hariri's assassination while pretending that it's business as usual with a regime that, once again, has been fingered as the prime suspect in the crime. The Syrians have been more consistent on that front than those wanting to talk to them. At least they make no pretence of appearing innocent. Assad has shown he won't give anything up. Can the international community face down his challenge?
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.

Bolton admits Lebanon truce block
Israel was criticised for bombing Lebanese civilian centres
A former top American diplomat says the US deliberately resisted calls for a immediate ceasefire during the conflict in Lebanon in the summer of 2006.
Former ambassador to the UN John Bolton told the BBC that before any ceasefire Washington wanted Israel to eliminate Hezbollah's military capability.
Mr Bolton said an early ceasefire would have been "dangerous and misguided". He said the US decided to join efforts to end the conflict only when it was clear Israel's campaign wasn't working. Israel was reacting in its own self-defence and if that meant the defeat of the enemy, that was perfectly legitimate under international law
John Bolton
The former envoy, who stepped down in December 2006, was interviewed for a BBC radio documentary, The Summer War in Lebanon, to be broadcast in April. Mr Bolton said the US was deeply disappointed at Israel's failure to remove the threat from Hezbollah and the subsequent lack of any attempt to disarm its forces. Britain joined the US in refusing to call for an immediate ceasefire.
'Damn proud'
The war began when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers, but it quickly escalated into a full-scale conflict. BBC diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall says the US-UK refusal to join calls for a ceasefire was one of the most controversial aspects of the diplomacy.
The UK, US and Israeli were alone in resisting an early ceasefire At the time US officials argued a ceasefire was insufficient and agreement was needed to address the underlying tensions and balance of power in the region. Mr Bolton now describes it as "perfectly legitimate... and good politics" for the Israelis to seek to defeat their enemy militarily, especially as Hezbollah had attacked Israel first and it was acting "in its own self-defence".
Mr Bolton, a controversial and blunt-speaking figure, said he was "damned proud of what we did" to prevent an early ceasefire.
Also in the BBC programme, several key players claim that, privately, there were Arab leaders who also wanted Israel to destroy Hezbollah.
"There were many not - how should I put it - resistant to the thought that the Israelis should thoroughly defeat Hezbollah, who... increasingly by Arab states were seen as an Iranian proxy," said UN special envoy Terje Roed Larsen. More than 1,000 Lebanese civilians and an unknown number of Hezbollah fighters were killed in the conflict. Israel lost 116 soldiers in the fighting, while 43 of its civilians were killed in Hezbollah rocket attacks.

Panel to release Olmert's Lebanon war testimony
22 Mar 2007
JERUSALEM, March 22 (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's testimony to a Lebanon war inquiry will be made public within days, before the release of interim findings that could determine the unpopular leader's political future. Officials said on Thursday that government lawyers told the High Court the Winograd investigative commission would publish no later than April 2 a transcript from Olmert's closed-door appearance last month.
The government-appointed commission is examining how Olmert, his cabinet and the military brass handled the inconclusive war that Israel fought against Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas last year and which many Israelis see as a failure. Transcripts of testimony by Defence Minister Amir Peretz and the former chief of staff of the armed forces, Dan Halutz, who resigned over the military's shortcomings in the conflict, will be published along with Olmert's, the officials said. Military censors may make deletions before the testimony is released, the officials added.
The inquiry board said last week it would issue an interim report in the second half of April, largely focusing on the decision to go to war after Hezbollah seized two Israeli soldiers in a border raid on July 12.
The preliminary findings, the commission said, would "draw conclusions" relating to Olmert, Peretz and Halutz, raising speculation in Israel the report could prove politically fatal to the prime minister and his defence chief. Olmert, Peretz and the military top brass have seen their popularity plummet after Israel failed to crush Hezbollah in the campaign that ended in a U.N.-brokered ceasefire in August. The two leaders have said the war, in which Hezbollah fired 4,000 rockets into Israel and the Israeli military bombed the group's strongholds in Beirut and southern Lebanon, succeeded in driving the movement's fighters away from the Israeli border. In a hearing several weeks ago, the court ruled in favour of a petition by a left-wing legislator to order the commission to publish testimony from Olmert, Peretz and Halutz. The setting of a release deadline was announced after the lawmaker complained the panel had not complied with the court's directive. In a speech last week, Olmert called himself "an unpopular prime minister", citing recent poor showings in opinion polls. One survey this month found that just 3 percent of Israelis would vote to re-elect the centrist Kadima party leader him if a ballot were held now. Israel's next general election is scheduled for 2010.

A Message from Walid Maalouf in regards to his new book
I am proud to announce the publication of my first book "How Many Times... I Told You", Click HERE to read a detailed brochure in PDF format for your consideration. I look forward to receiving your thoughts and comments
Thank you
Walid Maalouf