March 24/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 7,1-2.10.25-30. After this, Jesus moved about within Galilee; but he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him. But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near. But when his brothers had gone up to the feast, he himself also went up, not openly but (as it were) in secret. So some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, "Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. Could the authorities have realized that he is the Messiah? But we know where he is from. When the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from." So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said, "You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me." So they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come.

Free Opinion
The Iranian Advice and The Syrian Request in Lebanon-Dar Al-Hayat-March 24/07

Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources For March 24/07

Hopes For Lebanon Deal Ahead of Arab Summit Fade-Naharnet
Siniora: Opposition threatening democracy in Lebanon-Ya Libnan

Bolton: Israeli Offensive Had Support of U.S., Several Arab Countries-Naharnet
Saniora Lashes out at 'Democracy-Threatening' Opposition-Naharnet
Opposition to 'Surprise' Majority by Only 1 Change in Tribunal-Naharnet
Hariri Murder Investigated in Turkey-Naharnet
Syria's plot to cover up crimes in Lebanon-Ya Libnan
Power transmission wires are being stolen in south Lebanon-Ya Libnan
Real-estate sector investments in Lebanon remain robust despite events-Kuwait News Agency
Shebaa farms belong to Lebanon according to maps. But when?Ya Libnan
Rice Visits Mideast, Refuses Direct Dealing With Hamas Leaders-Bloomberg

Rice Defends Aid to Abbas-Naharnet
Peres Opposed Starting Lebanon War-Naharnet

Latest News Reports From The Daily Star For March 23/07
US gave Israel time to continue war - Bolton
All sides hope for Berri-Hariri breakthrough but plan for separate summit delegations
Siniora blames opposition for 'dangerous time'
Sarkozy says Lebanon 'will be a priority'
UN Hariri probe turns eye to Syrian held in Turkey - reports
LL1 for $1 
Israel to release transcripts of Olmert's testimony on 2006 war
PSP accuses Assad of foiling dialogue in Beirut
March 14 physicians decry arrest of 'corrupt' doctors
Foreign Ministry official heads for talks in Riyadh
Geagea denies progress in Berri-Hariri meetings opposition 'inflicting severe damage'
Candidates prepare to fight for control of Maronite League
UAE Football Federation pays for Beirut office to house Lebanese counterpart
Iraqi refugees who now call Lebanon home live in doubt
Siniora: Senior public posts now open to all Lebanese
Azour hastens to reassure Habtoor on efforts to keep investors happy
New Zahle plant means cheaper waste treatment costs
Explosives expert defuses bomb on AUB campus
Palestinian factions aim to 'restructure, reorganize'
Alfa kicks off charity campaign for children with art contest
Teachers learn lessons of international humanitarian law

The Iranian Advice and The Syrian Request in Lebanon
Walid Choucair Al-Hayat - 23/03/07//
Those who are afraid from failing to reach an agreement over a solution for Lebanon, with regard to the ongoing dialogue between Speaker Nabih Berry and the leader of the Future movement, MP Saad al-Hariri, prior to the Arab summit, are concerned about a possible escalation following the summit. Either that or the crisis might go back to square one and therefore waste the discussion sessions that were carried out between the poles of the opposition and the majority, let alone the many Arab contacts, notably the Saudi Arabia's sponsorship of this dialogue. Add to that the Saudi-Iranian meetings and the Egyptian-Syrian contacts, among other efforts that have been valiantly conducted over the past weeks.
Alongside this legitimate fear of going back to square one, there is also the conviction that the conditions allowing to avoid escalation are still present, and any new escalation cannot come as the result of a decision by the Lebanese parties concerned with the crisis. On the contrary, the decision is exclusively an external one. For is it in the interest of the external powers to provoke further escalation? Or will any escalation further complicate the Lebanese crisis and lead to more external rows over Lebanon? Perhaps more international decisions will be taken in this regard, added to the existing list of decisions that would force Syria to take additional steps in its relations with the international community?
While we wait for the convening of the Arab summit in Riyadh, along with the results of the Saudi-Syrian interaction, expected to take place during this summit, the factors that we should worry about - which could send us back to square one and become apparent during the dialogue between Berry and Hariri - can be summarized as follows:
1) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's public remarks that Syria is not concerned with the International Tribunal that will try those implicated in the assassination of the martyred premier, Rafik al-Hariri. He made this clear in three interviews over the past ten days that revealed his stance. At the same time, his allies in Lebanon also refused to forward their comments on the tribunal initiative to the majority that considers the tribunal to be the prime cause of the political crisis. This is what offended the majority, which saw in both stances what calls for an expression of reservations over Nabih Berry's proposal that a declaration of intentions can be achieved by simply voicing 'comments' about the tribunal in the context of a commission from both groups. This is supposed to proceed in exchange for the majority abiding by the opposition's demands as regards to the tribunal. But what will guarantee that the two sides can reach an agreement over the tribunal if the comments of the opposition on the tribunal are not acceptable to the majority?
2) The Iranian delegation in Beirut informed the majority leaders that if they truly wanted to solve the crisis, then they must meet the demands of Syria, on the one hand, and the opposition's demands, on the other. The proposal offended these leaders, who rejected the whole principle of handing over everything in exchange for nothing, especially when it comes to the International Tribunal. Iranian advice means Tehran's abandoning its understanding with Riyadh over an outlet for a solution that was agreed on in January. A key clause in this agreement was to ease the way for the endorsement of the tribunal by Lebanese constitutional institutions.
3) In addition to the continuing disagreement between the opposition and the majority over the opposition's demand of the obstructing third in the government of Fouad Siniora, Syria's allies also insist that the choice of the additional Sunni minister not be left to Hariri. They want the opposition to choose him in any future arrangement that expands the opposition's share in the government. They want this to be established as a principle, even if no agreement is reached over a comprehensive solution to the crisis. This, once again, offended the majority, given their leadership's fears that some Syrian-allied opposition figures will seek to clash with al-Hariri, someone who achieved an absolute majority from his sect peers to represent it, in exchange for handing over to the opposition the exclusive right to represent their respective sects.
Regardless of what has been said over the past few days about the proposals and documents for a solution, it remains that these three aforementioned factors could explain the reasons for the fear of going back to square one, thus, back to tension.
However, betting on reversing the tension in itself depends on factors that are no less important, among which is Berry's keenness to prevent re-opening the door of Shiite-Sunni sensitivities. The same holds true for Hariri, bearing in mind that the latter exhibited during negotiations a mixture of resolve and flexibility in keeping up with the need to maintain calm

Hopes For Lebanon Deal Ahead of Arab Summit Fade
Hopes for a Lebanon deal ahead of an Arab League summit faded as the return to talks between Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Future Movement leader Saad Hariri seemed far-off. The daily As Safir said Saudi Ambassador Abdul Aziz Khoja, who has been trying to defuse tensions between the rival political sides, has packed up and was ready to leave for Riyadh Friday to follow up on the summit's work. The paper said Khoja's move was a "message" to the political leaders that hopes for a settlement ahead of the Arab conference were slim. The daily An Nahar agreed, saying the recession of the Hariri-Berri talks has "narrowed the margin of hope for reaching a settlement" to the ongoing political crisis. An Nahar said there has been no contact between Berri and Hariri since Tuesday, the day the two leaders last met. The paper said Lebanon will most likely be represented at the Arab summit due to be held in Riyadh March 28-29 by a "dual" delegation. It said preparations were underway for the establishment of the delegations. Beirut, 23 Mar 07, 08:02

Siniora: Opposition threatening democracy in Lebanon
Friday, 23 March, 2007 @ 2:09 AM
Beirut- Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said on Thursday “ the political crisis of the country is very dangerous, and accused the opposition of threatening democracy in Lebanon. "What Lebanon is going through is very grave and dangerous, and a way out of this crisis will require enormous effort," he said at the government palace . Pointing the finger of blame at the Hezbollah-led opposition, Siniora said "the main cause of the crisis is that the constitution, the government and democratic institutions have been bypassed," he said. Dialogue between the parliamentary majority and the pro-Syrian opposition "must not lead to results which paralyze the constitution and destroy it," Siniora added. The opposition says Siniora's administration has been illegitimate since the resignation last November of six pro- Syrian cabinet ministers, five of them Shiite, plunging Lebanon deep into political crisis.
The parliament majority accuses the opposition of endangering the operation of state institutions, especially by preventing parliament from convening to debate the crisis. On Tuesday parliament's speaker Nabih Berri -- who is also one of the leaders of the opposition -- again refused to convene the legislature while the cabinet remains without several ministers, sparking anger among the majority.
The opposition wants an enlarged cabinet in which it would have a right of veto, a demand rejected by the majority. When anti-Syrian MPs gathered in parliament on Tuesday to demand the holding of a session to ratify the creation of a court to try suspects in former premier Rafik Hariri's murder, Berri accused them of trying to sabotage the dialogue between him and Saad Hariri . The main bones of contention between the two sides are the opposition's demand for a veto and the majority's insistence on ratifying the international tribunal to try suspects in the murder of Hariri, who was killed by a massive car bomb in Beirut in February, 2005. The convening for the tribunal was passed by the government in November, but still needs to be ratified by parliament. The opposition argues that the cabinet's approval was null and void as it had become illegitimate with the resignation of the pro-Syrian ministers.

Syria’s plot to cover up crimes in Lebanon
Friday, 23 March, 2007 @ 4:59 AM
Beirut- The Alrai newspaper has quoted a reliable Iranian source that the opposition wants to change the composition of the international tribunal so that majority of the judges are Lebanese and not foreigners. The purpose of the International Tribunal is to prosecute the killers of Lebanon’s prime minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005 along with 22 others. According to the source that wanted to remain anonymous for security purposes, a strategy meeting took place recently in Damascus to decide on this issue. The meeting was headed by Syrian General Mohammad Nassif ( Abu Wael) who is responsible for the opposition file in Lebanon and representatives from Amal and Hezbollah organizations.
In the proposed International style tribunal , the number of judges will be 7 . 4 of the judges will be foreign nationals and the remaining three will be Lebanese citizens. According to the most recent reports about the current talks between Speaker Nabih Berri and parliament majority leader Saad Hariri :
1- Berri is offering to accept the international tribunal but with some modifications. He did not reveal the modifications , but specified as “ amendments that protect Lebanon’s sovereignty “ . According to the Iranian source, this means a “majority of Lebanese judges “.
2- Against acceptance of the tribunal by the opposition , Berri ‘s initiative calls for a government of 19 – 11 , meaning the opposition will have one third plus one minister to give it the power of veto in any government decision.
3- According to the Iranian source, since the opposition will have veto power , all the judges that have to be selected by the Lebanese government have to be approved by the opposition. This will allow the opposition to select judges that are friendly to Syria.
The above plot according to the Iranian source is in accordance with the strategy that was decided in Damascus during the above mentioned recent meeting between the Syrians, Hezbollah and Amal. The desperation on the part of Syria and this cover up strategy with the help of its allies in Lebanon is another solid proof of its involvement in the murder of Hariri and other crimes .
Source: -Arabic

Power transmission wires are being stolen in south Lebanon
Friday, 23 March, 2007 @ 3:31 AM
Nabatiyeh- The local residents have been complaining about the ongoing theft of the power transmission wires that belong to the Electricity company of Lebanon. The thieves reportedly cut the cables which are made of pure copper and sell them to the junk dealers . The lines affected in this robbery are in the following villages : Ansar, Adsheet, Adloun, Tel el Nahhass, al Aqibiyeh, Sinay, Araysaleem, upper Homain& Al Khardali road area. No power lines means no electricity to these villages The local municipalities have in turn complained to the local Police stations and urged them to stop this stealing and to prosecute the thieves. Many in Lebanon do not pay for electricity especially Amal & Hezbollah members. This is one of the main reasons why the Electricity company is losing money. Source: LBC Arabic, Ya Libnan

Bolton: Israeli Offensive Had Support of U.S., Several Arab Countries
Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton has defended Israel's offensive on Lebanon last summer as legitimate and one that had the support of several Arab countries as well as the United States. "We did not try and shape Israel's strategic objective, but we would not have opposed Israel's decision to eliminate Hizbullah," Bolton told The Associated Press Thursday. "We thought Israel was exercising its legitimate right of self-determination," he said. "We did not have a full idea what Israel's objectives might be and how it might play out." The 34-day war ended on August 14 by a U.N. cease-fire resolution. The fighting started after Hizbullah captured two Israeli soldiers in a deadly cross-border raid on July 12.
"I don't think we achieved what we wanted to achieve, moving the situation in the region to a significantly different place," Bolton said.
In the interview, Bolton, who is now a senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said Israel was acting in self-defense and "we wanted to give them their opportunity to do so."Hizbullah's possession of weapons — from Iran channeled through Syria, according to the Bush administration — "was a threat to Israel and to the government of Lebanon and made operational by repeated attacks," he said.
"It would have been in Israel's legitimate interest to carry the military action against Hizbullah to victory," Bolton said.
In fact, Bolton said, "many of the Arab states did give private support to Israel. People feared Hizbullah was an instrument of Iran. Many of the Arab states feared Hizbullah, and Syria had become the instrument of Iran."In a separate interview with the BBC, Bolton said the U.S. resisted calls for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hizbullah because Washington first wanted Israel to eliminate the group's military might.
U.S. officials decided to join efforts to end the war when it became evident Israel's military campaign was not working, he told BBC for a documentary next month.(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 23 Mar 07, 07:51

Hariri Murder Investigated in Turkey
A U.N. commission probing the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is investigating whether a Syrian Al-Qaeda member serving a life sentence in Turkey is linked to the murder, Turkish newspapers reported Thursday.
Two U.N. investigators met police, prosecutors and intelligence officials in Istanbul and Ankara this week to gather information on Louai Sakka, the mass-circulation Hurriyet and Sabah newspapers reported. The investigators -- Alasdair Mcleod of Britain and Ahmet Kaya of Turkey -- were given copies of Sakka's testimony, reports on his DNA profile and other forensic data as well as the verdict issued against him by a Turkish court last month, the daily Milliyet said. The Turkish justice and foreign ministries refused to comment. Sakka -- an alleged associate of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the former Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq -- was sentenced to life imprisonment for masterminding and financing deadly suicide bombings against Jewish and British targets in Istanbul in 2003. The attacks killed 63 people and injured some 600 others when suicide bombers rammed bomb-laden trucks into two synagogues, the British consulate and the British bank HSBC.In 2005, Sakka's lawyer claimed that unidentified men tried to press his client into testifying against Syria in connection with the Hariri killing and threatened him with death if he did not comply. Hariri, who was a leading opponent of the Syrian domination of Lebanon, was killed along with 22 others in a massive bomb blast in Beirut on February 14, 2005. A U.N. panel headed by Belgian judge Serge Brammertz has been investigating the killing for more than a year.(AFP) Beirut, 22 Mar 07, 18:07

Saniora Lashes out at 'Democracy-Threatening' Opposition
Premier Fouad Saniora on Thursday said the country's political crisis was very dangerous, and accused the opposition of threatening democracy in Lebanon. "What Lebanon is going through is very grave and dangerous, and a way out of this crisis will require enormous effort," he said in a televised address from the Grand Serail. Pointing the finger of blame at the Hizbullah-led opposition, Saniora said "the main cause of the crisis is that the constitution, the government and democratic institutions have been bypassed," he said. Dialogue between the parliamentary majority and the opposition "must not lead to hampering the constitution," Saniora added. The opposition says Saniora's administration has been illegitimate since the resignation last November of six pro-Damascus cabinet ministers, plunging Lebanon deep into political crisis. The majority accuses the anti-government camp of endangering the operation of state institutions, especially by preventing parliament from convening.
On Tuesday Speaker Nabih Berri again refused to convene the legislature, sparking anger among the majority. The opposition wants an enlarged cabinet in which it would have a right of veto, a demand rejected by the majority. Berri on Tuesday accused the pro-government camp of trying to sabotage the dialogue between the rival camps when MPs gathered in parliament to demand the holding of a session to ratify the creation of a court to try suspects in former premier Rafik Hariri's murder. "The anti-government sit-in in downtown (Beirut) was welcomed as an expression of their opinions, even though it is a step outside the constitution... but a protest by a few MPs in parliament was greeted as a great provocation and a breach of acceptable behavior," Saniora said.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 23 Mar 07, 07:38

Opposition to 'Surprise' Majority by Only 1 Change in Tribunal
Kuwait's Al-Rai newspaper on Friday uncovered that the Hizbullah-led opposition was seeking only "one" change in the international tribunal makeup such as the judges are predominantly Lebanese. Al-Rai cited Iranian sources as saying that the decision had been taken at a "high-level" meeting in Damascus between Syrian Maj. Gen. Mohammed Nassif, known as Abu Wael, and representatives from both the Hizbullah and Amal leaderships.
It did not say when the meeting took place. The sources, who requested anonymity, said this "strategy" aims at "surprising" the ruling majority during a bipartisan committee meeting to draft amendments to the international tribunal. Berri said Tuesday that one of the points he and legislator Saad Hariri agreed on during their talks to find a settlement to the ongoing political crisis was the formation of a committee to draft the "specifics" of the court so that Lebanese leaders can meet in Saudi Arabia and sign an agreement on the tribunal. The Iranian sources told Al-Rai that the opposition is to demand "one and only one" change in the court's system – that it be composed of a seven-judge panel -- four Lebanese and three international – and not vise versa as stated by the tribunal agreement. The U.N.-backed court is to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and related crimes. Many Lebanese have accused Syria of involvement, but Damascus has repeatedly denied the charges. Al-Rai said that the "Abu Wael strategy as dubbed by the Iranian sources" also gives the pro-Syrian opposition the power in naming the four Lebanese judges, hence controlling the "Lebanonized" court. Beirut, 23 Mar 07, 11:46

Iran nabs British sailors in Iraq waters
By ROBERT BARR, Associated Press Writer
LONDON - Iranian naval vessels seized 15 British sailors who had boarded a ship suspected of smuggling cars in the Persian Gulf off the Iraqi coast on Friday, officials said.
The British government demanded "the immediate and safe return of our people and equipment."
The British Navy personnel were "engaged in routine boarding operations of merchant shipping in Iraqi territorial waters," and had completed a ship inspection when they were accosted by Iranian vessels, Britain's Defense Ministry said.
"We are urgently pursuing this matter with the Iranian authorities at the highest level and ... the Iranian ambassador has been summoned to the Foreign Office," the ministry said.
The seizure comes at a time of rising tensions between Iran and the West, which accuses the Islamic republic of violating a U.N. calls for it to halt uranium enrichment and open its nuclear program for inspection. It also comes amid U.S. accusations that Iran is funding and arming Shiite militias in Iraq, worsening sectarian tensions there.
The United States, Britain's chief ally, has built up its naval forces in the Gulf in a show of strength directed at Iran. Two American carriers, including the USS John C. Stennis — backed by a strike group with more than 6,500 sailors and Marines and with additional minesweeping ships — arrived in the region in recent months, ratcheting up tensions with Iran.
A Pentagon official said the Britons were in two inflatable boats from the frigate H.M.S. Cornwall during a routine smuggling investigation, said the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the incident.
He said the confrontation happened as the British contingent was traveling along the boundary of territorial waters between Iran and Iraq. They were detained by the Revolutionary Guard's navy after inspecting a merchant ship believed to be smuggling cars, he said.
A fisherman who said he was with a group of Iraqis from the southern city of Basra fishing in Iraqi waters in the northern area of the Gulf said he saw the Iranian seizure. The fisherman declined to be identified because of security concerns.
"Two boats, each with a crew of six to eight multinational forces, were searching Iraqi and Iranian boats Friday morning in Ras al-Beesha area in the northern entrance of the Arab Gulf, but big Iranian boats came and took the two boats with their crews to the Iranian waters."
In June 2004, six British marines and two sailors were seized by Iran in the Shatt al-Arab between Iran and Iraq. They were presented blindfolded on Iranian television and admitted entering Iranian waters illegally, then released unharmed after three days.
**Associated Press writers Pauline Jelinek in Washington and Kim Gamel in Baghdad contributed to this report.