March 1/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 11,29-32. While still more people gathered in the crowd, he said to them, "This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.

Free Opinions
Imminent strife on the ground or on the pages of The New Yorker? Daily Star March 1/07

Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources For March 1/07
U.N. Relays to Lebanon Israeli Concerns over Weapons Smuggling from Syria-Naharnet
Panic in Sidon as Police Defuse Hand Grenades-Naharnet
Top U.S. Spy Sounds Alarm Over Hizbullah's Plans-Naharnet

Jumblatt's talks in Washington spark hostile campaign in Lebanon-Monsters and
Network Spying on Hizbullah Discovered-Naharnet
Moussa: 'Lebanon will Burn'-Naharnet
Solana calls for "constructive role" for Syria in Lebanon-EUX.TV
UN won't press Lebanon to release Israelis-Jerusalem Newswire
Minister visits Irish peacekeepers in south Lebanon-Ireland Online
UN Envoy Expresses Concern Over Arms Smuggling Into
Jumblatt's Talks In Washington Spark Hostile Campaign In
Authorities discover "sophisticated" explosives in south Lebanon-Combined Jewish Philantropies
Syria says will attend Iraq stability conference-Reuters 

Latest News Reports From the Daily Star For 28/02/07
UN envoy says he was 'forceful' with Israelis about overflights
Beirut claims seizure of 31 chemical bomb timers
Moussa warns against 'win' by either side in Lebanon
Hizbullah skirts claims of buildup north of Litani
Sfeir discusses impasse with Mokheiber
Workshops help disabled to help themselves
Hariri denies ties to Sunni extremists
Twin problems for Franjieh
Meeting with Israelis goes nowhere
Pro-government legislators trade accusations, insults with Lahoud
Irish defense minister sees progress in South but fears trouble 'down the road'
SF dismantles explosive device in Mkalles
Stream of condolences continues for Samaha
Azour announces extra allocation to fill gap in NSSF sickness and maternity fund
From stone and glass, artist creates patriotic allegory of bloodshed and beauty
UAE official says South will be clear of unexploded munitions by end of 2007
Beirut neighborhood insists it's no pussycat

Network Spying on Hizbullah Discovered
Lebanese security experts have uncovered a European intelligence-run network spying on Hizbullah, the daily As Safir reported Wednesday.
It said the General Security Department at Rafik Hariri International airport has arrested an inspector working for Surete Generale after "noticing suspicious action" at the facility. As Safir said the inspector, from the northern port city of Tripoli, was one of the leading network members. It did not say when he was arrested, but said he has been referred to the military judiciary. The daily said that Director General of the General Security Brig. Gen. Wafiq Jizzini has conveyed "the critical information" to Interior Minister Hassan Sabeh who instructed his men to "put an end to these acts that disturb security."
As Safir said that security experts monitoring the inspector found out that he was trying to recruit airport staffers and other civilians to work for European intelligence services. It said the network appeared to have set one goal Hizbullah with a mission to "monitor Hizbullah centers and institutions as well as military positions."It said maps, pictures and videotapes of Hizbullah offices in Beirut and the southern suburbs as well as in south and east Lebanon were seized during a raid on the inspector's house. "A digital camera used in the photographing task was also confiscated," As Safir said. Israel's Mossad secret service had lately been working under the cover of European intelligence agencies' names, the daily said. It is likely that the Mossad, according to As Safir, was doing the same thing with this network upon recruitment. Beirut, 28 Feb 07, 08:21

Report: Hizbullah Buying Land from Druze, Christians
Hizbullah is building a new line of defense just north of the Litani river in south Lebanon ahead of a potential resumption of war with Israel, Britain's The Times reported. "The military build-up ... is being conducted in valleys and hillsides guarded by uniformed Hizbullah fighters in the rugged mountains north of the Litani river the limit of the 12,000 strong U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon," the newspaper said Monday. It said Hizbullah fighters are preparing a new system of fortifications and expanding old positions in the mountains on the northern bank of the river."Residents say that the activity has increased lately, and peacekeepers confirm this," The Times said. "We can see them building new positions. There's a lot of trucks coming into the area as well," a UNIFIL officer told the newspaper. It said Ali Tajeddine, a Shiite businessman who traded in diamonds in West Africa, has been buying swaths of land from Christians and Druze. "Two thirds of Sraireh, a Druze village, has been bought along with more than 2 million square yards of land in the nearby Christian hamlet of Qotrani, where 30 houses under construction have been sold to Shiite owners, according to residents," the newspaper said. It said Tajeddine's interest in the land has puzzled residents and raised the suspicions of Druze leader Walid Jumblat. "He (Jumblat) suspects that Iranian funds are being used to buy the land, which will be turned into a Hizbullah military zone," The Times said.
It also quoted a Western diplomat as saying "we have evidence to support their presence there. It seems to be an expansion of what was there before the war."However Hizbullah's deputy secretary general Sheikh Naim Qassem, told The Times that Jumblat's allegations were unfounded. He reportedly said that the Druze leader "likes to stir calm waters."Tajeddine also denied the claims, according to The Times. "He said that he was buying land in the area because it was rich in quarrying opportunities." Beirut, 27 Feb 07, 11:22

U.N. Relays to Lebanon Israeli Concerns over Weapons Smuggling from Syria
A U.N. envoy relayed Wednesday to Lebanese officials Israeli concerns over alleged arms smuggling into Lebanon from Syria.
"There are concerns that were raised from Israel with us about reports of smuggling bombs (into Lebanon) from Syria, which we in our turn raised with the Lebanese government," said Michael Williams, special advisor to the UN secretary general for the Middle East.
After talks with foreign ministry officials in Beirut, Williams went on to meet with leading Hizbullah member Mohammed Fneish.
"I expect from Hizbullah what will be expected from all parties: absolute commitment to (UN Security Council Resolution) 1701... including the issue of the prisoners," he told reporters.  After the meeting with Fneish, Williams said "we are pleased with the commitment of Hizbullah to the resolution. We are pleased by the commitment of all parties." Resolution 1701, which put an end to a 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah in August 2006, called for the withdrawal of the Israeli army from south Lebanon.It also deployed a U.N. peacekeeping force in a demilitarized zone south of the Litani River.
The resolution called for the disarming of all militias -- an allusion to Hizbullah as well as Palestinian militant groups -- and the prevention of illegal arms shipments to Lebanon, in addition to the non-conditional release of two Israeli soldiers abducted by Hizbullah on July 12, which sparked the bloody confrontation. Williams said "we would like to see more progress" on a prisoner exchange and insisted that Israeli overflights amounted to a violation of Lebanese sovereignty. (AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 28 Feb 07, 16:24

Panic in Sidon as Police Defuse Hand Grenades
Police found Wednesday two hand grenades deserted near the Greek Orthodox archbishopric in the southern port city of Sidon.
A police source told Naharnet the safety pins of the two grenades had been removed and the triggers were glued to the body of the explosive sets.
"Had any one tried to remove the glue, the grenades would have exploded," he explained. A police sapper defused the two grenades that caused panic in Sidon, the source added. Police had recently found several explosive charges scattered across Beirut, east, north, south and Mount Lebanon. No blasts were reported. Beirut, 28 Feb 07, 14:37

Top U.S. Spy Sounds Alarm Over Hizbullah's Plans

Hizbullah is a key element of Iran's strategic goals and the Shiite group could carry out attacks against the United States if it or Iran is threatened, retired admiral Michael McConnell, the new director of national intelligence said. Though mainly focused on Lebanon, he said Hizbullah has made "contingency plans to conduct attacks against U.S. interests in the event it feels its survival -- or that of Iran -- is threatened."He also told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that al-Qaida was still the top danger. "Terrorism remains the preeminent threat to the homeland, to our security interests globally, and to our allies. And al-Qaida continues to be the terrorist organization that poses the greatest threat," he said.
McConnell said core elements of al-Qaida's senior leadership are "resilient" and continue to plot mass casualty attacks against the U.S. and other targets.
A major al-Qaida attack would most likely come from Pakistan, but he said elements of the network in Iraq, Syria and Europe "also are planning."
In a statement that accompanied his testimony, the intelligence chief said Iran seeks to develop nuclear weapons and is more interested in dragging out negotiations over its atomic program than reaching an acceptable diplomatic solution.
"This is a very dangerous situation as a nuclear Iran could prompt destabilizing countermoves by other states in this volatile region," he said.
"While our information is incomplete, we estimate that Iran could produce a nuclear weapon by early to mid next decade," he said.
Rising oil income and perceived successes of its surrogates Hamas and Hizbullah has extended Iran's influence in the Middle East, disturbing Arab states, he said.
Iran is using ballistic missiles and naval power to project power in the Gulf, he said.
"It seeks a capacity to disrupt the operations and reinforcement of U.S. forces based in the region -- potentially intimidating regional allies into withholding support for U.S. policy -- and raising the political, financial, and human costs to the U.S. and our allies of our presence in Iraq," it said.
Iranian influence in neighboring Iraq has increased "significantly" and it is "probable" -- but not proven -- that senior Iranian leaders are aware that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Quds have been arming and training Iraqi extremists, he said.
"We believe Hizbullah is involved in the training as well," McConnell said when asked during his testimony about reports that Iran is training Iraqi Shiite elements at camps run by Hizbullah in Lebanon.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 28 Feb 07, 08:32

Jumblatt's talks in Washington spark hostile campaign in Lebanon
Feb 28, 2007,
Beirut - The visit to the United States by anti-Syrian Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has sparked an intense campaign against him in Lebanon, especially by his opponents from the Lebanese Shiite movement, Hezbollah. 'The man (Jumblatt) has sold himself to the devil,' Hezbollah's politburo member Mahmoud Kommati said. 'Jumblatt is probably preparing a second war on Hezbollah with his new allies,' Kommati said. Israel launched a widescale offensive against Hezbollah on July 12 after the Lebanese militia snatched two of its soldiers from southern Lebanon. The war lasted 33-days during which 1,200, mostly Lebanese civilians, and 162 Israelis, mainly soldiers, were killed. Jumblatt, a staunch anti-Syrian lawmaker, is leading a Lebanese delegation that includes Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh and former deputy Ghattas Khoury.
'I am here (in Washington) to seek US help to combat the totalitarian regimes of Syria and Iran which seek to dominate my country through their Hezbollah agents,' Jumblatt said in the US capital. Jumblatt, who arrived in Washington on Sunday, has been received by US president George W Bush and held meetings with other senior US administration officials including Secretary of Defence Robert Gates. He is scheduled to meet Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday before returning home.
According to the Lebanese media, top US officials promised Jumblatt that they would work on 'strengthening the Lebanese army and security forces to secure law and order in the country.' They added that Lebanese Defence Minister Elias al-Murr will be next to visit Washington to discuss US assistance for the army. According to well-informed Lebanese officials, the US administration plans to invite other Lebanese leaders to visit Washington for similar talks, including anti-Syrian Christian leader, Samir Geagea, who is the head of the Christian Lebanese Forces.
Lebanon has been reeling under the worst political crisis since the 2005 assassination prime minister Rafik Hariri which was widely blamed on Syria and its Lebanese allies. The crisis intensified three months ago after the opposition, led by the Iranian and Syrian-backed Hezbollah, decided to stage an open- ended sit-in to overthrow the Western-backed government of Fouad Seniora. The standoff has led to clashes between supporters of the opposition and followers of the government which resulted in the killing of seven people and the wounding of more than 200 others.
The confrontations has also taken quickly a sectarian turn between Hezbollah and the Sunni-led Government. The government currently has no Shiite representatives after all Shiite ministers quit last November. The opposition along with their ally Christian hardliner Michel Aoun, wants to replace the current government of Seniora with a national unity government which will give the opposition a veto power.
This demand was rejected by the current government who accused the opposition of trying to obstruct the formation of an international court to try suspects in the assassination of Hariri. The anti-Syrian camp, who are today a majority in the Lebanese parliament, believe that the opposition want to block the formation of the court to protect their Syrian allies who were implicated in the Hariri killing by an ongoing UN investigation.
Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa, who heads the 22-member Arab League, has been trying since December to mediate between the political factions in Lebanon, but until now his efforts have proved unsuccessful. Mussa warned on Tuesday that Lebanon would 'burn' if one party won over the other in a power struggle that has threatened a second civil war in the country. Lebanon was engulfed by civil war from 1975 until 1990. The civil war was ended in 1989 by a Saudi-brokered national reconciliation agreement called the Taef Accord.

Solana calls for "constructive role" for Syria in Lebanon
Brussels (dpa) - European Union chief diplomat Javier Solana on Wednesday called on Syria to play "a constructive role" in Lebanon.
Solana was speaking in Brussels after a meeting with anti-Syrian Lebanese politician Saad Hariri. Solana accused "foreign powers" of trying to prevent a United Nations tribunal from investigating the February 2005 assassination of Hariri's father, former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
"Naturally there has been an interference by other states," Solana said without referring to Syria by name. "It is apparent and everyone knows this," he added. The Lebanese parliament has not yet approved the investigation because of disagreement between pro-Syrian and anti-Syrian politicians.
Syria is accused of being behind Hariri's assassination in a car bomb attack, but has always denied this. Saad Hariri, leader of Lebanon's most important anti-Syrian alliance, said the fundamental approval for the UN court was "not a political decision, but a decision for justice". Solana said: "A host of EU ministers have been to Syria with a message that Syria should behave constructively." Action by other states in the affairs of Lebanon had to be "positive to solve problems, and not negatives prevent solutions," he said.

UN won't press Lebanon to release Israelis
Associated Press-February 28, 2007
While two Israeli families continue to live in utter distress, UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday indicated he will not pressure Lebanon to live up to its commitment to release their loved ones. IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were abducted by Lebanon's Hizb'allah (a paramilitary terrorist organization that also serves in the government) last summer, an act that sparked a devastating 34-day war.
The families of the two soldiers met with Ban at UN headquarters to find out why their husbands, fathers and brothers have not yet been returned in compliance with the UN resolution that ended the war. Ban said he is still working on the matter, but prefers to do so via a "secret facilitator" chosen by his predecessor, Kofi Annan, which allows him to negotiate directly with Hizb'allah.

UAE official says South will be clear of unexploded munitions by end of 2007
Daily Star staff-Wednesday, February 28, 2007
BEIRUT: South Lebanon will be cleared of cluster bombs and other unexploded ordnance by the end of 2007, the director general of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Program to Support and Reconstruct Lebanon announced on Tuesday. The number of cluster bombs left over from the summer 2006 war with Israel is "unordinary," Mohammad Khalfan Rumaithi said in a statement. "We have never witnessed such a great number of cluster bombs in any previous war."The munitions were particularly difficult to detect in cultivated fields and valleys, he said.
"Searching for cluster bombs in such areas requires strenuous efforts and serious work," said Rumaithi."The UAE program represents an honest humanitarian and brotherly message ... It is not the first in Lebanon," he said, in reference to a UAE de-mining project in 2001 which he said was "the most successful model of its kind worldwide." "Emirati aid to the Lebanese state and people has never stopped since the war with Israel ignited," said Rumaithi.
Thirty specialized teams are working on clearing unexploded ordnance in the South, he said, adding that a group of UAE military engineers has joined the clearance teams. The first batch of troops with the Engineering Corps of the UAE Armed Forces arrived in Lebanon in mid-January to work in collaboration with the United Nations and the Lebanese Army, the statement said. The initiative to clear South Lebanon of mines and cluster bombs was launched by Emi-rati President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
The mission includes campaigns to educate residents on the dangers of unexploded munitions. According to UN reports, the number of bombs and mines in South Lebanon is higher than in Iraq or Kosovo. Agreements have also been signed with two British companies, Armor Group and Bactec, to carry out a large-scale mine-clearance operation. It is estimated that an area of over 3 million square meters out of an area of some 583 million-square meters in the South is infested with cluster bombs and other unexploded ordnance.  The UAE units have already completed de-mining missions in the Southern villages of Muleikh, Arnoun, Qalaat Shqeef, Dallafa and Arab Salim.
After clearance work was completed, the areas were "handed over" to the villages' mayors in special ceremonies attended by representatives of the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Committee, the Lebanese Army's National De-mining Bureau, the Ministry of Antiquities and area residents, who praised the UAE for its efforts. The statement said certain areas south of the Litani River that had been de-mined during the 2001 initiative would be re-cleared to remove cluster bombs and other ordnance left behind after the latest Israeli bombardment. - The Daily Star

Syria says will attend Iraq stability conference
Wed Feb 28, 2007
DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syria will take part in a meeting to stabilize Iraq attended by the United States, the official Syrian news agency SANA said on Wednesday. The agency said Syrian officials would be present at the mid-level Baghdad meeting, called by Iraq for March 10, that would gather representatives of Iraq's neighbors and permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. The United States has accused Damascus of undermining its allies in Baghdad. "Talking with the United States about Iraq is a partial step in the right direction. All the problems in the region are interlinked," a foreign ministry official told the official news agency SANA. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said the meeting would be a chance for countries such as Syria and its ally Iran to solve differences with Western countries over Iraq.
A ministerial meeting is also expected in April, but a Syrian official told Reuters it was too early for Damascus to decide whether to attend.
The Bush administration says Syria is allowing anti-U.S. insurgents to cross into Iraq and has rejected suggestions, including a report by the Iraq Study Group, advising it to engage Syria and Iran in a dialogue about Iraq. Syria, which denies helping the rebels, has said it welcomes talks with Washington but other issues behind Middle East instability should be discussed, including the Palestinian issue and Israel's 40-year occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights.
President Bashar al-Assad said in February Syria has enough credibility in Iraq to play a main role in stabilizing the country, but that time was running short to prevent a civil war. Around one million Iraqi refugees have fled to Syria since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that removed Saddam Hussein from power. The Damascus government have maintained ties with members of the Iraqi Baath Party, which ruled Iraq for 35 years, as well as political players opposed or in favor of the U.S. presence. Although Syria opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, it has been adopting a friendlier tone to the U.S.-backed government. Iraq and Syria resumed diplomatic ties after a quarter of a century break last year and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani visited Damascus in January. Syria has been under U.S. sanctions since 2004, mainly for backing the Lebanese Hezbollah group and the Palestinian Hamas movement.