May 20/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 16,23-28. On that day you will not question me about anything. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. I have told you this in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father. On that day you will ask in my name, and I do not tell you that I will ask the Father for you. For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have come to believe that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father."

Free Opinions
Tomorrow's challenges demand action from today's leaders. Daily Star. May 20/07
Will Pervez Musharraf's minions of terror help him retain power? By Pervez Hoodbhoy. May 20/07

Experience heaven on earth - Ecotourism in Lebanon.Ya Libnan. May 20.07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for May 20/05/07
11 Suspects in Madina Bank Scandal Identified. Naharnet
UN`s Lebanon tribunal draft.Monsters and
100-day security plan sought in Lebanon.PRESS TV
Beirut struggles to heal the scars of war.Times Online

US envoy sees "momentum" in Security Council for resolution to ...International Herald Tribune
Unity gov't secures Lebanon: Russia.PRESS TV
US expects Lebanon's future leader to safeguard national ...
People's Daily Online
Experience heaven on earth - Ecotourism in Lebanon.Ya Libnan
No 'presidential polls unless crisis is resolved'.Gulf News
US Role in Lebanon Debacle.Foreign Policy In Focus
Chief Of Staff opens Qatari forces’ camp in Lebanon.Peninsula On-line

Latest News Reports From The Daily Star for May 19/05/07
Hizbullah draws line on presidency
UN draft on court prompts praise, anger
Murr to seek Egyptian support for army
Higher Relief Council tackles damage wrought by storm
March 14 leaders: Presidential poll must restore Christian clout
10 suspects in Al-Madina case to be prosecuted
Solidere denies charges of shipping waste
Grateful Graziano decorates Qatari peacekeepers for 'dedication to duty'
Whatever happened to Ghajar?
Draft Security Council resolution on Hariri court
ISF arrests gang of highway robbers
NGO points to corruption in war-relief effort
Fuel oil spilled from Jiyyeh during war still fouls parts of coast, stirs controversy over clean-up
How a bomblet took a teen's leg - and is slowly killing her father


U.N.`s Lebanon tribunal draft
By William M. Reilly May 19, 2007
UNITED NATIONS, United States (UPI) -- The U.N. Security Council Friday began considering a draft resolution to establish an international tribunal to try suspects in a series of political assassinations in Lebanon, beginning in October 2004 and including the massive Beirut bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others the following year.
The slayings appeared to be of those who were anti-Syria, Lebanon`s longtime, dominant neighbor that until recently -- and under a 2004 council resolution -- moved its armed forces and intelligence units out of Lebanon.
The measure was written by Britain, France and the United States and was requested by Beirut, which had been blocked in obtaining ratification by the opposition.
Both the government and the opposition fear another civil war in politically volatile Lebanon, which had barely recovered from the 1974-1990 civil war when it was invaded last summer by Israel pursuing members of the militant Shiite movement Hezbollah.
The government fears civil war if there is no tribunal, while the pro-Syrian opposition fears fighting if there is one.
A U.N. sponsored investigation, still under way, already has found that elements in the security operations of both Lebanon and Syria had to have knowledge of the Hariri assassination operation plans.
The opposition speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, refused to call the legislature into session to approve the legislation necessary to ratify the agreement by the anti-Syrian government of Prime Minister Foaud Siniora and the United Nations in November 2006.
Monday, Siniora wrote U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon requesting the Security Council`s help.
'The Security Council, and let me say France, and many countries were expecting very much the Lebanese could find themselves the solution,' said Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere of France, speaking of the Beirut deadlock.
'Many countries,' he said, had hoped the Lebanese could work it out themselves to support such a tribunal.
'Unfortunately there is a deadlock that the Lebanese were not able to settle the issues,' La Sabliere told reporters. 'Members of the Security Council are aware we have to face our responsibilities.'Said Paris` envoy, 'What we are looking for is to help Lebanon and I would say the draft will unlock what is locked. It is a resolution which will establish a tribunal. It`s a very simple resolution.'
La Sabliere said, 'There is a real commitment from the beginning by the Security Council. The Security Council has to face its responsibility and I am confident it will do it.'He expressed hope it could be adopted before the end of the month.
An informal count shows at least 11 yes votes and no vetoes. Russia, a longtime ally of Syria, has not threatened a veto and, because there previously was an agreement in the Security Council for a tribunal 'of an international character,' Moscow can be expected not to vote it down.
The draft measure carries the weight of the U.N. Charter`s Chapter VII, authorizing the use of force, making it mandatory and giving it the weight of international law. It calls for the court to be established in a 'timely manner' and sit in a location to be determined in consultations between the United Nations and the government of Lebanon. The draft says if Lebanon cannot afford the tribunal, the U.N. secretary-general may accept contributions for its operation.
Discussion of the draft came up Friday while the panel of 15 members was in closed door consultations on previously scheduled '... other matters.'
Copyright 2007 by United Press International

11 Suspects in Madina Bank Scandal Identified
State Prosecutor Saeed Mirza has referred 11 suspects purportedly involved in the Al Madina Bank scandal to Beirut Public Prosecutor Joseph Maamari.
The daily An Nahar, citing judicial sources, on Saturday said the 11 were believed to have a hand in the case of money laundering at Al Madina Bank in 2003.
It identified the suspects as, in addition to former executive secretary of Al Madina scandal heroine Rana Qoleilat, her two brothers -- Taha and Basel Qoleilat -- as well as Adnan Abou Ayyash. Among the names in the report were bank employees Youssef al Hashi, Kazem Bahlawan, Fouad Qahwaji and Rene Kaado Moawwad. An Nahar said Adnan Abou Ayyash's brother, Ibrahim Abou Ayyash, and his son, Wissam Ibrahim Abou Ayyash, were also among the suspects.
It quoted the sources as saying investigation with this group of suspects will only focus on the issue of money laundering.
The Daily Star said the suspects included a person who had a "strong work relationship" with Qoleilat. Qoleilat, who is facing fraud charges in Lebanon, is jailed in Brazil for allegedly trying to bribe security officers to release her. She was earlier jailed in Lebanon for her supposed role in the disappearance of more than $300 million from Al Madina Bank in 2003. Beirut, 19 May 07, 07:06

Tomorrow's challenges demand action from today's leaders
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Editorial-Daily Star
A new study by the World Economic Forum (WEF) highlights the Middle East's unique vulnerability to the potential intersection of two separate but interlocking threats: climate change and energy insecurity. In addition, the document explains how a variety of other factors make the region especially susceptible to a wide range of other possible developments around the globe. As though this part of the world did not have enough problems of local, foreign and mixed origins, the report - appropriately titled "Middle East at Risk" - underlines the need to plan now for what figure to be tomorrow's most difficult challenges.
The simplest fix is better leadership. The impact of most, if not all, the eventualities listed by the WEF can be mitigated if governments and the private sector take cogent steps to shore up areas of vulnerability. One key issue is a glaring lack of economic diversification, which makes the entire region dependent on high world oil prices and would cripple its ability to cope with a variety of long-term crises. Another is the fact that since much of the region is already subject to extreme heat and aridity, one effect of global warming could be to make sustainable agriculture virtually impossible. At best, that would drive the price of many foods beyond the reach of tens of millions of people; at worst, it would cause mass starvation.
Even the most responsible governance could not turn this situation around overnight, but that is no excuse to further delay measures aimed at protecting the interests and long-term security of all Middle Easterners. If non-oil sectors are to become more than footnotes to the region's economic activities in the foreseeable future, the necessary investment increases have to start taking place today. And if the process of climate change is to be slowed and/or reversed, what would be more just than to have a handsome percentage of profits generated by carbon-based fuels allocated to research, education and the development of innovations like new trading schemes aimed at reducing overall emissions?
Few parts of the world contend with so many actual and potential quandaries as does the Middle East. Conversely, few have so much capital with which to improve their lots. In this regard the region's relatively low level of development actually constitutes an advantage by conferring on it the ability to benefit from the mistakes made elsewhere. Exploiting these happy consequences to compensate for some less fortunate ones should be the goal of both government and private enterprise. They have all the power and money required for the task. All that need now is the common sense to appreciate the urgency with which they must act.

Beirut struggles to heal the scars of war
By: Nicholas Blanford in Beirut
Times On line
Lebanon’s usually lucrative summer tourist season is about to start, and local businesses are hoping for better luck after a year of war and social turmoil. But a grinding political crisis, a war-shattered infrastructure and lingering fears of another conflict with Israel threaten to keep the tourists and investors away.
The restaurants and cafés lining the cobblestoned, pedestrianised streets of downtown Beirut should be filled with tourists sipping cappuccinos or tiny cups of Turkish coffee in the spring sunshine. But since December the district has been a front line in the battle between the Western-backed Government of the Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, and the opposition led by the militant Shia Hezbollah. Hundreds of opposition supporters, surrounded by razor wire and troops, are camped in the city centre in an open-ended sit-in that has paralysed local commerce.
Many restaurants were forced out of business, defeated by high rents and empty tables. Scoozi, a popular Italian-style restaurant chain, reopened its doors at the end of April, encouraged by a period of relative calm and hoping for a revived tourist season to recoup its losses. Talal Gharib, the manager, said: “Siniora says he’s optimistic for the summer. God willing, we will have some business.”
The political tension peaked after last summer’s 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah. Shia Cabinet ministers resigned and the Opposition launched a campaign to topple the Government. The country has been mired in political gridlock and economic stagnation ever since.
The optimism brought by the Cedar Revolution of spring 2005, when street protests led to the disengagement of neighbouring Syria, has long since evaporated amid rising sectarianism and a worsening security climate. A recent poll found that 30 per cent of Lebanese were considering emigrating, double the figure recorded days after the war ended in August. The month-long war killed more than 1,000 Lebanese and caused damage worth several billion dollars. The Israeli bombing campaign targeted bridges, roads, airports, electricity and water networks and oil storage facilities. In South Lebanon, several villages were left in ruins.
Lebanon had promises of $1.3 billion (£657 million) in reconstruction aid. Mr Siniora said this week that $318 million of the $707 million so far received had been spent on compensation, infrastructure and housing refugees from South Lebanon. The Government persuaded several Gulf states to sponsor the reconstruction of southern settlements: Saudi Arabia alone has adopted 42 villages. Mr Siniora hopes that the patronage of Sunni Arab states will wean the mainly Shia southern Lebanese from the Iran-funded Hezbollah. It is not lost on Hezbollah that Qatar, which houses the largest American military base in the Middle East and enjoys economic ties with Israel, is sponsoring the reconstruction of four Lebanese villages where Shia militants waged their fiercest resistance last summer. In January Mr Siniora’s Government won further pledges from donor states totalling $7.6 billion in grants and soft loans to help to service Lebanon’s massive public debt of more than $40 billion and to offset private sector losses caused by the war. But much of the promised funds were conditional on the Lebanese Government pushing through economic reforms such as the privatisation of cash-strapped state utilities, which Hezbollah opposes. “Planned reforms which have been prepared by the Government need ratification from parliament,” Mr Siniora said in Beirut last week.
But Nabih Berri, the Speaker of the Lebanon parliament and a Hezbollah ally, refuses to schedule a parliamentary session for the proposals, and the Opposition charges that the Government is allocating reconstruction funds selectively, punishing Shia areas for supporting Hezbollah. Shia MPs from South Lebanon plan public protests against alleged Government neglect. The Haret Hreik district, in Beirut’s Shia-dominated southern suburbs, was almost flattened by multiple Israeli airstrikes. After the war, Hezbollah offered $12,000 as an initial compensation to everyone who lost their home. Referring to a construction organisation linked to Hezbollah, banners on half-demolished buildings read: “USA destroys and Jihad al-Bina rebuilds”.

Will Pervez Musharraf's minions of terror help him retain power?
By Pervez Hoodbhoy
Saturday, May 19, 2007
After his ill-advised dismissal of the chief justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court ignited a firestorm of violent protests, President General Pervez Musharraf may be banking on Islamic fanatics to create chaos in the nation's capital, Islamabad. Many suspect that an engineered bloodbath that leads to army intervention, and the declaration of a national emergency, could serve as a pretext to postpone the October 2007 elections. This could make way for Musharraf's dictatorial rule to continue into its eighth year - and perhaps well beyond.
This perverse strategy sounds almost unbelievable. Musharraf, whom President George W. Bush describes as his "buddy" and supports an "enlightened moderate" version of Islam, wears religious extremists' two close attempts on his life as a badge of honor. But his secret reliance upon the Taliban card - one that he has been accused of playing for years - increases as his authority weakens.
Signs of government-engineered chaos abound. In the heart of Islamabad, vigilante groups from a government-funded mosque, the Lal Masjid, roam the streets and bazaars imposing Islamic morality and terrorizing citizens in full view of the police. Openly sympathetic to the Taliban and tribal militants fighting the Pakistan Army, the two cleric brothers who head Lal Masjid, Maulana Abdul Aziz and Maulana Abdur Rashid Ghazi, have attracted a core of banned militant organizations around them. These include the Jaish-e-Mohammad, considered to be the pioneer of suicide bombings in the region.
The clerics openly defy the state. Since January 21, baton-wielding, burqa-clad students of the Jamia Hafsa, the woman's Islamic university located next to Lal Masjid, have forcibly occupied a government building, the Children's Library. In one of their many forays outside the seminary, this burqa brigade swooped upon a house, which they claimed was a brothel, and kidnapped three women and a baby.
Male students from Islamabad's many madrasas are even more active in terrorizing video-shop owners, whom they accuse of spreading pornography. Newspapers have carried pictures of grand bonfires made with seized cassettes and CDs. Most video stores in Islamabad have now closed. Their owners duly repented after a fresh campaign on May 4 by militants blew up a dozen music and video stores, barbershops and a girls' school in Northwest Frontier Province.
Astonishing patience has been shown by the Pakistani state, which on other occasions freely used air and artillery power to combat such challengers. The Lal Masjid clerics operate with impunity - no attempt has been made to cut off its electricity, gas, phone, or Web site - or even to shut down its illegal FM radio station. The chief negotiator appointed by Musharraf, Chaudhry Shujaat Husain, described the burqa-brigade kidnappers as "our daughters," with whom negotiations would continue and against whom "no operation could be contemplated."
Clerics realize that the government wants to play ball. Their initial demand - the rebuilding of eight illegally constructed mosques that had been knocked down by Islamabad's civic administration - became a call for enforcement of Sharia law across Pakistan. In a radio broadcast on April 12, the clerics issued a threat: "There will be suicide blasts in every nook and cranny of the country. We have weapons, grenades, and we are expert in manufacturing bombs. We are not afraid of death
The Lal Masjid head cleric, a former student of my university in Islamabad, added the following chilling message for our women students: "The government should abolish coeducation. Quaid-e-Azam University has become a brothel. Its female professors and students roam in objectionable dresses. I think I will have to send my daughters of Jamia Hafsa to these immoral women. They will have to hide themselves in hijab, otherwise they will be punished according to Islam. Our female students have not issued the threat of throwing acid on the uncovered faces of women. However, such a threat could be used for creating the fear of Islam among sinful women. There is no harm in it. There are far more horrible punishments in the hereafter for such women."
Indeed, on May 7, a female teacher in QAU's history department was assaulted in her office by a man who screamed that he had instructions from God.
What's next? As Islamabad heads the way of Pakistan's tribal towns, the next targets will be girls' schools, Internet cafes, bookshops, and stores selling Western clothing, followed by purveyors of toilet paper, tampons, underwear, mannequins, and other un-Islamic goods.
In a sense, the inevitable is coming to pass. Until a few years ago, Islamabad was a quiet, orderly, modern city no different from any other in Pakistan. Still earlier, it was largely the abode of Pakistan's hyper-elite and foreign diplomats. But the rapid transformation of its demography brought with it hundreds of mosques with multi-barreled audio cannons mounted on minarets, as well as scores of madrasas illegally constructed in what used to be public parks and green areas. Now, tens of thousands of their students with little prayer caps dutifully chant the Koran all day. In the evenings, they roam in packs through the city's streets and bazaars, gaping at store windows and lustfully ogling bare-faced women.
The stage is being set for transforming Islamabad into a Taliban stronghold. When Musharraf exits - which may be sooner rather than later - he will leave a bitter legacy that will last for generations, all for a little more taste of power.
**Pervez Hoodbhoy is professor of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, Pakistan. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate (c)

Unity gov't secures Lebanon: Russia
Fri, 18 May 2007 22:14:05
Russian official says the only way out for the current political dilemma in Lebanon is the formation of a national unity government.
Alexander Torshin, vice speaker of Russia's Federation Council, during a visit to the Lebanese capital on Thursday said that the "only" solution to Lebanon's ongoing political deadlock is "to form a national unity [government] that is likely to bring together all view points." "The history of Russia witnessed a number of stalemates similar to the one currently happening in Lebanon and it was only through the formation of national unity governments that problems got solved," he said following a meeting with Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun." Torshin added that there is "no major hurdles" in the way of a national unity government, "especially as I sensed during my talks with the Lebanese politicians that they were all willing to collaborate together for the welfare of Lebanon." Lebanon ought to "solve pending conflicts with neighbors in order to proceed with solving its own internal problem," Torshin said, referring to the tensions between Beirut and Damascus.
Torshin reiterated his country's refusal of "any form of foreign intervention in Lebanese domestic affairs."
Asked whether his comments reflected "tensions in the relationship between Russia and the US," he said the Russian-American relationship "is built on mutual respect and cooperation while acknowledging divergence in viewpoints." The US has been vocal in its support of the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
Siniora's western-backed government has refused to comply with the majority's demand to form a national unity government over the past few months.

U.S. expects Lebanon's future leader to safeguard national independence, sovereignty
The United States said on Friday that the future Lebanese leader should strive for democracy, independence and sovereignty of the country.
"We are firm supporters of Lebanon's democracy...independence and sovereignty... And I would expect that the next president of Lebanon would be someone who is no less a supporter of those ideals and those principles," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said  "But, ultimately, it is going to be up to the Lebanese people, Lebanese political leadership to decide upon who is going to lead them as president," he added.
The spokesman also reiterated U.S. support for Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, saying Siniora, in the face of a threat of violence and intimidation, has stuck fast to the principles of political reform, democracy and sovereignty in the country. Lebanon's MPs are due to assemble on Sept. 25 to elect a new president to succeed incumbent pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, whose term expires in November. Washington accuses Iran and Syria of meddling in Lebanon's affairs, and has been boycotting Lebanon's pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, who allegedly wants to bring down Siniora's government.
Source: Xinhua

No 'presidential polls unless crisis is resolved'
Beirut/New York: Presidential elections cannot be held in Lebanon until a solution is reached to the six-month old political crisis between the Hezbollah-led opposition and the ruling anti-Syrian majority, a senior Hezbollah figure said. The term of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, extended at the behest of Damascus in 2004, expires in November. Since last year, the country has been locked in a standoff over opposition demands for greater power and its rejection of the government's calls for an international tribunal to try suspects for the killing of ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri.
Mohammad Fneish, a former Hezbollah minister, told Al Hayat daily in an interview published yesterday that rival parties had to find an agreeable government formation.
"It is not feasible that this [presidential elections] happens in the midst of the current political divisions and while there is a party [ruling coalition] that is resorting to monopolising power and getting strength from external support," he said referring to US support of Siniora's government.
Fneish, who along with other pro-Syrian ministers resigned from cabinet last November in protest against Siniora's refusal to give the opposition a greater say in government, added:
"If there is no real consensus on partnership, on the political future of the country and on the identity of the president, the opposition will not allow this faction [ruling coalition] from ruling the country...," he added.
The rival camps accuse each other of working to foreign agendas to the detriment of Lebanon. Hezbollah describes the cabinet as a US puppet while the governing coalition says the opposition takes orders from Iran and Syria.
Lahoud has said he will not hand over his authorities to the current government, a procedural step towards the election of a new head of state. He might instead appoint a new government, leaving Lebanon with two cabinets.
Meanwhile, the United States, France and Britain circulated a UN resolution on Thursday that would unilaterally establish a tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 murder of a former Lebanese premier and 22 others.
The draft resolution, distributed to the UN Security Council, asks the 15 members to approve an earlier agreement of draft statutes for the court that the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora signed in November 2006.
Political impasse
Siniora on Monday asked the Security Council to help break the political impasse in Beirut over the creation of the court by adopting a binding resolution.
But he is opposed by Lebanon's pro-Syrian president, Emile Lahoud, who warned on Tuesday that the tribunal's creation could lead to violence in Lebanon, which is undergoing its worst political crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
France's UN ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, said the measure "was aimed at helping the Lebanese find a way out of the current dead end."
He said he hoped the resolution would be adopted by the end of the month. The measure invokes Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which would make the creation of the court mandatory.

Experience heaven on earth - Ecotourism in Lebanon

Saturday, 19 May, 2007 @ 5:35 AM
Bekaa, Lebanon - For a Colombian hermit thousands of miles from home, Lebanon's Qadisha valley is a heaven on earth where he hopes to end his days.
Yet Father Dario Escobar (pictured right) may lose some of his solitude when hikers learn about a fledgling national trail that passes near his cliffside hermitage as it meanders nearly 400km over Lebanon's mountain spine from the far north to the south.
The creators of the Lebanon Mountain Trail see the Qadisha valley, with its limestone crags, waterfalls, rich vegetation and ancient monasteries, as a showcase of what can attract Lebanese and foreigners willing to explore the country on foot.
Fortunately, Escobar does not seem to mind when hikers test-walking a section of the trail intrude on his privacy. "Usually I speak to nobody, but I speak with you because someone knocked on my door," laughs the black-cowled monk as he emerges from his cave cell near a rock-cut chapel.
"This is paradise," the 72-year-old greybeard says, looking out at a verdant, steep-sided valley from the tiny 13th-century monastery of Our Lady of Hawka. "I am here for good."
The calm beauty of the spot where Escobar spends his time in prayer and contemplation is a far cry from Lebanon's image as a tinderbox for Middle Eastern conflict an image that the trail organisers say tells only part of the story.
"Despite all the trouble Lebanon is going through, this is a different universe," says Karim El-Jisr, the project's deputy manager. "Hopefully the Lebanon Mountain Trail will bring people together ... and appeal to people in Lebanon from all walks of life, religions and political affiliations."
The project, funded by a US$3.3 million ($5 million) grant from the US, suffered a few delays due to last year's July-August war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas.
But Ecodit, a US-based consultancy which has a two-year contract to set up the trail, hopes to have the route mapped, marked and ready to hand over to a non-governmental association by the end of the year. A guide book in English, maps and a website ( are also in the works.
"It's all about connecting the dots, linking things up," says Jisr, explaining how the trail will take walkers to nature reserves, archaeological sites, holy places and villages at altitudes from 800 to 2,000 metres.
The idea is also to promote ecotourism, a relatively new concept in Lebanon, where tourism has long relied on attractions such as the temples of Baalbek, the ancient port of Byblos and the Cedars, along with Beirut.
Unlike wilderness routes popular in North America, the Lebanon trail includes many villages, with money spent on guides and accommodation intended to stimulate the rural economy. It uses centuries-old paths, some disfigured by litter careless dumping, hunting, tree-cutting and illegal building are among many threats to Lebanon's landscape and wildlife.
The 20-km stretch between the towns of Ehden and Bsherri via the Qadisha valley proves exhilarating, if strenuous.
The little stone church of Mart Moura on the outskirts of Ehden, where the walk begins, is an immediate plunge into the arcane but bloody Christian quarrels of the Byzantine era. "It's one of a series of churches built by the Jacobites until they were pushed out of the area or killed by the (Maronite) people of Ehden in the 1400s," says Paul Khawaja, a climber and cave explorer who advises Ecodit's environmentalist team on mapping issues. The feud was rooted in a theological conflict over the divine nature of Christ. The narrow path leads past a ruined water mill to Ain Tourin village and then winds steeply down, crossing and recrossing a cascading stream.
In the woods, botanist Nizar Hani points out clumps of thyme and other edible, medicinal or aromatic plants. "People collect wild plants like oregano or cress and offer them to customers in restaurants. They are delicious," he says.
In the valley lies the St Anthony monastery of Qozhaya, dating to the Seventh century or earlier, while the Maronite monastery houses a 17th Century printing press, one of the oldest in the Middle East.
After a steady climb to Hawka village comes a knee-punishing descent down hundreds of man-made steps to Escobar's eyrie. The path then winds past more monasteries, chapels and caves to a river rushing through a gorge alongside Qannoubin, the only permanently inhabited village in Lebanon without road access.
Finally the trail ascends sharply from the Qadisha valley floor to the apple orchards on the edge of Bsherri, the birthplace of Lebanese-American poet Gibran Khalil Gibran. By that time, weary hikers racing nightfall might need Gibran's exhortation:
"March on. Do not tarry ... March on and fear not the thorns or the sharp stones on life's path."
Source: Reuters

Editorial Comment: A message to Lebanese women: Hezbollah wants an Islamic State in Lebanon. The following is an example of what the “Resistance” will be doing in the streets of Beirut once they “liberate” the Shebaa Farms and Jerusalem. Is this what Lebanese women really want?

Iranian Police Enforces "Islamic Dress Code" on Women in the Streets of Tehran

Following are excerpts from various TV reports on the enforcement of the Islamic dress code in Iran. The reports were aired on the Iranian News Channel (IRINN) on April 15, 2007.[From MEMRI TV].

Iranian Interior Minister Mustafa Pour-Mohammadi: There have been cases in the past and in the present when [the Muslim dress code] came under attack, and it is our duty to protect this most valuable cultural treasure.


Dress code enforcer: The manteau you are wearing is tight and has a long slit. Don't you think it violates our society's norms? You live in an Islamic country, right? Your head is completely uncovered as well. Your make-up is too heavy.

Dress code enforcer: As an Iranian citizen, do you think the way you are dressed is appropriate?

Woman: My trousers aren't short, and nor is my manteau.

Dress code enforcer: But your head is uncovered, and that scarf you are wearing – do you think it is appropriate?

Woman: So the problem is only with my hair?

Dress code enforcer: Of course. Your head is uncovered. Please rearrange your scarf. What you are wearing is a sarafan. In the Islamic dress code, this is not acceptable as an appropriate covering.

Woman: Why not? It has sleeves, and it is not short...

Dress code enforcer: No, what you are wearing is a sarafan. Do you admit that it's a sarafan?

Woman: So what's the difference between a sarafan and a manteau? It's got sleeves like a manteau.


Dress code enforcer: Come here, please. Good day. You are an Iranian citizen and a resident of Tehran, just like me. Don't you think that what you are wearing is problematic with regard to the Islamic social norms? What do you think, dear lady? Is it or is it not problematic? Do you agree that it is problematic? Your scarf is too thin, your hair is showing, and your manteau is short and tight. Please be more careful. When you go out, make sure you follow the social norms of this country.

Dress code enforcer: Please wait here for a few moments. Your hair is showing from the back. Your manteau is... Your trousers are too short. Please come with us into the bus. We have some things to discuss with you...

Woman: We are visitors in Tehran.

Dress code enforcer: From where?

Woman: Kermanshah.

Dress code enforcer: So make sure you don't wear that again.

Editorial Comment: Naim Qassem acknowledges that everything that Hezbollah does in Lebanon is based on instructions from Iran. How can Hezbollah claim to be acting in the interests of Lebanon? How can Gebran Bassil continue to tell the Lebanese that the FPM-Hezbollah alliance is good for Lebanon?

Deputy Secretary-General of Hizbullah, Sheik Naim Qassem: We Received Jurisprudent Permission from Iran to Carry Out "Martyrdom" Operations”

Al-Kawthar TV on April 16, 2007 [Translated by MEMRI TV]

Naim Qassem: As for the issue of the culture of death, the culture of martyrdom, the culture of life – with all its different names... It is no secret that the materialistic West, and the atheists in general, and all those who see that the power of Islam is on the rise, and that it is gaining influence – and especially with regard to the philosophy of martyrdom-seeking... They all take a negative position and exert pressure, in order to make the believers abandon the culture of martyrdom. What is the reason? They seek (the pleasures of) this world and compete in this world. They know that if we competed with them according to the rules of this world, they would overcome us, because they are more materialistic than us. Therefore, by materialistic criteria, they would be victorious. But if they compete with us on the issue of faith, we will overcome them, because the competitive power of faith is greater, stronger, and more influential.

So they challenge us, or provoke us, by saying that we have a culture of death. They call martyrdom "death," in order to make us renounce martyrdom. If we renounce martyrdom, we will only have the strength of our weapons and our numbers, and then they will be able to overcome us. The enemies will be able to overcome us.


Do we really believe in a culture of death? Absolutely not. We believe in the culture of martyrdom. Martyrdom is valuable, sacred, respectable, and great, not something that can be used as an accusation. It is an honor for us to be accused of believing in the culture of martyrdom. What is martyrdom? It is death for the sake of Allah, and in defense of what is just. Can martyrdom change the fact that a person dies when his time has come? "When their time comes, they shall not remain another hour, nor go before it." We say that one way or the other, a person dies at a specific time. Brother, instead of dying – when your time is up - in your bed, die – when your time is up - on the battlefront, through martyrdom.


Let's see if this culture of martyrdom is a culture of death or of life. It is, in fact, a culture of life, because whoever strives for martyrdom does so in order to improve his materialistic life, to prevent the enemies from occupying his land, and to live in pride, honor, and freedom. Therefore, he is improving his life circumstances, by preventing the enemies from accomplishing their goals. Therefore, this is the most noble culture of honorable life in this world, and of life in the world to come – in the event that his life comes to an end.


Hizbullah, when it comes to matters of jurisprudence pertaining to its general direction, as well as to its Jihad direction, based itself on the decisions of the Jurisprudent. It is the Jurisprudent who permits, and it is the Jurisprudent who forbids. When the resistance of Hizbullah was launched in 1982, it was based on the jurisprudent position and decision of Imam Khomeini, who deemed fighting Israel to be an obligation, and therefore, we adhered to this opinion. How Israel should be fought, what equipment you should prepare, when you should or shouldn't attack – there questions are guided by principles in Islamic religious law, and you can act in this direction, according to your abilities. Therefore, we covered our Jihad position with regard to fighting Israel with the decision of the Jurisprudent. With regard to all the other details – whenever we need jurisprudent clarifications regarding what is permitted and what is forbidden on the Jihad front, we ask, receive general answers, and implement then. Even with regard to martyrdom operations – a person cannot kill himself unless he has jurisprudent permission. Since, as a Shura council, we have the authority to make decisions on martyrdom operations, and then there are operative channels to carry this out... Let's assume that some Lebanese citizen gets it into his head to carry out a martyrdom operation without consulting anybody - it is not certain that he is carrying out his duty according to religious law. He might be committing a sin, because despite the sanctity attributed to an act of such a high level, it requires permission, it requires operative channels, and it requires someone who can evaluate whether this is good or not, because lives are at stake. Even with regard to the firing of missiles on Israeli citizens, when they were bombing citizens on our side... This was done in order to put pressure on them. Even that required general permission based on Islamic law. As for Hizbullah, it receives general permission from the Jurisprudent, and if we have questions regarding the religious law, there are channels through which we can learn what is permitted and what is forbidden, what is our obligation, and what is the extent of our freedom of choice.

Editorial Comment: Religious backwardness cannot override nature. It can repress it and suppress it, but it won’t eliminate it. Islamic fundamentalists claim that Islam has the answer to what they call the “degeneracy” of all other cultures, religions, and secularism. Like the Church of the Middle Ages, they don’t want the world to know is that all manner of sexual practices go on behind closed doors – from homosexuality, the sexual abuse of children and even bestiality, which in some cases are even permitted by the religious texts themselves.

Following are excerpts from a TV report on Saudi women and web cams, which aired on LBC TV on April 18, 2007 [From MEMRI TV]:

Reporter: Behind closed doors and far from any supervising eyes, they remove their shame and turn their backs on all customs and traditions. Girls display their bodies in chat rooms on the Internet, in most cases, free of charge. As soon as one of these girls places the camera in front of her, she begins to strip, displaying her seductive charms to more than 300 young men of different ages. Some believe that the phenomenon of stripping over the Internet may be understood within the framework of social hypocrisy, especially since they believe that our religious and educational discourse does not attribute importance to the strengthening of self-restraint, and prefers the appearance over the essence. This drives some people to play several roles and wear several masks.

Commentator: Women are seeking emotions and admiration. This way, she gets words of admiration for her personality and even her body. She might remove one piece of clothing after another, in order to gain this admiration.


Reporter: On the other hand, many believe that web stripping has not reached the proportions of a phenomenon, and that these are merely isolated cases. They emphasize that the vast majority of our girls protect their modesty and respect the customs, and traditions. These people believe that web cams can be useful tools. They can be used to maintain family ties, and can have educational applications, in lectures and conferences, for example.

Many young men and women believe that the endless prohibitions drive them to hide behind closed doors, and surf in relations that rebel against all costumes and traditions, in search of love, in some cases, and in order to satisfy their urges, in other cases, especially since the Internet gives them the opportunity to openly declare their repressed desires without fear.

Young Saudi woman in shopping mall: The girls misuse the web cams. They take them into their rooms, and even their families do not know that they have cameras, or what the girls use their laptops or web cams for.

Young Saudi man in shopping mall: A girl can buy a web cam for a very cheap price, 70-75 riyals. She takes it to her room, closes the door, and begins the show.

Reporter: Although Saudi Arabia has a strict mechanism to block access to site that are immoral, these chat rooms are available to all. Teenagers are the most frequent visitors to these sites.

The camera scans her body, sending an image, with all the details, to the other party. The further she goes with her stripping, the mare admiration she harvests, until she becomes a star, applauded by the masses – or so she imagines.

Saudi psychologist Samira Al Ghamadi: Instead of becoming upset that such images are being broadcast, we should ask why such things happen in our homes. Why do our children enter these sites? Out of curiosity. They seek answers to things we never explain to them. We tell them that this is forbidden, and shameful, shameful, shameful, shameful... We never answer them. We always say: "They will learn in the future." But they learn the wrong things, I am very sorry to say. We do not give them a sense of security. We do not give them enough room to express themselves, so they go to chat rooms. Many women might be upset with me for saying so, but there are married women whose husbands constantly pressure them, while they themselves go out at night and hang out. So the wife withdraws into the Internet and meet many people. She chooses an imaginary name, and meets guys who value her and treat her properly, while on the other hand, her husband humiliates her. Why wouldn't she go there?