May 21/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 17,20-26.
I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them."

Free Opinions
SYRIA'S DECEPTION.New York Post. May 21/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for May 21/05/07
CHRONOLOGY-Events in Lebanon since Hariri's killing.Reuters
Lebanon army battles militants in north, 48 killed.Reuters Canada
Lebanon battles Palestinian fundamentalists - 31 dead (2nd Roundup)Monsters and
On-the-spot: Lebanese battle militants in Tripoli.Times Online
Solana heads to Middle East.Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Battles Rage Between Army, Fatah al-Islam in North Lebanon-Naharnet
Clashes Between Army, Militants Raise Fears for Lebanon's Stability
Fatfat: Ziads' Killers Could be Hiding in Beirut's Southern Suburbs
Lebanese Pair 1st to Be Charged Under Canadian Human Trafficking Law
Fatah al-Islam an emerging threat for Lebanon.Monsters and
Syria closes border with Lebanon
.Monsters and
Syria temporary closes border with Lebanon
.Jerusalem Post
Lebanon army battles militants in north, 11 killed.Malaysia Star
Lebanon Troops Battle Islamic Militants.Guardian Unlimited
LEBANON: Palestinians face siege after 11 Lebanese soldiers killed
Islamic militants and security forces battle in north Lebanon city.USA Today
Hezbollah says not to recognize president elected by simple majority
.People's Daily Online
Key Security Council Members Begin to Act on International Tribunal
Gunmen Hit Bank in North Lebanon

Lebanon army battles militants in north, 11 killed
May 20, 2007
By Nazih Siddiq -NAHR AL-BARED, Lebanon (Reuters) - Lebanese troops battled al Qaeda-linked militants in northern Lebanon on Sunday and at least 11 people were killed, seven of them soldiers, security sources said. They said the fighting broke out between the Lebanese army and members of the Fatah al-Islam militant group after security forces raided homes in Tripoli to arrest suspects accused of robbing a bank in the city a day earlier. Smoke rises from the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon May 20, 2007. Lebanese troops battled al Qaeda-linked militants in northern Lebanon on Sunday and at least 11 people were killed, seven of them soldiers, security sources said. (REUTERS/Omar Ibrahim) Three soldiers were killed in the clashes at the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp. The militants also attacked an army patrol in the Koura region of northern Lebanon, killing four soldiers, a senior security official said.
Four Fatah al-Islam fighters had been killed in the camp, which is home to 40,000 Palestinian refugees and near Tripoli. The army had tightened its grip around Nahr al-Bared camp since authorities charged Fatah al-Islam members with twin bus bombings in a Christian area near Beirut in February. Three civilians were killed by the bombs. The Lebanese government has accused Fatah al-Islam, a Palestinian-led group that broke away from the Syrian-backed Fatah al-Intifada last year of being linked to the Syrian government. Syria denied the charge.
Cabinet minister Ahmad Fatfat, speaking in Tripoli, linked the violence to what he said were efforts to derail U.N. moves to set up an international tribunal for suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. A U.N. probe has implicated Syria and Lebanese officials in the Hariri killing. Damascus denies any involvement. "There is someone trying to create security chaos to say to world public opinion: 'Look, if the tribunal is established, there will be security trouble in Lebanon,'" Fatfat told Lebanon's pro-government Future TV. The United States, France and Britain last week circulated a draft U.N. resolution that would unilaterally set up the court.
The rattle of assault rifles and machineguns could be heard, and thuds from explosions rocked the Nahr al-Bared area after the fighting broke out before dawn. Residents were trapped indoors and movement in the camp was dangerous. The army sent in reinforcements to the outskirts of camp.
An army statement said Fatah al-Islam had attacked army posts around the camp and in northern Tripoli. The army is not allowed into the camp under a 38-year-old agreement with the Palestinian leadership. Security forces also clashed with gunmen in Tripoli itself while trying to arrest Fatah al-Islam members suspected of robbing a bank on Saturday, officials said. Four members of the security forces were wounded in the clashes in Lebanon's third largest city, security sources said.
Fatah al-Islam statements have appeared on Islamist Web sites known to publish al Qaeda statements. The group was formed last year by fighters who broke off from the pro-Syrian Fatah Uprising group. (Additional reporting by Beirut bureau)

Syria closes border with Lebanon
May 20, 2007, 10:23 GMT
Damascus - A Syrian Interior Ministry source said Sunday that, due to the security circumstances in northern Lebanon, it was closing the border with Lebanon.
'... To preserve the security of Syrian and Lebanese inhabitants, the interior ministry has decided to close all border outlets at Arydha and Daboussyah in northern Syria till the security situation in northern Lebanon is settled down,' the ministry said in a statement. Syria's official SANA news agency, which carried the brief statement, did not give any further details. Lebanese forces engaged in deadly fighting with Fatah al-Islam, which affiliates with the international al-Qaeda terrorist network, in Tripoli and a nearby Palestinian refugee camp early Sunday. The clashes ended with the killing of at least seven Lebanese soldiers. Media reports said at least three militants died in the fighting, which involved tank and grenade fire. Fatah al-Islam is an offshoot of the pro-Syrian Fatah Uprising. Fatah Uprising broke from the mainstream Palestinian Fatah movement in the early 1980s and has headquarters in Syria. © 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Fatah al-Islam an emerging threat for Lebanon

© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur
By Weedah Hamzah May 20, 2007, 13:54 GMT
Tripoli, Lebanon - The sound of explosions and gunfire echoed Sunday across the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli as the Lebanese Army battled militants of the newly-emerged Fatah al- Islam movement, which is believed to have close links with Syria and with the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
The clashes, in which at least 14 people were killed, caused panic and anger in this usually peaceful city, populated mainly by Sunni Muslims.
'We thought those insurgents were only confined to the Palestinian camp of Naher al-Bard which is located at the outskirts of our city. Today we see that they live among us,' Tripoli resident Mohammed Kabbara told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
'We do not want people using the name of Islam to come to our city, fight our army and police and steal from our banks ... this is not Islam,' he added.
Many residents were woken at dawn by the sounds of automatic gunfire and detonating hand grenades. Most immediately assumed that the clashes were between rival Lebanese factions.
'When I heard the sound of machine guns, I thought there is battle raging between the Lebanese political factions, but I was shocked when I heard that Fatah al-Islam was attacking the Lebanese Army posts at the entrance of their camp,' resident Rashed Fatfat said.
The clashes in Naher al-Bard started shortly after police raided a militant-occupied apartment in Tripoli. The police were looking for suspects in a bank robbery a day earlier in Amioun, northern Lebanon, in which gunmen made off with 125,000 dollars in cash.
A security source in Tripoli told dpa that a car used by the four gunmen who robbed the Mediterranean Bank branch was identified as one of the vehicles used by Fatah al-Islam. At dawn Sunday, the armed militants resisted arrest and a gunbattle ensued.
Witnesses said Fatah al-Islam gunmen subsequently seized Lebanese army positions at the entrance to the camp. The gunmen also opened fire on roads leading to the city and ambushed a military unit, security officials said. Tripoli's streets were shuttered and roads leading to the city were blocked by the army to avoid civilian casualties. Troops could be seen in the Zahriyeh neighbourhood besieging a building where militants had taken refuge and were demanding they surrender.
Soldiers across the city were seen taking position with automatic rifles and rocket launchers. The incident with Fatah-al Islam has raised concern among Lebanese security officials, who speculated that the militants had been paid by a third party to destabilize the situation in Lebanon.
The clashes prompted Saad Hariri, leader of the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority and head of the largest Sunni political faction the Future Movement, to urge supporters in northern Lebanon to cooperate with authorities in the crackdown against such militants. It is known that some areas at the outskirts of Tripoli are hotbeds of Sunni fundamentalist groups linked with al-Qaeda. On December 31, 2000, violence flared between the Lebanese Army and some Sunni Lebanese fundamentalists, believed to have been also linked to al-Qaeda, in a region near Tripoli called Dinniyeh.
The resulting battles killed at least nine Lebanese army soldiers among them a general and the arrest of several sunni militants.
According to Lebanese security sources Fatah al-Islam is led by fugitive Palestinian Shakir al-Abssi, who trains fighters and spreads the ideology of al-Qaeda from the Naher al-Bard refugee camp. The sources added that Fatah al-Islam was formed by fighters of the former pro-Syrian Fatah Uprising group.
The sources said the group is backed by the Syrian intelligence forces and is using bank robberies in northern Lebanon as a source of funding.
Unconfirmed reports said that al-Abssi is a former associate of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, slain former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.
A Jordanian court sentenced both men in absentia to death over the 2002 assassination of US diplomat Laurence Foley.
The sources said that Abssi has assembled militia of 150 men and arsenal of explosives, rockets and even anti-aircraft guns in just four months.
Abssi has said in previous interviews said that the US must be punished for its presence in Islamic world. Tensions have increased around the Naher al-Bard camp since the emergence of Fatah al-Islam earlier this year after they were accused by the Lebanese government of being behind a bus bombing in a Christian area in February that killed three people and wounded 20 others. The Lebanese army has since then tightened its grip around the Naher al-Bard camp.
The Lebanese army cannot enter Palestinian refugee camps under the 38-year-old Cairo agreement, which states that security inside the camps is in the hands of Palestinian forces.

Battles Rage Between Army, Fatah al-Islam in North Lebanon
The Lebanese army engaged in deadly fighting with Fatah al-Islam militants in the northern port city of Tripoli and the adjacent Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared Sunday, officials said. The army said 13 soldiers and 14 gunmen were killed in the fighting, which involved tank and grenade fire. Nineteen soldiers and 14 police officers were also wounded, security officials said. LBCI TV station said three of the fighters were killed when Lebanese soldiers launched an assault at noon on Abdo building in Tripoli's Miatain street where the militants were hiding. It said a fighter was arrested during the clashes.
At least seven vehicles were also burned and many more damaged in the building's surroundings, the LBCI added. The Lebanese media also reported that Syria temporarily closed its border with northern Lebanon following the heavy battles. The fighting between army troops surrounding Nahr al-Bared and gunmen from the terrorist group began at dawn after a gunbattle raged in a Tripoli neighborhood.
Witnesses said Fatah al-Islam militants seized Lebanese army positions at the entrance to the camp. They also opened fire on roads leading to the city and ambushed a military unit, the security officials said. The army brought reinforcements and was firing on Fatah al-Islam positions. Black and white smoke billowed from the camp.LBCI said more than 17 injured people, including children, were trapped inside the camp.
In Beirut, legislator Saad Hariri issued an appeal for calm and called for the population of Tripoli to cooperate with the Lebanese army.
Premier Fouad Saniora described the assault on the army as a crime against national stability and the spiritual leader of the Sunnis in Lebanon Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani urged the Lebanese not to get involved in attempts to sow civil strife. But a Fatah al-Islam spokesman said the group only fought to defend itself.
"We acted in self-defense after brothers of ours in Tripoli were subjected to arrests," Abu Salim, identified as a spokesman for the group, told the Associated Press by phone from inside Nahr el-Bared. He claimed the Sunnis were under attacks and "we rose to defend our people."
Tripoli was shuttered and roads were deserted. Scores of troops armed with automatic rifles and rocket launchers had taken positions on city streets and the army was bringing reinforcements from other regions with 10 armored vehicles headed to Tripoli from the south. The clashes in Nahr al-Bared started shortly after police raided a militant-occupied apartment in Tripoli. The police were looking for suspects in a bank robbery a day earlier in Amioun in which gunmen made off with $125,000 in cash. A security source told Naharnet on Saturday that the escape car of four gunmen, who had robbed the Mediterranean Bank branch, has been identified as one of the vehicles used by Fatah al-Islam. The source noted that members of the group had robbed two banks in Tripoli and the southern coastal village of Gaziyeh earlier this year to finance terrorist attacks in Lebanon.
It was the worst fighting in Lebanon's second-largest city in more than two decades, security officials. At one point, TV footage showed an army helicopter pursuing a militant vehicle in north Lebanon's Balamand area. LBCI said the region was completely deserted. In April, a Lebanese soldier was killed in a shootout with Fatah al-Islam gunmen at the edge of Nahr al-Bared, a camp of 30,000 refugees.Police had also arrested a number of Fatah al-Islam members in connection with the twin bus bombings in the town of Ein Alaq on Feb. 13 which killed and wounded at least 20 people.(AP-AFP-Naharnet)
Beirut, 20 May 07, 07:35

Clashes Between Army, Militants Raise Fears for Lebanon's Stability
Deadly clashes between Fatah al-Islam militants and Lebanese troops on Sunday drew expressions of concern both at home and abroad for the stability of a country already gripped by a six-month-old political crisis. Lebanon's feuding leaders showed rare unanimity in appealing for public support for the army and security forces in their efforts to face the fighters. Russia led the chorus of concern from foreign governments about the deadly clashes in the northern port city of Tripoli and the outskirts of the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp. "Such an upsurge of violence in an already tense situation in Lebanon gives rise to deep anxiety," a Russian foreign ministry statement said. "These tragic events underline the need for respect by all parties of Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence."The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, whose economic powerhouse Saudi Arabia is Lebanon's leading foreign financier, condemned clashes that "only destabilize fraternal Lebanon."
Its secretary general Abdulrahman al-Attiyah called on all groups present on Lebanese soil to "maintain its territorial integrity, sovereignty and stability," in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency. President Emile Lahoud and Premier Fouad Saniora, whose backers have refused to recognize each other's authority for months, both issued calls for support for the security forces. Lahoud called on the "judicial authorities to interrogate those militants in custody to determine who is behind their actions and what is the goal of their attacks."He urged the public to "cooperate with the judiciary and the security forces to restore calm."Saniora called on the people of Lebanon to "join ranks behind the army and Lebanese security forces."
"The blows dealt by Fatah al-Islam against the Lebanese army are a premeditated crime and a dangerous attempt to destabilize (Lebanon)," he said.
Parliament speaker Nabih Berri also issued a statement condemning the iolence.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 20 May 07, 18:16

Fatfat: Ziads' Killers Could be Hiding in Beirut's Southern Suburbs
Youth and Sports Minister Ahmed Fatfat has said the killers of Ziad Qabalan and Ziad Ghandour could be hiding in Beirut's southern suburbs.
An Nahar daily on Sunday quoted Fatfat as saying that the killers are "known and they are from the Shamas family." Qabalan, 25, and Ghandour, 12, were found dead last month three days after being kidnapped. Their families are members of the Progressive Socialist Party of Druze leader Walid Jumblat, a prominent figure in the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority. The media has speculated that there was a link between their kidnapping and the killing of pro-Hizbullah Adnan Shamas, 29, who was slaughtered during sectarian street clashes in January. "There is information that the accused are in the southern suburbs while other information reveals that they might have run out of the country," Fatfat said. "But for sure there will be no impunity for the culprits even after 50 years," he added.
Beirut, 20 May 07, 07:53

Lebanese Pair 1st to Be Charged Under Canadian Human Trafficking Law
A Montreal couple of Lebanese origin has become the first in Canada to be charged under a new human trafficking law for allegedly exploiting a 29-year-old Ethiopian woman, federal police have said.
"This is the first time in Canada that human trafficking charges are laid in a case of international scope," the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement.
The woman was allegedly forced to do household work non-stop, denied access to her identity papers, was not allowed outside the residence alone, and was prohibited from using the telephone. The owners of the residence where she worked face charges of trafficking in persons, receiving material benefit from it, and withholding travel or identity documents. Her employers, using threats to intimidate her, allegedly told her on several occasions that Canadian authorities would send her back to Ethiopia if she talked to anyone about her situation. The young woman had come to Canada on a temporary resident visa, but applications for extensions of her visitor status were denied. If convicted, the couple faces possible life sentences and one million Canadian dollars (900,000 US) in fines.
The human trafficking law was enacted in November 2005.(AFP) (AFP photo shows delegates standing behind anti-trafficking posters in 2005 at the anti trafficking of women and girls conference in Kuala Lumpur) Beirut, 20 May 07, 07:02

NEW 'PEACE' PLOY JUST A BID TO CLOSE MURDER PROBE They've always known the killer: The 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri triggered months of Lebanese protests like this oneó all blaming Syria. May 20, 2007 -- TALK to anyone familiar with the United Nations' investigation into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Pre mier Rafik Hariri, and you'll hear the same message: It's an open-and-shut case.
Serge Brammertz, the European judge who heads the investigation, says he has more than enough evidence to initiate prosecution against those he has identified as suspects. Endorsing that position is the democratically elected Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora - backed, if opinion polls are right, by more than 65 percent of the nation's people.
Yet the U.N. Security Council, which ordered the investigation soon after Hariri's murder in February 2005, still can't decide whether or not to bring the perpetrators to justice.
LIKE any murder inquiry, the investigation into Hariri's assassination had to establish three facts: motive, ability and opportunity.
Detlev Mehlis, Brammertz' predecessor, established the motive for the murder as early as the autumn of 2005. He came out with evidence that showed the Syrian leadership, possibly at the highest level, had at one point decided that Hariri was the only Lebanese leader capable of challenging their old ambitions in Lebanon. At the start of 2005, none of the other players in the Lebanese political scene had any particular interest in wishing Hariri out of the way.
Mehlis' interim report was copiously leaked - and he was forced out of his job under heavy pressure from Syria. (Pointing to the fact that he was of Jewish extraction, the Syrians claimed that the judge was acting on behalf of "the Zionist-Crusader conspiracy.")
Mehlis was less successful in providing evidence showing that Syria and its allies in the Lebanese secret services had both the ability and the opportunity to carry out the murder. It was clear that those who ordered the murder wanted to cover their tracks by injecting into what was a military operation elements of an amateurish exercise.
HARIRI'S murder had unin tended consequences. The Lebanese were so outraged that, setting aside the differences between their communities, they turned out en masse to demand that Syria end its 30-year-long occupation of their country. In the general election that followed, the pro-Hariri bloc and its allies won a majority in the parliament and formed a government dedicated to bringing the murderers to justice.
Unable to stop the investigation, Syria (backed by the Islamic Republic in Iran) tried to put Lebanese politics on a trajectory that would marginalize the Hariri case. The Syrians deployed Emile Lahoud - the president they had imposed on the Lebanese for a further three years - to paralyze the Siniora government.
Under Lebanon's Constitution, laws passed by the parliament and senior appointments made by the government must receive presidential assent to take effect. Prompted by the Syrians, Lahoud has been withholding his assent, effectively preventing the government from implementing the program for which it was elected.
Lahoud's extended term will end later this year, depriving the Syrians of their veto within the Lebanese political system. But they have another card to play: Hezbollah and its ally, Maronite ex-Gen. Michel Aoun.
Last summer, Hezbollah tried to relieve pressure on Syria by triggering a war with Israel. It wound up losing its bases in southern Lebanon and left hundreds of its fighters on the battlefield. The war did earn Syria some respite - but at a cost that Hezbollah won't be able to recover from anytime soon.
ONCE it had become clear that even a war with Israel wouldn't stop the Hariri investigation, Syria and its allies in Tehran launched what amounted to an attempt at staging a coup through street politics. For months, Hezbollah and its Aounite allies besieged the seat of the government, managing to bring work to a halt in a number of ministries. In the meantime, political assassinations continued unabated.
Having failed to kill the Hariri investigation through war, street action and targeted killings, those who do not want the truth to be fully established have now switched to diplomacy.
The encounter between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Syrian counterpart, Wahid Muallem, in Egypt earlier this month was the first of many moves by Damascus to prevent the convening of the international tribunal on the Hariri murder.
The carrot that Syria is dangling is the prospect of revived peace talks with Israel. Syrian leaders laid out this prospect for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when she visited Damascus last spring. It is supposed to be so attractive as to trump all other considerations, including the Hariri murder investigation.
SYRIA believes that the Ha riri investigation was a pet project of the Bush administration and French ex-President Jacques Chirac. With Chirac retired and Bush's time in the White House winding down, all that Syria needs is to buy time - which it's trying to do by courting Pelosi and wooing beleaguered Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Allowing such dilatory tactics to succeed, however, would have a deadly effect on the politics of the Middle East far beyond the Hariri case. It would endorse state-sanctioned murder as a legitimate tool of politics, and deal a further blow to the United Nations' already shaky authority.
It could also kill the democratic aspirations of the Lebanese people and expose the Western democracies as opportunistic powers less interested in their declared values than in securing concessions from the despotic regimes.
The Security Council has the moral and political duty to positively respond to the Lebanese government's demand and formally set up the tribunal that it promised more than two years ago.
**Iranian-born journalist Amir Taheri is based in Europe.