May 31/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 10,32-45.
They were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them. They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them what was going to happen to him. Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise." Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." He replied, "What do you wish (me) to do for you?" They answered him, "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left." Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"They said to him, "We can." Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared." When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Free Opinion
General Aoun and the French Messages.Randa Takieddin-Dar Al-Hayat May 31/07
Patience and wisdom will be required to defeat terrorism in Lebanon.Daily Star. May 31/07
Back to Beirut, hoping for a more united Lebanon.By Ghassan Rubeiz. May 31/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for May 31/05/07
UN Security Council OKs Lebanon Tribunal.Forbes
U.N. Sets Up Tribunal to Try Hariri's Killers. Naharnet
Emotional Saad Hariri Urges Lebanese to Join Hands-Naharnet

National unity government, a new president and elections are
Renewed Fighting at Nahr al-Bared Threatens Shaky Truce-Naharnet]
Lebanon: Woman loses leg to cluster bomb in south.Jerusalem Post
Al-Qaida Ranking Terrorist Doubling for Syrian Intelligence Arrested in Lebanon-Naharnet
Study: Lebanon One of Least Peaceful Countries in World, Better than Israel
Fatah al-Islam Members Charged with Terrorism
Turkish Authorities Confiscate Weapons Sent by Iran to Syria
Lebanese Await International Tribunal, Hariri Urges Calm
US Calls for Vote on Lebanon Tribunal.Washington Post
Hezbollah Denounces Hariri Tribunal.Alalam News Network
Aboud: There is Urgent Need to Activate Truce.Naharnet
Lebanese opposition figure wants Fatah Islam group brought to
Pelsoi's Common Ground With Assad, Ahmadinejad.RealClearPolitics
Rice Cautions Israel On Syria.Free Internet Press
Turkey seizes weapons in Syria-bound container from Iran.International Herald Tribune
MECC Holds its Annual Partners╣ Meeting in Harisa, Lebanon.Worldwide Faith News (press release)
War clouds again.Khaleej Times
Qatar voices reservations on Hariri tribunal-Daily Star
Lahoud calls for 6-member 'salvation cabinet' during rare visit to Bkirki-Daily Star
Fighting escalates between Lebanese Army, militants-Daily Star
Visiting lawmaker: US 'strongly' backs Hariri court-Daily Star
Rival MPs trade blame over clashes in North-Daily Star
Belgian UNIFIL troops organize games in South-Daily Star
UNIFIL troops mark International Day of UN Peacekeepers-Daily Star
Radical cleric warns of Al-Qaeda backlash if seige drags on-Daily Star
Private hospital opens doors to victims hurt in clashes-Daily Star
Woman dies after being shot by police-Daily Star
All the world is a stage for American street musician in Beirut-Daily Star
As summer draws near, some Lebanese choose dirt over sand-Daily Star

UN Security Council OKs Lebanon Tribunal
By EDITH M. LEDERER 05.30.07,
Associated Press
A deeply divided U.N. Security Council approved a resolution Wednesday to unilaterally establish an international tribunal to prosecute suspects in the assassination of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.The vote was 10-0 with five abstentions - Russia, China, South Africa, Indonesia and Qatar. Nine votes were needed for passage.Current Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora asked the council earlier this month to establish the tribunal. He cited the refusal of opposition-aligned Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to convene a session to ratify the statutes to create the tribunal, which have already been approved by his government and the United Nations. The resolution gives the Lebanese parliament a last chance to establish the tribunal itself.
If it doesn't act by June 10, the U.N.-Lebanon agreement will automatically "enter into force," creating a tribunal outside Lebanon with a majority of international judges and an international prosecutor. The tribunal will be established under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which deals with threats to international peace and can be militarily enforced. The Russians, Chinese, South Africans, Indonesians and Qataris all objected to putting the resolution under Chapter 7, saying it is unnecessary because all U.N. Security Council resolutions are legally binding. The U.S., Britain and France, which drafted the resolution, disagreed and insisted Chapter 7 must be included.The suicide truck bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others in Beirut in February 2005 sparked huge demonstrations against Syria, which was widely seen as culpable. Syria denied involvement but was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, ending a 29-year presence.
The issue of an international tribunal has since fueled a deep political conflict between Saniora's Western-backed government and the Syrian-backed, Hezbollah-led opposition. The conflict has taken on an increasingly sectarian tone and erupted into street battles, killing 11 people in recent months. Chinese U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya warned that only a tribunal supported by all Lebanese factions can be effective. The council's move "will give rise to a series of political and legal problems, likely to add to the uncertainties embedded in the already turbulent political and security and situation in Lebanon," Wang said. It "will create a precedent of the Security Council interfering in the domestic affairs and legislative independence of the sovereign state," he added.
Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow supports bringing the perpetrators of Hariri's killing to justice, but he said that "given the deep rift in Lebanese society ... that should not lead to negative consequences."What the council has done, he said, "essentially is an encroachment upon the sovereignty of Lebanon."
But supporters of the resolution strongly disagreed. "The proposed tribunal is vital for Lebanon, for justice and for the region," British U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said. "This is not a capricious intervention, interference in the domestic political affairs of a sovereign state. It is a considered response by the council, properly taken, to a request from the government of Lebanon," he said. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said that "by adopting this resolution, the council has demonstrated its commitement to the principle that there should be no impunity for political assasination, in Lebanon or elsewhere."
"We know it was necessary and right for the council to act now," he said. "The tribunal will also serve to deter future political assasinations. Those who may be tempted to commit similar crimes will know there will be consequences for perpetuating political violence and intimidation in Lebanon."Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

Lebanese Await International Tribunal, Hariri Urges Calm
Most Lebanese waited Wednesday for a U.N. Security Council Resolution creating the long-expected International Tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes. Parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri, son and heir of the slain leader, urged supporters of the March 14 majority to behave in a "civilized" manner after endorsement of the tribunal resolution by the U.N. Security Council, scheduled for Wednesday evening (Middle East time).
Hariri also called on supporters of the majority to "light candles and raise Lebanese flags" after endorsement of the resolution.
He urged "calm and cautious behavior" to avoid an escalation of the security situation "which only serves the interests of parties that oppose the tribunal," Hariri said.
He was referring to Syria and its Lebanese allies in the Hizbullah-led opposition. Syria has been charged with responsibility for the Hariri murder and a spate of assassinations related to it. The Damascus regime, however, has denied the charge.
Hariri, in an interview with An Nahar's Youth supplement, said the Fatah al-Islam terrorist network which is fighting the Lebanese army in north Lebanon was set up by Syrian President Bashar Assad to torpedo efforts aimed at creating the International Tribunal and trying suspects in the 2005 murder and related crimes.
Syria has said it would not surrender any suspect to the international tribunal.
Meanwhile, western powers that back the majority Lebanese government of Premier Fouad Saniora said they planned to push for a Security Council vote Wednesday on their binding draft resolution to set up the tribunal. "The sponsors have decided to move forward ...and go for a vote tomorrow," U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Zalmay Khalilzad, who chairs the 15-member council this month, told reporters after closed-door consultations on the issue Tuesday. He said there were "sufficient votes to move forward" for a vote Wednesday afternoon.
The amended draft circulated late Friday and also co-sponsored by Belgium, Slovakia and Italy, sets June 10 as the date for the creation of the court unless rival Lebanese factions reach their own deal first, which would allow the treaty to come into force sooner. It was introduced at the request of Saniora and after U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon reported that the rival Lebanese parties were unable to reach agreement on parliamentary ratification of the tribunal deal.
The aim, the sponsors stress, is to ensure that there be no impunity for those responsible for the Hariri slaying and to deter such crimes in the future.
Hariri and 22 other people were killed in a massive bomb blast in February 2005, widely blamed on Syria, which was then forced to end nearly 30 years of military and political domination in Lebanon. An initial U.N. inquiry into the Hariri slaying implicated Damascus, which has denied any involvement.
Russia, a veto-wielding council member and a close ally of Syria, however voiced reservations to the draft's reference to Chapter Seven of the U.N. Charter, which is invoked in cases of threats to international peace and security. "We believe that there are better legal ways to do it (establish the court), which would avoid a number of serious legal and possibly political repercussions," Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters.
"The U.S. view is that the reference to Chapter Seven is necessary," Khalilzad retorted. "The risks of not moving forward are greater."
The sponsors said they were insisting on invoking the chapter to send "the clearest signal" to the Lebanese parties that the text is absolutely legally binding and that the creation of the tribunal cannot therefore be challenged. "We have introduced amendments to the text which is improved," French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said, stressing that additional minor changes were still possible to make the draft "even clearer".
He cited as an example the so-called "sunrise clause" that delays until June 10 implementation of the tribunal resolution to satisfy those council members who pressed for a grace period to allow the Lebanese rival parties to reach an internal agreement. The draft gives the Lebanese parties "a last chance to find a solution," de La Sabliere said. The Lebanon-U.N. deal envisages a mixed tribunal composed of two chambers, a trial court composed of three judges -- one of them Lebanese alongside two foreigners -- and an appeals court with five judges, including two Lebanese.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 30 May 07, 09:46

Study: Lebanon One of Least Peaceful Countries in World, Better than Israel
Lebanon is one of the least peaceful countries in the world, Norway is the safest and Iraq is the worst, according to a study released Wednesday.
The Global Peace Index, published a week before a Group of Eight (G8) summit in Germany, rates 121 countries from Algeria to Zimbabwe on factors including levels of violence, organized crime and military expenditure.
According to the study, Iraq is the least peaceful and Lebanon is 8th from the bottom and ranked 114th.
The United States fell to rank 96 while Russia occupied 118, or the fifth bottom-up. The index had Japan near the top, while Israel was worst than trouble-ridden Lebanon. "This is a wake-up call for leaders around the globe," said Steve Killelea, who commissioned the study from the Economist Intelligence Unit, which is linked to the news weekly The Economist. "Countries like Japan and Germany can give hope and optimism to countries further down the Index that there can be light at the end of what may seem at the moment like a very dark tunnel," he added. Overall the study found that small, stable countries which are part of regional blocs such as the 27-nation European Union are most likely to be more peaceful. Income and education are crucial in promoting peace, it said.
"I believe there is a link between the peacefulness and the wealth of nations and therefore business has a key role to play in peace," said Killelea.(AFP-Naharnet)
Here are the top 10 and bottom 10 countries in the index:
TOP 10
1. Norway
2. New Zealand
3. Denmark
4. Ireland
5. Japan
6. Finland
7. Sweden
8. Canada
9. Portugal
10. Austria
112. Angola
113. Ivory Coast
114. Lebanon
115. Pakistan
116. Colombia
117. Nigeria
118. Russia
119. Israel
120. Sudan
121. Iraq
Beirut, 30 May 07, 12:53

Fatah al-Islam Members Charged with Terrorism
Military Magistrate Jean Fahd indicted Wednesday 11 members of Fatah al-Islam with charges punishable by the death penalty according to Lebanon's penal code.
The 11 suspects, 10 Lebanese and one Syrian, were arrested in north Lebanon after breakout of clashes between the Lebanese army and the militants 11 days ago.
The suspects were among nearly 100 people rounded up by security agencies for possible affiliation with Fatah al-Islam.
The suspects were charged with "forming an armed gang with the intent of committing crimes against the population and property, targeting state authority, attacking public civilian and military institutions and carrying out terrorist attacks."Fahd is to interrogate later in the day another batch of suspects, a judicial source said.
The suspects will appoint lawyers to defend them at the military tribunal, which handles attacks on state security. No date has been set for the hearing.
At least 31 Lebanese soldiers have been killed in the ongoing clashes with Fatah al-Islam in north Lebanon. Lebanese security agents arrested Tuesday a terrorist mastermind in Beirut's Ashrafiyeh district and confiscated documents including lists of potential targets. Beirut, 30 May 07, 14:17

Al-Qaida Ranking Terrorist Doubling for Syrian Intelligence Arrested in Lebanon
Lebanese security agents have arrested a ranking al-Qaida terrorist who was acting as "a double agent for Syrian intelligence," a reliable source told Naharnet.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the suspect whose name and nationality could not be revealed pending completion of the ongoing investigation, was busted Tuesday at a hotel suite in Beirut's district of Ashrafiyeh. The "very dangerous terrorist," according to the source, had crossed into Lebanon "illegally" overland from neighboring Syria over the weekend to follow up "coordination with Fatah al-Islam terrorists" besieged in the northern refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared.
The suspect, a national of an oil-rich Arab country, used "two forged Lebanese identity cards, one identified him as Hagop and the second identified him as Ahmed Merie," the source said. "He also had 12 forged travel documents, including British, Arab and Latin American passports," added the source who asked not to be identified. The suspect, according to the source, had "sold out al-Qaida in favor of cooperation with Syrian intelligence after he was offered safe haven in Syria."
Last week, according to the source, the suspect "turned in to the Syrian intelligence a ranking Saudi member of al-Qaida known as Abu Talha. He did the Syrians a major favor that could help them boost their tense relations with the Americans."
Abu Talha, whose real name is not known, is on the U.S. list of most wanted terrorists, according to the source. After turning in Abu Talha, the Syrian intelligence command "sent the suspect to Lebanon to re-organize Fatah al-Islam and other Syrian-sponsored terrorists and sponsor a spate of attacks on a variety of targets in Lebanon aimed at destabilizing the situation," the source added. "The Syrians want to destabilize Lebanon and tell the Americans: 'We can control the situation like we arrested Abu Talha. Strike a deal with us and Lebanon would be under control'," the source said.
He said Fatah al-Islam terrorists arrested in north Lebanon "told investigators of the suspect's moves and revealed important information which led to his arrest."
He disclosed that within the framework of the crackdown of Fatah al-Islam terrorists police officers had "confiscated in several hideouts six scanning machines used to forge passports, identity cards and other documents." "Such forgeries are almost perfect and the fake documents, especially passports, can be discovered only by the respective nations' authorities. So these terrorists do not use them in the nations of issue," he explained.
Upon raiding the suspect's hotel suite, police officers confiscated "maps, pictures and a list of selected targets for terrorist attacks in Lebanon," the source told Naharnet. He said anti-terrorism police officers also confiscated "a large number of compact discs and a personal computer providing a wealth of information on terrorists' activities in Lebanon and the region."The source explained that al-Qaida is "no more a solid-structure network. Many of its ranking members have joined several intelligence agencies and are used to infiltrate, control and direct local Qaida-inspired fanatics to carry out attacks that serve the interests of these intelligence agencies."Fatah al-Islam, the source added, "is one of such local groups. Its members are inspired by al-Qaida ideology, but its attacks are directed by Syrian intelligence officers."Police have arrested at least 90 people on charges of affiliation with Fatah al-Islam and were under interrogation. The source said some of them have provided "priceless information related to terrorist activity." In a related development, the source said police also arrested "two Syrian nationals" that had with them "dozens of photographs of Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Abdul Aziz Khoja.""They had pictures of him at his apartment's balcony, at the entrance to the building and in so many other locations. It appears they were monitoring his moves in preparation for an attack on him," the source added without further elaboration. Security has been beefed up at major Lebanese cities and towns following outbreak of the clashes with Fatah al-Islam militants in the northern town of Tripoli 11 days ago and the spate of bombings that followed. The group, headed by Palestinian-Jordanian Shaker Absi, has vowed to attack a variety of targets throughout Lebanon if the army maintained the siege of its militants at Nahr al-Bared camp.(An Nahar photo shows the hotel where the terrorist mastermind was busted) Beirut, 29 May 07, 16:45

Lahoud Proposes Six-member Salvation Cabinet
President Emile Lahoud has proposed a "six-member cabinet of national salvation" during talks with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir as a way of resolving the country's ongoing political crisis. Lahoud proposed a cabinet of six ministers, "each representing one of the main religious communities" in his meeting with Sfeir in Bkirki on Tuesday. "Time is pressing to find a solution" to the crisis, Lahoud told reporters after meeting Sfeir. Lahoud said that a six-member cabinet would allow presidential elections scheduled for autumn to go ahead and would also end the open-ended opposition sit-in in downtown Beirut. Beirut, 30 May 07, 08:40

Turkish Authorities Confiscate Weapons Sent by Iran to Syria
Turkish authorities seized weapons hidden among construction materials on a Syria-bound train from Iran, according to a government official and news reports Wednesday. Turkey suspects Iran is using its land as a transit point to send arms to Hizbullah via Syria. The official, speaking Wednesday on condition of anonymity, said the cargo included machine guns and pistols. The private Dogan news agency said it included a rocket launch pad and 300 rockets as well as other weapons and ammunition. Turkish security sources told Agence France Presse that the cargo contained U.S.-made rocket launchers and rifles. The container was discovered when authorities checked the cargo of the train, bombed by separatist Kurdish guerrillas on May 25. The guerrillas had derailed eight cars of the train in a bomb blast near the town of Genc in the southeast province of Bingol. Private NTV television said authorities had launched an investigation into the weapons discovery.
On Tuesday evening, Turkish authorities forced a Syrian plane flying from Iran to land in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir and searched it for weapons. No arms were found. Turkey, the only Muslim member of NATO, borders both Iran and Syria. It has good relations with Israel and its Arab neighbors and has contributed troops to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.(AP-AFP-Naharnet) eirut, 30 May 07, 10:39

Patience and wisdom will be required to defeat terrorism in Lebanon

Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Editorial-Daily Star
The violence that erupted in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in North Lebanon has triggered an understandable sense of outrage among Lebanese citizens, and the gruesome attacks our soldiers have been perceived by all and sundry as an unacceptable assault on our nation. But a number of Lebanese, including prominent leaders in the ruling coalition, have responded to the attacks in a way that verges on hysteria, by hastily calling for storming the camp to mete out swift and heavy-handed punishment in response to these crimes.
But fortunately for the sake of the country, other Lebanese leaders have shown a greater degree of patience and wisdom, and in recent days Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has proven himself to be among them. In his approach toward this crisis, Siniora seems to have recognized that a reflexive response is not always the best one, and that the more difficult problems in life require careful and calculated solutions. Siniora has not backed down one iota from the demand that the militants of Fatah al-Islam be brought to justice; but he has also insisted that the government first strive to achieve a "peaceful solution" to the crisis if possible. Siniora seems to have in the final analysis concluded that while justice must be achieved, justice must not come at the price of the nation's unity or stability.
We have seen other countries, including the United States and Israel, fall into the trap of hysteria in the wake of a terrorist attack. Those states have already demonstrated the folly of launching hasty invasions and razing or occupying entire villages to strike back at the source of their grief. As the result of their rush to respond with force, both the US and Israel have won themselves new enemies and have cultivated even greater threats to themselves. And now both are struggling with the impossible challenge of putting the lid back on Pandora's box.
For the sake of our soldiers and the innocent civilians who still remain in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, as well as for the sake of our own unity and stability, Lebanese leaders will have to be smarter in their approach to confronting the terrorism that has taken root on our soil. All diplomatic options should be completely exhausted before a last resort is implemented. And even then, any military action must be patiently and carefully planned in coordination with Palestinian leaders in order to ensure that innocent lives are protected and that the potential for a disastrous backlash is reduced.
The battle in Nahr al-Bared will not be easy to win, and the militants have vowed that they will fight to the death and never surrender peacefully. But if patience and wisdom prevail in our response, so too will we.

Back to Beirut, hoping for a more united Lebanon
By Ghassan Rubeiz

Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Last week, the three explosions accompanying the sudden eruption of fighting between the Lebanese Army and the little known Fatah-al-Islam militia were indications that opportunists were exploiting the situation. There are myriad groups wishing to take advantage of the political vacuum resulting from the deadlock between the government and the Hizbullah-led opposition.
After a four-year absence, I arrived in Lebanon on May 11 for a short visit. The modern airport and its easy formalities were reassuring. I found Beirut streets cleaner than even before the Civil War. The renovated downtown overlooking the Mediterranean made a perfect postcard scene. The majesty of the mountain resorts was arresting. For Lebanese, preparing and enjoying food is a national sport. Restaurants were relatively busy; hotels were active; tourists' reservations for this summer were normal and planning for the annual Beiteddine festival was in progress. The Lebanese were thirsty for tourists, especially Western visitors. Their passion for life is incredible and their memory for political pain short.
Most Lebanese love the West and American culture in particular. The only American product that is questioned is US politics. Even those opposing the policies of Syria and Iran are weary, and wary, of US Middle East foreign policy.
The seize-the-day mentality is pragmatic, but it has made the Lebanese blind to the future and deaf to the past. My long absence reflected my growing doubt about the political future of a nation divided in identity and dependent on external powers. There are two cultural communities in Lebanon: one obsessed with modernity and Western consumerism; the other delusional about its role in political reform and territorial liberation.
In a region which values authority over freedom, the excessive tolerance for political dissent makes Lebanon a perpetually insecure democracy. The country is heading toward a new crisis this summer if its politicians fail to agree on the election of a new president - an election scheduled for next September.
Had there been no effective opposition, the current Parliament would have probably elected a pro-business leader. This president would be critical of Hizbullah's militarization and distant from Syria and Iran. He would also be eager to see progress in the Hariri trial. He would follow the signs that point to Syrian involvement in Rafik Hariri's affair. But would he also be cautions, patient and diplomatic since, two years on, the investigation continues?
An alienated opposition views the world differently. This community challenges what it calls domestic injustice and Western interference. The opposition is mainly composed of Hizbullah and the Aounists, who accuse the government of crippling corruption. The opposition defends the existence of armed resistance in response to American and Israeli "hegemony." Moreover, the opposition has favored setting up the Hariri tribunal domestically, not through the United Nations. It also considers the Cabinet illegitimate, particularly when it comes to addressing the election of a new president.
Both sides lack sensitivity when it comes to Lebanon's drift toward chaos in the absence of national consensus. The government is too dependent on foreign aid that comes with strings attached; whereas the opposition is an artificial alliance between two insecure movements.
Sooner rather than later, the Lebanese government will have to sort out its priorities. To bring the country back to normality, the Lebanese will have to realize that unity precedes security and security precedes justice. The discussion this week at the UN to set up the Hariri tribunal is poorly timed. In an unstable society dripping with injustice, focusing on the murder of a politician is peculiar.
If Lebanon approaches the September elections without a compromise, the balance of power is likely to tilt toward the opposition, considering it enjoys the backing of Syria and Iran and support in the Lebanese Army. The government would have to offer it substantial concessions. Should Hizbullah come out of this crisis with some political gain, it must reciprocate by reassuring Lebanese society that its militarization is only temporary.
I left the country with the same degree of concern that I had before the visit. For the last three decades I have been convinced that Lebanon is not expected to arrive at political serenity until two important conditions are met: the Middle East must first join the rest of the world in understanding how the modern state functions; and Lebanon's neighbors must begin to appreciate how economic and social reforms are a prerequisite for democracy building.
For the moment, the current Lebanese government cannot handle a strong domestic opposition, an unfriendly Syria, and now, the unauthorized Fatah al-Islam. The Lebanese have to reconfigure their priorities and unite in order to save their country from domestic, regional and international threats. At the same time, the Palestinians have to unite to make their case for statehood stronger. The fragmentation of the Palestinian political front has led to the formation of illegitimate resistance formations like Fatah al-Islam.
***Ghassan Rubeiz is an Arab American commentator. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.

General Aoun and the French Messages
Randa Takieddin- Al-Hayat - 30/05/07//
What are the messages that French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner directed to General Michel Aoun when he met him?
First, that he not take stances that suggest that he is under the influence of Syria, and, second, that he use his relations with Hezbollah to rectify the path of political dialogue and reconciliation among the Lebanese and therefore prevent partition.
This last message is not new, since, as Aoun was leaving his French exile, former Minister Michel Barnier warned about the need to avoid division within the Christian ranks after his return to Lebanon.
The meeting was an opportunity for the new French Foreign Minister to make a bonafides endeavor to urge Aoun to work for unity in Lebanon, instead of contributing to division.
According to the account given by the French Minister of what happened in the meeting, Aoun said that he represents 70% of the Christians of Lebanon and that he is the best candidate for the presidency. He said he is also the candidate of sovereignty and independence, while Hezbollah is a Lebanese party, and it is not true that it is influenced by Iran. There is nothing new in Aoun's well-known stances since his return from exile to Beirut, but his attitude seemed to surprise the French media.
The television star Marie Druker presented his positions during the time Aoun was in exile in France, when he was denouncing the Syrian rule and Syrian policy, and castigating its allies, such as Hezbollah.
In any event, what is important is that Aoun recently announced a patriotic stance that should be taken into account, if he continues on this path and does not swerve away from it. That is, his stance vis-Ó-vis the Lebanese army in its confrontation with the terrorist group Fatah al-Islam, which has nothing to do with the Palestinian people and its cause.
Aoun took up a nationalistic stance that is more distinct than the position of his ally Hezbollah, and this should be taken into consideration by the March 14 Forces.
It is true that dealing with Aoun is bewildering but the March 14 Forces must now engage in dialogue with him in order to find a way out of the dangerous stalemate and disruption in Lebanon.
It is also true that General Aoun's brother in-law, Gebran Basil, tried to find excuses for Hezbollah following Aoun's position on the Lebanese army in the struggle against Fatah al-Islam. Nonetheless, Aoun reconfirmed his stance, while in Paris, that he was with the army and that he supports a political solution, adding that if none is forthcoming, then he supports the military solution. Aoun, moreover, considers an inquiry by the Lebanese authorities into the case of Fatah Al-Islam to be both legitimate and necessary.
With the expected confirmation of the International Tribunal by the Security Council today, what is called for is lifting Lebanon out of its ordeal and overcoming its disrupted political life. Aoun does not actually have any real opportunity to become president of the republic, but then again neither does the March 14 Forces group have the ability to impose a President on the other parties. The ideal solution is to reach a settlement on the matter of the presidency, because disrupting the presidential election means the continuation of adversity and perhaps further deterioration and disaster.
What is called for now is saving Lebanon, a reconciliatory effort after the specter of disruption subsides, which centers on the issue of the tribunal. Everyone in Lebanon must also understand that the wars of others on the land of Lebanon pose a threat to all. An agreement must be reached on a candidate for the Lebanese presidency who will put forth a plan and a project based on the principle of sovereignty and independence. Lebanon has had its fill of presidents appointed for it with their terms extended, disrupting political life in the country as they do.
What is also called for are major local efforts that resist the endeavors of Syria and Israel that aim at further vandalism, aggravating the situation in Lebanon through incidents on the ground that serve the interests of neighbors while emptying Lebanon of its people.
There are great hopes that the position taken by Aoun toward the army will represent constant vigilance for the sake of the country, and not only for the presidency. It is also hoped that the March 14 Forces will work for cohesion and harmony, away from the contest of its presidential candidates. The Lebanese have become tired of the politicians of their country and want a decent life in a safe homeland