May 9/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 14,27-31. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, 'I am going away and I will come back to you.' If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe. I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me, but the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me. Get up, let us go.

Free Opinion
Rice: Tribunal is important for Lebanon to go back to normal.Ya Libnan. May 9/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for May 9/07
Resigned Ministers may rejoin Lebanonís cabinet.Ya Libnan
Security Council's patience with Lebanon is 'dropping' - Ban.Daily Star - Lebanon
US might force setting up Lebanon tribunal: Rice.Reuters
Siniora discloses Lebanon losses during Israel Hezbollah war.Ya Libnan
Hezbollah seeks Sarkozy balanced policy.PRESS TV
Rival Lebanon leaders send mixed signals to Sarkozy.Ya Libnan
Syria continues to arm
UN Chief in Syria to 'Post': Assad not preparing for war.Jerusalem Post

Alleged Arms Smuggling May Deepen Lebanon Crisis: UN's Ban Mon.Asharq Alawsat
Olmert Holds Army Back in Face of Imminent Hizballah, Hamas ...DEBKA file
Alleged arms smuggling may deepen.France24
Israel eyes change from Sarkozy, Arabs more of the same.Middle East Times
Security Council's patience with Lebanon is 'dropping' - Ban.Daily Star
Harvardís Twisted Report on Israelís Invasion of Lebanon.Dissident Voice
155 OFWs from Lebanon, Nigeria return home.GMA
US using Syria as scapegoat says Assad.Ya Libnan
Pelosi represented us well in Syria.Livingston Daily
Lebanon camp clash kills two.Gulf Times
Germany Asked to Prolong Lebanon Force Mandate.Deutsche Welle
Assad: US-Syria talks no breakthrough.Jackson News-Tribune
Syrians get along well outside Syria , NZ lady finds out.Ya Libnan

Security Council's patience with Lebanon is 'dropping' - Ban
Un chief offers to return for more mediation

By Hani M. Bathish
Daily Star staff
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned on Monday that the patience of UN Security Council members was wearing thin over what he called continued obstruction by the Lebanese opposition of the creation of special court to try suspects in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri. In an interview with pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, Ban said he may visit Lebanon for a second time if he felt there was a need to do so, adding that he aims to play a bigger role in efforts to end the political crisis in the country. The secretary general visited Lebanon at the end of March.
"What I know is that the level of patience is dropping, because many [in the Security Council] have concluded that the situation has reached a dead end," Ban said, adding that council members would not allow him "months" to arrive at a solution to the current impasse before resorting to establishing the tribunal under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Chapter 7 status would open the way for the tribunal to begin its work without the approval of the Lebanese Parliament.
The secretary general expressed his wish that additional efforts be made to ratify the tribunal through Lebanese constitutional institutions. "It remains vital that the Lebanese people focus on reaffirming national consensus," he said. "I pledged, for my part, to help them to that end." Ban said he would have to give his own report to the council on the matter of the tribunal but only after conferring with regional leaders, among them Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Syrian President Bashar Assad. In a private meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Ban said he revealed what steps he plans to take to help the Lebanese achieve national reconciliation.
Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh, speaking to reporters after receiving a delegation from the Future Women's Association Monday, said action on the tribunal would come in a matter of weeks. Hamadeh warned opponents of the draft plan for the court that "our commitment to the tribunal is constant and it will see the light of day within a few weeks," but he added that he would prefer that the tribunal be ratified by consensus. "We have undergone over the past 12 months constant political attacks, been subjected to terror campaigns and movements both political and in the streets all aimed at suppressing the truth and thwarting justice," Hamadeh said.
UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Geir Pedersen, speaking to reporters after meeting Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani on Monday, said conflict over the tribunal must be resolved as quickly as possible. Pedersen said the best solution was for the tribunal to be ratified in Lebanon, despite the difficulties of the task. Pedersen said his talks with Qabbani focused on national unity.
Separately, political rhetoric over presidential elections scheduled for late September continued to heat up. Reform and Change Bloc leader MP Michel Aoun told a news conference Monday that in any democracy the people are sovereign, and direct popular elections are the most refined means of electing a president. "We saw how [the ruling coalition] responded to our suggestion of direct election, as if it's a crime," he said. "Do they have to be rude about it, can't they just simply say no?" The Lebanese Constitution calls for Parliament to elect the country's president.
He assailed what he called "an improper and rude manner of political discourse" by pro-government politicians. On the matter of the tribunal, Aoun said that referring the proposal to the UN Security Council would be a grave violation and constitute total disregard for the Constitution.
Aoun also congratulated the French people for electing Nicolas Sarkozy as their next president and expressed hope that relations between France and Lebanon will go back to what they were like in the past, which he characterized as "excellent relations between two countries, not relations between individuals and families based on personal interests" - a clear reference to incumbent Jacques Chirac's close ties to the current Lebanese government. Former President Amin Gemayel warned of the dangers of any solutions to the crisis "outside the framework of the Constitution and its institutions."

Rice: Tribunal is important for Lebanon to go back to normal
Tuesday, 8 May, 2007
Beirut - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington might seek to force the setting up of a tribunal in the murder of a Lebanese former premier under a chapter of the UN Charter which makes Security Council decisions mandatory. "Absolutely. If we have to, we would push for setting up the tribunal under Chapter 7 because it is extremely important that the court is set up so that Lebanon goes back to normal," Rice ( R) told Al Arabiya television in remarks aired on Monday. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent special legal counsel Nicolas Michel to Beirut last month to seek a way out of a domestic impasse over the tribunal, but without success. Diplomats have said that Western powers believe Lebanon's feuding politicians are unlikely to agree any time soon to endorse the tribunal and that U.N. action is needed; but some other council members, including Russia, disagree.
Central to the dispute is Lebanon's relationship with neighboring Syria, which some Lebanese officials blame for the killing of Rafik al-Hariri, a close ally of Damascus turned foe. Most opposition leaders are close to Damascus, which denies any role in the bombing.
The world body had hoped Lebanon would agree on a law establishing the court after it asked the council to approve the tribunal and investigate the killing of Hariri and 22 others in a bombing in Beirut on February 14, 2005. "Setting up the tribunal should take place despite the dead end it reached in Lebanon because the killers of premier Hariri should face justice," Rice said in remarks dubbed in Arabic.
The tribunal is a key issue of disagreement between the U.S.-backed government of Fouad Siniora and its political opponents. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has refused to call a session of the house to ratify the tribunal. "The democratically elected government of Siniora should be supported. Lebanon and the Lebanese people can count on the United States," said Rice. "I would like to say to all in a very direct fashion that the democracy and sovereignty of Lebanon are critical issues for the United State and that we see them as some of our most prominent interests."
Many opposition politicians question U.S. backing to Lebanon especially after Washington's support to Israel in its war with Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah guerrilla group last year. About 1,200 Lebanese and 158 Israelis were killed in the war in which Israeli air, land and sea bombardment destroyed wide areas of south Lebanon and large sectors of the capital. Hezbollah rockets also inflicted material damage in several parts of northern Israel.
Opposition politicians had said they would not discuss the tribunal until the government was reconstituted to give them the blocking minority they have so far lacked, he said. Some Security Council members such as Russia oppose the use of Chapter 7 to impose a tribunal, a move Hezbollah, also a political party, has said could plunge the country into strife.Sources: Reuters, Ya Libnan

UN: Illegal arms reach Lebanon from Syria on regular basis
Tuesday, 8 May, 2007 @ 4:59 AM
Beirut , UN - Illegal arms traffic into Lebanon across the Syrian border, mainly to Hezbollah fighters, is reported to be taking place on a regular basis, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday. In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Ban said news of arms shipments, including "detailed and substantial" reports from Israel, and other nations, showed the need for a team he was sending to propose ways of monitoring of the border.
"Such transfers are alleged to be taking place on a regular basis," Ban wrote. "I am deeply worried that the political crisis in Lebanon may be deepened and exacerbated" by arms smuggling, most of which are reported to reach the opposition Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah movement.The secretary-general was reporting on resolution 1559, adopted in 2004 that called for all foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon and for the Beirut government to assert its control throughout the country. Two years ago all Syrian troops left Lebanon.
Syria has repeatedly denied any involvement in arms trafficking and told Ban, during his April 24 trip to Damascus, that it would work with the United Nations toward "peace and stability" in the region.
Ban also singled out Israel's military jets and unmanned aerial overflights and said again he had asked the government to "cease fully" these "violations of Lebanon sovereignty."Lebanon is going through its worst political crisis since the 1975-90 civil war, marked by a series of murders of anti-Syrian figures, which many in the government blame on Damascus. Syria has denied involvement. Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, says it gained strength when Israel invaded last summer in retaliation for the abduction of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. Hezbollah and other pro-Syrian political figures call the current parliament backed government illegal. Ban noted that the prolonged political crisis has paralyzed Lebanon, raising fears that agreements in the aftermath of the civil war "may unravel, lead to widespread rearming and thus raise the specter of renewed confrontation" among Lebanese.
"I am concerned that the existing public and media discourse -- whether based on evidence or speculative -- may in fact accelerate, if not prompt, a domestic arms race in Lebanon, with unforeseeable consequences," Ban warned. Ban, in his report, stressed the necessity of demarcating the Lebanese-Syrian border and for diplomatic relations to be established between Beirut and Damascus as an "important measure to affirm strict respect for Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence." He also said that there was a growing threat from armed "extremist Islamist groups" who have found safe haven in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.Sources: Reuters, Ya Libnan

Lebanon has so far spent $318 million on post-war rebuilding
Tuesday, 8 May, 2007 @ 4:26 AM
Reuters - The Lebanese government has spent so far $318 million on rebuilding after last year's war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said on Monday. Figures released by Siniora at a news conference showed that Lebanon had received $707 million in reconstruction aid out of $1.3 billion pledged by donor countries, mainly Arab governments, after the end of the 34-day war last August. The government has so far paid $181 million as compensation to the owners and tenants of homes destroyed or damaged by Israeli bombardment, the figures showed. It has spent $54 million on infrastructure, mainly repairing damaged roads and bridges and the power and water networks. Around $42 million was spent on civilians displaced by the conflict.
Israeli air, land and sea bombardment destroyed wide areas of south Lebanon and large sectors of Beirut's southern suburbs, Hezbollah strongholds. Hezbollah rockets also inflicted material damage in several parts of northern Israel.
Some 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 158 Israelis mainly soldiers were killed in the conflict.
Siniora is locked in a power struggle with Hezbollah which, along with its allies, wants more say in government. The Shi'ite Muslim group, which has already spent more than $300 million on compensation and reconstruction work, accuses Siniora of dragging his feet in the rebuilding process to punish Hezbollah supporters. Hezbollah says the money it spent came as donations from religious authorities in Iran. Iran did not pledge any funds to the Lebanese government.
"Any delay, if it had occurred, was unintentional and due to the enormity of the disaster," Siniora said. "The steps that we've taken are undoubtedly ... very, very big although they remain less than what we aim for." The war erupted last July when Hezbollah crossed the borders and kidnapped 2 Israeli soldiers and killed three . The war left Lebanon in ruins ...its infrastructure was devastated ...91 of the best bridges in Lebanon were totally destroyed. Lebanon's economy suffered greatly; Instead of showing 6 % growth in 2006 it ended the year at 2% in the red. Picture: A Shiite lady walks amongst the rubble in south Beirut. This residential area was bombarded by Israel sources: Reuters, Ya Libnan

Rival Lebanon leaders send mixed signals to Sarkozy
Monday, 7 May, 2007 @ 11:36 PM
Beirut Ė The pro-Government supporters were extremely happy with Chirac and wanted the French support to continue as is , while pro-Syrian opposition wanted Sarkozy to change to ď more balanced Ď French approach to Lebanon political crises. Mixed signals therefore were sent to French president-elect Nicolas Sarkozy
Hezbollah welcomed the election results and urged the new leader to make policy decisions that "are more appropriate with French national interests, and consequently less biased toward one party against the other." "We hope that the French president will have the vision for a more influential role through being more balanced" in his policies, Nawaf Moussawi, head of international relations at Hezbollah, said in a statement.
Similarly, Syria, which is at odds with Chirac over his Lebanon policy, congratulated Sarkozy. President Bashar Assad in a telegram expressed hopes that relations between Syria and France, which have been marred for the past two years, "would develop for the two countries' interests," Syria's state-run news agency reported.
Within minutes of the results, legislator Saad Hariri sent a message of congratulations to Sarkozy, expressing confidence that historic ties will continue to develop.
Former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was a very close friend of Chirac who is leading the efforts to create an international tribunal to try the slain premier's suspected assassins. Outgoing French president Jacques Chirac has staunchly supported Premier Fouad Siniora's government against Syria and its local allies in the Lebanese opposition, including Hezbollah, drawing their criticism.
Chirac organized in January the Paris 3 donors' conference that raised more than $7 billion in soft loans and grants for Lebanon. In addition, he sent French troops as peacekeepers to southern Lebanon to monitor a cease-fire that ended the fighting last summer between Israel and Hezbollah. Chirac's involvement in Lebanon caused a stir last year when President Emile Lahoud, a pro-Syrian, publicly criticized the French president. Lahoud has urged Chirac to stop intervening in Lebanon's internal affairs, accusing him of siding with the anti-Syrian March 14 alliance. He even blamed Chirac for excluding the Lebanese leader from the Francophonie summit in Romania in September. Chirac has rejected the charges. Understandably, Lebanon's anti-Syrian governing coalition hoped Sarkozy's presidency would mean continued French support. The country's parliamentary majority has been extremely concerned that once Chirac leaves office , Lebanon will lose that personal French hands- on involvement . The governing coalition in Beirut needs French backing, particularly in the U.N. Security Council, which discussed the tribunal last week and could adopt it under chapter seven of the U.N. charter because of a deadlock between the government and opposition over its formation.
Sarkozy , who met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Paris 3 weeks ago , pledged continued French support for Lebanon's independence if elected..
"There will be continuity in this policy, which is a balanced policy," Sarkozy, said Im Rafik
Prior to former PM Rafik Hariri's era , the Lebanese used to refer to France jokingly as the 'caring and affectionate mother' ( in Arabic Im el Hanouneh ). But following the election of Chirac , who was a staunch supporter of Hariri the name of France changed jokingly to Im Rafik ( in Arabic the mother of Rafik).
Lebanon and France enjoy a very special relationship. Many Lebanese consider French their second language and France their second home . During the good old days Beirut used to be called 'Paris of the east'.Picture: French right-wing presidential candidate of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) Nicolas Sarkozy is applauded by the crowd as he arrives to deliver his victory speech in Paris, 06 May 2007. Sources: Naharnet, Ya Libnan

Colombian hermit finds paradise on Lebanon trail
Monday, 7 May, 2007 @ 2:37 PM
Qadisha Valley - 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 may lose some of his solitude when hikers learn about a fledgling national trail that passes near his cliffside hermitage as it meanders nearly 400 km 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," laughed the black-cowled monk as he emerged from his cave cell near a rock-cut chapel. "This is paradise," the 72-year-old greybeard said, 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 organizers say tells only part of the story. "Despite all the trouble Lebanon is going through, this is a different universe," said 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, confessions and political affiliations."
The project itself, funded by a $3.3 million grant from the United States, suffered a few delays due to last year's July-August war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas.
But ECODIT, a U.S.-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 dots, linking things up," said 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 the shops and nightlife of 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 because they were Monophysites," 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 7th century or earlier, where visitors are welcomed with sweet wine in tiny glasses as bells toll.
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." Picture: Father Dario Escobar, a Colombian hermit, stands outside his cave cell on the route of a 400 km (250 miles) hiking trail in the Qadisha Gorge north of the Lebanon Mountain Trail for hikers, April 26, 2007. 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.
By Alistair Lyon Sources: Reuters

Resigned Ministers may rejoin Lebanonís cabinet

Tuesday, 8 May, 2007
Beirut- The six pro-Syrian Opposition cabinet ministers on Tuesday were reportedly considering rejoining Prime Minister Fouad Siniora 's government as caretakers, a move aimed at curtailing the ruling majority's continuity in power. As Safir, citing one unnamed resigned Opposition cabinet minister, said the oppositions' move also aimed at making people's lives easier. "We don't want the country's destiny to be in the hands of the ruling team," the resigned minister said.
The front page article in the daily As Safir said the issue has been under "serious" debate among Opposition leaders during the past several days.
It said the shift in the opposition's stance, however, did not change the anti-government camp position towards Siniora's "illegitimate and unconstitutional" cabinet.
Officials close to House Speaker Nabih Berri declined to comment on the report, As Safir said.
Berri, a Hezbollah ally and a key opposition figure, has also termed the government illegitimate after Hezbollah and allied ministers pulled out from the cabinet in November . This took pace after Siniora called for a cabinet session to discuss and approve the international tribunal to try the suspects in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes.
It is not clear yet what caretaker role the resigned ministers will be able to play in the government , considering the fact that they will remain a minority and will not therefore be able to influence the cabinet decisions one way or the other. It is also not clear under what condition they will be allowed to rejoin and what will happen to the sit-in protest . Analysts say there are too many question marks that need answers .
Sources: Naharnet, Ya Libnan

Siniora discloses Lebanon losses during Israel Hezbollah war
Monday, 7 May, 2007 @ 7:59 PM
Beirut- Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said Monday last summer's 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah has claimed 1 200 lives, and wounded 4400. Most of the Lebanese people that were killed and wounded were civilians. During a news conference Siniora provided the first official estimate of casualties sustained during the July-August war between Hezbollah and Israel. He said 7500 fishermen also sustained damage to their boats, nets and equipment due to heavy Israeli bombardment. During the confrontation, Siniora said, 862 schools were damaged and 22 schools were completely destroyed. Sappers from the Lebanese Army, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have defused 114,000 cluster bombs and 468 other types of bombs dropped by Israeli forces during the war, according to Siniora. The Israeli offensive also damaged and destroyed 91 bridges throughout Lebanon as well as runways in Lebanon's three airports, according to Siniora. He said most of the damage inflicted by the infra structure also has been repaired by government teams.
International donors provided Lebanon with 707 million dollars in aid, Siniora said. Picture: This is how Sourh Beirut looked at the end of the 34 day war .
Sources: Naharnet, Ya Libnan

U.N. Chief Warns of Consequences of Alleged Arms Smuggling

Alleged arms smuggling into Lebanon and the possible arming of various groups may deepen the country's political crisis, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said in a report released in New York. "I am deeply worried that the political crisis in Lebanon may be deepened and exacerbated by allegations" regarding "illegal arms trafficking and the possible arming" of various Lebanese and non-Lebanese groups, he said Monday. He said the allegations of illegal arms smuggling across the Syrian-Lebanese border needed to be addressed and urged "all relevant parties, in particular the governments of Syria and Iran, to ensure full implementation of Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1701."Last month, the 15-member Security Council asked Ban to send an independent mission to investigate reports of illegal arms movements across the Lebanese-Syrian border.Syria has denied that arms are making their way over the border into Lebanon.
Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah in August, called for the prevention of illegal arms sales and smuggling operations in Lebanon. Resolution 1559, adopted in 2004, called for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon and the disbanding of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias. Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon in 2005 after 29 years of military and political domination of its smaller neighbor, in line with that resolution. Ban's report, the fifth such semi-annual study since resolution 1559 was adopted, also stated that Hizbullah's arms "continue to pose a key challenge to the (Lebanese) government's monopoly on the legitimate use of force and all efforts to reassert Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence."
Ban also called for free and fair elections to choose a successor to pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, whose term expires in November.
He stressed that the electoral process should be "conducted according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence, in accordance to resolution 1559."Lahoud's mandate was controversially extended by three years in September 2004 after parliament, under pressure from Syria, adopted a constitutional amendment to that effect. Ban also called for the demarcation of the Lebanese-Syrian border and for the establishment of diplomatic ties between Beirut and Damascus.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 08 May 07, 07:29

Lebanese Red Cross Urges Action against Israel
Lebanese Red Cross President Sami Dahdah urged world powers to take action against Israel for violating "all ethics and human rights treaties" during last summer's offensive on Lebanon. Dahdah, speaking on the occasion of World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day which is celebrated on May 8, expressed gratitude to all those who supported the LRC during Israel's "dreadful" war.The Lebanese Red Cross has launched its 2007 campaign, titled: "Together for Humanity."
Beirut, 08 May 07, 13:19

Wahhab: Aoun Opposition's Only Presidential Candidate
Wiam Wahhab, a staunch pro-Syrian former minister and Druze leader Walid Jumblat's main rival, said that Hizbullah ally Gen. Michel Aoun was the opposition's only presidential candidate. Wahhab also attacked U.S. President George Bush's administration, asking it to "sacrifice" Prime Minister Fouad Saniora so it won't be defeated in Lebanon. He called on "America to allow its allies in Lebanon to suggest compromises, the first being the stepping down of Saniora."
"We no longer accept Fouad Saniora," Wahhab said in remarks published by the daily As Safir on Tuesday. He welcomed Aoun's proposal in which he suggested that the next president be elected directly by the people. "Gen. Michel Aoun's proposal Ö. is reasonable since the ruling team has closed all doors for a (Lebanon) settlement," Wahhab said from his Jahlieh hometown in Mount Lebanon. "We support Gen. Michel Aoun's nomination for presidency. He became the opposition's key candidate, if not the only one," Wahhab stressed. Beirut, 08 May 07, 10:26
Syria: Stop the Persecution of Human Rights Defenders and Advocates of Reform. Take Action Now!
From: Add to Address Book
Date: Tue, 8 May 2007 18:59:05 +0100
Syria: Stop the Persecution of Human Rights Defenders and Advocates of Reform
The Syrian authorities continue to harass and detain human rights defenders and government critics. The unfair trial and harsh five -year sentence handed down to human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni constitutes yet another blow to human rights and human rights activists in Syria. Anwar al-Bunni was convicted of “spreading false information harmful to the state on 24 April 2007.
In the light of this harsh sentence, there is an increased fear for the fate of others whose trials are nearing completion. Hundreds of political prisoners are imprisoned in Syria including scores of prisoners of conscience. At least 12 are on trial in Damascus.
Three of these are writer Michel Kilo, Mahmoud ėIssa as well as the medical doctor Kamal al-Labwani. All three, like Anwar al-Bunni, are being tried before the Criminal Court, and are not permitted adequate access to their lawyers.
Like Anwar al-Bunni, both Michel Kilo and Mahmoud Issa have been in detention since their arrest in May 2006, in connection with their involvement in the Beirut-Damascus Declaration, a petition signed by some 300 Syrian and Lebanese nationals calling for the normalization of relations between their two countries.
They face charges including weakening nationalist sentiments (article 285 of the Penal Code) and inciting sectarian strife (article 307), which carry maximum sentences of 15 years imprisonment. The next session of their trial before the Criminal Court will be on 13 May 2007.
Kamal al-Labwani was arrested upon arrival at Damascus airport on 8 November 2005. He was returning from a trip to Europe and the USA where he met human rights organizations and government officials and called for democratic reform in Syria.
He is facing charges of any Syrian who plots or schemes with a foreign country, or who communicates with one with the aim of causing it to attack Syria, is punishable by life imprisonment (article264) and could face life imprisonment. Kamal al-Labwani's next hearing is on 10 May 2007, when a final verdict is expected.
Amnesty International considers the three men to be prisoners of conscience detained solely for the peaceful expression of their opinions and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.
We are launching an urgent solidarity action to urge the Syrian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Anwar al-Bunni, Michel Kilo, Mahmoud Issa, Kamal al-Labwani and all other prisoners of conscience.
Your support is needed to end the persecution of Syrian prisoners of conscience.
Join us!
Take Action:
On 9 May the eve of Kamal al-Labwani's final session of his trial, by publicly expressing solidarity with Kamal al-Labwani, Michel Kilo, Mahmoud Issa, Anwar al-Bunni and other prisoners of conscience in Syria Amnesty International will be sending a clear message to the Syrian authorities and the international community that the persecution of Syrian critics who dare to speak out must stop. You will symbolize the silencing of dissent in Syria by covering your mouth, with a tape or gag in demonstrations or vigils. More information about these events will soon be placed on this site. You can also take action by taking photos of yourself holding a message (for example Stop the Persecution of Syrian Human Rights Defenders and Advocates of Reform and send it to us: Your picture will be added to our gallery of activities supporting Syrian prisoners of conscience.
Write to the Syrian authorities to stop the persecution of Syrian prisoners of conscience. See model letter:
Your Excellency,
I am writing to express my grave concern about the human rights situation in Syria following the harsh sentence handed down today on human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni, following an unfair trial that took place on 24 April that appears to be politically driven, during which he was not given full access to his lawyers.
Hundreds of political prisoners including scores of prisoners of conscience are imprisoned; at least 12 of them are on trial. Three of these are former prisoner of conscience and writer Michel Kilo, Mahmoud ėIssa and the medical doctor Kamal al-Labwani. All three, like Anwar al-Bunni, are being tried before the Criminal Court, and are not permitted to adequate access to their
I appeal to you to ensure that Anwar al-Bunni, Michel Kilo, Mahmoud ėIssa and Kamal al-Labwani are immediately and unconditionally released and that all the charges against them to be dropped, as they are prisoners of conscience, held solely for the peaceful expression of their legitimately held beliefs.
Yours Sincerely,
For further information, see:
Syria: New crackdown on government opponents (AI Index: MDE 24/031/2006), 3 April 2006
Syria: Dismissal of state employees for expressing opinions violates international human rights (AI Index: MDE 24/045/2006), 21 June 2006
Syria: Another wave of arrests of human rights defenders and civil society activists (AI Index: MDE 24/038/2006), 17 May 2006;
Syria: Another wave of arrests of human rights defenders and civil society activist (AI Index: MDE 24/038/2006), 17 May 2006
World Wide Appeal:;
Syria: Beatings of PoCs must end, officials who have perpetrated or facilitated abuses must be prosecuted (AI Index: MDE 24/008/2007), 15 February 2007;
Syria: Unfair trials and ill-treatment in detention of peaceful ‚ÄúBeirut-Damascus Declaration‚ÄĚ petitioners (AI Index: MDE 24/022/2007), 11 April 2007
Syria: Release and drop charges against human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni, (AI Index: MDE 24/025/2007), 23 April 2007

Syria: Sentence against Anwar al-Bunni deals another blow to human Rights in Syria, (AI Index: MDE 24/026/2007), 24 April 2007;
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