November 17/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 17,26-37. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man; they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Similarly, as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building; on the day when Lot left Sodom, fire and brimstone rained from the sky to destroy them all. So it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, a person who is on the housetop and whose belongings are in the house must not go down to get them, and likewise a person in the field must not return to what was left behind. Remember the wife of Lot. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it. I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. And there will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken, the other left." They said to him in reply, "Where, Lord?" He said to them, "Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather."

Releases. Reports & Opinions
The Veto Weapon and a Veto Backed by Weapons.By:Walid Shouceir.Dar Al-Hayat. November 16/07
Sfeir's best bet is to help put a new face into Baabda Palace. The Daily Star. November 16/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for November 16/07
Hariri: Aoun Can Play 'Uniting Role'.Naharnet
PROFILE: Lahoud - Lebanon's controversial president.Monsters and
Palestinian factions clash in Lebanon camp.Reuters

Fatah, Jibril's PFLP-GC Fight it Out In Borj Barajneh Refugee Camp, Causing Panic-Naharnet
Lebanese army on alert over presidential elections.Xinhua
Lebanon's Presidential Front-Runners.New York Times
Aoun Threatens to Block Two-Third Quorum if President Has No Popular Backing-Naharnet
Report: Hezbollah probing al-Qaida actions.United Press International
Lebanon's Presidential Front-Runners.New York Times
Hundreds of Geagea Supporters Demonstrate Outside LBC-Naharnet
Moussa after 'Important' Meeting with Assad: Arabs for Timely Lebanon Elections-Naharnet
Hizbullah Gives Candidate Name to Cousseran, Sfeir-Naharnet

Ban urges Lebanese to elect president with broad popular support.Daily Star
UN Secretary-General in Lebanon in Effort to Resolve Presidential ...Voice of America
Sfeir: a reluctant mediator in Lebanon's political crisis.AFP
Soaring gold prices prompt call for sale of Beirut reserves.Daily Star
Lawsuit prompts LBC to cancel Geagea interview.Daily Star  
PLO, Fatah hold ceremony to mark anniversary of Palestine's independence.Daily Star  
Security forces dismiss reports of plot to assassinate Nasrallah.Daily Star  
Syrian daily doubts Lebanon will resolve deadlock.Daily Star  
European socialists voice support for hotel-bound MPs.Daily Star  
Lebanese public schools to link into global network.Daily Star  
Beirut Bar Association polls remain smoothly on track with no.Daily Star  
Speak loudly, don't carry a stick.Daily Star  
Center allows for new avenues of learning at AUB.Daily Star  
The grass is greener on the troubled side of the fence: Political crisis nets largest cannabis crop since Civil War.Daily Star  
Abbas calls on Gazans to 'get rid of' Hamas.Daily Star
Ahmadinejad insists nuclear report vindicates Iran, US presses for sanctions.Daily Star  

UN Chief Pushes For Free and Fair Presidential Elections, Says International Court "Irreversible"
U.N. joined international and Arab mediation efforts to break the political deadlock in Lebanon and urged through its visiting Secretary General Ban Ki-moon feuding Lebanese leaders to set aside their differences and proceed with the election of a president by a November 23 deadline.
Ban stressed that efforts to set up a tribunal to prosecute those responsible for the murder of Lebanon's ex-premier Rafiq Hariri were "irreversible" and that he was doing his best to expedite the process.
Ban said he planned to discuss with officials the recent appointment of Daniel Bellemare, of Canada, to replace Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz as head of the U.N. probe into the murder. "I want to assure you that the process for establishing the tribunal is irreversible and I am doing my best to expedite this process," he told reporters upon his arrival in Beirut. On presidential elections, he urged "A free and fair election of a new president appointed through constitutional rules, without foreign interference, is a milestone for the development of Lebanon as a vibrant democracy."
"It constitutes a pillar in its aspiration to recover its full political independence and sovereignty and to secure its territorial integrity," he stressed.
Ban said it was imperative for parliament to convene next week and elect a successor to pro-Syrian head of state Emile Lahoud to put a stop to the country's worst political crisis since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war. "The election of a new president should take place on time and in accordance with constitutional procedures," he said. Ban headed first to Ein el-Tineh to meet Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and is scheduled to hold talks with members of the Western-backed ruling majority and the Hizbullah-led opposition who have been at loggerheads over who should replace Lahoud. The U.N. chief was also due on Friday to meet with Nasrallah Sfeir, the influential leader of the Christian Maronite community, from which Lebanon's president is traditionally drawn. He was accompanied on his trip by Terje Roed-Larsen, the U.N. special envoy to the Middle East. Lebanon's pro- and anti-Syrian camps have been deadlocked for more than two months on the choice of a candidate to replace Lahoud, prompting fears of two parallel governments being formed. The ruling majority, which has 68 MPs in the 127-seat parliament, has threatened to go ahead with an absolute majority vote if an agreement is not reached by the November 23 deadline, prompting warnings by Hezbollah that this would be tantamount to a coup. Apart from Kouchner and the U.N. chief, Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema was expected in Beirut on Friday to push the feuding sides to agree. Kouchner was also due to return next week -- for his sixth visit in as many months -- to ensure the vote goes through.
Saniora's government has been paralyzed since the opposition, which includes factions backed by Syria and Iran, withdrew its six ministers from the cabinet in November 2006 in a bid to gain more representation in government.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 15 Nov 07, 20:11

Moussa after 'Important' Meeting with Assad: Arabs for Timely Lebanon Elections
Arab League chief Amr Moussa skipped visiting Beirut following an "important" meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad after which he announced that the Arab world advocates timely presidential elections. Moussa told reporters in Damascus that he and Assad "basically discussed Lebanon," adding that the Iraqi and Palestinian dossiers were also tackled. He said the Arabs were "united" over the need to elect a compromise president on time. "It was an important and positive meeting," Moussa said of his meeting with Assad. "Lebanon is going through a very sensitive time, and we all agreed that it is important that they agree on a consensus president and the need to find a settlement to the ongoing (political) deadlock," Moussa added.
He stressed that "Lebanon's stability is an Arab one and any Lebanese unrest is a disturbance in the Arab stance." Beirut, 16 Nov 07, 10:21

Hizbullah Gives Candidate Name to Cousseran, Sfeir
Hizbullah said it had chosen its preferred candidate for president and given his name to two mediators seeking to resolve the nation's political deadlock.
Hizbullah official Nawaf el-Moussawi told AFP his organization had handed the name of its nominee to Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir and to France's envoy.
"We have given the name of our candidate to Jean-Claude Cousseran ... and to Cardinal Sfeir," said Moussawi, declining to identify the candidate.
Lebanon's pro- and anti-Syrian camps have been deadlocked for more than two months on the choice of a candidate to replace outgoing pro-Damascus President Emile Lahoud, prompting fears of two parallel governments being formed. Moussawi only said that the nominee was one of the names "that have been circulating" in political and media circles in recent weeks. "We will announce it at the opportune time," he said. Lebanese newspapers have speculated that Nassib Lahoud and Butros Harb, the two candidates backed by the ruling majority, would be among a list of names submitted to both sides, along with Gen. Michel Aoun, the only declared candidate from the opposition. The patriarch is expected to add several more names to a list for submission to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a leading member of the opposition, and Saad Hariri, head of the majority bloc in parliament. The pair could then pick two to three candidates to be proposed at a November 21 parliament session for MPs to hold a presidential vote. Three previous sessions for the election were scrapped for lack of consensus and a session next Wednesday is seen as a last-chance attempt to avert a full-blown crisis.(AFP) Beirut, 16 Nov 07, 11:41

Hundreds of Geagea Supporters Demonstrate Outside LBC
Hundreds of supporters of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea demonstrated outside LBC television channel overnight to protest the cancellation of the talk show with the LF chief. The cancellation of Thursday's Kalam al-Nass talk show came after Geagea on Thursday filed a lawsuit against LBC and its general director Pierre Daher, accusing him of fraud.  "The decision to call off the interview is an irresponsible, unprofessional and illegal act and constitutes a direct breach to the freedom of speech," an LF statement said. Geagea's lawsuit included, in addition to LBC TV, nine people and nine branches of LBC International. When Geagea was put in prison in 1994 and his Lebanese Forces disbanded, LBC's ownership was transferred to Daher. The Lebanese Forces now demands return of ownership, a move Daher opposes. Lebanese army troops quickly deployed, setting up checkpoints on all roads leading to Adma, where LBC is located, to prevent further Geagea partisans from approaching the television station and Daher's nearby residence. The demonstrators, shouting support for Geagea, dispersed shortly after midnight after the LF leader called for calm. Beirut, 16 Nov 07, 08:31

Aoun Threatens to Block Two-Third Quorum if President Has No Popular Backing
Free Patriotic Movement leader Gen. Michel Aoun threatened to block a two-third quorum to elect a new head of state for Lebanon if the president-to-be did not enjoy popular backing. "We will not support any president, not even if elected by a two-third quorum, if he does not enjoy popular support," Aoun told reporters after a meeting of his Change and Reform Bloc. Aoun called on the Lebanese people to "reject" the U.S. policy in Lebanon "because it slaps national unity."
"We do not fear weapons, but we do not like to use them against our children and brothers in the nation," Aoun said. He criticized the French initiative, saying it started off the wrong way. "The French initiative called on the Patriarch to name presidential candidates Ö while the Patriarch was expected to pick a name from a list that was supposed to have been presented to him," Aoun said. "The Patriarch is not committed to naming any candidate," he added. Aoun urged Hariri to "preserve national unity," cautioning him that he would be the first one to suffer from any destabilization. "Hariri said he does not support Gen. Aoun because of his alliance with Hizbullah," Aoun went on. "This is a very hostile declaration not only against me but against my allies." Beirut, 16 Nov 07, 09:14

Lebanonís Presidential Front-Runners
Published: November 16, 2007
The 117 members of Lebanonís Parliament have until Nov. 23 to choose a president. Under a power-sharing pact made by religious leaders in 1943, the president must be a member of the Maronite Christian faith. Tensions have risen in Lebanon as the government, led by a Western-backed coalition known as the March 14 movement, has been stalled by political allies of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah. These are the eight most likely contenders for the post:
Nassib Lahoud
Mr. Lahoud, 62, is one of the two candidates endorsed by the March 14 movement. He served as Lebanonís ambassador to the United States in 1990. Mr. Lahoud, a cousin of President …mile Lahoud, was appointed a member of Parliament in 1991 during the transition after the 1989 Taif agreement, which ended Lebanonís civil war. He was elected to a seat in 1992 and served until 2005, when he lost an election for a fourth term. Mr. Lahoud owns one of the largest engineering companies in the Middle East and established the Democratic Renewal Party in 2000. Mr. Lahoud is also the son of, Salim Lahoud, a former lawmaker and government minister.
Boutros Harb
Though Mr. Harb, 63-year-old lawyer, is the other contender with March 14 movementís backing, he is promoting himself as a compromise candidate between the movement and Hezbollah. He has been a member of Parliament since 1972 and has served as minister of education and minister of public works and transportation in several governments since 1979. He was a member of the committee that wrote the final version of the Taif agreement, which ended Lebanonís 15-year civil war. Mr. Harb ran for president in 1998, when the Constitution was amended to allow President …mile Lahoud, who was army commander at the time, to run, and in 2004, when the constitution was amended again to extend Mr. Lahoudís term.
Michel Aoun
A retired general and former army commander, Mr. Aoun, 72, is the candidate of the opposition, led by Hezbollah. General Aoun served as a prime minister from 1988 to 1990 in one of the two rival governments until the Syrian troops forced him into exile, effectively ending Lebanonís civil war. He returned from France in May 2005 after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and a few days after Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon under domestic and international pressure. General Aoun, one of the first Lebanese figures to openly oppose the Syrian troopsí presence in Lebanon, surprised many in February 2006 when he signed a political deal with Hezbollah. Together they launched a campaign to topple the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora ó which they accuse of corruption and treason ó by convening a sit-in in the heart of the capital.
Michel Suleiman
General Suleiman, 59, was appointed army commander in 1998 and became the first military leader in more than 40 years to deploy Lebanese troops to Hezbollahís strongholds in southern Lebanon. During his term Israeli troops left South Lebanon in 2000 and briefly invaded it again in 2006 during the war with Hezbollah. He won nationwide popularity last summer when his troops defeated Islamic radicals holed up in a Palestinian refugee camp in north Lebanon after 15 weeks of fierce fighting. General Suleiman has managed to keep the army neutral and united during Lebanonís political crisis, which has at times sparked street violence, and he is considered a viable compromise candidate in many quarters. General Suleiman has had friendly relations with Syria as well as with the governing coalition in Lebanon and the Hezbollah-led opposition. However. the Constitution would have to be amended to allow an active-duty general to be elected president.
Joseph Tarabay
Mr. Tarabay heads the board of the Union of Arab Banks and the Association of Lebanese Banks. He was elected this year as the president of the Christian Maronite League, a movement set up to assist and maintain contacts with the Maronite Christian community worldwide. He served as income tax chief at the Ministry of Finance in the 1990s. Mr. Tarabay is seen as a candidate equally independent from the opposition and the ruling coalition, but his ability to run the country remains in question because of his lack of political experience.
Robert Ghanem
Mr. Ghanem, 65, is a lawyer and son of a former army commander. He has served in Parliament since 1992 for four consecutive terms and was also minister of education and minister of youth and sports in the 1990s. He allied himself with the March 14 movement after the assassination of Mr. Hariri but in recent months has distanced himself from the government. He has also tried to renew ties to Syrian leaders in an effort to improve his chances as a compromise candidate.
Chakib Kortbawi
Mr. Kortbawi, 62, is former head of the Beirut Bar Association. He lost his parliamentary race in 2005, when he ran in an alliance with General Aoun. Despite his alliance with General Aoun in the 2005 election, he is respected by politicians from both major factions. He won a reputation for independence and non-sectarianism as head of the Bar Association, where he fought corruption. He is considered one of the more viable compromise candidates.
Damianos Kattar
Mr. Kattar, 47, served as finance minister in the interim government of former Prime Minister Najib Mikati in 2005. During his two-month term he was known as a frank and hard-working leader who tried to introduce tough measures to improve the economy. He is popular among Lebanese across the political spectrum. Mr. Kattar has a doctorate in strategic planning a French university in Beirut and lectures in several universities in Beirut. He is also a consultant for a finance group in the Persian Gulf region.

The Veto Weapon and a Veto Backed by Weapons
Walid Choucair Al-Hayat - 16/11/07//
Lebanon's presidential elections stand at the threshold of foreign interests and the regional struggle. Indeed, Lebanon and its future are at this moment beholden to the exigencies of that struggle. Anyone who believes that they are in the hands of local actors is fooling himself.
Hizbullah Secretary General Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah described the political situation well in last Sunday's speech when he claimed that "The issue is about more than just replacing a president whose term has ended."
As was his statement that "[in electing a new president we are choosing] a new way, a new destiny and a new future for the country, and so we cannot compromise over the election and cannot solve the issue by fooling one another." This implies that the election of a new president is of secondary importance to what follows: a unity government (with a one-third opposition veto); the assignment of leadership posts in the army and security forces; Lebanon's Arab and international relations and the mission and position of the army and president over Hizbullah's arms... all of which are connected to one another.
Thus, it is understandable that Sayyid Nasrallah would slam his fist on the table, transcending the negotiations led by parliament speaker Nabih Berri representing the opposition. He slammed his fist on the table, vowing to "use veto power" and letting players inside Lebanon and out know that the ongoing negotiations do not take precedence over the issues with which he is concerned.

Title The Veto Weapon and a Veto Backed by Weapons
Walid Shouceir
Date Nov 16, 2007
It is not the first time that Sayyid Nasrallah raises his fist and brandishes the veto. Despite the absence of veto power in the Lebanese system, and that the consensual democracy in whose name the opposition is making its claims does not allow for a veto, and that the right to use one - for reasons concerning internal or regional balance of power - should be confined to legitimate institutions in order to allow for compromise in its aftermath... for all these reasons, using a veto would imply resorting to extra-institutional measures. This explains the Shia ministers resignation from the government as a veto against the international tribunal; the protests and roadblocks aimed at hampering the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Tayyar Mustaqbal head and parliamentary bloc leader Saad Hariri; and the insistence on a blocking one-third of any expanded or unity government...
The veto weapon has paralyzed Lebanon for one year, despite its being inimical to consensus democracy and to the constitution, all while enjoying political cover from two sides: President Emile Lahoud's role as a close Syrian ally, who employed his own signature as a veto against a legitimate government; and the role of a powerful Christian faction led by Michel Aoun.
The hour of truth approaches a mere seven days before the end of the first cover - the veto of President Lahoud. It seems that as the hour gets closer, at a time when the majority and Hizbullah are claiming the latter's weapons are a topic for national dialogue within institutions - something Hizbullah agreed to along with a national defense strategy - Sayyid Nasrallah has not ceased accusing the majority of seeking to disarm Hizbullah. This when Hizbullah knows this to be an impossibility short of its agreeing to merge its weapons with the national army. This is unlikely, despite what the party's allies may say. Hizbullah is forced to exaggerate its accusations to justify its illegitimate use of the veto.
As we approach the presidential hour, accusations increase against the majority of its planning a confrontation with Hizbullah - accusations that can be disproved for many reasons, mostly pertaining to the majority's inability to do any such thing. As the hour approaches we also see more threats from the party's allies - threats of distress, grief and security insurrections.
The danger is that we go from the veto weapon to a veto backed by weapons - in the absence of Lahoud's providing political cover for a veto. And a veto backed by weapons is by its very nature never local - it is regional

Lebanon faces crucial week as president's term ends
Fri Nov 16, 2007
.(Reuters) - Lebanon faces a crucial week with the term of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud ending on November 23 and the country's divided politicians yet to agree on his successor. France is leading mediation efforts to reach agreement on a candidate acceptable to both the Western-backed governing coalition, which is opposed to Syrian influence in Lebanon, and the opposition led by the pro-Damascus Hezbollah.
Failure to reach an agreement would deepen the country's worst internal crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. Many fear the conflict will lead to two rival governments and could turn violent.
Following are scenarios for what may unfold in the next week.
The head of Lebanon's Maronite Christian church is in the process of drawing up a list of candidates for the presidency, which is reserved for a Maronite in Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a leading member of the opposition, and majority leader Saad al-Hariri are expected to pick from the list. Parliament will convene on November 21 and the consensus figure will be elected. If the leaders feel they are near a deal but need more time for talks, Berri could also call a session in the following three days.
A deal will guarantee the attendance of opposition legislators at the parliamentary session, securing a two-thirds quorum for the vote in the 128-seat chamber.
Several names have been mentioned as possible consensus figures by Lebanese media and politicians. Some Maronite figures have declared themselves candidates.
The new president will nominate a prime minister to form a new cabinet. A deal is expected to meet the opposition's long-standing demand for more than a third of the seats in the cabinet, giving it veto power over government decisions. The opposition would end a protest camp which it set up a year ago in central Beirut to demand the removal of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government.
Failure to reach a deal could result in one or more of the following:
Some members of the governing coalition say the majority has the right to elect the new president without two thirds of the legislators in attendance. On this basis, the governing coalition could call its politicians to gather to elect a president. The coalition has a slim absolute majority of three.
Such an election would have to be convened outside parliament because only Berri has the authority to call sessions in the chamber.
The opposition has said such a move would be tantamount to a coup. It would respond, but has yet to declare what it would do.
The governing coalition may decide against electing a president with an absolute majority but leave the Siniora government in place. Both the opposition and Lahoud fiercely dispute the legitimacy of this government since all its Shi'ite Muslim ministers quit last year. Hezbollah has said this scenario is as bad as the governing coalition electing a president by absolute majority. The opposition would certainly react, but again has yet to say what it would do.
In either of the above scenarios, Lahoud may take the step of appointing a new government before leaving office, leaving Lebanon with two rival administrations. He previously floated the idea of appointing army chief Michel Suleiman to head a new cabinet. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah this week called on Lahoud to take a "salvation" measure if there was no resolution to the political conflict, appearing to back the formation of a parallel government. The governing coalition would reject any such move by Lahoud as unconstitutional.
The rival sides have accused each other of arming and training followers and the United Nations has expressed concern that they have been preparing themselves in case of a constitutional vacuum. Many Lebanese fear a further escalation in the political tension would quickly spill into the streets.
(Writing by Tom Perry in Beirut