November 22/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 19,11-28. While they were listening to him speak, he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the kingdom of God would appear there immediately. So he said, "A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return. He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins and told them, 'Engage in trade with these until I return.' His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce, 'We do not want this man to be our king.' But when he returned after obtaining the kingship, he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money, to learn what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, 'Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.'
He replied, 'Well done, good servant! You have been faithful in this very small matter; take charge of ten cities.' Then the second came and reported, 'Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.' And to this servant too he said, 'You, take charge of five cities.'
Then the other servant came and said, 'Sir, here is your gold coin; I kept it stored away in a handkerchief, for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding person; you take up what you did not lay down and you harvest what you did not plant.' He said to him, 'With your own words I shall condemn you, you wicked servant. You knew I was a demanding person, taking up what I did not lay down and harvesting what I did not plant; why did you not put my money in a bank? Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.' And to those standing by he said, 'Take the gold coin from him and give it to the servant who has ten.' But they said to him, 'Sir, he has ten gold coins.' 'I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.'" After he had said this, he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.

Releases. Reports & Opinions
Are Syria and Iran Manipulating Turkey on Iraq?.Counterterrorism Blog. November 22
The hidden message of Lebanon's latest political crisis.The Daily Star.November 21/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for November 21/07
Lebanon's Presidential Crisis Not Settled, Yet-Naharnet
Lavrov Discusses Lebanon's Presidential Crisis with Muallam-Naharnet
European Tripartite Meeting to Tackle Presidential Elections

Two Days before Election Deadline No Agreement on Consensus Presidential Candidate Yet-Naharnet
Jumblat: No for Implementation of International Resolutions over Dead Bodies-Naharnet
Sarkozy Telephones Assad to Discuss Lebanon's Political Crisis-Naharnet
Kouchner will Stay in Beirut Until Presidential Elections' Day-Naharnet
Gen. Sleiman Orders the Army to Protect the People-Naharnet
Verbal Quarrel Between Aoun and Berri-Naharnet
Arab Foreign Ministers to Discuss Lebanon's Crisis-Naharnet
Hope and Despair Mark Presidential Election-Naharnet
Putin Promises Hariri to Talk Syria-Iran into Facilitating Presidential Election-Naharnet
Sfeir Postpones Rome Trip.Naharnet
Lebanese psychodrama: Bernard Kouchner tears the first one.Voltaire Network
Lebanon girds for chaos as factional rift deepens.Globe and Mail
Troops enter Beirut to guard parliament against pro-Syria takeover ...World Tribune
Moussa blames both sides in Lebanon's presidential crisis-Daily Star
Hariri urges Putin to help block Iranian, Syrian meddling in Lebanese election-Daily Star  
Moussa blames both sides in Lebanon's presidential crisis-Daily Star  
Suleiman exhorts troops to counter destabilization-Daily Star  
Government 'determined' to hand power to new president-Daily Star  
Arab foreign ministers to discuss deadlock-Daily Star  
Iraq grants Lebanon $2 million to ease refugee burden-Daily Star  
Schools to remain open as presidential crisis comes to head-Daily Star  
Hailstorms set off cluster bombs in South-Daily Star  
Conference sheds light on the issue of torture in Lebanon-Daily Star  
Chinese ambassador kicks off week's worth of lectures on China at USJ-Daily Star  
AUB election candidates mirror politicians' postures-Daily Star  
Steinmeier, Ban urge dialogue on presidency-Daily Star  
ISF disputes report of illegal importation of ammunition-Daily Star  
What happens next in Lebanon is anyone's guess-Daily Star  
German FM, UN chief call for Lebanon election.Xinhua
Beirut audience gets jury duty in 'The Monkey Trial-Daily Star  
Byblos Bank warns of effects of vacuum-Daily Star
Palestinians, Israelis receive invitations to peace conference in Annapolis-Daily Star
Egypt arrests 22 members of Muslim Brotherhood.AFP

Two Days before Election Deadline No Agreement on Consensus Presidential Candidate Yet
A mood of frustration settled on Lebanon as a deadline for electing a new president approached with no signs that the feuding political sides are anywhere near reaching consensus on a presidential candidate. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who is aligned with the Hizbullah-led opposition, met late Tuesday with parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri who had just returned from a meeting in Moscow with President Vladimir Putin seeking Russia's help. A Russian envoy met in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar Assad, who also discussed Lebanon in a phone call from France's President Nicolas Sarkozy. The daily An Nahar said talks between Berri and Hariri remained deadlocked on finding a consensus candidate. Citing high-ranking March 14 sources, An Nahar said that while Berri insisted on former cabinet minister Michel Edde, Hariri informed the Speaker that the ruling team rejected the "method of imposing Edde's name and torpedoing the French (candidate) mechanism."
The sources said March 14 believes that pressure is being exerted upon the anti-Syrian coalition to force it into accepting only one candidate, rather than agreeing on the list drawn up by Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir.
It said that March 14 had been informed about an offer -- either go to the parliamentary session to elect Edde or not go, thus creating a vacuum that would force the election of Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman. Reports have indicated that March 14 favors MP Robert Ghanem or former Central Bank governor Michel Khoury. An Nahar said March 14 warned that imposing Edde's name is a situation similar to 1988 when Syria told Lebanon "either Mikhael Daher or chaos."
The choice of president has been deadlocked amid a power struggle between Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government and the opposition led by Hizbullah, an ally of Syria and Iran. Both sides moved toward finding a consensus presidential candidate from a list drawn by Sfeir aimed at ending the stalemate. But new disputes arose over who that compromise candidate should be. Beirut, 21 Nov 07, 08:45

Jumblat: No for Implementation of International Resolutions over Dead Bodies
Druze leader Walid Jumblat said he will not block a settlement to the presidential election impasse, declaring his support to "any" presidential candidate name on a list drawn up by Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, even if it was former cabinet minister Michel Edde.
Jumblat's position seemed to contradict that of the March 14 coalition which has rejected Edde on grounds that the opposition is trying to impose him on the ruling team. "I had advised him (Edde) to stay at an equal distance from both the majority and the opposition," Jumblat told the daily As Safir. "My advice to everybody without exception, particularly the Christians, that safeguarding Lebanon's peace and Taef stipulate compromise from everyone," he said. "I have no objection in leaving implementation of international resolutions for national dialogue right after presidential elections," Jumblat said, adding that he had informed Speaker Nabih Berri of his stance. Jumblat said that he told Berri: "We don't want implementation of international resolutions on Lebanese corpses."Addressing the various Lebanese leaders, Jumblat said: "People will not have mercy on us and will not forgive us for any bloodshed on the streets." "We are required to get out of the dark tunnel as quickly as possible and with any settlement that would make our peace victorious," Jumblat stressed. He seemed less worried about the international tribunal, saying the court is "done." Beirut, 21 Nov 07, 13:50

Sfeir Postpones Rome Trip
Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir has postponed a planned visit to Italy where he was due to take part in celebrations for cardinal promotions.
Informed sources cited several reasons as to why Sfeir decided to delay his Rome trip. Among those reasons was that several Christian figures, particularly Maronite, hoped that the prelate would stay in Lebanon to follow up presidential elections. Another reason was assurances conveyed to Sfeir by Arab League chief Amr Moussa that a new president will be elected on Friday. The sources also cited a formal letter of appreciation from France regarding Sfeir's stance and his "sacrifices" regarding drawing up a list of presidential candidates as another motive for postponing his visit. Beirut, 21 Nov 07, 09:48

Sarkozy Telephones Assad to Discuss Lebanon's Political Crisis
French President Nicolas Sarkozy called his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday, reopening top-level contacts after a three-year break in a bid end the political crisis in Lebanon, Syrian media said A terse dispatch carried by the official Syrian Arab News Agency said only that the two presidents discussed "the situation in Lebanon". Sarkozy's call to Assad was the first since he was elected in May, replacing Jacques Chirac who had suspended high-level talks with Syria after the murder of Lebanon's former premier Rafiq Hariri, a close friend, in February 2005. It came as Lebanon's pro-Syrian parliament speaker Nabih Berri announced that a special session set for Wednesday to elect a new president had been postponed until Friday, the final deadline for the vote. It was the fourth time the election had been postponed and came as France led international efforts to broker a compromise between the Western-backed government and the Syrian- and Iranian-backed opposition. While French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner shuttled between the rival leaders in Beirut, two aides to Sarkozy -- Claude Gueant and Jean-David Levitte -- met Assad briefly in Damascus for the second time in as many weeks. French presidential spokesman David Martinon announced the visit in Paris and said in a statement: "The Lebanese must have the possibility to choose their next president freely, without foreign intervention." Fears are running high that failure to find consensus in Lebanon by midnight (2200 GMT) Friday when pro-Syrian incumbent Emile Lahoud's term of office expires could spur the formation of two rival governments in a grim reminder of the end of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.(AFP) Beirut, 20 Nov 07, 22:10

Kouchner will Stay in Beirut Until Presidential Elections' Day
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, whose country has been leading international mediation efforts, expressed his hope that the Lebanese will elect a president on Friday."There are two days left and I hope that the leaders of this country will pick a candidate," Kouchner told reporters after meeting with the influential leader of the Maronite Christian church, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir. Asked if he is planning to stay in Beirut until 23rd November, Ha added "I will, certainly".
Three sessions to elect a successor to incumbent pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud were postponed over the past two months amid a lack of consensus between the Western-backed majority and the Hezbollah-led opposition. Several officials contacted by AFP said the latest delay was intended to give the feuding sides a last chance to strike a deal before Lahoud's mandate expires at midnight (2200 GMT) Friday. "We are totally deadlocked and this is what Syria wants," pro-government MP Solange Gemayel told AFP. "Syria wants a constitutional void and wants to impose on us someone under their influence."
She said the opposition, which is also backed by Syrian ally Iran, was insisting that the name of only one candidate -- former minister Michel Edde -- be submitted for a vote in parliament. "It is out of the question for the majority to accept Edde because as far as we are concerned he is pro-Syrian," said Gemayel, the widow of president-elect Beshir Gemayel, who was assassinated just days before taking office in 1982. Kouchner and Arab League chief Amr Mussa meanwhile shuttled between the rival sides to try to persuade them to reach a compromise. French President Nicolas Sarkozy also dispatched two top aides, Claude Gueant and Jean-David Levitte, to Damascus to discuss the Lebanese crisis with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, for the second time in two weeks. French presidential spokesman David Martinon announced the visit in Paris and said in a statement: "The Lebanese must have the possibility to choose their next president freely, without foreign intervention." Fears are running high that failure to meet Friday's deadline could spur the formation of two governments, a grim reminder of the end of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war when two competing administrations battled it out.(AFP) Beirut, 20 Nov 07, 21:38

Putin Promises Hariri to Talk Syria-Iran into Facilitating Presidential Election
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday promised parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri that he would hold "immediate" talks with Iran and Syria to facilitate Lebanon's presidential elections. A statement released by the Hariri Press office quoted Putin as telling the Lebanese leader during their meeting at a Moscow suburb that Russia supports the holding of presidential election in Lebanon within the constitutional time line. Putin, the statement added, noted that failure to hold the election on time "would hurt Lebanon and Russia rejects this.""Putin promised Hariri that he would hold immediate contacts with Iran and Syria to this effect," the statement added. Hariri told Putin Lebanon is counting on Russia's help in overcoming the crisis. "I came to Moscow at the historic moment for Lebanon," Hariri stated, "Russia has already been on Lebanon's side in difficult times, and your personal efforts also contributed," he said addressing Putin. "Today, we again need Russia's assistance in overcoming the crisis which our country is experiencing today," he added. Putin replied that Moscow "has been closely following the situation in Lebanon."
Hariri said he visited Moscow "at a truly crucial moment in Lebanon's history."Putin stressed that "ahead of Lebanon's national holiday - the Day of Independence I would like to congratulate the people of Lebanon and wish them peace, well being and unity." Beirut, 20 Nov 07, 17:39

Gen. Sleiman Orders the Army to Protect the People

Amid mounting tension on the eve of controversial presidential elections, Army Commander Gen. Michel Sleiman indicated Tuesday that his troops would confront any attempt to destabilize Lebanon. In his order of the day marking the 64th anniversary of Lebanon's independence, Sleiman told his troops:
"Your national role is dictated by the blood of martyrs and confidence of the citizens who would remain by your side
"They call upon you to safeguard their security and stability; to prevent aggression on their lives and property; to protect public and privately-owned institutions and they support you in striking at whoever attempts to target security and the freedom of others.""Let it be known that any aggression on security is (tantamount to) national treason, and any weapon directed against the interior is a weapon of treachery. The homeland is at stake and you are the nation's protectors," Gen. Sleiman said in his order. The army and security forces have been entrusted with the task of enforcing law and order as the nation faces controversial elections to choose a successor to Syrian-backed President Emile Lahoud whose extended term in offices expires at midnight Friday. "Lebanon will emerge stronger than before and will be proud of your sacrifices and devotion," The Army Commander told his troops. He addressed the soldiers saying: "you have been a symbol of national unity. Pay no attention to whatever is happening regarding implementation of the constitution or interpreting it listen only to the calls of duty and the homeland defend your homeland, Lebanon." Beirut, 20 Nov 07, 12:53

Verbal Quarrel Between Aoun and Berri
A verbal confrontation broke out Tuesday between Free Patriotic Movement Leader MP Michel Aoun and Praliament Speaker Nabih Berri over remarks published by a French daily newspaper.Liberation quoted Aoun as saying "the election of a president is an issue that concerns the Maronite community and not Shiite Berri or Sunni Saad Hariri Berri's closest aide, Mp Ali Hassan Khalil, responded by saying he was "amazed by Aoun's statement", noting that "it was only normal for the parliament speaker to consult with parliamentary majority over the presidential elections."He said the "Hizbullah-led opposition supported Berri's efforts and if Aoun wants to break away from the opposition it is up to him."Khalil added that despite Aoun's stance Berri would proceed with his efforts backed by his own parliamentary block and the opposition Beirut, 20 Nov 07, 21:07

Arab Foreign Ministers to Discuss Lebanon's Crisis
Arab foreign ministers meet on Thursday in Cairo to decide on their participation in a U.S.-sponsored peace meeting next week, with the Lebanese political impasse a possible topic on the agenda. The two-day meeting kicks off on Thursday evening with preparatory talks, followed by a session on Friday morning chaired by Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, said Hisham Yussef, secretary general Amr Moussa's chief of staff. "The main issue on the agenda is to decide whether Arab participation will be determined by a common decision, or individually," Yussef said. An Arab Diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Naharnet the stalled presidential elections in Lebanon would be a "side topic" on the agenda. "You don't expect Arab foreign ministers to meet, with Prince Saud al-Faisal chairing the talks, without discussing the Lebanon situation, especially that the meeting would be held just one day before President Emile Lahoud's term expires," the source added. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is to attend Friday's session and his delegation would present to the Thursday talks a "detailed report on the results of the recent Israeli-Palestinian talks", an Arab League official said.
The Cairo meeting called by Moussa will bring together members of the Arab contact group tasked with reactivating the Arab peace initiative launched by Saudi Arabia last year. The plan offers normalization with the Jewish state in exchange for Arab land occupied in 1967. The Arab contact group comprises Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Qatar, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Sudan and the Palestinian Authority. Israel rejected the Arab peace plan out of hand when it was first adopted in 2002, but in recent months has voiced new interest in it as a starting point for talks. The planned conference in Annapolis, near Washington, is set to bring together about 40 countries with a view to re-launching peace negotiations to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is set to start on November 26, according to a Palestinian official.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 20 Nov 07, 18:05

Hope and Despair Mark Presidential Election
Lebanon's parliament on Tuesday appeared likely to postpone a key session to elect a president for later this week, as the deeply divided factions have failed to find a compromise candidate. Meanwhile, army and police reinforcements were sent to the capital, Beirut, fearing a volatile power vacuum.
Arab League chief Amr Moussa, in Lebanon to mediate between the rival parties, was downbeat, saying talk of postponement of the session "so far is true."
"It is not right to despair," Moussa told reporters after meeting with President Emile Lahoud, whose term ends Friday night. "There is still hope, although there are still difficulties." Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri's office denied that a decision had been made to postpone the session. "This is not true ... If there is a change, it will be announced."The new security measures came as Moussa and France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner continued their mediation here, meeting separately with leaders of the U.S.-backed government and Syrian- and Iranian-supported opposition.
The two Lebanese sides have been deadlocked for weeks over picking Lahoud's successor. They seem entrenched in their positions, despite guarded optimism in recent days they could reach a consensus candidate for the post. Several politicians and newspapers also predicted the session would be postponed till Friday.
Failure to elect a successor to Lahoud could worsen Lebanon's year-old political crisis and bring about a power vacuum. This could lead to the formation of two rival administrations and increase the risk of street violence. The uncertainty has worried the Lebanese, with many reportedly stocking up on food and putting daily life on hold to await the outcome of the mediation. Education Minister Khaled Qabbani, who earlier Tuesday was mulling whether to suspend schools and universities as a precaution, said the institutions would open as usual on Wednesday. But he summed up the mood of the country.
"The Lebanese are confused about what's happening," he told Voice of Lebanon radio. "What should we tell them if there is no presidential election?"
In Beirut, random police and army checkpoints were set up Monday night, with troops searching cars and inspecting travelers' documents on major intersections and the suburbs. About half of Lebanon's 4 million people live in the greater Beirut area and Mount Lebanon. Security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with standing government regulations, said the military and police were put on alert and leaves were canceled.
A total of 20,000 members of the security forces were covered by the security measures, 6,000 of them in Beirut itself, the official said.
Also, security at government buildings was reinforced and troops were also to be sent to Central Bank offices and other institutions. In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he hoped Lebanon will overcome political deadlock over electing the next president. He spoke after talks Tuesday in the Russian capital with visiting Saad Hariri, head of Lebanon's parliamentary majority.
In New York on Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern, saying he is "more cautiously optimistic" than when he visited Beirut last week.
If no president was elected, Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government would take executive powers under the constitution.
But Lahoud has said he would not hand over executive powers to the Cabinet since he does not recognize the Saniora administration after the resignation last year of all five Shiite Cabinet ministers. The militant Hizbullah opposition has called on Lahoud to take unspecified measures to prevent Saniora from taking power.
Possible scenarios reported in the media include Lahoud handing over power to the military chiefs or even declaring a state of emergency.
Army commander, Gen. Michel Sleiman, echoed the sense of urgency as he spoke to the troops ahead of Lebanon's Independence Day on Thursday and called on them to ignore the politics and "and listen to the call of duty." "Any breach of security is national treason, and every weapon turned on the (Lebanese) ... is a treacherous one," he said. "The nation is at stake and you are its defenders. Do not be lenient and do not be inactive."(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 20 Nov 07, 16:25