November 28/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 21,5-11. While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, he said, All that you see here--the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down. Then they asked him, "Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?" He answered, "See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he,' and 'The time has come.' Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end." Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.

Releases. Reports & Opinions
The Taef, the New Precedent, and the Christians. By: Abdalla Iskandar. November 27/07
Peace is impossible without an agenda that stresses people over policy -The Daily Star. November 27/07
Lebanon is a Wild Place.By: W. Thomas Smith Jr.Town Hall. November 27/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for November 27/07
Brammertz Identifies Names of Four Perpetrators in Hariri Assassination-Naharnet
Mitri: Lebanon Will Not Bargain Away Rights in Annapolis-Naharnet
Bush: Time is right for Mideast peace-AP
Suleiman Pledges Commitment to Lebanon Security-Naharnet
Syria a nation of contradictions-Los Angeles Times
Lebanon's Presidential Crisis-Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Saudi Envoy to Lebanon: "Presidency must return to a Maronite ...Asharq Alawsat
Hariri proposes, Geagea disposes-GulfNews
Palestinian Refugees Protest Against Annapolis-Naharnet
Moscow Willing to Organize Follow-up Peace Meeting to Include Lebanon, Syria-Naharnet
Customs Confiscate 2 Million Illegal Pills
Siniora plans to walk softly until presidential seat is filled -The Daily Star
Israel 'fires on Lebanese fishing boats'  (AFP)
Rival camps find new basis for argument: Annapolis -The Daily Star
March marks 18 years since Mouawad assassination -The Daily Star
Syria: Golan in Annapolis talks gets March 14 no favors -The Daily Star
Japan voices concern about vacuum in presidency -The Daily Star
Staff at Baabda Palace await election of new master to resume their work -The Daily Star
Bishop: Lebanon's presidential vacuum could stir religious conflicts
-Catholic News Service
Women's League schedules meeting for December -The Daily Star
AUB professor receives $200,000 grant for study -The Daily Star
Students mark independence with mural -The Daily Star
Lebanese children leave their mark at International Forum of Cultures -The Daily Star
Migrant workers endure hardships abroad for chance at better life -The Daily Star
Ras Beirut weighs in on whether Lebanon should be at Annapolis - and whether it will do any good
-The Daily Star
Gemayel: Difference on Hizbullah Weapons Block Presidential Election-Naharnet
Crucial Week for Lebanon with No Sign of Quick Settlement-Naharnet
Israeli Coastguard Shoot at Lebanese Fishermen-Naharnet
Saniora Accuses Berri of Blocking Presidential Election-Naharnet
Muallem Denies Relations with Aoun-Naharnet
Aoun: Christians' Political Authority is Rabiyeh, Not Bkirki-Naharnet

Syria's role at US talks may help Lebanon-Christian Science Monitor
'Syria gauging US commitment to peace-Jerusalem Post

Suleiman Pledges Commitment to Lebanon Security
Army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman pledged commitment to Lebanon's security.
Suleiman stressed that extra measures were taken in and around Beirut to secure a presidential election session scheduled for Friday.
His remarks came after meeting Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir on Monday were talks focused on the security situation.
Former President Emile Lahoud had ordered the military to take charge of Lebanon's security with all security forces under the Suleiman's command.
Beirut, 27 Nov 07, 09:40

Mitri: Lebanon Will Not Bargain Away Rights in Annapolis
Acting Foreign Minister Tarek Mitri stressed that Lebanon will not bargain away rights and will not be bound by the decisions taken at a Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland. The Annapolis conference is "not a meeting for bargaining. Lebanon will not negotiate or bargain for any of its rights," Mitri told the daily An Nahar.  Mitri also stressed that "no deals likely to jeopardize Lebanon's rights are in preparation." "No negotiations whatsoever will take place during the conference, which is to be considered as sort of an ice-breaker," he said in a statement. Mitri, who is attending the peace conference, said the "decisions taken at Annapolis are not binding on Lebanon." Mitri said Lebanon will stress during the conference "its firm stances regarding its national, legal rights and its commitment to international resolutions related to these rights, including Shabaa Farms and Israeli violations." He said that he would also urge the international community to exert pressure for the implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Lebanon's participation in Annapolis has sparked a dispute among the feuding sides. "The decision to attend the conference was a swift one because such a conference is unlikely to bring anything new to the peace process," a joint statement by Hizbullah and Amal said. "The decision to take part in the ... conference is yet another clear demonstration that the illegitimate government does its best to monopolize crucial decisions," the statement added. "The conference is an occasion for Lebanon to remind the international community and shed light on pending issues such as the Shabaa Farms, maps for cluster bombs dropped by Israel during the summer 2006 war and Lebanese detainees in Israeli prisons," Mitri said. Mitri said Lebanon's participation in Annapolis was "like other Arab delegations, clinging to the Arab Peace Initiative, U.N. resolutions, and the refusal of having Palestinians settled in their host countries." The Arab Peace Initiative was first proposed by then-Crown Prince (now king) Abdullah of Saudi Arabia during the Arab League summit held in Beirut in 2002. Beirut, 27 Nov 07, 06:39

Brammertz Identifies Names of Four Perpetrators in Hariri Assassination
Former head of the U.N. probe into the assassination of ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has identified the names of four perpetrators suspected of involvement in the killing of one of the world's most famous crimes. The daily As Safir, citing a well-informed source in the United Nations, said Brammertz will, for the first time, uncover the names of the four perpetrators. The source, who did not say what the perpetrators' role exactly was, said the names would be made public when Brammertz submits a copy of his report to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday. Beirut, 27 Nov 07, 10:09

Moscow Willing to Organize Follow-up Peace Meeting to Include Lebanon, Syria
Russia is ready to organize a follow-up meeting to the U.S.-championed talks at Annapolis, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was Tuesday quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. "If the parties, I mean to say Israel, Palestine and the Arab League are in favor that Moscow should become the site to follow up the work (at Annapolis), we would be happy to welcome the delegations," the minister said, speaking in Washington. U.S. President George Bush said he was "optimistic" that the high-stakes conference opening in Annapolis, Maryland, on Tuesday would restart peace talks after a seven-year freeze. But late Monday, there appeared to be no consensus on the so-called "final status" issues of major disagreement between Israelis and Palestinians on things like the borders of a future Palestinian state, the future of Jerusalem, and fate of Palestinian refugees. A diplomatic source said Washington has suggested that the Annapolis conference should lead to the creation of a committee which will oversee future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. "The arrangement proposed by the Americans to the Arab countries also includes the holding of a similar conference in Moscow in January which will include the role of Syria and Lebanon in the peace process," an Arab diplomat said. (AFP).
Beirut, 27 Nov 07, 11:52

Bush: Time is right for Mideast peace
By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - President Bush declared Tuesday that the time is right to relaunch Mideast peace talks to create a Palestinian state because "a battle is under way for the future" of the troubled region. In remarks prepared for the U.S.-arranged Annapolis Mideast peace conference, Bush said peacemaking at this juncture of history is an opportunity that cannot be missed. He said it won't be easy to achieve the goal of creating two states — Israel and Palestine — living side by side in peace after decades of conflict and bloodshed, but also said the two sides nevertheless must work together for the sake of their people.
"Today, Palestinians and Israelis each understand that helping the other to realize their aspirations is the key to realizing their own, and both require an independent, democratic, viable Palestinian state," Bush said in remarks he was making later Tuesday morning. According to excerpts of his speech released by the White House, he said, "Such a state will provide Palestinians with the chance to lead lives of freedom, purpose and dignity. And such a state will help provide Israelis with something they have been seeking for generations: to live in peace with their neighbors."
After months of frantic diplomacy, top officials from more than 40 nations were converging on this historic state capital to try to get commitments for the first formal Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in seven years.
The Bush administration has been buffeted by skepticism over prospects that the Annapolis Conference can set the stage for the creation of a Palestinian state by the end of Bush's second term in early 2009. Because of this, administration officials from the president on down have sought to minimize expectations for any major breakthrough here. But they also insist that the exercise is not futile.
Bush, who met separately with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday ahead of the conference, said the purpose of Annapolis is to not only restart talks, but also gain support from the Arab world and the international community for the hard work ahead. Saudi Arabia and Syria — key players — are among 16 Arab nations attending the conference.
"Our purpose here in Annapolis is not to conclude an agreement. Rather, it is to launch negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians," Bush said. "For the rest of us, our job is to encourage the parties in this effort and to give them the support they need to succeed."
Bush laid out the reasons he said now is the right time to pursue a Mideast peace settlement — something he and the Israeli and Palestinians leaders said they would like to achieve before the U.S. president leaves office in January 2009. "First, the time is right because Palestinians and Israelis have leaders who are determined to achieve peace," Bush said. "Second, the time is right because a battle is under way for the future of the Middle East and we must not cede victory to the extremists. Third, the time is right because the world understands the urgency of supporting these negotiations."
Despite Bush's lofty rhetoric, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had still not managed to broker an agreement on the conference centerpiece, a joint document or "workplan" on new talks — what the two sides must do going forward. Rice has been meeting with the chief negotiators for two days to try and bridge the gaps.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia said Monday after an afternoon meeting with Rice, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and others that details of the document had not been finalized. "Our efforts are still going on to reach this document," he said. A member of the Palestinian delegation, speaking on condition on anonymity because talks were still going on, said three main obstacles have emerged:
_All sides have agreed that two states should be established, but the Palestinians have objected to referring to Israel as a "Jewish state." The Palestinians and their Arab backers are concerned that a specific reference to a Jewish state would prejudice the right of Palestinians who claim a right to return to land they once owned inside Israel. _American and Israeli officials are resisting Palestinian efforts to include language about "ending the occupation that started in 1967," a reference to disputed Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The West Bank would form the bulk of an eventual Palestinian state and the two sides must decide which settlements would remain a part of Israel.
_The Palestinians want the document to set a one-year timetable for reaching a resolution. The Israelis do not want this, and the Americans are open the idea.

Saudi Envoy to Lebanon: "Presidency must return to a Maronite Christian president as soon as possible".
By Thair Abbas
Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat- Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Birri has reaffirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat his commitment to Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfayr's list and accord as an approach to resolving the presidential crisis. While, Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Abdulaziz Khoja told Asharq Al-Awsat that the current situation "does not serve any of the parties," stressing that "the presidency must return to a Maronite Christian president as soon as possible."
Speaker Birri expressed hope a solution could be reached soon and warned that failing to expedite a solution would further complicate the situation. Ambassador Khoja said: "The international community was hoping the presidential election would take place on time, however, the manner in which President Emil Lahhud's presidency ended, the transfer of power to the government in the interim according to the constitution until a new president is elected, the cooperation of the Army and its excellent command as well as the Interior Ministry, the security forces, and preparedness for this moment, has made this possible, praise to God."
The Saudi ambassador praised the meeting with Army Commander General Michel Sulayman by saying: "We have known him to be wise, completely responsible, and to coordinate with the prime minister to maintain security, which his a great responsibility." Khoja also stressed "the need to hold presidential election as soon as possible since time is not on the side of Lebanon's general interests."
He added: "When elections take place, the situation will return to normal in terms of the three leading positions. This will thus reflect on the whole situation, leading to security and prosperity and Lebanon will be able to return to normal. Christian and Muslims holidays are coming up as well as the high tourism season that the country and economy could benefit from." Khoja expressed confidence that the issue "will end by electing a new president as soon as possible" and warned that "vacuum does not serve any interests." He added that the presidency must return to a Maronite Christian and warned against "allowing this interim stage to last long."
Citing Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, he said "the current situation must not continue," adding that "nobody can take the president's place. It is merely a temporary role in accordance with the constitution so as not to leave the country in a vacuum." He also cited Siniora as saying he wished to end this reality "as soon as possible."
Khawjah noted that "Islamic-Christian pluralism is what gives Lebanon its beauty."

Lebanon is a "Wild Place"
By W. Thomas Smith, Jr
Monday, November 26, 2007
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Lebanon is a “wild place,” so-said a counterterrorism expert in a personal conversation with me days before former Lebanese president Emile Lahoud stepped down and declared the army in charge of that troubled state, last week.
On the one hand, Lebanon is an amazing country with a marvelous history and culture, and a society that places a premium on high education. It’s also known for its stunning vistas, a unique sense of style and fashion paralleled only by the Parisians and the Milanese, a renowned nightlife, and its breathtakingly beautiful women.
Lebanese soldiers stand guard in their armoured personnel carrier as a woman walks past in Beirut November 25, 2007. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi (LEBANON)
On the other hand, Lebanon has no president. They’ve been unable to elect one in several attempts. And if the country’s parliamentarians – many of whom are heavily guarded and under threat of death – do not elect a chief executive by the end of this week, the power vacuum will continue to grow. The army leadership may feel compelled to tighten its authority over the country (perhaps declaring martial law). The old civil war militias may rise up. The parliament may splinter. And Hezbollah – a Shiia Muslim group and one of the world’s most formidable terrorist organizations – may decide the time is right to consolidate its forces in Lebanon and attempt to seize power.
Consolidating would be easy. According to independent analysis published by Strategic Forecasting (StratFor): “The Damascus highway links Hezbollah strongholds in the central and northern Bekaa Valley with Beirut's southern suburbs, while the coastal highway between Beirut and Sidon connects Hezbollah bases in the South with Beirut's southern suburbs.”
Hezbollah, described by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s senior terrorism advisor, Richard Kemp, “is probably the world’s most effective terrorist organization, and that includes Al Qaeda.” Worse: Hezbollah’s guerrilla-force strength – numbering in the thousands -- and position in Lebanon has never been stronger.
The group, supported by Syria and heavily financed and trained by the Islamic (Iranian) Revolutionary Guard Corps, has tremendous influence, nationwide (and a dangerous and growing footprint throughout the rest of the world): Their yellow and green fist-and-rifle flags fly all over the country. They have permeated the ranks of the armed forces at all levels. They control or influence many of Lebanon’s businesses, other commercial enterprises, and telecommunications. They have a very strong lobby in the Lebanese media. They even control some Lebanese-based international media. And they are armed to the teeth.
“Hezbollah has said it would take action if the Lebanese Parliament elects a new free president,” Dr. Walid Phares, director of the director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told me over the weekend. “The group would seize ministries, cut off main highways and paralyze the country. The question would be what would the Lebanese Army do and what would the international community do? Hezbollah has thousands of missiles and rockets. But would it really use them in a domestic conflict? It also has suicide bombers, but would it use them against neighbors and joint economic interests?”
What would stop them? The army? Doubtful. The military leadership under armed-forces commander-in-chief Gen. Michel Sleiman has so-far given Hezbollah a free pass despite the fact that United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 calls for the disarming of all militias in Lebanon.
“Hezbollah is a resistance,” Sleiman told me in his office at the Ministry of Defense in Beirut (not far from a Hezbollah-controlled district and virtual weapons depot where the legitimate army and police do not enter). Practically all of the Lebanese generals I spoke with while I was in Lebanon in September and October told me the same thing. They say that, because they know by labeling Hezbollah a “resistance movement,” the terrorist organization avoids the label “militia.” Hezbollah and its parent companies Syria and Iran have deep roots in the army leadership. And a huge percentage of the rank-and-file are pro-Hezbollah Shiia.
Sleiman continued straight out of the Ahmadinejad playbook, “The resistance [Hezbollah] was formed before the unification of the army. They were here first. They fight Israel, and if any group fights Israel we should respect it.”
Hezbollah also blew up 220 U.S. Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers during the organization’s formative years nearly a quarter century ago. Today Hezbollah has global reach (cells in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere), lots of money, men, and arms (more so in fact than what they had prior to the Israeli-Hezbollah war in 2006). The centerpiece of this Syro-Iranian supported terrorist army is positioned in Lebanon (one of their largest strongholds, Al Dahiyeh, is located within minutes of the Lebanese parliament and government buildings in Beirut). Hezbollah is actively training in Lebanon, conducting exercises that sometimes aren’t reported, and transporting militiamen, which is rarely reported. They are manipulating the press. The army won’t do anything to stop them. Many of the parliamentarians are hiding behind layers of security in Beirut’s Phoenicia Hotel. They never venture outside without heavy military or paramilitary protection. They never open the curtains to their rooms for fear of snipers. And, again, the country is without a president.
Frankly, what’s next is anybody’s guess.
**W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a former U.S. Marine infantry leader, parachutist, and shipboard counterterrorism instructor and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pirates.

The Taef, the New Precedent, and the Christians
Abdalla Iskandar Al-Hayat - 27/11/07//
The first few days of Lebanon's presidential void are passing, just like the last days of the previous presidential term. And since the pessimistic evil has not realized yet as everyone keeps trying to avoid it, it becomes legitimate to raise questions about the seemingly organized nature of this presidential void. It is even more important to raise questions about the prevalence of the concept of co-existence while the senior constitutional position remains vacant. More seriously, and even with assuming the possibility of electing a new president soon, this experience will be become a precedent which brings an end to the election of the president by having it replaced with a new concept, the assignment of a president irrespective of the procedures involved.
Just as the case is these days where the various parties failed to agree on one candidate and brought the elections to a halt as a result of their vetoes, others will in the future object to candidates and impose their vetoes on them, once again throwing the country into the same whirl and into another presidential void. Hence a new precedent is now added to other precedents that complicate political life instead of facilitating it, and once again turning the presidential election date into a major concern and a threat to the state and the nation rather than making it an opportunity to enter a new phase or to bring an end to crises.
On the other hand, another question is as to why this "void" in Lebanon is only inflicted on the presidential post, and not to the top posts in other institutions. This is despite the fact that the top parliamentary and cabinet posts, like the presidency, derive their legitimacy from the same source, namely the representatives of the people. Those representatives agree on electing their speaker without trouble, and they choose their prime minister through mandatory consultations, also without incident. But when it is time to elect the president, they tend to prefer the presidential void to doing their electoral duty. The problem, from an objective point of view, then becomes associated with the higher representative of Christians, especially that the Taef Accord has already affirmed the distribution of the other higher posts among the confessions.
It is true that the constitution delegated to the council of ministers, collectively, the authorities of the president to avoid the problem of constitutional void; it is true that the Sunni leaders who assume the prime ministry have struggled to provide all kinds of assurances to the Maronite Patriarch regarding the presidential post. Yet, it may not be easy for the Christians to see that the same standards apply to the concept of national partnership, and this may raise existential questions about the meaning of this partnership, which in turn may go beyond the current political crisis that is already reinforcing the precedent that undermines the partnership.
The process leading to the presidential void is well-known. The Patriarch's list of candidates was pictures as the guarantee for the election, and yet, the list was fruitless in the end. This may be understandable, politically at least, but quite an effort was made leading to a shift; instead of the Patriarch's list being the guarantee, the list's failure became the Patriarch's responsibility. At the same time, there are those who are trying to nurture the conflict between the Christians by encouraging big objections assumed and expressed by one of their top leaders, General Michel Aoun, thus turning this into a Christian-Christian crisis. And thus, the factors that have led to the new reality simply vanish as if they had no role to play in the first place.
The borders are now blurred between the necessities of the co-existence declaration on the one hand, and the Christian-Christian conflict on the other. This is the big conundrum that has led to the current situation. Coexistence was supposed to be governed by the Taef Accord. Yet, in the government of the presidential void, talk is now about the failure of the Accord to find solutions to the crisis. General Aoun who is receiving more encouragement to continue his claim of being the Christian reference never really accepted the Accord. Whatever he does and says at present distances him from the Accord, against all other Christian politicians and clergymen who accepted the Taef Accord as the appropriate formula for coexistence. On the other hand, while political Shiism has not declared its rejection of the Accord, its previous and current political behaviors seem to oppose it, and many of the forces positioned at its periphery are no longer reluctant to voice the need to find a new formula that goes beyond the Taef Accord. Perhaps this explains the new admiration for General Aoun as he has assumed the job of criticizing the Accord