November 30/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 21,20-28. When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, know that its desolation is at hand.
Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. Let those within the city escape from it, and let those in the countryside not enter the city,
for these days are the time of punishment when all the scriptures are fulfilled. Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days, for a terrible calamity will come upon the earth and a wrathful judgment upon this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken as captives to all the Gentiles; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand."

Releases. Reports & Opinions
Opposition Cautious of March 14 Offer to Elect Suleiman President-Naharnet. November 30/07
Will Lebanon appoint its next president?By Joseph A. Kechichian-GulfNews. November 30/07

Destroying Lebanon for a great sinecure-By Michael Young-November 29/07  
Annapolis happened, mattered, and does mean something-By David Ignatius-November 29/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for November 29/07
Lebanese opposition leader backs army chief for president-Jerusalem Post
A Brief Look at Lebanon's Army Commander-The Associated Press

Opposition Cautious of March 14 Offer to Elect Suleiman President-Naharnet
Berri Ready to Amend Constitution to Facilitate Suleiman Election-Naharnet
Brammertz' Report: Progress Led to Identification of New 'Persons of Interest'-Naharnet
Hariri inquiry finds killers still able to strike
-Los Angeles Times
Possible end to Lebanon's Presidential
Syria newly upbeat on chance to reopen Golan issue-Reuters

Suleiman becomes front-runner in presidential race-Daily Star
Brammertz: Hariri assassins capable of more attacks-Daily Star
Robert Ghanem urges MPs to do their jobs, elect president-Daily Star
Feltman insists absolute-majority vote will not lead to civil war-Daily Star
A world of people on the move-Daily Star
Analysts: Future's support for Suleiman as president pushes Aoun into corner-Daily Star
Full text of the ninth report of the United Nations investigation into the Hariri assassination-Daily Star
Lebanese taxi drivers protest against rising fuel costs, threaten nationwide strike
-Daily Star

Opposition Cautious of March 14 Offer to Elect Suleiman President
The Hizbullah-led Opposition appeared to be reluctant towards a proposal by the March 14 coalition to elect army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman president.
Lebanon moved closer to a deal for Suleiman to become the next president after several March 14 leaders announced they accept a constitutional amendment allowing the election of the army commander. It was the first sign of a breakthrough between Lebanon's feuding sides, after the Annapolis conference eased tensions between their main backers, the United States and Syria. Suleiman is seen as a neutral figure in a country where nearly every politician is considered either in the pro- or anti-Syrian camp. He is also seen as strong enough to ensure neither side dominates the other.
Lebanon's constitution bars a sitting army commander from becoming president. But on Wednesday, the largest bloc in parliament -- the anti-Syrian Al-Moustaqbal Movement -- announced it has dropped its rejection of amending the constitution.
The opposition has not announced its stance on Suleiman's candidacy, though he is respected among its leadership.
There also remain deeply divisive questions over how to change the constitution.
A major card remains: Christian Opposition leader Gen. Michel Aoun who has pushed his own candidacy for the presidency.
It was unclear whether Aoun would go along with Suleiman.
An economic delegation that visited Aoun Wednesday afternoon quoted the former army commander as saying that he does not mind amending the constitution, if need be, as long as it provides for the president to be chosen by the votes of the people directly.
Resigned Energy Minister Mohammad Fneish called for a political settlement, saying any consensus candidate has to be approved by the party which represents a majority of Christians.
Fneish told The Daily Star that this party is the Change and Reform Bloc headed by Aoun.
"Aoun is the starting point to any consensus. The question here is whether this move is a maneuver on the part of the ruling faction to create a rift between us and (Aoun) or is it a serious offer by the ruling faction and a clear position?" Fneish asked.
He said that if Suleiman is considered a serious candidate by March 14, then his election should be discussed with Aoun first and the other opposition parties.
Fneish said Hizbullah does not object to Suleiman in principle.
Change and Reform bloc MP Ibrahim Kanaan urged the majority to prepare a draft proposal for a constitutional amendment and express a serious desire to support Suleiman so that Aoun's bloc can express its position.
"Is this just a maneuver or a serious offer? Our experience with (the majority) in the past has not been very encouraging, many times they made overtures and went back on them," Kanaan told The Daily Star.
MP Mohammad Raad, leader of the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc, told Naharnet that a constitutional amendment is possible only if Prime Minister Fouad Saniora resigns from the "unconstitutional government."
While some opposition figures voiced reservation over the March 14 offer, other leaders within the Hizbullah-led March 8 alliance raised questions over how to change the constitution.

Hizbullah's Mohammed Raad: No to a Constitutional Amendment by Saniora Government
By Dalia Nehme
The head of Hizbullah's parliamentary bloc MP Mohammed Raad said Wednesday Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's majority government does not have the authority to propose a constitutional amendment allowing the election of Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman president.
Noting that he is voicing "a viewpoint that remains personal," Raad told Naharnet: "To me, at the personal level, I believe a constitutional amendment in parliament is possible after resignation of Fouad Saniora from the government which is neither constitutional nor legitimate."
"Parliament cannot meet with a non-constitutional government. I am not making a proposal, but expressing a view point that remains personal."
However, Raad stressed that "we will not block any consensus possibility if the intro to it is a constitutional amendment, provided that all opposition factions have agreed on it."
In answering a question as to whether the Hizbullah parliamentary bloc will attend a session to amend the constitution, Raad said: "We believe that any constitutional amendment will be fabrication based on tacit approval by both the pro-government factions and the opposition due to an extraordinary and very important matter."
"This issue should be discussed in detail by the opposition," he added.
What would your stand be if amending the constitution to elect Gen. Suleiman is the only salvation solution? Raad was asked.
He replied: "In fact, this issue needs to be judged to realize its seriousness in the candidate-proposing formula, and to know if the other side considers it the salvation solution."
He recalled that Saniora had "pledged to chop off his hand before signing a constitutional amendment decree. If he is ready now to chop off his hand lets discuss this issue," Raad added.
"We see no seriousness in tackling this issue, some (factions) are trying to maneuver by throwing the ball into the other side's court."
Raad said Gen. Suleiman "knows well our stand regarding him, we explained our stand to him in details a long time ago. And when nominating him is proposed seriously we'll discuss the topic."
He asked "why wasn't (suleiman's nomination) in the basked on candidates. Is constitutional amendment possible now, from a constitutional point of view? And who amends the constitution now? A non-constitutional government, and a parliament that doesn't meet with this non-constitutional government? This issue requires a discussion."In answering a question as to whether nominating Gen. Suleiman could be proposed as a salvation exit out of the ongoing political crisis, Raad replied:
"If the opposition adopted this view point, then why not. But the opposition might not adopt this view point This issue requires a decision. But this government is neither legal nor constitutional, how can it be entrusted with a constitutional amendment in the first place it does not exist as far as we are concerned. Amending the constitution requires a two-thirds vote by a legal government so that a decree can be referred to parliament.
"Parliament does not accept illegitimate decrees by the illegitimate government."
Raad concluded by asking: "does the extraordinary situation prevailing over the country require us to surmount all these issues and the constitutional mechanism to amend the constitution?""I don't know, though I find it to be difficult," he replied. Beirut, 28 Nov 07, 17:28

Berri Ready to Amend Constitution to Facilitate Suleiman Election
House Speaker Nabih Berri said he was willing to amend the constitution in order to elect army commandeer Gen. Michel Suleiman president.
In remarks published by the daily As Safir on Thursday, Berri explained that there were four ways to amend the constitution.
Berri, however, stressed the need to reach national consensus on Suleiman. "I'm staying in the waiting room until they (feuding camps) come to an agreement; and I will accept any consensus option adopted by both sides," Berri said. Beirut, 29 Nov 07, 11:35

Brammertz' Report: Progress Led to Identification of New 'Persons of Interest'
A U.N. inquiry has made progress in linking people to the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri and is closely examining the possibility that two or more teams may have prepared and carried out the attack, chief investigator Serge Brammertz said Wednesday. While not identifying anyone, Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz said in his final report to the Security Council that progress by the U.N. International Independent Investigation Commission in the last four months has led to the identification of new "persons of interest" and new investigative leads."The commission has also deepened and broadened its understanding of the possible involvement of a number of persons of interest, including persons who have recently been identified by the commission, who may have been involved in some aspects of the preparation and commission of the crime or who may have known that a plan to carry out the crime was being prepared," Brammertz said.
"In addition to the progress made in linking various persons of interest to the commission of the crime, the commission has also established links between some of these persons," he said, adding that pursuing this line of inquiry will be a priority in the coming months.
Brammertz said the commission also confirmed its hypothesis that "operational links may exist" between the perpetrators of 18 other targeted assassinations and bombings in Lebanon, adding that confirming these links and establishing new links will also be a priority in the near future.
The report was issued just after the Security Council unanimously approved Brammertz' nomination to head the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands. The U.N. chief has appointed former Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare to head the Hariri probe.
Investigators have previously confirmed that a single blast from a Mitsubishi Canter van packed with 3,960 pounds (1,800 kilograms) of high explosives was detonated "most likely" by a male suicide bomber in central Beirut on Feb. 14, 2005, killing Hariri and 22 others.
The first U.N. chief investigator, Germany's Detlev Mehlis, said the plot's complexity suggested that Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services had a role, but Brammertz has not echoed his view. Four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals have been under arrest for almost two years for alleged involvement in the murder.
Syria denied involvement in Hariri's assassination but was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, ending a 29-year presence. Brammertz reiterated in Wednesday's report that Syria's cooperation with investigators "remains generally satisfactory," noting that the commission had made 11 requests for information to Syria in the last four months, bringing the total to 68 since January 2006.
Brammertz stressed that as a growing number of areas of the Hariri investigation are concluded and as the investigations narrow, "the commission has taken an increasingly cautious approach to the management of information linked to the investigation."
The commission, he explained, is very concerned about protecting the identity of sources and potential witnesses, and about the safety of people identified as "persons of interest" as well as its own staff.
Since his last report in July, Brammertz said the commission has produced a 2,000-page report on the Hariri investigation which has enabled investigators to assess evidence and identify remaining gaps in the inquiry as well as potential new leads.
It will be "one of the major tools" handed to prosecutors at the new U.N.-backed tribunal that will prosecute suspects in the Hariri assassination, he said.
Thanks to "encouraging" progress made in the last four months, he said, "the commission is increasingly able to draw preliminary conclusions on an important number of aspects of the investigation" including the type of explosives used, the van, and the individuals involved in the surveillance on Hariri.
The commission also advanced its understanding of the identity of the alleged suicide bomber and possible motives for the attack, he said, noting that the main emphasis has been on Hariri's political activities but his leadership in the Sunni community could also be a factor.
"Given the possibility that a combination of factors may have influenced the motive to assassinate Hariri, the commission is closely examining the possibility that two or more teams of perpetrators may have taken part in the preparation and commission of the attack," he said.
In the last four months, Brammertz said, investigators focused on tracing the origin of the explosives used in the bombing and are reviewing new information on individuals, groups and institutions which may have had access to the material.
"The commission is also reviewing cases of possible disappearances of explosives in the period prior to the attack," he said.
Brammertz said the commission also has information which indicates that two men purchased the Mitsubishi van used in the bombing with counterfeit documents and gave false contact details to the seller.
"The commission is working to identify them and to clarify their background and possible involvement in the crime," he said.
As for the presumed suicide bomber, Brammertz said expert findings received recently suggest he was exposed "to significant quantities of a specific type of lead, possibly through proximity to military ammunition between the age of 16 and 20."
"This could indicate that he was either living close to a conflict area or to an area where weapons were used on a regular basis such as a military training camp," he said.
New expert findings also provide additional information on his possible place of birth and the location where he may have spent his childhood, which Brammertz did not disclose.
He said the commission is trying to match the man's characteristics with more than two million people who entered Lebanon, as well as missing persons.
Brammetz said the commission is satisfied that it now understands the background of Ahmed Abu Adass, a Palestinian who lived in Lebanon and appeared on a video tape claiming responsibility for the attack, though investigators have said he is not the suicide bomber.
Progress has also been made in establishing the identity of the individual who disappeared with Adass on Jan. 16, 2005, he said.
Brammertz said a database containing more than 330 DNA profiles, 160 fingerprints and 24 sketches of persons of interest to the investigation has recently become operational and has started "to bear some significant results by generating new avenues for investigation and, equally importantly, allowing the commission to close down other investigative tracks." Hariri, a popular five-time prime minister, was killed along with 22 others in a massive explosion on the Beirut seafront on February 14, 2005. Senior officials from Syria, which for three decades was the powerbroker in its smaller neighbor, have been implicated in the Hariri slaying.
Damascus strongly denies any connection with that murder as well as with the string of assassinations of other anti-Syrian Lebanese figures.(AP-Naharnet)
You can download the full report by clicking here Beirut, 28 Nov 07, 20:17

Will Lebanon appoint its next president?
By Joseph A. Kechichian, Special to Gulf News
Published: November 29, 2007, 00:20
"Lebanon is looking into the abyss," opined one commentator, while another concluded that the country probably entered into a period of "controlled chaos" because Parliament failed to meet and elect a new head of state before November 24.
While my previous analyses anticipated a quick resolution - on a compromise candidate like Army Commander General Michel Suleiman - this has not happened. Nevertheless, and ironically, everyday without an elected leader translates into a significant enhancement for the last remaining legitimising institution in the country - the army.
Lebanon might still face catastrophe, although chances are excellent that current divisions, nurtured by gigantic French errors, will boost the military's self-confidence.
The army, especially at the rank and file level, is enjoying its best morale in decades. Simply put, each soldier fully understands that he is the ultimate guarantor of Lebanese sovereignty, with immeasurable benefits for society at large.
Moreover, each soldier is amply aware that the vast majority of Lebanese, both Christian and Muslim, stand with him as an individual ready to defend the country and its independence.
In fact, it seems that each and every soldier is looking up to the army leadership, to fulfil a governance mandate based on law and order. This cannot but augur well for independent Lebanon.
One must confess that it would have been difficult to write the previous four sentences a few years or even a few months ago. Nevertheless, Beirut now faces a conundrum: will its zu'ama accept to leave the presidency vacant and for how long?
To be sure, the French are not the only ones who fell into the Syrian trap; Paris dragged along Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Butros Sfeir by insisting that he deliver a list of potential candidates.
Against his better judgment, Sfeir provided such a list after he was given ironclad guarantees that the Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri would convene a session where elections could be held. Little did French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner realise that Berri is not master of his own decisions.
In contrast, the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora successfully dismissed the outgoing president's "emergency measures", by asserting the Cabinet's constitutional mandate to fill a political vacuum.
Remarkably, and while opposition forces considered the Siniora government illegitimate, no one, neither Hezbollah, nor Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement, nor Speaker Berri's Amal Movement, nor the slew of minor actors who pullulate the airwaves with partisan rhetoric, can rise against the government now that the army and internal security forces are committed to it.
In other words, the opposition cannot pull off a coup d'état against the Siniora government because the army is solidly unified, and is standing with the government. In fact, were the opposition foolish enough to attempt a sectarian division of the military, chances are excellent that such a move will severely backfire on it.
Herein lies an opportunity for Suleiman to demonstrate his impeccable credentials. First, to accept all United Nations Security Council resolutions, from 1559 to 1701.
Second, while Beirut welcomed Washington's unparalleled and long overdue dedication to strengthen its "strategic alliance" with the Lebanese Army, Suleiman must resist the temptation to use the military to crush the resistance.
On the contrary, the army must build on the broad support it now enjoys from all Lebanese communities, regardless of religious affiliation, by gradually absorbing Hezbollah troops and equipment.
To his credit, Suleiman understands that Shiite Lebanese in the opposition are Lebanese citizens first, and that they will have to play a positive role in the democratic experiment that is Lebanon.
The army's pro-resistance sympathies cannot and should not be reversed but re-channelled to serve the country - not Damascus or Teheran or Paris or Washington. That is how one structures a nation.
Suleiman is also aware that a potential US-Syrian deal cannot be excluded in which Lebanon will pay the ultimate price and must resist the temptation to align the army with outsiders.
In short, the army can lead by redefining the role of the resistance, while forging correct ties with all protagonists that will, unfortunately, continue to meddle in internal Lebanese affairs.
Since Lebanon operates under a sectarian system, its politics prevented the adoption of a supra-national identity in the past, with each community preferring to maintain a semblance of national cohesion.
Yet, because the 1989 Taif Accord was not fully implemented, outside interference became a favourite sport and, sadly, few Lebanese erected nationalistic barriers to prevent such meddling.
Who can now eliminate the considerable animosities that exist between Maronites and Shiites, or those mushrooming between Sunnis and Shiites, or even those that are spurting within the Maronite community itself?
Given these nuances, the Lebanese Parliament cannot elect a new president as long as the opposition refuses to vote, and the majority will not acquiesce to the opposition's dictat.
Short of a genuine election, which requires at least two candidates to contest a ballot, the zu'ama can either move to amend the constitution - and appoint/elect Suleiman - or face several months when the presidency will remain vacant.
**Dr Joseph A. Kechichian is a commentator and author of several books on Gulf affairs.