November 8/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 14,25-33. Great crowds were traveling with him, and he turned and addressed them, If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, 'This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.' Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for November 7/07-Naharnet
Maronite Bishops Urge Parliament to Elect President and Rescue the Nation-Naharnet
Arab League Envoy Hopes Consensus Would be Reached-Naharnet
More Forest Fires in Lebanon-Naharnet
Jordan Backs Free Presidential Election-Naharnet
Aoun: Opposition Will Raid Serail, Other Government Institutions.Naharnet
Hizbullah turns up the heat on Beirut.Jerusalem Post
Karami Revives Dormant National Gathering-Naharnet
Wahhab Ridicules U.S. Sanctions, Hizbullah Condemns-Naharnet
French Envoy To Beirut Following U.S.-French Summit-Naharnet
Saudi king holds historic talks with pope.AFP
Lebanese Army, Civil Defense workers battle forest fires
.Daily Star
Parliamentary Vote on New President Could be Postponed-Naharnet
U.N. Asks Israel to Halt Violations of Lebanon's Airspace.Naharnet
Lebanese may have to wait a little more for new presiden
-Daily Star
Panel expected to select Hariri court judges by end of month-Daily Star
Lebanese Army girds for clashes over presidency-Daily Star
UAE sends fifth de-mining team to South Lebanon
-Daily Star
Families of two Fatah al-Islam fighters leave for Syria
-Daily Star
Fadlallah warns of attempts to divide Muslims-Daily Star
Road rage leads to fatal shooting in Beirut -Daily Star
Road mishaps claim record number of Lebanese -Daily Star
Veteran Sri Lankan diplomat offers advice to Lebanon -Daily Star
'Taste Lebanon' brings country's cuisine to LAU
Sidon residents sell birds to pad depressed incomes
-Daily Star
Lebanon constitutes relative haven for homosexuals-AFP
Hizbullah exercise sends 'message' to Jewish state -Daily Star
Civilian Killed in a shoot out with Security Officer.Naharnet
Moody's ratings agency gives Bank of Beirut less-than-encouraging score-Daily Star
Lebanon Pioneers Freedom for Arab Gays.Naharnet
Syria Confronts Western Warnings by Unleashing Hizbullah South of ...Naharnet
Israel accuses IAEA chief of playing into Iran's hands.Daily Star
Gul chides Israel, Syria for missing opportunities. Daily Star

Suicide bomber in Afghanistan kills 40 people, mostly children.AFP
AP Interview: Syria to boycott Mideast conference unless Golan ...
International Herald Tribune

Maronite Bishops Urge Parliament to Elect President and Rescue the Nation
Maronite Bishops Cautioned Wednesday that Lebanon would fall apart if its politicians failed to achieve entente on electing a new president, noting that Parliament should shoulder the "final" responsibility of choosing a head of state.
The warning was made in a statement released by the bishops after their monthly meeting under Patriarch Nasrallaf Sfeir at the latter's seat in suburban Bkirki, north of Beirut.
"We reiterate our urgent call for dominating the spirit of entente so that the presidential election can be achieved in line with Lebanon's constitution," the statement said.
"Insistence by both groups on their stands places the whole country in a deep impasse and total paralysis. This would block not just the democratic system that characterizes Lebanon, but it could lead to previously non-encountered disintegration," the statement cautioned.
It stressed that both groups, the party that boycotts the elections and the party that would opt to elect a head of state by simple majority would be responsible for such disintegration.
However, the statement noted, the "final responsibility (for electing a president) rests with parliament. It is an historic responsibility."
The atmosphere of "concern that overwhelms the nation" encourages immigration and, if persisted, the country would lose its citizens, the statement noted.
The population's main worries, according to the Bishops, have become "bread and school tuitions" due to soaring prices, spreading unemployment and economic paralysis.
It called for finding an "exit" out of the deteriorating situation that forced majority MPs to reside at the Phoenicia hotel "prison" or leave the country.
Beirut, 07 Nov 07, 13:11

French Envoy To Beirut Following U.S.-French Summit

A French envoy was reportedly to visit Beirut following a summit between U.S. President George Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The Lebanon situation is expected to be high on the agenda of the two leaders during their Wednesday meeting in Washington.
Sarkozy arrived Tuesday on his first official visit to Washington, and was set for a red-carpet welcome, amid a stunning upturn in ties which had soured over the Iraq war. Diplomatic sources said Sarkozy was likely to brief Bush on the outcome of talks between two senior French envoys and Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus. France and the United States have taken a strong line against Syrian involvement in Lebanon and French President Nicolas Sarkozy has sought to improve relations with Israel. The sources said that the French stance vis--vis the presidential vote was to elect a head of state who "enjoys support from the majority of the people."While, the U.S., the source added, believes that in the absence of a consensus president, a new head of state should be elected by a simple majority.
The sources expressed concern that the France could move to adopt Washington's stance, particularly after Paris failed to convince Damascus to soften its stand.
They said France was "deceived" after a parliament session set for Nov. 12 to elect a new president was likely to be postponed for a third time after it appeared that "contacts have not yet ripened.""What is going on now is not an agreement on a consensus president, but rather on a prime minister and on the distribution of the portfolios among the key groups so that the new president would not face obstacles that could impede his performance," said one diplomatic source.
Beirut, 07 Nov 07, 09:41

Russia for Presidential Elections Without Foreign "Meddling"

Russia called for political accord ahead of the "fateful" presidential poll in Lebanon due this month and warned against any "foreign meddling."
"Based on our firm support for Lebanon's sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity, we call on all of the country's political leaders to realize the historic responsibility that lies upon them and do all they can to reach an accord," foreign ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said.
"This is a fateful moment for Lebanon, without exaggeration. The most important thing is that the presidential elections be in full accord with Lebanon's law without any foreign meddling from whatever side," he added. Lebanese lawmakers have failed to agree on a consensus presidential candidate to replace Emile Lahoud, the pro-Syrian incumbent head of state whose term expires on November 24.
Last month, Lebanon's parliament speaker again postponed until November 12 a special session to elect a president, to give the divided country's feuding political factions time to agree on a consensus candidate. There are mounting fears that the row could lead to two rival governments and a return to the final years of the 1975-1990 civil war when two competing administrations battled for control.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 07 Nov 07, 15:29

More Forest Fires in Lebanon
Fires have destroyed dozens of hectares (acres) of woodlands across Lebanon, just weeks after earlier forest fires devastated mountainous parts of the country, an army spokesman said on Wednesday. "A total of 1,542 dunums (154 hectares) were destroyed on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, in addition to the 807 dunums (81 hectares) burnt out on Monday," the spokesman, who did not wish to be identified, told Agence France Presse.
Emergency crews backed by army helicopters struggled to extinguish tongues of flame that were still raging across southern and northern Lebanese mountains, as well as in the Shouf region southeast of Beirut, he said. The flames have destroyed forests of pine and oak trees as well as olive groves, valleys and woods, but there were no reports of casualties. Similar forest fires raged twice in October, killing one woman, injuring dozens of people and destroying hundreds of hectares of forests and woods across the country. Experts have warned that seasonal forest fires in Lebanon are further threatening to destroy the country's natural wealth -- among the richest in the Middle East. Zeina Tamim, an agriculture ministry official, told AFP last month that the seasonal forest fires were slowly destroying green zones that account for 23 percent of Lebanon's territory.(AFP) Beirut, 07 Nov 07, 14:38

Arab League Envoy Hopes Consensus Would be Reached
Assistant Arab League Secretary General Hisham Youssef met upon arrival in Beirut with Lebanese political and spiritual leaders in an effort aimed at facilitating presidential elections. "We hope that consensus would eventually be reached," Youssef told reporters after meeting Prime Minister Fouad Saniora in the Serail.
"We hope that dialogue will continue until the due date of the election," Youssef added. He confirmed that Arab League chief will visit Beirut.
Youssef also met with MP Ali Hassan Khalil, member of Speaker Nabih Berri's parliamentary bloc. He also held talks with former Premier Omar Karami and cabinet minister Nayla Mouawwad. Youssef, who will stay in Lebanon until Friday, will also be meeting with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, former President Amin Gemayel, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement Gen. Michel Aoun, Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea as well as presidential candidates Butros Harb and Nassib Lahoud. Beirut, 07 Nov 07, 12:49

Aoun: Opposition Will Raid Serail, Other Government Institutions
Free Patriotic Movement leader Gen. Michel Aoun warned that the Hizbullah-led opposition will raid all government institutions, including the Serail, if the ruling coalition elected a President by a simple majority. Aoun also warned against "confrontation" in the event that the majority March 14 Forces resorted to electing a new head of state by a half-plus-one vote of the MPs or if the status quo continued. "When a popular action takes place, everything will be raided," Aoun said in an interview with the satellite Al-Jazeera news network. Aoun accused March 14 of trying to "completely eliminate" the opposition.
"We have given up a lot of our demands. What is left for us is to pack our bags and leave the country," Aoun said. Aoun reiterated that "going back to the people" was the best alternative for deciding on the next president. "Let the people vote for the next president, and not just a few leaders," he insisted.
The FMP leader assured that he would "never sell Lebanon to Syria," and that he had proven throughout his career that he could "safeguard Lebanon."
Aoun said he and former President Amin Gemayel would together form a "moderate Christian group," and uncovered that this union would soon be made official.
On his Paris meetings with parliamentary majority leader Saad Hairi, Aoun said that he "agreed with Hariri on most of the controversial issues."
Beirut, 07 Nov 07, 08:38

Karami Revives Dormant National Gathering
Former Prime Minister Omar Karami has re-energized the National Gathering which has been dormant for six months.
Karami, one of few Sunni leaders in the Hizbullah-led opposition, accused after a two-hour meeting of the National Gathering on Tuesday the United States of seeking to create a political vacuum so as to hand over power to the "amputated" government. Karami confirmed that the National Gathering was coordinating with the rest of the opposition parties "in order to confront non-constitutional conditions that could be imposed on the Lebanese by all means."
The meeting was attended for the first time by resigned opposition cabinet minister Yaqoub Sarraf, who recently joined the National Gathering.
In addition to Sarraf, MPs Nader Sukkar and Ossama Saad were present at the meeting that was also attended by former cabinet ministers Talal Arslan, Elias Saba, Abdul Rahim Mrad, Naji Bustani, Zaher Khatib, Bshara Merhij and Astfan al-Duweihi. Also present were former MPs Fathi Yakan, Jihad al-Samad, Bahaaeddine Itani, Adnan Arakji, Fayez Ghosn, Wajih al-Baarini, Faisal Daoud, Khaldoun al-Sharif, Abdul Rahman Bizri and Ziad Shweiri. Former cabinet minister Albert Mansour attended part of the meeting. Beirut, 07 Nov 07, 11:23

Wahhab Ridicules U.S. Sanctions, Hizbullah Condemns
Former cabinet minister Wiab Wahhab ridiculed a U.S. decision to freeze his assets, saying his money can improve Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's looks and help put President George Bush in an asylum. "I offer them my money in the United States -- half of it to Rice so she can embellish her looks and the other half to President Bush because he will soon enter a mental institution," Wahhab said.
"Bush is obsessed with power, destroying the world, killing and aggressing against people," the pro-Syrian Druze opposition politician said in remarks published by several Beirut dailies on Wednesday. On Monday Washington imposed sanctions on four people, among them Wahhab and a cousin of Syrian President Bashar Assad, for aiding efforts by Damascus "to undermine Lebanese democracy," U.S. Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey said.
In addition to Wahhab, the U.S. Treasury also slapped sanctions against Asaad Halim Hardan, a serving member of the same party.
Hafiz Makhlouf, a senior Syrian intelligence official who is a cousin of the Syrian president, was also named alongside Mohammed Nassif Khayrbik, said to be "one of several key advisers" to Assad. The move freezes any assets belonging to the four that may be in the United States, and prohibit American citizens from engaging in transactions with them, treasury officials said. Hizbullah also denounce the U.S. sanctions against the four. "This is an honor to all the opponents of the American policy," Hizbullah said in a statement. "It portrays the real picture of the American democracy that they wish to spread... as it shows the flagrant harm done to citizens who want to oppose, protest and express themselves freely."(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 07 Nov 07, 11:36

Jordan Backs Free Presidential Election
Jordan's King Abdullah II stressed his support for the constitutionalism of Lebanon's presidential election "which we see should necessarily be free and conducted in accordance with Lebanon's constitution." In an interview with the state-run Petra news agency, Abdullah said he sensed positive signs from both Israel and the Palestinians about advancing their stalled peace process, in an interview published on Tuesday.
"I have sensed seriousness and great concern from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to drive the peace process towards a conclusion," the king said.
"We also heard from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that there would be an opportunity to realize real achievements including a two-state solution before the end of U.S. President Bush's term."  On Sunday, Olmert said Israel and the Palestinians could hammer out a peace agreement before Bush leaves the White House in January 2009. "If we act decisively together, we and the Palestinians, there is a chance for us to reach real achievements, maybe even before the end of President Bush's term," Olmert said in a speech before the Saban Forum in Jerusalem. Israel and the Palestinians have been engaged in intensive talks in an effort to draft a joint statement outlining a solution to the decades-old conflict ahead of a U.S.-sponsored peace meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, expected later this month.
"These are positive signs that we hope will be followed by more measures to make the upcoming meeting a success," said Abdullah, whose country is a key U.S. ally.
Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, has repeatedly called for a clear agenda for the meeting, embracing core issues between Israel and the Palestinians, including Jerusalem and the fate of refugees. Beirut, 07 Nov 07, 09:57

Parliamentary Vote on New President Could be Postponed
Lebanon's parliament speaker is expected to postpone for the third time a special session to elect a president, officials said on Tuesday, as the deadline to replace the current pro-Syrian head of state nears. "We are expecting the session to be postponed although we are keeping the door open for an election to take place November 12," said Antoine Nasrallah, a spokesman for candidate Michel Aoun, who heads the opposition Change and Reform bloc in parliament.
He was referring to next Monday's parliament session called by speaker Nabih Berri to elect a successor to Syrian-backed Emile Lahoud, whose extended mandate expires November 24. Two other special sessions in September and October for MPs to pick a president have already been postponed for lack of consensus among the Western-backed ruling majority and the Hizbullah-led opposition backed by Syria and Iran.
Several politicians contacted by Agence France Presse said they believe the third session will meet the same fate and predicted that the vote will take place possibly in the final hours of Lahoud's term. "The situation today is not ripe for an election," Nassib Lahoud, a candidate backed by the ruling majority, told Agence France Presse. "We are still at square one from a practical point of view." Lahoud and others said that despite intense pressure by foreign powers, particularly France and the United States, to break the current impasse, there was no indication that the two sides were headed toward compromise.
"There is nothing to give us hope today," Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh told AFP.
"The session on November 12 will probably be postponed until the 14th but from that day we will enter what we call a 'gray zone', which allows the majority to take initiatives independently of the speaker of parliament." However a source close to Berri maintained that there was still a chance of an accord being struck between the rival parties and said if Monday's session was postponed it would only be to give more chance for a compromise.
"The session could be delayed for a few days but it would only be for technical reasons," said the source, who asked for anonymity.
Lebanon's president, a Maronite Christian by convention in the multi-confessional country, is elected by MPs rather than by popular suffrage.
A two-thirds majority is required for a candidate to be elected by parliament in a first round of voting. In the event of a second round, an absolute majority suffices.
The ruling coalition has said that barring an agreement between the feuding political factions, its MPs in parliament could proceed to an absolute majority vote between November 14 and November 24, when parliament will be in permanent session.
"We are not going to rush toward a vote but we will not allow for a political vacuum," Hamadeh said. "We are still working toward an accord that would end with a proper election. "But if no compromise is reached we will do what we have to do on the last day of the deadline."
Premier Fouad Saniora's government has been paralyzed since opposition forces withdrew six ministers from the cabinet in November 2006 in a bid to gain more representation in government. Fears are running high that the standoff over the presidency could lead to two rival governments, a grim reminder of the final stages of the civil war when two competing administrations battled it out.(AFP) Beirut, 06 Nov 07, 16:27