November 4/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 14,1.7-11. On a sabbath he went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, 'Give your place to this man,' and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, 'My friend, move up to a higher position.' Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for November 3/07
Lebanese presidential crisis looms ahead of Rice's meeting with the Europeans.International Herald Tribune
Rival Lebanese leaders vow to work hard to reach agreement.Monsters and
Lebanon launches mobile phone privatisation.AFP
 France Warns Syria Over Lebanon-Naharnet
Aoun, Hariri Achieved Breakthrough _ But Not All The Way-Naharnet

Rice rejects compromise to solve Lebanese crisis

German-led Common Border Force inspects northern frontier

Fadlallah says new president not enough to save Lebanon

UN officials reconfirm drive to rebuild Nahr al-Bared

Norway sets aid for Jiyyeh spill at $1 million

Army on high alert as Israel conducts maneuvers

Most Beirutis say little, expect less from Aoun-Hariri meetings in Paris

US molds changes to Lebanon's copyright laws

America and the ongoing Lebanese crisis

Wife of Russian envoy to give lecture at AUB

ACS workshops explore effective teaching

Steam and steel' railway era evokes feelings of nostalgia


France Warns Syria Over Lebanon
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned Syria that the international community could not "remain indifferent" to the current political vacuum in Lebanon.
"We have made it very clear to Syria ... that a political vacuum in Lebanon could destabilize the entire region and would not be in Syria's interest," Kouchner said on Friday following talks in Istanbul with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem. "Regular elections need to be held at the set dates in line with the constitution," he said, adding: "We are counting on Syria being capable of acting responsibly. "I clearly told Mr Muallem: if the process takes place in the way it is meant to institutionally, then Lebanon wins, Syria wins and we all win. If not, the international community cannot remain indifferent," Kouchner said. Their meeting on the sidelines of a conference on Iraqi security marked the first high-level contact between the two countries since the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.
Former French President Jacques Chirac suspended high-level talks with Syria after his friend Hariri was killed in Beirut in February 2005. An initial U.N. inquiry implicated Damascus, although it has denied any involvement. Friday's talks came after Kouchner cancelled a September meeting in New York in response to the assassination of a Lebanese anti-Syrian MP.
Lebanon's ruling coalition has accused Damascus of being behind the killing of Lebanese MP Antoine Ghanem in a car bomb in a Beirut suburb in September, a charge rejected by the Syrians. The Lebanese government has been paralyzed since November last year when opposition forces, which include Iran- and Syria-backed factions, withdrew their six ministers from the cabinet. There is currently a deadlock on electing a new president -- a parliamentary session to vote on a successor to pro-Syrian incumbent Emile Lahoud has twice been postponed and is now scheduled for November 12. Fears are running high in Beirut that the standoff between the pro- and anti-Syrian camps could lead to two rival governments, a grim reminder of the end of Lebanon's civil war when two administrations battled it out.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 02 Nov 07, 20:35

Abu Salim Taha Names Perpetrators of Ain Alaq Bombings
Fatah al-Islam's spokesman Abu Salim Taha named the perpetrators of the Feb. 13 twin bus bombings in Ain Alaq north of Beirut that left three people killed and 23 others wounded. Abu Taha identified the executors as Abu Omar al-Hijji, a Syrian who was killed at the beginning of the Nahr al-Bared fighting, and Mustafa Siyor, also a Syrian who is in police custody. The daily As Safir, which carried the report, said the Lebanese army's intelligence bureau was capable of "drawing a complete pyramid" of the al-Qaida-inspired Fatah al-Islam terrorist group. Citing unnamed sources, the paper said Abu Taha presented "all the facts" related to bank robberies designed for financing his group. After 50 days of investigation, Abu Taha also named Fatah al-Islam's financial coordinator as Abu Ritaj, possibly a Saudi, whose lineage goes back to al-Qaida.
Taha presented a list of Fatah al-Islam names who are largely Syrian. The report said 70 Fatah al-Islam members are Syrian, 50 Saudis, another 50 of various Arab nationalities, in addition to about 20 Palestinians, 10 Jordanians and others from Afghan, Chechnya and Serbia. Beirut, 03 Nov 07, 10:16

Rice Against 'Compromises' with Opposition
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday warned against diplomatic moves to settle Lebanon's ongoing political crisis by compromising with the Syrian-backed opposition. "I think there is a lot of talk right now about compromise," she told journalists on a plane taking her to Ankara for talks with Turkish leaders on Kurdish rebels. "There are a lot of discussions going on. That is fine," she added before a stopover in Ireland.
"But any candidate for president or any president needs to be committed to Lebanon's sovereignty and independence, needs to be committed to resolutions that Lebanon has signed on to ... and needs to be committed to carrying on the tribunal." Rice was referring to the U.N.-backed international tribunal that was set up to prosecute those behind the murder of Rafik Hariri, a five-time prime minister who was killed along with 22 others in a massive Beirut explosion in February 2005.
She did not mention names, but her statement appeared to be a veiled reference to a meeting between Gen. Michel Aoun, who is the opposition standard-bearer in November 12 presidential elections, and parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri. Aoun and Hariri met in Paris on Wednesday and Thursday for their first talks since Lebanon's political crisis erupted in November last year. The French foreign ministry said it was not involved in the talks but stressed that France "supports all efforts aimed at encouraging dialogue between the different parties in Lebanon."
Fears are running high in Beirut that the standoff between the pro- and anti-Syrian camps could lead to two rival governments, a grim reminder of the end of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war when two administrations battled it out. Rice said she was going to discuss the issue with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in Turkey to send "the right message:
It is "that the March 14 majority should not be put in a position of having to accept either extra-constitutional measures or measures that would undermine the programme that they stand for." More than one million people protested at Syria's influence in Lebanese politics during a Beirut rally on March 14, 2005, a month after Rafik Hariri's assassination.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 02 Nov 07, 10:13

Washington Hopeful About Progress of Israeli-Palestinian Peace
The United States hopes it can translate mounting concerns about Iran's strength into progress in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, officials and observers say. Publicly, State Department officials strain to downplay expectations for the conference expected before year's end in scenic Annapolis, Maryland, near Washington. Privately, they are aglow with an optimism that clashes head-on with the pessimism many Arab leaders have voiced.
"We have made progress," one senior department official said privately in mid-October, following lengthy talks by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Ramallah and Jerusalem. The talks did not yield any visible steps forward between the Israelis and Palestinians.
But no political party now rejects the creation of a Palestinian state, which was not the case at the last Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, according to the same official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
While recognizing the weak positions of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who leads a fragile coalition; and that of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who has to contend with the Hamas uprising in Gaza, U.S. officials say in private that the conditions oddly enough may be ripe for a deal.
Israeli leaders, who unlike their Palestinian counterparts have never taken part in negotiations of this kind, feel a fairly high comfort level with a Bush administration accused in the Arab world of an outrageously pro-Israeli policy line, particularly during the 2006 war in Lebanon.
Unsure where they will stand with the next US president, the Israeli leaders, who are as fearful of Iran's influence over Shiite communities in the region as they are of Gulf Arab regimes, could be tempted to jump at a deal before the end of George W. Bush's term as president in January 2009.
Meanwhile moderate Arab leaders such as Jordan's King Abdallah II, Saudi King Abdallah and Egyptian President Husni Mubarak, facing rising Islamist opposition on their own turf, need to show their people that more can be won from negotiations than from terror attacks, US officials say.
It is an opinion shared by Robert Zelnik, an expert at the Foreign Policy Research Institude (FPRI), who said Iran could end up helping to end the Israeli Palestinian conflict. "So deep is this concern that once implacable positions have become pliant, and uncooperative parties stand ready to compromise," said Zelnick, citing a recent study by several experts and regional political officials. Europe has quietly helped Rice in her efforts, hoping that the Iran factor "indeed should encourage parties to find something" on which to strike a deal, a European diplomatic source said.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is also in the region and "one of the goals is to convince the Saudis to participate in the Annapolis meeting," another European diplomat said privately.(AFP) Beirut, 02 Nov 07, 18:51

Lebanon Launches Privatization of Mobile Phone Network
Debt-laden Lebanon, where mobile phone calls are among the most expensive in the world, on Friday launched the privatization of its mobile network, a process slated for completion by early next year. Telecommunications Regulatory Authority president Kamal Shehadi and Ziad Hayek, president of the Higher Council for Privatization, told a Beirut news conference that applications for the tender must be submitted on February 1.
A public auction will then be staged in the presence of the media on February 21, when the highest bidders will be chosen to take over the two existing mobile phone licenses, they said. Each winning bidder will be required to create a joint stock Lebanese company, they said. The winning bidders will then have to transfer to the government one third of the equity of the joint stock company as part of the payment of the tender. The government will then sell shares through an initial public offering on the Beirut Stock Exchange within 12 months, with share ownership restricted to Lebanese citizens, they said. The country's GSM network of 1.1 million mobile phone lines is currently state-owned and operated by Kuwait's MTC Touch and Lebanon's Alfa, whose contracts expire in mid-2008. Shehadi told Agence France Presse on Thursday that under the privatization plan, a third operator will own and run a third GSM license by the first half of 2008.
Mobile telephones provide the government with its main source of revenue, generating about 900 million dollars annually.
The decision to sell the mobile network is part of government plans to introduce reforms as a precondition to obtain much-needed financial assistance pledged by donors at a Paris conference in January. Lebanon secured pledges of 7.6 billion dollars in grants and loans to help alleviate the country's economic woes, made worse by last year's devastating war between Israel and the Shiite Hizbullah movement. Privatization will also help to reduce the cost of mobile phone calls in Lebanon.
"Our local and international tariffs are among the highest in the world, if not the highest," Shehadi told AFP on Thursday.(AFP) Beirut, 02 Nov 07, 17:12

Rice to Organize Multilateral Talks on Lebanon in Istanbul
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to organize multilateral talks on the political crisis in Lebanon on the sidelines of an international gathering in Turkey, diplomats said Friday. The meeting is likely to be held Saturday in Istanbul, where a two-day conference on Iraqi security is scheduled to start Friday evening, the sources said. It was not immediately clear which countries would take part. Lebanon is not a participant in the Istanbul meeting, which brings together foreign ministers and senior government officials from Iraq, its neighbors, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the G8. Rice, who met Turkish leaders in Ankara Friday in a bid to defuse the crisis over Kurdish rebel bases in northern Iraq, is scheduled to arrive in Istanbul later in the day. On her way to Ankara earlier in the day, Rice warned against moves to solve the standoff over Lebanon's presidential elections through compromise with the country's pro-Syrian opposition.
Fears are running high in Beirut that the standoff between the pro and anti-Syrian camps could lead to two rival governments, a grim reminder of the end of Lebanon's civil war when two administrations battled it out. Rice said she would discuss the issue Saturday with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who will also attend the Istanbul gathering. (AFP-Naharnet)
Beirut, 02 Nov 07, 17:00

Hariri, Aoun Brief Sfeir on Paris Talks
Parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri and Free Patriotic Movement chief Michel Aoun briefed Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir Friday on outcome of their talks in Paris. Hariri's envoy, Nader Hariri, briefed the patriarch on talks held by the parliamentary majority leader in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Paris, the state-run National News Aency (NNA) reported. He also briefed Sfeir on the Paris talks with Aoun, the report added.
In answering a question as to whether a meeting between Hariri and Sfeir is expected, the envoy said: A meeting could take place anytime, but no date has been scheduled."Later, FPM official in charge of political relations Jibran Bassil relayed Aoun's message to Sfeir. He refused to make a statement after the meeting.
Beirut, 02 Nov 07, 16:21