DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 9,57-62. As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."Jesus answered him, "Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head." And to another he said, "Follow me." But he replied, "(Lord,) let me go first and bury my father." But he answered him, "Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."And another said, "I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home." (To him) Jesus said, "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God."
A Father's Shadow Clouds His Son's Rise in Lebanon.By: THANASSIS CAMBANIS.New York Times. October 3/07
War, diplomacy and Iran's Revolutionary Guards. By: MATEIN KHALID. Khaleej Times. October 3/07
Latest News Reports From
Miscellaneous Sources for October 3/07
Maronite Bishops for 'Liberation' of Downtown Beirut-Naharnet
Maronite Bishops for "Liberation" of Downtown Beirut-Naharnet
Cannabis Flourish as State Weakens-Naharnet
The Ghanem Killers Target Pregnant Woman-Naharnet
Assad Acknowledges 'Influence' over Lebanon.Naharnet
Fire Disaster Puts a Big Question Mark. Naharnet
Forest fires rage in Lebanon.Reuters
US sources spread fabrications on Israel raid-Syria.Reuters
15 injured in Lebanon forest fires.AFP
Cluster Bombs Attacked by Victims-Naharnet
Lebanon can't afford fiasco in picking president.Reuters
Siniora discusses Nahr al-Bared rebuilding in Kuwait-Daily Star
State prosecutor charges 15 members of Fatah al-Islam-Daily Star
Lebanese politicians maintain positive tone-Daily Star
Maronite patriarch voices hope for president who can unite Lebanon in face of foreign interference-Daily Star
BMI boss visits Beirut to tout benefits of new London flight-Daily Star
Forest fires scorch broad swaths of Lebanon-Daily Star
Lebanese youth to bring home lessons learned at Special Olympics in China-Daily Star
Explosion outside Hamas office in Gaza kills four, wounds two-Daily Star
Iranian university invites Bush to speak on campus.AFP
1,000 UK troops out of Iraq by Christmas - Brown.AFP
UNHCR lashes Greece over refugee center.AFP
Two blasts kill one, wound seven in western Turkey.AFP
The Ghanem Killers Target Pregnant Woman
Naharnet: A Pregnant Lebanese woman died last night from wounds sustained in a Beirut car bombing that has killed anti-Syrian MP Antoine Ghanem, police said Wednesday.Ain al-Hayat Abdel Karim's death on Tuesday raised to six the number of people killed in the attack that also left about 70 others wounded and caused massive property damage in a Beirut suburb. The family of one of the victims, 28-year-old Charles Shikhani, planned to organize a demonstration in Beirut later Wednesday to protest against the wave of attacks targeting anti-Syrian figures in Lebanon. Ghanem was the eighth Damascus critic to be killed in Lebanon since the February 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafik Hariri. The attack has rocked Lebanon's political landscape ahead of a vote to replace pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, following months of political wrangling between the Western-backed majority and the pro-Damascus opposition. Beirut, 03 Oct 07, 15:31
Maronite Bishops for "Liberation" of Downtown Beirut
Naharnet:The Maronite Bishops noted Wednesday that "time has come" for Beirut's city center and its environs to be "liberated", stressing that renewed prosperity of the sector would be an "appreciated national move."The statement was released after the Bishop's monthly meeting presided over by Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir. The statement came two days before a scheduled address by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Jerusalem Day.
News reports predicted that Nasrallah, in his Friday address, would call off the 10-month sit-in staged by the Hizbullah-led opposition in downtown Beirut's Riyadh Solh Square. The sit-in, now referred to as Tent City, was launched on Dec. 1 with the declared objective of toppling Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government, which remains in office. The bishops, in their monthly statement, criticized the ongoing rhetoric regarding who should be president, terming it "unjustified."
"More important is holding presidential elections within the constitutional schedule and in line with the constitution to avoid political vacuum and the serious chaos that would follow," the statement noted. The statement also said "questions have been raised" about the chain of fires that spread across Lebanon's once green woods. "Who can provide answers to these questions? …Would any one compensate for the losses?" the statement asked.
It urged "the state and society" to help needy parents with schooling expenses. Beirut, 03 Oct 07, 14:08
Fire Disaster Puts a Big Question Mark
Naharnet:Even though fires strike Lebanon at this time of the year, the size and intensity of the blazes that devoured the country on Tuesday exceeded those for the whole of the previous decades. Almost all of the 240 fires, which broke out after midnight Monday and engulfed Lebanon's northern, central and southern regions, were put out. Lebanese media said a fire re-erupted in the northern Akkar province.
At least 54 people have been treated from suffocation and injuries sustained in the fires, some of which had reached their homes, according to Lebanese Red Cross figures. The series of fires, fanned by fast winds, have destroyed vast areas of land and forests, particularly in the Chouf mountain village of Deir al-Qamar, Qobbayeh in north Lebanon and in the town of Kfeir near Hasbaya in the Western Bekaa Valley. Ancient trees were also ruined.
Meanwhile, Jordan responded to an urgent call by the Lebanese government for immediate help, sending on Wednesday two helicopters to battle the fires. Helicopters from Italy are also due to arrive later Wednesday. It could not be determined whether the blazes were caused by natural or accidental fires nor if they were due to negligence or to arson or whether they were of dubious cause.
Lebanese Interior Minister Hassan Sabaa said there is no evidence yet that the fires were set deliberately. Sabaa, however, cast doubt on how the fires broke out nearly simultaneously across Lebanon. The disaster "puts a big question mark," Sabaa told the daily As Safir in remarks published Wednesday. He said Lebanon opened an investigation to determine the cause of the fires, refusing to make accusations. Beirut, 03 Oct 07, 07:43
Fire Disaster Puts a
Big Question Mark
Naharnet: Even though fires strike Lebanon at this time of the year, the size and intensity of the blazes that devoured the country on Tuesday exceeded those for the whole of the previous decades. Almost all of the 240 fires, which broke out after midnight Monday and engulfed Lebanon's northern, central and southern regions, were put out. Lebanese media said a fire re-erupted in the northern Akkar province. At least 54 people have been treated from suffocation and injuries sustained in the fires, some of which had reached their homes, according to Lebanese Red Cross figures. The series of fires, fanned by fast winds, have destroyed vast areas of land and forests, particularly in the Chouf mountain village of Deir al-Qamar, Qobbayeh in north Lebanon and in the town of Kfeir near Hasbaya in the Western Bekaa Valley. Ancient trees were also ruined. Meanwhile, Jordan responded to an urgent call by the Lebanese government for immediate help, sending on Wednesday two helicopters to battle the fires. Helicopters from Italy are also due to arrive later Wednesday. It could not be determined whether the blazes were caused by natural or accidental fires nor if they were due to negligence or to arson or whether they were of dubious cause. Lebanese Interior Minister Hassan Sabaa said there is no evidence yet that the fires were set deliberately. Sabaa, however, cast doubt on how the fires broke out nearly simultaneously across Lebanon. The disaster "puts a big question mark," Sabaa told the daily As Safir in remarks published Wednesday. He said Lebanon opened an investigation to determine the cause of the fires, refusing to make accusations. Beirut, 03 Oct 07, 07:43
Forest fires scorch broad swaths of Lebanon
Civil defense chief points finger at poachers 'trying to obtain charcoal'
Compiled by Daily Star staff
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Firefighters battled wildfires in steep valleys in several mountainous areas of Lebanon on Tuesday. Thousands of trees were charred and several homes damaged or destroyed. Civil Defense workers, backed by Lebanese Army helicopters, struggled to extinguish blazes in the North and in the Chouf Mountains east of Beirut.
The fires also swept across stretches of forest in Qobeyyat and Andaqt in Northern Lebanon, forcing several schools to shut down.
There were no reports of casualties in the fires, which started overnight in the Chouf Mountains southeast of the capital and in areas in the North and the South of the country, the state-run National News Agency said. Ghayath Boustani, an official in the Deir al-Qamar municipality, said strong eastern winds had caused the fires to spread and were making it difficult for firefighters to contain them and for helicopters to reach the area. It was still unclear what had set off the fires in the relatively cool mountain region, he said. Summer fires are common in Lebanon's mountains.
About 85 fires started on Tuesday and more than a 100 on Monday, the head of the Lebanese Civil Defense, Brigadier General Darwish Hobeika, told The Daily Star.
Hobeika added that investigations were under way to determine whether the fires had been set intentionally. "It's a 95 percent possibility that the fires were caused intentionally by people trying to obtain charcoal as a cheaper substitute for fuel," Hobeika said. An estimated 3,400,000 square meters of woodland were destroyed by fires in the Chouf region and around 200,000 square meters in the North. Hobeika said almost 80 percent of fires had been contained but blazes still raged in the Northern town of Andaqt. Interior Minister Hassan Sabeh requested firefighting planes from Italy on Tuesday. Local media said some residents had been evacuated from their homes. Nine people trying to fight fires in the North had suffered from smoke inhalation, hospital sources said.
The blazes were worst in the area around Deir al-Qamar, a well-preserved Christian town in the Chouf that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Television footage showed several burned cars on roads in the Chouf region and smoke billowing from thick forests.
"Fifteen people suffered injuries and burns, while 20 others were treated for respiratory problems" in the Chouf, Deir al-Qamar Municipality official Edy Renno said.
"About 10 houses were partly burned in the same region. Most of them were damaged on the rooftops because fires reached them from nearby trees," Renno added.
He said several hectares of woods had caught fire in the ancient town of Deir al-Qamar and nearby villages, causing many people to don surgical masks because of the smoke. In valleys around Deir al-Qamar, hundreds of pine trees were burned. Several electricity and telephone poles had collapsed along the town's main road.
Renno said 2 square kilometers of forest had been damaged in Deir al-Qamar, where army helicopters and fire engines were struggling to put out the flames.
Elias Nohra, a 42-year-old lawyer from Deir al-Qamar, said, "the fires started last night around 8 p.m. between Deir al-Qamar and [the nearby town of] Beiteddine."
"Guys from the region went out to extinguish the fires. They thought they had, but then in the morning, the fires started again and spread even more because of the wind," he said. Large fires were also reported in the Bekaa region and several in the Metn area northeast of Beirut, namely the village of Dhour al-Shweir.
The Lebanese Committee for the Prevention of Fires urged authorities to declare a state of emergency. "Lebanon is on the brink of desertification and the woodlands no longer exceed 10 percent [of its area]," the group said in the statement.
Mounir Bou Ghanem, director of the Association of Forests Development and Conservation in Lebanon, said that Tuesday saw the biggest wildfires in Lebanon ever recorded in one day during the dry season. He estimates that around 2,000 hectares of woodland was burned across the country. Bou Ghanem told The Daily Star that two of their centers suffered fire damage - the Mediterranean Forest Center in Aley, which was set up in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund, and a camping center in Ramlieh. "The fire cut all means of communication to the centers, we are isolated, we have no telephones or internet," he said.
The intensity of the fires this year, Bou Ghanem said, is due to people neglecting and leaving their lands to live in urban areas or to migrate abroad in search of jobs as a result of the tense political and security situations in the country.
"The accumulation of bio-mass and long periods of drought fuel these fires. All fires in Lebanon are started by people, I cannot say the fires are due to natural causes, unlike California where you have lightning. In Lebanon we do not get lightning this time of year," Bou Ghanem said, adding that a common practice among local communities in Lebanon is the use of fire to clear land of dried grass. "Replanting the 2,000 hectares would cost $10 million. That amount alone would have been enough on an annual basis to fund the establishment of a national forest agency," Bou Ghanem said, adding that such an agency could have pooled resources and coordinated firefighting operations in a more centralized and effective manner. He said Parliament in 2003 made a recommendation to the government to set up such an agency but the proposal was deemed unnecessary and shot down. Bou Ghanem said such an agency would have coordinated between local fire brigades, the Agriculture Ministry, the army and aerial fire-fighting assets.
"In our part of the world we wait for disaster to strike before we take action," Bou Ghanem said, citing a similar experience in Greece this summer where wild fires left 67 people dead. "We need to learn from our neighbor's experience," he added. - With agencies, additional reporting by Hani M. Bathish
Maronite patriarch voices hope for president who can unite Lebanon in face of foreign interference
By Maroun Khoury
Daily Star correspondent
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
BKIRKI: Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir said on Tuesday that he hoped that "we will have a president who can uplift the country, who will be agreed upon by all the Lebanese and who knows how to unite the Lebanese people without any discrimination." "This is a little bit difficult due to [foreign] interference" in domestic affairs, Sfeir said during a meeting with a delegation of student members of the ruling March 14 Forces. "But what is difficult becomes easy, if we know how to assume our responsibilities," he added.
Sfeir also said that many Lebanese were loyal to "this or that country," and he urged all of Lebanon's people to show loyalty to their country ahead of any foreign land.
The Western-backed March 14 Forces have charged that Syria, the longtime power-broker here, and Iran have been meddling in the contentious presidential election. The ruling coalition has been haggling with the Syrian-backed March 8 opposition to agree on a consensus candidate to replace outgoing President Emile Lahoud, who must step down on November 24. The opposition, for its part, charges the US and other Western nations with interfering in the run-up to the poll, slated for October 23 in Parliament.
Highlighting the fact that the country is mired in "difficult" political conditions, Lebanon's most influential Christian religious leader said: "If we stand united and know how to live together as brothers, we will be able to overcome or even eliminate all those conditions."
Later in the day, Sfeir met with Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Reza Shibani to discuss the latest developments on the Lebanese arena. No comments were released after the meeting. The patriarch also met with Justice Minister Charles Rizk.
Speaking after the meeting, Rizk said "the political division that the country is witnessing is in fact sectarian, since it is between two groups that have a certain sectarian aspect."
"If this situation continues, we will certainly be dragged into civil war," Rizk added. "However, the Lebanese people of all stripes are not ready to fight one another."
The March 14 Forces enjoy the favor of most of the country's Sunni and Druze, while Lebanon's traditionally powerful Christian population is split between the March 14 camp and the opposition, which is led by the Shiite Hizbullah and Amal groups.
The minister stressed the need to follow the electoral laws in order to find a formula, which, he said, "allows us to replace a sectarian partition with a political one."
Regarding the international court to try suspects in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri, Rizk said the Lebanese have shown "total" agreement over the tribunal, which he said, "is being implemented." "Both the ruling majority and the opposition support the establishment of an international court," Rizk said. "The tribunal has become a means to unite the Lebanese and not to split them." Resolution 1757 established a special tribunal to try suspects in Hariri's February 2005 assassination, although the Syrian-backed opposition has objected to certain elements of the resolution. - The Daily Star
Cluster Bombs Attacked by Victims
Countries affected by cluster bombs most recently used in Lebanon met in Belgrade Tuesday for an international conference to push for a ban on the lethal weapons.
The first meeting to bring together most countries affected by cluster bombs aims at ensuring that a new treaty will include victims' concerns.
"The rights and needs of victims of cluster munitions must be at the heart of the new international treaty to ban these weapons," said Thomas Nash, coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), at the opening of the three-day conference in the Serbian capital. Cluster bombs -- which can scatter several hundred unexploded sub-munitions over areas the size of four football fields in one shot -- cause "havoc, death and injury long after conflicts," Nash told reporters. "They are the conventional weapon that stands out as the most in need of new rules." He pointed to the extensive civilian deaths and injuries inflicted in conflicts where such bombs have been used. Twenty three of the 26 countries where cluster bombs are known to have been used were present at the conference. They have also been used in five other regions.
The bombs were most recently used during Israel's war with Hizbullah in Lebanon last year, in Iraq in 2003 and in Afghanistan in 2001-2002.
The conference was initiated by the government of Serbia, itself still affected by cluster bombs dropped during NATO's 1999 air war against the regime of late president Slobodan Milsevic over Kosovo. "We know what it means to live through cluster bomb attacks and the consequences of unexploded sub-munitions," said Branislav Kapetanovic, a Serbian clearance expert who lost both legs and arms while working in 2000. "We want our governments to take the lead in the ban process to prevent other countries, and other innocent people, from suffering what we have suffered," he said in a statement. The Belgrade gathering is part of the so-called Oslo Process launched in the Norwegian capital in February 2006 and aims at concluding a treaty by next year. The process aims at banning the weapon, and placing obligations on states to support victims, clear up ordnance left over from conflicts and destroy weapon stockpiles. China, Russia and the United States, the largest manufacturers of cluster bombs, oppose the ban. "Fortunately, a growing number of governments have realized that this problem needs a solution and that this solution needs to happen now," Nash said, adding that 81 nations have now backed the CMC initiative.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 02 Oct 07, 19:22
diplomacy and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards
BY MATEIN KHALID
3 October 2007
THE ongoing confrontation between the United States and Iran is a sword of Damocles that looms over the Middle East.
The Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran), created by Ayatollah Khomeini in May 1979 to protect the world’s only Shia theocracy from the risk of a military coup by remnants of the ousted Pahlavi Shah’s regime, has evolved into the most formidable economic and political force in Iranian politics. The Pasdaran veteran vote bank helped elect the hardline Mayor of Teheran, Mahmud Ahmedinijad, as President of the Islamic Republic. Pasdaran units planned and fought the epic Karbala–5 offensive in the Iran–Iraq war, assembled the waves of human minesweepers who were slaughtered in the tens of thousands to become modern icons of the ancient Shia ethos of martyrdom. Pasdaran special units trained and supplied the laser guided missiles with which Hezbollah sank an Israeli warship in last year’s war in Lebanon. A Pasdaran naval platoon abducted the 15 Royal navy sailors and marines off the Iraqi coast, supplied Iraqi militias and insurgents with the roadside bombs and rockets used against American combat troops. Pasdaran operatives maintain liaison between Teheran and Iran’s clients and proxy militias in the Arab world, Pakistan, Central Asia and even North Africa. Above all, the Pasdaran created the clandestine infrastructure and offshore ghost companies that enabled Iran to enrich uranium and become the Gulf’s only imminent nuclear power.
The Iranian revolution would probably not have survived without the ruthlessness and vigilance of the Pasdaran’s intelligence and volunteer (Basij) networks. Pasdaran agents slaughtered the Tudeh (communist) leaders who sought to seize power in the political vaccum after the fall of the Peacock Throne. The Pasdaran haunted down and executed thousands of members of the Mujaheedin-e-Khalq, sworn enemies of the regime. The Pasdaran helped build Iran’s domestic weapons arsenal, including the homemade tanks, torpedoes, APC’s, radar avoiding missiles and even fighter jets displayed in a Teheran military parade on the eve of Ahmedinijad’s visit to New York to address the UN General Assembly.
Like China’s Peoples Liberation Army, the Pasdaran are not only the iron fist of the regime but also a vast business and financial conglomerate that acts as a sovereign state within a state in its quest for power, influence and riches. The Pasdaran blocked a Turkish company’s contract to operate the new Imam Khoemini airport in Teheran by closing the runways to prevent any flights cleared to land. The Pasdaran established the hundreds of front companies in Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia that enabled Iran to avoid the US Treasury’s international financial squeeze and the White House’s arms embargo and export controls. Pasdaran owned companies have muscled into $10 billion in contracts to develop Iran’s aging oil and gasfields. Pasdaran operatives run Iran’s multi billion dollar gasoline and cigarette smuggling trade. Pasdaran financiers manage the state’s huge bonyads (foundations) that dominate Iran’s economy and crowd out the merchant elite, the Teheran bazaaris who financed the street protests that culminated in revolution against the Shah’s regime in 1979. Pasdaran veterans outnumber the Shia clergy two for one in the Iranian Majlis (parliament).
The United States will soon declare the Pasdaran a “a global terrorist organisation” and thus threaten the international financial, banking and procurement lifelines that are mission critical to its corporate existence. Washington argues that Pasdaran agents have trained and armed the militias who kill American troops in Iraq, have armed Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas/Islamic Jihad in Gaza, have led Iran’s nuclear program, have subverted the regimes of America’s conservative Arab allies, Pakistan and Turkey for decades. Mahmud Ahmedinijad’s failure to respond to the EU or the OIC’s attempt to mediate a diplomatic rapprochement with the west stems from his dependence on the hawkish commanders of the Pasdaran, who view Iran as the natural imperial power in the Gulf, the historical successor to the Achaemenian, the Sassanid, Safavid, Qajar and Pahlavi shahs.
Unfortunately, Washington’s insistence on declaring the Pasdaran a “global terrorist organisation” will make a war with revolutionary Iran inevitable. The hardliine factions that include the Pasdaran, radical clerics and the Supreme Leader Khomeini are now the dominant voices in Iranian diplomacy. Their Manichean, zero sum, even apocalyptic and messianic view of Iran’s international relations will be vindicated if Israeli F-16’s or American cruise missiles streak across the Persian night skies to gut the nuclear reactors at Natanz and Bushire.
The impact of any preemptive Israeli or American strike on Iran, no matter how limited, will be catastrophic for the Gulf. Iran has threatened to attack America’s command and control military infrastructure in the Gulf, mine the tanker routes in the Straits of Hormuz, subvert the regimes of America’s Arab allies and unleash “thousands” of Pasdaran naval boats in suicidal kamikaze attacks against western targets. In Iraq, the sectarian fault line of Arab politics, the Mehdi Army and the Badr brigade will launch full scale attacks against an American military besieged by Sunni jihadists who infiltrate, ironically, from the Syrian and Saudi, not Iranian, borders. In Lebanon, an American strike against Iran will trigger another Hezbollah rocket attack against Israeli settlements in the northern Galilee, a confrontation that could easily escalate into war with Syria, Teheran’s sole ally in the Arab world since the 1980’s.
It is therefore imperative that American diplomats negotiate with the commanders of the Pasdaran, not brand them as terrorist, not make war, tensions and sectarian slaughter in the Middle East inevitable. The USSR would never have been transformed by Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost if the Reagan White House had branded the KGB as “terrorist” and refused to deal with the spymasters of Lubyanka. After all, an elite military force impoverished as the Americans found out the hard way when Paul Bremer, their viceroy in Baghdad, stripped Saddam’s Baathist armed forces of their livelihoods and inadvertently midwifed the Sunni insurgency. The geopolitical status quo in the Gulf is untenable. The Gulf Arab states should pressure Washington to view Iran from the cold prism of realpolitik, not the bombast of neocon ideology. After all, the rhetoric of ‘Great Satan and Axis of Evil’ benefits only the psychopaths on both sides whose conscience are immune to human suffering, to the wholesale destruction of innocent lives and the palpable risk of nuclear Armageddon in the Middle East.
**Matein Khalid is a Dubai-based investment banker and economic analyst
A Father’s Shadow Clouds His Son’s Rise in Lebanon
By THANASSIS CAMBANIS
Published: October 3, 2007
BEIRUT, Lebanon, Oct. 2 — Saad Hariri still acts like a guest in his own office.
The executive chair behind the imposing hardwood desk remains occupied by a dead man. On it sits a huge portrait of his father, Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister assassinated on Feb. 14, 2005.
Now Mr. Hariri, at 37 the least experienced of Lebanon’s factional leaders, bears the shaky hope for a pro-Western, democratic future in this country, where the region’s rivalries are often viciously played out.
“I’m the new kid on the block,” he says of his two years as leader of the Future Movement, his father’s political party and the most powerful Sunni Muslim bloc. “I just need to get smart very quickly.”
It will not be easy. Not just an uncomfortable visitor in his own headquarters, he is also something of a prisoner in them. When in Beirut, he almost never leaves Qoreitem, the four-story compound his father built around an old mansion. The blinds are drawn to deter sniper fire. Army checkpoints block every road to the compound. Visitors are searched repeatedly as they approach the main gate.
Mr. Hariri will leave town again this week to meet President Bush on Thursday.
He will push for more international support for the mission to identify suspects in his father’s killing — a complicated diplomatic effort inherently tied to isolating Syria, the prime suspect in a string of political assassinations here, including his father’s. Mr. Hariri has insisted on holding Syria accountable, even as he has adopted a more conciliatory stance toward pro-Syrian opposition groups like Hezbollah and its allies during tense negotiations over how to pick the next president.
One on one, toward the end of a long day’s Ramadan fast, Mr. Hariri, who is often shy and diffident in public, projected surprising warmth and affability in an hourlong conversation, but only when the talk turned away from politics.
He joked about his youth and the rigors of a long-distance marriage. Asked about his Saudi-style goatee, the subject of much teasing among Lebanese, he said he grew it on his wife’s orders, when they got engaged. He occasionally wants to shave it off, he said, but added, “I have to get my wife’s authorization.”
His wife and three children still live in Saudi Arabia, where Mr. Hariri grew up, reluctant to join him here because of the constant specter of political violence, which has already killed four of his political allies.
He has huge shoes to fill. Rafik Hariri dominated Lebanon since he brokered an end to the civil war in 1991, took over as prime minister and drove the country forward often by sheer force of personality. He resigned in October 2004.
Saad Hariri does not cut the bullish, charming figure that his father did. Less tribal chief and more chief executive, the younger Mr. Hariri cut his teeth on expanding his family’s billion-dollar construction empire into telecommunications while his father was running Lebanon.
He is trying to turn his low-key managerial style into an asset. Mr. Hariri says his goal is to move beyond political paralysis and concentrate on Lebanon’s economy. He seeks to set a counterexample to the old warlords and politicians who constantly warn of another civil war.
“They need to be in Hollywood to make these allegations,” Mr. Hariri said. “They could make some really good scenes from these stories. We need calmer people in Lebanon.”
Whether calm will make the difference is unclear. Hezbollah, backed by Iran, has kept the government paralyzed for nearly a year trying to gain more power.
Most of Mr. Hariri’s politicking takes place in private or on television. The family-owned Future TV network broadcasts all of his stiff and somewhat mechanical speeches, and covers another family tradition, the lavish iftars, evening meals to break the fast at the end of each day of Ramadan.
Hundreds of supporters, from a different area of Lebanon each night, throng into a ballroom the size of a basketball court. Enormous photographs of Rafik Hariri line the walls, and when Saad Hariri addresses the guests, after they have eaten mountains of stewed lamb, he is flanked by mirror images of his father’s head, each as large as a man.
On a recent evening, Mr. Hariri exhorted followers to join him in mourning “your first martyr, Rafik Hariri,” and promised to lead Lebanon out of its political impasse “and spare it from the danger of becoming once again the field for regional battles.”
One enthusiastic supporter, Mahmoud Bishara, 41, a cement factory owner from the Bekaa Valley, beamed as he posed for a photograph with Mr. Hariri and wished him “All God’s help.” On his cellphone, however, he had a screen saver with Rafik Hariri’s photograph, and demurred when asked whether the younger Mr. Hariri had the power to lead Lebanon’s Sunnis.
“If he’s not strong enough, he’ll draw strength from us,” Mr. Bishara said.
A former Hariri family associate, Fadl Chalak, 64, offered a more blistering assessment.
“I have a low opinion of all the leaders in this country, and I mean all of them,” Mr. Chalak said. “We are sick and tired of living in a continual crisis, construction and reconstruction, so I say for all of them to go to hell.”
Mr. Chalak spent decades as a point man for Rafik Hariri, leading his reconstruction agency and serving as telecommunications minister in one of his governments. But he retired from politics, and expressed little hope for his country. He credited Saad Hariri with intelligence and “good intentions,” but said that “youth is no excuse” for his lackluster performance.
Mr. Hariri made no excuses for his inexperience but said he would gain inspiration from his father. “He’s here, he’s looking over us, I’m sure,” he said.