October 06/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 10,13-16. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And as for you, Capernaum, 'Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld.'"Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me."

Break the stalemate.Al-Ahram Weekly. October 5/07
US must break Iran and Syria 5/07
INTERVIEW with MP. Boutrous Harb-No place for Hezbollah "mini-state" in Lebanon. Reuters. October 5/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for October 5/07
Lebanon May Break Without US Support:
Lebanon opposition says armed militants 'just having fun'.AFP
Lebanon must choose consensus president -candidates.Reuters

Bush 'Deeply Concerned" About Syria's Intervention in Lebanon's Presidential Election-Naharnet
War of Words and Photos between Police, Aoun's FPM-Naharnet
Fatah al-Islam Terrorists Buried in Tripoli-Naharnet
Maronite League Chief: Aoun, Geagea Vowed to Avoid War-Naharnet
Hizbullah Okays 'Any President' Chosen by Two-Thirds Vote
Kouchner: Syria Must Not Hinder Lebanon Presidential Election-Naharnet
Saniora Meets the Emir of Qatar-Naharnet
Arrest Warrant Issued for Abssi-Naharnet
Bush warns Syria not to interfere in Lebanon election.Xinhua
War of Words and Photos between Police-FPM.Naharnet
Sfeir for President Who Could Turn Lebanon into Safe Haven Again.Naharnet
Syria Army Adopts Hizbullah Tactics In Preparation for War
Italian archaeologist unearths new discoveries in Syria
.People's Daily Online
98 Islamic Militants Buried in Lebanon
.The Associated Press
'Stop meddling in Lebanon'
.Gulf Daily News

'Stop meddling in Lebanon'
WASHINGTON: US President George W Bush last night warned Syria not to interfere in Lebanon's presidential election.
Trying to bolster the Western-backed government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora against pro-Syrian opponents, Bush said he was sending one of his top military commanders to Lebanon to assess the needs of its security forces. Bush used White House talks with Saad Al Hariri, the son and political heir of slain former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Al Hariri, to keep up pressure on Damascus. "The message has been sent to nations such as Syria that they should not interfere in the election of the president," he said following the meeting with Hariri, head of Lebanese parliament's anti-Syrian majority.
"The international community has spoken, and we expect Syria to honour that demand," he said. Bush said he was sending William Fallon, head of the Central Command, responsible for the US military operations in the Middle East, to Lebanon to "assess how we can further help the government and the forces protect themselves from radical elements." He also voiced impatience over an international tribunal approved in May to try suspects in the Hariri assassination.
"After the cold-blooded murder of Rafik Hariri, the international community has demanded accountability" but the resulting plan for a UN-backed court has not made enough progress, Bush said. "The tribunal will send a clear message that there will be justice delivered" in Hariri's murder and other political assassinations in Lebanon, Bush said. The talks came amid heightened tensions in Lebanon following the car-bomb assassination last month of legislator Antoine Ghanem.
Sfeir for President Who Could Turn Lebanon into Safe Haven Again
Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir said he wants very much to have a new President for Lebanon who is capable of turning the country into a safe haven again.
"We are looking to have a president who realizes the difficulties Lebanon is facing," Sfeir said after meeting officials on Thursday. Sfeir said he was also looking to have a new head of state "who could make Lebanon a prosperous and safe country again." Sfeir cited "emigration" to Gulf nations as well as to the U.S., Canada and Australia by young Lebanese seeking safety and better career opportunities as one of the problems facing Lebanon. Beirut, 05 Oct 07, 11:22

Kouchner: Syria Must Not Hinder Lebanon Presidential Election

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Syria should facilitate presidential election in Lebanon and not hinder the vote. He told reporters in Paris that Syria "should facilitate matters and not put obstacles in the way of the upcoming elections." In response to a question on whether he planned to visit Syria in the near future, Koucher said that the "time is not ripe yet." He stressed that there was a "beam of hope" on a consensus presidential candidate during the Saint Cloud meeting in Paris, but that the assassination of anti-Syrian MP Antoine Ghanem "shook the Lebanon situation" once again. Beirut, 05 Oct 07, 07:

War of Words and Photos between Police, Aoun's FPM
A row broke out between Gen. Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement and police over the arrest of Christian opposition activists accused of receiving arms training.
Lebanese security forces announced on Thursday that they had arrested two FMP members for undertaking paramilitary training, fanning tensions ahead of a delayed presidential election. The security forces accompanied their announcement with photographs of young men and women in military fatigue they said were FPM supporters receiving instruction in the use of weapons in the Jbeil (Byblos) region north of Beirut. FPM MPs representing the Jbeil constituency issued a statement terming the police intelligence branch a "militia."The statement said: "This militia is raiding residences of FPM activists in Jbeil Province in violation of all laws and procedures."It said FPM activist Dario Qdeih was rounded up from his home and taken to one of the police intelligence branch's offices "without any legal warrant Ö his whereabouts have been unknown for 24 hours."
Lebanese American University student Elie Abu Youness, also an FPM activist, was also rounded up from his residence Thursday, the statement added.
The MPs pledged to "citizens of our constituency that we will save no effort to combat this militia." The security forces, however, denied that they had made the arrests without authorization, insisting that they had acted following an investigation ordered by military prosecutors.
The military judiciary, in charge of cases related to state security, ordered the arrest of the two suspects and issued a warrant for the weapons' owner, the police statement added. In response to the FPM charges, police issued a statement and a series of photographs of alleged FPM activists training on the use of weapons and wearing military fatigues. The police statement said that in line with instructions from the military attorney general, two persons were arrested.
The statement identified the two by their initials and stressed that they testified to investigators that they are members of the FPM and that they were undergoing military training in Jbeil area with other colleagues.
The two, according to the statement, also disclosed the name of the owner of the weapons used by the squad for training. He also was identified by his initials.
It stressed that it was releasing the photographs of the suspects to inform the Lebanese people of the evidence that led the force to shoulder its responsibility in preventing any one from fiddling with the nation's security. FPM lawmakers quickly retorted to the police statement, saying it was false.
It claimed that the young men and women were "volunteer bodyguards" in charge of protecting Aoun, adding that the pictures were old and that they were taken at different times, "as no weapons or military uniforms were found in their homes."
The Jbeil MPs charged that the Police statement was aimed at "diverting attention" from an FPM demand for uncovering the truth about what has happened in the Nahr al-Bared battle between Fatah al-Islam terrorists and the Lebanese army "regarding supplies and ensuring everything needed for Fatah al-Islam to grow."
Under the Taif agreement that ended Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war, all factions disarmed their militias with the exception of Hizbullah which fought last year's war with Israel, although members of the rival Shiite group Amal also fought in that conflict. Aoun's movement has allied with Hizbullah and the Amal movement of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri against Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government. The two sides have been deadlocked over the choice of a new president to replace pro-Syrian incumbent Emile Lahoud and a first parliamentary session convened last month to elect a successor failed to achieve a quorum. Beirut, 04 Oct 07, 21:02

Arrest Warrant Issued for Abssi
Lebanon said on Friday it has issued an arrest warrant in absentia for leader of the Fatah al-Islam terrorist network whose militants were involved in a deadly 15-week battle with government troops. Judge Ghassan Oweydat said the warrant has been issued for Fatah al-Islam's Palestinian chief Shaker al-Abssi, whose fate remains unknown, and 36 other militants who remain at large. The judge is handling the case over the standoff between Fatah-al Islam and Lebanese troops that erupted in May at the impoverished Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared in the north of the country. Almost 400 people were killed, including an estimated 222 militants and 168 soldiers, until the fighting ended after a final assault by the army on September 2. Oweydat suggested that Abssi is still alive and probably in Lebanon. Also on Friday, general prosecutor Saeed Mirza charged 20 suspected Fatah al-Islam militants, 17 of them in absentia, with murder and terrorism, his office said. They included 16 Palestinians and four Russians, the statement said. A total of 331 members of Fatah al-Islam, including 150 in detention, have been charged since August in connection with the bloodshed. Beirut, 05 Oct 07, 15:46

Saniora Meets the Emir of Qatar
Prime Minister Fouad Saniora met the Emir of Qatar Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani during a one-day visit to Doha Thursday, the state-run National News Agency reported. The report did not disclose topics of discussion between Saniora and the Qatari ruler. Sheik Hamad hosted an iftar (Ramadhan dusk breakfast) banquet at Saniora's honor, the report added without further elaboration. Beirut, 04 Oct 07, 19:13

Syria Army Adopts Hizbullah Tactics In Preparation for War
5/10/ 09:22The US Aviation Weekly reports Iran concerned over Syria's failure to detect IAF planes 09:20Syrian army adopts Hizbullah like tactics in preparation for war 09:18Mortars fired at western Negev, no reports of casualties 16:543 Islamic Jihad members wounded in IAF strike in Rafah southern Gaza 4/10/07 11:52Hizbullah has rebuilt its arsenal, strengthening positions north and south of Litani 4/10/07 11:49North and South Korea sign agreement for future peace 4/10/07 11:47Three members of Hamas wounded in Palestinian related bomb explosion 3/10/07 18:21Fatah has agreed to hold talks with Hamas in Cairo 3/10/07 09:31Olmert and Abbas to meet in Jerusalem today 3/10/07 09:29Palestinians - Hamas member killed in IAF strike in Rafah 3/10/07 09:26Israeli defense officials skeptical over outcome of Mideast summit 2/10/07 21:25Top Politicans not consulted over IDF deision to lift censorship on IAF strike in Syria 2/10/07 14:06IDF confirms IAF targeted facility inside Syria on September 6 2/10/07 13:04IDF - Reuters photographer shot when ran to fence ignoring calls to halt 2/10/07 12:41Release of 29 Palestinian prisoners to Gaza underway
moreSyrian officials warned that if Israel attacks it will be confronted with a harsh and prolonged Syrian response. Syrian military forces have undergone intensive training in the art of guerilla warfare adopting the tactics of those used by Hizbullah in last summerís war, Syrian officials were quoted as saying, in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor.
The officials also said that in preparation for war, rockets and missiles have been dispatched to southern Syria where they are being positioned and prepared in the event of war. The report quoted a number of security analysts including former senior UNIFIL adviser Timor Goskel who said that currently there is a general belief inside Syria and certainly with the Hizbullah that should America attack Iran then Israel will get involved in a preemptive operation .
A Lebanese intelligence source was also quoted as saying that at present the Iranians are trying to convince Syria that if they use the same tactics as Hizbullah and last for 20 to 30 days in a war with Israel before a ceasefire is called then the public perception will be that they have won and Israel has lost.
Meanwhile reports out of southern Lebanon claim that Hizbullah has been strengthening its hold north and south of the Litani River and has replenished its stocks of missiles and rockets since last summerís war with Israel. According to different media reports, a number of villagers in southern Lebanon claim that Hizbullah has once again been stockpiling weapons in depots in the middle of residential areas and continue to recruit 16 to 19 year olds to its ranks. According to reports the new conscripts undergo a month of basic military training and those who display more resilience are sent to undergo more intensive training.06/10/07
Margot Dudkevitch

INTERVIEW-No place for Hezbollah "mini-state" in Lebanon
Fri Oct 5, 2007
BEIRUT, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Lebanon's next president must find a way to integrate Hezbollah guerrillas into the army and set ties with Syria on a new footing after the "black decades" of the past, presidential hopeful Boutros Harb said on Friday.
Hezbollah's arsenal is a divisive issue in Lebanon, where rival political camps are trying to agree on who should replace pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud when his term ends on Nov. 23.
Harb, one of two Maronite Christian candidates endorsed by the anti-Syrian majority bloc, told Reuters Lebanon could not continue with a Hezbollah "mini-state inside the state".
The Shi'ite militant group, which is backed by Syria and Iran, has sworn to use its weapons only against Israel.
Harb said a priority for any new president -- who must be a Maronite in Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system -- should be to reconvene a national dialogue to discuss how Hezbollah's military power could be brought under state control so that only the government could decide on matters of war and peace.
"Whenever we have a state and government ready to fight for the country's independence, at that moment Hezbollah will not have a pretext to continue having their arms and we'll invite them to be part of the institutions of the state," he added.
Sunni, Druze and Christian factions which command a slim majority in parliament say Hezbollah dragged Lebanon into an unwanted conflict last year by seizing two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid to trade for Lebanese held in Israel.
Mistrust between Lebanon's rival camps deepened after the war when Hezbollah accused its Lebanese critics of colluding with Israel's U.S.-backed effort to crush the guerrillas. Hezbollah, the only Lebanese faction permitted to retain its arms after the 1975-90 civil war, says it needs them to liberate the disputed Shebaa Farms border area and to deter Israel, which withdrew from the south in 2000, from attacking Lebanon again.
But the Islamist group has declared it will not keep its weapons forever and is willing to discuss their future in the context of a national defence strategy for Lebanon.
Harb said the army should be trained, equipped and prepared to defend Lebanon, arguing that it had been unable to function properly during Syria's 29-year military presence, when Damascus called all the shots, including choosing the president.
"The situation now in Lebanon is the result of what happened in the black decades that we had," he said of the era that ended when Syrian troops left in 2005 amid an outcry over the assassination of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
"Now it's over, it's finished. Now we are asking that the Lebanese people and parliamentarians choose their president and do not accept any interference."
Lebanon's 128-seat parliament is due to meet on Oct. 23 to elect a president after an abortive attempt on Sept. 25.
That failure occurred barely a week after a car bomb killed of MP Antoine Ghanem, the seventh anti-Syrian figure to be slain in Lebanon since Hariri's assassination.
Damascus denies any hand in the killings. A U.N.-led special tribunal is being set up to try anyone who may be indicted.
Harb, a 63-year-old lawyer, said Lebanese-Syrian relations must be recalibrated, with neither country meddling in the other. Ambassadors should be exchanged and borders delineated and controlled to stop flows of illegal arms and terrorists.
"We are asking Syria to respect our sovereignty and we will respect theirs," he said.
Lebanon, often used in the past as a proxy battleground for regional conflicts, wanted no part in any external axis, Harb declared. "We are fed up with this, we paid a very high price and we don't want to continue this in the future." Harb, in parliament since 1972 with only one four-year break, said Lebanon faced the task of rebuilding the state "from zero" and needed an extraordinary person as president.Asked why he felt qualified, he said: "I'm stubborn and I believe in my country and in the Lebanese. And I want to ensure the new generation will not suffer like we suffered."

Written by ILC 1559
Thursday, 04 October 2007
ILC 1559
Beirut, the 3rd of October 2007. Press Release: Mr Toni Nissi, The general coordinator of the International Lebanese Committee For The United Nation Security Council Resolution 1559, has replied to the aggressive campaign targeting lately the international support for Lebanon especially the Security Council Resolution 1559 (UNSCR 1559). This campaign implied that a certain settlement has been done at the expense of the cedar's revolution achievements and its martyrs' blood.
It has been a while since the mercenaries of the Iranian revolution, and their employee,s have been declaring that the Lebanese presidential election will not occur till after the cancellation of UNSCR 1559. They are talking in their circles about a settlement which was reached and agreed upon by all parties in Lebanon. According to them, this settlement include: an executive release from the new Government "to be formed " rejecting the UNSCR 1559 and a formal adoption of the Hizbollah's weapon arsenal. They are even preaching that soon there will be condolences presented for the passing away of UNSCR 1559.
1- We assure Mr Hussein al Hajj Hassan, Mr Mohammad Raad, Mr Naim Kassem and many others that their opinion about UNSCR 1559 was never requested; as criminals are not asked about their views of court judgment but they are better spending this time in repent or remorse and in paying the price of their deeds in peace so that they don't stack further judgments.
2- We remind House Speaker Mr Berri that UNSCR 1559 is an INTERNATIONAL RESOLUTION issued by the SECURITY COUNCIL for the sake of Lebanon and its people. Hence, no matter how highly placed one is, one cannot cancel such a resolution or halt its execution. Moreover, condolences sessions cannot be held against such resolutions.
3- We reinforce the fact that UNSCR 1559 saw light thanks to the effort of expatriate Lebanese and for the sake of the Lebanese people. It is an obligation of the United Nations to intervene anytime to implement this resolution if the Lebanese failed to do so.
4- Everybody in Lebanon knows that there is an agreement between the Cedars revolution and the international resolutions and that these resolutions were produced to help the Lebanese people realize their cedar revolution goals. These goals include: the fight against terrorism, the fight against foreign occupation, a sovereign, democratic, pluralistic and free Lebanon. Any settlement done at the expense of the above goals or at the expense of these special resolutions especially its major star 1559 will be the actual commiseration session for the cedar revolution.
5- All politicians in Lebanon must understand that the cedars revolution in collaboration with the international community has managed to kick the Syrian army out as outlined in the first article but that the remnants of the Syrian tutelage is still trying to govern Lebanon through its commissioner in Lebanon and its second army: Hizbollah and its followers. The politicians must also understand that freeing Lebanon from foreign occupation will require asking help from international community to help implementing the resolutions and thus cancelling this Syrian sponsorship as well as the other foreign occupations. What the Lebanese politicians must finally understand that there should not be any grey areas like these which used to overshadow Lebanon and its decisions for so long during the Syrian occupation. Now the politicians have to choose between being part of the Cedar revolution or being part of terrorism, between being with the martyrs facing their killers or with the killers, between being with the Lebanese people or with those who are hijacking the Lebanese free will.
6- The leaders of 14th of March and the leaders of the cedar revolution understand very well that any settlement with Hizbollah ,Syria, iran (or any other country or organization dealing with the axis of terror ) done at the expense of the cedars revolution and the UNSCR implementation will be like letting go of the cedars revolution goals and international community support. Moreover this settlement will move Lebanon from being a partner to the international community, in its war on terror, to becoming an ally of terrorism.
We are confident that those leaders know their duties toward the Lebanese people, the cedar revolution and the international resolutions. Therefore we believe that none of these leaders will accept any settlement as the one advertised for by the anti cedar revolution front especially if this stand will shift lebanon's government and its system from a partner of the international anti terrorism campaign to a terrorist country.
Finally we assure the Lebanese people that in coordination with the United Nations and the friends of Lebanon, we will not allow any settlement at the expense of the Cedars revolution and at the expense of the Lebanese people' s interests. We will not allow that the Lebanese people becomes a hostage of terrorism. Moreover we will not accept that Lebanon gets a president which shifts it to the axis of terror.
Toni Nissi, Eng
The general coordinator of the International Lebanese Committee
For The United Nation Security Council Resolution 1559
In Arabic [ CRNews Server USA ]
In Al Mustaqbal [ CRNews Server USA ]

WCCR Press Release - The Strategic Plan
Written by WCCR
Thursday, 04 October 2007
The World Council for the Cedars Revolution and the International Lebanese Committee for the Implementation of UNSCR 1559, after having held global consultations with Some of world leaders, Lebanese civil society and Diaspora leaders and NGOs, and after having received many appeals from Lebanese citizens inside the country and worldwide to address the present crisis via a direct intervention of the UN Security Council.
After having judged the present situation in Lebanon as dangerous for its pro-democracy members of Parliament, citizens and after having noted that the current Government is unable to take the control of the security situation and is being paralyzed from the inside by armed groups such as Hezbollah and other terrorists organizations (with Syrian and Iranian support) despite the calls by the international community.
We are honored to send you a strategic plan authored by our academic advisor Professor Walid Phares, a Senior Fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington and a Visiting Fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy, and to provide a further expertise, analysis and advice.
The Strategic Plan
Entitled, Strategic Steps to Defend Democracy in Lebanon Today, they are as follows:
In view of the dramatic developments over the past few months, including particularly:
1. The assassination of Lebanese legislators Antoine Ghanem, Walid Eido, Pierre Gemayel and previously Gebran Tueni to reduce the number of the democratically elected majority in the Parliament in order to obstruct the election of a free President for Lebanon.
2. The release of the Terrorist group Fatah al Islam in Nahr al Bared to engage the Lebanese Army and bleed it. Knowing that other identical Terrorist groups have also been mobilized in other Lebanese regions, including in the south and the Bekaa valley
3. The attacks launched against the UNIFIL by Terrorist groups, operating in an area under the control of Hezbollah, an organization supported financially by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
4. Having learned from General Petraeus report to the US Congress that U.S and Coalition forces have captured Hezbollah elements in Iraq training Terrorist elements in that country.
5. The urban insurgency conducted in downtown Beirut by Hezbollah, Amal, the Syrian National Social Party, the Baath, the Aoun Movement, and other pro-Syrian organizations. Such an intimidating insurgency, conducted primarily by an organization which parades its weapons and claim possessing tens of thousands of rockets, is aiming at paralyzing the national economy and national security of the Republic of Lebanon.
6. The political maneuvers by Syria's allies in Lebanon, including Parliament speaker Nabih Berri warning that unless the majority accept the diktat of the Hezbollah coalition, there will be urban violence, seizure of institutions and disruption of economic life.
7. Terrorist attacks that took place against civilian neighborhoods over the past two years.
8. The triggering of a regional war across the Lebanese-Israeli border in July 2006 and the potential of repeating this adventure again.
9. The Lebanese-Syrian borders are open and the flow of arms, ammunitions and terrorists is crossing these borders from Syria into Lebanon.
In view of these irrefutable threats rising against democracy in Lebanon, which the most recent expression has been the Cedars Revolution and the March 14 movement, it is crucial to follow the following strategic steps as a way to achieve a defense of this struggling democracy and move forward towards stability and security. These steps can be modified via discussions with the Lebanese Government and the leaders of the March 14 Movement and the legislative majority in Lebanon.
A. Firm and clear statements to be issued by the US, French, European and Arab Governments calling for a protection of the Presidential election in Lebanon under Chapter 7 of the UN charter in application of UNSCR 1559.
B. Asking the Governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan to encourage the Lebanese Government headed by Prime Minister Fouad Seniora and politicians in Lebanon to request a UN intervention for the purpose of protecting the election of a new President.
C. Asking the speaker of the Parliament in Lebanon to hold the election session under UN auspices to protect the Lebanese legislators, now targets of terrorism. If the speaker refuses, asking the deputy speaker, if not the older legislator from the majority.
D. Place the Lebanese legislators of the March 14 coalition under security protection of the UN.
E. Designate a secure location and a date for this election and ask the UN delegate for the implementation of UNSCR 1559 top oversee the electoral process. Ask the UNIFIL to dispatch a special unit to join the Lebanese Army and Security forces to protect the operation. Place the zone and site of the election under UN command until the election is over.
F. Place the President elect under UN protection until he/she is installed constitutionally at the Presidential palace in Baabda. Assist the President elect in securing the Presidential Palace.
This UN action is not only needed but it falls under the direct responsibility of the Security Council for the following reasons:
First: The UNSCR 1559 has asked for the election of a new President for Lebanon. This process is now obstructed and endangered by Terror activities.
Second: A number of Lebanese legislators, who have been elected as result of the implementation of one stipulation of UNSCR 1559, which is the withdrawal of the Syrian forces, have been assassinated since 2005. The non implementation of the second and third stipulations, i.e., the disarming of all paramilitary networks and the election of a new President, is impeding the implementation of the resolution by the way of violence.
Third: The UN has had precedents in protecting elections at multiple levels so that the constituents can express themselves in freedom and security. The principle of extending a UN protection under chapter 7 was implemented in many cases, including in East Timor and Afghanistan. And the principle of protecting elected officials threatened by terror actions has also been implemented around the world.
Hence, the UN Security Council has the obligation to oversee the implementation of this resolution under Chapter 7 of the Charter and the current Lebanese Government has the obligation to cooperate with the UN in this regard.
For The World Council of the Cedars Revolution
Joseph P Baini John Hajjar
World Council Chairman National Director USA
In Al Seyassah [ CRNews Server USA ]
In Al Mustaqbal [ CRNews Server USA ]
In Arabic Format [ CRNews Server USA ]

Break the stalemate
"Consensus" was the word on almost all lips this week, but there's been nothing to show for it in the presidential race yet, reports Lucy Fielder
Lebanese leaders held a flurry of meetings about the presidential race this week, but despite positive signals it remains unclear whether the two opposing factions are prepared to compromise.
Parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri announced the dialogue efforts last week after MPs failed to elect a president, raising hopes that there was still time for the polarised country to stave off civil war or a constitutional vacuum. Parliament is scheduled to reconvene on 23 October, to give MPs time to agree a consensus candidate.
A replacement for President Emile Lahoud, whose term was extended by a constitutional amendment and Syrian pressure three years ago, must be found by 24 November. Otherwise, it is feared, Lahoud may appoint a transitional government, prompting the 14 March ruling bloc to set up a rival one. Or the movement could go ahead and choose its own president, prompting the opposition to do the same. Either way, rival leaderships are widely seen as a slippery slope to civil war.
Hizbullah MPs boycotted last week's session by staying in the corridors in order to prevent the attendance of the necessary two- thirds quorum. It argues that a candidate needs to be agreed beforehand to respect Lebanon's delicate sectarian balance. Lebanon has been locked in a tug-of-war since the Syrians withdrew in 2005 between the US and Saudi-backed 14 March and their 8 March opponents who fear that Lebanon's former overlords in Damascus will be replaced by Western ones.
Over the past week, Berri has lived up to his reputation as a wily mediator who thrives in times of crisis. He has met another key national mediator, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, as well as US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman and, most significantly, anti- Syrian ruling bloc leader Saad Al-Hariri.
Berri said his meeting with Al-Hariri was held in a "mood of conciliation" and many Lebanese media reports have expressed optimism that a resolution was in the offing.
Most 14 March MPs and leaders now seem to concur with the opposition's view that a two-thirds quorum must be present for the first vote, though controversy remains over whether a simple majority suffices if that fails and a second vote is called.
Leading constitutional experts, some close to 14 March, have dismissed this week the claims of some in the anti-Syrian movement that the failed session counted as the first vote, enabling the movement to go ahead and pick a candidate from its ranks.
But given the avowed mood of conciliation and Al-Hariri's public optimism, it was unclear why he is scheduled to visit Washington to meet US President George W Bush later this week. "Visiting the US at this time doesn't look very much like a conciliatory or a confidence-building measure," said Amal Saad- Ghorayeb of the Carnegie Endowment's Middle East Centre in Beirut. "It is clearly a way of Bush solidifying his support for 14 March."
Some opposition figures privately voice fears that the rounds of conciliatory meetings and political Iftar meals may be an elaborate exercise in time-wasting.
And if no solution is found by 10 days before Lahoud's term ends, the speaker cannot refuse to open parliament's doors, experts say, in which case 14 March MPs have threatened to hold a vote, quorum or no quorum.
Al-Hariri and his Saudi backers want a solution, the opposition figures believe. A fragmented or warring Lebanon would weaken the Sunnis' current political dominance in the country, carved out since the end of the civil war and Al-Hariri's assassination.
If true, the Hariri-Saudi alliance may be able to tease relative moderation from the United States, which has sought to embolden the Sunnis throughout the region to counterbalance arch foe Iran. But they can have little sway over Washington if it decides to insist on a candidate from within 14 March.
And there are media reports of a split within the Saudi monarchy concerning the kingdom's policy towards Syria and relations with Washington and Iran, Saad-Ghorayeb said.
Christian Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt have made statements that veered still further towards the hardline margin of 14 March. Both have stuck longer than their colleagues to the position that a simple majority of MPs is adequate to elect a president. The ruling bloc controls 68 of parliament's 128 seats, so that would effectively enable them to elect a head of state unilaterally.
"They [Geagea and Jumblatt] feel they're sinking and that a deal might be cut at their expense," Saad-Ghorayeb said.
Jumblatt, who has become one of Washington's firmest allies in Lebanon, wrote an open letter to world leaders this week calling for protection to help Lebanese and their leaders "overcome the threat of successive assassinations which aim to destroy Lebanon". Christian Phalangist MP Antoine Ghanem was assassinated just days before last week's abortive vote, the fourth 14 March deputy to be killed since a massive explosion killed Rafik Al-Hariri in February 2005 and plunged Lebanon into crisis.
"Only you, Lebanon's friends, can protect us. We are confident of your continued support for our striving for freedom by ensuring the election of a new president," Jumblatt wrote.
The UN Security Council urged last week that the presidential election be held freely, fairly and on time. Berri chastised the council for interference in an internal matter.
The US position remains pivotal, and centres upon disarming Hizbullah and undermining its allies Iran and Syria. US Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman reiterated his focus this week on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which was adopted after a three-year extension to Lahoud's term in late 2004 under Syrian influence and calls for the disarmament of all militias in Lebanon, for which read Hizbullah.
"We hope the rest of its clauses are implemented, most important of which is electing a new president made in Lebanon in accordance with the Lebanese constitution and without foreign interference, and for militias to surrender their weapons," Feltman said. The US deems Hizbullah a terror organisation and has hotly pursued its disarmament since the failure of Israel's war on the guerrillas last summer.
Washington does not appear to be in the mood for compromise in Lebanon, and especially on disarming Hizbullah's fighters, but the answers lie elsewhere in the region. "It's pretty much 50/50 what the US will decide, and very much linked to what they want to do on Iran," Saad-Ghorayeb said. Lebanon's fate may hinge on whether that decision is war or peace.
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved

US 'must break Iran and Syria regimes'
By Toby Harnden in Washington
Last Updated: 2:09am BST 05/10/2007
America should seize every opportunity to force regime change in Syria and Iran, a former senior adviser to the White House has urged.
Profile: US hawk David Wurmser
Toby Harnden: David Wurmser - a neocon unbowed
David Wurmser: 'If we start shooting, we
must be prepared to fire the last shot'
"We need to do everything possible to destabilise the Syrian regime and exploit every single moment they strategically overstep," said David Wurmser, who recently resigned after four years as Vice President Dick Cheney's Middle East adviser.
"That would include the willingness to escalate as far as we need to go to topple the regime if necessary." He said that an end to Baathist rule in Damascus could trigger a domino effect that would then bring down the Teheran regime.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the first since he left government, he argued that the United States had to be prepared to attack both Syria and Iran to prevent the spread of Islamic fundamentalism and nuclear proliferation in the Middle East that could result in a much wider war.
Mr Wurmser, 46, a leading neo-conservative who has played a pivotal role in the Bush administration since the September 11th attacks, said that diplomacy would fail to stop Iran becoming a nuclear power. Overthrowing Teheran's theocratic regime should therefore be a top US priority.
advertisementIran was using Syria as its proxy against Israel and among Sunni Arabs and both regimes had to be overthrown, he insisted.
"It has to be, because who they are is now defined around provoking a wider clash of civilisations with the West. It is precisely to avoid this that we need to win now."
Both countries were part of a "proliferation consortium", possibly in league with North Korea, that is helping Teheran to acquire a nuclear bomb, he said.
If Iran was seen to be powerless to prevent regime change in Syria, Mr Wurmser claimed, Teheran's prestige would be undermined just as the Soviet Union's was when it failed to come to the aid of Syrian forces during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.
Regime change was possible because Syria was "weak and rattled" while Iran had adopted a "go-for-broke strategy" of stirring up regional tensions to overcome the reality that "the foundations of the regime in Teheran are fragile".
A situation such as last year's attack on Israel by Hezbollah, which was backed by Iran and Syria, could provide an opportunity for US intervention.
Although Mr Wurmser's recommendations have not yet become US policy, his hard-line stances on regime change in Iran and Syria are understood to have formed the basis of policy documents approved by Mr Cheney, an uncompromising hawk who is deeply sceptical about the effectiveness of diplomatic pressure on Teheran.
Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State and an advocate of multilateral diplomacy, currently holds sway within the Bush administration but Iran's intransigence on the nuclear issue and its role in the Iraq insurgency could well shift the balance back towards Mr Cheney.
Limited strikes against Iranian nuclear targets would be useless, Mr Wurmser said. "Only if what we do is placed in the framework of a fundamental assault on the survival of the regime will it have a pick-up among ordinary Iranians.
"If we start shooting, we must be prepared to fire the last shot. Don't shoot a bear if you're not going to kill it."
Mr Wurmser emphatically denied recent allegations he told a small group that Mr Cheney intended to press Israel to launch strikes against Iran in order to provoke a retaliation that the US would then respond to.
It was "fantastical" to suggest that he or Mr Cheney would "try to cause a war that the president expressly doesn't want", he said. "Everything that was done was to execute the policies of the president and not to subvert them."
Mr Wurmser, an outspoken proponent of removing Saddam Hussein in the years before the 2003 invasion, was highly critical of British forces in southern Iraq. "Being in Basra, the British had a major role to play and they didn't really play it very well.
"Under British presence, the Iranians extended their power considerably. British troops are still there but Iraqis see them as dead men walking.... everybody's looking towards who is the real power that fills the vacuum and that then translates into an Iranian-American confrontation in that area."
British withdrawal, he said, could be a plus for the US. "It frees our hand to deal aggressively with their [Iran's] structures. Once we have responsibility for that area, we'll have to do what we need to do and that could well mean troops on the ground."
Although he conceded many mistakes had been made by the US in Iraq, Mr Wurmser said there were now reasons for optimism. "While Iraq became more violent, it also became in some ways the international bug-zapper of terrorists.
"It was the light that attracted all the terrorists of the world. And that became the battleground, and this is a decisive battle. I think the battle is turning in our favour now, and this is a defeat that it will take the al-Qaeda world a long time to recover from."
In the meantime, the US still had the power to deal with Iran militarily. "If we decided from no preparation to doing something in Iran, while it would cause a lot of heartburn among many people in the Pentagon, we could do it.
"I would never underestimate the raw capability of the United States in any off-the-shelf situation. If that's what we decided to do, things can be done."
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