October 17/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 11,37-41. After he had spoken, a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home. He entered and reclined at table to eat. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal. The Lord said to him, "Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.

Free Opinions & Special Reports
Wisdom for Lebanon?.By:By Sami Moubayed. Gulf News. October 17/07
If Hizbullah and Israel can make a deal, why can't Lebanon's Christians? The Daily Star. October 16/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for October 16/07
US House Considers Resolution Condemning Syria, Iran and Lebanese ...Naharnet
Grenade detonator explodes wounding two people in northern Lebanon.International Herald Tribune
Lebanon MPs unlikely to pick president at next session.AFP
Libya, Vietnam win seats on U.N. Security Council-Naharnet

Election May be Postponed to Give Consensus a Chance as Joint Christian Committee Formed-Naharnet
Hizbullah to Provide Information on Arad-Naharnet

Israeli, Hezbollah prisoner swap seen as 'positive sign. Associated Press
Jumblatt presses UN to set up Hariri court soon-Daily Star
Parliamentary session to elect next president may be postponed again-Daily Star
Hizbullah and Israel trade prisoner and bodies-Daily Star
Change and Reform calls for interim government-Daily Star
Prisoner swaps have long been key goal for Hizbullah-Daily Star
Riot-ravaged Lebanese firm gains symbolic victory-Daily Star
Credit Suisse sees next to no GDP growth for Lebanon-Daily Star
Lebanese Army foils plot to bomb UNIFIL convoy-Daily Star
Documentary of Jiyyeh spill wins film festival award-Daily Star
Kouchner fails in bid to secure new sanctions against Tehran-Daily Star

Election May be Postponed to Give Consensus a Chance as Joint Christian Committee Formed
Lebanon's Presidential Election scheduled for October 23 is likely to be postponed till November to give consensus on a presidential candidate a chance to work.
The Central News Agency, citing sources close to the ongoing political activity, said the warring political camps could possibly agree to postpone the session to allow additional "internal and external" discussions on the upcoming presidential election issue. Meanwhile, the daily An Nahar said a joint Christian committee comprising representatives from the majority March 14 alliance and the Hizbullah-led March 8 Forces was formed overnight. It said both sides contacted Bkirki and informed the seat of the Maronite church of the names that would take part in the quartet committee meetings seeking to reach a consensus presidential nominee ahead of the Oct. 23 deadline to elect a successor to President Emile Lahoud. Presidential hopeful Nassib Lahoud said if the feuding sides failed to elect a president by Oct. 23, the March 14 coalition will give it a few more days until consensus is reached. Presidential candidate Robert Ghanem also hinted that next week's parliamentary session could be postponed a couple of weeks to give consensus a chance. An Nahar on Monday said formation of the committee was hindered. The committee, under the auspices of Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, will hold regular meetings behind closed doors. The proposal was agreed in separate meetings on Thursday and Friday between Sfeir and Maronite representatives from the pro- and anti-government camps. Beirut, 16 Oct 07, 08:38

U.S. House Considers Resolution Condemning Syria, Iran and Lebanese Allies
U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, submitted a resolution condemning Syria and Iran for their interference in Lebanon's internal affairs. It also condemned the Lebanese allies of Damascus and Tehran for acting against Lebanon's national interests.
The resolution resolves that the House of Representatives "condemns the campaign of murder, terror and intimidation aimed at overthrowing the democratically-elected government of Lebanon and establishing a new Lebanese government subservient to the will and interests of Syria and Iran."The house also "condemns Syria and Iran for their gross interference in Lebanon's internal political affairs, and particularly, the selection of a new president, and gross violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions protective of Lebanon's sovereignty and independence."The text also condemned "Lebanese political parties and actors who have allied themselves with Syria and Iran to the detriment of their own country and its national interests."The measure criticized and condemned "efforts by some Lebanese political figures to obstruct, delay, and impede the legal and established processes of their country for the selection of a new president according to the rule of law."It affirmed the "continued strong support for Lebanon's democratically-elected government, people and national sovereignty, and its readiness to provide material support."
The resolution called on "all nations to recognize and support Lebanon's sovereignty and independence" and urged the U.S. President to "use all peaceful means at the disposal of the United States to help safeguard Lebanon's sovereignty and independence."It noted that in 2004, Lebanon's "current president (Emile Lahoud) had his term extra-legally extended through the interference of Syria in Lebanon's internal affairs."It recalled that ex-Premier Rafik Hariri "the leading opponent of continued Syrian domination of Lebanon and the extra-legal extension of the president's term, was assassinated along with 22 people by a massive car bomb on February 14, 2005."Ackerman noted that "investigators from the United Nations have suggested that officials of Syria's government, at the highest levels, appear to be culpable for the (Hariri) assassination."
He also said that the majority government of Premier Fouad Saniora "has been under steady attack by domestic and foreign forces that have been engaged in instigating riots and insurrection, suspending the operation of Lebanon's parliament, and perpetrating horrific acts of terror against the Lebanese people."
Ackerman noted that "Syria and Iran are seeking to dominate Lebanon through their campaign of murder and intimidation aimed at the Lebanese parliamentary majority and other anti-Syrian public and political figures."He said that "Syria and Iran, through their Lebanese proxies, have demanded the selection of another Lebanese president hand-picked by the Government of Syria."Ackerman concluded that "Syria and Iran, in clear contravention of numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions, notably 1559 (2004), 1655 (2006), 1664 (2006), 1680 (2006), 1701 (2006), and 1757 (2007), have grossly violated Lebanon's sovereignty by continuing to provide arms to illegitimate Lebanese militias, Palestinian terrorist groups and other terrorist organizations; meddling in Lebanon's internal political affairs; and actively supporting efforts to prevent the election of a new president in accordance with Lebanese law." Beirut, 16 Oct 07, 16:02

Grenade detonator explodes wounding two people in northern Lebanon
The Associated PressPublished: October 16, 2007
BEIRUT, Lebanon: A grenade detonator went off Tuesday at a school in northern Lebanon chopping of a 4-year-old Palestinian girl's two fingers and slightly wounded a young man who was next to her, security officials said. The small explosion occurred as Malak Toufic Sharaf, a girl who fled with her family from the recent fighting in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared, was toying with the detonator at al-Salam school in the northern city of Tripoli, the officials said. The school is housing dozens of Palestinian refugees from the camp, the officials said. The officials said authorities were investigating how Sharaf, who lost two fingers from her right hand, got the detonator. Another Palestinian, Suleiman Mohammed Abul-Hajal, 18, was lightly wounded in the ear as he passed by Sharaf when the detonator went off.
Thousands of Palestinians fled the Nahr el-Bared camp, which witnessed more than three months of heavy fighting between Lebanese troops and Fatah Islam militants until the Islamic group was crushed on Sept. 2. Dozens of refugees from the camp have started retuning to their homes in the past week but many will have to wait until their destroyed homes are rebuilt.

Lebanon MPs unlikely to pick president at next session

BEIRUT (AFP) With less than a week to go before Lebanon's parliament convenes again to elect a president, all indicators are that the session is doomed to fail or will be cancelled for lack of consensus among the country's feuding political factions. "There is a lot of brinkmanship on both sides which will make it difficult to get the election as early as October 23," Oussama Safa, head of the Lebanese Centre for Policy Studies, told AFP.
"And with so much posturing going on, I think they will probably wait until the very last minute to elect a president, if a president is to be elected."
Nassib Lahoud, a candidate for the presidency backed by the Western-backed ruling coalition, also said he believes next week's session would not take place, with opposing sides waiting until the 11th hour to strike a deal. "In one way or another we would like to give more chance for an agreement to be reached," he told AFP. "The more time and the more pressing the deadline, the more one has a chance to reach an agreement."
Several MPs who showed up on Tuesday for the first regular parliament session in a year admitted that they were not yet ready to pick a successor to current pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, whose term ends on November 24. "The current situation does not justify the session even taking place next week as nothing indicates willingness to reach an agreement," said Hezbollah MP Hussein Hajj Hassan. "I think the session won't even take place for lack of a quorum."
The special session next Tuesday was called by parliament speaker Nabih Berri, a prominent member of the Hezbollah-led opposition, after MPs on September 25 failed to reach agreement on a consensus candidate to replace Lahoud. Negotiations since then have been going on among the parties, with leading members of the ruling majority travelling to Washington and other Western capitals to seek support and opposition leaders meeting with various foreign envoys working to break the deadlock.The foreign ministers of France, Italy and Spain are due in Beirut later this week to try and negotiate an end to the crisis, the worst since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war. "There are presidential elections and we want to meet all the political forces to obtain national reconciliation and look for a solution to the crisis that continues to affect the country's stability," Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said last week.
Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's government has been paralysed since opposition forces, which include factions backed by Iran and Syria, withdrew their 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 end of the civil war when two competing administrations battled it out. Many Lebanese are also on edge fearing another MP from the ruling coalition could be assassinated, following the murder of lawmaker Antoine Ghanem and five others in a car bombing just days before the previous parliamentary session. Ghanem was the sixth lawmaker killed since 2005 in attacks blamed by the ruling majority on Syria, which has denied involvement. "I think there will very likely be a new attack," Safa said, echoing similar statements by several politicians interviewed. "There is a pattern here and it is strongly connected to the international tribunal and is intended to impact negatively on the presidential election."
He was referring to the UN-backed tribunal set up to try suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, who was killed along with 22 others in a massive explosion on the Beirut seafront in February 2005. An initial UN inquiry implicated Damascus and its allies in Lebanon, but Syria has vehemently denied any involvement. Hosted by Copyright 2007 AFP. All rights reserved. More

Lebanese Army foils plot to bomb UNIFIL convoy
By Mohammed Zaatari
Daily Star staff
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
NAQOURA: Lebanese Army intelligence said on Monday it had detained members of a "terrorist network" who had tried to bomb UN peacekeepers in South Lebanon. The group of seven, which included foreigners, had been monitoring the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and planted a bomb near a peacekeepers' convoy on the outskirts of the Southern port city of Tyre. But the bomb failed to detonate, an army statement said.
"Its members had planned to plant two explosive devices and detonate them at different times in the same place with the aim of inflicting the greatest possible number of casualties," the statement said. Six members of UNIFIL's Spanish contingent were killed by a car bomb in the South in June. Nobody has been charged in the attack. The Spanish government has said it suspected Al-Qaeda-inspired Islamist militants were behind the bombing.
Six Palestinians were charged in September with involvement in another attack that slightly damaged a UN peacekeeping vehicle in July.
Meanwhile, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Geir Pedersen on Monday stressed the need to stop weapons shipments from Syria to Lebanon, as called for in UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war with Israel. "This issue constitutes a main part of the full implementation of Resolution 1701," Pedersen said after meeting with resigned Energy Minister Mohammad Fneish. According to Pedersen, the meeting focused on ways to implement Resolution 1701. He said the area located south of the Litani River should be weapons-free and put in the hands of the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL.
Fneish said that "unlike Lebanon, Israel is not abiding by [Resolution] 1701," highlighting its continued violations of the country's sovereignty through near-daily overflights, which have also been condemned by the UN. "I also condemn Israel's continued occupation of northern Ghajar," he added.
Israeli forces have yet to pull out of Ghajar, a village bisected by the Blue Line and reoccupied by Israeli forces in 2006. One-third of the village is in Lebanese territory, and two-thirds in the Syrian Golan Heights occupied by Israel in 1967. Resolution 1701 mandates Israel's withdrawal from the Lebanese area of Ghajar.
The issues of Israel's violations of the Lebanese airspace and its withdrawal from northern Ghajar were also discussed on Monday during a tripartite meeting of representatives from the UN and Lebanese and Israeli armies at UNIFIL's headquarters in Naqoura.A similar meeting was held earlier this month to discuss the implementation of Resolution 1701. - With agencies

Change and Reform calls for interim government

Daily Star staff
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
BEIRUT: The Change and Reform bloc called on Monday for the formation of a "consensus interim government" to assume authority and pave the way for the election of a new president, if the governing majority and opposition fail to agree on a presidential candidate. In a statement issued after its weekly meeting chaired by MP Michel Aoun in Rabieh, the bloc stressed the need to create an interim government to avoid plunging the country into a political vacuum or violent clashes.
"If initiatives launched by [Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir] and [Parliament Speaker Nabih] Berri fail to reach consensus over a presidential candidate, it will be necessary to form a consensus interim government that guarantees the appropriate atmosphere for the election of a new president in line with the Constitution," the statement said. Berri had announced about a month ago that the March 8 opposition had been ready to drop its demand for a national unity government if the Western-backed March 14 governing coalition could agree with the opposition on a consensus candidate for the presidency. Berri and Sfeir have been leading efforts to agree on a consensus candidate. As a result of separate meetings with the patriarch last week in the Church's seat in Bkirki, Maronite leaders from the feuding government and opposition camps agreed on the formation of a joint committee to try to reach consensus on a presidential candidate before President Emile Lahoud's term ends on November 24. "The bloc backs Aoun's support of Bkirki's steps and Berri's initiative," the statement said. "We hope the ruling party will not try, as it does every time, to hamper [those initiatives] in a bid to gain time and bring the country before unconstitutional and divisive choices."The bloc warned against the repercussions of electing "a spiritual and national figure incapable of playing a consensus role on the Maronite and national levels.""This situation will deepen the Christians' marginalization," the bloc said. The bloc conveyed its best wishes to the Muslims of Lebanon on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr. - The Daily Star

Jumblatt presses UN to set up Hariri court soon

Compiled by Daily Star staff
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Democratic Gathering Bloc leader MP Walid Jumblatt arrived in New York Monday to help speed up the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to try suspects in the slaying of former Premier Rafik Hariri. Jumblatt met late Monday UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Nicholas Michel. Jumblatt told the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation on Monday that there is no need to appoint judges for the tribunal from Arab or Muslim countries, adding that any judge who opposes terrorism should suffice. Jumblatt said his visit is not meant to provoke Syria but rather to elicit a change in the behavior of the Syrian regime. "I do not know if we can change the behavior of a dictatorial regime, but we will see if we can alter their behavior so they stop smuggling weapons and terrorists into Lebanon as they did with Shaker al-Abssi," he said. He said a new Lebanese president needs to respect international resolutions, adding that if a president who is subservient to Syria is elected, he could hamper the creation of the tribunal. Jumblatt, in his weekly interview with his Progressive Socialist Party's Al-Anbaa newspaper, said Lebanese-Syrian relations will not normalize with a "terrorist regime that practices systematic killing of the Lebanese and refuses to recognize Lebanese statehood." Jumblatt insisted that UN Security Council Resolution 1559 is connected with the issue of the tribunal. "[Resolution] 1559 came out when Syria imposed on us the extension [of President Emile Lahoud's term in office], which we opposed. It is one of the reasons Rafik Hariri was killed," Jumblatt told LBC.
Also arriving in New York Monday was head of the Higher Judicial Council, Antoine Kheir, dispatched by Justice Minister Charles Rizk to coordinate with the UN-appointed selection panel that will choose judges for the tribunal. - Agencies

Hizbullah to Provide Information on Arad
Hizbullah will provide information on Israeli airman Ron Arad, missing for more than 20 years, as part of a swap deal between the Jewish state and the militant party, an Israeli official said on Monday. "As part of the exchange deal, Hizbullah will provide Israel with information on Ron Arad," an official told AFP on condition of anonymity. "This was a confidence-building measure, a small move in the hope it will lead to future progress in negotiations with Hizbullah," the official added.
The official said Monday's deal did not extend to providing any information about two Israeli soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, whose capture in July 2006 triggered last year's war. Arad, an Israeli air force navigator, went missing after he ejected from an F-4 Phantom fighter-bomber in 1986 during Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war. He was captured by another Shiite movement, Amal, headed by Nabih Berri who is now speaker of the Lebanese parliament.
Israel engaged in lengthy negotiations for the release of the airman but contact was terminated when the Israeli military bombed the south Lebanon village of Maydoun in 1996.(AFP) Beirut, 15 Oct 07, 20:40

Israel, Hezbollah swap prisoner, dead
By ZEINA KARAM, Associated Press Writer
NAQOURA, Lebanon - Israel exchanged a Hezbollah prisoner and the bodies of two Lebanese fighters for the corpse of an Israeli civilian Monday, a move that could pave the way for a deal involving the Israeli soldiers whose capture sparked the Israel-Hezbollah war. In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said the swap was "in the framework of negotiations to return the captured soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser."Hezbollah has insisted the soldiers would only be released in exchange for the freedom of all Lebanese prisoners held in Israel. But Monday's swap could be a sign the Shiite Muslim militant group is willing to negotiate at a time when it is trying to soften its image ahead of Lebanon's presidential elections. The exchange, the fourth between Hezbollah and Israel in recent years, took place Monday evening at Naqoura on the Mediterranean coastline on the heavily guarded border.
An Israeli military vehicle carrying the bodies of the Lebanese crossed into the no man's land along the border at sundown and returned shortly afterward, crossing paths with Lebanese ambulances headed the other way. The statement from Olmert's office said that in addition to the body of an Israeli who drowned in Lebanon nearly three years ago, "Hezbollah gave Israel additional information about another affair, and it will be checked soon." It did not elaborate.
Israel handed over the bodies of two militants killed in the war last summer and a captive Hezbollah guerrilla, who was released for medical reasons, the statement said.
The state-run news agency in Beirut identified the freed Hezbollah guerrilla as Hassan Naim Akil, who was captured during last year's war. He was brought across the border in a black Mercedes, peering out of the window and smiling. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said, "We believe that this is an example of what a future deal with the Hezbollah would look like that will bring about the release of all the Israelis held in Lebanon. I would like to thank the U.N. and the International Red Cross who helped make this happen."
Former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said the deal "has an element of balance and should be welcomed." He said the significance should not be exaggerated, but "it is important that a route of communication has been opened."
Haim Malka, deputy director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the exchange would "likely set the stage for a more extensive swap," including the two captive soldiers. "There is significant pressure on both the Israeli government and Hezbollah to resolve this issue. Since the end of the war last year, efforts have been made to broker a swap. ... This signals that progress is being made," he said.
David Schenker, senior Arab politics fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the swap was another confidence-building measure and confirmed Hezbollah's power in Lebanon. "They get a boost from every prisoner they can get back... If a state is actively dealing with Hezbollah, which so many people call a state-within-a-state, it certainly confirms their stature in Lebanon," he said.
Bilal Saab, a Middle East security researcher at the Brookings Institution, said the presidential elections in Lebanon may be behind Hezbollah's gesture.
The Lebanese parliament failed to elect a president last month because of a boycott by the Hezbollah-led opposition, and the vote was rescheduled for Oct. 23.
"Hezbollah will undoubtedly consider it another victory under its belt and will seek to sell it internally by pushing harder for a presidential compromise candidate," said Saab. The U.N. Security Council resolution that halted the war had demanded that Hezbollah turn over the seized Israeli soldiers. Their capture in July 2006 sparked the 34-day war between Hezbollah and Israel in which up to 1,200 people were killed in Lebanon. Israel lost about 160 people in the fighting, most of them soldiers.
Hezbollah has not released any details on the conditions of the two soldiers.
Israeli TV stations said the body of the Israeli citizen handed over Monday was a Jewish immigrant from Ethiopia, Gabriel Dwait, who drowned in 2005.
On the Lebanese side of the border, about 100 people gathered to await the exchange. A crowd of people, some weeping, mobbed the vehicles carrying the Lebanese bodies as they crossed the last checkpoint. Two women in black showered the ambulances with rice. Among those waiting was Hussein Wizwaz, in his 60s, who said he came after hearing from Hezbollah that the body of his son would be repatriated. Ali Wizwaz, 32, was killed in a ground battle with Israeli troops in the border village of Maroun al-Ras, his father said. "I heard on television that there will be some prisoner exchange," the man said, adding that he contacted a Hezbollah office and was told the bodies of his son and another guerrilla, Mohammed Dimashqiyeh, were being returned. Dimashqiyeh's aunt, Maryam Saad, waved her nephew's portrait over her head and wept. "Whether him or others, I will not be upset," she said. "All our prisoners and martyrs are equal and the same."
**Associated Press Reporters Mark Lavie in Jerusalem and Lily Hindy in New York contributed to this report.

Grandstanding Has Consequences
by Michael Rubin
National Review Online
October 15, 2007
Last week, a congressional committee passed a resolution condemning the Armenian genocide. There is no doubt that up to a million Armenians died during World War I, although historians still debate whether their deaths constitute deliberate genocide or are collateral casualties of war.
House Democrats brought the resolution to a vote despite entreaties from the White House to postpone it. For Congress, though, the resolution was less about rectifying history than grandstanding. House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Lantos (D., Cal.) called a vote. It passed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) pooh-poohed the episode. This was not about Turkey, she explained, but rather "about the Ottoman Empire." Unclear, though, is why congressional Democrats felt the urgent need to condemn an entity that hasn't existed for 85 years. Unfortunately, grandstanding has consequences. Turkey recalled its ambassador; and now the State Department finds itself now devoid of leverage to prevent a Turkish incursion into Iraq to fight Kurdish terrorists. Pelosi's posturing has put U.S. use of the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey to supply our forces both in Afghanistan and Iraq in jeopardy.
If only the Armenian Genocide resolution was an isolated event. It's amateur hour in Congress. The efforts of Sen. Joseph Biden (D., Del.) to divide Iraq on ethnic and religious grounds threaten to spark civil war just as U.S. servicemen make inroads in preventing it. Biden's motivation may be to garner media attention. He has succeeded. The problem, though, his statements get more airtime in Iran and Iraq, where revolutionary mullahs use his pronouncements to convince Iraqis that U.S. forces seek to destroy Iraq rather than rebuild it. The list goes on. In May 2006, Rep. Jack Murtha (D., Pa.) said that U.S. Marines executed Iraqis "in cold blood." Overnight, his clip became an Al-Jazeera favorite. Islamist terrorists used Murtha's words to justify their murder of Americans. Now, a court martial has dismissed murder charges against the servicemen Murtha accused; Murtha has yet to apologize.
Other congressmen see intelligence briefings as an a la carte menu for chest-thumping leaks than part of confidential oversight duties. Every leak splashed across a New York Times undercuts the war on terror. Junkets also have a cost. Basking in the glow of Pelosi's headline-garnering visit to Damascus again in contravention of a State Department request Syrian leader Bashar al-Asad upgraded his support for Hezbollah and his nuclear dealings with North Korea.
The resolution, while important to the Armenian-American community perhaps less so to Armenians living in Armenia who worry much more about economic development also raises a host of questions about how Congress picks and chooses which atrocities to weigh in on. While Condoleezza Rice seeks to bring Beijing on board with Iran sanctions a Herculean if not impossible task will the House Foreign Affairs Committee condemn Beijing for the millions who perished during the Cultural Revolution? Their murders politically motivated and, as far as the historical record is concerned, far more deliberate and coordinated also occurred much more recently. Perhaps the House Foreign Affairs Committee will also act to bring Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Masud Barzani to justice for ordering the disappearance and summary executions of perhaps 3,000 Kurds during the 1994-1997 Kurdish civil war. This is not to suggest that such cases should not be pursued. But, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is not the place to pursue such historical investigations; universities are.
In an election season, Pelosi, Biden, and Murtha, may have no greater goal than to garner headlines, but U.S. servicemen fighting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan do. Countering proliferation and fighting terrorism will dominate diplomacy regardless of who next occupies the White House. There's no time for amateur hour. As U.S. troops continue to sacrifice to defend U.S. national security, it is unfortunate that headline seeking congressmen seek to make their job that much harder.
**Michael Rubin, editor of the Middle East Quarterly, is resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Wisdom for Lebanon?
By Sami Moubayed, Special to Gulf News
Published: October 15, 2007, 23:03
Eight days from now, Lebanese deputies will head to parliament - again - to elect a new president for Lebanon.
The Lebanese were expected to elect a new president last September. That deadline became history when the Hezbollah-led opposition boycotted the parliamentary session, postponing it until October 23.
To them, the critical points that will define who the next Lebanese president remain: attitude towards UN Resolutions 1559, 1680, 1701, the arms of Hezbollah, the relationship with Syria and Iran, and finally, the Rafik Harriri Tribunal.
Syria and Iran, which support the opposition, still refuse to bring a pro-US president to Ba'abda Palace, claiming that he will work with the already anti-Syrian Prime Minister Fouad Siniora against Damascus and its interests in Lebanon.
All sides seem to forget, however, that the new president has a much broader agenda that he must consider. He has to enforce his country's sovereignty over the wild and uncontrolled Palestinian camps, to prevent another Fatah Al Islam from sprouting out of Nahar Al Bared.
He has to bring security to the country and at any cost, stop the target assassinations. He has to pump money into the underdeveloped regions, such as Akar and the Bekka Valley. He has to combat Islamic and Christian fanaticism.
He also has to discuss the future of the She'eba Farms. Sadly, however, both parties are manipulating the presidential agenda before a new president is even elected, based on their own respective narrow interests.
There was a glimmer of hope last Thursday, however, when Christian heavyweights in the Hezbollah-led opposition met with the Maronite Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir.
They were Michel Aoun and Sulaiman Franjiyeh, announcing that they would be prepared to meet their Christian counterparts in the March 14 coalition (meaning Samir Gagegea and Ameen Gemayel) "if they come with independent ideas". A joint committee will be formed, as of this week, to formulate solutions ahead of the October 23 deadline.
Sfeir reminded them of a September 2007 statement by the Maronite Bishops, which said that boycotting the upcoming presidential elections would be like "boycotting the homeland".
March 14 doubts if Aoun has the guts to reach a deal with the Harriri team - unless that is, he is promised the presidency. They claim that he will "resort to field measures" to "prevent the presidential elections" if the election leads to his defeat.
He is already worried, after Hezbollah MP Hussain Haj Hassan came out on October 1 and said, "Aoun is the most prominent candidate (for the opposition) but not the only one!" For his part Gagegea accused Hezbollah of planning to kidnap more Israelis (as the case in the summer of 2006) to create havoc in Lebanon if the majority elects a president that the Hezbollah-led opposition does not approve of.
Coinciding with this high profile meeting, "sources" that are reportedly close to the Maronite Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir say that he has voiced - in private - his view on each of the presidential candidates, with the exception of Aoun. If this "report" turns out to be true, it could be very telling on who the new president of Lebanon might be.
With regard to Riyad Salameh, the current Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, Sfeir says: "He is good where he stands; prolific and serious." This can be interpreted as "keep him in the banking sector".
Although Salameh has not nominated himself talk of his candidacy runs high in Lebanon, since he would make a good compromise candidate.
On Jean Obeid, a former ally of Syria, Sfeir says he is "acrobatic and changes (colours) with seasons of the year". As for Robert Ganem, the candidate from March 14, the Patriarch notes that he is "balanced" but does not favour him.
Michel Suleiman, the army commander who is reportedly close to the Patriarch (and both Syria and Hezbollah) was described as "a good commander who can be trusted". Finally, when speaking about Michel Edde, a name recently brought up as a compromise candidate, Sfeir said, "I am interested in him because I feel comfortable when dealing with him. I said that to him personally when he became president of the Maronite League (in 2003-07)."
Edde, 79, served as cabinet minister under Rashid Karameh in the 1960s, Shafiq Wazzan in the 1980s, and Rafik Al Hariri in the 1990s. The "sources" added that Sfeir is opposed to a candidate from either March 14 or the Hezbollah-led opposition, preferring someone like Edde, Suleiman, or if both cases fail, Riyad Salameh.
Principle candidates
All of this makes it almost certain that none of the principle candidates, including Aoun, will make it to Ba'abda if elections take place on October 23. Suddenly the chances of independents such as Salameh and Suleiman, or even Professor Chibli Mallat, seem high and promising.
The ball today remains in the court of Sfeir - and Hassan Nasrallah, who is yet to announce who the other candidates for Hezbollah are going to be.
Back in 1943, Shaikh Bshara Al Khoury ran for office, representing the Constitutional Party. Among his team were Druze heavyweights such as Majid Arslan and Christian ones such as Saleem Takla and Habib Abu Shahla; all backed by the Sunni giant Riyad Al Sulh.
When elected to the Qantari Palace (the presidential palace at the time which is now occupied by Harriri's Future Movement), Khoury told them: "Today my brothers I am no longer your president at the Constitutional Party. I am now a president for all the Lebanese.
Please take this into consideration and upon it, base your political positions." Will we find another Al Khoury on October 23, 2007?
**Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst.

If Hizbullah and Israel can make a deal, why can't Lebanon's Christians?
By The Daily Star
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Monday's exchange of Israeli bodies for Lebanese ones should serve as a reminder of how much can be achieved by even the unlikeliest of partners in the most daunting of circumstances. Although mediated by go-betweens from the United Nations and Germany, the negotiations on the swap were carried out by two parties - Hizbullah and the Israeli government - that have been mortal enemies for more than three decades. Only time will tell whether the deal leads to larger ones involving prisoners and/or Israel's withdrawal from parts of South Lebanon that it still occupies, but at the very least, it has been demonstrated that the most irreconcilable of foes can find common ground.
Perhaps no group in the Middle East needs more urgently to absorb this lesson than those who "lead" Lebanon's Maronite Christian community. They symbolize a constituency that has used its unique role in this country's kaleidoscope of faiths and sects to make an impact on the whole region and even on the global stage. Lebanese Christians have helped to formulate the precepts of Arab nationalism, led the veritable rebirth of Arabic-language media, and beaten some of the world's most vaunted industrialists and savvy investors at their own games. Instead of such luminaries, however, today's Maronites - and therefore all Lebanese and, indeed, all Arabs - are stuck with Michel Aoun, Samir Geagea, Amin Gemayel and their like.
No sect in Lebanon has been well served by its political elite in many, many years. It is the Maronites, though, who have been cursed with the most incompetent, inconsistent, self-involved and universally destructive leaders. Key figures of all sects have frequently damaged national interests with their limited perspectives, but individuals like Aoun, Geagea and Gemayel have done that and more: They have subjugated both the state's authority and their own community's influence to personal rivalries that date back to a civil war that ended in 1990. None of these men acted very responsibly then, and experience seems not to have improved their judgment.
The potential damage that this brand of leadership can inflict is not at all limited to Lebanon. When fully functional, this country's Christians - and especially its Maronites - pave the way for their counterparts in places like Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Palestine. When reduced to petty internecine squabbles, however, they jeopardize the ability of other Arab Christians to gain the fuller rights required to realize the economic, political and social contributions that they would otherwise make. It is bad enough that history and international power politics have conspired to make some Arab Muslims view their Christian neighbors as a foreign presence; the last thing the latter need is to be seen, in addition, as power-hungry egomaniacs who prefer societal breakdown to personal disappointment.
Rarely have so few imperiled the welfare of so many, but the damage is still not irreversible. There are two ways in which this particular facet of Lebanon's looming bout of self-immolation might be averted. One is for dysfunctional politicians to atone for their serial failings by either changing their ways or withdrawing from politics. Given the cosmic odds against such breakthroughs of self-awareness, however, the last, best hope is that their confreres will show all of them the door. Don't hold your breath.

Libya wins seat on UN Security Council
By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer
UNITED NATIONS - Libya won a seat on the powerful U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.
Libya was virtually assured of election because it has been endorsed by the African group along with Burkina Faso and faced no opposition. Vietnam, which was endorsed by the Asian group, also ran unopposed. All three countries won in the first round of voting, but the battle for seats from Latin America and Eastern Europe went to a second round. Susan Cohen, of Cape May Court House, N.J., who lost her 20-year-old daughter, Theodora, in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, said the United States should oppose Libya's candidacy for a seat because Libyan leader Moamar Gadhafi was responsible for the attack.
"I feel that the U.S. has totally lost its moral compass," she told The Associated Press. "Gadhafi blew up an American plane."
In 2000 the United States successfully blocked Sudan's bid for a council seat, and Washington's candidate, Mauritius, won. But in 2005, the U.S. backed Nicaragua and Peru won. This year, Washington did not back a candidate against Libya. General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim announced after the first round of balloting that Burkina Faso received 185 votes, Vietnam 183 votes and Libya 178 votes. He then declared them elected as diplomats from the 192 U.N. member states burst into applause.
Croatia and the Czech Republic and Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic were still battling for seats. The five new nonpermanent members of the council to serve two-year terms. In the secret ballot, candidates must get a two-thirds majority of members voting to win. Last year's election saw the third-longest battle in U.N. history for a seat on the council. It ended with victory for Panama on the 48th ballot after U.S.-backed Guatemala and leftist Venezuela led by anti-American President Hugo Chavez withdrew to end the deadlock for a Latin American seat. Ten of the council's 15 seats are filled by the regional groups for two-year stretches. The other five are occupied by its veto-wielding permanent members: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. The five countries elected to the council will take their seats on Jan. 1, 2008, replacing the Republic of Congo, Ghana, Peru, Qatar and Slovakia.