September 2/07

Bible Reading of the day

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 25,14-30.
It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one--to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master's money. After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.  The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, 'Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.'
His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.' (Then) the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, 'Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.'His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.' Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, 'Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.' His master said to him in reply, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'

Berri's proposal gives Lebanon's politicians a chance to buy time. The Daily Star

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for September 1/07
March 14 to Examine Berri Initiative Soon- -Naharnet
Berri: No government for the Opposition in Return for Consensus on New President -Naharnet
Investigation Ordered into Human Rights Report -Naharnet

Lebanon opposition drops condition for joining vote.Reuters
Hezbollah to file lawsuits against Israel for damage caused in war.Ha'aretz
Anger as Hezbollah accused of war crimes.Sydney Morning Herald
Franjieh : Siniora, Hamadeh are plotting to kill Hezbollah chief.Ya Libnan
One year after the summer war.International Herald Tribune

Aoun: US wants to destroy Hizbullah.Al-Bawaba
Feltman stands by claim that US 'has no favorites' for Lebanon's presidency
-Daily Star
Speaker offers concession, olive branch to majority
-Daily Star
Mirza orders probe into HRW report on summer war-Daily Star
Fadlallah speaks out against waning patriotism, rising sectarianism-Daily Star
Hamadeh vows to inform Brammertz of Franjieh remarks-Daily Star
What threat is UNIFIL training to defeat?
-Daily Star
Key portfolios stuck in limbo as resigned ministers refuse to come back - or to leave
-Daily Star
Ex-US diplomat pleads not guilty to threatening Lebanese, Arabs. (AFP)
Army intensifies assaultagainst Fatah al-Islam
-Daily Star
Lebanon receives $75 million US grant to pay off World Bank
-Daily Star
Family feud throws scare into Sidon residents
-Daily Star
Mubarak denies rumors of ill-health.(AFP)
Russia's president to pay official visit to UAE.

Feltman stands by claim that US 'has no favorites' for Lebanon's presidency
Compiled by Daily Star staff
Saturday, September 01, 2007
US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman reiterated on Friday that it was not his country's duty to name a candidate for Lebanon's upcoming presidential poll, adding that the US supported the holding of the election within deadlines set by the Lebanese Constitution. "I have expressed this repeatedly; the US has no favorites for the presidential election, and all that we aim for is to help Lebanon find efficient means to hold elections, rather than choose your country's next president," Feltman told reporters following a meeting with former President Amin Gemayel at the latter's residence in Bikfaya.Following a visit to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Thursday, Feltman said the US supported the election of a president "committed to preserve Lebanon's independence, democracy, sovereignty, unity and plurality." Later on Friday, the US ambassador headed to the residence of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea in Maarab to discuss recent developments on the Lebanese political scene, including the presidential election.
Asked after the meeting whether Washington approved of President Emile Lahoud's plan for a transition government headed by Lebanese Army Commander General Michel Suleiman, Feltman said the US "supports all constitutional solutions and opposes unconstitutional ones.""The Lebanese Constitution clearly stipulates that the president should be elected for a period of six consecutive years and does not mention anything about transitory terms or presidents," he added.
Lahoud announced on Thursday that he would appoint the army chief to head a two-year transition government if the country's feuding political leaders failed to agree on a presidential candidate.Thursday's announcement, which legal experts say is not in line with the Constitution, was likely to further escalate tensions between the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the opposition. According to the Constitution, in the event that Parliament fails to elect a president between September 25 and November 24, the head of state must then relinquish power to the prime minister. Suleiman has not said whether he would accept such an appointment, but a high-ranking military official said he was unlikely to agree to anything that would divide the army. "What matters to General Suleiman is the unity of the army," said the official, who did not want to be identified. "And anything that jeopardizes this unity is unacceptable to him." The daily newspaper Al-Mustaqbal, which is owned by the family of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, charged on Friday that Lahoud's bid to have the army chief replace the current premier smacked of a plot to overthrow the government.
"Lahoud unveils a plot for a coup: a mixed civilian-military interim government," a front-page headline declared. Also commenting on Lahoud's announcement, Former Prime Minister Salim Hoss described the scenario as "hasty and unavailing." "We oppose your plan because we can only see it as stirring more conflicts and divisions in Lebanon," Hoss said in a lengthy memo sent to Lahoud on Friday. Hoss has served as prime minister under Lahoud from 1998 to 2000. The former premier said while the army chief has all the characteristics of a president, Suleiman was not likely to preside over a second government.
"We are all aware of the fact that having two rival governments in the country is a true disaster," Hoss said. "Let us all join forces and form one united government to spare our country anymore sufferings."A heated debate concerning the quorum to elect the next president was set off in political circles a few months ago. While the opposition calls for a two-thirds quorum to elect the next president, the ruling coalition is pressing for the absolute majority option. The head of the Democratic Gathering, MP Walid Jumblatt, reiterated on Friday that the March 14 coalition will elect the next president by absolute majority in a place outside of the Parliament unless the opposition agrees to keep the process in the House and within constitutional deadlines. "Or else we might be forced to elect the next president outside of the Parliament because we cannot tolerate a power vacuum and because we want the next president to remain Maronite," Jumblatt said during a rally in the Chouf region. - With Reuters, additional reporting by Maher Zeineddine

Berri: No government for the Opposition in Return for Consensus on New President
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri announced Friday that the Hizbullah-led opposition is ready to give up its demand for the formation of a new government with veto powers in return for consensus on a new president.
Berri made the offer in a mass rally at the Bekaa valley town of Baalbek marking the 29th anniversary of the disappearance of Shiite religious leader Mousa al-Sadre during a visit to Libya. "Let us all agree on electing a president on the base of consensus and a two-third quorum for the Parliamentary session that would elect the head of state," Berri said. In return for that, he declared, "The opposition would not want the formation of (a new government) or the expansion of the present government prior to the Presidential elections."After agreeing on the "principle" of his proposal, Berri said he would be committed to "launching consultations with all the sides to agree on the name of the forthcoming president."
"The more we speed up the consensus approach the better. The sooner the better to end the sit-in (In Riyadh Solh Square), keep the turmoil away and avoid evil that hangs over the last 10 days" of the constitutional schedule to elect a new head of state," Berri said. "I am confident that we will reach consensus during the constitutional schedule on a president," Berri added. Berri, addressing a packed rally, warned that "many (factions) are re-training (militias) and sharpening the knives."
"Everybody awaits a solution and the solution lies in the election of a president. It is an exit," he added. Berri stressed that a two-third quorum is a must for the parliamentary session to elect a new head of state to succeed President Emile Lahoud during the two-month constitutional scheduled that ends on Nov. 14.
Despite the concession he made in giving up the opposition's standing condition of assuming veto powers in the government, Berri attacked Premier Fouad Saniora's government as a "cabinet of ghosts for failing to invest the victory achieved in last summer's war" between Hizbullah and Israel. "Was it not for the resistance, Lebanon would have been on the World map as it is now," Berri said. He said that in all previous Arab-Israel wars, the Arabs lost and claimed to be victorious "In this (last summer's) war we emerged victorious and we say we've lost." Berri warned against an alleged new plot to nationalize Palestinian refugees and said that combating this scheme requires collective Arab efforts.
Such an alleged plot, Berri said, would be implemented during the conference that U.S. President George Bush called for to discuss Middle East peace next fall.
Berri predicted that the Bush-proposed Middle East peace conference "would not achieve the required results by avoiding Syria and over passing half of Palestine." He was referring to the Hamas movement. Israel, he said, is working on "absorbing the Arab Peace initiative, and instead of heading to peace it is preparing for war against Syria and the resistance in Lebanon." He said efforts were being made to "change the nature of conflict from an Arab-Israeli conflict to an Arab-Persian (Iranian) conflict to unleash a Sunni-Shiite turmoil."
"I warn against the dimensions of this plot and its repercussions on the Arab World, the Palestinian cause and Lebanon," he said.
He said Israel would "demand compensations for Jews who had left Arab countries" to settle in the Jewish state that was created in Palestine in 1948.
Berri also warned against any attack on Iran, stressing that such "a strike would put the whole region (Middle East) on fire." Beirut, 31 Aug 07, 18:45

Investigation Ordered into Human Rights Report
Lebanon ordered an official investigation into the Human Rights Watch report which criticized Hizbullah attacks on Israel during last year's summer war.
The request by State Prosecutor Saeed Mirza came after lawyer May Khansa sued the Human Rights Watch (HRW) on charges of "spreading false publicity against Lebanon." The Lebanese government and Hizbullah on Wednesday lashed out at the HRW report, saying the document was a complete distortion of facts.
In its report, Khansa also accused the NGO of attempting to prevent Hizbullah from protecting Lebanon against Israeli aggressions and for violating the country's sovereignty. The stir caused by the report made the New York-based rights group cancel a press conference set for Thursday. The 128-page report focuses on the extent "Hizbullah targeted or indiscriminately fired its rockets toward civilians and civilian objects" during the July-August 2006 war. The HRW report added it "found that numerous rockets were fired in which there was no apparent legitimate target in the vicinity at the time of the attack, indicating that civilians were deliberately attacked." Beirut, 01 Sep 07, 12:14

March 14 to Examine Berri Initiative Soon
The majority March 14 coalition expressed readiness to meet at once to discuss an offer by House Speaker Nabih Berri in which he said the opposition was willing to drop its demand for a national unity government on condition the warring camps agreed on a consensus President. Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's sources declined to interpret Berri's speech which marked the first time the opposition, of which he is one of the leaders, has shown willingness to break the political deadlock over choosing a new head of state. The daily An Nahar on Saturday quoted March 14 sources as saying that the pro-government coalition looked "positively" at the initiative, adding that it would "closely examine" the offer in a meeting to be held very soon. The sources expressed keenness to look into the initiate, at the same time to make sure there are no possible traps existing in its path."Let us have a consensus presidential candidate and the opposition will drop its demand that a government in which it has larger representation be formed before the elections are held," Berri told supporters at a rally in the eastern town of Baalbek on Friday. "The election of a consensus presidential candidate, with a 'Made in Lebanon' tag and within the time limits set by the constitution, marks an opportunity for the country to break the current political impasse," Berri said. Beirut, 01 Sep 07, 09:28

Berri's proposal gives Lebanon's politicians a chance to buy time
By The Daily Star
Saturday, September 01, 2007
Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri moved back into the spotlight on Friday by unveiling a proposal designed to head off a new crisis over the selection of Lebanon's next president. The immediate value of his suggestion lies in the implicit message that he and his opposition allies are not wedded to their presumptive candidate, MP Michel Aoun of the Free Patriotic Movement - and therefore in an invitation for the ruling coalition to be similarly flexible. In the longer term, however, the merits of Berri's approach will be determined by the extent to which it gets the two sides talking again.
While more than symbolic, the Lebanese presidency nonetheless carries less power than that of the prime minister and his Cabinet - which is why a true resolution of the current impasse must await the formation of a new government that represents all of the country's major religious communities and political forces. But solving the riddle of the presidency could both prevent a dangerous escalation in tensions and begin to restore the trust eroded by last year's war with Israel and subsequent politicking. Suitable compromise candidates are available, and agreeing on one would allow the government and the opposition to escape the shadow of civil war long enough to address other facets of their dispute.
Buying time is necessary if the two camps are to reconcile before their squabbles plunge Lebanon into a new era of chaos. It will not be sufficient, however, unless both sides are serious about joining forces in a unity government whose members can work together to craft a realistic policy platform - and then cooperate effectively on its implementation. From administrative and judicial reform to undoing the damage of the war and revitalizing the economy, the country faces a long list of challenges. None of these will be overcome unless all parties set aside their differences for the sake of the people they purport to serve.
Only when such a government is in place and begins to demonstrate its cohesion and effectiveness will it be fair to evaluate of Berri's initiative. It is a good first step, though, and one that Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and his allies would do well to pursue with determination. The alternative was made clear by the speaker's acknowledgment that certain elements on both sides are preparing for the worst by arming and training young men who will slaughter one another if older ones cannot - or will not - come to their senses.
Each side has proven its mettle in a variety of ways, but both need to realize that neither is complete without the other. Like the population whose fate lies in their hands, they are an extremely heterogeneous lot - but not yet an irreparably divided one. Making good use of Berri's gambit would help put them on the right path toward reconciliation and national salvation. Wasting it can only push the country that much closer to an unwanted - and wholly unnecessary - disaster.

Hezbollah to file lawsuits against Israel for damage caused in war

Last update - 01:37 29/08/2007
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent
Hezbollah is planning to file a host of lawsuits against Israel over the damages it caused during the Second Lebanon War. Lebanese individuals with dual citizenship will file the suits in the countries where they hold citizenship. Attorney Ibrahim Awada, who heads Hezbollah's legal department, revealed the plan last week on a Syrian television program devoted to "Zionist crimes against Lebanon." He said that each plaintiff will hire a lawyer in the country where he files suit, and Hezbollah will pay the lawyers' fees. The Lebanese government began mulling lawsuits against Israel immediately after the war ended last summer, but was stymied by the fact that United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the war, blamed Hezbollah, rather than Israel, for its outbreak. The government therefore set up a legal committee to explore more limited options, such as suits specifically over Israel's use of cluster bombs and destruction of infrastructure.
However, Hezbollah was furious that the government has so far done nothing, and therefore decided to launch its own lawsuit blitz, using private individuals.

Lebanon opposition drops condition for joining vote

Fri Aug 31, 2007
By Yara Bayoumy
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's opposition has dropped a condition for its participation in an upcoming presidential election in parliament, opposition figure Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said on Friday. The opposition, which includes pro-Syrian Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah and Berri's Amal group, had demanded a new national unity government with an opposition veto and a consensus presidential candidate as conditions for attending the vote, where its MPs are needed to make it valid.
"Let us come together to approve presidential elections on the basis of consensus and a two-thirds majority ... the opposition does not want a (national unity) government before the elections," Berri said. Berri's announcement gave some ground in a political conflict with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's U.S.-backed anti-Syrian government that has paralyzed Lebanon since November.
The constitution says parliament should meet on September 25 to elect a replacement for pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, whose term expires at midnight on November 23. Opposition MPs are needed at the vote for a two-thirds quorum to be met.
Siniora's supporters have prioritized replacing Lahoud with someone independent of Syria ever since Syrian troops left Lebanon in 2005 after the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. But Hezbollah is equally determined to keep the presidency out of the hands of political adversaries it says are controlled by Washington, and little progress has been made on appointing a compromise presidential candidate.
Speaking at a ceremony commemorating the 29th anniversary of the disappearance of Moussa al-Sadr, the Iranian-born cleric who founded the Movement of the Deprived, later known as Amal, in the early 1970s, Berri said:
"Once there is agreement on the principle which I just stated, I commit to launching a national dialogue ... in order to reach a name of the new President," he said at the gathering in the Bekaa Valley town of Baalbek. This announcement puts the ball in the majority coalition's court to concede to a compromise, neutral candidate who is not from their camp," said Amal Saad Ghorayeb, who has written a book on Hezbollah.
The governing coalition has steadfastly refused to yield to the opposition, which also includes a Christian faction, which had been pressing its demand for a veto since November in the country's worst political crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
"I think this position will open the window for the governing coalition to present its own proposal... I think they will be more positive," said columnist Sateh Noureddine.
Berri's comments came a day after pro-Syrian Lahoud said he would appoint an interim government headed by the army chief if rival leaders could not agree on a new head of state before his term expires -- a step which could lead to two governments.

Anger as Hezbollah accused of war crimes

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AdvertisementDUBAI: A report by Human Rights Watch accusing Hezbollah of indiscriminately attacking civilians during its war with Israel last year has set off a furore in Lebanon.The controversy has prompted the embattled Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, to join Hezbollah, his political opponent, and other Lebanese leaders in condemning the group, accusing it of blaming the victims of the conflict. The reaction has underscored the deep wounds that still remain in Lebanon, which has been mired in political turmoil and deepening sectarian and political divisions ever since a cease-fire brought an end to the fighting. In its report, released on Wednesday, the rights group described a situation in which hundreds of Hezbollah rockets were fired indiscriminately at targets with no clear military significance, many apparently aimed at civilian areas in northern Israel, killing at least 39 civilians. Such conduct amounts to war crimes, said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division.
She cited more than 100 statements and communiques issued by Hezbollah as evidence of intent to cause harm in civilian areas in response to Israeli attacks on civilians. "The fact that more Israeli civilians didn't die is not a tribute to Hezbollah but a tribute to Israeli bomb shelters," she said. Even before the report was released Hezbollah began an orchestrated campaign to discredit it and the group, with scathing, often personal, criticism of some of the researchers, saying they were operating "in direct collaboration with the enemy"."There is a difference between coming here with a decision to condemn and coming here to examine the facts objectively," said Hussein Rahal, a spokesman for Hezbollah on Thursday.*The New York Times

What threat is UNIFIL training to defeat?

By Mohammed Zaatari
Daily Star staff
Saturday, September 01, 2007
BINT JBEIL: On the outskirts of the village of Tiri, near the Israeli border, French members of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon recently conducted maneuvers on how to intercept a prospective enemy attempting to cross the Blue Line and assault the areas under UNIFIL protection.
Leclerc battle tanks were used during the exercise, and the "battle" ended with the "arrest" of dozens of "terrorists." This gave rise to widespread speculations on the possible identity of such a prospective enemy. Colonel B. Chaptal, leader of the French forces near Tiri, told The Daily Star that the "enemy" would be any person who intruded upon South Lebanon and threatened to obstruct the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended last summer's war with Israel.
He said that after UNIFIL's Spanish and Tanzanian contingents were attacked, the French troops equipped their vehicles with special equipment to detect bombs.
Chaptal added that the French troops also have Mistral surface-to-air missiles. In addition, he said, French forces brought six unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to perform reconnaissance, "but did not obtain the authorization of the UN to use them."Chaptal said the Lebanese government refused to approve use of the UAVs so as not to arouse the discontent of certain Lebanese political parties. When asked whether the Israeli government also objected to UNIFIL's use of UAVs, the colonel gave no verbal answer, only a nod.

German chancellor to meet Lebanese PM in Berlin Berlin, Sept 1,

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora in Berlin on Wednesday, deputy government spokesman Thomas Steg told journalists here Friday. Talks will focus on the political situation in Lebanon and the region, the official added. Siniora will also confer with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Development Aid Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul. The Lebanese official's visit followed Berlin's recent green light for extending the UN mandate of German naval units off the Lebanese coast for another year. The German parliament is scheduled to debate extending the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) mandate in mid-September. The cabinet is to slash the maximum number of naval soldiers provided to UNIFIL from 2,400 to 1,400.
There are presently 1,000 troops stationed aboard eights ships. The total cost of the German military mission in Lebanon this year and 2008 is estimated at 95 million euros. Germany and several major western countries, among them the US and Britain, are openly backing the Siniora government. Some 13,000 UN peacekeeping and Lebanese army troops are monitoring the fragile truce between Israel and Lebanon's Islamic resistance Hizbollah following Israel's brutal military onslaught in Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Berlin is also involved in training Lebanese police and customs officials.

Robert Fisk: Strange goings-on here in Lebanon ...
Published: 01 September 2007
Stories that just don't seem to make it into print.
Did you know that the Hizbollah "Party of God" has installed its own private communications network in the south of Lebanon, stretching from the village of Zawter Sharqiya all the way to Beirut? And why, I wonder, would it be doing that? Well, to safeguard its phones in the event that the Israelis immobilise the public mobile system in the next war. Next war? Well, if there's not going to be another war in Lebanon, why is Hizbollah building new roads north of the Litani river, new bunkers, new logistics far outside the area of operations of the Nato-led UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon?
Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbollah's leader, boasts of new weapons. The Lebanese suspect that these include anti-aircraft missiles. If this is true and many Lebanese who have spent their lives under Israel's cruel air attacks, assaults which have often been war crimes, hope it is then the next war will be anticipated with dark but keen anxiety. Since the Israeli army is incapable of fighting the Hizbollah on its own ground its collapse when faced by Hizbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon last year proved this what happens if their awesome air power is also neutered?
Fouad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, ensconced in his little "green zone" in the old Turkish serail, can do little to alter the course of this coming battle. Supplied with bombs by the Americans so that the Lebanese army can continue to blast its way through the Palestinian Nahr el-Bared refugee camp one of the most uncovered stories of the Middle East year his government can do no more than wonder at the resistance of the ruthless non-Hizbollah Islamist insurgents who are still holding out there. The US ambassador watches approvingly as the Lebanese army continues to "advance" amid strongholds and bunkers at a cost of almost 140 soldiers' lives although, after four months of "advancing" as one western NGO remarked to me a few days ago they might soon, at this rate, reach Cyprus.
One can only reflect on how the US ambassador to Tel Aviv reacts when the Americans supply bombs to the Israelis which are then used on the Palestinians of Gaza. Weapons are always available to blast away at the Palestinians.
This is Fouad Siniora's predicament as Hizbollah tries to destroy his government and prevent the election of a non- partisan president next month. Locked into Washington's embrace as the latest Arab country to prove the spread of George Bush's fantastical version of democracy in the Middle East, powerless in a country where the only functioning institution is now the Lebanese army, the prime minister finds himself on America's side in the "war on terror" against Hizbollah's mentors in Iran. All Hizbollah needed now, poor old Fouad was quoted as saying the other day, was "a composer for a national anthem of their own".
But there are other fears creating shadows in Lebanon. One of them is the sectarianism of Iraq. Lebanon's Shias and Sunnis and Christians all have friends and family in Iraq. Many have visited their loved ones who have appeared amid the Iraqi refugee masses that have poured into neighbouring Damascus. For their care, of course, the Syrians have received not a scintilla of gratitude from the Americans who were responsible for creating the hell-disaster of Iraq in the first place. It's worth comparing the vital statistics (though not on CNN or Fox News): Syria has accepted almost one and a half million Iraqi refugees caring for them, providing them with welfare and free hospital services while Washington, when it isn't cursing Iraq's prime minister, has accepted a measly 800 Iraqis.
And Lebanon? No one realises that this tiny Arab country has accepted 50,000 Iraqis since the great refugee exodus began. Of course, the Shia Iraqis have moved into the Shia southern suburbs (home of Hizbollah), the Sunni into Sunni areas of Beirut and Sidon, the Christians into Christian east Beirut and the Metn hills. And because the Lebanese have always called the Iraqis brothers and sisters, there has been no friction between the different Iraqi groups and this is truly wondrous because only last January, Lebanon's Shia and Sunni youths were stoning each other in their thousands in the streets of Beirut.
So what else do the Americans have up their sleeve for us out here? Well, an old chum of mine in the Deep South a former US Vietnam veteran officer has a habit of tramping through the hills to the north of his home and writes to me that "in my therapeutic and recreation trips ... in the mountains of North Carolina over the last two weeks, I've noticed a lot of F-16 and C-130 activity. They are coming right through the passes, low to the ground. The last time I saw this kind of thing up there was before Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan".
That was in early August. Two weeks later, my friend wrote again. "There were a few (more) C-130 passes... I know that some 75th Rangers have just moved out of their home base and that manoeuvres have gone on in areas that have been used... in the past before assaults utilizing [sic] aircraft guided by small numbers of special operations people."
And then comes the cruncher in my friend's letter. "I think that the Bush administration is looking for something to distract Americans before the mid-September report on progress in Iraq. And I believe that the pressure is building to do something about the sanctuaries for the Taliban and foreign fighters along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border..."
A few days after my friend's letter arrived in Beirut, the Pakistanis reported that the Americans were using pilotless drones to attack targets just inside Pakistan. But it seems much more ambitious military plans may now be in the works. An all-out strike inside the North West Frontier province before President Pervez Musharref steps down or is overthrown? A last throw of the dice at Bin Laden before "democracy" returns to Pakistan?
Stand by for more disasters from Pakistan to the shores of the Mediterranean. But don't expect to hear about them in advance.