September 7/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 5,1-11. While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch." Simon said in reply, "Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets." When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.

The Middle East needs peace, not another symbolic photograph.The Daily Star. September 6/07
Breaking France's conventions, Sarkozy-style.
By David Ignatius. September 6/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for September 6/07
Lebanon _ Tiny Country, Big Threats.The Associated Press
Arab FMs Call on Syria, Lebanon to Join Mideast Peace Conference.The Media Line
Lebanon charges six Palestinians for UNIFIL attack.Reuters South Africa
Lebanon's army chief tries again to please pro-Syrian opposition.Ya Libnan
Lebanon premier urges tighter control of border with Syria.Monsters and

Syria says it fired on Israeli aircraft. AFP
Merkel Urges Syria to recognize Lebanon, Supports Presidential Elections
Human Rights: Most Lebanese Killed by 'Indiscriminate' Israeli Attacks
DNA Result Reportedly Did Not Match Abssi's
Army Kills 1 Militant, Captures 5 in North Lebanon
1st DNA Test Reportedly Did Not Match Abssi's
Sfeir for President Prior to New Government.Naharnet
Aoun Warns of 'Explosion' Unless Compromise is Reached
Sept. 25 Session Opens Way for Tough Presidential Battle
Peres: Internal Divisions not Israel Threaten Lebanon
US: 'Our actions aim to strengthen Lebanon's independence'.Ya Libnan
UN Chief Outlines Hariri Tribunal.The Associated Press
Report blames Israel for Lebanon war civilian deaths.Reuters
Israel still waiting for kidnapped soldiers to return.ABC Online
Iran: It's about time.Washington Times
Lebanon's Christians deeply
Robert Fisk: Lebanon cries victory, but is it too soon?Independent

Siniora asks Germany to help build up army-Daily Star
Berri schedules presidential vote for September 25
-Daily Star
Consensus or 'an explosion' - Aoun
-Daily Star
Sfeir sounds conciliatory note ahead of visit to Vatican
-Daily Star
Another arrest in plot to bomb German trains
-Daily Star
Siniora to outline programs with Laurent
-Daily Star
Fadlallah deplores 'vendetta crimes'
-Daily Star
Lahoud presents award to philanthropist
-Daily Star
Half now, half later: Chinese peacekeepers head for home
-Daily Star
Final report on Israeli handling of war delayed
-Daily Star
Beirut Stock Exchange sees marked increase in activity
-Daily Star
UNDP awards 23 youth who joined inter-sect dialogue
-Daily Star
Lebanese troops continue to sweep Nahr al-Bared for stragglers
-Daily Star
BMA launches 2007 BLOM Beirut Marathon campaign
-Daily Star
Dar al-Amal fetes new facility for women and girls today
-Daily Star
In aftermath of Nahr al-Bared battle, Palestinian refugees despair over ruined lives
-Daily Star
Danish court begins terror trial of four Muslims.(AFP)
UK renews pledge to back Turkey's EU bid.(AFP)
Kucinich's latest campaign expenditure: Middle East travel
.The Plain Dealer

Syria says it fired on Israeli aircraft
DAMASCUS, Syria - Syrian air defenses opened fire on Israeli aircraft that violated Syrian airspace, a Syrian military spokesman said Thursday.
The Israelis broke the sound barrier and "dropped ammunition" over deserted areas of northern Syria overnight, the spokesman was quoted by the official Syrian Arab News Agency. "We warn the Israeli enemy government against this flagrant aggressive act, and retain the right to respond in an appropriate way," the Syrian spokesman said. It was not clear if Syria was accusing the Israelis of using warplanes or some type of other aircraft such as drones. "The Israeli enemy aircraft infiltrated into the Arab Syrian territory through the northern border, coming from the Mediterranean heading toward the eastern region, breaking the sound barrier," the spokesman said. "Air defense units confronted them and forced them to leave after they dropped some ammunition in deserted areas without causing any human or material damage." Israel's army said it was looking into the report. Israel acknowledges flying over Lebanon routinely, but it is unclear how often its aircraft fly over Syria. At the beginning of last summer's war against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, Israeli warplanes buzzed the palace of Syrian President Bashar Assad in what analysts called a warning to Damascus. They also flew over Assad's summer home in the coastal city of Latakia, after Syrian-backed Palestinian militants in Gaza captured a young Israeli soldier.

DNA Result Reportedly Did Not Match Abssi's
The first round of DNA tests conducted on Fatah al-Islam's terrorist mastermind Shaker Abssi did not match him, media reports said.
The report on Gen. Michel Aoun's OTV came as a surprise to the Palestinian Scholars Association (PSA). Sheik Ali Youssef, a PSA member, on Thursday said the Association did not yet receive any official DNA outcome. "I was shocked at the news that preceded the final results," Youssef told LBC's Naharkom Saeed talk show.  Abssi's wife on Monday identified his corpse at the public hospital in the northern town of Tripoli. However, the daily An Nahar on Thursday, citing judicial sources, said state Prosecutor Saeed Mirza has not yet received the final DNA results that would determine the fatality's identity.
The sources said further forensic DNA testing would be conducted before a definite answer is given. An Nahar also said Thursday that the death of Fatah al-Islam's spokesman Abu Salim Taha has not been confirmed. Youssef backed up An Nahar's report, saying Abu Taha's fate remains unknown after his wife, who went to a Tripoli morgue to identify him, said that the corpse was not that of her husband. Abssi's wife identified the corpse as that of her husband Shaker Abssi, hospital manager Nasser Adra told reporters on Monday. He did not disclose further details. Abssi was killed along with 31 fellow terrorists in a major showdown with the Lebanese Army that ended the Nahr al-Bared battle which broke out on May 20. Beirut, 06 Sep 07, 06:49

Army Kills 1 Militant, Captures 5 in North Lebanon
The Lebanese army on Thursday continued to hunt down Fatah al-Islam militants, killing one and capturing five, the state-run National News Agency reported.
It said one militant was killed and three others were arrested following clashes in Abdeh north of the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared.
NNA said another two Fatah al-Islam militants were captured after a chase in Wadi Jamous. On Thursday, Lebanese troops also began erecting barbed wire around the Nahr al-Bared camp to prevent anyone from leaving or entering. The army launched its final assault on the camp Sunday after militants launched a series of attacks to try to break a siege that began on May 20. Beirut, 06 Sep 07, 14:03

Human Rights: Most Lebanese Killed by 'Indiscriminate' Israeli Attacks

Most Lebanese civilians killed in last summer's war between the Jewish state and Lebanon were a result of Israel's "indiscriminate" attacks, Human Right Watch said in a report released on Thursday. In its latest report on the 34-day conflict, the rights group said that "in critical respects, Israel conducted the war with reckless indifference to the fate of Lebanese civilians and violated the laws of war. "Responsibility for the high civilian death toll of the war in Lebanon lies squarely with Israeli policies and targeting decisions in the conduct of its military operations," the report said. While Israel did not appear to have had a deliberate policy of killing civilians, there was "a pattern of killing that amounts to indiscriminate fire," HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth said at a press conference in Jerusalem in presenting the findings. Israel "was too ready to pull the trigger ... (and) acted as though all the civilians had left when that was simply not true," he said. "Many were simply too scared to death to get on the road." The group's research found that more than 1,100 Lebanese died in the conflict, most of them civilians. Forty-three Israeli civilians and 12 soldiers died as a result of Hizzbulah rocket attacks, it said. Around 250 Hizbullah fighters were killed, Roth said. Hizbullah party officials have said that "about 150" of its fighters had died, without providing an exact figure. Israel claimed to have killed around 300.
The rights report accuses Israel of undertaking a deliberate campaign not only against Hizbullah's military wing, but its political and social welfare institutions in Beirut and southern Lebanon. "Israel targeted people or structures associated in any way with Hizbullah's military, political, or social structures -- regardless of whether they constituted valid military objectives." "Israel's treatment of all parts of Hizbullah as legitimate military targets flies in the face of international legal standards and sets a dangerous precedent," Roth has said earlier in a statement. The rights watchdog also rejected Israeli claims that the high civilian death toll resulted from Hizbullah operating in civilian areas and using human shields. "We found a handful of instances but nothing to suggest a widespread practice," the report said.
"We did not find a systematic practice of shielding in the Lebanese villages," Roth said. "Most Hezbollah military activity was conducted from prepared positions in hills and valleys outside Lebanese villages." Israel rejected the findings.
"We faced a very specific problem in that Hizbullah adopted a very deliberate and premeditated strategy to embed itself among the civilian population, exploiting civilians as human shields," foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev told AFP. The findings in the 247-page report are based on the investigation of 510 civilian deaths, including at least 300 women and children, visits to more than 50 Lebanese villages, and more than 350 interviews. The report comes days after a separate study that accused Hizbullah of targeting civilians in its rocket attacks against Israel. That report was slammed by both Hizbullah and the Lebanese government, forcing HRW to cancel an August press conference in Beirut after reports that Hizbullah planned to disrupt the event.(AFP) Beirut, 06 Sep 07, 13:06

Sept. 25 Session Opens Way for Tough Presidential Battle
The presidential election battle has opened when Speaker Nabih Berri set Sept. 25 as a date lawmakers must begin voting to select a new head of state.
The session would be the first time parliament has met since October of last year. Berri has refused to convene parliament over the past months after his opposition allies resigned from the government. Between the Sept. 25 session and Nov. 23, when President Emile Lahoud must step down, parliament will have to overcome political divisions and decide on a new President. Berri's announcement Wednesday only said the session was called to elect a president, but the meeting later this month was expected to bring the confrontation between the government and opposition to a head. The majority in parliament and the pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian opposition led Hizbullah have been locked in a fierce power struggle and are at odds over whether the president is elected by a two-thirds of the parliament or a simple majority in the 128-seat house. The opposition has threatened to boycott the vote and deny parliament its two-thirds quorum, thereby deadlocking the process, if no agreement is reached on a candidate. The majority controls 69 seats in the 128-member legislature and has threatened to just go ahead and choose a president from its own ranks with its majority. The result could well be rival governments, a grim reminder of the last two years of the 1975-90 civil war when army units loyal to competing administrations battled it out.
If the parliament cannot elect a president by Nov. 23, Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and his Cabinet would automatically take on executive powers -- a prospect pro-Syrian Lahoud does not relish and has proposed to appoint the army commander to lead a civilian government that would run the country until there is agreement on a president. Opposition supporters have said Lahoud might even appoint a second government, but some have warned that this could break up the country.
"The gravest thing would be to have two governments," said Butros Harb, a presidential candidate from the majority. "I say it loud: Having two governments is partitioning Lebanon into two Lebanons."The president, who is elected for a one-time six-year term, has limited powers under the Arab-brokered Taef accord that ended the civil war. He has little control over who parliamentary blocs name as prime minister, but he can block the prime minister's Cabinet lineup. He also chairs Cabinet meetings but cannot vote, and a Cabinet majority can overrule his veto on key decisions.
Harb and two other members from majority parties -- one lawmaker and one who lost his seat in 2005 elections -- are running for president. An opposition leader who leads a large Christian bloc in the legislature, Michel Aoun, also has declared his candidacy. There have been calls for a president to be above the politics to bring the country together and help end the political crisis, revive the economy and restore confidence in the system.
The parliamentary majority and Saniora are currently boycotting Lahoud because of his alliance to neighboring Syria, which called the shots in Lebanon for years but was forced to withdraw its army two years ago after the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri. Along with the political dispute, electing a president also has a sensitive sectarian element. Under a power-sharing arrangement, the president is a Maronite Catholic -- the only non-Muslim leader of an Arab country -- the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shiite Muslim. The Cabinet and parliament are split equally between Christians and Muslims, while the army is led by a Christian and the police is headed by a Muslim.
Saniora defended the need for the election.
After talks in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, Saniora said Lebanon was passing through a very sensitive phase "in which we want to really protect and safeguard the independence and sovereignty of the country -- and at the same time respect the constitution and, in particular, to hold the elections and to really hold them within the constitutional period."(AP) Beirut, 06 Sep 07, 10:22

Aoun Warns of 'Explosion' Unless Compromise is Reached
Free Patriotic Movement leader Gen. Michel Aoun warned that Lebanon risks an "explosion" unless Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government seeks a compromise on its choice of national President. The vote for a successor to Syrian-backed President Emile Lahoud has exacerbated Lebanon's ongoing political crisis which has split Beirut into pro- and anti-Damascus camps. If agreement cannot be reached on a new president "there will be an explosion," Aoun warned during meetings at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri Wednesday officially called for a special session on September 25 to elect a new president, as the country remains mired in a crisis threatening unity. Berri's declaration comes amid concerns of more divisions after statements by rival leaders raised fears of two governments and two presidents, a stark reminder of the chaos at the end of the country's 1975-1990 civil war.
During talks with European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering and other MEPS, Aoun denounced what he said was a campaign of disinformation about him.
"I am presented as an ally of Syria or Iran. I am pro-Lebanese and seek to disengage Lebanon from all exterior influences," the Maronite Christian opposition leader said. If the necessary two-thirds majority quorum -- at least 86 members present in the 128-seat Parliament -- is not guaranteed on September 25, Berri will have to call for another session before President Lahoud's term expires on November 24. To muster the necessary quorum, a compromise must be reached by the Lebanese feuding partiesi, as the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora has just 69 members in parliament.
Several candidates from the rival camps have said they plan to run for President, a post reserved for a Maronite Christian in line with the sectarian distribution of political powers. Lebanon has been in turmoil since the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, which was widely blamed on powerful neighbour Syria and subsequently forced Damascus to end 29 years of military domination in Lebanon.(AFP) Beirut, 06 Sep 07, 06:21

Peres: Internal Divisions not Israel Threaten Lebanon
Israeli President Shimon Peres hailed Wednesday the Italian leadership of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), stressing that his country no longer poses a threat to Lebanon more than the internal divisions between political factions do."We have never represented a danger for Lebanon. The danger came from internal divisions, and thanks to Italy and the Italian command of the international force, we have managed to improve the general situation and bring about peace," Peres s said in a news conference after meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. UNIFIL was deployed after last year's war between Israel and Hizbullah.
Peres also accused Hamas of seeking to impose a "religious hegemony" in the Middle East but not peace. "Hamas does not want peace. It wants to impose a religious hegemony on all the Middle East against the wish of the majority of Arabs themselves," he said. "The suffering of the people of Gaza is caused by the actions of Hamas whose acts are based on a purely negative ideology, because how can one otherwise explain why its militants continue to launch missiles against Israel when Israel has left the Gaza strip?" he added. The Israeli president arrived in Rome Wednesday on his first visit abroad since being elected on June 13. He was due to hold talks with
Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi as well as a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI. Prodi was in Jordan last weekend and had talks on Tuesday night in Rome with Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Saniora. His foreign minister, Massimo d'Alema, is currently on a tour of Israel and Egypt, part of a flurry of diplomatic activity to prepare for the US-proposed international conference to relaunch the Middle East peace process this autumn.( AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 05 Sep 07, 20:19

Berri Calls MPs to Elect a President on Sept. 25
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Wednesday officially called for a special session on September 25 to elect a new president for a country mired in political crisis."(Berri) called for a general assembly at 10:30 am (0730 GMT) on Tuesday September 25 in order to elect a new president of the republic," his spokesman told Agence France Presse. The vote for a successor to Syrian-backed President Emile Lahoud has exacerbated the country's political crisis which has split Beirut into pro- and anti-Damascus camps. If the necessary two-third majority quorum - or at least 86 members present in the 128-seat parliament -- is not guaranteed on September 25, Berri will have to call for another session before Lahoud's term expires on November 24. "We hope that you attend the session," Berri told MPs in the official invitation, the spokesman said. On May 10, Berri said he would call for a parliament session on September 25 "provided we have a two-third majority quorum."
To muster the necessary quorum, a compromise must be reached by the feuding parties in Lebanon, as the ruling coalition of Western-backed Prime Minister Fouad Saniora controls only 69 seats in the house. Lahoud's mandate was extended for three years in September 2004 under a controversial constitutional amendment passed with the support of Syria, which at the time was the power-broker in Lebanon. While the anti-Syrian camp holds the majority in parliament, the Hizbullah-led opposition walked out of the Saniora cabinet in November. Berri, who himself heads the pro-Syrian Amal Movement, has since refused to convene parliament on the grounds that the rump Saniora government was no longer legitimate. Several candidates from the rival camps have said they plan to run for president, a post reserved for a Maronite Christian in line with the sectarian distribution of political powers.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 05 Sep 07, 13:41

Sfeir for President Prior to New Government
Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir stressed Wednesday that a new president should be elected prior to the formation of a new government.
Talking to reporters at Beirut airport before embarking on a visit to the Vatican, Sfeir said a proposal made by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri for consensus on a new head of state is "fine."The Patriarch noted that Berri's initiative had "dropped the demand for the formation of a new government. Time left is not enough to have a new government, that is why efforts should be focused on electing a new president and a new government is to be formed after that."
He stressed that the text of Lebanon's constitution states that "the first (Parliamentary) session for electing a president cannot convene unless a two-third quorum was achieved after that a president can be elected by simple majority" of legislators. "Quorum (condition) should be met. If Parliamentarians have true National feelings they should manage it," Sfeir stressed.  As regarding amending the constitution to elect a head of state, Sfeir said: "we've always been against amending the constitution, but if amending the constitution would salvage Lebanon, then salvaging Lebanon has the priority."He said the army achieved its victory over Fatah al-Islam terrorists because it remained united to "defend a national cause.""This is probably the first time that the army doesn't split," he noted. Beirut, 05 Sep 07, 18:31

UN Chief Outlines Hariri Tribunal
UNITED NATIONS (AP) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report released Wednesday that he hopes to appoint judges to the international tribunal to prosecute suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri by the end of the year. In the report to the Security Council, Ban said the tribunal would not be established until the U.N. had an estimated $35 million to fund its operations through the first year, as well as an additional $85 million in pledges to pay for the following two years. The Security Council approved a resolution in May to establish the tribunal after Lebanon's divided political parties were unable to approve it. The Netherlands agreed last month to host the court if those convicted serve their sentences elsewhere. Hariri was killed in February 2005 by a massive suicide car bombing in downtown Beirut that also killed 22 other people. Many in Lebanon accuse Syria of being behind the assassination, a charge that Damascus denies.In his report, Ban said he had begun forming a selection panel that will be pick the international judges for the tribunal next month. He will also select the Lebanese judges for the court from a list of 12 possibilities the Lebanese government will provide.
He said he expects to announce the names of all the judges by the end of the year. Ban will also choose a prosecutor and head of the Defense Office, which will draw up a list of defense lawyers for the case, according to his report. His report estimated the budget on the assumption the tribunal would have a staff of more than 400 people. It noted, however, that a list of defendants and witnesses had yet to be drawn up and the level of security needed had not been determined, which could drive up the estimated three-year budget of $120 million. Ban said 51 percent of the total would be paid using voluntary contributions of U.N. member states, and Lebanon's government would put forth the other 49 percent.

Another arrest in plot to bomb German trains
Thursday, September 06, 2007
BEIRUT: The Lebanese authorities have arrested a fourth suspect in connection with a plan to bomb two trains in Germany and have filed preliminary charges against five Lebanese and a Syrian, judicial sources said Wednesday.Four of the Lebanese are in Lebanese custody, while one Lebanese and the Syrian are in Germany, they added. They face charges of attempted mass murder and attempted arson, they said. The sources identified the fourth suspect as Khalil al-Bubbu but gave no details of his arrest. The others are Jihad Hamad, Khaled Kheireddin al-Hajj, Ayman Hawa, Youssef al-Hajj and Fadi al-Saleh, the Syrian.

Berri schedules presidential vote for September 25
Invitations sent to legislators
By Rym Ghazal
Daily Star staff
Thursday, September 06, 2007
BEIRUT: Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri officially called on Wednesday for a special session on September 25 to elect a new president in a last bid to unite rival politicians on a political decision. "The speaker had previously said that there will be a session, today he made it official and called for a general assembly at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, September 25, in order to elect a new president," Berri's spokesperson, Arafat Hijazi, told The Daily Star.The presidential election has exacerbated the already deep political divide between the pro-government and opposition forces, with looming fears of the emergence of two governments if the two sides don't agree before President Emile Lahoud's term expires on November 24. "Berri will hold sessions every Friday or whatever it takes to reach an agreement," he said. The session would be the first time the Parliament has met since October as Berri has refused to convene lawmakers after his opposition allies resigned from the government.
"We hope that you attend the session," Berri told MPs in the official invitation published in the National News Agency. Berri is calling for a two-thirds quorum of MPs from the 128-seat Parliament to be present on September 25."If anything less than what he expects shows up, then he will not convene the session," said the spokesperson, adding: "This could lead to disaster."
Lebanon witnessed a similar scenario of two government in 1988 when Amin Gemayel, the president at that time, named then army chief General Michel Aoun to a head a military government in conflict with the existing Cabinet. Aoun was later ousted by the Syrian Army. Last week, Berri called for a consensus candidate. The ruling majority hasn't officially responded, but according to Youth and Sports Minister Ahmad Fatfat, they are not against the idea of a consensus candidate.
"There has been an overall positive reaction to Berri's initiative by the leading figures in the ruling camp," Fatfat told The Daily Star on Wednesday.
"It is a positive step," he said. "This could be the step needed to open the doors for dialogue between the rical politicians.""We are willing to head to dialogue, and discuss Berri's initiative but without any preconditions," Fatfat said. "However, we do not want to give up our political right to elect the next president by a half plus one [majority]," he added. Fatfat explained that once there is agreement on a consensus president, controversy on how the election actually happens won't matter.
At the same time, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea's reaction to the initiative can be characterized as skeptical.
"Why does the Berri initiative stress the two-thirds quorum for the election of the next president when it calls for a consensus president?" Geagea asked on Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. TV late Tuesday. To garner the necessary quorum for electing a president, a compromise must be reached by the feuding parties in Lebanon, as the ruling majority of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has just 69 MPs.
The opposition has threatened to boycott the vote and deny Parliament a two-thirds quorum, thus blocking the process. In return, the majority has threatened to go ahead and choose a president from its own ranks with its majority. March 14 is expected to release an official stance on Berri's initiative by end of this week.
Lahoud has said he would appoint an interim government headed by army chief General Michel Suleiman if rival Lebanese factions cannot agree on a new head of a state before the presidential term ends.Lahoud hailed Berri's call for a Parliament session to choose a new head of state, and said in a statement released by the Presidential Palace that it should be "a chance to reunite the Lebanese in order to allow the country to overcome the difficult circumstances that it is going through."
The Loyalty to the Resistance Parliamentary bloc also welcomed Berri's recent initiative and is awaiting "a responsible response" to it, while maintaining that a national unity government is still the best "safety valve.""We hope the March 14 Forces will start acting responsibly," the bloc said in a statement after a meeting Wednesday.
After talks with Social Affairs Minister Nayla Mouawad, US Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffery Feltman said Wednesday that the United States will do its best to have the presidential election in Lebanon "free from foreign interference."At the same time, the personal representative of the UN secretary general in Lebanon, Geir Pedersen, welcomed Berri's initiative but said that there is a critical step that needs to be done before it works.
"The resigned ministers need to return to government as their return would be a critical step toward finding a solution to the presidential issue," Pedersen said after meeting with Public Works and Transport Minister Mohammad Safadi. An-Nahar newspaper quoted sources close to the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner as describing the Berri initiative as "necessary." As for reports of Kouchner's return to Lebanon, An-Nahar quoted him as saying "maybe."
Meanwhile, Vatican City might turn into a meeting point of senior Lebanese officials as Aoun, Siniora, and parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri all might be heading to the Vatican around the same time that Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir will be there. Aoun is currently in Europe, where he met on Wednesday with European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pottering at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France.

Robert Fisk: Lebanon cries victory, but is it too soon?

Published: 06 September 2007
The victory of the Lebanese army at the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp the killing of up to 100 al-Qa'ida-type insurgents at the cost of 163 Lebanese soldiers and 42 civilians is being greeted in the country with "trumpetings" and "hootings" worthy of the country's greatest poet, Khalil Gibran.For three days now, the newspapers have devoted their front pages to photographs of Lebanese troops astride their ageing US-made personnel carriers, giving "V" signs, firing in the air and succumbing to the traditional warriors' reward of rice and rose-water. Chaker Absi, leader of Fatah al-Islam, who vowed to fight to the death for "Palestine", lies in a Tripoli mortuary, identified by wife and daughter. But Gibran, whose Garden of the Prophet was published in 1934, warned that we should "Pity the nation that... boasts not except among its ruins... whose art is the art of patching and mimicking..." And, after 106 days of fighting, the ruins of Nahr el-Bared are a sea of Dresden-like walls and collapsed slums, of booby-traps and unexploded bombs.
The Lebanese government has promised to rebuild the whole fandango. The Palestinians are the brothers of the Lebanese, they say and what other Arab government would be so generous after the carnage of the past four months? But everyone is asking where the next battle will begin.
The Lebanese army has lost since April of this year just five men fewer than the total 163 British dead in Iraq since the invasion of 2003; it is an impressive, dramatic, solemn toll of dead and will only emphasise the army's unique role in the political life of this sorely broken country.
With the parliamentary majority and its largely Shia Muslim opposition still unable to agree on a presidential candidate, the nation faces the prospect of the emergence of two governments and two potential presidents one of whom, former general Michel Aoun, was the messianic "prime minister" of Lebanon last time the country had two civil war administrations. General Michel Sulieman, the leader of the Lebanese army, comes out of it all with a much enhanced reputation; he has friends in Damascus, friends in Washington, friends even in Lebanon and may yet be the latest "saviour" to protect a statelet created so blithely by the French mandate authorities after the First World War. But Ghassan Tueni, the doyen of Lebanese editors whose son was murdered last year by the Syrians, his supporters remain convinced warned in an epoch-making editorial two weeks ago that Lebanon should not be ruled by generals. He is right, of course; but Middle East nations have a habit of turning to their army commanders for salvation. Military regimes also tend to be supported by Washington, which was among the first to offer weapons old and for the most part obsolete to the Lebanese army in its latest battle.
The Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, has praised his army and claimed its victory at Nahr el-Bared was "the country's biggest victory against terrorism."
Many Lebanese, however, believe the most recent act of terrorism was Israel's 34-day bombardment of Lebanon last year which cost well over 1,000 civilian lives and followed the capture of two Israeli soldiers on the border by Hizbollah and the subsequent killing of seven others on 12 July. And the same country which supplied the Israelis with weapons to destroy so much of Lebanon then the United States has been providing weapons for the Lebanese army to attack Fatah el-Islam.
The latter's survivors warned a week ago that some of their number had escaped from Nahr el-Bared and there were "black days" ahead for Siniora's government. For the moment, Syria and her friends in Lebanon who want to destroy the Siniora cabimet have been heaping praise on the Lebanese army. But we shall see in the near future if those "black days" turn out to be real.

US: 'Our actions aim to strengthen Lebanon's independence'
Thursday, 6 September, 2007 @ 7:14 AM
Beirut / Washington - The US Department OF State deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said US actions regarding Lebanon aim to strengthen the independence of the country from outside forces.Casey was asked yesterday that the Syrian Foreign Minister accused US of playing an unconstructive role in Lebanon, especially with the election of the president of the country, to which Casey replied that "I think if the country that occupied Lebanon for decades and continues to oppose the efforts of the Lebanese people to develop their democracy thinks we're doing something wrong, then we're probably doing something right."
Casey said "I am not sure what his specific accusations are against the United States, but what our policy is is to support the will of the Lebanese people, to support the legitimately elected government of that country, and to see the Lebanese people have an opportunity not only to choose their President but to choose all their political leaders free from outside interference or domination from Syria or from any other actors." Muallem criticizes US role in Lebanon
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has accused Washington of playing an "unconstructive " role in Lebanon where he said upcoming presidential elections would be a chance for reconciliation."There are parties such as the United States which are still playing an unconstructive role concerning Lebanon," Muallem told the Lebanese opposition newspaper Al-Akhbar while on a visit to Iran.

Roger Edde says Syria behind Berri's initiative
Peace party leader Roger Edde ( pictured right) accused Syria of being behind the initiative of Speaker Nabih Berri , who dropped the demand for a government of national unity in return for a consensus on a president prior to elections on September 25. Syria according to Edde is using the initiative to elect a president that is friendly to the Syrian regime to allow it to return to Lebanon. Syria says Edde has been dreaming of returning to Lebanon ever since it was kicked out in 2005. Edde said all you have to do is read the paragraph about Mr.X in Mehlis ( former UN chief investigator of Hariri 's assassination) report to appreciate Syria's influence over Berri  Edde is also accusing Syria of being the base of Fatah al-Islam terrorist organization, saying that the battle may be over for now but Fatah al- Islam is not finished saying Syria will continue to manipulate this organization to create trouble for Lebanon.
**Sources:, Ya Libnan

Lebanon's army chief tries again to please pro-Syrian opposition

Thursday, 6 September, 2007 @ 12:19 PM
Beirut- Two weeks ago Lebanon's army chief General Michel Suleiman tied to clear Syria's name from any affiliation with Fatah al-Islam to please the Hezbollah-led pro-Syrian opposition.Today General Suleiman did it again by saying that the army victory in Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp against the Fatah al-Islam terrorists is a continuation of Hezbollah's victory in the July war against Israel. Hezbollah declared at the end of the war that it won and called it a 'divine victory'
Suleiman 's declaration will sure again please Hezbollah and all the pro-Syrian allies , despite the fact that the majority of the Lebanese strongly feel that Lebanon was the biggest loser in the July 2006 war, since 1280 Lebanese were killed against 160 Israelis, over 1 million Lebanese were displaced and 110,000 homes were destroyed...add to this the devastation to the infrastructure and the Lebanese economy.
Suleiman's timing is also very significant , since the pro-Syrian opposition has called for a consensus on the president that will replace Emile Lahoud, before the election day ( September 25) set by Speaker Nabih Berri. Suleiman's name has been mentioned on different occasions as a consensus candidate but surely his last statement about the alleged victory of Hezbollah will not go well with the anti-Syrian majority and many may accuse him of being pro-Syrian and thereby eliminate him as a candidate. The last thing the parliament majority needs is another Emile Lahoud , whose aim is to please Syria at Lebanon's expense and whom the Syrian president calls " my personal representative in Lebanon".
In any case in order to consider Suleiman as a candidate the Lebanese constitution has to be amended , a move that the March 14 allies consider to be very unlikely. Usually government employees and Suleiman is one , have to resign 2 years prior to running for presidential post according to the constitution.

EU tells Syria: Stay away from Lebanon's presidential elections
Wednesday, 5 September, 2007 @ 7:19 AM
Beirut - European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana called Tuesday on Syria to stay away from Lebanon's upcoming presidential elections.
Solana ( right) , who visited Lebanon for a few hours, told reporters in Beirut Syria must help Lebanon and "let Lebanon do its job, and I think that the leaders of Syria must understand that.""For the European Union, our interest is that the Lebanese people elect the president they wish, but we would like (it) to be done within the mandate of the constitution," he said. Solana held talks with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora as well as Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri and Maronite Christian Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir.
"I had a very good impression about how the situation in Lebanon is evolving," Solana said during a press conference at Beirut airport.
The Lebanese parliament has from September 25 to November 24 to elect a president to replace Emile Lahoud, whose term in office was controversially extended by three years under a Syrian-inspired constitutional amendment in 2004.Solana arrived in Lebanon on Tuesday from Jordan, and left for Egypt on the final stage of a regional tour which was aimed at preparing the ground for a Middle East peace conference called by the United States for later in the year.
Lebanon's political factions are currently locked in deep differences over the issue of the presidency.
The government - and its Christian, Druze and Sunni supporters - want the next president to be independent of Syrian influence.
The opposition wants a supporter of the radical Hezbollah movement's "armed resistance" and wants to prevent the government from installing a president aligned with the United States and Europe.Syria was Lebanon's powerbroker until Damascus was accused of the assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri in 2005, a charge it denies. Lebanon has been hit by its worst political crisis since the civil war after six pro-Syrian ministers resigned from Siniora's cabinet in November 2006, effectively paralyzing the government and political decision-making.
Sources: DPA

Chaker El Absi fought till the last minute, while Michel Aoun surrendered at the very beginning
Chaker El Absi made sure 'his wife and kids are safe' before worrying about himself, while Michel Aoun ran away and left his wife and daughters behind at the mercy of the syrian soldiers.
Chaker El Absi tried to escape with all his fighters and died with them, while Michel Aoun escaped by himself, and left the best commandoes of the lebanese army fighting and dying alone.
With all the above Chaker El Absi is labeled a terrorist, while Michel Aoun was the Commander and Chief of the Lebanese Army! And still trying to force himself as the savior and the only QUALIFIED and ELIGIBLE president of our beautiful country.