Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Siniora vows to remain in office to prevent outbreak of civil war

Siniora vows to remain in office to prevent outbreak of civil war
Hizbullah mp warns street protests are imminent

By Nada Bakri
Daily Star staff.

BEIRUT: Lebanon's prime minister said on Tuesday that political parties had turned the country into a battlefield for regional conflicts, and added he would remain in office to prevent the outbreak of civil war. "We have turned Lebanon into a battlefield for regional conflicts ... This logic is suicidal," Siniora said during a television interview with Al-Arabiyya news channel. Siniora vowed to prevent civil war from breaking out again in Lebanon, which is still reeling from the devastating 1975-1990 Civil War. "We want to avoid discord. My presence here [in the government], and that of many others will prevent discord and civil war because even if there is war ... in the end, we will have to sit back together" to settle disputes with dialogue, he said. "I still have hope, and continue to seek that there will be no street protests," he said. "We are constantly working to prevent the outbreak of any clashes. My presence in office is to prevent strife and to prevent civil war," Siniora said. But Hizbullah MP Mohammad Raad said following a visit of Hizbullah's bloc to Speaker Nabih Berri Tuesday that street protests are imminent. "The opposition has run out of time and it will go ahead with its decisions and its actions," Raad said. The capital's streets were mostly empty as reports and rumors circulated of possible demonstrations, which Hizbullah and their allies refused to deny or confirm late Tuesday.

MP Saad Hariri urged players to return to the dialogue table to find solutions. "I urge everyone to return to dialogue because we cannot be part of the axis and the regional conflicts, and we have to work as Lebanese for the best interest of Lebanon," the parliamentary majority leader said in statements televised Tuesday. Earlier this month, six ministers allied with Hizbullah resigned from Siniora's Cabinet after key cross parties talks failed to reach a deal on the formation of a national unity government. The pro-Syrian forces want one third plus one seats in Siniora's Cabinet, which would give them veto power. The March 14 Forces have agreed on the formation of a national unity government that will include more Hizbullah allies, but they rejected their demand for veto power, accusing them of trying to hinder the formation of the international court to try suspects in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. "We all support the formation of a national unity government where everyone will have a say ... but if they want through that to hinder decisions, we are against it," Hariri told Canadian television. Siniora urged the resigned ministers - two from Hizbullah, three from the Amal Movement and one allied with pro-Syrian president Emile Lahoud - to return to their duties. "The government will carry on with its duties but it is suffering from the absence of our resigned colleagues," Siniora said. "I will not appoint anyone to replace them because I am still hopeful they will return to their ministries," Siniora said. Earlier in the day, Siniora asked Jordan's King Abdullah to raise the issue of Israel's violations of Lebanese airspace during the monarch's talks with US President George W. Bush in Amman, scheduled for Wednesday. Siniora's office said in a statement the prime minister urged King Abdullah in a telephone call to discuss with Bush "issues that interest Lebanon." The statement said the key issues were Lebanon's demands that Israel halt military overflights, which Beirut and the United Nations say violate a Security Council resolution that ended the 34-day war with the Jewish state in August, and an Israeli withdrawal from the Lebanese half of Ghajar village. It also said Lebanon wanted to resolve the dispute over the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms, which Israel and the UN say are Syrian, while Lebanon and Syria say they are Lebanese.

US Department of State Under Secretary for Management Henrietta Fore, following a visit to Siniora Tuesday, reiterated the United States' support to the government. Fore, who is on a two-day visit to Lebanon, said she "reaffirmed the strong support of the United States to work with the government of Lebanon and the Lebanese people to realize their aspirations for a peaceful and prosperous, sovereign and secure country."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Clashes erupt on St. Joseph University campus after students hang banner in tribute to slain industry minister

Clashes erupt on St. Joseph University campus after students hang banner in tribute to slain industry minister
By Nour Samaha and Iman Azzi
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Clashes broke out Monday between students at St. Joseph University after supporters of assassinated minister Pierre Gemayel hung his poster from a classroom window. On their first day back following the mourning period, students belonging to the March 14 Forces declared Monday to be a day of memorial for the deceased minister, and placed candles and a huge banner at the USJ campus on Monot Street. However, "the opposition," made up of Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Hizbullah supporters, who recently won the student council elections, demanded that the banner be removed.

They also expressed a desire that no political symbols be displayed until tensions in the country have subsided.

"Sheikh Pierre Gemayel was a martyr for everyone, and we have a right to honor his memory," said Jean Tawile, a USJ graduate student, and one of the March 14 Forces' youth group members hanging the banner on the second floor of the main building. But the media spokesperson for the FPM youth movement Marc Sassine claimed that "following Gemayel's assassination, some of the March 14 supporters went to Sassine Square and burned pictures of [FPM leader] General Michel Aoun." "Even though we believe that Gemayel should be honored," Sassine added, "we also think it is more important to ensure that tensions on the street have calmed down before anything political is introduced on the campus." Sassine said that March 14 Forces came into the university "by force, militia style" determined to display the poster, attempting to initiate a clash. "We had no problem with the actual poster, and the student council was willing to hang it, but in the name of the council and all the students. But they rejected this and wanted to hang it only in their name, and when they do so in such an aggressive way, it will cause problems. We want to pay our respects for him too, but we just think [it would be better to do so] at a later date."

"We as students, not as a political party, wanted to pay our respects to Sheikh Pierre," said Gilbert Rizk, a final-year political science student who claims to be politically unaffiliated. "And the militants of the FPM and Hizbullah won't allow it until they receive an apology for the burning of Aoun's posters in Sassine. What they need to understand is that the students here had nothing to do with that, and we shouldn't be punished for it." Rizk added that even though the university's administration had banned all party flags from campus in order to minimize the chance of any clashes, Hizbullah supporters still came to the campus during elections with their flags. "But in this case we're talking about paying our respects to a martyr, it is not a political move," he added. After a meeting between the student council and the university's administration to decide on the next course of action, the students and the administration gathered under the banner, said a prayer, sang the national anthem and then removed the banner.

Monday, November 27, 2006

To All Lebanese: plz practice restraints!

A Message of Peace and Love to ALL my fellow Lebanese everywhere in the world! LEBANON FIRST!

Dear Lebanese,

I would like this message to be a wake-up call to all Lebanese everywhere; whatever our political beliefs, religion or sect! Please hear this plea:

Lebanon is going through a very difficult period on many different levels but most importantly on a street level. I URGE everyone to try your best to calm the people around you. Now is not the time to 'talk' or to inflame friends and neighbours. Please practice restraints!

If we allow them, the political crisis our politicians are putting us through will soon spill onto our streets!
If WE, as sovereign and independent Lebanese citizens, do nothing to stop it we will have a civil war on our hands again!

We have to use our rational and our common sense and not be manipulated into hatred of one another and street expressions!!

None of us want to see our children fighting and killing each other on the streets again!
None of us want to witness a new wave of death, hate, destruction and humiliation again!
None of us want to be manipulated and treated like sheep without any will or conscious again!
None of us want to live in fear of sending our children to their universities and schools where students are being bullied and bitten for expressing an opinion again!

Please talk to your children and friends and convince them:
Not to rise to provocation
Not to allow anyone to push their buttons
Not to be source of provocation
Not to inflame other's political and/or religious loyalties
Not to get into a war of words with others over politics or religion
Not to get into fist fights or feuds with others over politics or religion
Not to destroy or assist in the destruction of another's properties/cars over politics or religion
Not to be influenced into expressing their opinions in our streets !

Please forward this message to as many Lebanese as you possibly can ... that we can help calm and defuse a highly explosive situation and maybe avert a crisis!
Our country's survival and the lives of our children depend on our collective efforts!
Peace be upon us all!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Flag of Lebanon

The Lebanese flag is formed of two horizontal red stripes enveloping a horizontal white stripe. The white stripe is to be two times a red one (ratio 1:2:1)—a Spanish fess. The green cedar in the middle touches both red stripes and its width is one third of the width of the flag. (The description of the flag is cited in the Lebanese Constitution, Chapter 1, Article 5.) It is a common mistake to draw the branches of the cedar in brown or black. Nevertheless the mistake is unconstitutional. The cedar must be full green.

The red stripes symbolize the pure blood shed in the aim of liberation. The white stripe symbolizes peace, and the white snow covering Lebanon's mountains. The green cedar (Arz) (Species: Cedrus libani or Lebanon Cedar) symbolizes immortality and steadiness. This cedar is referenced many times in the Bible: "The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon" (Psalms 92:12).

Through history, Lebanon, or at least its region, had taken the flag of the people who occupied it (Phoenician, Mamluk, Ottoman) . In the 18th century the Maronites used a white flag with a cedar tree in the centre. It seems that in the First World War, Lebanese nationalists added the red stripes, representing firstly, the martyrs' blood, and secondly, red and white were the colours of the Lebanese Legion, which, formed by the French in 1916, was the forerunner of the Lebanese Army. The Lebanese flag, during the French mandate (1918-1943), was designed by the president of the Lebanese Renaissance Movement, the late Naoum Mukarzel. It was similar to the tricolour flag of France but with a Cedar in the middle.

Seeking for independence, the actual flag was first drawn in deputy Saeb Salam's house in Mousaitbeh by the deputies of the Lebanese parliament. It was adopted on December 7, 1943, during a meeting in the parliament, where the article 5 in the Lebanese constitution was modified.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

We will survive! (personal comments)

What can one say to expression how emotional this day was?

Minister/Member of Parliament Pierre Amine Gemayel, son of former President Amine Gemayel, nephew of former slain President Bashir Gemayel, Grandson of Pierre Gemayel founder of the Kateab party (relevant previous post dated 24 Sept. 06 titled: Martyrs of Lebanon) was gunned down in broad daylight on 21/11/2006 by 3 unmasked men who rammed into his small KIA car and emptied their silenced machine guns in his body and in his bodyguard.

Pierre was only 34 years of age, married with 2 small children but he has already done so much for his country. His last action a few hours before his murder was to place a wreath on the grave of his Grandfather who also has done much for his country. The Gemayel family are the Lebanese equivalent of the US Kennedy family. A family of politicians who so far have offered up to 5 of their members as martyrs in the past 2 decades for a noble cause; and amongst those was former President Bashir Gemayel 18 months old daughter, Maya, who passed away in a car bomb destined for her father.

It is a sad day for Lebanon when a promising young politician who had the great potential to bring new blood into old and obsolete politicians is murdered in an attempt to bring down the Lebanese people yet again. But yet again, Lebanon has risen!! The blood of young Pierre has awaken the legendary 'Phoenix' and instead of achieving the desired effect the blood of young Pierre has infused oxygen in the smoldering hearts of the Lebanese as hundreds of thousands took to the streets to say farewell and "thank you"!

It is a sad day for Lebanon when unethical people will attempt to take advantage of the killing of a 6th prominent Lebanese politician to create further divisions within our ranks and to further dilute the true cause in petty differences and a war of words which will benefit no one except their own personal gain.

It is a sad day for Lebanon when the people start to carry flags of their political parties instead of the one and only flag of their country which was created by the blood of our ancestors and martyrs. Need I remind you Lebanese people that yesterday 22 Nov. was supposed to be the anniversary of our "Independence day"? Even the coffin of the late Pierre was shrouded with the flag of his political party instead of that of this country. What kind of a message this simple action sends? Are we not, as Lebanese living in the country of Lebanon, supposed to be united in the service of our country? or is it in the service of a political party?

It is a sad day for Lebanon when egoism reins and the human conscious is silenced, when our country is at the edge of a cliff leading to a human catastrophe and when Lebanon is in so grave a danger that it would require a miracle to save it. ALL politicians are puppets in the hands of an invisible puppeteer. ALL politicians have lost their conscious and are being manipulated to the advantage of a hidden plan and they, in turn, are manipulating the Lebanese public, making us dance to a tune not of our choosing but which we find very hard to resist as if hypnotised because we still hope that the 'savior' is amongst those old and obsolete politicians.

It is a sad day for Lebanon when the Lebanese people are unable to see the bigger picture and have not yet took the decision to say 'ENOUGH!', 'ENOUGH Manipulation, ENOUGH Lies, ENOUGH!'. When will we realize that we are not SHEEP and that we should NOT follow a so-called leader just because he is in a position of power. Talk, talk, talk! When will be the time to DO! Our generation of men and women are standing in lines at the doors of foreign embassies looking to LEAVE by droves! Who will rebuild this land? The land of our ancestors, the land that Jesus Christ himself walked and where he performed his first miracle in Cana when he turned water into wine (refer to my previous past dated 21 Sept. 2006 titled: Lebanon quoted in the Holy Bible). This 'Brain Drain' is wildly acknowledged by all and yet no one does anything to CLOG it!

It is a sad day for Lebanon when people insult each other on the streets and get into fist fights in their friends living rooms just because of the color of the clothes they are wearing. Are we color coded now? Have we sunk so low as to refer to ourselves by the color of the shirts we wear? Orange for Aoun, Green for Geagea, Blue for Hariri, Yellow for Nasrallah? Do we even notice that these colors refer to PEOPLE and NOT to a CAUSE?

It is a sad day indeed when the Lebanese are unable to see further than their own individual nose.


God forgive us all and God rest young Pierre's soul. He is in my prayers and I hope that his blood will not go to waste.

As the new Ghassan Rahbani song says: "wahdo el ghofran biyihmeh Libnan" (only forgiveness will save and protect Lebanon).

No comments!

MP. Pierre Gemayel Funeral today 221106

Riots on 211106 as a result of MP Gemayel's murder

Thousands of Lebanese gather for Gemayel's funeral

Thousands of Lebanese gather for Gemayel's funeral
By Tom Perry

Mourners carried the coffin of Christian leader Pierre Gemayel to a cortege heading on Thursday for his funeral which tens of thousands of Lebanese will turn into a show of strength against Syria and its Hezbollah allies. Sunni Muslim, Druze and Christian leaders have accused Syria of killing Gemayel, scion of one of Lebanon's most prominent Maronite families. Damascus has condemned the assassination. Crowds waving the flags of Lebanon and of Gemayel's Phalange Party packed Martyrs' Square in Beirut before the funeral at 1 p.m. (1100 GMT) in the St George Maronite Cathedral. Thousands of soldiers and police were deployed in the capital which came to a standstill. Shops, schools, banks and government offices were closed to let people join the mourning.

Gemayel, 34, was shot dead on Tuesday, the sixth killing of an anti-Syrian figure in less than two years in Lebanon, a cockpit for regional conflicts and rivalries for decades. The country was already in the midst of a political crisis over efforts by Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah to clip the wings of the ruling anti-Syrian majority coalition, which the Shi'ite Muslim group regards as Washington's puppet. Anti-Syrian leaders say Damascus had Gemayel killed to try to derail plans for an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

Early reports of a U.N. inquiry into the Hariri killing implicated Syrian security officials and their Lebanese counterparts. Syria denies involvement. The U.N. Security Council approved on Wednesday a Lebanese government request to add the Gemayel killing to the string of previous attacks the U.N. inquiry is investigating. "Only the international tribunal protects us" and "Lebanon means life" read banners held by mourners in Beirut. Hariri's son Saad, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and Christian Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea urged people to attend ceremonies for the son of former President Amin Gemayel and the nephew of Bashir Gemayel, killed in 1982 after he was elected president.


Gemayel's cortege was driving from his mountain home town of Bekfaya to downtown Beirut, where mass protests after Hariri's assassination helped end Syria's 29-year military presence in Lebanon. Jumblatt said on Wednesday Gemayel's killing marked the resumption of political killings. "It seems the Syrian regime will continue with the assassinations," he said. Anti-Syrian leaders say the assassination was aimed at weakening a government opposed to Damascus's influence in Lebanon and which took power after Syrian troops withdrew. The government, keen to ensure the international tribunal is established, would fall if it lost two more ministers. The cabinet has been weakened by the resignation of six ministers from the Syrian-backed opposition led by Hezbollah. They quit after the collapse of all-party talks on forming a government. Hezbollah had pledged street protests aimed at toppling the government but Gemayel's killing has disrupted those plans. "It can't stage a demonstration now. It would be widely read as a pro-Syrian demonstration as opposed to an anti-government demonstration," Hezbollah expert Amal Saad Ghorayeb said. U.S. President George W. Bush called Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Wednesday and pledged to support "Lebanese independence from the encroachments of Iran and Syria," a White House spokesman said.

Scene of the crime...

U.N. to help Lebanon investigate Gemayel murder

U.N. to help Lebanon investigate Gemayel murder
By Irwin Arieff, REUTERS

The Security Council on Wednesday quickly approved a request from Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora for U.N. help in investigating the assassination of Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel. The 15-nation council unanimously approved a letter inviting the U.N. commission investigating the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri to also help the Lebanese authorities bring Gemayel's killers to justice. The U.N. inquiry led by Belgian Serge Brammertz is already looking into 14 other apparently politically motivated attacks in Lebanon since Hariri's killing, and Brammertz has reported evidence that all 15 cases were linked in some ways. Gemayel's slaying would bring the total number of cases under U.N. investigation in Lebanon to 16. John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Washington hoped the Brammertz investigators could begin helping out on the Gemayel murder "as rapidly as possible, while the crime scene evidence is still fresh and before obstruction of justice can take place."

Gemayel, an anti-Syrian cabinet minister, was gunned down in his car at point-blank range on Tuesday near Beirut. He was killed after a cabinet vote to tentatively approve U.N. plans for a new international court to try suspects in the Hariri murder and the 14 related cases. The cabinet of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, in which anti-Syrian ministers hold most seats, voted after the resignation of six opposition ministers in a maneuver seen by many in Lebanon as an attempt to block creation of the special court.

Lebanon's pro-Syrian president, Emile Lahoud, protested that the cabinet vote was illegitimate. But following Gemayel's slaying, the Security Council pushed ahead on Tuesday with U.N. approval of the plan, which now requires formal approval from the Lebanese government. The latest assassination nonetheless pushed the Siniora government deeper into crisis. The death or resignation of two more ministers would bring it down. "The situation is delicate, it is very fragile, and we should all do whatever we can to support the Lebanese people and the government and encourage them to stand united," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters. Several prominent anti-Syrian leaders have blamed Syria for Gemayel's death and warned that more killings could be in the works. Damascus has denied any role in the Gemayel and Hariri assassinations. "This was an attack on the Lebanese government, the planned international tribunal and the United Nations," former Hariri chief investigator Detlev Mehlis said in an interview published in Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Wednesday. "The indications after this attack point to elements that want to topple the Lebanese government. These are the so-called pro-Syrian elements in Lebanon. They have an obvious motive," said Mehlis, who led the U.N. probe until Brammertz took over.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Lebanon mourns slain minister as new crisis brews

Lebanon mourns slain minister as new crisis brews
By Nadim Ladki

Lebanon began three days of mourning on Wednesday for an anti-Syrian cabinet minister whose assassination, blamed by his allies on Damascus, has reignited his country's deep factional rivalries. Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, a Christian, was gunned down as he drove through a Christian suburb of Beirut on Tuesday. He was the sixth anti-Syrian politician to be killed in nearly two years. The assassination turned Lebanon's Independence Day on Wednesday into a somber occasion. All festivities, including a military parade, were cancelled. The killing will heighten tensions between the anti-Syrian government and the pro-Damascus opposition led by Hezbollah, the powerful Shi'ite Muslim guerrilla group determined to topple what it sees as a pro-U.S. cabinet. The murder drew widespread international condemnation and many Lebanese politicians accused Syria of killing Gemayel and being responsible for the 2005 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. Syria condemned Gemayel's killing. "It is the destabilization of Lebanon that is underway today. We must respond to this destabilization with the greatest firmness, with courage," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told France Info radio. "Those who perpetrated and ordered these assassinations be held responsible for their crimes."

The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday approved plans for a special international court to try suspects in Hariri's murder, but the tribunal has been a divisive issue between the rival Lebanese parties. The action by the 15-nation Security Council, in the form of a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, will enable the plans to be submitted to the Lebanese government for its formal approval. Gemayel was among cabinet members who voted last week to tentatively approve the U.N. plans submitted to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government. His body was driven from hospital near Beirut to his hometown of Bekfaya, northeast of Beirut, where hundreds of sympathizers walked behind the coffin, raising pictures of him and waving white flags of his Phalange Party.


As the procession made its way slowly to Gemayel's family home, women on balconies threw rice at the coffin draped in his party's flag. Gemayel's funeral will take place on Thursday and the anti-Syrian coalition has urged a large turnout. "It's an indescribable feeling," mourner Fadi Jalakh, 27, told Reuters. "Those who killed him don't want the Lebanese to unite. Anything after this is going to make things worse." Police investigating the murder said they had little to report. Six mostly Hezbollah opposition ministers resigned before the vote on the U.N. tribunal, throwing the government into crisis and prompting a protest from Lebanon's pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, who called the cabinet action illegitimate. "Pierre Amin Gemayel martyr of the international tribunal," Beirut's Al-Liwaa newspaper said in a front-page headline. Following Gemayel's murder, the death or resignation of two more ministers would bring down Siniora's government.

Hariri's son Saad and his allies quickly accused Damascus of killing Gemayel in an attempt to derail the U.N. tribunal. A U.N. investigation has implicated Lebanese and Syrian security officials in Hariri's murder. Syria denies any links. Commentator Rafik Khouri wrote in the Christian Al-Anwar daily: "The blood of the martyred young minister... covered the street and revealed that the danger facing Lebanon is even graver than the fears many expressed." Large demonstrations after Hariri's killing forced Syria to end 29 years of military presence in Lebanon in April 2005. The assassination occurred after a devastating July-August conflict in south Lebanon between Israeli forces and Hezbollah, which accused the pro-U.S. government of backing its opponents in order to weaken the group as a political and military force. Hezbollah and its allies have threatened to take to the streets to topple Siniora's government, saying it has lost its legitimacy since Shi'ite Muslims were no longer represented. A political source close to Hezbollah said Tuesday's murder would force it to revise its plans and delay the protests.

(Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Lebanon minister shot dead, Hariri son blames Syria

Lebanon minister shot dead, Hariri son blames Syria
By Nadim Ladki

Gunmen on Tuesday assassinated Lebanese Christian cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel, an outspoken critic of Syria, plunging Lebanon deeper into a crisis over ties with its dominant neighbor. At least three gunmen rammed their car into Gemayel's vehicle near Beirut, then leapt out and riddled it with bullets, firing at Gemayel with silencer-equipped automatic weapons at point-blank range in a Christian neighborhood, witnesses said. Ten bullet holes were seen around the window of the driver's seat of his grey car. The two front seats were soaked in blood. The son of assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri blamed Syria for the killing in the Sin el-Fil area, but Damascus condemned the murder. The assassination is certain to heighten tensions in Lebanon amid a deep political crisis pitting the anti-Syrian majority against the pro-Damascus opposition led by Hezbollah, which is determined to topple what it sees as a pro-U.S. government. Gemayel, 34, was rushed to hospital where he later died of his wounds. Hundreds of angry and weeping family members and supporters gathered at the hospital. "We believe the hand of Syria is all over the place," Saad al-Hariri, whose father Rafik was killed in a suicide bombing last year, said shortly after Gemayel was shot dead. "Syria strongly condemns the killing," the official Syrian news agency SANA said. The Shi'ite group Hezbollah also condemned the "low criminal act" and urged an investigation. Many ordinary Lebanese were shocked by the murder and feared the worst. "I'm just waiting for the next minister to be assassinated. This is definitely not the end," said Johnny Ghoossain, 25. The assassination came after a devastating July-August conflict in south Lebanon between Israeli forces and Hezbollah, which accused the pro-U.S. government of backing its opponents in order to weaken it as a political and military force. It also coincided with U.N. Security Council moves to create a tribunal to try those suspected of Hariri's assassination.

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said Gemayel's killing would make Lebanon more determined to set up the international court. Many Lebanese blame Syria for the killing of Hariri in a suicide truck bombing in February 2005. Damascus denies involvement, though a U.N. commission investigating the assassination has implicated senior Lebanese and Syrian security officials. U.S. President George W. Bush condemned Gemayel's shooting and urged an investigation to "identify those people and those forces behind the killing." French, British, Italian and other Western leaders all condemned the murder. Six pro-Syrian ministers resigned from Siniora's cabinet this month and with Gemayel's death, the deaths or resignations of two more ministers would bring down the government. Pro-Syrian Hezbollah and its allies are preparing to take to the streets to topple Siniora's government, arguing it has lost its legitimacy since Shi'ite Muslims are no longer represented. After Gemayel's slaying, angry anti-Syrian protesters in the Christian town of Zahle in east Lebanon blocked streets and shouted slogans against Hezbollah and Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun, but Gemayel's father urged against revenge. The anti-Syrian coalition later told supporters to prepare to take to the streets peacefully. Any protests and counter-protests would raise the specter of confrontations. "I have one wish, that tonight be a night of prayer to contemplate the meaning of this martyrdom and how to protect this country," former President Amin Gemayel told reporters outside the hospital where his son's body was taken. "We don't want reactions and revenge," he said. Gemayel, elected to parliament in 2000 and again in 2005, is the fourth Lebanese anti-Syrian figure to be assassinated since former prime minister Hariri's killing. Gemayel, industry minister, was a member of the Christian Phalange Party founded by his grandfather. His uncle Bashir Gemayel was killed in September 1982 after he was elected president during Israel's invasion of Lebanon. The Christian Phalange party controlled one of the largest militias fighting in the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war. Lebanese President Emile Lahoud pledged to find those responsible for Gemayel's murder, calling it a "terrorist act." Lebanon declared three days of mourning and Gemayel's funeral will take place at 1100 GMT on Thursday.

One of two bodyguards hurt in the attack died of his wounds.

(Additional reporting by Tom Perry and Yara Bayoumy)

Political crisis accelerates brain drain as MBAs seek careers in calmer lands

Political crisis accelerates brain drain as MBAs seek careers in calmer lands
Business world's up-and-comers flee instability in droves

By Michael Bluhm
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Lebanese MBA graduates are fleeing the country because of the grim political situation, even though they would rather use their know-how at home, students and academics told The Daily Star on Monday. Most emigrants wind up in the Gulf, others in Western Europe or in North America, and they prefer jobs in banking and finance, with a solid majority in service industries. "The bulk of students right now are leaving," said Michel Chalhoub, chair of five MBA programs at the Lebanese American University (LAU). "Sad, isn't it? If things were fabulous, they would certainly stay." Four MBA students at LAU estimated about 70 percent of their classmates were going abroad for work, and they drew a direct connection between the flight and Lebanon's deteriorating political scene. Still, they emphasized that their first choice would be to stay in Lebanon. "We'd love to stay here," said Maggie Tchekijian of Anjar. "It depends on the political situation in the country. Plan A, I want to stay here." "I would like to live here, [but] I think that [students] would love to leave," said Suzanne Khalifeh of Jbeil, an MBA student at the Ecole Superieure des Affaires (ESA). The exodus contributes to a brain drain in Lebanon's economy, Chalhoub said. "It's more than a drain, it's a flight," he told The Daily Star. "[Graduates] tend to favor the Gulf because they feel it's more stable politically." Some 90 percent of MBA grads specializing in the tourism industry are now leaving Lebanon, he estimated. The female students' answers also reflect the key role gender often plays in deciding whether to move away, said Antoine Sabbagh, placement officer at the American University of Beirut. Female MBA graduates far more frequently remain here than their male counterparts, he said. "There is a gender difference," Sabbagh said. "The males in general are being recruited overseas. Because of social, cultural and many other personal reasons, [females'] preference is being employed here in Beirut. Those [females] who have gone abroad return for jobs in Lebanon." One of the reasons some female graduates stay here is that "it's not very easy on a single female" in the Gulf, Sabbagh said. The Gulf also attracts Lebanese MBA grads with higher salaries and greater possibilities for advancement. "Outside we can find better jobs," said LAU undergrad Zeinab Nasser, who plans to get an MBA. In Lebanon, salaries are "limited. It's not like outside. They appreciate you more. If I had the chance, I'd like to work outside Lebanon."
Nasser said finding a job in Lebanon is harder because it sometimes depends primarily on connections - wasta.

Lebanese also have a tradition of working in the Gulf - they built the advertising and marketing sectors there, Chalhoub said. Qatar and Bahrain are frequent destinations, but the cosmopolitan freedom of Dubai - and the abundance of other Lebanese emigres -make it the job-seekers' first choice. "The only place [in the Gulf] where it is very comforting for Lebanese is Dubai," said Sabbagh. Fewer students wind up in Western Europe and North America, although a number of students from ESA find work in France, said Georges Najm, communications manager at ESA. At ESA - the only of Lebanon's three MBA programs taught in French - students "get used to the French mentality" and make connections with the French lecturers and recruiters. "We are encouraging students to stay in Lebanon, [but] now the market has changed," Najm said, citing the connection between politics and the brain drain. "It's definitely linked. This is not a secret." Insiders estimate that less less than 10 percent of MBA grads continue their studies abroad for a doctorate. Three LAU students told The Daily Star they had agreed that their ultimate goal would be to find scholarships to pay for doctoral studies in the United States.

The most popular choice among MBA graduates is a job in the banking and finance sector, said Sabbagh, who described the financial industry as "the employer of choice." Other popular sectors include tourism, travel, marketing, advertising, information technology and auditing. The Gulf also offers more opportunities in construction and development, while consulting firms typically recruit MBA graduates after they have a year or two of work experience. The programs also offer executive MBA programs for people already working in business - these graduates usually stay in their previous jobs, and acquire the executive MBA to better their chances for promotion. Among the traditional MBA programs, LAU has the most students, about 520, while AUB has about 140 and ESA about 35. An MBA costs about $20,000 at LAU, $33,000 at AUB and $9,500 at ESA.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Libre Liban: Paroles et Musique Guy Béart 1989

Liban libre
Libre Liban
Enfants libres
Libres enfants
E tous les martyrs
Chrétiens Musulmans
Avant de partir
Ont crié ce chant

Liban libre
Libre Liban
Enfants libres
Libres enfants

Toi qui nous montras
Tant d'humanité
Qui ouvris les bras
Aux déshérités
Liban libre
Libre Liban

Si ton rivage fraternel
A Dieu ne plaise allait mourir
Je ne crois pas que l'arc-en-ciel
Sur Terre pourra revenir

Pour qu'un beau jour le monde entier
Ne vive pas dans la terreur
Je ne dois jamais oublier
Le petit Liban au grand cœur

Qui offrit l'hospitalité
A tous les peuples poursuivis
De l'eau vive aux persécutés
De la vie

Liban libre
Libre Liban
Enfants libres
Libres enfants
Libre sur la mer
Libre sur les routes
Dans les cœurs ouverts
Et libre à Beyrouth
Liban libre
Libre Liban

Ah ya Loubnane
Ya salame ya zamane

Liban libre
Libre Liban
Enfants libres
Libres enfants

Tes montagnes pures
On les a salies
Avec les blessures
De l'argent folie
Liban libre
Libre Liban

Avec la drogue avec les armes
Au lieu des fruits de tes vallées
On fait de l'or on fait des larmes
On fait du sang avec du lait

On s'est même payé la corde
La corde pour être pendu
Payé pour la miséricorde
Et payé pour être vendu

Payé pour devenir esclave
Payé pour être massacré
Payé pour vivre dans les caves

Liban libre
Libre Liban
Ton chant vivre
Vibre ton chant

Vibre dans nos cœurs
Vibre dans nos corps
Pour que le bonheur
Nous survive encore
Liban libre
Libre Liban

Ah ya Loubnane
Ya salame ya zamane
Ah ya Loubnane
Ya salame ya zamane

Que tous tes enfants
Avec l'harmonie
Du ciel et du temps
Retrouvent leur nid
Liban libre
Libre Liban

Levons le vert de l'espérance
Ensemble partout mieux qu'avant
Réunis pour la renaissance
Du monde en paix pour les enfants
Liban libre
Libre Liban

Ah ya Loubnane
Ya salame ya zamane
Ah ya Loubnane
Ya salame ya zamane

Lovely Lebanon...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Israel developing anti-militant "bionic hornet"

Israel developing anti-militant "bionic hornet"

Israel is using nanotechnology to try to create a robot no bigger than a hornet that would be able to chase, photograph and kill its targets, an Israeli newspaper reported on Friday.

The flying robot, nicknamed the "bionic hornet," would be able to navigate its way down narrow alleyways to target otherwise unreachable enemies such as rocket launchers, the daily Yedioth Ahronoth said.

It is one of several weapons being developed by scientists to combat militants, it said. Others include super gloves that would give the user the strength of a "bionic man" and miniature sensors to detect suicide bombers.

The research integrates nanotechnology into Israel's security department and will find creative solutions to problems the army has been unable to address, Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres told Yedioth Ahronoth.

"The war in Lebanon proved that we need smaller weaponry. It's illogical to send a plane worth $100 million against a suicidal terrorist. So we are building futuristic weapons," Peres said.

The 34-day war in Lebanon ended with a U.N.-brokered ceasefire in mid-August. The war killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 157 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Prototypes for the new weapons are expected within three years, he said.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Beautiful Lebanon...

Siniora vows to keep Cabinet afloat despite Hizbullah pressure

Siniora vows to keep Cabinet afloat despite Hizbullah pressure
Premier says he will resist 'tyranny of the minority'

Compiled by Daily Star staff

Lebanon's rival political camps dug in their heels Tuesday, with Hizbullah's leader insisting the government will fall and the premier vowing to keep his Cabinet afloat. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said Tuesday he would resist demands by Hizbullah and its allies that would amount to "tyranny of the minority." Siniora was responding to Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's statements on Monday when he said that "this [Siniora's] government will go, and we have nothing to do with it after the resignations. A new government will come." Nasrallah was quoted as saying in As-Safir newspaper that the "credibility of the current government is zero." Nasrallah's remarks came a day after the government, defying the objections of the president and the resignations of six of its ministers, approved a UN plan for an international tribunal to try the suspected killers of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The vote dealt a blow to Hizbullah and its Shiite ally, the Amal Movement. The two parties withdrew their five representatives from the government Saturday after the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority refused to meet their demand for a "national unity" Cabinet that would effectively give Hizbullah and its allies veto power over key decisions. The sixth minister, Yaacoub Sarraf, a Christian allied with the president, resigned Monday, citing similar objections. Siniora told Reuters the majority was ready to expand the Cabinet, but not yield a third of Cabinet seats to the opposition. "They will become able to paralyze the meetings of the Cabinet of ministers ... and have the ability to topple the government," he said. "In a democracy, this is not possible." Siniora, a Sunni who became premier 15 months ago after elections swept an anti-Syrian coalition to power, said he would pursue dialogue to resolve the political crisis. But he said Hizbullah's threats to take to the streets in peaceful protest could spark counterdemonstrations and jeopardize Lebanon's chances of tapping foreign aid for reconstruction after the July-August war with Israel.

Nasrallah, who has threatened to stage street protests if Hizbullah's demand for a national unity government was ignored, assured the Lebanese that there would be no new civil war as a result of mounting political tensions among the country's rival factions. The Hizbullah leader was addressing about 6,000 people whose homes were destroyed in Beirut's southern suburbs by Israeli air strikes during the Jewish state's 34-day war on Lebanon. Nasrallah has lashed out at Siniora's government, which is dominated by anti-Syrians, saying it was unable to rebuild the country after the massive devastation caused by the Israeli attacks in Beirut's southern suburbs and in eastern and Southern Lebanon. "A clean-handed government will come and rebuild. We will not leave the people. As we have said on the first day of victory, we are committed to rebuild your houses and institutions with clean money. "Hopefully, the reconstruction of the Dahiyeh will begin in three months," pro-Hizbullah As-Safir quoted Nasrallah as saying. He said Hizbullah, which began paying compensation to the victims of the war a day after a UN-brokered cease-fire ended the fighting on August 14, has so far paid $300 million to help people whose homes were destroyed or damaged by the Israeli bombing find new places to live. Hizbullah's parliamentary bloc leader, Mohammad Raad, said Tuesday that the group and its allies would surprise the majority with their actions. "Just like the minority surprised everyone with the resignation, they will surprise everyone with their coming actions," he said in a statement.

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt lashed out at Hizbullah Tuesday, ruling out giving Hizbullah and the pro-Syrian camp a decisive say in government. "They have the president, who is totally favoring them, they have their alliance with the Iranians and Syrians, at the expense of Lebanese independence," he told Reuters. "They have weaponry; nobody is speaking about their weaponry," he added. Jumblatt and other anti-Syrian leaders say the Cabinet resignations were an attempt to block the creation of a special tribunal to try Hariri's suspected killers. UN investigators have implicated Syrian and Lebanese security officials. Siniora said he would hold talks with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a Hizbullah ally who also leads the Shiite Amal movement. Berri was due to return from Iran later in the day. In Tehran Berri met with Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei and discussed the Israeli attack on Lebanon. If those consultations fail to calm the atmosphere, Hizbullah may stage the street demonstrations it has promised. Hariri's son, who heads the parliamentary majority, said there are certain parties threatening to destabilize the country if their demands are not met. "We are not the ones making problems, other parties are threatening to create a crisis if they don't get what they want. We don't want to escalate, or take to the streets and we are not challenging anyone," MP Saad Hariri said during an interview with Al-Arabiyya on Tuesday. He dismissed rumors that the anti-Syrian coalition was planning to deploy UNIFIL to protect themselves from Hizbullah. "The UNIFIL are here to stop Israeli violations on Lebanon," Hariri said. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said the Shiite ministers resigned in attempt to halt the approval of the UN draft law that outlines the framework of the international court to try Hariri's killers. "Certain people tried to portray the situation a dispute over Cabinet seats, this is not true ... the problem is specifically the international court," Geagea said. - Agencies, with additional reporting by Maher Zeineddine

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Cabinet shrugs off crisis, approves draft on Hariri tribunal
Siniora hails 'historic meeting' as key stop on 'the road to revealing the truth'

By Nafez Qawas
Daily Star correspondent

BEIRUT: Lebanon's political crisis deepened Monday as the Cabinet approved a UN draft to form an international tribunal to try former Premier Rafik Hariri's assassins, despite the resignation of six ministers. Official sources quoted by Reuters Monday said the Western-backed government of Premier Fouad Siniora would send the draft to UN headquarters in New York and wait for the final text on the court. Speaking to reporters after the Cabinet session, Siniora called for unity to overcome the political crisis. "Here we are today on the road to revealing the truth and achieving justice through the court ... that will be formed to stop this series of terrorist and criminal acts," Siniora said. "In a historic meeting, the Cabinet approved unanimously by those present the draft of the special tribunal," he added. The approval came despite a government crisis sparked by the resignation of six ministers, including those from Hizbullah and Amal, which accuse the ruling majority of monopolizing power. The premier said the government's decision was meant "to reject and confront attempts to assassinate Lebanon ... and to tell the criminals that we will not give up our right to achieve justice despite the difficulties." "Our brothers who could not join us in taking this decision were actually with us - in our hearts, our positions and our decision," Siniora said in an appeal for unity.

Following the session, Siniora telephoned Lebanese and Arab leaders to discuss the latest developments concerning the international tribunal. Among the Arab leaders called were Saudi King Abdullah, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordanian King Abdullah II, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Arab League chief Amr Moussa, Bahraini King Hamad Issa Bin Khalifah and Emirati Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed. The premier also called the various heads of Lebanon's religious sects. Siniora officially received the resignation of the six resigned ministers on Monday. However, the prime minister replied by letter to the resignations immediately, refusing the resignations and calling for the ministers to return to their posts. Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said the convening of the Cabinet Monday was "100 percent constitutional." Parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri, said the government's approval of the UN draft "is a blessed step toward revealing the truth and realizing justice" in the February 14, 2005 assassination of his father and 22 others, in addition to a string of attacks targeting politicians and journalists dating back to October 2004.

But President Emile Lahoud said any decisions reached during Monday's session have no constitutional or legal value as they were passed by an authority that had lost its legitimacy. Hizbullah MP Hussein Hajj Hassan accused the ruling majority of exercising a "hegemony and monopoly on decision-making." Hassan told AFP that Hizbullah objected to the manner by which the ruling majority approved the UN document. "The majority is trying to tell people that the Lebanese are in conflict over the tribunal, and this is totally untrue. We are not against the tribunal - all Lebanese agree on this issue," he said. Hassan added that Hizbullah would only agree to return to the government if its request for a "blocking minority" in the Cabinet was met - a demand seen as an attempt to stymie all future government decisions. esigned Labor Minister Trad Hamadeh said Siniora's Cabinet had three choices: "Either resign or replace the Shiite ministers or eliminate the reasons behind our resignation." "Anything else means the parliamentary majority is violating the national covenant," Hamadeh said in a statement. The Free Patriotic Movement, Hizbullah's main political ally, said the government had lost its legitimacy because it no longer represented all religious sects. "Because the Shiites are no longer present in Cabinet, the Cabinet becomes automatically incapable of governing. It has lost its legitimacy," FPM leader MP Michel Aoun said Monday. At the UN in New York, US Ambassador John Bolton said his country was prepared to move quickly in the Security Council to approve the tribunal "once we receive formal word form the government of Lebanon." - With agencies, additional reporting by Leila Hatoum.

Non-profit group offers free de-mining machine

Non-profit group offers free de-mining machine
Device can virtually end human losses in clearing of unexploded ordnance

By Leila Hatoum
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: A group of engineers and activists are devising a machine that would help in defusing land mines and possibly small bombs, with the invention to be provided for free to the countries that need it. Nida Wakim, an activist, actor and the spokesperson for ARTID (Association de Recherche de Techniques Innovantes en Deminage Humanitaire), said the group was working on devising a new technique in demining that would lead to minimal human losses. Wakim said ARTID "is a completely non-beneficiary foundation that will present its innovation, called Demichain, for free to the Lebanese government and any country that needs it." He added that the machine "has only been tested in laboratories in France and ARTID is trying to get the approval of the Lebanese authorities to test it on live ammo." "If we test and complete it in France, the French Army will confiscate it and later use it in return for money, which is something against our foundation's intent. We want to provide this machine for free," he said.

The machine used shockwaves and a cleverly designed iron net. The net is thrown on the ground and sends shockwaves to uncover any potential mines and causes them to detonate.

Israel laid hundreds of thousands of land mines throughout Southern Lebanon in past wars, and continues to withhold maps of where the deadly crop was sowed from Lebanese authorities. A partial map was given to the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon last month. Israel also littered the South and parts of the Bekaa Valley with an estimated 1 million cluster bombs and thousands of unexploded ordnance during 34 days of fighting with Hizbullah this summer. Over 170 Lebanese, including 30 children, have been killed or wounded since the UN imposed cessation of hostilities came into effect on August 14.

Wakim said ARTID is presently searching for funding for their invention, and has approached Lebanese Army officials with the National Demining Office and representatives from the United Nations Mine Action Coor-dination Center in this regard. ARTID's efforts come amid growing international condemnation of the use of cluster bombs and land mines. A global treaty to prevent future deaths and maiming by clearing up unexploded bombs in war-stricken countries came into force on Sunday. The initial 25 signatory states must start removing unexploded shells, grenades, rockets and cluster bombs left over from conflicts or pay for their removal, under the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War, signed in 2003. "This is the first international agreement to require the parties to an armed conflict to clear all unexploded munitions that threaten civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers once the fighting is over," the International Committee of the Red Cross said in Sunday. The world's main military powers participated in the formulating of the document, the ICRC said. However, world leaders such as China, Russia and the US have yet to sign it. Also absent from the signatories is Israel. The start date for the new protocol coincides with a UN conference to review another proposed treaty that would go one step further than a clean-up by banning some types of munitions. The conference runs in Geneva until November 17. Eighteen countries have voiced support for a new convention to ban cluster bombs, but Britain and the US remain opposed to the idea. A US official told the conference Washington held the view the alternative to cluster bombs was to use an increased number of high explosive rounds, which have a more devastating effect. The protocol enforced Sunday is an addition to an existing document, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which bans or restricts the use of some weapons that cause "unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering to combatants" or that indiscriminately affect civilians. Currently it covers some types of fragmentation shells, some land mines or booby traps, and the use of incendiary devices in civilian areas. - With AFP

For more information on ARTID please visit, or call:, e-mail:

Monday, November 13, 2006

Lebanon's crisis deepens as another minister quits

Lebanon's crisis deepens as another minister quits
By Nadim Ladki, REUTERS

Lebanon's political crisis deepened on Monday as the last pro-Syrian minister quit the cabinet shortly before it was to meet to discuss the framework of a special court to try killers of a former prime minister. Environment Minister Yacoub Sarraf, a loyal supporter of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, resigned after five Shi'ite Muslim ministers from Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal movement, quit over the failure of talks on their demands for effective veto power in the government. The anti-Syrian majority coalition has accused Hezbollah of implementing a Syrian-Iranian plan to overthrow the Western-backed government and foil efforts to set up the court to try the killers of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. "As I can't find myself part of any constitutional authority that lacks representation from a whole religious sect... I herewith tender my resignation from the government," Sarraf, a Christian, said in his letter to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

Siniora rejected the resignations but a senior source close to the ministers said they would stand by their decision. Lahoud opposed holding a cabinet session on Monday, saying any government meeting after the resignations would be unconstitutional. Siniora dismissed Lahoud's objections and said the meeting would go ahead as planned. "The hidden plot has been revealed. It's a Syrian-Iranian plot to launch a coup against the legitimacy, stop the establishment of an international tribunal and foil (U.N.) resolution 1701," the anti-Syrian majority said in a statement. Resolution 1701 ended a 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah in mid-August.

The United States has already accused Iran, Syria and Hezbollah of plotting to topple the Lebanese government, which Washington has held up as an example of emerging democracy in the Middle East. Hezbollah has denied that it was trying to put hurdles in the way of establishing the Hariri tribunal, saying it had already agreed to it but wanted to discuss the details. Hezbollah said on Sunday it would stage peaceful street protests as part of a campaign to press its demands for better representation in government. Anti-Syrian leaders have pledged counter-demonstrations should Hezbollah take the political crisis to the streets, raising fears of confrontations and violence at a time of rising tension between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims. Many Lebanese blame Syria for Hariri's killing. Damascus denies involvement. The 2005 killing of Hariri led to mass protests against Syria. Under international pressure, Syria ended its 29-year military presence in Lebanon in April last year and anti-Syrian politicians swept to victory in ensuing elections. A U.N. commission investigating the murder has implicated senior Lebanese and Syrian security officials.

Picture of the year... :P

This is an Arab tourist family taking a picture in Beirut city center...
No comments.

"The Best War Ever"

The Best War Ever:

A four minutes video - click on the link to download

Sunday, November 12, 2006

U.S. vetoes U.N. resolution condemning Israel

U.S. vetoes U.N. resolution condemning Israel
By Irwin Arieff

The United States vetoed on Saturday a U.N. Security Council resolution urging an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and condemning an Israeli attack there that killed 19 Palestinian civilians. Nine of the council's 15 members voted for the measure, while four abstained: Britain, Denmark, Japan and Slovakia. But the "no" vote cast by U.S. Ambassador John Bolton -- his second since he arrived at U.N. headquarters in August 2005 -- was enough to kill the resolution. The Hamas-led Palestinian government said the veto showed the United States backed Israel's action. But U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the resolution -- backed by Arab, Islamic and nonaligned nations, and formally proposed by Qatar -- served "a one-sided political agenda" and included an unsubstantiated claim Israel had violated international law. "We do not believe the resolution was designed to contribute to the cause of peace," she said in a statement. Bolton's first veto, on July 13, 2006, killed a resolution reacting to an earlier Israeli incursion in Gaza. The United States has cast 82 vetoes in the United Nations' 61 years, and nine of the last 10 council vetoes, seven of which dealt with the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The resolution defeated on Saturday would have called on the Palestinian Authority to "take immediate and sustained action to bring an end to violence, including the firing of rockets on Israeli territory." It would have urged the international community to take steps to stabilize the situation, revive the Middle East peace process and consider "the possible establishment of an international mechanism" for the protection of civilians. It also would have condemned Israeli military operations in Gaza and called on the Jewish state to withdraw all troops from Gaza and end its operations in all Palestinian lands.

Seven children and four women were among the dead in Wednesday's shelling of Beit Hanoun, for which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has apologized, calling it an accidental "technical failure" by the Israeli military. Ghazi Hamad, the Palestinian Cabinet spokesman, said the veto was "a signal that the U.S. had given legitimacy to the massacres and a green light to Israel to ... carry out more massacres." In the West Bank town of Ramallah, Nabil Abu Rdaineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement: "The U.S. veto encourages Israel to continue with its aggression against the Palestinian people." In comments later echoed by Rice, Bolton said Washington regretted the loss of life but was "disturbed at language in the resolution that is in many places biased against Israel." He said the suggestion of a mechanism to protect civilians would raise false hopes, and he was disturbed the measure made no mention of the word "terrorism" or the Palestinians' elected Hamas government, which refuses to acknowledge Israel's right to exist or renounce violence. Palestinian U.N. Observer Riyad Mansour said Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Sunday would decide on the next steps following the measure's defeat. One option was to bring the measure to a vote in the 192-nation General Assembly, where Washington does not have veto power. The U.S. veto sent the wrong message to both Israeli and Palestinian militants, Mansour told reporters. "Will that help extremist elements to take issues into their own hands on both sides? You bet!" Governments that abstained said they were unable to support the text because it was unbalanced.

Friday, November 10, 2006

12 Israeli jets violate Lebanese airspace as Paris seethes over mock attacks
Compiled by Daily Star staff

Twelve Israeli jets violated Lebanese airspace on Thursday, a few hours after Paris summoned Israel's ambassador in protest over Israeli warplanes diving on French UN peacekeepers in the South, the Lebanese Army said. The fighter-bombers entered Lebanon at 12:25 p.m. and flew high over the coastal town of Naqoura, headquarters of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) near the borders with Israel, an army statement said. They then flew over other Southern regions before flying at a lower altitude over the eastern city of Baalbek, the army added. The 12 planes left Lebanese airspace at 1 p.m. after flying over Tripoli and Akkar in the North. France on Thursday summoned Israeli ambassador Daniel Shek to complain about an incident in which Israeli warplanes dived menacingly on French UN peacekeepers, officials said. French officials said Israeli military aircraft dived toward French troops serving with UNIFIL, who came very close to opening fire. Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said Wednesday the French troops had been within "two seconds" of firing on the aircraft and a "catastrophe" was narrowly avoided. "When an Israeli aircraft recently 'dived' on French UNIFIL soldiers, it is a miracle that nothing serious happened, because there could have been a response on the part of French troops," Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said Wednesday. Defense Ministry officials would also not elaborate on why the French troops decided not to fire, nor explain why they waited eight days to announce the incident. The planes were "in attack position," a spokesman for the chief of staff, Captain Christophe Prazuck, told reporters Thursday. French troops responded by readying an anti-aircraft missile, and were seconds away from firing on the warplanes, he said. Prazuck said: "Thanks to the sang froid of French soldiers, we avoided a catastrophe." A senior French officer with UNIFIL insisted that an "Israeli Army provocation" took place. "The Israeli aircraft carried out a simulated attack," the official told AFP. "It appears that these flights were deliberate. UNIFIL strongly protested to the Israeli authorities and asked them to cease these actions which are unacceptable and in violation of Resolution 1701," said Milos Strugar, senior adviser to the UNIFIL commander.

However, according to Israel's ambassador to France, the Israeli overflight was "not aggressive" and had been "wrongly interpreted." "All Israeli flights over Lebanon have one sole purpose, they are reconnaissance flights. There is no exception to the rule," Daniel Shek told AFP Thursday. "It seems one of these flights was wrongly interpreted by the French force," he said. France, which currently leads UNIFIL, has accused Israel of violating the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which brought about an end to hostilities, by sending its warplanes over Lebanon. It has also noted that UNIFIL has a robust mandate allowing it to respond to aggressive moves by either Hizbullah or Israel. The Israeli military on Thursday said it had no knowledge of any such incident. Defense Minister Amir Peretz has said the overflights were necessary to monitor what he charged was continuing arms smuggling by Hizbullah. Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said on Thursday that Israel wanted to "take revenge on Lebanon after its humiliating withdrawal from South Lebanon in 2000." During an interview with an Algerian radio station, Lahoud said: "Israel is defying all UN resolutions by its continuous sea, air and land violation of Lebanon's sovereignty." - Additional reporting by Nafez Qawas, agencies

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lebanese leaders resume crisis talks on government

Lebanese leaders resume crisis talks on government

Anti-Syrian leaders in Lebanon were set on Thursday to reject a Hezbollah demand for more cabinet seats for its allies that would give the opposition effective veto power over the Western-backed government. Rival Lebanese factions, resuming crisis talks that began on Monday, were expected to debate a proposal to reshuffle the government to give Hezbollah and its allies nine ministers in a 26-seat cabinet, political sources said. The sources said majority coalition leaders would reject the proposal, put forward by former deputy prime minister Michel al-Murr. The coalition is willing to bring in representatives of Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, but not to surrender a third of seats to the opposition, they said. A third of ministers plus one can block motions in cabinet and automatically bring down the government by resigning. Syrian-backed Hezbollah, which claimed victory in its war with Israel in July and August, has led calls for a change in the government now dominated by anti-Syrian politicians from the majority bloc in parliament.

Hezbollah accuses Prime Minister Fouad Siniora of failing to back it during the war and of supporting U.S. and Israeli demands for the disarmament of its guerrillas. The guerrilla group, popular with Lebanon's large Shi'ite Muslim community, has threatened to stage mass demonstrations demanding new parliamentary elections unless more of its allies are admitted to the cabinet by mid-November. Hezbollah and its main ally Amal have five ministers in a government of 24. Pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud has one ally in the cabinet. Opponents of Syria control the other ministries. Rival demonstrations by the pro- and anti-Syrian camps would further destabilize Lebanon and could degenerate into violence. The killing of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005 led to mass protests against Syria, which many Lebanese blamed for the assassination. Damascus denies any involvement. Under international pressure, Syria ended a 29-year military presence in its smaller neighbor in April last year and anti-Syrian politicians swept to victory in ensuing elections.

French troops almost fired at Israel jets: minister

French troops almost fired at Israel jets: minister

French peacekeeping troops in Lebanon recently came within two seconds of firing missiles at Israeli fighter jets that approached as if to attack them, French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said. Speaking to the lower house of parliament on Wednesday night, she said this was the latest in a string of incidents in which Israeli warplanes had "adopted a hostile attitude" to French and German forces and said it was "not tolerable." "A catastrophe was narrowly avoided by our troops," Alliot-Marie said, according to a transcript of her comments. She did not say exactly when or where the events took place. Israeli F-15s descended rapidly and then rose quickly as if they were dropping bombs or firing at the French ground forces, which are part of U.N. peacekeeping force UNIFIL, she said. "In legitimate defense, our soldiers removed the covers from the missile battery and were two seconds away from firing at the planes that were threatening them," she said.

Israeli jets have routinely flown over Lebanon since a 34-day war between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas ended on August 14 in a U.N.-sponsored ceasefire and the expanded deployment of international peacekeepers in southern Lebanon. The Lebanese government and the U.N. force say the Israeli flights violate a U.N. ceasefire resolution. But Israel says the missions are necessary to help ensure that arms are not smuggled into southern Lebanon from Syria to resupply Hezbollah.
France has repeatedly called on Israel to stop the flights. "I therefore draw your attention, after having done so at the U.N., to the respect needed for UNIFIL forces and to the risk that irresponsible pilots take by acting this way," Alliot-Marie told lawmakers.

The Israeli air force was also involved last month in two encounters with German forces. The first concerned two planes which a German paper said had fired twice as they flew over a German navy ship. Israel denied they fired but Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed regret over what he called "misunderstandings."
A subsequent incident, described by Germany as "not menacing," involved a German navy helicopter and Israeli F-16 fighters.

Murr touts impending deal on unity Cabinet

Murr touts impending deal on unity Cabinet
By Nada Bakri
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Lebanon's leading politicians are expected to reach a deal over a national unity government, a key demand of Hizbullah and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), during Thursday's consultation meeting. According to MP Michel Murr, the official assigned to work out a "formula" Wednesday to rescue the country from political crisis, the formation of a national unity government was "70 percent" complete. "I have so far accomplished 70 percent of my mission, and now I am waiting for the last meeting, which is the most important," with Parliament majority leader MP Saad Hariri, Murr said early Wednesday afternoon. Murr added that Hariri did not oppose this formula. Hariri's office said Wednesday evening that the two officials had discussed the new formula, but declined to elaborate. Murr's spokesperson was not available for comment. Earlier meetings included talks with Speaker Nabih Berri, a close Hizbullah ally and sponsor of the national talks, and FPM leader Michel Aoun. Murr said following his meeting with Berri that all participants during the roundtable talks on Monday and Tuesday agreed to a Cabinet that includes four ministers from Aoun's bloc. He added Aoun wanted to be represented in Siniora's Cabinet - whether in its current 24-member form or in an expanded 26-member government. Either scenario would see the addition of two FPM ministers and two of the party's allies in the Armenian Tashnak Party and the Zahle bloc headed by MP Elie Skaff. The question is whether two or four current Cabinet members will be tossed.

Hizbullah and the FPM have been demanding a more inclusive government since this summer's war with Israel ended on August 14, to correct what they argue is a misrepresentation of political power. The two parties threatened to take to the streets to force a change if the anti-Syrian majority refused to meet their demands by mid-November. Sources close to Murr told the Central News Agency that the former deputy prime minister is looking to bring "a neutral blocking minority" into Siniora's reshaped Cabinet. The sources said participants must choose one of three options: Replace four ministers with FPM ministers; expand Cabinet to 26 members and introduce amendments to certain portfolios; or form a 30-member Cabinet which will guarantee a higher likelihood of pleasing all parties. Hizbullah and Amal, headed by Berri, have five ministers, pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud has three ministers, including Defense Minister Elias Murr, Justice Minister Charles Rizk and Environment Minister Yaacoub Sarraf. Attaining one-third of Cabinet would allow the opposition to block any Cabinet decision it did not support.

However, media reports said Wednesday that Lahoud will not approve any new government that includes Rizk, who has not seen eye to eye with the president on key issues as of late. Rizk told the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation on Wednesday that he has had "differences of opinion" with Lahoud since the formation of Siniora's Cabinet on two main issues: judicial appointments and an international tribunal to try those accused of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The Central News Agency quoted sources close to Berri on Wednesday as saying that a breakthrough might be pos-sible on Thursday "if the right Arab and international coverage is available." But these sources said it was unlikely that a new government would be formed - if a deal is reached Thursday - before November 13, the deadline Hizbullah set for a new Cabinet. Hizbullah MP Hussein Fadlallah said Wednesday his party insists on acquiring greater representation through a national unity government. "We hope that the governing majority realizes the importance of this opportunity to correct the misrepresentation in power after they have violated all the agreements, which were the basis for accepting to participate in the current government," Fadlallah said. "We will not give up our demand ... We are not seeking to topple the government or change it, but we want to participate in power to boost the country," he added.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sample pictures of Old Lebanon


... Discover Lebanon

From Discover Lebanon website

For the early authors of the Bible coming in from the desert, Lebanon was a paradise of forests and gardens, "of fabulous springs of water, a land flowing with milk and honey." Olive trees, plantains, orange-trees, vines, apple-trees, fig-trees, almond-trees, cherry-trees, strawberry plants, and great expanses of forests of evergreen oaks, larches, Mediterranean pines, and above all giant cedars celebrated by the poets: "To what shall I compare your greatness? Surely, to a cedar of Lebanon with noble branches, thickset needles and lofty trunk...It was the envy of every tree in Eden, in the garden of God" (Ezekiel XXXI).

"May I not go across and see this prosperous land beyond the Jordan, this prosperous country of hills, and Lebanon?" (Deuteronomy III, 25, Moses on Mount Nebo); "Come from Lebanon, my promised bride, come from Lebanon, come on your way" (Canticle of the Canticles).

Also visit their photo gallery. I especially like the pictures of Old Lebanon.

The site's main sections are:

1- A presentation of hundreds of different places in Lebanon shown in panoramic virtual views, such as Beirut down town, cities and villages of Lebanon, forests, Lebanon by night, Lebanon under the snow, historical sites, monuments, religious places, roads, old houses nestled in the mountains of Lebanon...
2- Photos Archive with thousands of photos around Lebanon
3- Tourism Directory with sub-sections such as Travel Services, Lodging, Dining, Entertainments
4- Panoramic posters on paper from Lebanon
5- Lebanese E-Cards
6- Lebanese Maps
7- Lebanese Forum where you can have your discussions
8- Lebanese chat room: Meet friends online from Lebanon
9- Lebanese weather forecast
10- Lebanon hotels booking reservation
11- Enjoy the flash animation by visiting this page

... Linking Lebanon


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Rival Lebanese leaders resume talks but hopes slim

Rival Lebanese leaders resume talks but hopes slim
By Lin Noueihed, REUTERS

Rival Lebanese leaders resumed political talks on Tuesday but hopes were slim they would reach a swift compromise on a government reshuffle that would stop the crisis spilling into the streets. The "national consultations" began on Monday with a pledge by Lebanon's politicians to refrain from attacking each other in the media. They were expected now to turn to the key issue - Hezbollah's demand that its allies get a bigger say in the running of the country. Though Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a Hezbollah ally who convened the talks, described the mood in the first session as positive, political sources said divisions between pro- and anti-Syrian politicians were as deep as ever.

Syrian-backed Hezbollah, which claimed victory in its war with Israel in July and August, has led calls for a change in the government now dominated by anti-Syrian politicians from the majority bloc in parliament. Hezbollah accuses the coalition led by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora of failing to back it during the war and supporting U.S.-Israeli demands for the disarmament of its guerrillas. The guerrilla group, popular with Lebanon's large Shi'ite Muslim community, has threatened to stage mass demonstrations demanding new parliamentary elections unless more of its allies are admitted to the cabinet by mid-November. Anti-Syrian politicians say they are willing to expand the government to include more opposition members but will not give them the crucial one-third of ministerial posts which would be enough to block motions in cabinet and automatically bring down the government if they resigned.

Hezbollah and its main ally Amal have five ministers in a government of 24. Pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud has one ally in cabinet with the rest controlled by opponents of Syria. Hezbollah wants its main Christian ally, Michel Aoun, who made a strong showing in last year's elections, to join the government. The pro-Syrian Al-Akhbar daily labeled the talks "a dialogue of the deaf" in its main front-page headline. Other newspapers said the toughest negotiations still lay ahead.

Demonstrations and counter-demonstrations by the pro- and anti-Syrian camps would further destabilize the country and could easily degenerate into violence. The killing of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005 led to mass protests against Syria, which many Lebanese blamed for the assassination. Under international pressure, Damascus ended a 29-year military presence in its smaller neighbor and anti-Syrian politicians swept to victory in the ensuing elections.

and more pix of Lebanon...

Monday, November 06, 2006

British believe Bush more dangerous than Kim Jong-il

British believe Bush more dangerous than Kim Jong-il
Guardian Unlimited (c) Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006
03 November 2006 09:14

The United States is now seen as a threat to world peace by its closest neighbours and allies, according to an international survey of public opinion published on Friday that reveals just how far the country's reputation has fallen among former supporters since the invasion of Iraq. Carried out as US voters prepare to go to the polls next week in an election dominated by the war, the research also shows that British voters see US President George Bush as a greater danger to world peace than either the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, or the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Both countries were once cited by the US president as part of an "axis of evil", but it is Bush who now alarms voters in countries with traditionally strong links to the US.The survey has been carried out by the Guardian in Britain and leading newspapers in Israel (Haaretz), Canada ( La Presse and Toronto Star) and Mexico ( Reforma), using professional local opinion polling in each country. It exposes high levels of distrust. In Britain, 69% of those questioned say they believe US policy has made the world less safe since 2001, with only 7% thinking action in Iraq and Afghanistan has increased global security. The finding is mirrored in America's immediate northern and southern neighbours, Canada and Mexico, with 62% of Canadians and 57% of Mexicans saying the world has become more dangerous because of US policy. Even in Israel, which has long looked to America to guarantee national security, support for the US has slipped.Only one in four Israeli voters say that Bush has made the world safer, outweighed by the number who think he has added to the risk of international conflict, 36% to 25%. A further 30% say that at best he has made no difference. Voters in three of the four countries surveyed also overwhelmingly reject the decision to invade Iraq, with only Israeli voters in favour, 59% to 34% against.

Opinion against the war has hardened strongly since a similar survey before the US presidential election in 2004. In Britain 71% of voters now say the invasion was unjustified, a view shared by 89% of Mexicans and 73% of Canadians. Canada is a Nato member whose troops are in action in Afghanistan. Neither do voters think America has helped advance democracy in developing countries, one of the justifications for deposing Saddam Hussein. Only 11% of Britons and 28% of Israelis think that has happened. As a result, Bush is ranked with some of his bitterest enemies as a cause of global anxiety. He is outranked by Osama bin Laden in all four countries, but runs the al-Qaeda leader close in the eyes of UK voters: 87% think the al-Qaeda leader is a great or moderate danger to peace, compared with 75% who think this of Bush. The US leader and close ally of Tony Blair is seen in Britain as a more dangerous man than the president of Iran (62% think he is a danger), the North Korean leader (69%) and the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah (65%). Only 10% of British voters think that Bush poses no danger at all. Israeli voters remain much more trusting of him, with 23% thinking he represents a serious danger and 61% thinking he does not.Contrary to the usual expectation, older voters in Britain are slightly more hostile to the Iraq war than younger ones. Voters under 35 are also more trusting of Bush, with hostility strongest among people aged 35-65.

ICM interviewed a random sample of 1 010 adults by telephone from October 27-30. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Polling was by phone in Canada (sample 1 007), Israel (1 078) and Mexico (1 010) -Guardian Unlimited (c) Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

Naharnet Lebanon News

Marketing in Lebanon