Friday, August 31, 2007

Aridi frets game simulating assault on Grand Serail

Aridi frets game simulating assault on Grand Serail
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: A new online game whose theme revolves around the attack on the Lebanese Grand Serail and the killing of Cabinet ministers is being released, Al-Mustaqbal newspaper reported Thursday. Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said Thursday the game "is very dangerous and goes beyond the limits of pastime or entertainment. This is manipulative and targets the security and stability of the country." On Thursday, State Prosecutor Said Mirza requested an investigation and follow-up from the Central Bureau of Investigation into the game. Al-Mustaqbal said "the Web site is easily accessible, and offers a range of games that incites players to kill "military militia" that protect the Grand Serail and venture to invade it and demolish its officials by killing them one by one."

The player's goal in the game is to kill Premier Fouad Siniora and ministers at the Grand Serail, the newspaper explained. It said the game also offends March 14 Forces members and accuses them of being allied with Israel.Aridi said this kind of game leads to nothing but further hatred, disputes and division, and that this is something to be "rejected" and fought. He said: "I understand the need to inform our children on the victory against the Israelis and how we defeated the legendary Israeli fleet," in reference to "Special force 2," a game created by Hizbullah based on last year's 34-day conflict with Israel. "However to brainwash our children and train them on methods to invade the [Serail] and take revenge from this or that person, is a very dangerous phenomenon in approaching our youth and the upcoming generation," Aridi added. "This must be stopped."

March 14 officials say they consider the game proof of "political terrorism" which aims to derail the presidential election in September. The coalition also said its MPs viewed the matter as a crime, and requested action from the state prosecutor. Sports and Youth Minster Ahmad Fatfat said "this Web site game is a clear threat and a persistent message" and that "the ending of the game with the death of all residents of the Serail gives a clear impression on the thoughts of violence being cast among people." "This action is like political terrorism that plays a major role in assaulting the government," he added. "This hatred goes beyond natural forms of political disputes we are generally familiar with in Lebanon." - The Daily Star

Thursday, August 30, 2007

March 14 MP says 'gentlemen's agreement' on presidency due soon

March 14 MP says 'gentlemen's agreement' on presidency due soon
Bloc insists American position unchanged regarding election

By Hani M. Bathish
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: As Speaker Nabih Berri waited for the US to respond to a request to state its position the upcoming presidential election in Lebanon, the ruling coalition insisted on Wednesday that the American position is unchanged and remains in harmony with the French and Arab positions in calling for the vote to be held within the constitutional time frame. Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh told Voice of Lebanon radio on Wednesday that the March 14 Forces will agree on a common candidate, but said it is too early to announce what he called a "gentleman's agreement" between the bloc's presidential hopefuls. "They will agree over the one candidate who manages to get the most votes from the majority bloc and perhaps a number of votes from the opposition as well," Hamadeh said. Hamadeh said that after his meeting with US Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffery Feltman he did not sense any change in the US position toward Lebanon. "Their position remains similar to the French and Arab positions, in that they follow the presidential elections, not to name candidates, but to insist that elections are held within the constitutional time frame," he said. He said an expanded meeting for March 14 Forces would be held soon but said it would likely be postponed until a series of internal and external meetings and talks are completed. Among these meetings will be a meeting in the Vatican, where Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir is due to hold talks next month. "What we saw from the comments of the patriarch and the Tripoli Gathering Tuesday is they demand a quorum of two thirds in the first session, which we also accept," Hamadeh said. "But if we see in the first session that MPs boycotting the session intend to hinder the election of a new president, then the majority with half-plus-one of MPs would be the constitutionally authorized body" to elect the next president.

Meanwhile, Democratic Gathering leader MP Walid Jumblatt insisted the parliamentary majority has the right to elect a president "anytime it likes" in the event the Chamber of Deputies is closed to them. In comments made to Al Jazeera satellite news channel, Jumblatt reiterated his previous position rejecting amending the Constitution for the sake of individuals. "The Constitution does not require an electoral session to be held in Parliament, the election of presidents Bashir Gemayel, Elias Sarkis and Rene Mouawad all took place at other venues," he said. "It is our constitutional right to meet as a parliamentary majority wherever we please if the doors of the Chamber of Deputies were closed to us, as they were closed two months ago, and elect a new president." In an apparent attack aimed at Berri, Jumblatt said the paralysis in the country is due to the closure of Parliament, stressing the need to meet to elect a new president. He also recalled Sfeir's comments on Tuesday in which the patriarch said that boycotting presidential election would be unfair and disastrous for the country.

Former Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzly, addressing an Amal rally in South Lebanon on Wednesday, said a quorum of two thirds has been a requirement for presidential electoral sessions of Parliament since 1926. "The speaker of Parliament is the only one with the authority to convene an electoral session of Parliament to elect a new president," Ferzly said. He added that some politicians' claims that MPs' refusal to attend or vote in such a session as being undemocratic is nonsense, "abstention or non-participation of MPs in the session is a constitutional right." Change and Reform Bloc MP Nabil Nicholas stressed the need to stop marginalizing the presidency and said only a strong president who represents his people can preserve the president's powers. In a television interview Wednesday, Nicholas said bringing a weak president to power will leave Lebanon exposed and encourage chaos, asking the US to stop its meddling in Lebanese affairs and support all the Lebanese, not just one group. UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Geir Pedersen, met Wednesday Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. The one-and-a-half hour meeting focused on the presidency and the Shebaa Farms issue.

The LBC, quoting unidentified sources, said that during the meeting Pedersen told Geagea the international community insists on holding presidential elections on time and in accordance with the Constitution. Pedersen later met Change and Reform Bloc MP Michel Murr and Hizbullah's resigned Energy Minister Mohammad Fneish. Hizbullah MP Hussein al- Hajj Hassan, speaking at an educational conference Wednesday, said Lebanon thrives as long as there is partnership between its people and shrivels when one group monopolizes power. "Today we hear them say there is no time to form a national unity government before presidential elections. They are the same ones who have over the past year opposed the establishment of such a government," Hajj Hassan said, adding that the majority are opposed to a national unity government out of principle. "Will a group that rejected a national unity government before presidential elections accept it afterward?" he asked. "[The ruling coalition] insists on equating national partnership with suicide and equates reaching a consensus with treason, threatening anyone from their camp who thinks of reaching a consensus with political and morale execution." He chided the ruling coalition for turning against Berri and Army Commander General Michel Suleiman when the speaker tried to solve the impasse and when Suleiman said what they did not want to hear.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hezbollah brings Israel war to computer screen

Hezbollah brings Israel war to computer screen
By Tom Perry

Raid Israel to capture soldiers, battle tanks in the valleys of south Lebanon and launch Katyusha rockets at Israeli towns -- a new Hezbollah computer game puts players on the frontline of war with the Jewish state. "Special Force 2" is based on last year's 34-day conflict between the Lebanese guerrilla group and Israel. "This game presents the culture of the resistance to children: that occupation must be resisted and that land and the nation must be guarded," Hezbollah media official Sheikh Ali Daher said. Designed by Hezbollah computer experts, players of "Special Force 2" take the role of a Hezbollah fighter, or Mujahid. Weapons and points are accumulated by killing Israeli soldiers. The game, launched on Thursday, recreates key phases of the conflict, which was triggered when Hezbollah raided northern Israel and captured two soldiers, saying they wanted to negotiate a prisoner swap. Hezbollah takes huge pride in its military performance in the war, which killed 158 Israelis, mainly soldiers. Some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in Lebanon.

Israel says Hezbollah was weakened in the conflict, in which the group was forced out of its strongholds along the Israeli border and an expanded international peacekeeping force deployed in southern Lebanon under a U.N.-brokered ceasefire. A Shi'ite Muslim group backed by Iran and Syria, Hezbollah declared the outcome of the conflict as a "divine victory." "Through this game the child can build an idea of some of ... the most prominent battles and the idea that this enemy can be defeated," Daher said. Retailing at around $10 in Lebanon and produced by volunteers, Hezbollah is expecting strong demand for the game at home and abroad. Hundreds of copies have been reserved in advance in Lebanon. The 3-D game forces players to think and use their resources wisely, reflecting the way Hezbollah fights, Daher said. "The features which are the secret of resistance's victory in the south, have moved to this game so that the child can understand that fighting the enemy does not only require the gun. "It requires readiness, supplies, armament, attentiveness, tactics."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Lebanese Army commander willing to head interim government if MPs fail to choose new president

Lebanese Army commander willing to head interim government if MPs fail to choose new president
By Hani M. Bathish
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Army Commander General Michel Suleiman has indicated he would accept to head a transitional government in the event MPs are unable to choose the next president before the end of President Emile Lahoud's term in office in November, provided all sides accept his nomination. Former Defense Minister Albert Mansour, told The Daily Star Monday that he has put the idea of heading a transitional government personally to Suleiman, who agreed to head such a government in the event a new president is not agreed upon. "Such a government would be in keeping with established practice, which is for a president to hand over power to a Maronite prime minister, it happened twice before," Mansour said. Mansour said being appointed prime minister of a transitional government would allow Suleiman to bypass constitutional requirements that prevent grade-one civil servants like Suleiman from being elected to the presidency while still in their post or within two years of their resignation. In light of this, Suleiman's visit last week to Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir takes on greater significance. Speaking to a group of officers to mark the 62nd anniversary of the Lebanese Army, Suleiman said Monday he would remain at the head of the armed forces until a new president is elected and a new government is formed and he is satisfied with the security situation in the country. "Is it reasonable for me to abandon this ship while it is being lashed by high waves from all sides?" Suleiman asked, adding: "At any rate I am a public employee and I am subject to the Constitution and the law of national defense that determines how an army commander is appointed and how his services are concluded." Suleiman hoped political leaders in the country would go back to applying the "spirit and text" of the Taif Accord and for each and every one to make "reciprocal concessions" so the whole country may traverse this difficult period successfully. He said he is unafraid for the future of Lebanon whose people have united behind its armed forces in a manner "unprecedented in Lebanon's modern history."

US Ambassador Jeffery Feltman, who met Telecommunication Minister Marwan Hamade Monday, said his country is looking forward to helping create a regional and international atmosphere conducive to holding presidential polls on time and in accordance with the Lebanese Constitution without interference over the naming of candidates. "The Lebanese Parliament will decide on the next president in accordance with the Constitution, we will not interfere in discussions over candidates," Feltman said. "We have no electors inside the Lebanese Parliament and we have confidence in MPs that they will vote for a president in keeping with Lebanon's tradition of independence, sovereignty and democracy." Amal MP Ayoub Humayed, speaking at a memorial service in the South, re-emphasized the need to hold the presidential election in accordance with the Constitution, stressing the vital role of Speaker Nabih Berri and his insistence on holding the presidential election in keeping with constitutional rules for electoral sessions of parliament. Humayed criticized those who relied on holding "unconstitutional sessions" of Parliament and wanted to elect a president by the votes of "half plus one" of the total number of MPs. He said declarations from several quarters in the country have come out in support of ensuring a quorum of two-thirds for the session and for agreement to be reached among all sides over the next president.

Lahoud in a statement issued Monday said handing power to the present Cabinet is impossible: "I assure you this will never happen. This is why I am calling for the formation of a cabinet of national unity, because in case the presidential election is not held, this cabinet could run the country, simply because it represents all segments of our society." While the country is preparing for the presidential election, Democratic Gathering leader MP Walid Jumblatt renewed his verbal assault against Lahoud Monday, lashing out and dubbing the president "the occupier of the Baabda Palace," an embracement to his allies and a reminder of the state of "political bankruptcy" the opposition has reached. Jumblatt, who made his comments to the Progressive Socialist Party newspaper Al-Anbaa Monday, said Lahoud is reopening old wounds and reviving memories of the Civil War, "forgetting that there was a reconciliation in the mountains with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir." The president's Press Office responded Monday evening to Jumblatt's comments, pointing to "the state of moral and political bankruptcy" that Jumblatt alone has reached. The press office said the "big words" Jumblatt used no longer suit his "minor political status" that is in retreat as a result of "betting on the wrong side."

After March 14 MP Butros Harb's declaration Sunday that he would run for president, MP Robert Ghanem indicated he too may be a contender for the presidency in comments to Voice of Lebanon radio Monday. Asked if the plethora of nominations within the majority's Christian ranks has an impact on consensus within the March 14 alliance, Ghanem said: "Such nominations are a distinctive feature within the majority, there are divergent opinions but not on the core issues." Ghanem said there is no common mechanism for announcing presidential nominees within March 14, adding that members of the majority bloc are not subject to central decision-making as within a political party. He said there is no reason why there shouldn't be a large number of presidential candidates from March 14. - Additional reporting by Maher Zeineddine

Monday, August 13, 2007

Environmentalist calls for unity after cedar-reserve fires

Environmentalist calls for unity after cedar-reserve fires
By Hesham Shawish
Special to The Daily Star

BEIRUT: A leading environmentalist urged Lebanese to unite to combat major challenges threatening their environment and their health, in a conference on Saturday. The head of the Association for Forests, Development and Conservation (AFDC), Mounir Bou Ghanem, was speaking during a news conference days after forest fires wiped out at least 1,200 hectares of Chouf cedar reserves on the Bekaa side of the mountains. The conference discussed ways to work with the government and other foundations and ministries to provide fire engines at various points around reserves and forests, so the engines would be able to mobilize quickly during future forest fires. The conference also comes at a time when Lebanon's coastline has yet to recover from its worst environmental crisis, the oil spill caused by an Israeli air raid on the Jiyyeh power plant during last summer's war. The bombing of the Jiyyeh power plant dumped some 15,000 tons of oil into the sea, fouling about 120 kilometers of Lebanon's coast. "The environment is something that binds everyone together, whatever their political affiliations. It is imperative that we unite to combat the most crucial concerns threatening our environment," Bou Ghanem said. "Our main aim in this talk is to foster youth participation with regard to environmental issues and provide awareness and communication on the environment," said environmentalist Nabil Hassan.

The talk discussed air pollution, water and sewage, land administration and waste disposal and sought comprehensive and environmentally friendly solutions on the disposal of waste, from household to building to medical waste. Past suggestions to use incinerators to dispose of household waste have met with opposition by the government because of the high cost. The issue of recycling was also frequently raised at Saturday's conference. "We have to get away from this culture of throwing everything away," said Dumian al-Khoury, a student, adding: "Lebanon is a small country, and using dumps to dispose of our rubbish is simply not sustainable in the longer term. We need more recycling bins in more visible spots, to encourage a culture of recycling." The current location of some recycling bins in large supermarkets such as Spinney's and Monoprix has attracted many people to bring their rubbish with them as they come to do their shopping. However, some people expressed past disillusionment with recycling schemes, accusing Sukleen preferring to recycle only glass and aluminum because these materials brought greater financial reward than paper, for example.

Another suggestion floated at the conference was to have larger supermarkets encourage customers to bring their own reusable bags for every shopping trip by knocking off LL1,000-2,000 off their tabs. Proponents of the idea said it would cost the stores very little and make a significant impact on the environment. The conference, which was held at the Lebanese Order of Engineers, was sponsored by the Lebanese Development Marketplace, the United Nations Development Program, UNICEF, the World Bank, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Lebanese Transparency Association

Escaped militants 'threaten' attacks in Lebanon

Escaped militants 'threaten' attacks in Lebanon
Audio tape claims group of fighters from nahr al-bared will launch terror campaign in country

Compiled by Daily Star staff

The leader of a Syrian Islamist group claimed in an audio tape aired on Sunday that a group of Fatah al-Islam militants had escaped from the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in North Lebanon, and he hinted they would be launching attacks inside Lebanon soon. Abu Jandal al-Dimashqi, the self-declared leader of Tawhid and Jihad in Syria, also mourned the death of Abu Hureira, the deputy leader of Fatah al-Islam, which has been battling the Lebanese Army in the camp and in Tripoli since May 20. The government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora announced last week that police in Tripoli, about 12 kilometers from the Nahr al-Bared camp, had killed Abu Hureira, a Lebanese whose real name was Shehab al-Qaddour. "The martyrdom of our brother Abu Hureira has fanned the flames," said Dimashqi in an audio tape posted on an Islamic Web site. "Let the government of traitor Siniora know some of Fatah al-Islam's heroes have left the camp and are now among you. Wait for a black day." The authenticity of the audio tape could not be verified, but it was posted on a Web site commonly used by Islamic militants.

Dimashqi criticized residents of Abu Hureira's Northern village of Mishmish for refusing to bury him in the town's cemetery since he fought against the army. Three of the 136 soldiers who have been killed fighting Fatah al-Islam were from Mishmish. A senior army officer said the military took the statement "seriously" and was analyzing it. But the officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the army "does not operate according to statements posted on the Internet, but rather on military plans."

In further developments, the Lebanese Army on Sunday rejected a conditional offer of surrender by the remaining Fatah al-Islam militants."The Islamists' spokesman Shahine Shahine made known an offer to give themselves up to the League of Palestinian Clerics, but this was rejected by the military," said Mohammad al-Hajj, a spokesman for the clerics trying to broker an end to the deadly fighting in the camp. The army is demanding that the remaining Fatah al-Islam militants surrender unconditionally, hand over their weapons and disband Fatah al-Islam, Hajj added. A military spokesman confirmed Hajj's comments. "Fatah al-Islam is in no position to set conditions," he said. "They have no other option but to surrender to the army and be brought to justice."However, we are ready to guarantee that their families be able to leave the camp in a peaceful manner. Let them suggest a mechanism for this, and it will be immediately implemented," the spokesman added. No more than an estimated 60 civilians of the camp's official population of 31,000 remain inside Nahr al-Bared, and these people are thought to be the wives and children of the Islamist fighters.

Also on Sunday, the National News Agency announced that Lebanese troops discovered a tunnel in Nahr al-Bared with furnished rooms "that appear to have been residences for Fatah al-Islam officials." It reported that troops had captured weapons and ammunition as well. The army on Sunday continued bombarding the camp with intermittent artillery fire, targeting underground Fatah al-Islam positions. The Fatah al-Islam militants still control an area of about 1,500 square meters inside the camp. Two rockets launched from inside the Nahr al-Bared camp Sunday morning hit the Akkar plain 4 kilometers away from the camp, although no casualties or damage were reported. Rockets fired from the camp on August 2 hit the Deir Ammar power plant, one of the most important in Lebanon. It is still out of action, which has meant power cuts across the country.A Gazelle - the light attack helicopter recently purchased from France - flew over the camp Sunday without opening fire, after the helicopter gunships had launched strikes on Islamist positions on Thursday and Friday. Over 200 people - among them 136 soldiers - have been killed since the fighting began 12 weeks ago. The toll does not include the bodies of militants that still have to be retrieved from inside the camp. - Agencies

Sunday, August 05, 2007

اللبنانية لديمقراطية الانتخابات" سجلت مخالفات سير العملية الانتخابية

اللبنانية لديمقراطية الانتخابات" سجلت مخالفات سير العملية الانتخابية
Posted on 2007-08-05 @ 15:58

اصدرت الجمعية اللبنانية من اجل ديمقراطية الانتخابات بيانا اوليا، تضمن الحصيلة ألاولية لسير العميلة الانتخابية في دائرتي بيروت الثانية والمتن.
وجاء في البيان: "على اثر دعوة الهيئات الناخبة للانتخابات الفرعية بتاريخ 5/8/2007 في دائرتي بيروت الثانية وجبل لبنان الثانية، وما نتج عن هذه الدعوة من جدال حاد حول دستورية او عدم دستورية مرسوم دعوة الهيئات الناخبة.
وبمعزل عن أي نقاش قانوني حول دستورية او عدم دستورية مرسوم دعوة الهيئات الناخبة، وبمجرد اجراء الانتخابات النيابية الفرعية، رأت "الجمعية اللبنانية من اجل ديموقراطية الانتخابات" ضرورة الاضطلاع بدورها الوطني في مراقبة ديموقراطية ونزاهة وشفافية هذه العملية.
وتأسيسا على ذلك تداعت الجمعية مع اعضاء "التحالف اللبناني لمراقبةالانتخابات"، والذي تأسس في العام 2005 والمؤلف من عدد من جمعيات المجتمع المدني اللبناني، الى استكمال التحضيرات اللوجستية كافة وتكوين فرق عمل مؤلفة من حوالى 200 مراقب مدربين مزودين أغلبيتهم بتراخيص من قبل وزارة الداخلية تخولهم الدخول الى مراكز واقلام الاقتراع، للقيام بمراقبة عملية الانتخابات الفرعية في دائرتي بيروت الثانية وجبل لبنان الثانية، المتن الشمالي، عبر تغطيتهم لكل اقلام الاقتراع اعتبارا من الساعة السابعة صباحا.
ابتدأت العملية الانتخابية بجو ديموقراطي وهادىء نسبيا، كما سجل حسن تنظيم وسير العملية الانتخابية ولا سيما حسن اداء رؤساء الأقلام.
وفي حصيلة أولية للعملية الانتخابية، لاحظ مراقبو الجمعية في الدائرتين المذكورتين ما يلي:
1- انتخاب خارج العازل ولا سيما في بكفيا وبرج حمود.
2- تصويت بواسطة اخراجات قيد او هويات دون بطاقة انتخابية، ولا سيما في بيت شباب.
3- وجود عدم تطابق بين ارقام البطاقات الانتخابية لبعض الناخبين مع الأرقام الموجودة على لوائح الشطب ولا سيما في مرجبا وبسكنتا.
4- قيام بعض رؤساء البلديات بضغط على الناخبين والتدخل في العملية الانتخابية ولا سيما في قنابة برمانا.
5- وجود مكاتب انتخابية للمرشحين داخل مراكز الاقتراع ولا سيما في ثانوية علي بن ابي طالب في بشارة الخوري والمدرسة الفندقية في الدكوانة.
6- وجودأسماء ناخبين تجاوزوا المئة عام.
7- قيام الماكينات الانتخابية بفتح مكاتب انتخابية، وبث أناشيد مقابل مراكز الاقتراع ولا سيما في بيت مري.
8- وجود ملصقات وشعارات في عدد من مراكز الاقتراع.
9- وجود عوازل غير صالحة للانتخاب لا سيما في برج حمود.
10- استباحة اقلام الاقتراع من قبل مناصري الاحزاب ولا سيما في بتغرين وبرج حمود.
11- كثافة المندوبين داخل وخارج مراكز الاقتراع ما يعيق سير العملية الانتخابية.
واكد "التحالف اللبناني لمراقبة الانتخابات" متابعة مراقبة العملية الانتخابية حتى انتهاء عملية الفرز، على ان تصدر الجمعية تقريرا مفصلا بعد اعلان النتائج".
وذكرت الجمعية انها تتلقى شكاوى المواطنين والمرشحين والمتعلقة بكل مراحل العملية الانتخابية على الارقام التالية: 741412/01 - 228417/03 و628401/03.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


وردت معلومات موثقة الى الماكينة الانتخابية في التيار الوطني الحر عن سيناريو مسرحي ينوي فريق الموالاة تنفيذه خلال اليوم الانتخابي غداً في المتن الشمالي، للنيل من صورة مرشح المعارضة الدكتور كميل خوري وذلك عبر عراضات يقوم بها مجنسون بلباسهم التقليدي المعروف أمام مراكز الاقتراع في الجديدة والبوشرية والسد وبلدات متنية اخرى، بحيث يقترع هؤلاء بصمت وتحفظ لمرشح السلطة أمين الجميل فيما يتجمعون في باحات المركز الانتخابي إثر ذلك، ويطلقون الهتافات المؤيدة للعماد ميشال عون والنائب ميشال المر، لتنقل وسائل اعلام السلطة المتلفزة صوراً تُستغل لاستفزاز وتحدي الناخبين المتنيين وتحقيق أرجحية انتخابية لمرشح الموالاة.

ان التيار الوطني الحر إذ يحذر من استخدام هذه الاساليب الاحتيالية الرخيصة، يناشد المتنيين لإعمال الوعي والعقل والحس الوطني السليم لمواجهة الشائعات وأبناء الشائعات

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bush freezes assets of those tied to Lebanon violence

Bush freezes assets of those tied to Lebanon violence

President George W. Bush on Thursday ordered a freeze on U.S. assets of those whom Washington accuses of undermining the Lebanese government. Bush did not identify those affected by the decree, but he imposed a U.S. travel ban in June on Syrian officials and Lebanese politicians whom Washington accuses of fomenting instability in Lebanon. He said in a letter to the U.S. Congress that the latest measures target anyone fueling violence against the elected government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora or contributing to what he called "Syrian interference" in the country.

The U.S. move followed repeated calls for Damascus to stop meddling in Lebanon, where Washington is trying to shore up Siniora's embattled administration. Bush has sought to isolate Syria diplomatically. He accuses Damascus of sponsoring terrorism, not doing enough to prevent foreign fighters from crossing into Iraq and doing little to rein in Hamas and Hezbollah militants opposed to Israel. Damascus, which withdrew its forces from Lebanon in 2005 after a 29-year military presence, has denied the accusations.

"The president signed this executive order because Lebanon's sovereignty and democratic institutions are increasingly under attack," said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House National Security Council. The United States backed a May U.N. Security Council resolution setting up an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was killed in 2005. Syria has been accused of complicity, a charge it denies.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Lebanese Army Day (personal comment)

I saw the cutest thing this morning... as I go to work each morning I usually pass through a Lebanese army check point. There I saw a little girl with her mom in the car in front of me handing out flowers to the Lebanese soldiers!! :)) These boys who are even younger than my baby brother had huuuuuge smiles on their faces!! it was really cute and thoughtful... :))

I appreciated this mom and daughter initiative... and hope that many more would think of doing similar small gestures on this special day.

Thank you to our Lebanese army for all their sacrifices and God RIP all our Lebanese brothers, fathers, husbands, cousins, uncles and friends who were martyred on our behalf. Our prayers are with them all.

Sfeir steps up efforts to reach compromise on Metn by-election

Sfeir steps up efforts to reach compromise on Metn by-election
Mudslinging intensifies as vote draws near

By Hani M. Bathish
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Fears generated in the heated by-election campaign in Metn and violent skirmishes between party supporters Sunday night prompted Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir to intensify his efforts on Tuesday to find a compromise and avoid an electoral clash. Hopes for a possible solution were rekindled from Dimane following intensive meetings there between politicians from the country's feuding camps and Sfeir. Change and Reform bloc MP Ibrahim Kanaan met Sfeir twice on Tuesday at the patriarch's summer residence in North Lebanon, raising hopes of a possible breakthrough. Kanaan told reporters that discussions were positive and constructive, adding that politicians needed to be up to the challenge and not just pour fuel on the fire. Sfeir also met March 14 Forces MP Samir Franjie and former MPs Mansour Ghanem al-Bon and Fares Soueid.

Christian Lebanese Unions secretary general Habib Efram, who met Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader MP Michel Aoun on Tuesday in Rabieh, told reporters after the meeting there was still some hope of reaching a solution in the next 48 hours to avoid an electoral showdown in Metn. Former President Amin Gemayel, addressing supporters in Bikfaya, said the election face-off in Metn was not meant to disrespect the men and women of the FPM who took part in the struggle for sovereignty, freedom and independence during the period of Syrian tutelage. "This battle is aimed at preventing Syrian influence from returning to Lebanon," he said. In an obvious reference to Aoun, Gemayel said no one could claim to be a patriot while aligning himself with foreigners and allowing his country to become a tool for implementing external policies. "Every white paper with the name of Amin Gemayel that you cast in the ballot boxes is a flower that you send to Pierre in paradise," Gemayel said, speaking of his son, assassinated Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel.

Aoun showed no sign of retreating from the electoral battle on Tuesday while addressing supporters in Dbayeh. "If they want a battle, let it be a battle," Aoun said. "We are ready." He added that the privilege of the president to sign government decrees calling for by-elections must not be violated. President Emile Lahoud did not sign the government decree calling for August 5 by-elections in the Metn and Beirut's second district. Aoun said that playing with people's emotions by using the memory of Pierre Gemayel to win votes was not right, and he lambasted the March 14 Forces for systematically tarnishing his image and casting doubts during the past two years on his party's majority support among Lebanon's Christians. He urged all citizens in Metn to get involved in the electoral campaign and to vote based on their convictions. "The electoral battle is over participation in government and participation in elections," Aoun said, urging his supporters to overcome "doubts and temptation" and not to be afraid to turn out to vote on Sunday. Aoun said the election of a successor to Pierre Gemayel had already been delayed for eight months. "Why not wait a little longer? Why hold these by-elections now ahead of presidential elections? It's because [the March 14 Forces] want to create conflict within the Christian community," Aoun said. Aoun said the army and security forces were in charge of ensuring the electoral process proceeded without a hitch. He said his opponents could hang their flags and their posters, "but we will not allow them to block the streets. We will break the hands of whoever strikes us."

Friction between Gemayel and Aoun has been increasing since Aoun announced that he and his allies the Tashnag Party and MP Michel Murr would jointly contest the Metn seat. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said that the electoral fight would be a "sporting battle" and he expressed confidence in the final outcome. In reference to Aoun, Geagea said those who still thought their popular base was 60-70 percent of the electorate had "their watches off by two years." Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra accused Aoun of covering for Syria through his alliances with Syria's allies in Lebanon. Zahra, speaking to Future TV, rejected the formation of a government that could be used as an alternative to the presidential election, adding that the presidential election had to be held as scheduled on September 25. Zahra said the party that initiated the ongoing exchange of accusations should stop first, if it were necessary to stop the exchange. He said Aoun's alliance with Syria's cohorts allowed Aoun political freedom of movement, which convinced the Syrian regime it could continue to influence Lebanese politics through local Syrian partners. Gemayel also on Tuesday met Armenian Orthodox Catholicos Aram I Keshishian at his summer residence in Bikfaya.

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