Wednesday, February 28, 2007

ISF dismantles explosive device in Mkalles

ISF dismantles explosive device in Mkalles
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces dismantled an explosive device made of dynamite in the eastern Beirut neighborhood of Mkalles on Tuesday, security sources said. The charge, made up of seven sticks of dynamite attached to a timing device and a detonator, was not equipped with a nine-volt battery required to set it off, security sources said.

After the Internal Security Forces (ISF) were notified of the explosive, the chief of the ISF's Mount Lebanon sector, Brigadier Bahij Watfa, arrived in Mkalles accompanied by explosives experts. "Had the battery been installed, the charge would have exploded in exactly five minutes," a security source said on condition of anonymity. The explosive charge was discovered on the first floor of a residential building in the densely populated neighborhood. The building houses the Namibian Consulate and is next to the Private Club, a popular upscale gym. - The Daily Star

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

THE REDIRECTION - by SEYMOUR M. HERSH

THE REDIRECTION
Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?
by SEYMOUR M. HERSH - The New Yorker
Issue of 2007-03-05
Posted 2007-02-25

http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/070305fa_fact_hersh

Interesting reading... Click on the link above to access the article.

Friday, February 23, 2007

More bombs, explosives, detonators turn up in and around shaken Beirut

More bombs, explosives, detonators turn up in and around shaken Beirut
Incidents follow discovery of unarmed device earlier this week

By Nour Samaha and Mira Borji
Daily Star staff


BEIRUT: Lebanon's security forces found bomb-making equipment in three separate caches on Thursday, just two days after a bomb was discovered in Beirut, sowing new fears among a public that is still reeling from recent bus bombings and street clashes. A source close to the Internal Security Forces (ISF) said Thursday's first discovery was made by a scrap collector, identified only as "Malek," who found 19 sticks of TNT - a total of about 9 kilograms - in the capital's Achrafieh neighborhood. The explosives were inside in a wooden box placed in a dumpster on Hikmeh Avenue leading to Corniche al-Nahr, facing the Murr Television Station and the Mont Liban Radio building. The discovery was made at approximately 8:30 a.m., and police rushed to the scene and cordoned off the area to conduct a thorough search. Half an hour later, some Sukleen employees found an aluminum box packed with 13 detonators about 200 meters away from the first discovery. Then, at 6:30 p.m., eight bombs were found on the road leading to the Kesrouan village of Ghbaleh, the National News Agency (NNA) reported. The NNA added that an ISF expert said the devices in Kesrouan were not set to detonate. A full ISF investigation is under way.

Parliament majority leader MP Saad Hariri said those behind the placing of bomb-making materials were trying to intimidate the security forces and "instigate strife in different ways so Lebanon remains a hostage to fear and instability." "We are sure that the security forces and the Lebanese Army are doing their best to pursue the criminals and refer them to the judiciary and prevent any harm that might strike innocent people," Hariri said in a statement after the first discovery.

Explosives were found Tuesday concealed in a car tire in the area of Bir Hassan. On February 13, two bombs exploded minutes apart exploded on a busy commuter mountain road in the Christian heartland northeast of Beirut, killing three passengers and wounding 20 others. A security source said it was unclear whether the explosives found on Thursday were the same kind used in the other incidents. Attempts to contact the ISF to comment on this issue were unsuccessful. A judicial source said Malek was detained and was being questioned. The Sukleen employees, who were also held for interrogation, were later released. Military Investigating Magistrate Jean Fahd ordered the relevant security bodies to conduct the necessary investigations into the incident. Residents were asked to evacuate the area of the first discovery while the search was carried out, but by mid-morning, stores in the neighborhood had opened for business.

"Usually, we're busy every day," said hairdresser Rita Merhy, who works at Salon Dani Lahoud facing the site where the explosives were found. "Today, our clients phoned to see if we were all okay, and then cancelled their appointments," she told The Daily Star. "People are afraid to come to this area now, and this is definitely bad for business." "Honestly, what can we do?" she asked. "Wear something to protect us? There is nothing we can do to stop this from happening," she added. In the store next door, Solderie des Marques, employee Marie Abi Abboud aired her concerns about the future. "On a personal level, obviously it is frightening, but in some way we have become used to these kinds of things happening in Beirut," she said. "My main concern now is how badly business will be affected. We opened at 9:30 a.m., and by noon we only had two clients. Usually we have a lot more." She said that since the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri in 2005, business has been decreasing as more and more assassinations, bombings, and clashes occur around the city. "We will stay open, but whether we continue to have customers is a different story," she added. Marina, a local shopowner, aired similar concerns. "These kinds of things make life extremely difficult for us, because they happen right on our doorstep," she said. "I have to be really careful what I do and where I go ... especially since I have children who come to this area on a daily basis."

In a separate development, a lead may have been found in the assassination of former Communist Party chief George Hawi, who was killed by a car bomb on June 21, 2005. ISF chief Ashraf Rifi said in an interview with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. late Thursday that Lebanese authorities "are chasing a suspect through Interpol whom they believe is behind the murder."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Click to support more good causes!

Click to support more good causes!

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http://www.therainforestsite.com
http://www.thehungersite.com
http://www.thechildhealthsite.com
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All you have to do is go to these sites today and every day to click the "click for free" buttons. This simple action costs you nothing!

Funding is paid by site sponsors and goes to the nonprofit organizations, which uses it to fund programs that provide free assistance to people / causes in need.
You can click once per day.

For example, if you click on the pink "Fund Free Mammograms" button you help fund free mammograms for homeless, working-poor and uninsured women. Pass it along as a way to fight breast cancer all year long!

Keep this chain of hope going.... Forward this email to others who may be interested in helping. Thanks for spreading the word!

Facts about Lebanon

STATISTICS ABOUT LEBANON

1. Lebanon has 18 religious communities.
2. It has 40 daily newspapers.
3. It has 42 universities.
4. It has over 100 banks (that is 'banks' and not 'branches of a bank').
5. 70% of the students are in private schools.
6. 40% of the Lebanese people are Christians (this is the highest percentage in all the Arab Countries).
7. There's 1 doctor per 10 people in Lebanon (In Europe & America, there's 1 doctor per 100 people).
8. The name LEBANON appears 75 times in the Old Testament.
9. The name CEDAR (Lebanon's symbol) also appears 75 times in the Old Testament!!
10. Beirut was destroyed and rebuilt 7 times (this is why it is compared to the Phoenix).
11. There are 3.5 Million Lebanese in Lebanon.
12. There are around 10 Million Lebanese outside Lebanon!

OTHER INTERESTING FACTS:

1. Lebanon, the country, was occupied by over 16 countries: Egyptians- Hittites-Assyrians- Babylonians- Persians- Alexander the greats Army- The Roman Empire Byzantine- the Arabian Peninsula -The Crusaders- the Ottoman Empire- Britain - France- Syria.
2. Byblos (city in Lebanon) is the oldest, continuously living city in the world.
3. Lebanon's name has been around for 4,000 yrs non-stop (it's the oldest country/ Nation's name in the world!)
4. Lebanon is the only Asian/African country that doesn't have a desert .
5. There are 15 rivers in Lebanon (all of them coming from its own mountains).
6. Lebanon is one of the most populated countries in its archaeological sites, in the World.
7. The first alphabet was created in Byblos (city in Lebanon).
8. The only remaining temple of Jupiter (the main Roman god) is in Baalbeck, Lebanon (The City of the Sun).
9. The name of BIBLE comes from BYBLOS!!!
10. Lebanon is the country that has the most books written about it.
11. Lebanon is the only non-dictatorial country in the Arab world (Yes, we do have a President!).
12. The Phoenicians (Original People of Lebanon) built the 1st boat, and they were The first to sail ever.
13. Phoenicians also reached America long before Christopher Columbus did.
14. The 1st law school in the world was built in Lebanon, in Downtown Beirut.
15. People say that the cedars were planted by God's own hands (This is why they're Called "The Cedars of God", and this is why Lebanon is called "God's Country on Earth."

I love Lebanon...
Feel free to share this with the world...

Opposition reiterates threat of civil disobedience

Opposition reiterates threat of civil disobedience
By Hani M. Bathish
Special to The Daily Star


BEIRUT: The opposition is considering ending its adherence to state institutions and beginning a civil-disobedience campaign against the government, Hizbullah politburo member Hajj Mahmoud Qmati said on Wednesday. Speaking to the Central News Agency, Qmati said the opposition was "seriously" considering further civil action to step up pressure on the ruling majority to form a national unity cabinet. He added that the opposition had followed through with each and every decision it had made in the past, making specific reference to the resignation of six ministers last November, an ongoing sit-in in the heart of the capital and a nationwide general strike held on January 23 that sparked sectarian clashes that left four dead. "We still await the results of current initiatives ... In a matter of days the results of these initiatives will be clear and in light of these results we will decide our next step, which will likely be civil disobedience provided the opposition reaches consensus on the matter," Qmati said.

Each side of the political divide in Lebanon continues to accuse the other of hindering progress in a Saudi-Iranian initiative to end the three-month-old deadlock. An agreement between Riyadh and Tehran could pave the way for an inter-Lebanese agreement. Diplomatic sources quoted in local daily Al-Akhbar Wednesday said efforts to resolve the deadlock were centered on reaching an agreement over unspecified changes to a draft for the international tribunal to try those accused of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the shape of a unity government. Qmati said Saudi Arabia has agreed to the "19 + 11" formula - meaning the parliamentary majority would receive 19 ministers and the opposition 11, and thereby veto power in the Cabinet - and has conveyed this to majority leader MP Saad Hariri. Hariri was said to have agreed to the formula, but rejected the offer because Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, a key Christian ally in the March 14 Forces, did not, insisting on a 19 + 10 + 1 formula on Wednesday, with the one minister being independent. Speaking to reporters after a meeting of the LF parliamentary bloc, Geagea said any other formula would paralyze the government and create an authority vacuum in the country. But the Future Movement leader told Spanish Ambassador Miguel Benzo Perea, who visited the MP in Qoreitem, that he was confident the Saudi-Iranian efforts would produce results. "I found [Hariri] determined to defend many positions while respecting the opposition's stance," Perea said. "He still sees room to maneuver to arrive at an agreement in the future." Meanwhile, Premier Fouad Siniora met Wednesday with the UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Geir Pedersen, to discuss the general situation. Pedersen said after the meeting that the latest report on the implementation of Resolution 1701 would be completed by mid-March.

In further meetings, Speaker Nabih Berri sent MP Ali Hassan Khalil to meet with former Premier Omar Karami in Ramlet al-Baida to discuss the latest developments in the deadlock. The crisis saw a bit of humor, with Berri and Geagea exchanging argumentative statements Wednesday, a day after the speaker threatened to reveal which parties were "really" blocking the Hariri tribunal. Geagea said that if Berri had "one stone [secret] in his mouth, I have 10," to which the speaker replied that "if the LF leader has so many stones in his mouth, he should open a quarry." Geagea responded by saying: "I do not understand the quarry business. I would rather open a hospital."

Meanwhile, former President Amin Gemayel bemoaned what he called a "cold civil war." "We have been living in a state of civil disobedience for a while now through constitutional disobedience," he said in response to the opposition threat of further civil disobedience. Egyptian Ambassador Hussein Darrar met with the former president later in the day. The ambassador said an Arab League initiative had not reached a dead end as no party had rejected it outright. But while some proposals have come to light as a result of the Saudi-Iranian endeavor, the ball remains firmly in Lebanon's court, Darrar added. Gemayel said the March 14 Forces want the opposition to participate in government but will not accept a paralysis of government institutions. He also claimed confusion at the opposition's desire to revise the draft of the tribunal after an agreement had been reached over the court during national talks held a year ago.

For his part, former Minister Suleiman Franjieh said the opposition was continuing to coordinate and discuss its next move should mediation fail. After meeting with a delegation from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party headed by SSNP leader Ali Qanso, Franjieh warned the ruling coalition not to take warnings from Berri lightly as anything the speaker said reflected the opposition's united position. The Marada Party leader accused March 14 of "shooting down" serious initiatives to end the crisis, noting that while Saudi Arabia had agreed to the 19 + 11 formula, the Americans and Europeans had not.

Hizbullah's number two, Sheikh Naim Qassem also blamed March 14 for the deadlock, saying: "We accepted the solution offered by [Arab League chief] Amr Moussa, but it was the other side that rejected it." "We also accepted the solution that later came out of the Iranian-Saudi meetings, which the other side accepted then changed their minds," he added.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Only Prayers will save Lebanon




In these difficult times and at the begining of Lent, a few people have organized prayers for peace in Lebanon asking for intercession (talbat) from all the Saints of Lebanon throughout history.

It is a novena to be prayed as follows: After doing the rosary, read the attached picture prayers. It is very easy. (and I am sure you can seak in other intentions as well!) ;)

Extraits de "Mon peuple est Mort" - Khalil Gibran- 1916

Extraits de "Mon peuple est Mort" - Khalil Gibran- 1916.

Les miens se meurent, et moi, vivant encore, dans ma solitude, je les pleure mon peuple est mort et je suis ici, dans ce pays lointain, errant au sein d'un peuple joyeux qui dort sur des lits moelleux. Mon peuple est mort d'une mort douloureuse et je suis ici qui vit dans l'abondance et en paix Je ne vis pas avec mon peuple persécuté, qui marche dans le cortège de la mort vers le martyre.

Je suis ici, de l'autre côté de l'océan qui vis dans l'ombre de la quiétude et dans la lumière de la paix. Je suis si loin de l'arène misérable et de l'affliction que je ne puis meme pas être fier de mes larmes.

La mort de mon peuple est une accusation silencieuse; c'est un crime fomenté par les têtes des serpents invisibles c'est une tragédie sans texte. Mon peuple est mort tandis que ses mains se tendaient vers l'Orient et l'Occident, tandis que ses orbites vides regardaient fixement la noirceur du firmament. Il est mort en silence car l'humanité est restée sourde à ses appels. Il est mort parce qu'il n'a pas sympathisé avec ses ennemis, il est mort parce qu'il plaçait sa confiance dans l'humanité tout entière, parce qu'il était les fleurs piétinées et non le pied. qui écrase. Il est mort parce qu'il était un bâtisseur de paix, parce que les monstres de l'enfer se sont levés, ont tout détruit, parce que les vipères et les enfants des vipères ont craché du poison dans l'espace où les saints Cèdres, les roses et les jasmins exhalent leurs parfums.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Business in the Virtual World: Conference

... how to do business anywhere, anyplace, anytime.

My Post-graduate university in Nice France traditionally organizes a yearly conference mostly for its almni but open to the public.

The topic this year is "Managing Virtual Employees".

There will be presentations from psychologists, technologists, change agents, socialogues, managers and leaders. There will also be some real time "virtual events" to show how this is being done to day.

Click on the picture or visit the TIMIA conference website for more information or to register.

You can also support our community by:
1) Sponsoring with cash
2) Via a consulting project
3) As a volunteer: this year we are looking for people to participate virtually at the conference in SecondLife (www.secondlife.com)

Conference Venue:
Location of the conference will be held at EDHEC Business School on the French Riviera.

Gala Dinner:
An evening dinner will be held at the Radisson Hotel located just down the road at 223 Promenade des Anglais.

Dates:
Conference - 30th March
Gala Dinner - 30th March

To find out more about the conference and the related events please contact: manuel.carriba@edhec.com
Tel: +33 4 93187864
Fax: +33 4 93187843
or write:
TIMIA Coordination Bureau, R.2028
EDHEC Business School
400, Promenade des Anglais
BP 3116
F-06202 Nice Cede

Sponsor Opportunity:
TIMIA is currently open to potential sponsors and have established a multi-tier sponsorship program. If you are interested in sponsoring the event please contact: jaime.pinto@edhec.com

New database gives citizens tools to defend rights

New database gives citizens tools to defend rights
By Maria Abi-Habib
Special to The Daily Star


BEIRUT: Human rights are often arbitrary in the Middle East, but citizens will soon be better able to defend their liberties with a new online legislative research database that provides information about 18 Arab countries' freedom-of-association laws. "The database is very important as everything relating to human rights is supposed to be sacred, but in Arab [countries] these rights are refused a lot," said Wassim Harb, the senior rule of law adviser for the Program on Governance in the Arab Region (POGAR), a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) project.

The database, which is the first of its kind in the Middle East, was introduced on Saturday in a conference organized by the Arab Center for the Development of the Rue of Law and Integrity (ACDRLI) at their offices in Badaro. ACDRLI spearheaded the database with funds from the UNDP and the American Ford Foundation. The database is still incomplete, but will be launched online next week. When finished, the project will expand on its present freedom of association inventory to include 100,000 state laws of 18 Arab countries. The ACDRLI is looking for partners to provide the funds needed to complete the venture. "Freedom of association is the first step in the broader human rights process," said Harb. Freedom of association is seen by many countries as a key foundation of human rights, and is included in the constitutions of many advanced countries. The right is an integral part of the freedom of speech, press and religion. Without freedom of association, citizens can be punished for personal, political, religious and business affiliations. "You can't speak of democracy without the freedom of association and the right to join a political party or have freedom of speech," said Issam Suleiman, a speaker at the conference.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) frequently rebukes Arab governments for violating rights of association by cracking down on opposition groups and religious or ethnic minorities. "Governments continued to harass, arrest and prosecute human rights activists under legal systems that lacked independence," a 2003 HRW report on the Middle East stated. The new database intends to improve human rights in the Middle East by empowering citizens with knowledge about their rights, so that they can demand that their governments respect existing legislation. "Collecting information on [human] rights is very important, as the reality of the case cannot be changed when you have rooted facts," said Attayeb al-Bakouch, the president of the Arab Institute for Human Rights. "The main goal now is to improve society by giving civil society organizations information so they can work based on the information." The database can be searched by keyword, country and legislation type. For example, users can type in the word "protest" to see which actions are legal when demonstrating and which are prosecutable under the law. "The database will increase legal literacy - important for activists and lawyers," said UNDP-POGAR director Adel Abdel-Latif.

As state legislation is often inaccessible and citizens are not well-versed on their civil rights, the database will serve as a legal guide to help citizens defend themselves. Suleiman said the database will also be a tool for citizens to fight corrupt states. The database can be found on ACDRLI's Web site at
www.arabruleoflaw.org

Old Chouf homes become new bed and breakfasts

Old Chouf homes become new bed and breakfasts
By Maher Zeineddine
Daily Star correspondent


CHOUF: In an attempt to boost environmental tourism, residents in the Chouf region are turning traditional homes into bed and breakfasts. Twelve municipalities affiliated with the Upper Chouf Municipalities League, in collaboration with the Lebanese Association for Preserving Vestigial and Patrimonial Sites in the Chouf, launched an environmental project to renovate old tiled houses and turn them into bed and breakfasts to accommodate tourists who do not wish to stay in a hotel. "People who wish to invest in this project can rent the house based on a monthly or yearly contract, and the cost of renovation is agreed upon by the owner and the investor," the head of the league, Roger Ashi, told The Daily Star. Ashi said that the project is not restricted to old houses "that conform to traditional Lebanese architecture." "Anyone who feels that their house is suitable to become a bed and breakfast is welcomed to join in the project," he added.

The Chouf is rich in homes built in various architectural styles, Ashi said. "Byzantine, Roman and of course Lebanese styles have had a huge influence on the architecture of the Chouf region," he added. "Instead of allowing these sites to remain neglected, we thought of bringing life back to them and to the Chouf region as a whole," Ashi explained. Ashi added that a number of the houses in the project had been put up for sale by their owners, who "changed their minds and decided not to sell their houses when they learned about the new project."

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Don't we all love life? ;)

Lebanese Abroad

Des voix s'élèvent... il y en a d'autres, je vous invite à les écouter.
Disons NON la violence, à l'intolérance et à la propagande.
Exigeons d'une seule voix une solution politique immédiate.
Signons "l'appel a un sursaut citoyen" !

Cliquez ici
www.pourquelelibanvive.com

Let us say NO to violence, intolerance and propaganda.
Let us demand united as one an immediate political solution .
Let us sign "the call for a citizen awakening" !

Click here :
www.pourquelelibanvive.com

Et aussi

http://www.offrejoie.com/
http://www.lebanon-ilovelife.com
http://www.libnanews.com/2007/01/campagne_citoye.html
http://www.11march.org
http://www.resolveitsolveit.org
http://www.kafa.org.lb
http://www.aloufok.net/article.php3?id_article=3673

Lebanese Abroad

Friday, February 16, 2007

'There are people other than March 8 or March 14'

'There are people other than March 8 or March 14'
Civil society takes on the squabbling status quo - but can it make a difference?

By Nour Samaha
Daily Star staff


BEIRUT: Two men. Each holds gun to the other's head, one facing the camera, the other with his back turned to it. In both Arabic and English, "Who's Losing?" is written in white across the dark scene, emphasizing an air of futility. This is the latest billboard campaign that has been launched by Loubnani W Bass ('Just Lebanese'), a new civil society movement that says its aim is to "give a voice to the silent majority," and to promote feelings of national identity rather than sectarianism. In an interview with The Daily Star, a founder and board member of the movement, homemaker Zeina Karam, explained how she hoped they would be able to make a difference to the tense political atmosphere that has now taken up residence in Lebanon. "We want to say that there are people other than March 8 or March 14. For us we think there are people who are fed up with what is happening, they don't agree with the situation of today," she said. "They don't have a voice, and like Resolve It, Solve It and March 11, Pour Que Le Liban Vive, and Nahwa al-Muwatiniya [other nascent groups that aim to articulate objective points of view], we want to give them that chance to shout out." "Although we have not come up with anything brand-new, I believe that if we all work together, maybe we can achieve something that shows the people are moving in the same direction," she added.

The focus of the new billboards is aimed specifically at the youth of Lebanon, "for the fighters on the streets, and the students," said Karam, with reference to an incident at Beirut Arab University on January 28 that escalated into riots, leaving four people dead and over 150 injured. Loubnani W Bass aims to take the next step of its campaign to schools and universities to create greater awareness of a "third option," which does not involve being with either the government or the opposition.

In recent weeks many similar movements have sprung up, their names like Resolve It, Solve It and Pour Que Le Liban Vive (So Lebanon Can Live) giving the impression of offering a viable alternative to the current political deadlock, but their manifestos and campaigns offering little more than another outlet for people to voice their frustration over the situation. Loubnani W Bass doesn't dispute this; rather its Web site promotes the idea of using the group to voice grievances against the current turmoil. There are those who feel that such groups are necessary to alleviate the rising tensions between different communities, specifically amongst the youth. Nahi Issa, a graphic designer from Ain al-Roummaneh, believes that this new wave of movements has the potential to bring people together while leaving politics behind. "As long as they stay strictly non-political, I think Lebanon could greatly benefit from an alternative to the two sides," Issa said. "The idea that has been created from these kinds of groups is really good, and has the potential to stop the tensions if they campaign in the right way, and target the right audience; the youth."

Although there seems to be a general consensus among the population that a third alternative is in fact a refreshing idea, some say that because none of the groups has offered a viable solution to the current deadlock, the entire movement is actually dead in the water. "To be honest, I don't think these groups can do anything successful, because they can't offer anything new to the Lebanese," said Dima Akl of Bikfaya. "Everyone in the country is already arguing, so adding them to the mix would cause more problems." Dori Chamoun, a lighting engineer from Dekwaneh, feels that while the concept of such an alternative has the potential to ease divisions, the campaigns and grassroots support are weak. "There is a point to them, definitely, but their biggest downfall is that they haven't published their ideas thoroughly enough," he told The Daily Star. "They really need to target schools and universities, and develop an educational program in order to be successful. Otherwise people will stop paying attention." "I like the new movements' approach," said Toufic Harb, a resident of Ain al-Roummaneh, "but they won't achieve their target because they don't have a leader. The successes of March 8 and March 14 are because of their leaders."

In the case of Loubnani W Bass and the others however, the essence of their being is to remain non-political. Whether this will hinder their development remains to be seen.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Satire...

Tight security helps prevent widely feared clashes

Tight security helps prevent widely feared clashes
Head of isf says every single member of his force was on duty

By Nour Samaha and Muneira Hoballah
Daily Star staff


BEIRUT: Security forces had visibly beefed up their presence in and around Beirut Wednesday, as thousands of Lebanese Army soldiers and members of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) coordinated with each other in an effort to prevent clashes occurring at the Rafik Hariri memorial rally. Premier Fouad Siniora released a statement Wednesday thanking the Defense Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Leba-nese Army, the ISF, and all security forces for their efforts and organization to guarantee the day passed without incident. Although the ISF could not confirm the exact number of the crowd, the head of the ISF, Brigadier General Ashraf Rifi, told The Daily Star that not a single member of the ISF was on vacation Wednesday, as all were deployed to ensure optimum security across the country. "We installed 23,000 ISF troopers up and down Lebanon, with between 5,000 and 6,000 based in Beirut and 2,000 specifically in the Downtown area." "All possible outcomes were studied carefully and plans of action were decided for each outcome, so we had all angles covered ... Obviously we increased security as a result of Tuesday's attacks" on two busses near Bikfaya, Rifi added. An ISF official, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed that preparations had been made months in advance. He added that a number of officers, specifically trained to deal with emergency situations, had been deployed Downtown. The Lebanese Red Cross was also on hand with 120 of its members present at the rally. They also had 17 ambulances and six cars prepared, and had pitched two tents to provide on-the-spot first-aid services. According to George Kitani, the national director for emergency medical services in the Lebanese Red Cross, 275 people needed first aid in the field. "Though there were no incidents between people at the rally, nine people were rushed to hospital for medical reasons ranging from cardiac arrests to diabetes," he told The Daily Star.

As the demonstrators poured into the city, helicopters hovered above the rally and two-tier checkpoints had been set up at the key entrance points to ensure maximum security. The army conducted routine searches on vehicles, while the police conducted rigorous body and bag searched. One police official at the checkpoint confirmed that security had been heightened as a result of Tuesday's bombings in the village of Ain Alqa, which left three dead. "As a general rule we always set up checkpoints and searches, but this time it has increased because of what happened," he told The Daily Star. All weapons, sharp objects, and materials deemed dangerous were confiscated.

The army and the ISF set up a large barrier between opposition supporters camped out in Riad al-Solh Square since December 1, and March 14 supporters attending the memorial to prevent any confrontations. The formidable barrier consisted of razor-wire fencing supplemented by rows of soldiers, ISF troopers, and Hizbullah security guards. Samer Kirdi, a volunteer member of the March 14 coalition's private security force, told The Daily Star that their priority was to protect the equipment that was being used for the day. "We are here to guard the equipment, like the sound system and machinery, against people who would wish to destroy them," said Kirdi. "If there are any problems or clashes between people," he added, "then we alert the army and the police, and let them deal with it." Movement from one side to another was completely prohibited by both the army and the ISF for the day.

Relatively few opposition supporters were in the Downtown area on Wednesday, but there was a marked increase in the number of Hizbullah's "Indibat" (Discipline) guards to hep with crowd control. Members of the force insisted that they did not want any problems with their political rivals. "Even if they [March 14 Forces supporters] throw bullets at us," said one Indibat member who spoke on condition of anonymity, "we will just throw back flowers."

Crowds use commemoration to display wide variety of mottos

Crowds use commemoration to display wide variety of mottos
Demonstrators chant for unity while waving party flags

By Lysandra Ohrstrom
Daily Star staff
EYEWITNESS


BEIRUT: The latest installment of Lebanese political theater staged in Beirut Wednesday was perhaps better produced than other demonstrations held over the past two years. But despite a big budget and more than two months of pre-protest buzz, the rally to commemorate the second anniversary of former Premier Rafik Hariri's assassination seemed comparatively staid. All the stock conventions of a "peaceful, democratic" Beirut protest were in evidence. Lebanese flags, as well as those of the various March 14 factions, waved dramatically above hundreds of thousands of government supporters whose cheers competed with the political anthems thumping from speakers in the background.

Sunni Muslims, Christians, and Druze of all ages carried billboards emblazoned with images of the late Hariri, and familiar slogans demanding truth and accountability and denouncing foreign intervention in Lebanon. "We miss you" was scrawled below an iconic Hariri image printed on clusters of white and blue balloons, floating above the chain link fence near the edge of Saifi Village. A group of old men drank coffee underneath a huge tarp slung between the disused tennis courts and a cement barrier, depicting what looked like the spirit of the late Hariri emerging from his son Saad's head. In an incongruous marriage of consumer culture and sectarian politics, some attendees carried heart-shaped and rose-bordered banners of both father and son to commemorate Valentine's Day. Residents from Ersal near Baalbek waved a poster with pictures of Hariri under the name of their village from the window of the mini-bus that took them to Beirut.

If there were an award for the most creative political statement, the winner would surely be a mobile-like picket with five, 1-meter-long wooden cut-outs of blindfolded figures, hanging from a stake. Each anonymous effigy was inscribed with a word - "Hostage," "Injustice," "Occupation," "Division," or "Totalitarianism" - on its torso. Alongside Wednesday's display of rhetorical unity, constituents also communicated their individual political affiliations on their sleeves - or pickets so to speak - through both subtle and overt means. Some March 14th supporters from rural regions donned traditional red or black keffiyeh, while other attendees wore the iconic scarf around their neck as a fashion statement. An American expatriate - who was accidentally diverted to the protests behind a band of FutureMovement youths while en route to a nail salon - caught sight of a man sporting a pale yellow tie-died Keffiyeh, carrying a little girl - wearing green butterfly wings - in his arms. "Look at that bohemian demonstrator family," she said, pointing to the father-daughter duo. "Are they a throwback to the sixties or what?" Other demonstrators paid homage to "martyrs" from their respective parties. A couple of young boys - presumably Progressive Socialist Party sympathizers - shimmied up lampposts with flags picturing Kamal Jumblatt, killed in 1977. The teenagee at the top of the heap of kids clinging to the statue in the center of Martyrs' Square sported aviator sunglasses, a black leather jacket, and a poster of Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Qabbani.

The opposition protesters remained isolated from any potentially inflamatory gestures Wednesday by a security buffer zone demarcated by coils of razor wire and rows of soldiers. Some of the semi-permanent tents that had occupied the other side of Martyrs' Square for the past three months were dismantled Wednesday. A smattering of the remaining opposition protesters sat on plastic chairs, smoking nargileh or idly drinking coffee. Under the bridge a group of men watched the demonstrations taking place next to them on television.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Anti-Syrian Lebanese crowds honor slain Hariri

Anti-Syrian Lebanese crowds honor slain Hariri
By Yara Bayoumy
REUTERS


Around 300,000 Lebanese waving flags and blue balloons demonstrated in Beirut on Wednesday to honor Rafik al-Hariri, two years after the ex-premier's killing, and show support for the anti-Syrian government. Police guarded Hariri's tomb in central Beirut's Martyrs Square where a digital sign showed 730 -- the number of days that have passed without his assassins being brought to justice. Hariri, a Sunni Muslim billionaire tycoon with close ties to Saudi Arabia and France, masterminded Lebanon's reconstruction after its 1975-90 civil war. He had fallen out with Syria, then the dominant power in Lebanon, in the months before his death. "We are today in the hour of truth and the last leg for the setting up of the international tribunal, which will happen soon, very soon," Hariri's son Saad told the crowd. The government and the U.N. Security Council have approved plans to establish the court to try Hariri's killers, over objections from the Hezbollah-led opposition and from Lebanon's pro-Syrian president. Parliament's approval is also required. "We are ready for every courageous decision for the sake of Lebanon and for the sake of a solution in Lebanon, but the international tribunal is the only passage for any solution," Saad al-Hariri declared from behind a bullet-proof screen.

Hariri's allies say the opposition is acting on Syrian orders to oust the government and derail the tribunal. In fiery speeches, pro-government leaders denounced Syria, which they blame for the February 14, 2005, suicide bombing that killed Hariri and for later attacks on anti-Syrian figures. Describing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as "a monkey, a snake and a butcher," Druze leader Walid Jumblatt declared: "We will not surrender to terrorism, to explosive charges, to totalitarian parties, Syrian and non-Syrian." Addressing Assad, he said: "This year, the tribunal will come and with it retribution and the death sentence." Christian Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea said: "We will pursue the criminals across the world and to the end of time," pledging that Lebanon would resist Syrian influence. Syria denies involvement in Hariri's assassination, which triggered international pressure that forced Damascus to withdraw its troops in 2005 after 29 years in Lebanon.

REMEMBERING HARIRI

"I came here as a commitment to February 14 and to put flowers on the grave of Hariri, who taught and built," said Amid al-Baayni, 33, among a sea of people with balloons of the color of Hariri's mainly Sunni Future movement. A Lebanese security source estimated the crowd at 300,000. The rally went ahead despite twin bus bombings on Tuesday. The ruling coalition accused Syria of organizing the blasts, which killed three people and wounded 20 in a Christian area. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora declared February 14 a national holiday and day of mourning. Shops, schools and businesses were closed. Troops reinforced positions in downtown Beirut. Crowds packed Martyrs Square and many people wore red caps commemorating Hariri, reading: "We really miss you."

Hariri's son Saad and his coalition allies called the rally partly to demonstrate support for the government, which is resisting a Hezbollah-led campaign to topple it. "We want to know who killed Rafik al-Hariri. That's why we are here today," said Jamil Ayyash, 47. Security forces erected fences and barbed wire to keep Hariri supporters apart from opposition activists who have been camped outside Siniora's office nearby since December 1. Hundreds of soldiers and police with armored vehicles guarded Martyrs Square and diverted traffic away from the area. Sectarian tensions have run high between pro-government Sunnis and Shi'ite Muslim supporters of opposition groups Hezbollah and Amal, both allies of Syria.

Hezbollah, Amal and opposition Christian leader Michel Aoun say the government has lost its legitimacy. They say they support the idea of the tribunal but want to discuss its mandate to ensure it cannot be used as a political tool against them.

(Additional reporting by Nadim Ladki, Tom Perry and Ayat Basma)

Happy V day my friends!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Est-il le seul martyr?!

Est-il le seul martyr?!
Toni Ghosn

14 Février : journée de deuil national annoncée par le gouvernement Sanioura !

Comme libanais, j'ai le droit de me poser une question très innocente :

Béchir Gemayel et René Mouawad ne sont-ils des présidents martyrs ?! Pourquoi alors le 14 Septembre n'est-il pas une journée de deuil national ?! Gebran Tueini et Pierre Gemayel ne sont-ils pas des députés martyrs ?! Pourquoi n'ont ils pas droit à une journée de deuil national eux aussi?! Rachid Karamé n'est il pas un premier ministre martyr comme Rafic Hariri ?! Alors, pourquoi pas une journée de deuil national pour lui ?! Ne sont-ils pas aussi des martyrs ?!

Et la liste n'en finit pas : Le mufti Hassan Khaled, Samir Kassir, Riad Taha, Kamal Joumblatt.... et donc pourquoi ?!!!!! y-a-t-il un martyr plus important que les autres ?! Par quelle logique et par quel droit on distingue entre les martyrs ?! Tout le Liban a pleuré Rafic Hariri, mais aussi tout le Liban a pleuré Pierre Gemayel et Gebran Tueni ! Si le martyr Hariri est tombé pour le Liban en 2004, le mufti Hassan Khaled est aussi tombé pour le Liban en pleine occupation syrienne en 1989 ! Si Rafic Hariri est tombé pour le slogan «Liban en premier » en 2004, Béchir Gemayel est tombé pour les 10452 en 1982 ! Si Rafic Hariri n'a dit non aux syriens qu'à partir de 2004, Gebran Tueini disait non aux syriens depuis 1980 !

Et les martyrs du 13 Octobre 1990, ne sont ils pas tombés pour défendre le Liban ?! Le 13 Octobre n'est il pas une date noire dans notre histoire ou bien un jour d'hommage à Kanaan et Khaddam selon Joumblatt et compagnie ?! Ces martyrs ont aussi droit à un jour de deuil national !

Honte à une patrie qui distingue entre ses martyrs !
Honte à une patrie qui classe ses martyrs selon leur richesse et leurs fortunes !
Honte à une patrie qui distingue entre les sacrifices des martyrs !

Finalement, la question la plus innocente reste : Rafic Hariri est-il le seul martyr ? Si oui, alors ce n'est plus le Liban ! Bienvenu à Hariristan !

Pictures of the blast in Ain Alak (above Bikfaya) this morning












'Non-political' March 11 bloc urges reconciliation

'Non-political' March 11 bloc urges reconciliation
By Rym Momtaz
Special to The Daily Star


BEIRUT: A recently formed citizens' coalition seeking to bridge the gap between the country's main political movements vowed in a news conference on Monday to work for political stability without seeking a permanent place among Lebanon's myriad political parties. "This is a socio-human outcry, a non-political and neutral outcry by all those who have been harmed and want to salvage what is left [of the country]," said Waleed Arbeed, who read out a manifesto for the movement, known as March 11, to journalists and sympathizers assembled at the Press Federation in Beirut. Monday's news conference aimed to define the movement's framework and future projects. Among other measures, the group announced the creation of a follow-up committee to coordinate and plan future activities.

In early January the March 11 coalition launched a nationwide billboard campaign with such slogans as "fed up with colors" - in reference to the colors that have come to embody different political factions - and "we divided the difference in two" - in reference to the movement's position on the calendar halfway between the March 8 and March 14 factions. Participating in Monday's event were Hani Safieddine, former president of the National Council for Lebanese Economists; Leila Karame, head of the Association of Lebanese Businesswomen; Mohammad Zaatari, president of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Sidon and the South; Georges Naffah; Merhi Abu Merhi, CEO of Abu Merhi Cruises and one of the founders of the March 11 movement; and members of the nascent follow-up committee. They were joined by Mohammad Baalbaki, president of the Press Federation, who praised the movement's political neutrality and focus on bringing the country out of deadlock by attempting to bridge the gap between the March 8 and March 14. "Disaster and the love of the nation are what brought us together," Abu Merhi said in a question-and-answer session at the end of the conference. Abu Merhi stressed that the sole purpose of the March 11 movement was to push feuding political leaders to come to an agreement. This would restore political stability and allow businesses to plan medium-term economic projects, he said. To underline the movement's lack of political aspirations, Abu Merhi vowed that the March 11 movement would disband if a national political agreement is reached by March 11.

Arbeed concluded with a call for a popular protest on March 11, should such an agreement fail to materialize.

Nine killed, 20 wounded in Lebanon bus blasts

Nine killed, 20 wounded in Lebanon bus blasts
By Yara Bayoumy
REUTERS


Nine people were killed and about 20 wounded in two bomb blasts that wrecked minibuses near the Lebanese Christian mountain town of Bikfaya on Tuesday, security sources said. The attacks on the public buses occurred a day before the second anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. Security fears have been running high in Lebanon since clashes last month between supporters and opponents of the Western-backed government. An army spokesman said one explosion had ripped through a minibus carrying passengers near the town, causing casualties. He said it appeared from first reports that the second blast had hit another minibus in the same area. Television footage showed several destroyed vehicles, including a minibus with its roof torn off, on a mountain road. Pools of blood lay near one vehicle. Interior Minister Hassan al-Sabaa said early information was that the bombs had exploded inside the minibuses. The head of the Lebanese Red Cross said at least three dead and six wounded had been taken to a nearby hospital. "There could be more casualties," Georges Kettani told Reuters.

Bikfaya is the home town of former President Amin Gemayel, whose son Pierre was assassinated by gunmen in November. Pierre Gemayel was industry minister in Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government, which has been locked for months in a power struggle with the Hezbollah-led opposition. The bombings were the first since Gemayel's killing, which was one of a string of actual or attempted political assassinations since Hariri's slaying on February 14, 2005. Many Lebanese accused Syria of masterminding Hariri's killing and the subsequent attacks. Damascus has denied any role. A U.N. inquiry has yet to complete its investigation.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Young Lebanese form human chain, urge leaders to 'resolve it, solve it'

Young Lebanese form human chain, urge leaders to 'resolve it, solve it'
Small but determined crowd challenges political status quo

By Iman Azzi
Daily Star staff


BEIRUT: Street protests are not a rare occurrence in Lebanon. However, demonstrations without colorful portraits of politicians or sectarian party flags are. This weekend, more than 100 Lebanese took to a former flashpoint in Beirut in a peaceful demonstration to demand an immediate solution to the current political impasse. The rally was part of a growing grassroots movement that is trying to lend a hand - or several hands - to ensuring civil peace and stability and prevent civil war. Launched on Saturday in response to the student clashes that erupted at Beirut Arab University last month, "Resolve it, Solve it" is the latest campaign urging politicians to come together a cut a deal. "We're fed up," said Reem Mobassaleh, 24, one of a dozen of the movement's organizers. "We want to send a message to all politicians - from every party - and have them sit down and figure out a peaceful solution." Nearly three weeks after the Beshara Khoury intersection became a venue for burning tires during an opposition protest on January 23, cars driving by on Saturday saw a different sight: dozens of Lebanese wearing white t-shirts urging the politicians to "resolve it, solve it."

Petitions were passed around to passersby after an online version collected over 1,000 electronic signatures in less than a week. Participants formed a human chain, walking together across the former Green Line, the infamous stretch of road that divided Beirut during the 1975-1990 Civil War. "Compromise is not failure," Mobassaleh said. "It's time that politicians start acting like public servants again." "I was watching the news and seeing all the violence and became sick and tired of it all," said Carmen Geha, 21, another organizer. "From my community work, I know that people here have more in common than they know." The message is not complicated - "We want an immediate and peaceful solution" read one poster - and many share the sentiment, although it fails to propose any practical solutions that could lead to an eventual compromise. "As a Lebanese student, to watch students resort to violence, rather than engage in healthy debate, is frustrating and not the answer," said Ronnie Chatah, 25, a graduate student who was part of the human chain.

Saturday's human chain was the latest in a series of mostly youth-driven alternative political movements challenging the sectarian tradition, including Young Lebanese Citizens, March 11 and Loubnani w Bass. These groups have passed out flyers, hung up posters, held conferences, signed petitions and worn T-shirts but have so far not managed to pose a major challenge to the political status quo. "We're trying to wake up the silent majority," Geha explained. "It's our future and I know there are others who think like us." While Lebanese politicians can mobilize thousands in minutes, the "silent majority" is proving tougher to move into the streets. Uniting these campaigns and pooling resources and supporters might give their message a chance to be heard. Although "Resolve it, Solve it" does not offer any solutions to the political crisis, individual members had some of their own. Geha suggested politicians turn to NGOs for inspiration. "A lot of local groups have been proposing ideas from policies on the environment to election reform. They're worth being looked at," she said. Chatah had a broader outlook and suggested an international conference: "We need to neutralize Lebanon - remove Lebanon from the middle of international politics. I'm here today to send a direct message that we refuse to let this country fall back into civil war."

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Lebanon's premier, president share rare handshake at church

Lebanon's premier, president share rare handshake at churchBy Hani M. Bathish
Special to The Daily Star


BEIRUT: With Lebanon's political deadlock tightening by the day, a meeting and a handshake between President Emile Lahoud and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora during a Mass held at Mar Maroun Church in Gemmayzeh was the focus of attention for Lebanese on Friday. The Mass, to mark the feast of the patron saint of the Maronite sect, was held amid tight security, with main access routes leading to the church blocked by security forces. No words were exchanged between the two men. Speaker Nabih Berri was not present at the Mass but was represented by MP Antoine Khoury. In addition to ambassadors and current ministers, Hizbullah and Amal's resigned ministers, as well as resigned pro-Lahoud Minister Yaacoub Sarraf, were also present.

Beirut Maronite Bishop Boulos Matar led the Mass, stressing his pleasure at seeing Lahoud, Siniora and Berri's representative present "to celebrate this day jointly in prayer and we ask God ... to strengthen our resolve to exert all efforts and unify our ranks and extricate our country from the worrying shocks and crises it is going through." Matar said the sects in Lebanon have been "united in good times and in bad." He added the Lebanese have learned to live together in unity and peace and their "coexistence" is a mark of distinction for which they are recognized around the world. "As our Constitution stipulates that no authority is legitimate if it breaches the principle of coexistence, then it behooves us all not to violate this principle with our own hands in any way whatsoever," Matar said, calling on people to respect one another's rights. He said the government was "an umbrella, without which the country remains unprotected." "Let us solve our problems today and search for solutions without weakening our country or risking its extinction, but to preserve it the way we preserve our national unity and coexistence," Mattar said, adding that the people protect their government as the government protects its people. He urged political leaders to declare a national state of emergency and unite to lead their country out of crisis, adding that it was time for unity, not division. Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, leading a Mass at Bkirki on Friday, said the hurdles the Lebanese are facing "come from too much talk," referring to constant bickering on the political scene. "Every day, the media inundates us with falsehoods and illusions around the clock," he said.

During a reception held by Sfeir after the Mass, Democratic Gathering MP Fouad Saad distributed a statement. The statement said the MP "feared the weapons confiscated by the army on Thursday," which Hizbullah claimed, "would be used on the internal front against the Lebanese and not against Israel, in an armed conflict that the resistance has been preparing for by training its fighters in Syria and Iran." Minister of State for Administrative Development Jean Hogassapian, speaking to Voice of Lebanon radio, said the matter of the weapons is currently in the hands of the military judiciary. He added that UN Security Council 1701 "has placed new parameters for dealing with the resistance's weapons." "No doubt the issue of the weapons has political overtones, we just hope this matter does not become a divisive issue ... at a time we are most in need of a political climate that leads to resolving the problems we face today. We urge calm and a return to the constitutional institutions to solve this problem," Hogassapian said. MP Robert Ghanem, also speaking to Voice of Lebanon, said that since the Lebanese Army moved to the South and since all parties - including Hizbullah - agreed to the terms of 1701, "the issue falls outside the activities of the resistance and what it used to do before the summer 2006 war."

This came a day after Defense Minister Elias Murr announced that there were "intelligence reports of a possible operation against the UN peacekeeping force in the South." Murr told the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp that militants at the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp were plotting against the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. He said the threat was being investigated closely. Murr also said that the army commander, General Michel Suleiman, had expressed a wish to resign due to the "prevailing situation" in the country but the minister said he asked the veteran officer to be patient. The resignation "was not accepted and will not be accepted," Murr said.

A revealing slip of the tongue

A revealing slip of the tongue
Chirac's comments betray the real priorities of Western powers
By Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban
Published in The Daily Star

FIRST PERSON BOUTHAINA SHAABAN

It seems that journalists who met with French President Jacques Chirac last week could not adhere to the "off-the-record" rule to which they all agreed. Judging by the nature of the information leaked, one does not blame them; it is not usual that a president of a Western country speaks about "wiping out Tehran," elucidating that the real danger is not the bomb that Iran may possess but the leak of the technology to other countries. Chirac said: "Iran will help other countries to do that. Why doesn't Saudi Arabia have a bomb? Why doesn't Iran help Egypt to get one also? This is the real danger."

What a revelation! It means that the real danger does not lie between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia and Egypt, nor does it lie in the threat that Iran presents to the Arabs, as so many Western leaders claim openly or discreetly. The danger is implied in Iran's possession of nuclear technology and in the possibility of leaking this technology to other Muslim countries, mainly because such a possibility will undermine the monopoly Israel has over nuclear bombs in the Middle East. What is equally important is that such a possibility will change the status of rich Arab countries from mere consumers of Western technology to producers of technology, which may put an end to their manipulation by the West. This means that today's Western attitude to Iran is the same attitude that Egypt or Saudi Arabia would've faced had they taken the scientific and technological step Iran has taken, even if their final objective is purely peaceful energy.

This analysis can be best supported by recalling the Western attitude to Iraq. The decisive point that marked a change in the Western attitude to Saddam Hussein was when Iraq started acquiring technological prowess. Israel was tacitly given the green light to destroy Iraq's nuclear reactor and one pretext after another was made in order to destroy Iraq's scientific potential and kill Iraqi scientists and knock Iraq back 100 years, a mission the neocons have now accomplished. No Western leader or official relates the human or social tragedies which resulted from this criminal action against Iraq and the Iraqis.

What Chirac's slip of the tongue reveals is the essence of current Western policies toward Arab and Muslim countries. The legislation issued in the West during the last five years against Arabs and Muslims, the occupation of Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan, the continued occupation of Palestine and the cruel war against Lebanon and the continuous threats to Sudan, Iran and Syria are practical steps to implement these new Western policies toward Muslim countries. The means for implementation are the sectarian and ethnic conflicts they are creating between Sunnis and Shiites, Muslims and Christians and Arabs and Kurds. What Chirac's slip of the tongue has revealed is that the West now does not differentiate between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and they certainly do not differentiate between one Arab country and another. They invest in Arab weakness and division to bring the worst fate to our peoples and countries, steal our treasures and keep us as consumers of their products.

Bouthaina Shaaban is the Syrian expatriates minister.

World Press Photo Award Winner


US photographer Spencer Platt of Getty Images is the winner of this year's World Press Photo of the Year award. His picture, taken 15 August 2006, shows a group of young Lebanese driving through a South Beirut neighbourhood devastated by Israeli bombings. Jury chair Michele McNally of The New York Times says: "This photograph makes you look beyond the obvious."

(A sad paradox, isn't it?)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Interesting documentary!

An interesting documentary at: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8326734789464462895&q=Zarka&hl=en

About this video
A political documentary covering 30 years of war and post war in Lebanon. It highlights the real mistakes by the lebanese people throughout ... all » the Syrian and Israeli occupations. Different formats are used. War footage, drama and graphics. 14 minutes.
May 1, 2005 - Pierre Dawaliby

Cartoon of Nasrallah on YouTube.com

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p89SNV8xDvE

Download, mute, then play when done. + Lots of clip's on Aoun and Geagea...

UNIFIL steps up presence after border clash

UNIFIL steps up presence after border clash
By Iman Azzi and Rym Ghazal
Daily Star staff


BEIRUT: A day after an exchange of fire between the Lebanese and Israeli armies along the border, Lebanon's defense minister slammed Israel's claims that the clashes were a Hizbullah "provocation." In a response to Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's claims that the military clash on the border was a "provocation" by the resistance group, Defense Minister Elias Murr said, "there is no Hizbullah down there, they weren't involved." Speaking on a political talk show late Thursday, Murr added that "there are only the UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army down there. There was no provocation of any kind by Hizbullah. Israel crossed the Blue Line." Speaking during a news conference in Madrid, Livni had declared the clashes "over. "It's been dealt with," Livni said, adding, however, that the incident had come about because Hizbullah "is pursuing its provocations and continues to try to sow unrest in the region." The exchange of fire Wednesday night was the first involving Lebanese and Israeli troops since the Lebanese Army deployed in August to South Lebanon to work alongside international peacekeepers in a weapons-free buffer zone.

According to a statement from the Lebanese Army, an Israeli Army bulldozer, accompanied by Merkava tanks and helicopters, crossed the Israeli-constructed technical fence and continued north, past the Blue Line. It added that Lebanese troops fired warning shots into the air, and that an ensuing exchange of fire between the two armies lasted for several minutes. Speaking to The Daily Star on condition of anonymity, a Lebanese army general, who was one of the officials sent to survey the area immediately after the clash, said that the Israelis "crossed the Blue Line by 15 meters toward the village of Maroun al-Ras."

He said that although the situation had returned to "calm" on Thursday, the incident had been "a provocation and a blatant violation by the Israeli Army of UN Security Council Resolution 1701," which ended the 2006 war with Israel. He rejected a claim by the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) that Israel was "de-mining" in the area, asking, "Since when does the Israeli Army de-mine the landmines they themselves planted?" "It is the Lebanese Army's job to de-mine," the general said. But Israel said its troops had passed the fence to search for explosives planted by Hizbullah on Monday, insisting that its forces had remained south of the international border and within Israeli territory, which stretches beyond the fence in some areas.

UNIFIL spokesperson Liam McDowall told The Daily Star that the firefight was a "serious incident," which was "initiated by the Lebanese Army after an [Israeli] bulldozer crossed the technical fence in an apparent attempt to clear the area of mines between the technical fence and the Blue Line." At the scene, French officers, joined by a Lebanese liaison officer, would not speak to journalists, but were overheard in private conversations as saying the Blue Line was not visibly marked in the area. McDowall told The Daily Star that an Israeli plane was seen flying over Lebanese land in the area of Maroun al-Ras late Wednesday afternoon, before the incident occurred. The Lebanese Army reported three other Israeli air violations that began at 9 p.m., Wednesday evening, with planes circling the South for 12 hours. Livni, who was on a visit to Spain said that Israel had organized the clearing of mines "placed in the path of Israelis," allegedly by Hizbullah. "They [the soldiers] left and we are going to pursue coordination with the UN and take all necessary measures to avoid this kind of incident." Hizbullah acknowledged that the resistance had planted the mines, but said they had done so long before the summer war. A separate statement issued by the Lebanese Army Command on Thursday said Israel had crossed the border "under the pretext of searching for explosive devices north of the Blue Line." "As the bulldozer was moving closer, the Lebanese Army stationed nearby fired at it to force it to stop and withdraw ... as an extension of their violation, the enemy fired at one of the Lebanese army posts inside the Lebanese territories," it said. A Lebanese security official, speaking on condition of anonymity to the Associated Press, said the army fired volleys of 0.5 caliber machine guns toward the bulldozer, drawing Israeli forces to return with five anti-tank grenades that targeted an army armored vehicle and a transport jeep.

The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that an Israeli tank fired two rounds at the Lebanese Army - at an outpost and an armored vehicle. An Israeli Army spokesman told AFP that "the Lebanese army first fired warning shots. We asked them through UNIFIL to stop shooting. Shots were fired in the direction of our forces." UNIFIL increased deployment in the area Thursday and worked to re-demarcate the Blue Line as many markers have been destroyed or broken. Although Israel said it was eager to avoid another war with Lebanon, General Alon Friedman told Israel's Public Radio that "we are going to continue our flights and even bolster our aerial activities in Lebanon." "We expect the calm to return but we are prepared for all scenarios," he said, adding that "our orders to fire have changed since the end of the war. We can fire on anyone who opens fire on us, who has explosives or who poses a threat to us." In a statement from his office, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said, "we do not intend to pursue the policy of turning a blind eye, as in the past." "We have no intentions of escalation," he added, "but wherever there is fire endangering [Israeli Army] forces we will have to react."

A statement from Fouad Siniora's office said the premier had instructed the head of the Lebanese Army General Michel Suleiman "to confront any future Israeli violations against Lebanon's sovereignty." Siniora met with Geir Pederson, the personal representative of the UN secretary general in Lebanon, Thursday morning and informed him that the Lebanese government rejected any further Israeli violation of Lebanese land including the ongoing air violations that "have never stopped since the cease-fire in August." President Emile Lahoud issued a statement that "saluted" the actions of the Lebanese Army, adding that "such a performance is only normal to an institution which has always made enormous sacrifices to restore the country's unity and territorial integrity." In a meeting with UNIFIL Force Commander Major General Claudio Graziano, Lahoud charged that "Israel, through its recent activities, is attempting to modify the Blue Line." Graziano also met with Siniora, Speaker Nabih Berri, and commanders from the Lebanese Army. After meeting the speaker, he said "I repeated to [Berri] that I'm here with UNIFIL for Lebanon and for maintaining peace." Graziano has called for "tripartite meetings" between the concerned parties. "It's a serious incident," Graziano said, but would not comment further until a full investigation by the peacekeeping force is complete. Berri told Graziano that he could rely on the full support of the Lebanese people to ensure the implementation of Resolution 1701. The speaker also called the head of the Lebanese Army to congratulate the troops for their "steadfast dedicated protection of Lebanon." Following a meeting with Lahoud, Hizbullah MP Mohammad Raad paid tribute to the performance of the national army, saying that "Israel is attempting to impose a new status quo in the area of Maroun al-Ras and other border regions." - With Agencies and additional reporting by Mohammad Zaatari

Thursday, February 08, 2007

New group urges leaders to 'Resolve it, Solve it'

New group urges leaders to 'Resolve it, Solve it'
The Daily Star

A new group in Lebanon called the "Resolve it, Solve it" group will organize a human chain in Beirut on Saturday, to publicly demand an "immediate and peaceful" solution to the current political deadlock. The chain will stretch from Bechara Khoury to Sodeco and participants will sign a petition including their demands. The petition is to be submitted to MPs. Resolve it Solve it is a group of Lebanese citizens who reject "empty promises, sectarian speeches and subliminal calls for violence." "We reject civil war. We can no longer tolerate the growing violence leaving us anxious about our present and fearful for our future," the group said in a statement on Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Photo Miraculeuse de St. Charbel

La photo ci-jointe m'est parvenue d'une dame d'un certain âge, qui vendait des « Manakishs » dans les parages de l'église de St Charbel, Annaya. J'y passais prendre mon petit déjeuner, après la messe, chaque fois que je faisais du pèlerinage avec ma famille. J'avais une certaine tendresse envers cette dame, étant donné qu'elle était obligée de travailler malgré son âge. Un jour, elle m'a donné la photo me disant : tu me promets de l'honorer, prier et en prendre soin, sinon je ne te la donne pas. C'est l'une des rares photos de St Charbel où il a les yeux ouverts - elle a été prise lors de l'une de ses apparitions. Elle est miraculeuse...

La dame m'avait raconté qu'elle devait au propriétaire des arriérés du loyer qu'elle lui versait au fur et à mesure. Il lui restait encore 450.000LL, quand il lui demanda de les régler dans le délai de 3 jours, sinon elle devrait quitter les lieux. Ce fut un week-end du mois de Février. Elle était certaine qu'elle ne peut vendre des « Manakish » pour une telle somme mais elle priait pour St Charbel afin de sauver sa situation (elle avait cette même photo accrochée au mur). Mais, une violente tempête de neige bloqua les routes et pas une personne ne passa, même pas un chasse-neige. Elle était là, seule, et elle continuait à prier, peut-être pensait-elle que le propriétaire pourrait reconsidérer le délai, car les routes étaient totalement fermées. Soudain, un « Hummer » bien équipé coupa le silence, et 3 jeunes couples rentrent chez elle, et lui demandent un repas. Leur facture ne dépasse pas les 10 dollars, pourtant, ils lui règlent 300$. Elle les rend, croyant qu'ils se sont trompés. Mais ils insistent de lui donner toute la somme car lui dit-on : c'est mérité, tu es la seule dans toute la région qui a pu nous donner de quoi manger, on crevait de faim depuis la veille. Et c'était exactement la somme dont elle avait besoin....

Amis, cela n'est pas à comparer avec les milliers de miracles de St. Charbel, surtout ceux relatifs à des guérisons que la médecine a jugé incurables, mais, c'est peut être indicatif: Même dans les petits problèmes de la vie quotidienne, St Charbel vous soutiendra. Ayez la foi, priez, St Charbel répondra à vos appels.

Imprimer la photo avec les dimensions de votre choix et circulez
N'oubliez pas : l'Honorer, prier, et en prendre soin)
Lara Skayem

New March 11 bloc restricts political message to 'enough is enough'

New March 11 bloc restricts political message to 'enough is enough'
By Hani M. Bathish
Special to The Daily Star


BEIRUT: An independent movement opposed to the continuous escalation and provocation of Lebanese political life has emerged and is set to be launched at a public gathering on March 11, under a banner of rejection of politics as usual. Its moniker? March 11. One of the movement's founding members told The Daily Star that the idea behind the gathering was to "give voice to those who are largely ignored, those who have been harmed the most by the political bickering and violence, those who lost their jobs, those whose shops and businesses closed down and all the Lebanese people who want to live free of fear." March 11's message is that "enough is enough" and it is a message aimed at the international community, those in power and politicians on both sides of the political divide, according to Merhi Abou Merhi, CEO of Abou Merhi Cruises in Beirut. "We want to let out a collective shout, get the people's voices out to the politicians," Abou Merhi said. "The situation deteriorated very quickly in the past two weeks, no one is happy, not even the supporters of March 8 and March 14." Abou Merhi claimed that the gathering "is not political in any way" and only aims to show that the majority in the country is neither March 8 nor March 14, but those who have suffered in silence as a result of the escalating crisis. "We are opposed to closures and any side that forces closures. Who will reimburse business owners when they close? Will the government forgive them their taxes, or will a landlord forgo the rent or workers forgo their salaries? No one will show mercy to business owners," Abou Merhi said.

He said the group's action will be civilized and peaceful and that it is working with supporters to organize a gathering on March 11 if the crisis is not defused by then. "We will gather to show how many we really are. You cannot get the message across to politicians except through the same methods they understand and fear: the voice of the people," Abou Merhi said. "Many people talk to me over the phone and tell me they are with me but cannot openly show it. Either they or someone in their family holds a certain position they do not want to risk losing. We, on the other hand, are independent. We are saying in a loud voice: 'Enough is enough, it is impossible to continue down this road.'" The businessman said he hopes that the number of those who respond to the call and gather on March 11 will not be too great, as those who come will likely be those who have suffered the most as a result of the deteriorating political situation. "Regrettably, I feel they will be many," Abou Merhi said.

The shape and form that the actual gathering will take and its location will be announced during a press conference that March 11 plans to hold this week. "We will also hold meetings with religious leaders and confessional leaderships to inform them of the actions we will take," Abou Merhi said. The most important element of the gathering, Abou Merhi said, is that it has no political aims; it is rather "just a conduit to give voice to those who have no one to speak for them." The campaign includes billboards put up across the country, as well as radio and television advertisements. Abou Merhi said he has "no personal political aspirations whatsoever." "Those who support us include businessmen, doctors, university lecturers, lawyers, expatriate Lebanese, in fact a sizable number are Lebanese who have lived abroad and have come back to live and work in Lebanon. It is our right to get our voice out," Abou Merhi said. The gathering has no political program. In fact it should conclude on March 11 if the crisis is resolved by then, Merhi said, but if is not, the organization will continue to work toward resolving the crisis. "The gathering is a campaign to create awareness of the low level of political performance in the country," said Rabih Saba, business consultant for Abou Merhi Cruises.

Saba said the gathering is not a political party or a "third party." "All we are saying is there is a silent power, a major chunk of people who are not fanatic about either March 8 or March 14, who go to work every day, and come home to their families, and they are tired of living under constant tension," Rabih said. The gathering says it represents "all fathers who dream of a bright future for their children, all workers who have lost their jobs due to the situation, all students who dream of going to their school or university in peace, and everyone who sees Lebanon as a country for coexistence, life and dialogue." The group also aims to be a bridge across which the March 8 and March 14 forces can meet.

To learn more about the organization and its upcoming plans, check out www.11march.org.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Lebanon is as good a place to find out what tosh the 'terror' merchants talk- by Robert Fisk

Lebanon is as good a place to find out what tosh the 'terror' merchants talk
By Robert Fisk

02/03/07 "
The Independent" -- -- So it was back to terror, terror, terror this week. The "terrorist" Hizbollah was trying to destroy the "democratically elected government" of Fouad Siniora in Lebanon. The "terrorist" Hamas government cannot rule Palestine. Iranian "terrorists" in Iraq are going to be gunned down by US troops. My favourite line of the week came from the "security source" - just how one becomes a "security source" remains a mystery to me -- who announced: "Terrorists are always looking for new ways to strike terror... There is no end of the possibilities where terrorists can try to cause terror to the public." Well, you could have fooled me.

Lebanon is as good a place as any to find out what a load of old tosh the "terror" merchants talk. For here it is that the hydra-headed monster of Iran is supposedly stalking the streets of Beirut, staging a coup against Mr Siniora and his ministers. Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbollah leader, is the man Israel spent all last summer trying - vainly, of course - to kill, his black-bearded, turbaned appearance on Hizbollah's own TV station a source of fury to both Ehud Olmert and - nowadays - to Siniora's men in government. Now it's true that Nasrallah - an intelligent, former military commander of Hizbollah in southern Lebanon - is developing a rather odd cult of personality. His massive features tower over the Beirut airport highway, a giant hand waving at motorists in both directions. And these days, you can buy Hizbollah T-shirts and Nasrallah key chains. But somehow "terror" is not quite the word that comes to mind. This is partly because the tens of thousands of Shia Muslims whom Hizbollah represents are staging a social revolution rather than a coup, a mass uprising of the poor who have traditionally been ignored by the great and the good of Lebanese society. The men in their tent city downtown are a powerful symbol in Lebanon. They are smoking their hooker pipes and playing cards and sleeping rough next to the shining new city which Rafiq Hariri rebuilt from the ruins of Beirut - a city to impress foreigners but one in which the south Lebanese poor could not afford to buy a cup of coffee. Hariri's theory - or at least this is how he explained it to me before his murder - was that if the centre of Beirut was reconstructed, the money which it generated would trickle down to the rest of Lebanon. But it didn't trickle. The bright lights of downtown Beirut were enjoyed by the rich and purchased by the Saudis and admired by the likes of Jacques Chirac but they were not for the Shia. For them, Hizbollah provided the social services and the economic foundation of its part of Lebanon as well as the military spearhead to strike at Israel and demand the return of Shebaa Farms.

The Lebanese government may have its troops mixed in with the new UN force in the south but no one doubts that Hizbollah remain in their villages, as powerful and as influential as ever. Harirism, it seems, failed and now Hariri's old friend Siniora - who, by the way, was never elected (he was appointed to the prime minister's job although you'd never know if from watching Western television) - has returned from Paris with millions of dollars to sit once more in his little "green zone", surrounded by barbed wire and soldiers and, outside the gates of his serail, by the poor of southern Lebanon and the suburbs of Beirut.

Hizbollah's electoral partners are also interesting. General Michel Aoun - whom the Americans** have not yet got round to calling a "terrorist" - is the [anti-Syrian] Christian leader who allows Nasrallah to claim that the opposition is non-sectarian. Aoun's supporters were involved in pitched battles with Samir Geagea's Phalangists last week and what was striking was how poor many of Aoun's Christian supporters also appeared to be. Indeed, Aoun was himself born in the same southern slums of Beirut which is Hizbollah's power base and his constant refrain - that the government is corrupt - is beginning to take hold among the disenfranchised Christian communities in the east of Beirut. The fact that Aoun is also a little cracked does not change this. Even when this week he produced a doctored photograph supposedly showing an armed Phalangist on the streets - the image was of a Hizbollah gunman, originally taken during last summer's war but stuck on to a photograph of crowds on a north Beirut roadway - his loyal supporters did not desert him. Nestling beside their tents in central Beirut are canvas homes containing Lebanese communists - how friendly the old hammer and sickle seems these days - and a host of lesser groups which may or may not come under Syria's patronage. [Note: Aoun’s group admitted to the mistake showing a doctored photo, claiming it was sent to them as a set-up].

Of course, the crisis in Lebanon is also about Iran and Syria, especially Iran's determination to damage or destroy any Middle East government which has earned America's friendship. In the growing, overheated drama being played out between Washington and Tehran (and Israel, of course), Lebanon is another board game for the two sides to use. America thus lined up to defend Lebanon's democracy - though it didn't care a damn about it when Israel bombarded the country last summer - while Iran continues to support Hizbollah whose government ministers resigned last year, provoking the current crisis.

Nasrallah is said to have been personally shocked by the extent of the violence and hatred manifested in last week's miniature civil war in which both Sunni and Shia Muslims used guns against each other for the first time. But they too emerged from the slums to do battle with their co-religionists and I rather suspect that - when this latest conflict is over - there will have to be a serious evaluation of the explosive nature of Lebanon's poverty belts, a re-examination of a country whose super-wealthy launder the money which never reaches the poor, whose French restaurants and Italian designer shops are for the princes of the Gulf, whose government - however democratically elected (and Washington still doesn't seem to understand that sectarian politics mean that Lebanon cannot have a normal democracy) - seems so out of touch with its largest religious community.

But as the story of Lebanon continues, please spare me the word "terrorist".

[** The US threatened to place Aoun on its terrorist list if he maintains his political alliance with Hizbullah, even though Aoun’s group works for democracy, transparency, reform, secularism and peaceful resistance and protest.]

Copyright
The Independent

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Downtown becomes ghost town as protests continue

Downtown becomes ghost town as protests continue
Number of vacated businesses is multiplying

By Lysandra Ohrstrom
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: After two months, the tent city in Downtown Beirut has become a fact of life for most residents of the capital, but for many commercial tenants the opposition demonstrations have proven to be the final straw after a string of political disruptions stretching back to 2005. What began in January with a few restaurant owners and retailers trickling out of the Beirut Central District (BCD) to other locations in the capital now looks like a mass exodus from what was once one of Lebanon's most popular districts. On Friday, The Daily Star counted more than 30 vacated properties, empty of both merchandise and customers. At least 20 more stores were closed. Some shop windows still bear liquidation signs; others read "For Rent;" and a few point customers to different branches. "Hope to see you in better circumstances," is scrawled in black marker on a dry-erase board hanging inside the Massaya Beirut Restaurant.

Those establishments that are still open advertise sales and promotions, taking last stabs at luring the stray customer. Most of the remaining merchants say they plan to wait one more month before making a final decision to close or relocate. An employee at the Doodle Doo sweet shop says most tenants began closing two weeks ago. Even though the store sees little customer traffic - by mid-afternoon on Friday it had made only one LL 4,500 sale - the employee says his boss refuses to quit the BCD on principle. "I'm a supervisor but I have no employees to supervise," Hadi Adnan says. Since the war, Doodle Doo, like many employers, has had to cut down on shifts, prompting many employees in the BCD to find other jobs or leave the country, he explains. "It's really bad because 90 percent of the employees here are university students. Most didn't register for the fall semester because they did not work this summer. I don't think a lot of them will register for classes in spring either," Adnan says.

Since the summer 2006 war with Israel, 100 of the Virgin Megastore's 300 employees have left for other countries and, to a lesser extent, other jobs, says Jihad Murr, the owner of Virgin's Lebanon franchise. The store has not taken steps to replace them. Instead the Martyrs Square location has narrowed its operating hours, from 10 a.m. to midnight to 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. "We are living on a day-by-day basis," Murr says. "In three months we will re-evaluate ... The worst-case scenario would be to temporarily close Downtown for a year or two, but it really depends on the results of our next promotion. December was not a catastrophe because we did all of the ad campaigns." The franchise has lost more than $2 million from all Lebanon locations combined since the war, but the Martyrs Square flagship has suffered most of all, he says. Sales in January were 70 percent below the expected levels. Murr's landlord forgave one month's rent in 2006, a gesture Murr calls "nice but far from reality."

Solidere - the real-estate development company responsible for the reconstruction of Downtown following the Civil War - exempted businesses from two months of rent payments during the July-August war. In December the company told some tenants that they would offer similar compensation if the demonstrations wore on for a second month, says Sami Hochon, the owner of the Lina's sandwich franchise whose flagship is in the BCD. But he has not heard the offer mentioned since. Individual landlords have been less generous, according to many business owners. Though demand for property in the BCD is obviously down, they have refused to lower rents. Dida Ghossoub, the owner of the Dayama clothing store on Rue d'Uruguay, has been shipping clothes to Dubai to be sold because "no one is buying clothes in Lebanon right now." "I want to order my summer collection now, but I'm afraid to," she says. "Who knows if we will be open?"

Naharnet Lebanon News

iloubnan.info

Marketing in Lebanon