03 November 2005

Egypt authorities detain Rana Qoleilat in Cairo

Egypt's Ambassador to Lebanon Hussein Derar on Wednesday gave unofficial word that Egyptian authorities have arrested Bank al-Madina's former executive secretary Rana Qoleilat in Cairo.

Following a meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Fawzi Salloukh, Derar told reporters he was still awaiting official confirmation before informing Salloukh of Qoleilat's arrest.

Some members of the Lebanese Presidential Guards might be arrested after the Eid under orders from the UN probe investigating the murder of former Premier Rafik Hariri, security sources told The Daily Star Wednesday. The sources said several names have been circulating, "mainly aides of the Presidential Guards' former leader, Mustapha Hamdan."(DStar)

31 October 2005

Rana Koleilat Reportedly Detained by Interpol in Cairo

Rana Koleilat, the fugitive heroine of Al Madina Bank's $1.2 billion scandal, has been detained by Interpol in Cairo pending an extradition request from Lebanon's judicial authorities to haul her back to custody in Beirut, As Safir reported on Monday.
It quoted an unnamed senior Lebanese security official as saying Rana was arrested in the Egyptian capital by Interpol on Friday at an official Lebanese request submitted to the international police organization. The extradition request will be made within a few hours, As Safir said.

Five new arrest warrants were lately issued in Beirut for Rana's arrest for new lawsuits brought against her in connection with more bouncing Al Madina Bank checks. The shadowy Bank was reportedly tied by the Detlev Mehlis commission to Rafik Hariri's assassination.

Rana managed to flee Lebanon last March only 10 days after her release on a $20,000 bail from the Central Government Prison of Roumieh. Syria's former intelligence chief in Lebanon Rustom Ghazaleh reportedly helped her obtain a forged Lebanese passport identifying her as Fakhrieh Saeed Mhanna with which she crossed the border to Syria.

She stayed 10 days in Damascus and then traveled to Istanbul overland to catch a flight to Cairo, where she since lived incognito at the 7th floor apartment of Al Rayyan building in Al Ajouza neighborhood of the Egyptian capital.

Rana was often reported to have handled enormous financial transactions involving Gen. Ghazaleh when she was executive director of Al Madina Bank. Ghazaleh was chief of Syria's military intelligence in Lebanon since 2003 until April 16 this year, when Syria evacuated Lebanon and terminated 3 decades of tutelage that had been characterized as a reign of terror. -(naharnet)

29 October 2005

Lebanon Seeks Rana's Extradition from Egypt as Mehlis Ties Al Madina Bank to Hariri's Murder

Lebanese authorities have moved to extradite Rana Koleilat from Egypt as five new arrest warrants were issued for the glamorous heroine of the $1.2 billion scandal that ruined Beirut's Al Madina bank, which was lately tied by U.N. investigators to Rafik Hariri's assassination, An Nahar reported on Saturday.
Judicial departments are preparing the extradition file that will soon be lodged with the Egyptian authorities and the Interpol at the instructions of Lebanon's state prosecutor Saeed Mirza after obtaining confirmation that she currently lives incognito in Cairo, the newspaper said.

No difficulties are anticipated in getting Rana back to Beirut because Lebanon and Egypt have an extradition treaty for the exchange of criminals, An Nahar said, noting that Al Madina Bank has been linked to Rafik Hariri's assassination.

It has been established that Rana stayed 10 days in Beirut after her March 17 release on a $20,000 bail from 14 months in jail in connection with the fallen bank scandal. Syria's former intelligence chief in Lebanon Rustom Ghazaleh reportedly helped her obtain a forged Lebanese passport identifying her as Fakhrieh Saeed Mhanna with which she crossed the border to Syria.

She also stayed 10 days in Damascus and then traveled to Istanbul overland and finally by plane to Cairo, where she now lives at the 7th floor of Al Rayyan apartment building in Al Ajouza neighborhood with a former prison mate identified as Ms. Anette Imad.

The extradition request is being made on the strength of a charge that Rana had violated a travel ban clamped as she was released on bail plus five new lawsuits lodged against her, accusing her of issuing bouncing bank checks.

Rana was often reported to have handled enormous financial transactions involving Gen. Ghazaleh when she was executive director of Al Madina Bank. Ghazaleh was chief of Syria's military intelligence in Lebanon since 2003 until April 16 this year, when Syria evacuated Lebanon and terminated 3 decades of tutelage that had been characterized as a reign of terror. -(naharnet)

20 October 2005

Mysterious Rana Qoleilat using an assumed name in Egypt

BEIRUT, Lebanon, October 20 (Lebanonwire) -- The mysterious Bank Al-Madina's Executive Director Rana Qoleilat, who spent more than a year in jail for falsifying documents in an embezzlement case worth millions of Dollars before paying a series of bails that allowed her to escape and then disappear, was now located in Egypt under a different name, daily Al Mustaqbal said Thursday.

Seven months removed from a money laundering investigation tied to the former Premier Rafik Hariri’s probe, involving payoffs by Syrian officials to a number of MPs and media representatives, and despite several arrest warrants, Qoleilat had been on the run until the daily discovered that she was hiding in Cairo under the assumed name of Fakhriya Said Mhanna.

Al Mustaqbal discovered that Qoleilat is living with her former Roumieh prison mate Annette Al-Imad in an apartment on the seventh floor of Al-Rayan building, on Al-Ajouzat street in Cairo.

The daily said security forces have now a complete picture of Qoleilat’s escape (or smuggling), with information indicating that she left Lebanon a short period after being released on bail and entered Syria last April 1st along the northern border in AL-Arida area, accompanied by Wissam Shaaban, Mohammad Qandil and Tony Al-Imad (brother of her apartment mate in Cairo) to facilitate her exit.

The daily said Tony had allegedly helped Qoleilat secure a forged passport in the name of Mhanna, born 1934 (although Qoleilat was born in 1963) and used it to cross Syria into Turkey and then air-born to Cairo, where the fugitive got a residency permit for one year, based on yet another British document she exhibited at the Egyptian customs.

Qoleilat had until February 2004 enjoyed the protection of former Syrian Army Intelligence head in Lebanon Rustom Ghazaleh in collaboration with then Syrian-affiliated security and judiciary apparatus, the daily said, adding that the political cover kept her from ever being seriously implicated despite her arrest on several occasions.

Her last release came on March 17th three days after the March 14th demonstrations (a million Lebanese gathered at Freedom Square to rebuke Syrian dominance in Lebanese affairs and ask for Hariri’s true killers), which tipped conspirators that the Lebanese-Syrian security regime was not going to survive, the daily said.

Qoleilat was first arrested on November 2003 following an arrest warrant by judge Hatem Madi who was threatened not to pursue the matter and was subsequently punished when former pro-Syrian Public Prosecutor Adnan Addoum ordered the removal of his security detail and later demoted him to inferior duties in secondary judicial courts, the daily said.

Al Mustaqbal added that Madi later received threatening letters warning him to release Qoleilat from jail, which he did at a later stage.-(lebanonwire)

02 October 2005

Amiantit Wins SR260m Contracts

RIYADH, 2 October 2005 — Fareed Al-Khalawi, executive president at Amiantit, said that the company won the contract to export fiberglass pipes of four-meters diameter. The pipes are used for cooling factories and will be delivered to Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) and YANSAB companies at Jubail and Yanbu industrial cities. The total value of this contract is SR187 million. Amiantit was also awarded another contract this time for Aramco. The total value of that contract is SR70 million. Amiantit will deliver fiberglass pipes that will be used to transfer water and chemical materials.

07 June 2005

Amiantit factories in KSA export GRP pipes to 13 countries

DAMMAM, Saudi Arabia, June 7, 2005 -- During April 2005, three Amiantit manufacturing facilities in Saudi Arabia: Amiantit Fiberglass Industries Limited (AFIL) in Dammam, FPC in Dammam, and Amitech in Jeddah, completed exports to 13 countries.

"While Saudi Arabia remains our biggest single market, export orders are becoming more and more substantial and their combined volume adds up to an increasingly important part of our business." said Eng. Fareed Al-Khalawi, Amiantit president and CEO. "

The orders were for Glass-fibre Reinforced Polyester (GRP) -- also known as fiberglass reinforced polyester (FRP) -- pipes of various diameters for water and waste water infrastructure projects and included 10 km to Syria, 5 km to Morganti, Jordan, 3 km to Sabiyah, Kuwait, 3 km to Sudan, 2 km to Sohar, Oman, 2 km to Yemen and 1.5 km to Zawia, Libya.

In addition, AFIL Dammam has supplied the Iran Marine Industrial Company (SADRA) with SAR 48.75 million (US$13 million) worth of pipes and fittings. SADRA is one of Iran's biggest off-shore contracting companies and has the contract to provide utility services to the Assuluya based petrochemical industries. The project will supply sea water for cooling which is transported through an open channel to a pumping station and then through a 12 km network of GRP pipes to the industrial complex. Steel pipes were originally specified but following a detailed technical scrutiny and evaluation world wide, GRP was selected and AFIL was awarded the design, review, engineering, supply and supervision of the piping network.

Another Amiantit manufacturing facility, Amiantit Fiberglass Industries India Ltd. (AFIIL), is currently servicing an order for GRP underground storage tanks from Reliance Industries, India's largest private sector refinery and petrochemical company. Reliance has a programme to establish nearly 5800 retail outlets over a five year period. Between January 2004, when the AFIIL plant in Goa, India was commissioned, and March 2005, Amiantit India supplied some 2000 GRP tanks in configurations of 20, 40 and 70 kl. Then, last month when Reliance had a sudden requirement for more tanks to be delivered within a short time frame, they ordered an additional 2000 GRP tanks. The total contract is worth SAR 37.5 (US$10 million) out of which more than SAR 28 million (US$7.5 million) worth of tanks is for delivery during 2005.

Also in April, GRP pipes and fittings were supplied to a number of customers in Saudi Arabia including continuing delivery of AFIL's world record four metre diameter pipes to the Royal Commission for Jubail & Yanbu.

Eng. Fareed Al-Khalawi went on to say "These orders show global confidence in the reliability of Amiantit products and technologies, all of which are supported by certifications such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001, UL, FM, NSF, and many others, ensuring that production conforms to the highest international standards."

GRP products are manufactured using Amiantit-owned FlowtiteTM technology and are corrosion free, strong, lightweight, and cost effective due to easy installation and minimal maintenance.

The Amiantit Company was established in 1968 at Dammam as a limited liability company and was converted into a joint stock company in 1994. It started with a paid-up share capital of 4,000,000 Saudi Arabian riyals (SAR) [US$1.07 million], which is currently standing at SAR 770,000,000 [US$205.3 million]. Its shares are traded on the Saudi Stock Exchange. The prime activity of the company is to initiate and manage new industrial projects, and market its technologies and products. The company also monitors and controls the business of all the Amiantit Group subsidiaries through its corporate management office in Dammam.

The Amiantit Group (www.amiantit.com) is a leading industrial organization with global strength and is comprised of companies in the Kingdom and abroad that manufacture various kinds of pipes, joints, fittings, tanks, rubber & insulation products, and related accessories. Other activities include own and transfer technology, and water project consultancy and management all around the world.

25 April 2005

2005: Syrian troops leave Lebanon

Syria has announced that all of its military forces have left Lebanon in line with United Nations demands.

It informed the UN of the withdrawal after a parade of about 200 Syrian soldiers in the Bekaa Valley to mark the end of the 29-year deployment.

Soldiers received medals and shouted support for Syria's president before marching off to a Lebanese army band.

Pressure for Syria to leave grew after the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri in February.

Military intervention began in 1976
30,000 troops in Lebanon during 1980s, 14,000 by 2005
Syrian forces helped end Lebanese civil war in 1990 and maintain peace
Calls for Syrian withdrawal increased in 2000 after Israeli pull-out from southern Lebanon
UN resolution calling for foreign forces' withdrawal in Sept 2004

Damascus has denied any role in the death of Hariri who was killed by a car bomb in Beirut but the event prompted giant protests calling for the Syrians to go.

BBC Beirut correspondent Kim Ghattas says the Syrians stayed on long after Lebanon's civil war ended and Damascus effectively became the political master of its tiny neighbour.

Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said "a new political era in the relations between the two brethren countries" had started with the completion of the troop withdrawal.

Pierre Gemayel, a Christian Maronite opposition MP, said: "We consider this a first step towards regaining Lebanon's full and real sovereignty."

'Honourable farewell'

In a letter to the UN, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara announced:

Scuffle following a protest in central Beirut
Police and relatives of prisoners held in Syria scuffled in Beirut

"The Syrian Arab forces stationed in Lebanon, at the request of Lebanon and under an Arab mandate, have fully withdrawn all their military, security apparatus and assets to their positions in Syria on the 26 April, 2005".

He was responding to UN Security Council Resolution 1559 which calls for the pullout of all non-Lebanese forces.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is due to deliver a report on the implementation of the resolution later on Tuesday and a UN team is due to assess whether or not the pullout has been completed.

Syria's troops in Lebanon - which at one point numbered up to 40,000 - were scheduled to leave completely by 30 April.

The formal ceremony marking the completion of the Syrian withdrawal started around mid-morning at the Rayaq air base in the eastern Bekaa Valley. Syrian and Lebanese army chiefs attended.

Wreaths were laid in honour of Syrian soldiers who had died in Lebanon, while the Lebanese army vowed to remember what it described as its own martyrs.

Marching bands played both countries' national anthems before official speeches praising the role of the Syrian army in Lebanon.

Our correspondent says that after all the anti-Syrian protests that Lebanon has witnessed recently and the pressure that Syria has been under, this was a way to give the Syrian army a last honourable moment in Lebanon.

Beirut protest

In the Lebanese capital Beirut, relatives of Lebanese prisoners held in Syrian jails scuffled with the army and beat parliamentarians' cars with Lebanese flags during a demonstration demanding the release of their family members.

Two protesters were seen being loaded into a Civil Defence ambulance while two others received first aid at the scene of the protest.

Associated Press reported that at one stage two shots were fired by a bodyguard of one member of parliament.

Nobody was injured by the gunfire but the bodyguard was seen hitting a protester with his pistol butt.-(bbc)

14 February 2005

2005: Explosion kills former Lebanon PM

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has been killed in an apparent assassination in west Beirut.

The blast, which reports say killed about nine people and injured 100 others, may have been causesd by a car bomb.

It went off beside the derelict St Georges Hotel on the seafront, causing widespread damage.

The killing comes as tension is reported to be rising between Syria, Lebanon's political master, and members of the opposition.

Mr Hariri resigned as prime minister and joined the opposition last October.

He was hoping to stage a comeback in legislative elections next May.

It is still unclear what caused the massive explosion, but a little-known group calling itself Victory and Jihad in Greater Syria has issued a statement claiming the killing, saying it was a suicide bomb, says the BBC's Kim Ghattas in Beirut.

The authenticity of the statement could not be verified.

Lebanese opposition leaders have said they hold the Lebanese and Syrian governments responsible for the killing.

"We hold the Lebanese authority and the Syrian authority, being the authority of tutelage in Lebanon, responsible for this crime and other similar crimes," they said in a statement after a meeting held at the late leader's house in Beirut.

They also called for the government's resignation, for Syrian troops to withdraw from the country before the May elections and for a three-day strike.

The White House condemned the attack and said Lebanon should be allowed to pursue its political future "free from violence... and free from Syrian occupation".

Spokesman Scott McClellan said he was not trying to link Syria with the bombing, adding Washington did not know who was responsible, Reuters news agency reported.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad condemned Monday's attack as a "terrible criminal act".

Lebanon's former colonial power France, whose leader, President Jacques Chirac, had close ties with Mr Hariri, has called for an international inquiry into the blast.

A three-day mourning period has been declared in Lebanon.

Prime minister 1992-98 and 2000-04
Self-made billionaire
Trained as a teacher, but founded a successful construction company in Saudi Arabia
Born in 1944 to a poor Sunni Muslim family in the southern Lebanese port of Sidon

Beachfront attack

Mr Hariri, who was also an MP, attended a session at parliament in central Beirut shortly before the blast.

He was apparently heading home along the beachfront in a convoy when the explosion happened just before midday local time (1000 GMT), in a busy area full of hotels and banks.

Firefighters extinguish flames at scene of blast
The explosion left a huge crater

Members of his convoy are believed to have been killed in the blast. A former minister who was in the convoy is said to have been seriously injured.

The force of the blast left vehicles smouldering and shop fronts blown out and blackened, creating a huge crater.

Local television pictures showed a burning man fighting to get out of a car through its window, falling to the ground and being helped by a bystander.

Several young women were seen with blood running down their faces.

Lebanese security forces cordoned off the area with yellow tape as rescue workers and investigators combed the scene.

Later, supporters of the late prime minister took to the streets in Beirut and in his hometown of Sidon, in southern Lebanon, people burnt tyres on the streets in protest.

Leading politician

Mr Hariri has been the leading Lebanese politician since the end of the civil war in 1990, and prime minister for most of the last 15 years.

He was also a self-made billionaire businessman.

He resigned in October amid differences with Lebanon's pro-Syrian President, Emile Lahoud.

Since then, he had been considered part of the opposition, although he never formally attended their gatherings, our correspondent says.

Mr Hariri had recently joined calls by opposition politicians for a withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

France and the US had also been calling on Syria to end its meddling in Lebanese political affairs and to withdraw its troops from its smaller neighbour, our correspondent says.

Last October, a former minister and member of the opposition was injured in a car bomb attack in Beirut, in which his bodyguard was killed.-(bbc)

Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.