28 August 2007

Lebanese cabinet considers disabling phone network of Hezbollah

Lebanese government was mulling over severing private Hezbollah phone network connections that started in southern Lebanon and ended up in Beirut and its suburbs, local Naharnet news website reported on Tuesday.

"We agreed to draw a plan of action for a peaceful resolution of this issue, but we are serious about resolving it because it is a dangerous matter," Lebanese Information Minister Ghazi Aridi was quoted as saying.

Aridi said after a lengthy cabinet session on Monday that the government has formed a committee to draft a report on recent information that Hezbollah had installed its own communication infrastructure in southern Lebanon.

He said initial reports have shown that the Hezbollah communication networks "went beyond (the southern village of) Zawtar Sharqiyeh ... to reach Beirut and the suburbs of Beirut which are outside the security areas of the leadership of the resistance (Hezbollah)."

Aridi said the government was "determined to protect the resistance and the symbols of the resistance from the Israeli enemy but the information that we gathered do not follow this logic." But he did not give further details.

Meanwhile, the daily An Nahar, citing cabinet sources, said Tuesday that the cabinet had instructed Lebanese security forces to perform a "specific task" under which "appropriate measures" would be taken to deal with Hezbollah's move.

The cabinet was considering authorizing a "security and technical team" to sever the phone network connections, according to the report.

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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.