11 September 2007

Hariri bribe to buy witness to uncover soon

Georges Malbrunot of the French daily Le Figaro wrote in an article published Monday that "it seems that the anticipated report of Serge Brammertz, the chief investigator into the assassination case of Former PM Rafik Hariri, will reveal Lebanese MP Saad Hariri's bribary to create a false witness to testify in the case.

Malbrunot began his report with a quotation by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to the feuding parties in Lebanon. The French reporter's article said:

"I have known you for 30 years, you are unable to achieve concord among confessions," Kouchner said during a dinner in Beirut, illustrating the new and real approach of the French diplomacy, in a country crippled by successive crises to distribute authorities.

From behind words appear deeds. Since President Jacques Chirac's departure after sentimentally dealing with the Lebanese file, France has been approaching Lebanese political groups, including Hezbollah and General Michel Aoun, the two essentials of the Lebanese opposition (Shiites allied with a part of Christians) facing the anti-Syrian majority of the March 14 bloc (where Sunnis, Druze and the other part of the Christians gather), and Paris had until last May considered the latter as its sole interlocutor.

The March 14 powers treasured its victory as "legitimate" and resulting from a triumph in legislative elections against "putschists"; this is what gained the approval of the west, according to a diplomat in Beirut. However the opposition retorted saying that the consensus in Lebanon on which power is based was no longer existent, and therefore "we demand the formation of a national unity government with a blocking one third minority." This argument gained the support of a large portion of the Lebanese people, according to the same diplomat in Beirut. Paris will from now on take this matter into consideration, as French Ambassador Bernard EmiƩ, and just before the end of his tenure, made a "courtesy" visit to pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, whom Paris had boycotted since 2004. For his part, french envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran, charged with a fence-mending mission to restore inter-Lebanese dialogue, breached one of the taboos when he visited Damascus; the first such visit by a Senior French official since at least three years.

A senior French diplomat said that Paris is seeking to balance its relations without becoming pro-Syrian. "Our objective continues to be the sovereignty of Lebanon and justice in the assassination case of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

For years, the French position zigzagged as to Syria's role in Lebanon. Until 2004, the instructions were: "No peace with Syria". After the extension by Syria of President Lahoud's term as head of state, the priority became "no peace in Lebanon with Syria."

On the other hand, a new approach is needed away from emotions. Quai d'Orsay asked: "Are the Mach 14 powers manipulating us?" It seems that what has been circulating about bribery paid by Saad Hariri (the head of the Future Movement and heir of late PM Rafik Hariri) to buy a false witness since 2005, will clear up soon, after Judge Serge Brammertz presents his anticipated report on the Hariri assassination case. The question of the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp can be included within the same framework. The Lebanese army has been engaged in battles with dozens of fighters coming from Syria. Paris had initially considered that the Bared incidents are a response for the UNIFIL forces deployed in south Lebanon. Today, the Salafi Jihadists are under the authority of Damascus, according to some, and to Sunni leaderships in Lebanon, according to others.

Today, pro-Syrian terrorists, Salafi Jihadists and some brigands obey only Damascus.

According to some, the ramifications will lead to a Lebanese Sunni administration, and it will not be displeased about the powerful authority at its disposal in case of a Sunni-Shiite fracture that would see a civil war in the country; a specter that the French diplomacy is no longer afraid to bring up with Lebanese officials.

Look at how battles in the Nahr al-Bared began, noted a senior military officer on his way back from there. He continued saying that they began with an attack against the Mediterranean Bank in Tripoli, owned by the Hariri family. "The aggressors wanted to take vengeance because they hadn't received money for quite a time," the officer continued. After Israel liquidated an "agitator" in the Ain el-Helwe Palestinian refugee camp, near the city of Sidon in south Lebanon, MP Bahiya Hariri, the sister of late PM Rafik Hariri, persuaded, with financial means, a group of angry radical Sunnis to stop traveling north to Nahr el-Bared.

To absorb the crisis that may result from electing a new president of the Lebanese republic, Paris hopes to organize an international conference over Lebanon that would gather "first class leaders" from Syria and Iran. However, the conference's chances of success remain dim. The solution of the Lebanese dilemma is dependent on other regional crises."-(Le Figaro)

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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.