07 June 2008

*Jumblatt opposes Assad's visit to Lebanon

Beirut - Democratic gathering leader MP Walid Jumblatt expressed his objection to the visit of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to Lebanon in light of the current division among the Lebanese

"If this visit is inevitable, let President Michel Suleiman meet Assad at the Lebanese-Syrian border, just as happened when the late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser met with the late Lebanese President Fouad Chehab in 1958. This will be the first step toward Syria's recognition of Lebanon," Jumblatt told the Euronews Television.

He also renewed his accusations against the Syrian regime for the political assassinations in Lebanon, "for they only targeted those who objected to the extension of the term of former President Emil Lahoud, and those that demanded the independence of Lebanon and correcting our relations with Syria."

Jumblatt was asked if the assassinations will continue : Re responded "Everything is possible."

Jumblatt warned against any delay in the establishment of the Special Tribunal to try the killers of former PM Rafik Hariri . "Any delay in this regard means that the UN or another party is seeking a deal with the Syrian regime at the expense of Hariri ."

He also noted the lack of unified vision within the European Union over Lebanon and the Middle East.

Jumblatt criticized president Sarkozy's invitation to the Syrian president to participate in the celebrations in the French National Day on July 14 during the meeting of the Heads of the Mediterranean countries. He said Assad's presence during such an occasion is an insult to the French people."

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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.