31 May 2008

* Michel Aoun

Michel Naim Aoun (Arabic: ميشال عون) (born 19 February 1935 in Haret Hreik, Lebanon) is a former Lebanese military commander and politician. From 22 September 1988 to 13 October 1990, he served as Prime Minister and acting President of one of two rival governments that contended for power. He was defeated by Syria in the war of liberation and forced into exile. He returned to Lebanon on May 7, 2005, eleven days after the withdrawal of Syrian troops. Known as "General," Aoun is currently a Parliament Member. He leads the "Free Patriotic Movement" party.





Background and early career


A Christian Maronite, Michel Aoun was born to a poor family in the mixed Christian and Shiite suburb of Haret Hreik, to the south of Beirut. Aoun had close friendships with many Muslims during his early years. "We never distinguished between Ali and Pierre, or between Hassan and Georges," he later said. He finished his secondary education at the College Des Frères in 1956 and enrolled in the Military Academy as a cadet officer. Three years later, he graduated as an artillery officer in the Lebanese Army. He later received additional training at Chalon-Sur-Marne, France (1958-1959), Fort Sill, Oklahoma in the U.S. (1966) and the École Supérieure de Guerre, France (1978-1980).

Israeli invasion and Civil war

During the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Aoun mobilized an army battalion to defend the presidential palace in Baabda, lest it should be attacked. This was the only action of the Lebanese army in that war. During the Lebanese Civil War in September 1983, Aoun's multi-confessional 8th Mechanised Infantry Battalion fought Muslim, Druze and Palestinian forces at the battle of Souq el Gharb. In June 1984 Aoun was chosen to be commander of the Lebanese army.

Rival governments

On September 22, 1988, the outgoing President, Amine Gemayel, dismissed the civilian administration of Prime Minister Selim al-Hoss and appointed a six-member interim military government (as prescribed by the Lebanese Constitution should there be no election of a President as was the case at the time), composed of three Christians and three Muslims, though the Muslims refused to serve. Backed by Syria, Al-Hoss declared his dismissal invalid. Two governments emerged - one civilian and mainly Muslim in West Beirut, headed by Al-Hoss, the other, military and mainly Christian, in East Beirut, led by Michel Aoun acting as Prime Minister.[4] Gemayel's move was of questionable validity, as it violated the National Pact of 1943, which reserved the position of prime minister for a Sunni Muslim. Gemayel argued, however, that as the National Pact also reserved the presidency for a Maronite Christian, and as the Prime Minister assumes the powers and duties of the President in the event of a vacancy, it would be proper to fill that office temporarily with a Maronite. Gemayel referenced the historical precedent of 1952, when General Fouad Chehab, a Christian Maronite, was appointed as prime minister of a transition government following the resignation of President Beshara El-Khoury.

Aoun could rely on 60% of the Lebanese army, including nearly all tanks and artillery, the Lebanese Forces (LF) militia headed by Samir Geagea, Dany Chamoun and the National Liberal Party, as well as the support of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein. Aoun controlled parts of east Beirut and some neighbouring suburbs. In the Spring of 1989, the alliance with the Lebanese Forces fell apart when former ally Samir Geagea turned against Aoun. Geagea broke ranks with Aoun after he began to question Aoun insistence with continuing the losing war against the Syrians. When Aoun tried to dissolve the LF Geagea fought back violently. Then Michel Aoun used the army to wrest control of LF held ports, in order to collect customs revenues for his government.

War against Syria

On March 14, 1989, after a Syrian attack on the Baabda presidential palace and on the Lebanese Ministry of Defense in Yarze, Aoun declared war against the Syrian army which was better armed than the Lebanese forces. The Syrians were supported by the US government led by George H. Bush in exchange for their support against Saddam Hussein. Over the next few months Aoun's army and the Syrians exchanged artillery fire in Beirut until only 100,000 people remained from the original 1 million, the rest fled the area. During this period Aoun became critical of American support for Syria and moved closer to Iraq, accepting arms supplies from Saddam Hussein.

In October 1989 Lebanese National Assembly members met to draw up the Taif Accord in an attempt to settle the Lebanese conflict. Aoun refused to attend, denounced the politicians who did so as traitors and issued a decree dissolving the assembly. After it was signed, Aoun denounced the Accord for not appointing a real date for the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon. After they signed the Taif Accord, the assembly met to elect René Moawad as President in November. His presidency lasted just 17 days before he was assassinated. Elias Hrawi was elected in his place. After assuming office as president, Hrawi appointed General Émile Lahoud as commander of the army and ordered Aoun out of the Presidential Palace. Aoun rejected his dismissal, and started war against the Christian LF, that lasted from January to October 1990.

Defeat and exile

The end approached for Aoun when his Iraqi ally, Saddam Hussein, launched his invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. Syria's President Hafez al-Assad sided with the United States. In return, the United States agreed to support Syria's interests in Lebanon. On October 13, with American permission, Syrian forces attacked the presidential palace in Baabda, where Aoun was holed up. Not very long after the attacks, Aoun was asked to leave Lebanon with the full support of the French Ambassador, there he surrendered to Syrians via a radio address, leaving his troops at the mercy of the Syrian forces. Ten months later Aoun went into exile in France, where he led a political party, the Free Patriotic Movement. In 2003, an avowed Aounist candidate, Hikmat Deeb, came surprisingly close to winning a key by-election in the Baabda-Aley constituency with the endorsement of such right-wing figures as Solange and Nadim Gemayel (the widow and son of former President-elect Bachir Gemayel, who was assassinated in 1982), as well as leftists like George Hawi of the Lebanese Communist Party, although most of the opposition (constituted mainly of Qornet Shehwan Gathering, whose most prominent faces were Nassib Lahoud, Boutros Harb, Nayla Mouawad, etc...) supported the government candidate, Henry Hélou. Aoun's ability to attract support from key figures of both the left and right revealed that he was a force to be reckoned with.

Return to Lebanon

Aoun ended 15 years of exile when he returned to Lebanon on May 7, 2005, 11 days after the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon. He held a short press conference at Beirut International Airport before heading with a convoy of loyalists and journalists to the "Grave of the Un-named Soldiers and Martyrs" who died in the cause of Lebanese nationalism. After praying and expressing his gratitude and blessing to the people, he went on to the grave site of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated on 14 February 2005 to pay his respects there. Then, he visited Samir Geagea who was still in jail for 11 years. His journey continued to Martyr's Square where he was greeted by substantial numbers of Lebanese supporters from all corners of Lebanon.

Since his arrival, Aoun has moved into a new home in Lebanon's Rabieh district, where he was visited on 8 May by a large delegation from the disbanded Lebanese Forces (LF), who were among Aoun's former enemies. Aoun and Sitrida Geagea, wife of the imprisoned LF leader Samir Geagea (since released), publicly reconciled. Aoun later visited Geagea in prison (he was the first of all opposition leaders to do so) and called for his release. Other prominent visitors that day and the next included National Liberal Party leader Dory Chamoun, Solange Gemayel , Nayla Moawad (widow of assassinated President René Moawad), and opposition MP Boutros Harb. Patriarch Nasrallah Cardinal Sfeir of the Maronite community sent a delegation to welcome him, and even the Shiite Muslim Hizbullah Party sent a delegation.

2005 Elections

In the parliamentary election at the end of May 2005, Aoun surprised many observers by entering into electoral alliances with a number of former opponents, including some pro-Syrian politicians including Michel Murr and Suleiman Frangieh, Jr. The 14 March coalition did the same however by forming the Quadruple alliance with Hezbollah and Amal, two of the biggest pro-Syrian parties in Lebanon. Some saw this as indicating a belief that pro- and anti-Syrian positions are no longer relevant, now that Syrian troops have left Lebanon. Aoun opposed the March 14 parliamentary coalition which included the Future Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party, the Lebanese Forces and some other parties. He argued that the key members of this coalition undertook an agreement with the Amal movement and Hezbollah to keep the electoral law of the year 2000. Critics argue that this law, implemented by Syrian intelligence chief Ghazi Kanaan, does not provide for a real popular representation and marginalizes many communities especially the Christian one throughout the country.

In the third round of voting, Aoun's party, the Free Patriotic Movement, made a strong showing, winning 21 of the 58 seats contested in that round, including almost all of the seats in the Christian heartland of Mount Lebanon. Aoun himself was elected to the National Assembly. In the fourth and final round, however, the FPM failed to win any seats in Northern Lebanon, thus falling short of its objective of holding the balance of power between the main "anti-Syrian" opposition coalition (formerly known to be Syria's strong allies) led by Sa'ad Hariri (which won an absolute majority) and the Shiite-dominated Amal-Hezbollah alliance.


Political strategy

In an unprecedented move, Aoun signed a Memorandum Of Understanding with Hezbollah on February 6, 2006. Aoun further stated that the motive for his agreement was to take a first step towards resolving the main differences between Lebanon's political parties.

He rationalized his move as the mechanism by which UN resolution 1559 -- he claims to have grandfathered through his testimony to the US Congress in 2003 -- which discusses Hezbollah's disarmement could be applied (considering that the US administration refused the draft resolution until his testimony in congress). This historical document allowed bridging the gap between the majority of the christians and Hezbollah, and their electorates, according to electoral returns from the 2005 elections 70% and 80% of the Christian and Shiite electorates respectively. The Memorendum Of Understanding calls for the disarmement of Hezbollah, but it defined it under a national defense strategy. Aoun stated that the MOU was the peaceful unifying way to apply resolution 1559.

Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement party, along with Hezbollah (which later joined in after leaving the government), form the core of the opposition against the government dominated by the March 14th coalition.[citation needed] He argued that this government did not have a unified vision for the country, and would lead to political and economical crises in the future.

Aoun claims that his platform is a liberal, secular one. He repeatedly stated: "We want to create a secular culture with the people so that the population begins to demand it and be able to confront religious authorities that refuse it."

General Aoun has put himself forward as a candidate for the presidency of the Republic, as a successor of Émile Lahoud whose term expired in November 2007. He enjoys Amal and Hizbollah's endorsement and some Sunni support. He claims to fight the corruption of the parlimental majority. Most presidential polls, even ones done by newspapers loyal to his foes give him the first position with a margin of at least 10-20 % from the runner-up , which is not that useful to him, since the Lebanese parliement is the body that elects the President.[citation needed] Aoun argues that the parliament of 2005 is not representative since the districts were gerrymandered by Ghazi Kanaan (Syria) for Syria's ex-allies, current foes, Hariri, Jumblatt and Hezbollah & Amal at the expense of Christian voters, Aoun's main support group. One fact which Supports Aoun's argument is that out of the 68 members of the current parliementary majority, three did not lose the 'christian vote' in their districts : Botros Harb, Strida Geagea and Elie Kayrouz.

Popularity

In the latest parliementary election of 2005, Aoun's slates enjoyed the support of more than 55-70% of the Lebanese Christians. In 2007, Aoun Fielded an unknown party activist, Camil Khoury, who defeated the former President and current Phalange President Amin Gemayel in a pivotal election for the vacant Maronite Christian seat in the predominantly Christian district of Metn by a narrow win of 51%. Opponents argue that this resembles a decrease in Aoun's popularity, others see it as great success in an "impossible battle" against a former president, and one of March 14th major figures, in his home district, reclaiming his assassinated son's seat, and allied to all other Christian forces such as the Lebanese Forces, presidential candidate Nassib Lahoud (who lost to Aoun's candidates in 2005) and a debated impartiality of Gemayel-Allied Hariri controlled ministry of interior(which conducts the elections).

On Wednesday 9 March 2008, Michel Murr former Prime Minister deputy, current deputy, and father of the Lebanese Deputy Prime Minister and the Defence Minister Elias Murr, broke away from the Change and Reform coalition and its ubuesque leader, leaving it with 22 MPs instead of 23 and "returned to the people" according to Murr.

* 20 Civil Liberties Laws Every American Should Know

With over half of Americans not knowing what “due process” is, not to mention how it relates to civil liberties, it is apparent that despite Americans’ love for our civil liberties, more than a few of us need to brush up on the basic laws which provide the foundation of our civil liberties.

While there are literally hundreds of laws, not to mention constitutional protections under the Bill of Rights which comprise our civil liberties, we have chosen 20 laws which every American should know because of their current political importance and relevance. Understanding the basics of these 20 laws is an important first step for every American to know the extent and limitations of the civil liberties he or she is afforded.

Social Discrimination
Same sex marriages and those with disabilities are still discriminated against even though they are protected by the law. Find out which legislations stand up for you.

1.
Fair Housing Act:

The Fair Housing Act was first adopted in 1968 but has undergone several amendments since then. The legislation was enacted in order to make it illegal for anyone to refuse to rent, sell, or make housing available to another person based on their national origin, race, color, religion, sex, handicap or familial status. The law also protects individuals in mortgage lending circumstances, making it illegal for anyone to discriminate when appraising property or require different fees or contracts of someone just because of their race, religion, etc. The Fair Housing Act extends protection to individuals with a disability like AIDS, hearing or visual impairment, mental retardation, chronic alcoholism and others. These individuals are allowed to make changes to their new home as long as they are necessary for the disabled to live comfortably in the home.

2.
Racial Profiling Laws:

Racial profiling affects minorities of all ethnic and religious backgrounds in the United States. While states like Oregon, Arizona, Louisiana, New York, Georgia, North Carolina and Iowa have no racial profiling ban, Amnesty International reports that states like Nevada, California, Washington, Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma do have bans on racial profiling of motorists, pedestrians, or both. Some states have chosen to extend this ban to profiling based on religion and religious appearance. Make sure you understand the profiling laws in your state in case you are unjustly accused of criminal behavior.

3.
Same Sex Marriage Laws:

The California and Massachusetts governments cannot prohibit same sex couples from getting married. Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in 2004, and California overturned the ban on same sex marriages in 2008. The California Supreme Court ruled that “an individual’s sexual orientation — like a person’s race or gender — does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.”

4.
Voter I.D. Requirement Laws:

In April 2008, when the U.S. Supreme Court backed Indiana’s new rule requiring citizens to present a photo I.D. when they show up to vote, civil rights advocates were upset about the disenfranchisement of the “thousands of elderly, poor and minority voters [who] could be locked out of their right to cast ballots,” as reported by CNN. These individuals may not have access to or the ability to obtain driver’s licenses or state identification cards, according to the legislation’s opponents. The Bureau of Motor Vehicles, however, will provide a voter I.D. card to anyone who wants one, free of charge. Though this case focuses on Indiana state law, citizens in all U.S. states may want to be prepared in case the trend spreads to other areas of the country and changes the voting process.

Workplace and Labor
These laws focus on equal pay and employers’ rights or limitations when hiring minority employees.

5.
Americans with Disabilities Act:

Job seekers afraid of discrimination need to know about the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. This law makes it illegal for employers — including private and government employers — to refuse to hire a qualified individual based on a disability that would not interfere with their job. Employers are not allowed to ask about the person’s disability or give them a special medical examination that isn’t already required of all job candidates. Employers are allowed, however, to ask if the individual is able to perform the duties directly associated with the particular job opening.


6.
Equal Pay Act of 1963:
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 “requires the employer to pay equal wages within the establishment to men and women doing equal work on jobs requiring equal skill, effort, and responsibility, which are performed under similar working conditions,” according to the Feminism and Women’s Studies website. In addition, women who discover that they have been paid less than their males colleagues for a certain amount of time may file a suit or complaint to request that back wages, including salary raises and back pay, be awarded to them.

7.
Ledbetter v. Goodyear:

This court case, settled in 2007, involves Lilly Ledbetter, an employee at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Gadsden, AL, who, after nearly twenty years of work, realized that she was being paid less than her male colleagues. Ledbetter sued Goodyear, citing the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that because Ledbetter did not make the complaint within 180 days of the discrimination taking place, she did not get any rewards. This ruling affects gender pay discrimination and race pay discrimination.

Health and Medical
For information about euthanasia, abortion, emergency contraception, and medical marijuana, check out this list.

8.
Oregon Death With Dignity Act:

Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act is as close as the United States has gotten to legal euthanasia. In 1997, the state made it legal for “terminally-ill Oregonians to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications, expressly prescribed by a physician for that purpose,” according to the Oregon state government website.

9.
Roe v. Wade:

Even though Roe v. Wade was settled in 1973, much controversy surrounds the legality of abortion and the woman’s right to choose. Despite protests, terrorist threats and action, and other campaigns, abortion is legal in the United States, though the processes, time frames and rules for minors vary by state.

10.
EC in the ER laws:

EC in the ER stands for Emergency Contraception for Sexual Assault Victims in the Emergency Room. Several states like California, Massachusetts, Illinois, New York, New Mexico and Washington require emergency room staff to provide victims of sexual assault with information about emergency contraception that can prevent unwanted pregnancies.

11.
Medical Marijuana Laws:

Many groups feel that interfering with an individual’s right to eat, drink or otherwise consume whatever he or she wants is unconstitutional. The medical marijuana controversy takes the issue to the next level, arguing that patients deserve to access medicine or other substances that help them lead a more comfortable life. Medical marijuana is legal in states like California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, and Alaska.

12.
Occupational Safety and Health Act:

The Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed in 1970 to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women,” as stated in the legislation. Working conditions that are considered harmful include exposure to toxic chemicals, unsanitary work spaces, too-loud noises, dangerous machinery or exposure to extreme heat and cold. If an employee tries to exercise his or her rights under the protection of the act, an employer cannot become discriminatory towards that employee or fire the employee. Through the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employees are also protected by 16 statues, including The Clean Air Act, The Solid Waste Disposal Act, The Safe Drinking Water Act, and others.

Family and Children
Parent-custody laws and protecting children against predators online are major issues right now. This group discusses them both.

13.
Parent-child custody laws:

Child custody laws vary by state, and citizens need to understand the policies enforced by institutions like Child Protective Services, as well as the state government. If the state declares a parent unfit, the government can take custody of the child, without getting approval from the parent. For more information on your state’s statues regarding child welfare, adoption, child abuse and child neglect, visit this page.

14.
Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act:

This legislation, enacted in 2006, is designed “protect children from sexual exploitation and violent crime, to prevent child abuse and child pornography, to promote Internet safety, and to honor the memory of Adam Walsh and other child crime victims,” as stated in the act. Adam Walsh, the son of America’s Most Wanted’s John Walsh, was kidnapped and murdered when he was seven years old. The act also organized a database of child molesters and child predators to increase the protection and security of children.

Immigration
Learn more about the civil rights for immigrants in U.S. custody and detainee camps here.

15.
Detainee Basic Medical Care Act:

Immigration is a big issue in the United States, affecting politics, the economy, social and moral standards, and civil rights. In 2008, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey proposed the Detainee Basic Medical Care Act, which if passed, would “develop procedures to ensure adequate medical care for all detainees held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),” according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Currently, there are no standards of providing real medical care to detainees in immigration camps run by the U.S. government.

Privacy, Security and Right to Information
From The National Security Act of 1947 to the U.S. Patriot Act, these civil liberties laws are controversial today.

16.
The National Security Act of 1947:

According to the ACLU, The National Security Act of 1947 prohibited the U.S. government and U.S. intelligence services “from operating domestically.” This law is cited when criticizing the Bush administration’s allowance of the NSA to “eavesdrop” on U.S. citizens after September 11 via e-mail and telephone calls without securing a warrant, as reported in The New York Times.


17.
U.S. Patriot Act:
The controversial U.S. Patriot Act, passed in 2001, allows the U.S. government to have more jurisdiction and more leniency when investigating terrorism threats and suspects, even in the United States. The act also gives the Secretary of Treasury more “authority to regulate financial transactions, particularly those involving foreign individuals and entities,” as reported by Wikipedia, and it introduced stricter policies regarding immigration and border security. National Public Radio lists several “key controversies” surrounding the U.S. Patriot Act, including “sneak and peak” warrants, “which let authorities search a home or business without immediately notifying the target of a probe.”

18.
Freedom of Information Act:

Anyone, including foreign nationals, is allowed to submit a request for information from U.S. federal government agencies, including agency records. The Freedom of Information Act was passed in 1966 and does include some exemptions, including for information pertaining to national security, personal privacy, certain law enforcement records, geological information and more. A 2007 report found that “only one in five federal agencies actually complies with” the Freedom of Information Act.

19.
Extraordinary Rendition:

The sketchy U.S. policy of extraordinary rendition has garnered more attention since the terrorist attacks in September 2001, and it was even the subject for a major movie in 2007, Rendition. Extraordinary rendition features a partnership between the U.S. government and the CIA and is an “intelligence-gathering program involving the transfer of foreign nationals suspected of involvement in terrorism to detention and interrogation in countries where — in the CIA’s view — federal and international legal safeguards do not apply,” according to the ACLU. The interrogation methods used do not have to follow traditional U.S. regulations, questioning their compliance with basic human and civil rights. In 2005, the Bush Administration was under fire for the hasty seizure of ultimately innocent individuals.

20.
No laws for the terrorist watch list:

We chose to highlight the final item on this list because of its total lack of any civil liberties law. Many Americans already know about the TSA’s terrorist watch lists, which can be used when screening passengers ready to board a commercial flight. The ACLU estimates that as of February 2008, “the government’s centralized terrorist watch list passed the 900,000 name mark,” as reported by Wired.com. The indistinct and possibly inaccurate nature of the list is guessed to include names of innocent people, and Jon Stokes of ars technica reports that everyone from an anti-terrorist specialist to a State Department diplomat have found themselves on the list. There are no civil liberties laws protecting individuals if they find themselves on the list, and you probably won’t even be notified if your name is included.

By Heather Johnson
(Criminal Justice Degrees Guide)

*Haifa's ex-fiance, dead!

من مايا حرب مراسلة موقع بانيت وصحيفة بانوراما في بيروت : علمت مراسلة موقع بانيت بان رجل الإعمال السعودي المليونير طارق الجفالي وهو خطيب هيفاء وهبي سابقا , توفي قبل قليل في مدينة كان الفرنسية.
وبكل الاحوال يتوقع ان يكون خبر وفاته صدمة لهيفاء وهبي رغم انفصالها عنه منذ مدة. وعلمت مراسلة موقع بانيت وصحيفة بانوراما ان
سبب وفاة طارق الجفالي هو تناوله جرعة زائدة من الادوي

(nadine)

30 May 2008

*Beirut is Back


Women sunbathe at Beirut's landmark St. George Hotel. For three consecutive seasons tourism revenue, once Lebanon's lifeblood, was reduced to a trickle by violence and political uncertainty.

*Arab Bodybuilding Championship in Amman


Lebanon's Mohammed Khaled (L) and United Arab Emirates' Omar Al Nouby pose on stage during the Arab Bodybuilding Championship in Amman May 29, 2008.




Lebanon's Mohammed Khaled (L), United Arab Emirates' Omar Al Nouby (C) and compatriot Ahmed Madany pose on stage during the Arab Bodybuilding Championship in Amman May 29, 2008.




Lebanon's Hassan Hagolla poses on stage during the Arab Bodybuilding Championship in Amman May 29, 2008.

29 May 2008

*Shawcor buys Flexpipe for $130M

Toronto-based Shawcor is buying up spoolable, composite line-pipe company Flexpipe Systems Inc. in a $130 million deal approved by the takeover target.



The move gains Shawcor an edge in bidding to provide oil companies with ease and speed of installation for non-metal pressure-resistant ranges of pipeline. The company is understood to have bowed out of some bidding jobs for lack of a spoolable offering.

The move gives Shawcor an immediate strength in the North American market and allows for stronger bidding elsewhere.

*Michel Sleiman

Michel Sleiman or Suleiman (Arabic: ميشال سليمان‎) (born November 21, 1948) is the current President of Lebanon. Before assuming office as President, he held the position of commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces (the "LAF"). After LAF commander Émile Lahoud took office as president in November of 1998, Sleiman succeeded him as Army commander from December of the same year. Sleiman was later elected President and was sworn into office on May 25, 2008.



Early life, education and family
Sleiman was born in Amchit. He joined the Lebanese Armed Forces in 1967 and went on to graduate from the Military Academy as 2nd Lieutenant in 1988. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and Administrative Sciences from the Lebanese University. He is married to Wafaa Sleiman and has three children. His mother tongue is Arabic and he is also fluent in both French and English.

Military career
During his military service, he progressed from an infantry platoon leader to a Battalion Commander, and then assumed the position of a trainer in the Military Academy and in the non-commissioned officer School. From December 4, 1990 until August 24, 1991 he was appointed as the Chief of the Intelligence Branch of Mount Lebanon. On August 25, 1991 he was reassigned to the post of the Army Staff Secretary-General until June 10, 1993. He was Commander of the 11th Infantry Brigade from June 6, 1993 to January 15, 1996, a period that witnessed violent confrontations with the Israeli forces in the West Beqaa Valley and South Lebanon regions. On January 15, 1996 he was appointed as Commander of the 6th Infantry Brigade and remained in this position until December 21, 1998 when he was appointed as the Commander of the Armed Forces.

On May 19, 2007, the Lebanese Army entered into a prolonged conflict with Fatah al-Islam, a terrorist organisation that was based in the Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp in northern Lebanon. The conflict lasted until September 2, 2007 and ended with the Lebanese Army taking complete control of the Camp and the complete defeat of Fatah al-Islam. 170 Lebanese soldiers, 226 members of Fatah al-Islam, and 64 civilians (mostly Palestinian refugees) were killed in the fighting. As a result of a number of factors, including balancing the interests of Lebanese citizens, concerns for the safety of Palestinian refugees, and respecting the delicate political balance that existed in Lebanon at the time, Sleiman was forced to proceed in the conflict with extreme caution and managed to do so succesfully, backed by a vast popular and political support for the lebanese army.

On May 7, 2008, an ongoing political crisis between government loyalists and the opposition quickly spiraled out of control when Hezbollah announced that the government's decisions to declare the group's private telecommunications network as illegal and to relieve the head of security at Beirut International Airport (an alleged Hezbollah sympathizer) of his duties amounted to a "declaration of war". Fighting immediately broke out throughout the country, with members of Hezbollah and its allies in the Amal Movement and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party quickly bearing down on their enemies in the Future Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party. The fighting lasted until May 14, 2008, when the Lebanese government canceled its two decisions after the proposition of Sleiman to do so. As the crisis ended, Sleiman was the subject of criticism by some commentators and politicians since the Army did not directly intervene in the armed clashes that took place but instead tried to separate between fighters and protected political figures. On the other hand, others defended his stance by arguing that the only way to preserve the Army's unity and prevent another civil war was to ensure that it remained uninvolved in the fighting against the lebanese citizens.

Path to the Presidency
On November 23, 2007, the term of Emile Lahoud, the 11th President of Lebanon, came to an end. At the time, the Lebanese political spectrum was deeply polarized, with virtually all parties being divided either in the government loyalists (known as the March 14 camp), or the opposition (known as the March 8 camp). The two camps could not come to an agreement as to who should become the country's 12th president, and so, as a result of a provision in the country's Constitution, the powers of the Presidency transferred to the Government in the expectation that an agreement would be reached shortly afterwards.

Several names were advanced as potential candidates for the presidency, including Michel Aoun, Nassib Lahoud, Boutros Harb, amongst others, each of whom was affiliated either to the March 14 or March 8 camps. It soon became apparent however that only an independent candidate would be acceptable to both sides. Michel Sleiman was generally accepted as being the only possible candidate and as a unifying candidate. Most Lebanese commentators and policy makers agreed that Sleiman had successfully won the trust of both the government and opposition camp, and that of most countries in the Arab region, as well as most Western countries. However, his election could not take place until a number of fundamental disagreements between the March 14 and March 8 camps could be resolved, including the issue of whether a government of national unity should be formed, and what specific electoral law should be passed in preparation for the parliamentary elections that were to take place in 2009. These difficulties were eventually resolved during the negotiations that took place in Doha, Qatar from May 17 to May 20, 2008. The negotiations were attended by senior representatives from all of Lebanon's major political parties, and the agreement confirmed that Michel Sleiman would be the preferred candidate in the presidential election.

When the vote was finally held in Parliament on May 25, 2008, Sleiman was elected with a majority of 118 votes out of 127. He was indirectly elected by the Lebanese Parliament, which hadn't had a session, as a result of the ongoing political crisis in the country, for 18 months. The Parliament's session was attended by senior representatives from across Lebanon, the Arab region, the United Nations and the European Union, the United States, European states and many other countries. In his acceptance speech which was welcomed by all political figures across the country, the arab region and the rest of the world, Sleiman spoke of "uniting and working towards a solid reconciliation of the country. We have paid dearly for our national unity. Let us preserve it hand-in-hand". He also made reference to the long-standing crisis between the country's two main political camps when he said that "the people have given us their confidence to fulfill their aspirations, not to afflict them with our petty political disputes".

The Presidency
On May 28, 2008, President Sleiman reappointed Fouad Siniora as Prime Minister. Siniora was the parliamentary majority's candidate for the position, and Sleiman appointed him in accordance with the country's Constitution and with a majority of 68 MPs who named him.

Decorations, medals, awards and honors
  • National Order of the Cedar, knight grade and grand cordon grade
  • Lebanese Order of Merit, 3rd, 2nd and 1st grades
  • Decoration of Military Pride, silver grade
  • Medal of War
  • Decoration of Military Valor, silver grade
  • Decoration of the National Unity
  • Decoration of the Dawn of the South
  • Syrian Order of Merit, grade of excellence
  • Certificate of Honor of the Arab Union
  • Decoration of Arab Union for Military Sports, 2nd degree (commander)
  • Medal from the President of the Ukrainian Republic
  • Medal from the Defense Ministry of the Republic of Russian Federation in 2007
  • Military Medal
  • Internal Security forces’ Medal
  • General Security Medal
  • State security Medal
  • Commemorative Medal of Conferences for the year 2002
  • Citations of the Armed Forces Commander, 4 times - Felicitations of the Armed Forces Commander, 18 times - Felicitations of the Brigade Commander, once

Military training courses
       A training course in Belgium from 7/1/1971 to 4/7/1971 
    • A training in Staff techniques in France from 9/2/1981 to 17/7/1981
    • A Staff training at the Command and Staff College starting 6/6/1988 for 52 weeks
    • An International Defense Management course in the United States of America from 22/6/1995 to 25/7/1995

Military achievements
Fighting terrorism and extremism, notably through the following operations: 
  • Discovering and fighting terrorist organizations in the high and barren mountains of North Lebanon in 2000, eliminating most of their members, dismantling their cells in all Lebanese regions and arresting their members.
  • Attacking the organization of Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp on 5/20/2007 in reaction to an armed robbery of a bank and an attack on two Lebanese Army posts on the camp's perimeter. Fatah al-Islam was totally defeated by the LAF, which led to a surge in popular support for the Army in general and for Sleiman in particular.
  • Protected anti-Syrian protests and pro-Syrian counter protests in 2005.
  • Completing the Army redeployment operation all over the Lebanese territories following the withdrawal of the Syrian Armed Forces on April 26th 2005 in addition to the disturbances and security violations during the year 2007.
  • Restructuring the Lebanese Army after the amendment of the military service law.
  • Dedicating the Army to protect democracy and not as to be the Army of the Authority repressing its political opponents, but rather an Army that preserves the security of the citizen and his rights. The Army clearly assumed its national role of maintaining the security of the protestors, public and private institutions and liberty of expression all through the year 2005 following the assassination of the Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and during the year 2006 till now.
  • Discovering Israeli spying networks, most lately the network discovered during the “dawn surprise” operation carried out on June 6th 2006.
  • Confronting the Israeli Army and supporting the resistance until the liberation of the south in the year 2000.
  • Offering a plan to end the Israeli war against Hezbollah which happened in July 2006, with a compromise solution for all parties. This plan included the planning and the preparation for the deployment of Lebanese Army in the south and on the land and sea crossover, this operation carried out accurately and faithfully and at the conclusion of the operation on the second of October, the Lebanese flag was hoisted on the hill of Labbouni adjacent to the southern border indicating the return of the Lebanese sovereignty to the south.

27 May 2008

*Haifa Wehbi performs peace concert in BDT




Lebanese singer Haifa Wehbi, wearing a shirt with the face of newly-elected Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, performs at a peace concert in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, May 26, 2008. The concert was later cancelled midway through due to crowd surges.


*Amiantit Qatar Pipes has started commercial operations on May 7

Saudi's Amiantit new CEO Suleiman Al Twaijri talks about the company's results and expansions after announcing launch of its 40%-owned company Amiantit Qatar Pipes.

26 May 2008

*The New Cold War

The next American president will inherit many foreign policy challenges, but surely one of the biggest will be the cold war. Yes, the next president is going to be a cold-war president — but this cold war is with Iran.

That is the real umbrella story in the Middle East today — the struggle for influence across the region, with America and its Sunni Arab allies (and Israel) versus Iran, Syria and their non-state allies, Hamas and Hezbollah. As the May 11 editorial in the Iranian daily Kayhan put it, “In the power struggle in the Middle East, there are only two sides: Iran and the U.S.”

For now, Team America is losing on just about every front. How come? The short answer is that Iran is smart and ruthless, America is dumb and weak, and the Sunni Arab world is feckless and divided. Any other questions?

The outrage of the week is the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah attempt to take over Lebanon. Hezbollah thugs pushed into Sunni neighborhoods in West Beirut, focusing particular attention on crushing progressive news outlets like Future TV, so Hezbollah’s propaganda machine could dominate the airwaves. The Shiite militia Hezbollah emerged supposedly to protect Lebanon from Israel. Having done that, it has now turned around and sold Lebanon to Syria and Iran.

All of this is part of what Ehud Yaari, one of Israel’s best Middle East watchers, calls “Pax Iranica.” In his April 28 column in The Jerusalem Report, Mr. Yaari pointed out the web of influence that Iran has built around the Middle East — from the sway it has over Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, to its ability to manipulate virtually all the Shiite militias in Iraq, to its building up of Hezbollah into a force — with 40,000 rockets — that can control Lebanon and threaten Israel should it think of striking Tehran, to its ability to strengthen Hamas in Gaza and block any U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“Simply put,” noted Mr. Yaari, “Tehran has created a situation in which anyone who wants to attack its atomic facilities will have to take into account that this will lead to bitter fighting” on the Lebanese, Palestinian, Iraqi and Persian Gulf fronts. That is a sophisticated strategy of deterrence.

The Bush team, by contrast, in eight years has managed to put America in the unique position in the Middle East where it is “not liked, not feared and not respected,” writes Aaron David Miller, a former Mideast negotiator under both Republican and Democratic administrations, in his provocative new book on the peace process, titled “The Much Too Promised Land.”

“We stumbled for eight years under Bill Clinton over how to make peace in the Middle East, and then we stumbled for eight years under George Bush over how to make war there,” said Mr. Miller, and the result is “an America that is trapped in a region which it cannot fix and it cannot abandon.”

Look at the last few months, he said: President Bush went to the Middle East in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice went in February, Vice President Dick Cheney went in March, the secretary of state went again in April, and the president is there again this week. After all that, oil prices are as high as ever and peace prospects as low as ever. As Mr. Miller puts it, America right now “cannot defeat, co-opt or contain” any of the key players in the region.

The big debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is over whether or not we should talk to Iran. Obama is in favor; Clinton has been against. Alas, the right question for the next president isn’t whether we talk or don’t talk. It’s whether we have leverage or don’t have leverage.

When you have leverage, talk. When you don’t have leverage, get some — by creating economic, diplomatic or military incentives and pressures that the other side finds too tempting or frightening to ignore. That is where the Bush team has been so incompetent vis-à-vis Iran.

The only weaker party is the Sunni Arab world, which is either so drunk on oil it thinks it can buy its way out of any Iranian challenge or is so divided it can’t make a fist to protect its own interests — or both.

We’re not going to war with Iran, nor should we. But it is sad to see America and its Arab friends so weak they can’t prevent one of the last corners of decency, pluralism and openness in the Arab world from being snuffed out by Iran and Syria. The only thing that gives me succor is the knowledge that anyone who has ever tried to dominate Lebanon alone — Maronites, Palestinians, Syrians, Israelis — has triggered a backlash and failed.

“Lebanon is not a place anyone can control without a consensus, without bringing everybody in,” said the Lebanese columnist Michael Young. “Lebanon has been a graveyard for people with grand projects.” In the Middle East, he added, your enemies always seem to “find a way of joining together and suddenly making things very difficult for you.”

(nytimes)

*Dubai-based Future Pipe Eyes $487M London, Euronext IPO - CEO

Dubai-based Future Pipe Industries Group may list its shares for the first time in London, or on Euronext N.V. this year after its $487 million IPO in Dubai collapsed, the chief executive said.

The company, which makes pipes for the power and water industries, canceled a plan to list 35% of its shares on the Dubai International Financial Exchange this month, citing market conditions.

"We are looking at different options and will relaunch the sale before the end of this year," chief executive Rami Makhzoumi, told Zawya Dow Jones in an interview on Sunday. "London and Euronext are our favorite options."

Any decision by Future Pipe to list outside United Arab Emirates would be a further blow for the Dubai International Financial Exchange, or DIFX, which has struggled to attract investors since opening in 2005.

Makhzoumi said that Future Pipe, which is valued at $2 billion, would reconsider the DIFX only if the market could attract more liquidity.

(zawya dowjones)

25 May 2008

*Gen. Sleiman Elected as the 11th President for Lebanon

Michel Suleiman was declared Lebanon's 11 th President with 118 votes, six MPs abstained, one voted for MP Nassib Lahoud, one voted for Jean Obeid and one voted for Rafik Hariri and Martyrs!! (Don't ask what's this last one means!)





Lebanon's army chief and presidential candidate General Michel Sleiman smiles during a gathering at his family home in Feyyadieh, east of Beirut. Sleiman appealed for unity on Sunday after being sworn in as president following a parliament vote that capped a long-running political crisis in the country.



Lebanon's newly elected President Michel Suleiman reviews the honour guard upon his arrival to parliament in Beirut May 25, 2008.





Lebanese army chief Michel Sleiman poses for a photo at his office in Yarze near Beirut on May 21. Lebanese lawmakers are poised to elect Sleiman as president in a first step toward defusing a crippling and often deadly 18-month standoff between rival factions.





Lebanon's newly elected President Michel Suleiman (top) speaks, as Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad al-Thani (R) listens and house speaker Nabih Berri (C) looks on, after the election session at parliament in Beirut, May 25, 2008



(yalibnan)--
Suleiman was sworn-in immediately after he was elected with 118 votes out of 127

Suleiman was the only consensus candidate

Here is a list of the Lebanese former presidents

Bechara El Khoury SERVED FROM 21 September 1943 TO 18 September 1952
Camille Chamoun SERVED FROM 23 September 1952 TO 22 September 1958
Fouad Chehab SERVED FROM 23 September 1958 TO 22 September 1964
Charles Helou SERVED FROM 23 September 1964 TO 22 September 1970
Suleiman Frangieh SERVED FROM 23 September 1970 TO 22 September 1976
Elias Sarkis SERVED FROM 23 September 1976 TO 22 September 1982
Bachir Gemayel Elected 23 August 1982 KILLED 14 September 1982
Amine Gemayel SERVED FROM 23 September 1982 TO: 22 September 1988
Rene Moawad SERVED FROM 5 November 1989 KILLED 22 November 1989
Elias Hrawi SERVED FROM 24 November 1989 TO 24 November 1998
Emile Lahoud SERVED FROM 24 November 1998 TO 23 November 2007

Many argue that Suleiman is the 12 th president and not the 11th . But president elect Bachir Gemayel never served as president .He was elected on 23 August 1982 and his term should have started on Nov 22 , 1982 but was assassinated on 14 September 1982. Syria was blamed for his assassination and the assassination of former president Rene Moawad who only served for 17 days
--

* British Arms Combine BAE Could Face ‎RICO Charges in U.S. Probe

‎Career prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice are escalating ‎their investigation into the British arms cartel BAE Systems, centered on billions of ‎dollars in bribes, paid to top Saudi officials, including former Saudi Ambassador to ‎Washington, Prince Bandar bin-Sultan. According to sources close to the ‎investigation, in addition to charges of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, ‎DOJ investigators are now considering adding RICO (racketeering conspiracy) ‎charges, based on BAE evasion of U.S. tax payments. In further signs of escalation ‎of the targeting of BAE, the Justice Department has issued subpoenas against five ‎executives of the company, in recent days. On May 12, two top executives, CEO ‎Mike Turner, and outside director Sir Nigel Rudd, were detained as they arrived in ‎the United States. Both men had their laptop computers, cell phones, and personal ‎papers confiscated, and they were served with subpoenas to appear before a U.S. ‎grand jury. Sir Nigel Rudd is the chairman of BAA, an airport management firm, ‎and is deputy chairman of the leading City of London bank, Barclays.

While the BAE probe is ostensibly centered upon the alleged bribes to Prince Bandar ‎and other top Saudi officials, U.S. intelligence sources confirm that there are two ‎other, far more significant issues, that are driving the probe.

The first issue is the role of Prince Bandar in the 9/11 attacks, and the possibility ‎that some of the BAE bribe money was actually used to fund the hijackers. The ‎‎9/11 Commission obtained evidence that between $50-75,000 was provided by ‎Prince Bandar and his wife, Princess Haifa, to two men in California, both believed ‎to be Saudi intelligence officers, who, in turn, shared some of the funds with two of ‎the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackers. Sources report that a 28-page section of the official ‎‎9/11 Commission Report, dealing with the Bandar funds, was redacted from the ‎declassified final version. U.S. Senate intelligence committee investigators were ‎reportedly stymied from interviewing FBI agents, who had probed the Bandar fund ‎flows, causing further anger and suspicion, that the full 9/11 story has yet to be ‎told. ``The 9/11 issue is still radioactive among many U.S. intelligence and law ‎enforcement officials,'' one senior U.S. intelligence source acknowledged.

The second issue is the Anglo-Saudi covert fund, accumulated under the ``Al ‎Yamamah'' deal, brokered by Prince Bandar with then-British Prime Minister ‎Margaret Thatcher in 1985. Under the oil-for-arms deal, which continues to this ‎day, MI6 has accumulated an offshore, off-the-books fund estimated at more than ‎‎$100 billion, according to current and former U.S. government officials, interviewed ‎by Executive Intelligence Review. Those funds have been reportedly used to ‎promote wars and destabilizations around the globe, dating back to the Afghanistan ‎War of the 1980s, when BAE funds were covertly funneled to the Afghan ‎mujahideen. In a recent authorized biography of Prince Bandar, details of the ``Al ‎Yamamah'' slush fund were provided, indicating that some of the funds also went to ‎the purchase of U.S. weapons, bypassing U.S. Congressional oversight.
The Bandar issue is particularly sensitive to the White House, given the Prince's ‎longstanding close ties to the Bush family. Despite these connections, career ‎prosecutors are moving aggressively forward with the BAE probe.
And there are signs that the U.S. Senate may be getting into the act as well.
On May 21, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on a pending ‎U.S.-British treaty, that would grant British defense firms full access to Pentagon ‎contracts, on an equal standing with American defense firms. While the Chairman ‎of the Committee, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and the ranking Republican, Sen. ‎Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), both indicated that they supported the treaty in principle, ‎they both agreed that the State Department had not provided the Committee with ‎sufficient details on the treaty's implementation, and they have postponed, for at ‎least another three months, any action on the matter. Given that BAE Systems is ‎already the largest foreign contractor with the U.S. Department of Defense, the ‎ongoing DOJ probe could have dramatic implications for the future of the bilateral ‎treaty--and U.S.-British relations in general.

Lyndon LaRouche has emphasized that the conflict between the United States and ‎the British ``BAE'' imperial faction, is the key to understanding the current global ‎strategic situation. Were the United States to break, decisively with London, and ‎align with the three great Asian powers, Russia, China and India, in the tradition of ‎Franklin Roosevelt, all of the major crises facing the planet today could, over time, ‎be peacefully resolved. It is in this context that the BAE case takes on a profound ‎significance.‎

(lapc)

*Hezbollah's image still positive



Hezbollah's offensive against mostly Sunni political rivals in Lebanon has sullied its image in the Arab world as an armed force engaged in a righteous struggle against Israel.

But interviews with analysts and Arab media accounts suggest that the Shiite group still came out ahead. It won major concessions from the Lebanese government after its assault while largely retaining its popularity despite turning its weapons against fellow Muslims.

In May, Hezbollah fighters briefly took over Sunni-dominated West Beirut in what they described as a legitimate protection of their military might against a Lebanese government targeting the movement's key telecommunications and intelligence assets.

Satellite television channels broadcast images of Shiite militiamen armed with rocket launchers and assault rifles. Western-leaning TV stations spoke of a Hezbollah "occupation" of Beirut streets and described the events as an "armed coup orchestrated by Iran", playing on the growing rift between Sunnis who dominate the region and Shiites who control Iran.

Hezbollah had broken a promise, they said, by using its formidable arsenal against domestic rivals.

"For many Arabs, Hezbollah lost much of its glow as a pure resistance group fighting against Israel," said Mishari Thaydi, a Saudi columnist for the London-based pan-Arab daily Al Sharq Al Awsat. "By laying siege to the residence of lawmaker Sa'ad Hariri, a symbol of Sunni leadership in Lebanon, and attacking other Sunni figures, Hezbollah projected an irreparable image as a sectarian militia."

US officials have voiced optimism that the offensive would dampen Arab enthusiasm for the Iranian- and Syrian-backed movement.

"Hezbollah lost something very important, which is any argument that it is somehow a resistance movement on behalf of the Lebanese people," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters recently in the San Francisco Bay Area.

But the swiftness of Hezbollah's operation and the political compromise that followed last Wednesday, giving the movement veto power over major government decisions while bolstering its US-backed rivals' election prospects, might have helped the group retain its popularity and calm sectarian tensions that work against its influence, analysts said.

Aiding Hezbollah's cause is the deep hostility in the Arab streets towards the US and its allies, which often extends to the Lebanese government.

"If the clashes had remained a week or two longer, that would have fuelled a strong sectarian cause," said Amal Sa'ad-Ghorayeb, an independent Lebanese researcher and author. "But if the turning point will produce a final settlement, most of the people are going to say at least we had this conflict over with."

Catastrophe

The Lebanese violence coincided with the 60th anniversary of Israel's founding, an event widely viewed by Arabs as the Nakba or catastrophe. Whatever flaws Hezbollah might have, to many Arabs it remains the group that fought Israel to a standstill in Lebanon during a summer 2006 war. "Hezbollah might be seen as representing Iranian interests, but the Lebanese government on the other hand failed to draw sympathy to its cause by associating itself to US projects and vision in the region," said Mohammad Masri, a political scientist at the University of Jordan in Amman. "Hezbollah's actions were perceived as a measure of self-defence."

During the recent violence, media, politicians and clerics throughout the Sunni Arab world refrained from depicting Hezbollah's push as a Shiite or Iranian coup d'etat, as it was described by pro-government Lebanese politicians and television channels. The widely watched Qatar-based Arab satellite news channel Al Jazeera described the unrest as a political conflict rather than a sectarian clash.

Many Sunni Arabs voiced support for Hezbollah leader Shaikh Hassan Nasrallah, not for the Sunni-led government.

"Arab unity is built on the resistance to the occupation in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and throughout the Arab land," a number of Jordanian activists wrote in a letter addressed to Hezbollah and published in the London-based pan-Arab daily Al Hayat. "The fate of the Arab nation and its future are all decided now in the battles between the resistance forces and the occupation forces."

In Egypt, despite some religious leaders' warnings of the danger of "Iranian-sponsored expansion of Shiism in the country", many voiced support for Hezbollah, which regularly describes Lebanon's government as a dupe of Israel and Washington neoconservatives.

Still, sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shiites have been rising in Lebanon since the February 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, an eminent Sunni politician and tycoon. The killing was widely blamed on Hezbollah-backer Syria.

The recent violence, which left dozens dead, exacerbated the tensions, though the most ferocious battles were between Druze and Shiites southeast of the capital and between Sunnis and secular pro-Syrian factions in the north.

Hezbollah appears to have recognised the danger of Sunni anger. It has launched a media campaign to reduce the impact of its military action.

The Hezbollah-run television station Al Manar gave voice to Sunni families who support the Shiite resistance group, casting the takeover of the capital by its fighters as an "upheaval of Beirut families" against pro-government thugs. It also has aired live Oprah-style talk shows in which Sunnis and Shiites discuss their anger and hopes.

"Hezbollah will have to exercise serious damage control," said Sa'ad-Ghorayeb. "It's going to have to reach out to Sunnis more than it ever has before."

(gulfnews)

21 May 2008

*535 Days of Tents Sit-Down, End Today

A member of Lebanon's Hezbollah-led opposition remove a tent from central Beirut May 21, 2008. Rival Lebanese leaders signed a deal on Wednesday to end 18 months of political conflict that had pushed their country to the brink of a new civil war. The tents were erected in December 2006 as part of the opposition's campaign against the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.






*Qatar Deal Breaker

Details:
1st- Forming a national unity government based on 16 ministers of the majority, 11 of the opposition (one third with veto power) and 3 to be picked by the President.

2nd- Distribution of The parliamentary seats in Beirut electoral region as follows :
10 in Mazraa electoral District
5 in Ashrafieh electoral District
4 in Bachoura electoral District

3rd- The final statement on the agreement will include a reference to the weapons of organizations that are not under the direct control of the army and this issue will be finalized by the new president in Beirut

4th-Election of Army Chief General Michel Suleiman as the president of the republic of Lebanon no later than this coming Friday May 23, 2008

20 May 2008

*History Repeats Itself !!!


















-What Next in Lebanon?

After the rout of pro-US March 14 militias at the hands of the Hizbullah-led ‎opposition forces in Beirut and Shouf mountains last week, a Qatari-led Arab League ‎delegation sent to Beirut on 14 May succeeded in brokering a truce. The seven-point ‎agreement reached includes the immediate resumption of national dialogue in Doha--‎with the main aim of finally forming a national unity government, electing a president ‎by consensus, and agreeing on the details of an electoral law—and the pledge not to ‎use force to settle political disputes. The airport, port and main border crossing with ‎Syria, as well as schools and shops, were promptly re-opened as militias on both sides ‎removed roadblocks and hid their weapons. ‎
With the army deployed throughout key areas, Lebanese citizens once again resumed ‎their everyday activities under the more familiar conditions of a devastated ‎environment, massive traffic jams, unregulated construction and urban planning, ‎electricity and water shortages, state-sponsored theft or abuse of public lands and ‎resources, rising poverty, inflation and unemployment, and one of the worst budget ‎deficits per capita in the world. The illusion of normalcy, in other words, has returned ‎returns for the time being but the real question is: for how long?‎
There is little doubt that the Doha truce averted a descent into the nightmare of a ‎large-scale civil conflict most Lebanese were dreading, and as such was welcome by ‎all. However, there is equally little doubt that this truce represents a temporary pause ‎in an on-going regional war fomented by the unrelenting US ‘war on terror’. In this ‎larger war, unlike the street battles of last week, there can be no winners among the ‎Lebanese people, only losers, just as their has been among the Palestinians, Iraqis, ‎Afghans, Somalis and others who have been caught in the same global, and ‎apparently perpetual, conflict.‎
The continued US, Israeli and Saudi obsession with Iran (which these days is being ‎used interchangeably with “Shia’a” in a bid to fan sectarian flames) means that they ‎will already be planning ahead for the next battle, probably in Lebanon and almost ‎certainly in Gaza (since Hamas is placed in the “Iran” column), in order to halt the ‎perceived Iranian gain in Lebanon last week. In such a case, the recent conciliatory ‎sentiments expressed by some March 14 leaders like Walid Jumblatt must be read as a ‎strategic objective to gain time and space to regroup. ‎
The disconcerting silence of Saudi Arabia is perhaps the most troubling. Not only have ‎the Saudi-sponsored sectarian militias in Lebanon been defeated, but now its tiny but ‎increasingly ambitious Gulf rival state of Qatar has rubbed salt into its wounds by ‎stealing the diplomatic limelight and consolidating its role as regional peacemaker. The ‎Saudis have both the means and influence to mobilize Sunni Salafist groups in ‎Lebanon in a protracted sectarian war against Hizbullah, or precipitate the collapse of ‎the Lebanese economy, if it decides it has ‘lost’ the country to Iran. As such, the ‎Doha participants will want to pacify the Saudis.‎
And what of the Lebanese themselves? The very fact that the ruling political class ‎needs once again to undertake negotiations in another country in order to resolve ‎internal political disagreements illustrates the core problem in the Lebanese political ‎sectarian system as bequeathed by the colonial powers beginning in the 19th ‎Century. This system creates disenfranchised “non-citizens” that allow the elite (of all ‎sects) to plunder state resources during economic boom times such as occurred ‎during the post civil war period of the 1990s. ‎
On the other hand, during periods of social or political unrest, the Lebanese system ‎inexorably leads to either sectarian conflict and/or the hegemonic stability imposed by ‎an international or regional power (such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the US). The ‎Doha negotiations will likely reinforce this sectarian tendency rather than address its ‎root causes, and as such the Lebanese, rather than coming together as citizens of a ‎nation, will once again be divided into disparate communities regulated by sectarian ‎patrons. ‎
For their part, March 14 leaders have repeatedly failed to evolve beyond their ‎parochial, and intensely sectarian, rhetoric since gaining political ascendancy in the ‎aftermath of Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon in April 2005. Their apparently craven ‎reliance on what is the most pro-Israeli and anti-Arab US administration in history ‎means that their credibility, to say nothing of their legitimacy, is virtually non-existent ‎among the core constituency of the opposition movement. That March 14 leaders, ‎including Prime Minster Fouad Siniora, would compare Hizbullah’s 24-hour sweep of ‎Beirut to successive Israeli invasions—with their untold horrors inflicted upon the ‎Lebanese and Palestinians—tells its own damning story. Indeed, it merely reinforces ‎the state’s long history of palpable neglect (in terms of both services and ‎compassion) for southern Lebanon’s communities that have endured not only poverty ‎but three decades of Israeli occupation and violence. Within this context, March 14’s ‎mantra of “building a strong state” rings hollow.‎
However, Hizbullah’s standing has also fallen in national terms after its decision to flex ‎its muscles last week. Hizbullah finally snapped when the government passed a series ‎of provocative decrees on May 7th—under intense pressure from the US and in ‎coordination with UN Special Envoy Terje Roed Larsen—that went beyond the ‘rules of ‎the game’ established earlier by the pro-government and opposition forces. These ‎rules had acknowledged that the status of the Resistance’s weapons were a subject ‎of future national dialogue and consensus only, not unilateral government decrees or ‎international dictates. ‎
The May 7 government decrees thus breeched this basic understanding with Hizbullah ‎by declaring that the highly-effective, private, secure communications network ‎considered by Hizbullah to be pivotal in its war of resistance against Israel was now a ‎‎‘threat’ to state security and thus had to be dismantled immediately. Hizbullah’s ‎violent response to these cabinet decisions was not so much a campaign to overturn ‎the government decrees per se (the entire opposition, after all, considers the Siniora ‎government illegitimate and without any authority), but a proactive move to seize the ‎initiative on the ground in what they see as a new stage in the US-Israeli-Saudi-‎March 14 war on the resistance. In this it surely succeeded.‎
Still, Hizbullah understands well that its take-over of Beirut—following over a year’s ‎non-violent campaign that yielded much bating by March 14 militias but no political ‎gains—required the betrayal of its long-standing commitment to the Lebanese people ‎not to use its formidable weapons internally. Ironically it thus fulfilled one of March ‎‎14’s strategic objectives: dragging Hizbullah into an internal fight and portraying it as ‎a mere sectarian ‘militia’ instead of a noble and widely-supported national resistance ‎movement. ‎
Accordingly, the very idea of the national resistance in Lebanon, so effective in ‎militarily defeating the Israeli occupation and puncturing the myth of Zionist ‎supremacy vis-à-vis the Arabs, has been eroded following the battles of last week. ‎Under these circumstances, it is not difficult to imagine yet another US-backed Israeli ‎invasion of Lebanon in the coming months but this time, some of those that lost the ‎street battles in Beirut might join the fight against Hizbullah.‎
The Doha accords might well end in handshakes and the selection of a president, ‎probably Army chief Michel Suleiman, as well as a government of national unity. The ‎deeper conflict, however, will persist as it is rooted in the sectarian nature of the ‎Lebanese political system that inhibits the emergence of national statesmen strong ‎enough to care for all Lebanon’s citizens and resist mischievous intervention from ‎regional or international patrons. ‎
Meanwhile, the Lebanese have two choices. They can retain the existing political ‎system and thus continue to endure persistently unstable conditions --and potentially ‎further conflict-- until the US drops its disastrous ‘war on terror’ policy in the region ‎and starts engaging its perceived enemies. Or they can throw out the inherently ‎corrupt, sectarian political class and demand real changes to the political and ‎economic systems in order to come together as a nation. ‎
As one person interviewed on Lebanese TV half-joked when asked to comment on the ‎potential resolution at Doha: if they don’t agree we should close the airport to ‎prevent them all from returning.‎

(counterpunch)

19 May 2008

-Qatar Talks Update in Photos


A Lebanese soldier walks past a poster of Lebanese army chief and presidential candidate General Michel Sleiman in Beirut last year. Rival Lebanese leaders are continuing tense talks in Qatar over a proposal calling for an immediate presidential vote and the formation of a unity government in a bid to end a crisis which has brought Lebanon to the brink of civil war.




Lebanese Parliament house speaker Nabih Berri (C) meets with opposition Christian leader Michel Aoun (R) and Hezbollah Siniore official Mohammed Raad (L) in Doha May 19, 2008.

-Domestic worker kills child, self in Kesrouan

An Ethiopian domestic worker threw the 7-year-old daughter of her employers off of a balcony before committing suicide, a security report said on Saturday. The report stated that the domestic worker threw the child - Gina - from the fifth floor of the residence of her employer Assaad Chidiac in the Kesrouan region of Sahel Alma, north of Beirut. Preliminary investigations indicated that the domestic worker was hired by the Chidiac family in 2007, and has since then shown hostility to the child, "in addition to her aggressive character." The report added that "following a quarrel with her employers, the domestic worker threw the child off of the balcony and committed suicide afterward."

(dailystar)

18 May 2008

-1960 Electoral Law



'The committee has mainly agreed on adopting Lebanon's 1960 electoral law with some amendments regarding the city of Beirut,' a Lebanese delegate at the talks in Qatar said.

Lebanon has been a parliamentary democracy since the promulgation of the Lebanese constitution in 1926.

The first parliamentary elections were held in 1927, and except for gaps during World War Two and the 1975-90 civil war, they were held on a fairly regular four-year basis.

Throughout the past 80 years the election system has remained a majoritarian first-past-the-post system in multiple-member districts.

Seats in each district are specified for candidates from particular religious communities, but all voters in each district vote for all seats.

There were virtually no regulations on campaign finance and media, and the Ministry of Interior managed the election process.

There have been post-war elections after Lebanon's civil war in 1975-1990 civil war, of which there have been four so far 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2005.

If the 1960 electoral law { which is based on a Qadaa ( county) sized district} is adopted the number of electoral districts could more than double the number of the 2005 districts. In 2005 there were 14 districts . The 1960 law will result in 27 districts as shown below
Here is a list of the counties ( Qadaa) in each Governorate (Muhafazat )

Akkar Governorate (Muhafazat )

* Akkar (Halba)

Beirut Governorate

* Beirut district 1
* Beirut district 2
* Beirut district 3


Mount Lebanon Governorate

* Baabda (Baabda)
* Aley (Aley)
* Matn (Jdeideh)
* Keserwan (Jounieh)
* Chouf (Beiteddine)
* Jbeil (Byblos)

North Governorate

* Tripoli (Tripoli)
* Zgharta (Zgharta / Ehden)
* Bsharri (Bsharri)
* Batroun (Batroun)
* Koura (Amioun)
* Miniyeh-Danniyeh (Minyeh / Sir Ed-Danniyeh)

Beqaa Governorate

* Zahle (Zahle)
* Rashaya (Rashaya)
* Western Beqaa (Jebjennine / Saghbine)

South Governorate

* Sidon (Sidon)
* Jezzine (Jezzine)
* Tyre (Tyre)

Nabatiye Governorate

* Nabatiyeh (Nabatiyeh)
* Marjeyoun (Marjeyoun)
* Hasbaya (Hasbaya)
* Bint Jbeil (Bint Jbeil)

Baalbek-Hermel

* Baalbek (Baalbek)
* Hermel (Hermel)

(yalibnan)

16 May 2008

-War Paused... Road Blocks Removed.


Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey, the interim commander of Central Command seen here in 2007, visited Beirut earlier this week to find out how Washington can better support Lebanon's armed forces during the current crisis, US officials said Thursday.
(AFP/File)



Cars drive on the highway leading to the Rafiq Hariri airport in Beirut.



A bulldozer removes barricades on the main road leading to the Syrian border at Masna'a point in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon May 15, 2008.

14 May 2008

-Controversy & Support

When the USA sends its Generals, interfering with the Lebanese political internal problems; when helicopters are suggested to land and save what needs to be saved from the so called invasion;... when all these parties interfere, they call it SUPPORT.

I wonder what if Iran or Syria did the same.... what would that be called?

It's maskhara w'akel hawa!

-40 Army Officers Submitted their Resignation, Suleiman Rejected

The Lebanese army's deputy chief intelligence Brig. Gen. Ghassan Balaa and some 40 officers loyal to the government have submitted their resignation in protest of "the way the military handled the latest violence in Lebanon," press reports said Wednesday.
They said army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman, however, has rejected their resignation after summoning some of them.

This is what prompted Suleiman to tell his officers that no regular force can contain what Lebanon had experienced -- a civil war.

Suleiman reportedly made the remarks in messages addressed to all army officers, in the first such practice in the history of the military establishment.

"What has happened in the streets of Lebanon is a real civil war that no national army in the world can confront. Major states encountered such wars and its armies could not contain the fight," Suleiman's message said.

Such armies had been "disintegrated," Suleiman noted.

"We should not permit outbreak of the civil war," Suleiman told the officers.

However, he noted that containing a civil war can be achieved by political efforts.

Suleiman said goodwill efforts exerted both domestically and outside Lebanon could result in "settlements to the crisis. We hope such settlements would be reached soon."

(naharnet)

-Lebanon Airport "winding: 3ambihawweh"

During May 2008 Beirut clashes.

















Lebanon Time-Line

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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.