01 July 2011

* STL Indictment is out: Hariri hails turning point

The following is the full text of a statement released by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri following the delivery of an indictment and four arrest warrants by the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is investigating the 2005 assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Dear Lebanese, brothers and sisters, friends everywhere,After long years of patience, waiting and continued national struggle, the indictment in the criminal assassination of Martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and his companions was announced today. Today, we witness together a distinctive historic moment in the political, judicial, security and moral life of Lebanon. I feel the beats in my heart embracing the hearts of all the Lebanese who have defended the cause of justice and refused to bargain over the blood of martyrs.
We all fought together for this historic moment. We struggled in our daily, family, social, cultural, political and economic life. We chose not to take revenge or engage in resentment. We relied on God and started a costly and long path toward justice and truth through a tribunal of an international character with Lebanese judges that would provide evidence and give the accused, whoever they are, a chance to defend themselves.
Today, I find myself closer than any time before to my family and the people of my country. I am with them in all cities, towns and homes. I am with the families and crowds who rushed to the Freedom Square and the grave of the martyr prime minister, filling the squares all over Lebanon, defying desperation, intimidation and threats, and vowing not to surrender to the will of the killers and criminals.
I salute and embrace each and every one of you and tell you all: Thank you. Thanks to the beloved Lebanese people. I renew my pledge to remain with you loyal to the legacy of martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and of all the other martyrs and the free people who fell on the road of the Cedars Revolution and the free independent national decision.
This progress in the course of justice and the Special Tribunal is for all the Lebanese without any exception, and it should be a turning point in the history of fighting organized political crime in Lebanon and the Arab world, just as we want it to be a focal point for uniting the Lebanese in the face of the factors of division and the attempts to disrupt the principles of national reconciliation.
On this occasion, I cannot but express, on my behalf and on behalf of my mother, sisters, brothers, uncle, aunt and all the members of the family, our sincerest feelings of solidarity with the families of the martyrs who fell with the martyr prime minister, and the friends and families and companions of all the martyrs who fell on this great national path, which launched the spark of freedom in Lebanon and the Arab world.
It is a moment to salute the families of all our martyrs, each and every father, mother, sister and brother who chose the path of justice and truth, not revenge, giving full meaning to their sacrifices and to the struggle of the Lebanese people for sovereignty, freedom and independence.
We are all part of a patriotic Lebanese family, who takes note on this day, with loyalty and appreciation, of what our Arab brothers and all the friends in the world have offered to achieve justice and protect Lebanon from the terror series of political crime.
Loyalty also requires that we reiterate our thanks to everyone involved in the investigation of the crimes that targeted symbols of Lebanon, from Lebanese official security and justice agencies, to the international investigation team, and everyone who worked and is still working in the framework of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the files related to it in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1757.
Dear brothers and sisters, justice offers today a new chapter of truth, and nothing can disrupt the spirit of justice.
Responsibility requires everyone to accompany this spirit and refrain from disturbing the course of justice, and to find in the announcement of the indictment an opportunity for the Lebanese state to assume its responsibilities, as well as the Lebanese government’s commitment to cooperate fully with the international tribunal and not to avoid pursuing the accused and handing them over to justice, which is a guarantee of democracy and stability.
The Lebanese government is invited politically, nationally, legally and morally, to implement Lebanon’s obligations toward the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and nobody has an excuse to escape from this responsibility. I humbly ask that nobody put in doubt our will or the decision of the Lebanese to persevere in order to achieve justice in the assassinations of all the Cedar Revolution martyrs, and that everybody be sure that intimidation will not help to break this will.
Lebanon has paid the price of this moment, in decades of killings and assassinations without accountability. It is time to put a final end to this shameful series. The end of the killers’ era has begun, and the beginning of the era of justice is approaching.
Lebanon has triumphed for international justice, and justice has triumphed for the souls of the martyrs. At this moment, I can only look toward the spirit of my father, martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and the spirits of the martyrs who fought for Lebanon, and tell them that your blood was not shed in vain, and that the truth has began to see the light and justice is coming.
May God have mercy upon you for what you have given to Lebanon and all the Lebanese, and may God bless you with heaven.
Long live the martyrs of Lebanon. Long live justice. Long live Lebanon.

13 June 2011

* Lebanese government formation after 5 months

Nearly five months after his appointment, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Monday announced the formation of a 30-member cabinet in which Hezbollah and its allies hold a majority.
Mikati, a billionaire Sunni businessman, announced his line-up following arduous negotiations over key portfolios including the justice and telecommunications ministries, now controlled by the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah alliance.

"This government is a government for all Lebanese, no matter what party they support, be it the majority or the opposition," 56-year-old Mikati told a news conference at the presidential palace.

But Lebanon's pro-Western opposition bloc, led by former premier Saad Hariri, has boycotted the new cabinet which it has slammed as a "Hezbollah government."

Mikati's cabinet -- which does not include any women -- has 19 ministers representing the Shiite militant group Hezbollah and its allies.

The remaining 11 were chosen by Mikati, President Michel Sleiman and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.

The government must now be approved by at least half of the members of Lebanon's 128-seat parliament, in which the Hezbollah-led alliance has a small majority.

In a sign of simmering discord between Mikati and the Hezbollah alliance, Druze MP Talal Arslan immediately resigned from his post as state minister in the new cabinet, accusing the premier of being a "liar" and of seeking to deprive the minority Druze of key cabinet posts.

One of the main challenges facing the new cabinet will be how to deal with a UN-backed investigation into the 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.

Hezbollah forced the collapse of the previous government headed by Hariri's son after he refused to disavow the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

The Netherlands-based court is widely expected to indict Hezbollah operatives in the killing, a move the militant group has repeatedly warned against.

Since his appointment in January with Hezbollah's blessing, Mikati has declined to spell out whether his government will cease all cooperation with the court.

In a clear sign that he does not expect a smooth road ahead, Mikati on Monday urged the Lebanese people to judge his government by its actions and not its individual members or the parties they represent.

"This government is fully aware that the future is not all rosy and that it will face obstacles, challenges and traps," he said.

A major point of contention in the negotiations over the new line-up was the interior ministry, which will now be headed by retired army general Marwan Charbel, considered close to the president.

The new foreign minister, Adnan Mansour, is a former ambassador to Iran which along with Syria is a major backer of Hezbollah.

The defence ministry is now in the hands of Hezbollah's Christian allies.

Mikati's appointment in January sparked the ire of Lebanon's Sunnis, who are largely loyal to Hariri and saw the move as a bid by Hezbollah to sideline their community.

But Mikati has endeavoured to portray himself as an independent politician and not a Hezbollah puppet.

Under Lebanon's complex power-sharing system, the prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim, the president a Maronite Christian and the speaker of parliament a Shiite Muslim.

The first head of state to congratulate Lebanon on the new government's formation was Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Damascus was forced to pull its troops out of its smaller neighbour after Hariri's assassination, ending 29 years of military and political domination.

The UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, congratulated Mikati on the new government and said he hoped it uphold "its... commitment to Lebanon's international obligations" in a statement released by Williams' office.

The United States, a major donor to the Lebanese army which blacklists Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation, has warned that the formation of a government led by the militant group is likely to affect ties.


07 May 2011

* My Last Valentine in Beirut

A trailer for a daring lebanese movie called "My Last Valentine in Beirut" by T Productions.
It's about a hooker (by Laurine Kodeh) who admits her profession to shed a light over the dangers of this business and the prevailing society.

05 May 2011

* Abu Ayyash sues Al-Madina bank assistant

Al-Madina Bank General Manager Ibrahim Abu Ayyash on Monday filed a lawsuit against the bank's executive assistant, Rana Qoleilat, on charges of giving him false savings passbooks and making him give her $220 million in fraudulent means.
State Prosecutor Adnan Addoum subsequently referred the lawsuit to the Central Criminal Investigations Department for investigations.
Abu Ayyash was released last week from jail on bail.
In a separate development, the Military Public Prosecutor's office began an investigation into an incident that occurred Sunday between supporters of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and supporters of the Lebanese Democratic Party.
A hand grenade was reportedly thrown at the PSP offices in Shoueifat and shots were fired. The incident is believed to be linked to the upcoming municipal elections, set to begin on May 2.
Military Public Prosecutor Jean Fahd charged the Internal Security Forces with conducting the investigation.
Meanwhile, Addoum ordered the arrest of two men in Beirut's southern suburbs on separate charges of impersonating a municipal candidate in an official test and helping a candidate to pass the test.
Addoum referred the suspects, whose full names were not disclosed, to the Mount Lebanon Public Prosecutor's office so as to launch legal proceedings against them.
One of the men apparently passed a written test on behalf of an illiterate municipal candidate, who is currently at large.
According to the law, candidates to the membership of municipal councils must be able to read and write in order to be eligible for election.


05 April 2011

* CNN: الأمطار في الشرق الأوسط ملوثة بالإشعاعات

05 نيسان 2011

حذرت بعض التقارير، التي نشرتها قناة الـ CNN العالمية، من الأمطار التي سيشهدها الشرق الأوسط هذا الشهر، والتي- حسب هذه التقارير- ستكون ملوثة بالإشعاعات النووية التي تسرَّبت من محطة فوكوشيما النووية اليابانية.
ورغم أن تقارير مواجهة أعلنت أن الخبر غير دقيق، إلا أن تقارير الـ CNN حذرت الناس من هذه الأمطار، طالبةً منهم الاحتماء منها وارتداء ستراتٍ واقية Imperméable كي لا يصيبهم أي ضرر.. فعندما يتشرَّب الجلد أي نقطة ملوثة بمفاعل نووية، فإن ذلك قد يؤدي إلى سرطان الجلد!

25 March 2011

* الجديد سرب اسماء الوزراء الجدد الحصص والحقائب

"الجديد "يسرب اسماء الوزراء الجدد والحقائب عرضت قناة "الجديد"  في نشرتها المسائية تسريبات حول التشكيلة الحكومية المتوقعة بانتظار حل  ما وصفته عقدة وزارة الداخلية  التي ترجح مصادر لموقعنا ان تبقى من نصيب الوزير زياد بارود على رغم الاعتراض الشديد من قبل العماد ميشال عون الذي اشار الجديد الى احتمال اعطائه عشرة وزراء من اتشكيلة الثلاثينية من بينهم حصة الوزير سليمان فرنجية  وجاءت التشكيلة( الجديدية) على الشكل التالي  - 10 وزراء لرئيس تكتل "التغيير والإصلاح" النائب ميشال عون منهم شكيب قرطباوي لوزراة العدل وفايز غضن لوزارة الدفاع وهو محسوب على رئيس تيار "المردة" النائب سليمان فرنجية، إضافة الى  استمرار جبران باسيل في  وزارة الطاقة. - 6 وزراء لحركة "أمل" و"حزب الله" على أن يتسلم النائب ياسين جابر وزارة الخارجية. - 5 وزارء لرئيس الحكومة المكلف نجيب ميقاتي والوزير محمد الصفدي بينهم 4 وزراء سنة ومقعد مسيحي، واحد والوزراء السنة هم الى ميقاتي والصفدي  وليد الداعوق وغالب محمصاني إضافة لوزير مسيحي. - 3 وزراء لكتلة النائب وليد جنبلاط الذي سمّى: غازي العريضي للأشغال ووائل أبو فاعور للشؤون الاجتماعية وعلاء الدين ترو كوزير دولة. - مقعدان لرئيس الجمهورية ميشال سليمان من بينهما قد تكون الداخلية لبارود أما الحقائب الأربعة الباقية فستكون واحدة للنائب طلال ارسلان ومقعد مسيحي للحزب "القومي" ومقعد للنائب نقولا فتوش ووزارة لفيصل كرامي نجل  الرئيس عمر كرامي. وبعيدا عن التشكيلة الجديدية تسربت لموقعنا مجموعة اسماء غير مؤكدة من بينها الرئيس ايلي الفرزلي بينما مشاركة الوزير محمد جواد خليفة بقيت طي التعتيم اثر ما سرب عنه في وثائق ويكيليكس

* Anti-Syrian states fund nearly all of the $62M PA Rafik Hariri Lebanon assassination tribunal, 2008

Release date
March 25, 2009 
The billionaire former Prime Minister of Lebanon (1992-1998, 2000-2004) Rafik Bahaa El Deen Al-Hariri, or "Rafik Hariri" and 22 others were killed in a bomb attack in Beirut on 14 Feb 2005.

Following the assassination an investigating court, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, was slowly established by Lebanon, donor countries and the United Nations.
Syria was blamed for the assassination by Lebanese groups and states opposed to Syrian influence in Lebanon. The perception of Syrian involvement had a dramatic effect on Lebanese domestic politics, and lead to a rift in Syrian-Lebanese relations.
Under these contexts it important to know who is funding the Special Tribunal, since the court's expected outcome is to blame Syria, possibly correctly, for the assassination.
The document presents the first year (2007) contributions from donors.

Over $62 million dollars was raised from sympathetic states; the majority of which are known to be pro-Israeli or anti-Syrian. Other states, such as Uruguay and Macedonia gave amounts so token as to be considered a diplomatic insult (under $2000).

The $62M figure does not include a $5.3M/year contribution of secured building space by AIVD, the Dutch intelligence service which is also described in the document.
The large figure also represents a substantial boondoggle or corruption opportunity for officials in Lebanon.


25 January 2011

ما الذي قدّمه ميقاتي للمعارضة ورفض أن يقدمه الصفدي؟

الرئيس نجيب ميقاتي إذاً هو مرشح المعارضة.. بعد أسبوع من الشدّ والجذب والمواقف والمشاورات، رست سفينة فريق الثامن من آذار في ميناء طرابلس وكان عليها أن تختار من بين ثلاثة مرشحين من يستطيع أن يؤمن لها الأغلبية المطلوبة لإقصاء الرئيس سعد الحريري عن السراي الحكومي.
ومنذ مطلع الأسبوع الماضي، بدا خيار ترشيح الرئيس عمر كرامي معرضاً للفشل والسقوط بسبب التحفظات الداخلية والخارجية على تولي الرئيس كرامي رئاسة الحكومة المقبلة وعدم قدرة الرجل على حشد أكثرية نيابية مؤيدة لتكليفه.. فانتقل خيار المعارضة للمراوحة بين إسمي الرئيس نجيب ميقاتي والوزير محمد الصفدي في محاولة للالتفاف على كتلة الأكثرية التي يمتلكها الرئيس الحريري ومحاولة خرقها بتسمية احد المرشحين، خصوصاً بعد أن ثبت للمعارضة أن النائب وليد جنبلاط لم يستطع تأمين الأغلبية المرجحة لها بسبب الخصوصية السياسية والطائفية والشخصية التي تحكم أصوات نواب اللقاء الديمقراطي.
لميكن خيار الرئيس ميقاتي متاحاً للمعارضة في بادئ الأمر، فعلاقة الرجل بالحريري لم يكن ممكناً خرقها بسهولة ناهيك عن فوزه نائباً عن لائحة الحريري في طرابلس، بالإضافة إلى أن الرئيس صفدي كان رافضاً لهذا التحدي في بادئ الأمر فكان على المعارضة أن تبذل الكثير من الجهود لإقناعه بالإنشقاق عن حليفه وترؤس الحكومة.. وربما كان لتسريب "حقيقة ليكس" على قناة الجديد والحديث الذي صدر عن لسان الحريري بحق الرئيس ميقاتي أهداف لم يستطع أحد قراءتها في ذلك الوقت، فهيأ التسريب "وإن لم يكن مقصوداً" الرئيس ميقاتي نفسياً للإنشقاق عن حليفه السابق والالتحاق بركب المعارضة مع من التحقوا، ولكن السؤال هو: إلى أي حد يمكن للرئيس ميقاتي أن يسير بركب المعارضة التي يتزعمها حزب الله، خصوصاً في هذا المناخ الطائفي المشحون، وهل هو مستعد أو لا لتحمل أعباء تعريض الشارع السني للإنقسام والذهاب في تنفيذ شروط حزب الله، بإلغاء بروتوكول التعاون مع المحكمة الدولية ووقف التمويل وسحب القضاة منها؟
وهل هو مستعد لتحمل تبعات المواجهة مع مجلس الأمن والمجتمع الدولي وتعريض علاقاته الإقليمية والدولية للخطر؟!
هذه الشروط والتبعات ذاتها، التي رفضها الوزير محمد الصفدي، عندما عرضت عليه المعارضة فكرة الانشقاق وترؤس الحكومة قبل أن تعرضها على ميقاتي.. فلماذا قبل ميقاتي بما رفضه الصفدي؟!


جورج وسوف نجح بإبعاد رولا شامية عن ابنه وديع؟!

توترت علاقة سلطان الطرب جورج وسوف بابنه الكبير وديع بسبب علاقته مع الممثلة اللبنانية رولا شامية، وذلك لأنها تكبره بـِ 12 عاماً، ولأسبابٍ أخرى يراها الوسوف (كوالد) غير صحيحة في العلاقة المبنية بين إبنه ورولا شامية.
العلاقة بقيت سراً لفترة طويلة، فهي بدأت منذ حوالى العام والنصف رغم معارضة الوسوف الذي كان غير راضٍ عن هذه العلاقة، وتمَّ كشفها منذ أشهرٍ قليلة.. ولكن الجديد الذي نكشف عنه اليوم هو أن تلك العلاقة انتهت بين وديع ورولا، قبل فترة.. وكما بدأت بشكلٍ سري، انتهت أيضاً بشكل سرّي.
وبهذا يكون إحساس الوسوف على حق بأن ابنه ورولا لا يمكن أن يكونا لبعض، خصوصاً أننا علمنا أيضاً أن رولا دخلت بعلاقة جديدة مع إبن شخصية لبنانية نافذة.. وبالفعل، نجح الوسوف، بطريقة أو بأخرى، بإبعاد ابنه عن رولا.


12 January 2011

* March 8 Ministers, Sayyed Hussein Resign from Cabinet, Ask Suleiman to Form New One

Lebanon's hard-won unity government collapsed on Wednesday after the March 8 coalition ministers and State Minister Adnan Sayyed Hussein, who had been named by President Michel Suleiman, announced their resignations.
On behalf of the ten opposition ministers, Energy and Water Minister Jebran Bassil announced resignation from Cabinet, following a brief meeting at Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun's headquarters in Rabiyeh.
Bassil expressed "appreciation and gratitude" to Saudi King Abdullah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for their efforts to help Lebanon overcome the political crisis caused by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon "in light of the obstruction of Cabinet caused by the other camp's inability to overcome U.S. pressure despite the openness we have displayed."
The ministers expressed their disappointment that efforts to end the crisis have been missed "even after our final attempt to rectify the situation and the other camp's insistence to maintain its same approach."
The opposition ministers therefore turned to President Suleiman, demanding him to take control of the situation.
Bassil stated: "Prime Minister Saad Hariri should choose between Beirut and Washington and between Beirut and any other capital, we have made our choice of adhering to the institutions."
"Our decision is legal and constitutional and we make room for the new government to perform its duties," he concluded.
Soon after the end of the opposition meeting, State Minister Adnan Sayyed Hussein announced his stepping down, thus providing the minimum necessary number of resignations to topple the cabinet.
Earlier on Wednesday, Health Minister Mohammed Jawad Khalife told Al-Manar TV that ministers were planning to resign unless Hariri agreed to their demand to convene an urgent Cabinet meeting over the tribunal crisis.
The opposition lamented on Tuesday that the Saudi-Syrian initiative "has reached a dead end due to U.S. pressures and the other camp's compliance with these pressures, despite the fact that we had positively dealt with that initiative and provided it with chances of success."
The announcement by Bassil came just as Hariri was meeting in Washington with U.S. President Barack Obama on the crisis.
Hizbullah and its allies have for months been pressing Hariri to disavow the STL on the grounds that it is part of a U.S.-Israeli plot.
According to unconfirmed press reports, the STL is poised to indict senior Hizbullah members in connection to the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Environment Minister Mohammad Rahhal, who is close to Hariri, told AFP that Hizbullah's decision to quit the government was aimed at paralyzing the state and forcing the premier to reject the tribunal.
"They think that by piling the pressure on him, Hariri will bend but they are mistaken," Rahhal said.
Mustapha Alloush, a senior member of Hariri's Future Movement, said that the opposition had timed the announcement of the government collapse to coincide with the premier's meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.
"They want Hariri to enter the meeting with the U.S. president as an ex-premier or as head of a caretaker government," Alloush told AFP. "But the real goal is to deal a moral blow to the United States."
"Saad Hariri was on the brink of making a major concession as concerns the tribunal, but occult forces prevented him from doing so," Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat told AFP without elaborating.
The standoff between Hariri's camp and Hizbullah had paralyzed the government for months and sparked concerns of sectarian violence similar to that which brought the country close to civil war in May 2008.


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.