Wednesday, January 31, 2007
The March 14 majority alliance on Tuesday called for putting an end to the ongoing sit-in in downtown Beirut, saying it has become a near "occupation of public property."
The alliance, which backs Premier Fouad Saniora's government, said such a protest which has been going on since Dec. 1 "requires urgent interference by the security forces to end this occupation."
The alliance, in a statement released after a meeting by its follow-up committee, called on all factions to halt propaganda campaigns and warned against "the seriousness resulting from continuation of hatred campaigns."
The statement noted that the escalation of verbal attacks by the Hizbullah-led opposition precedes the second anniversary of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's assassination.
Meanwhile, sources close to Saniora welcomed a call by Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah for a political settlement to the ongoing crisis in Lebanon.
Beirut, 30 Jan 07, 20:16
"These comments are a positive gesture," said Saniora.
Nasrallah has "over the past two days been rejecting any recourse to violence or arms" to resolve the political impasse, Saniora said, according to the premier's office. "We encourage and support these efforts."
In a speech to thousands of supporters gathered in the southern suburbs of Beirut for the Shiite festival of Ashoura on Tuesday, Nasrallah said: "The only solution for us, Lebanese, is through political dialogue."
"We refuse a recourse to arms ... The demands of the Lebanese Opposition are political, a settlement can only be political and we encourage any mediation efforts to reach such a solution," he said.
Nasralah said Hizbullah will "not be lured into using its weapons" against other Lebanese factions, and called for an independent judicial investigation to bring to justice culprits in the violence that swept Beirut last week.
"We underline our determination to avoid any collision" with other Lebanese parties, Nasrallah said, declaring that "I adhere to the just demands of the Opposition."
He called for the formation of "a state (government) based on cooperation … to steer Lebanon out of its crises."
Contacts have been under way with Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as the Arab League, since six ministers resigned from the Saniora cabinet in mid-November.
Hizbullah has since been spearheading a protest since Dec. 1 to demand a new government of national unity.
Four people were killed and more than 160 wounded Thursday in street clashes between government supporters and opponents that was sparked by a cafeteria quarrel at Beirut's Arab University (BAU) between Sunni and Shiite students.
As a precaution, two Lebanese universities due to reopen on Wednesday will stay closed until next Monday, authorities of the BAU and the state-run Lebanese University said.(Naharnet-AFP)
Beirut, 31 Jan 07, 07:52
Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's declared strategy tag is based on the single concept of "unity" –Lebanon's synonym to partnership- in sharp contrast with the movement's background that rests on a history of monopoly.
For over 16 years, ending on Aug. 14 2006, when U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 enforced a ceasefire in the 34-day war with Israel, Hizbullah enjoyed a resistance monopoly in south Lebanon.
The Lebanese National Resistance Movement (LNRM), an underground alliance of leftist factions that fought Israel after its invading troops occupied Beirut in Sept. 1982, faced de facto dismantling of its network as Hizbullah was gaining the upper hand in the country that was run by Syria's army and intelligence agencies.
LNRM leaders and fighters were either assassinated or killed while trying to carry out attacks against Israeli troops occupying parts of south Lebanon. Some of them were "liquidated" before reaching the confrontation zone with what Hizbullah terms "the Zionist enemy."
However, after saying it is "no secret" that Hizbullah fighters are no more in the confrontation zone of south Lebanon, Nasrallah made a call for the creation of a "sole" multi-faction national resistance movement to liberate the Shabaa Farms.
Nasrallah even went as far as saying that "whoever has been banned from liberating (the Farms) should step forward to liberate (the area) and we'll be with him."
The key note in this National Resistance call by Nasrallah is "we'll be with him."
So Nasrallah wants Hizbullah, which did not even allow the regular Lebanese army into south Lebanon during its monopoly era, to return to the confrontation zone with Israel, but this time with "partners" under the banner of a "national" resistance movement.
The next move would, almost certainly, be a declaration forming this "national" resistance outfit, which would group Syrian-backed factions that form Lebanon's opposition.
The Arab Socialist Baath Party, Lebanon's chapter of Syria's regime, is expected to be part of the new resistance along with the Syrian Social National Party (SSNP) and Osama Saad's Popular Nasserite Organization.
It remains to be seen, though, whether the resistance frame as outlined by Nasrallah would include his two main Christian allies: Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement and ex-MP Suleiman Franjieh's Marada faction.
Nasrallah had wanted both Aoun's FPM and Franjieh's Marada be represented in a government of "national unity" replacing the majority administration of Premier Fouad Saniora which the opposition has been trying in vain to topple since Dec. 1.
But how would the Nasrallah-designed "national resistance" structure, irrespective of whether it represents all the opposition factions or not, manage to launch attacks against Israeli troops in Shabaa Farms?
First they would have to cross the 23-kilometer deep buffer south of the Litani river patrolled by the Lebanese army and troops of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
Geographically, Nasrallah's "liberation" road to Shabaa Farms goes through UNIFIL's area of operations. This is a fact.
Was Nasrallah setting the stage for a "national" war on UNIFIL?
That remains to be seen, especially that the Saniora government has been working for putting the Shabaa farms under U.N. control pending a settlement of its fate, which Syria doesn't facilitate.
The region was occupied by Israel in its 1967 war against Syria, Jordan and Egypt.
Beirut, 30 Jan 07, 14:54
Al Hayat said the Lebanese army command, which continues to coordinate with Lebanon's Internal Security Forces, has lately set up a "new security plan for Beirut."
It said Beirut, under the plan, was divided into "four security zones in which 6,000 soldiers were assigned to keep peace and prevent any security disturbance."
The army command pledged in a directive issued Tuesday that "what has happened will not recur," a reference to the spate of violence that has swept Lebanon since last Tuesday in which at least seven people were killed and more than 250 wounded.
"Let it be known that what has happened will not recur. You are required to enforce laws and instructions under the supervision of your superiors," Gen. Michel Suleiman said in the directive, addressed to army troops.
Beirut, 31 Jan 07, 10:28
Monday, January 29, 2007
Education Minister Khaled Qabbani said Sunday that students should not be dragged into Lebanon's political crisis, three days after riots spilled out of a Beirut university campus, killing four people.
"I call upon all sides and political forces not to implicate schools and universities in dangerous conflicts," Qabbani said on LBC television, adding that political tension had become evident "particularly in universities."
Four people were killed and 169 injured Thursday in street clashes triggered by a row in a cafeteria at Beirut Arab University between government supporters and opponents.
The Hizbullah-led opposition has been campaigning since Dec. 1 to force the resignation of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government.
Tension escalated Tuesday when a nationwide general strike called by the Opposition brought Lebanon to a standstill and turned violent in some places.
Qabbani announced Saturday that private and public schools and universities, shut since Thursday's disturbances, would remain closed until Wednesday, the day after the Shiite religious holiday of Ashura -- a public holiday in Lebanon.(Naharnet-AFP) (AP photo shows Lebanese troops standing guard as school students take the bus after a mob destroyed the vehicles windshield in Thursday's fighting.)
Beirut, 28 Jan 07, 20:07
Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Sunday accused Lebanese government leaders of stirring turmoil between Sunnis and Shiites, days after deadly riots swept the capital.
"There are figures within the ruling powers who are working to provoke conflict between Shiites and Sunnis in Lebanon," Nasrallah said in a televised address.
"We reject sectarian strife, civil war and we will not aim our weapons at anyone," he said.
Nasrallah did not name any specific leader of the government in his speech.
Four people were killed and 169 injured Thursday in clashes between Sunni and Shiite Muslims triggered by a row in a cafeteria at Beirut's Arab University between government supporters and opponents.
"Those responsible for these incidents should be executed," Nasrallah said on Hizbullah's Al-Manar television, while praising the Lebanese army for bringing the situation under control.
Hizbullah and allied factions have been calling for the ouster of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and the formation of a national unity government so that the opposition, which also includes Christian and other Shiite factions, would gain veto power.(Naharnet-AFP)
Beirut, 28 Jan 07, 23:18
The issue of poisonous Israeli balloons that soared over southern Lebanon on Saturday and the ensuing admittance of eight people to hospital suffering from nausea remain vague.
Agence France Presse said Sunday the balloons were advertising an Israeli newspaper.
AFP cited witnesses and officials as saying the balloons drifted across the tense border into southern Lebanon, causing panic among locals and scrambling the Lebanese army.
The National News Agency said eight people were hospitalized Saturday after inhaling toxic gases from poisonous balloons dropped by Israeli warplanes over Upper Nabatiyeh in southern Lebanon.
NNA on Saturday said contacts have been made between the Lebanese army command and the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, which has instructed an Italian peacekeeping unit to take samples from the balloons for examination. The agency said the results are likely to come out on Sunday.
The army, in a communiqué issued Friday, warned civilians against messing with the balloons and urged them to report finding them to the closest army unit.
AFP said the green and orange balloons -- branded with the Hebrew word Ha'ir (The City), the name of a Tel Aviv newspaper -- appeared Saturday in the southern cities of Nabatiyeh and Tyre.
Local health officials told AFP that five people were admitted to hospital in Nabatiyeh complaining of nausea and dizziness, as the army -- with help from UNIFIL -- rounded up the balloons for a controlled explosion in an open field.
"While our investigation and analysis are continuing, we have told local inhabitants not to touch such balloons in case they contain toxic gases," an army spokesman said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman in Jerusalem said the balloons had been filled with helium for distribution at "a kind of party" thrown by the Ha'ir newspaper.
"It was a public relations thing," she said. "They gave out balloons with helium in them and the balloons flew away and into Lebanon."(Naharnet-AFP)
Beirut, 28 Jan 07, 22:24
Sunday, January 28, 2007
The daily An Nahar on Sunday, citing ministerial sources, said Iranian and Saudi efforts were underway to bring together Saniora and Berri who have not met since November when six Opposition ministers quit the government, triggering the current crisis.
The sources said that the meeting-to-be aims at reactivating Parliament through an extraordinary session or at re-launching national dialogue.
However, the sources said the restart of roundtable talks is more likely achievable than an extraordinary Parliament session which requires President Emile Lahoud's approval.
Political sources also said Berri had engaged in telephone talks with Saniora and Druze leader Walid Jumblat, a key government supporter.
Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Lebanon, Abdul Aziz Khoja, met separately Saturday with Saniora and Berri.
Berri told reporters after the one-hour meeting with Khoja that he was "more optimistic" toward finding an end to the political stalemate.
Khoja called on all Lebanese to resolve the crisis on their own.
"We want our brethren Lebanese to get together. It's about time now that the situation has reached its peak," Khoja said.
Beirut, 28 Jan 07, 09:10
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Israeli warplanes dropped over the southern town of Nabatiyeh Saturday balloons containing poisonous material, the National News Agency said.
It said at about 9 am Israeli fighter jets dropped around 10 balloons containing poisonous substance carrying Hebrew markings.
The balloons, which are usually fitted with small parachutes, landed in upper Nabatiyeh, according to the report which couldn't be independently verified.
The NNA said five people were hospitalized after inhaling toxic gases.
It said the army's engineering unit headed to the area and destroyed the balloons by explosives.
The army, in a communiqué issued Friday, warned civilians against messing with the balloons and urged them to report finding them to the closest army unit.
Beirut, 27 Jan 07, 11:43
Eight people were hospitalized Saturday after inhaling toxic gases from poisonous balloons dropped by Israeli warplanes over Upper Nabatiyeh in southern Lebanon, the National News Agency reported. NNA said among those who were rushed to hospital suffering from nausea and fatigue were a Lebanese staff sergeant, a recruit and An Nahar reporter Rana Jouni.
The agency said Israeli warplanes dropped at least 10 poisonous balloons with Hebrew markings over Upper Nabatiyeh at about 9 am Saturday.
NNA said contacts have been made between the Lebanese army command and the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, which has instructed an Italian peacekeeping unit to take samples from the balloons for examination. The agency said the results are likely to come out on Sunday.
NNA had earlier said that the Lebanese army's engineering unit headed to the area and destroyed the balloons by explosives.
The army, in a communiqué issued Friday, warned civilians against messing with the balloons and urged them to report finding them to the closest army unit.
Beirut, 27 Jan 07, 11:43
What Next in Lebanon?
Amir Taheri —
Where do we go from here? This is the question that the leaders of the two rival camps in Lebanon should be pondering in the wake of the showdown that brought Beirut to a standstill last Tuesday.
The showdown started in December, when Hezbollah having withdrawn its ministers from the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, started a mass sit-in in the heart of the Lebanese capital.
The immediate excuse was Siniora’s decision to endorse a United Nation’s enquiry into Syria’s role in the murder of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.
More importantly, perhaps, Hezbollah saw its existence threatened by two United Nations’ Security Council resolutions stipulating that all militias be disarmed. Siniora had accepted both resolutions in the teeth of opposition from Hezbollah that regards its militia as the centerpiece of its power as a state within the Lebanese state. Nevertheless, it is almost certain that other reasons, more broadly related to the balance of power in the region, prompted Hezbollah to make its move.
One reason was Iran’s desire to humiliate the United States by bringing down the Siniora government, often cited by President George W. Bush as a child of the Lebanese “Cedar Revolution” and a symbol of democratization in the Middle East. Creating a pro-Iran government in Beirut would deliver the coup de grace to the “Bush Doctrine” of “spreading freedom.”
Another reason for Hezbollah’s move is the Irano-Syrian desire to use Lebanon as a glacis in war against Israel. As Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallim has said, a neutral Lebanon would deprive Syria of the “hinterland” it needs to deal with a putative Israeli blitzkrieg. The Islamic Republic of Iran also needs Lebanon as a base for “flooding Israel with missiles” as Defense Minister Mostafa Najjar has noted.
Siniora, however, has based his strategy on taking Lebanon out of regional conflicts that have little or nothing to do with its interests as a nation-state. While Hezbollah sees Lebanon as a “bunker” in the global war against the “infidel”, Siniora sees it as a “beach” that could attract the “infidel” to come and spend their money.
Hezbollah that, according to successive local and national elections, represents about 45 percent of the Shiites, has succeeded in finding two valuable allies.
The first is Nabih Berri, the speaker of the National Assembly (Parliament) and the leader of the relatively moderate Shiite movement Amal (Hope). Berri does not share Hezbollah’s apocalyptic vision and, himself a wealthy businessman, sees the logic of Siniora’s strategy of seeking economic development. Berri’s problem is that he is beholden to the Syrian regime that has supported, and financed Amal for three decades. At the same time, Berri does not wish to appear as the man who split the Shiites at a time of rising sectarianism in the region.
The second ally that Hezbollah has secured is Michel Aoun, a pint-size ex-general who played a leading role in the 1975-92 Civil War. Aoun has one ambition: To become president of Lebanon.
In the 1980s, he tried to realize that ambition with the help of Saddam Hussein, who financed the Aounite faction for over a decade. At that time, Syria and Iran were Aoun’s archenemies. This time, with Saddam in no position to help, Aoun has switched to the side of his former foes in the hope of achieving his elusive goal.
Representing at least 40 percent of Lebanon’s population, Hezbollah, Amal and the Aounites know that their alliance can never win a majority in free elections. Their task is further complicated by the sectarian system of government in Lebanon. Under that system, Sunni Muslims have the right to nominate the prime minister while Maronite Christians nominate the president. The right to nominate the speaker of the Parliament goes to the Shiites.
Muhammad Rashid Qabbani, the grand mufti of Lebanon and the principal religious leader of the Sunni community, has given Siniora unequivocal support, dashing Hezbollah’s hopes of triggering a constitutional coup d’etat. The mufti’s message is clear: Shiites and Maronites cannot dictate whom the Sunnis choose as prime minister.
Siniora’s government, however, has a much broader base. It is supported by nearly half of the Christian community, some pro-Arab and anti-Iran Shiite groups, the Druze, and a number of smaller communities. Most observers agree that in a general election the Siniora coalition would win around 60 percent of the votes.
This is why Hezbollah has withdrawn from the political process and taken to the streets. The calculation is that most of Siniora’s supporters are middle class people with no experience of or desire for street politics.
Hezbollah militants, however, are experts in the politics of violence and trained for street fights. Some look forward to martyrdom. Burning cars, setting up street barricades, throwing Molotov cocktails, attacking adversaries with knives and clubs, ransacking government buildings, and, bringing out the guns, when and if necessary, are arts in which Hezbollah excels.
And, yet, almost two months after Hezbollah promised to bring down Siniora’s government in “a matter of days”, the prime minister is still around, as resilient as ever.
He has invited Hezbollah to return to the government, though without the veto that Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Party of God, has demanded. Siniora has also offered early general elections, provided Hezbollah and its Aounite allies let things calm down for a while.
So, where does Lebanon go from here?
Hezbollah’s campaign to destroy the Siniora coalition through street pressure has failed. It has also failed to provoke the national army to get involved in the violence, thus risking disintegration across sectarian lines. To be sure, Hezbollah could continue the confrontation for many weeks, if not months. It has lots of money, mostly from Tehran, and thousands of unemployed youths to man street barricades for $2 a day.
Hezbollah is also using President Emil Lahoud, the man installed and sustained by the Syrians as Lebanon’s head of state, as an irritant against Siniora. Using his constitutional powers, the usurper refuses to sign government edicts, thus paralyzing segments of the administration.
Such a strategy, however, is sure to end in defeat and humiliation. To avoid that, Hezbollah may be forced to do what it has always vowed not to do: Turn its arms against other Lebanese communities. And that could mean another civil war in which Hezbollah may score early victories, but would have little chance of winning in the end. The idea that the major Western powers and their regional Arab allies would allow Lebanon to become an Islamic republic led by Hezbollah, and that against the wishes of a majority of the Lebanese, is simply fanciful.
The only sane way out of the crisis is a grand compromise among the Lebanese communities. Such a compromise could be built on these principles:
— Lebanon should not become involved in any war unless it is directly attacked,
— The current coalition government should be enlarged with the return of the Shiite parties and the inclusion of Aounites, in preparation for general elections within six months,
— Emil Lahoud should resign as president and be replaced by an interim head of state chosen by the Parliament.
— The international community should provide an aid package to keep the Lebanese economy afloat until the political situation is stabilized.
Lebanon is teetering on the edge of the abyss. But it could still step back.
By Andrew Lee Butters
Beirut - The Lebanese have a seemingly natural talent for marketing, advertising, and sloganeering which gets applied to politics when the situation demands.
After the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, stark black billboard posters appeared demanding "The Truth" about who killed him, though Hariri's supporters had already decided that Syria was responsible. The anti-Syrian demonstrations that followed the assassination brought with them posters declaring "Independence '05" and soon after the Syrian army did in fact leave Lebanon.
Now the country is awash in dueling "I Love Life" campaigns, as I mentioned in a previous post. The slogan was created by pro-government groups supposedly to raise awareness about the risks of sectarianism in Lebanon. But the Hizballah-led opposition interpreted the campaign as blaming them for the destruction caused by the past summer's war with Israel. (The implication being that Hizballah loves death and martyrdom.) So the opposition copied the theme and launched its own version, this time with a rainbow of colors representing the opposition groups, and slogans like "I Love Life Undictated."
That's a reference to the opposition claims that the Lebanese government takes its marching orders from the United States. Here's a poster with a favorite Hizballah target -- US Secretary of State Condoleeze Rice -- giving lessons to an apt pupil, Lebanon's pro-Western Prime Minister Fouad Siniora -- at the School of the New Middle East. Among the special courses are: spreading sectarian chaos, embezzlement, setting up security states, and trampling sovereignty.
Interestingly, I've never seen a satirical poster in public that links the Hizballah-led opposition with Iran and Syria, even though members of the Siniora government have often claimed that their rivals are the pawns of Teheran and Damascus. This photoshopped picture -- of Iran's President Ahmadinejad and Syria's President Assad as the proud parents of Lebanon's President Emile Lahoud and and Christian leader Michel Aoun (both of whom are part of the opposition to Siniora) -- made rounds on the Internet only.
Perhaps that's because it's worse to be called an American stooge than a Syrian or Iranian stooge in Lebanon these days? I'm not sure. The country seems pretty evenly split between pro-Western and pro-Eastern camps. Or perhaps the Siniora camp is just too afraid to get personal. Notice that there's no image of Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah in the Proud Parents picture, even though he is far and away the most important opposition leader. Hizballah supporters brook no disrespect for their Sheik, and have rioted at least two times in the past year when they thought Nasrallah was being insulted. Such thin skin takes the fun out of politics.
So with the the country divided between Tehran and Washington, between loving life, and loving life with colors, I've got an idea for a Third Way: Supermodel Mila Janovic. She doesn't love life. She doesn't love death. She just loves Mango. I vote for her.
Source: Time Middle East Blog
General Michel Suleiman told As-Safir newspaper that the clashes, which killed seven and wounded close to 400, should be "an opportunity for all to revive the discourse of reason and calm".
"True the army is suffering from pressure. That does not prevent it from performing its duty,", Suleiman said.
"The army has been bearing above its load for months and is ready to bear more on condition that officials and civilians also bear their responsibilities in preventing security disturbances."
The clashes this week between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims loyal to rival factions and Christians whose leaders are also split were Lebanon's worst since its 1975-1990 civil war. In that conflict, Lebanon's army split along sectarian lines.
The army imposed a curfew on Thursday night to restore order.
Suleiman in December urged the army to stay neutral in the current standoff between the government, which is backed by Lebanon's strongest Sunni leader, and the opposition including Shi'ite groups Hezbollah and Amal.
Christian leaders including Michel Aoun back the opposition while others such as Samir Geagea support the government.
"There must be a political desire to search for a political solution to the crisis," Suleiman said, warning against sectarian divisions in the country. "Everyone should build one building on one land," he said.
The opposition is demanding veto power in the government and early parliamentary elections to change what they call an illegitimate cabinet. The government and its allies accuse the opposition of trying to mount a coup.
Source: AFP & Daily Star, 27-1-2007
BEIRUT: As Beirut`s curfew ended at 6 a.m. Friday and Lebanese looked forward to a day of calm following Thursday`s deadly clashes, "Israeli" forces conducted a series of over flights across Lebanon, including the capital in what was for many a stark reminder of the summer 2006 war.
An "Israeli" plane was seen "circling at a low altitude" off the coast of Beirut early Friday, in violation of the terms of the cease-fire ending the war with "Israel", a Lebanese Army source told The Daily Star.
This was the first time since October 30 that an "Israeli" plane was detected near the capital, but a spokesperson for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFL) told The Daily Star that "Israel" violates Lebanese airspace south of the Litani River, where UNIFIL operates "almost every day."
Liam McDowall said that over the last week there have been "numerous reports of violations" of Lebanese airspace by "Israel", all of which constitute breaches of UN Resolution 1701, which ended the 34-day war.
The army said an "Israeli" drone flew over Bayada, near Naqoura, in the early morning, circling the area before flying over Ilma as-Shaab, a border town, before heading back to "Israel". On Friday afternoon, two other planes flew over Lebanese waters and Naqoura.
The National News Agency reported that in the village of Zibddine, in the Shebaa Farms, "Israeli" soldiers opened fire on the surrounding area. "Israeli" forces also patrolled the area around the border village of Ghajar, NNA said.
Friday, January 26, 2007
20070124 - Toufoul Abou-Hodeib
Hamra Street at the intersection with Jeanne d'Arc.
When the opposition called for a general strike on Tuesday the 23rd they were aware that given the geo-confessional composition of Lebanon, the strike would have limited success. Furthermore, the banking and economic sectors' call for considering Tuesday a normal working day underscored their de facto alliance with the ruling coalition. Many employees felt, rightfully or not, that they were under threat of being laid off if they were to join the strike - a kiss of death in the current economic situation.
The opposition, therefore, opted for a show of power. Rather than reveal the degree of active support behind the opposition, the strike was to reflect the breadth and multiconfessional character of the opposition's support base. Tens of thousands of supporters from different confessional backgrounds took to the streets of their regions across Lebanon and began cutting off the streets in the early hours of the morning in an attempt to enforce the strike. Despite the opposition's emphasis on the peaceful nature of these actions, even regular Lebanese realized that cutting off roads would be considered a provocation by many and that ensuing clashes were inevitable.
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If only money could buy peace - or was the £4bn handed out to Lebanon's Prime Minister in Paris yesterday supposed to help him defeat America's Hizbollah enemies in Beirut's increasingly savage street battles?
For, even as President Jacques Chirac of France was taking the applause for leading Lebanon's debt conference - the US itself pledged £405m, Lebanese troops were fighting to control the worst sectarian fighting so far in the capital. At least four students, one of them a Sunni Muslim government supporter, were killed, apparently by gunfire.
At one point yesterday, thousands of Hizbollah and Amal Shia Muslims were taken by truck from the southern suburbs to the campus of the Lebanese Arab University in Tarek el-Jdeideh. There, students - the Sunnis siding with the government, the Shias with the Hizbollah - were fighting in the lecture theatres. Many local Sunnis feared that the Shias were going to drive them from their homes, and Lebanese troops had to evacuate Sunni students in their own army trucks.read the article: click to continue
Beirut woke up to a calm day Friday after violent street clashes between pro- and anti-government activists spread through the capital, claiming four lives and wounding 169 people.
The rioting between rival Sunni and Shiite Muslims was at a level not seen since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war, and came two days after the Hizbullah-led opposition called a general strike Tuesday which was also marred by deadly clashes.
The Lebanese army declared an overnight curfew from 8:30 p.m. (1830 GMT) until 6:00 a.m. (0400 GMT) on Friday, the first such action in the country since violent labor demonstrations in 1996.
Beirut streets were deserted after the curfew took hold, except for army vehicles.
But the chaos that swept the city hours earlier stirred fears that Lebanon was plunging into a new civil strife.
"We are witnessing scenes that remind us of the civil war," said Speaker Nabih Berri, urging restraint on both sides. "We must go back to talks. There is no other solution."
"Rehearsal for civil war in the streets of Beirut," warned the headline of the Al Balad newspaper.
"Damn the one who awakened it," cried the bold headline of the leftist As Safir newspaper in reference to confessional dissension.
Druze leader Walid Jumblat accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of "trying to burn Beirut," calling on Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah to "evacuate Beirut alleys."
This was a reference to the Hizbullah-led protestors camping outside government headquarters in downtown Beirut since Dec. 1 in a bid to topple Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's cabinet.
Jumblat also stretched a hand to Nasrallah, inviting him over "lunch at my house in Beirut, away from the caves. "Let's sit down and negotiate the Lebanon situation."
The danger of further violence erupting prompted Nasrallah to respond with a call for army orders to be obeyed.
"We are using a Fatwa (religious decree)... in the interests of the country and civil peace," he said. "Everyone should evacuate the streets... we call for the measures of the Lebanese army to be respected."
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said from Washington that those who triggered unrest were linked to "well-known" groups. She did not elaborate.
Rice also said that she was worried about Saniora's life.
The clashes first broke out on the main campus of Beirut Arab University (BAU) after a lunchtime squabble between a student supporter of the Moustaqbal movement, headed by parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri, and others allied with Hizbullah and Berri's Amal movement.
Minutes later the quarrel spread across campus and soon afterwards the fighting penetrated Beirut's predominantly Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods of Tarik Jedideh, Zokak Blat, Basta and Hawd al Wilaya, where cars were smashed.
Lebanese army troops in armored personnel carriers were promptly dispatched to BAU to contain the confrontation as young men hurled rocks and set fire to rubber tires in a bid to block traffic.
Youths also torched cars and smashed windshields as the troops fired gunshots into the air to disperse the crowds.
Rioters set fire to the office of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) in Tarik Jedideh as well as the Ansar football field on the airport highway.
Hizbullah demonstrators also attacked buildings in downtown Beirut's banking sector shortly before the curfew took hold.
March 14 sources said Lebanese army commandos have arrested two snipers – a Syrian and a Lebanese - from the vicinity of the Sportive City near the Beirut Arab University.
They said the snipers, who fired gunshots in the direction of the citizens, were handed over to the Lebanese army Intelligence Bureau.
Nasrallah voiced concern over what he called the "snipers' phenomenon," insisting that the "killers' identity should be disclosed and should be tried."
He said Thursday's clashes and reports of snipers being involved "verify data" Hizbullah had obtained in recent weeks that snipers have been deployed at a number of rooftop buildings in Beirut.
In a separate incident, security sources said two men in a dark blue Cherokee jeep on Thursday roamed Bikfaya, the hometown of former President Amin Gemayel, inquiring about the location of the Gemayel mansion.
The sources told the daily An Nahar that an investigation was underway at Bikfaya's police station.
Shops and businesses were opened Friday when the overnight curfew ended at 6.00a.m. (0400 GMT), but private and public schools, colleges and universities remained shut across the nation in line with government orders.
The roads where the clashes erupted were covered with litter and rubble, while burnt-out cars, buses and large garbage containers lined streets close to Rafik Hariri international airport.
During the night, the Lebanese army deployed heavily across the deserted capital, staging patrols and erecting checkpoints on main crossings.(Naharnet-AFP)
Beirut, 26 Jan 07, 09:26
By Robert Asseily,
Special to Ya Libnan
Beyond the irreparable damage done in dividing the democratic nation of Lebanon, the severe health hazards of burning tires may ultimately be the worst result of "Black Tuesday".
The thick, black smog engulfed Beirut and other parts of Lebanon on Tuesday, exposing the majority of the Lebanese population to a toxic gas commonly known to cause cancer and birth defects.
It is common knowledge that burning tires in the open is extremely harmful to human health and the natural environment. The fumes emitted are packed with the many toxic chemicals that tires contain (including volatile organic compounds such as benzene, metals such as lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons such as benzo(a)pyrene, and synthetic rubber components such as butadiene and styrene).
The rubber in tires contains 25% extender oils derived from benzene, 25% styrene, a derivative of benzene, and 25% 1,3 butadiene. Both benzene and 1,3 butadiene are suspected human carcinogens. When tires are burned, these chemicals are released.
The term carcinogen refers to any form of substance which is an agent in the promotion or direct involvement in the facilitation of cancer.
Tires are a consumer product not designed for burning. The incineration of tires emits toxic heavy metals including mercury, lead, chromium, beryllium, cadmium and arsenic. A 1997 Environmental Protection Agency report on burning tires for fuel found that a paper mill that burned tires as just 2% of its fuel had:
- 20% increase in mercury emissions
- 179% increase in hexavalent chromium emissions
- 20% increase in benzene emissions
Burning tires releases large amounts of the metal zinc, leading to increases in fine particulate matter related to respiratory and cardiac disease.
Burning tires also releases dioxin, which was recognized by EPA in 1985 as the most potent human made carcinogen known. Dioxin does not break down in the environment but builds up in the food chain, concentrating in meat and dairy products.
Dioxins affect the immune system, fertility, and the unborn child.
Sources: Wikipedia, Greenpeace, Google Research
Another day of chaos and turmoil hits the streets of Western Beirut . Something expected after the sectarian mobilization led by the Sunnite faction heading the 14th of March group.
It started in the universities: LAU, Lebanese and Arabic university and gradually went out of control in the dominantly petite bourgeois Sunnite areas of Tarik al-Jadeedeh.. Snipers are said to have entered the scene again. Clashes struck also the Shiite and Sunni mixed quarters of Mar-alliyas.
Finally, the army announced a curfew in the city of Beirut from 8pm to 6 am in the morning. The government is putting pressure on the Army to interfere. How short sighted they are. It reminds you of the war and the demand raised by the phalengist party then. The problem is that if the army interfered with no view for a political solution or compromise it will soon face a division in its ranks.
What next? With no regional compromise in the view, the country will fall gradually into a sectarian war. Already it is hard to visualize how individuals of different factions can coexist side by side at work and university.
They are playing with fire. The Hariri and Saudi factions playing on the sectarian issue are only giving the Sunnite fundamentalist the biggest favor. How long they can keep them under control and how long can Hizbollah keep its rank and files but mainly those of the pro Syrian Amal under control?
The Lebanese aren’t willing to learn from previous experiences. True the Syrians are out of sight but their hands are still Taaili and Taaili kteer.
Let us cross fingers Lebanon needs a miracle.
Love to all
Thursday, January 25, 2007
well since there is a curfew tonight for all the baddies and the normal lebs who are cursing the minute they were born in this country....a heaven turning to hell again...
so predictable and so sad .... nobody understands what is exactly happening...
So now everybody is home, so they decided to attack each others' sites
now tayyar.org got hacked
above is the hacker's message
- great fights erupt in university... excellent , that is exactly what lebanon needs at the moment ... kids breaking their school desks to fight one another
the university should kick those students out...
or start awarness weeks....until those kids learn
to respect one another....
At least one person was killed and more than 30 were wounded in spiraling violence between pro and anti-government factions in Beirut Thursday.
Staccato bursts of gunfire echoed across the streets as tongues of flame shot up in the sky from dozens of deserted cars.
The sudden outbreak of violence started as a quarrel between students from the al-Moustaqbal movement of parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri and members of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri's Amal movement at Beirut Arab University.
Hariri, Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Berri issued separate statements calling on their followers to practice restraint and withdraw from the streets.
Ambulances, their sirens wailing, sped across the streets evacuating casualties to Beirut's hospitals.
The state-run Lebanese University and other institutes suspended classes until Monday, in an effort to avoid the spread of violence.
The quarrel started around noontime at BAU and Amal tried to send reinforcements in mini busses from its stronghold in the district of Zokat Blatt to rescue their comrades besieged at the university's soccer stadium in the Sunni District of Tarik Jedideh.
Helmeted troops of the Lebanese Army moved into the BAU campus and opened fire in the air to disperse the mad crowd, said a student who was reached by Naharnet through his mobile telephone.
"The situation is very tense. Moustaqbal supporters are at the basketball stadium and Amal followers are at the soccer stadium. Both factions are separated by army troops," said the student who asked not to be identified.
Meanwhile, Residents of Tarik Jedideh, which is a stronghold for the Moustaqbal movement, rushed to back their student comrades, the student reported.
He said followers of both factions used sticks, bottles and even broke desks to use them are weapons in the confrontation.
Beirut, 25 Jan 07, 14:50
Lebanon needs billions of dollars to recover from years of war and debt
Ahead of the summit the US and France pledged $1.4bn (£711m; 1.08bn euros) in aid and loans.
Lebanon hopes to raise up to $9bn to recover from last year's conflict with Israel and massive public debt.
The forum, attended by 40 countries, comes amid anti-government protests in Beirut led by pro-Syrian parties.
Lebanon "more than ever needs the unanimous support of the international community," said the French leader.
"We know that financial stability is essential for political stability in Lebanon and so controlling the debt levels which after the hostilities of last year amounted to 180% of the entire national wealth is the first and most urgent task to be tackled."
In his opening comments Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora thanked the participants for their support:
"Such solidarity empowers Lebanon in its quest to regain its unique role as a bridge builder rather than a battleground, a place of encounter rather than a place of faultlines."
He added that Lebanon, which had been on the path to economic recovery before the conflict, was "now on the verge of a deep recession".
Three people were killed and more than 100 were injured in some of the worst street violence in the Lebanese capital for years on Tuesday, when a general strike brought the country to a standstill.
The Islamic Hezbollah movement, which called the strike, has warned of more unrest unless Mr Siniora steps down.
Large parts of Lebanon's infrastructure were destroyed during Israel's attempt to wipe out Hezbollah last year.
The country is also heavily indebted from the effects of 15 years of civil war in the 1970s and 80s.
Donations and soft loans are needed to generate confidence, stimulate investment and break the circle of public debt that saddled the country with a massive $40bn burden, says the BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice promised Lebanon a new $770m aid package as she left for the conference.
She said the pledge would bring the level of US aid to Lebanon since last summer to more than $1bn.
Hours earlier, Mr Chirac offered to lend Lebanon $648m at a concessionary rate, his spokeswoman said.
The European Union is promising another $518m in new aid and loans.
Cost of not helping
Economists in Beirut say the Paris conference is extremely important, coming at a time when the alarm bells are ringing on the financial markets there.
Lebanese prime minister
Speaking to the BBC, Lebanese Economy Minister Sami Haddad said any money raised would help clear the deficit.
"Most of it will go to reduce the debt and debt service... The grants that we will hopefully receive will reduce the debt principle.
"We will probably also get some project finance, ie funding related to implementing some infrastructure projects."
Speaking after lunch with Mr Chirac, Prime Minister Siniora warned potential donors that "the cost of helping Lebanon, however expensive that might seem, is much less than the cost of not helping Lebanon".
Economists say that anything above $3bn or $4bn in soft loans and grants would be good news.Below that level, he adds, the gathering would be seen as having failed to demonstrate confidence in Lebanon.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
AP Photo BEI122
By HUSSEIN DAKROUB
Associated Press Writer
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) - Lebanon remained tense Wednesday, a day after Hezbollah-led protesters who want to topple the U.S.-backed prime minister clashed with government supporters across the country.
Three people were killed and more than 170 wounded Tuesday as the two camps battled each other around street barricades with stone-throwing and in some cases gunfire.
The unrest died down after the opposition suspended the strike, saying it served as a warning to the government. The protesters, however, promised more action later if their demands were not met.
The opposition is growing increasingly frustrated after two months of sit-in protests outside Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's offices. The pro-Iranian group Hezbollah wants him to step down or form a new government giving his foes more power.
On Wednesday, Saniora left for France to attend an international donors conference aimed at raising billions of dollars in aid for rebuilding Lebanon. Many parts of southern Lebanon remain a wasteland of destruction and rubble five months after Hezbollah's war with Israel.
Tuesday's disturbances began after the Hezbollah-led opposition and labor unions called for a general strike that was rejected by the government, its political supporters and business leaders.
Opposition supporters took to the streets to enforce the strike by putting up barricades, mostly of burning car tires. Troops intervened and government supporters trying to reopen roads clashed with the opposition in some areas.
The action paralyzed Beirut and areas across Lebanon on Tuesday, and the atmosphere was still tense a day later as children went back to school and people returned to work.
Around the country, roads reopened but commuters enjoyed lighter traffic than usual as they drove by still-smoldering tires that street cleaners had pushed to the roadside.
International flights resumed, enabling the several hundred passengers stranded in the terminal to head to their destinations.
Police, in a final toll of the trouble, reported that three people were killed and 173 injured. Of the 173, 48 suffered gunshot wounds and the rest resulted from blows from sticks or stones.
Tuesday's clashes quickly took on a dangerous sectarian tone in a country whose divided communities fought a bloody 1975-1990 civil war. Gunmen from neighboring districts in the northern city of Tripoli - one largely Sunni Muslim, the other largely Alawites, a Shiite Muslim offshoot - fought each other, causing two of the fatalities.The day gave a glimpse of how quickly the confrontation between Saniora's government and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies could spiral out of control, enflame tensions among Sunnis, Shiites and Christians and throw Lebanon into deeper turmoil.
All roads that were blocked by burning tires were reopened for traffic Wednesday as shops, banks and other businesses resumed normal work.
Beirut airport also reopened early Wednesday after a day of near-total disruption.
The Opposition, however, warned of far worse to come if the government of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora declined to meet its demands.
In a late Tuesday statement, the Opposition said it "has decided to suspend the strike which served as a warning to the illegitimate government" of Saniora.
Opposition protestors staged a nationwide strike on Tuesday, blocking roads with burning tires in the latest show of force aimed at ousting the government.
In its statement, the Opposition threatened it would consider adopting "more effective measures" in the future in its campaign to bring down the Saniora government.
It said the Opposition "will continue to be on full alert to carry out any necessary step if the ruling team remained stubborn."
The threat came shortly after Saniora vowed to stay in office.
"We will always remain together against intimidation. We will be together against internal disputes to safeguard Lebanon," Saniora said in an address to the Lebanese.
"We are at a dangerous crossroads. Either we are heading to a civil war, or to dialogue," he said, following daylong confrontations between anti- and pro-government factions throughout Lebanon which security sources said killed three people and wounded 62.(Photo shows a bulldozer removing rubble from a street Wednesday after the Opposition blocked roads with burning tires)
Beirut, 24 Jan 07, 08:36
Lebanon Gets Life Back After Deadly Clashes
Beirut Airport Back to Normal after Roads Opened
Saniora Flies to Paris as Airport Resumes Activities
Saniora Wants Extraordinary Session to Contain Mounting Violence
Chirac: Lebanon Unrest Discourages Paris III Conference
Bush: Extremists Trying to Undermine 'Cedar Revolution'
Opposition Calls Off One-Day Strike
U.S. Condemns Violence, Intimidation
U.N. Chief, Russia 'Concerned' About Deteriorating Security Situation
Moussa Calls for Calm in Lebanon
Aoun: More Escalation to Come
Army Reopening Nahr al-Mout Road
Amal MP Pledges More Escalation
Flights Cancelled as Opposition Blocks Roads to Airport
Pro-Government Politicians Slam Opposition for 'Coup' Attempt
Nasrallah Lashes Out at Saniora
Feltman Urges Lebanese to Back Paris III Conference Despite Crisis
U.S. to Announce 'Substantial' Aid Package at Paris III Conference
Geagea: Opposition Leaders Lost Their Nerves, Strike Would Fail
Jumblat: No to Strike Called by Syrian-Controlled 'Kids' of the Opposition
Saniora Accuses Opposition of Trying to Terrorize Lebanese
Rubble on the streets was a clear reminder of the clashes
Bulldozers cleared debris from Beirut streets after fighting that saw three people killed and 100 injured.
But Hezbollah and its allies stressed even more dramatic steps would follow if was not granted a government role.
There was no indication that any deal was reached to end the strike, leaving Lebanese fearful of a new flare-up.
The BBC's Jim Muir, in Beirut, says people in the city are well aware that there could still be worse to come.
Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, has been campaigning since the beginning of December to replace the Western-backed cabinet with a government in which it would have a veto.
But Prime Minister Fouad Siniora still enjoys strong support from his loose alliance of Sunni Muslims, Christians and Druze, and is backed by powerful outside players, including the US, France and Saudi Arabia.
Many Lebanese found themselves unable to go to work on Tuesday as businesses were closed, roads blocked and flights cancelled.
The strike then turned violent as opposition and government supporters fought in the streets, burning barricades, throwing stones and exchanging gunfire.
Beirut's international airport re-opened on Wednesday morning, reports said.
But the scorched roads and traces of broken glass were a reminder of a traumatic day which people will not be quick to forget, our correspondent says.
The opposition is demanding a big enough share in government to give them veto power over any decisions they do not like - a step the Western-backed government has not been willing to take.
Mr Siniora has said he will stand firm against what he called "intimidation" and government officials insist they have made no concessions to persuade the opposition to back down.