Moubayed on the Lebanese Cabinet: News Roundup (7 June 2008)

Dividing the Spoils in Lebanon 

Sami Moubayed, the indomitable, has this to say about the latest on the Lebanese Cabinet slice up.

According to the Doha Agreement, the March 14 Coalition, which commands a parliamentary majority, will hold 16 of the cabinet's 30-seats (including the sovereign post of Minister of Finance). The opposition will have 11 (including that of Foreign Affairs) and President Suleiman, who is trying to appear as a neutral third party, will get to name three ministers. Two of them will be the ministers of interior and defense. These new presidential powers, unheard of after the Taif Accords, entitle him to appoint a Maronite at the Ministry of Interior, a Greek Orthodox at the Ministry of Defense, and a Catholic in any post he sees fit.

Suleiman's wishes, of finishing before Friday, might not materialize—at least not in time for Sarkozy's visit—given the tremendous variety of disagreement over distribution of cabinet seats. One of the clauses agreed to at the Doha Conference was that neither the Hizbullah-led opposition, or the March 14 Coalition, would walk out on this new government, regardless of how strong political disagreements are with Siniora. This was to avoid repeating what happened in 2006, when six ministers from Hizbullah and its sister party Amal, walked out on Siniora, making his cabinet un-constitutional. The opposition immediately called on him to step down, claiming that the cabinet was illegal because it no longer represented the Shiites. To avoid this, all parties have agreed that the Sunnis will name a Shiite minister, so that even if Hizbullah and Amal ministers resign, the cabinet will continue to have a Shiite member and not be written off as un-constitutional. This means that the Shiites (who get a total of five seats) get to name a Sunni minister as well, and a Druze.

One of the stumbling blocks facing all parties is the portfolio of Defense. Suleiman wants the job for current minister Elias al-Murr. Earlier he had toyed with the idea of naming one of his comrades in the Lebanese Army (he had served as Army Commander in 1998-2008) as Minister, but his advisors strongly advised him against that, claiming that public opinion will accuse him of militarizing the cabinet. General Michel Aoun, who remains not-too-thrilled with the Doha Agreement (because it denied him his last chance to become president and doesn't give him a 'sovereignty' ministry) wants to make his right-hand-man Issam Abu Jamra, Minister of Defense. Since Abu Jamra is also a retired officer, it has now been settled that if the Ministry of Defense goes to a officer, then the Ministry of Interior will go to a civilian, probably, a veteran and respectable civilian (who is yet to be named).

Saad al-Harriri, the leader of the parliamentary majority, is opposed to relinquishing the Ministries of Telecommunications and Justice (both of which were held since 2005 by a member of March 14). He also refuses that anybody but Fouad al-Siniora himself becomes Minister of Finance, a post Siniora had held several times during the years of Rafiq al-Harriri. Additionally there are six seats in the cabinet allocated for Maronites (two for Aoun and three for Samir Gagegea and ex-President Amin Gemayel combined). Aoun also wants the Ministry of Health, a post that is coveted by Amal, the party of Aoun's ally, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. Berri is telling Aoun to look elsewhere, advising that he should seek the Ministry of Finance for his bloc, and take it away from the Harriri team. Aoun also wants to make Elias Skaff, the head of the Zahle bloc in Parliament, the Minister of Public Works and has proposed Druze leader Emir Talal Arslan as Minister of the Displaced. The latter issue needs to be approved personally by Walid Jumblatt, a historical rival (and relative) of the Arslan family. To date, Jumblatt has surprisingly not opposed making Arslan minister, noting Arslan's offer to protect Jumblatt during the violent events that rocked Beirut and the mountains in mid-May 2008. Going further than anybody expected, Jumblatt has even agreed to remove two controversial figures (to whom Hizbullah is categorically opposed) being Marwan Hamadeh, the outgoing Minister of Telecommunications, and Ghazi al-Aridi, the Minister of Information.

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Another major stumbling bloc is the Lebanese Forces (LF) whose leaders insist on making their commander, former warlord Samir Gagegea, a minister in the Siniora cabinet. That has been vetoed mainly by the Tripoli bloc loyal to former Prime Minister Omar Karameh, which is opposed to March 14 and pro-Syrian. The elder statesmen was enraged, since Gagegea has been convicted of murdering his brother Rashid Karameh, another prime minister, in 1988.

Another Christian leader having his eyes set on cabinet office is ex-President Gemayel, who wants to become Minister of Industry to replace his slain son, Pierre. If that does not happen, then he would nominate his son Sami for the job. The other branch of the Gemayel family, headed by his brother's wife Solang, wants to start grooming his nephew Nadim (who is the son of slain president elect Bashir Gemayel). Harriri has proposed a way out, by naming Michel Mukattaf, a senior member of the Lebanese Phalange (founded and run by the Gemayel family) as minister but this was vetoed by both President Gemayel, Solang, and Sami Gemayel. Within the Maronite community another family, Suleiman Franjiyeh of Zgharta is lobbying against current MP and minister Nayla Mouawad, insisting that neither she nor her son be given a post in the new cabinet, because of the aggressive pro-Western and anti-Syrian stance they took during 2005-2008.

There are 7 posts with no portfolios, Minister of State in the 30-man Siniora cabinet. Nobody is accepting to become a Minister of State with No Portfolio!!

With such an agenda, and days left counting, it is doubtful if Siniora can announce success by June 7, 2008. The Lebanese—kingmakers and public alike—are keeping their fingers crossed.

Le Monde, here (Thanks "friday-lunch-club")

"….Dans un entretiens aux quotidiens L'Orient le jour, Annahar et Assafir Nicolas Sarkozy affirme qu'"aujourd'hui, une nouvelle page est peut-être en train de s'ouvrir entre la France et la Syrie". "Depuis trop longtemps, la situation de blocage et de crise au Liban empêchait la reprise progressive d'un dialogue" mais avec l'élection du nouveau président libanais, consécutif à l'accord de Doha, "les choses sont peut-être en train de changer. C'est en tout cas ce que je souhaite", poursuit-il.

"J'avais dit (…) que je reprendrais des contacts avec la Syrie seulement lorsque des développements positifs et concrets seraient intervenus au Liban en vue d'une sortie de crise", affirme le président de la République. Selon lui, "il faut bien reconnaître que l'accord de Doha, l'élection du président Sleimane, la reconduction du Fouad Siniora dans ses fonctions de premier ministre constituent de tels développements". "J'en ai tiré les conséquences et j'ai appelé le président Assad pour lui faire part de mon souhait de voir le processus de mise en oeuvre de l'accord se poursuivre", dit-il. "Je lui ai aussi dit que les pourparlers indirects de son pays avec Israël, via la Turquie, allaient également dans le bon sens et je l'ai encouragé sur cette voie", ajoute-t-il. Mais "notre exigence de vérité et de justice en ce qui concerne les assassinats politiques perpétrés au liban est intacte", affirme également M. Sarkozy…"
Ahead of Assad visit, India warms up to Gulf
7 Jun 2008, 0541 hrs IST,Indrani Bagchi,TNN
NEW DELHI: India is looking to reclaim some of its lost space in the Middle East. As part of its renewed engagement with the region, India will play host to the Syrian president Bashar al Assad here later this month — his maiden visit to this country and the first visit by a Syrian president here since 1978.

The visit is also part of the government's enlarged vision of the Middle East where India is working with more and more countries. The driving force of India's interest is clearly energy security as well as a demonstration of its independent foreign policy, particularly to its Left allies back home.

Assad's visit comes at a time when Syria is getting ready to show off its blasted nuclear site to the IAEA, which was blown up by the Israelis last year.

Interestingly, though Syria is in the US's crosshairs, Israel and Syria have begun the process of a dialogue, brokered by Turkey.

Whether India finally asks for a piece of this dialogue or looks for a bigger role in Middle East peace is still a while away. But certainly, India is making tentative moves into this region.

Azmi Bishara claims that "Israel offered Syria to cede the Golan Heights during the Second Lebanon War in exchange for Damascus cutting its ties with Hizbullah," former Knesset Member Azmi Bishara said in an interview with the Nazareth-based 'al-Anwan al-Raisy' newspaper. According to Bishara, Syria will refuse to sever its ties to Iran and Hizbullah – a key Israeli demand.

Obama clarifies united Jerusalem comment
By Hilary Liela Krieger, Jerusalem Post, June 6, 2008

Robert Fisk: The West's weapon of self-delusion
There are gun battles in Beirut – and America thinks things are going fine
Saturday, 7 June 2008

So they are it again, the great and the good of American democracy, grovelling and fawning to the Israeli lobbyists of American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), repeatedly allying themselves to the cause of another country and one that is continuing to steal Arab land.

 New York Times: Jobs Down for 5th Month; Oil’s Rise Adds to Gloom  Recent hopes that the U.S. might yet skirt a recession sank swiftly in the face of indications that the economy is gripped by a slowdown and pressured by record fuel prices.

Iraq Govt Wants to Restrict Movement of GIs

Washington Post: Editorial Mr. Obama's Middle East After all, he doesn't see the region much differently than President Bush does.

Ha’aretz: U.S.: We will address Iran nuclear threat diplomatically White House makes statement after Kadima minister Mofaz says Israeli strike on Iran seems 'unavoidable.'

Jerusalem Report: The Battle for the Golan Can Syria be lured away from its radical axis?

IHT  A more tranquil season By PATRICK SEALE
Is peace breaking out in the Middle East? Can the journalists and diplomats go home? Unfortunately, no.

Trial of militant group gets under way in Beirut
'Net of 13' accused of plotting terror attacks in Lebanon
By Anthony Elghossain
Daily Star staff
Friday, June 06, 2008

BEIRUT: Lebanese military courts on Thursday began trying members of the "Net of 13," a group initially suspected of involvement in the February 2005 blast that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, for "plotting to commit terrorist acts on Lebanese soil." The group has been linked by judicial authorities to Al-Qaeda, although members have repeatedly denied any ties with the Islamist network.

The "Net of 13" counts six Lebanese, one Palestinian, one Saudi and five Syrians among its members, in addition to a man who has eluded capture for around one year. The Daily Star was unable to confirm the nationality of this member.

At the trial, which is open to the public, members of the organization retracted earlier confessions to the Hariri assassination and said their admissions of guilt had been extracted by "police brutality and torture."

One member said Hariri's assassination was not carried out by Ahmad Abu Adas, who ostensibly leads the "Victory and Jihad in Greater Syria" Islamist group – an outfit which initially claimed carrying out the Hariri killing and to which Net of 13 members had been accused of having ties – but by "specialized intelligence services." …….

The source also told The Daily Star that these men, operating in blind cells of three or four individuals, "were to be smuggled into Iraq by a contact in Syria known simply as 'Jamil.'"

"When the United States clamped down on border security in Iraq, these men were forced to remain in Syria, where the authorities consistently harassed them," the source added. "This is why they came to Lebanon, although little else is known."

Cleared of involvement in the Hariri case, at least for now, group members have been brought to trial under suspicion of planning terrorist operations in Lebanon. …..

Three and a half years on, the Hariri case is yet to be resolved, but testimonies and investigations relating to the activities of the "Net of 13" may shed some light on a potential regional web of implicated individuals and groups, some of whom remain at large with ties to the group being tried.

U.S. Investigates Suspect's Expulsion to Syria, N.Y. Times Says
By Mark Drajem

June 6 (Bloomberg) — The Justice Department is investigating a decision in 2002 to send a terrorist suspect to Syria, where he was tortured, the New York Times reported, citing U.S. officials.

The Office of Professional Responsibility began an inquiry in March 2007 about the role of Justice Department lawyers in the expulsion of Canadian citizen Maher Arar to Syria, the newspaper reported, citing spokesman Peter A. Carr.

The case of Arar involved “very questionable'' actions by U.S. officials, Richard Skinner, the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security said at a congressional hearing yesterday. Skinner's office has reopened its four-year inquiry into the case after getting new information, the Times said.

Arar was imprisoned for a year in Syria and beaten with a metal cable before being returned to Canada in 2003, the Times said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Drajem in Washington at mdrajem@bloomberg.net

Comments (43)


1. Nur al-Cubicle said:

Oh, I see the French text needs a rendering into English:

In interviews granted to the daily newspapers, L’Orient-Le Jour, Annahar and Assafir, Nicholas Sarkozy affirmed that, “today a new page is about to be written between France and Syria. For too long, the impasse and crisis in Lebanon have prevented the gradual resumption of dialog” but with the election of a new Lebanese president following the Doha Agreement, “things are perhaps slated for change. In any case, this is what I hope to see”, he continued.

“I said […] that I would resume contacts with Syria only after positive and concrete developments in Lebanon toward exiting the crisis”, said President Sarkozy. According to Mr. Sarkozy, “We have to recognize that the Doha Agreement, the election of President Suleiman and the reconfirmation of Fuad Seniora as Prime Minister constitute such developments”. “I took note of the outcome and I telephoned President Assad to tell him of my desire to see the process of implementing the Agreement continue, he said. “I also told him that the indirect negotiations between his country and Israel sponsored by Turkey would start things in the right direction and that I encouraged this path”, he added. But “our insistence on truth and justice regarding the political assassinations carried out in Lebanon is unchanged…”

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June 7th, 2008, 6:22 pm

 

2. Qifa Nabki said:

Why does Sami call جعجع “Gagegea” ?

🙂

The guy has enough g’s in his name! No need for an extra one.

Here’s one for the ages (waving yalla bye to Sarko):

null

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June 7th, 2008, 6:30 pm

 

3. Nur al-Cubicle said:

I recommend taking a look at David Kaiser’s blog, History Unfolding, for what Bush said in his speech to the Knesset last month…

http://historyunfolding.blogspot.com/

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June 7th, 2008, 6:47 pm

 

4. Nour said:

QN,

I don’t know about you, but I feel quite embarrassed when I see such images of our “leaders” and politicians. I just feel like they have no dignity or integrity.

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June 7th, 2008, 7:50 pm

 

5. Qifa Nabki said:

Nour,

I feel entertained.

🙂

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June 7th, 2008, 8:01 pm

 

6. Nour said:

QN,

Right, but why do you feel entertained? Obviously those people are not intending to provide us with entertainment. The entertaining aspect of it is that they’re a farce.

Well at least that’s my interpretation. What’s your take on it?

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June 7th, 2008, 8:09 pm

 

7. Nour said:

This was from Assafir and I thought it was interesting:

سلاحهـا الصواريـخ وجيشـها لحـرب العصابـات

رؤيـة إسرائيليـة للحـرب المقبلـة: سوريـا حققـت توازنـاً استراتيجيـاً

حلمي موسى

تحت عنواني «الذراع الطويلة تقصر» و«جربوه»، عرض معلقان عسكريان في صحيفتي «يديعوت أحرنوت» و«معاريف» امس رؤية إسرائيل العسكرية للمواجهة المقبلة مع الجيش السوري.
وركزت المقالة الأولى بشكل أساسي على سلاح الجو الإسرائيلي، من خلال تجربته في التعامل مع الذراع الصاروخي لحزب الله في حرب لبنان الثانية، وأثر ذلك على التعامل مع الذراع الصاروخي السوري في ظل دفاع جوي فاعل. وتعاطت المقالة الثانية مع القوة البرية السورية التي تحولت في الأعوام الأخيرة إلى جيش من طراز جديد.
وأشار رون بن يشاي في «يديعوت» إلى أنه برغم ان سلاح الجو الإسرائيلي في ذروة تفوقه، فإنه قد يفقد هذه الميزة قريبا لأن «تسلح سوريا وإيران بمنظومات روسية متطورة، قد يجعل الحرب المقبلة تظهر سلاح الجو كما في الأيام الأولى لحرب يوم الغفران». وشدد على أن الطيران الإسرائيلي يشكل عنصر الردع الأساسي، إلا أن قادة السلاح يعتقدون أن هذا الهامش سيتقلص. والسبب هو منظومات الدفاع الجوي المتقدمة التي تشتريها إيران وسوريا. وينقل بن يشاي عن خبراء السلاح في العالم أن روسيا سدت في هذا الميدان الفجوة التكنولوجية بينها وبين الغرب في التسعينات، بل إنها سجلت تقدما على نظيراتها الأميركية.
وقال بن يشاي إن ما يقض مضجع قادة الأمن في إسرائيل على وجه الخصوص، هي منظومة «أس ? 300»، المؤهلة لاعتراض الطائرات والصواريخ حتى مسافة 140 كيلومترا وعلى ارتفاعات تتراوح بين مئات الأمتار وثلاثين كيلومترا. وأكدت روسيا أنها تجري مفاوضات مع إيران لتزويدها بهذه المنظومة، وأن سوريا تحاول الحصول عليها أيضا. ولكن روسيا زودت رسميا كلا من إيران وسوريا بمنظومات ناجعة، وإن كانت أقل مدى مثل «منظومة تور» (SA-15). ومن المقرر أن تحصل سوريا هذا العام على منظومة «بانتسير» (SA-22). وتتسم هذه المنظومات بشموليتها في الاستقلال والاكتشاف والرد وقدرتها الحركية العالية.
وعلاوة على ذلك، هناك صواريخ الكتف المضادة للطائرات التي اشترتها سوريا وإيران من روسيا، وهي من طرازي SA-16 وSA-18.
ولكن إضافة للصواريخ المضادة للطائرات، هناك منظومات صواريخ أرض أرض السورية التي تعتبر في ايران، مع منظومة حزب الله، وفق بن يشاي، «ذراعها الطويلة التي يمكن بها الرد على أي هجوم أميركي أو إسرائيلي عليها». ولكن بن يشاي يلحظ عنصرا آخر يقيد حرية العمل الجوي الإسرائيلي، وهو وسائل وأساليب التمويه التي يطورها الإيرانيون ويشركون بها السوريين وحزب الله.
وهنا يأتي دور المراسل العسكري لـ«معاريف» عمير ربابورت، الذي كتب عن التغيير الجوهري الذي طرأ على بنية الجيش السوري في السنوات الأخيرة. وأشار إلى أن المناورات الأخيرة التي أجراها الجيش الإسرائيلي، أخذت بالحسبان التغيير الدراماتيكي الذي مر به الجيش السوري في السنوات الاخيرة. ونقل عن جهات عسكرية قولها «بينما كنا في غفوة، استطاع (الرئيس السوري بشار) الاسد الوصول الى توازن استراتيجي مع اسرائيل».
وأوضح ربابورات أن «الاحترام الذي ابداه الجيش الاسرائيلي للجيش السوري في المناورات الاخيرة، مغاير تماما للاستخفاف الذي اعتادوا التعامل فيه معه طوال سنوات كثيرة». وأضاف أن الاسد بالتحديد هو الذي غيّر وضع الجيش السوري كليا. وتحديداً في فترة القائد الذي اعتبرته اسرائيل «غريب الاطوار» ومجهولا، بدأت عملية اعادة بناء الجيش السوري اثر اتفاقيات عقدت بين سوريا وروسيا. الكتلة الاساسية من الوسائل القتالية الاساسية بدأت تتدفق من خلال خط موسكو دمشق الجوي منذ العام .2005
ونقل عن مسؤول أمني أن «القرار الاهم الذي اتخذه السوريون كان اعادة بناء جيشهم، بصورة مغايرة تماما وفي الواقع بصورة لا تذكر بأي جيش آخر في العالم. لقد قرروا عدم صرف الاموال على الدبابات والطائرات، مفترضين انها لا تمتلك فرصة كبيرة للنجاح في مواجهة سلاحي الجو والمدرعات الإسرائيليين. في المقابل، قرروا صرف اموال كثيرة على ثلاثة اسلحة: الصواريخ المضادة للدبابات، والصواريخ الحديثة ضد الطائرات، وطبعاً الاستثمارات الهائلة في الصواريخ الموجهة للعمق الإسرائيلي».
واعتبر أن المشتريات الجديدة جعلت الجيش السوري، الوحيد في العالم الذي يتحرك من خلال استراتيجية حرب العصابات. وتطلق جهات في الجيش الاسرائيلي على الاستراتيجية السورية الجديدة اسم «نهج التفاضل»، ويستخدمه حزب الله منذ سنوات كما تبنته حركة حماس في غزة. تجسيد هذا النهج يتم من خلال الحصول على صواريخ متطورة مضادة للدبابات من طراز «كورنيت» و«ماتيس»، وهي من افضل الصواريخ في العالم. ويتفاوض السوريون مع روسيا الآن حول صواريخ «كريزن تاما» التي تعتبر متطورة وأكثر خطورة من «كورنيت» و«ماتيس».
في مجال صواريخ ارض ارض، حرص السوريون على اقامة منظومات صواريخ «سكود» وصواريخ قصيرة المدى من قطر 220 ميلليمترا وصواريخ 302 ميلليمتر، يبلغ مداها 150 كيلومترا، كما يسعون الى امتلاك صواريخ روسية من طراز «اسكندر».
وغيّر الجيش السوري بنيته بصورة دراماتيكة، بحيث ازدادت وحدات الكوماندوس فيما تقلصت وحدات المدرعات. والجيش السوري صغير بصورة عامة، ولكنه ازداد صغراً. ففيما كانت النسبة في السابق لواء مدرعات في مقابل كل لواءين من المشاة، اصبحت هناك ثلاثة ألوية مشاة في مقابل كل لواء مدرعات.
وتساءل المراسل عما إذا كان الجيش الاسرائيلي قد غفا فعلا خلال نوبة الحراسة، ولم يستعد في الوقت الملائم للتغير الدراماتيكي الذي بدأ في الجيش السوري. وترى جهات أمنية إسرائيلية كثيرة ان هذا ما حدث، وفي سياق ذلك تذكر ان عدداً من المشاريع الاستثمارية في جهاز الدفاع مخصصة لساحات قتالية من نوع آخر تماما، وليس بمواجهة التهديد السوري في صورته الجديدة. وتعتقد بعض الأطراف الأخرى ان سلوك الجيش الاسرائيلي صحيحٌ على المدى البعيد، حيث يتوجب عليه ان يستعد لاي مجابهة مع سوريا ومع دول اخرى مثل إيران، الأمر الذي يمكن ان يحدث في اي وقت.

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June 7th, 2008, 8:17 pm

 

8. Naji said:

Nour,
They ARE trying “to provide us with entertainment”…!! What other pretense do they have for making a living on our account…??! 😉

QN,
I just watched this Al Jazeera “Hewar Maftouh” program with a young Palestinian poet by the name of Tamim Barghouti (what is it about these Barghouties??!)… WOW… With tears streaming down my cheeks, I tell you these IGs and Shaisters just don’t have a chance…!!! They better “get with it”…!

http://tamimbarghouti.net/Tamimweb/English/index.htm
I don’t have a link for the Al Jazeera program, but I thought you’d enjoy it, on purely aesthetic grounds if nothing else…!

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June 7th, 2008, 8:22 pm

 

9. majedkhaldoun said:

Asef said he is not alawi, ,he said he is from Tartoos, I believe him.

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June 7th, 2008, 8:43 pm

 

10. EHSANI2 said:

Seeking The truth,

I do believe that the NYT is wrong and that Asef is not alawi but Sunni.

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June 7th, 2008, 8:50 pm

 

11. Ghassan Karam said:

“That has been vetoed mainly by the Tripoli bloc loyal to former Prime Minister Omar Karameh, which is opposed to March 14 and pro-Syrian. ”
(I think that this is the first time Mr. Safadi has learned of this:-))

This is not the first time that Mr. Mobayed creates his own facts in order to fit whatever he is advocating at a particular point in time.

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June 7th, 2008, 9:44 pm

 

12. Qifa Nabki said:

Naji,

Thanks, I’ll check it out.

Nour,

I understand your feelings. Politicians are an unsavory bunch, with the rare exception.

There are only a handful of politicians in Lebanon that I admire, but even with these few, there are always caveats.

Maybe it bears repeating that the 2009 elections represent a big opportunity for the emergence of new voices. Hello, future Lebanese leaders… this is your chance, ya jama3a.

There is a new generation coming up through the ranks, and I’m continually impressed by it. The Aounist blogs are full of very smart young guys, extremely well-informed, and open minded. Same goes for lots of people on the myriad M14 blogs. Don’t worry, ya Nour: the future is bright, as long as we don’t kill each other.

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June 7th, 2008, 10:20 pm

 

13. why-discuss said:

After opening up to Turkey, Bashar will continue to open the Arab countries to Asia! It is time Arab countries stop relying exclusively on their unhealthy relations with colonial powers whose only interests as Aoun was saying: “ISRAEL and OIL”
Without mentionning that these colonial powers are the ones who created most of the region’s problem: Artficial creation of Iraq, splitting Kurds into 4 countries, creating Israel by throwing out palestinians, separating Lebanon from Syria etc..
The arab countries badly needs Asia: India is a success story in IT development and I hope to see Bashar opening up to Russia and China.
Are Lebanese universities offering Chinese language classes, Damascus is?

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June 8th, 2008, 1:26 am

 

14. karim said:

#
Syrie: Lafarge remporte deux contrats de 1,2 md USD pour deux cimenteries
08/06/2008-[16:57] – AFP

DAMAS, 8 juin 2008 (AFP) – La Syrie a signé avec le géant français Lafarge deux contrats de près de 1,2 milliard de dollars pour la construction de deux cimenteries en Syrie, a indiqué dimanche le quotidien officiel As-Saoura.

“La Syrie a signé deux importants contrats avec le géant français Lafarge pour la construction de deux cimenteries à Damas et à Alep (nord-ouest) d’un coût atteignant près de 1,2 md de dollars”, a affirmé le journal citant un responsable du gouvernement français. Ces deux usines, dont la construction doit commencer en 2008, “sont parmi les investissements étrangers les plus importants en Syrie”, selon le journal. En 2007, les exportations de la Syrie vers la France se sont élevées à 700 millions de dollars, alors que les exportations de la France vers la Syrie ont atteint 500 millions de dollars, selon as-Saoura. As-Saoura évoque aussi un projet français pour “agrandir et exploiter le port de Lattaquié”, dans le nord-ouest de la Syrie, ainsi que des projets du groupe de distribution français Carrefour pour ouvrir ses premiers supermarchés en Syrie. Une usine de fromage Bel-Syrie, construite par le groupe français Bel et inaugurée en septembre 2005, avait constitué le premier investissement français direct en Syrie, hors domaine pétrolier.

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June 8th, 2008, 6:30 pm

 

15. Alex said:

Assad, Ahmadinejad and Mofaz
By Zvi Bar’el
Tags: Israel

Kadima has nothing to worry about. It has no political platform for elections, but it has two winning candidates. One of them is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the other is Bashar Assad, and they already have the kind of backing that no other candidate has yet to receive: Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. One may be leading Iran into trouble and the other – how did Mofaz put it? – “is not ready,” but when they fall in line with Mofaz, then there’s a winning political mix.

Now that transportation problems are behind us, and traffic accidents have become a minor issue; all the problematic roads have been upgraded and the light rail and intercity railroads to Jerusalem, Sderot and Afula are running smoothly, Mofaz has found time to look into the situation on the Golan Heights. There, it seems, the problem is double. Mofaz believes the Syrian president is still not ready for a peace process and is involved, up to his neck, in terrorism. Therefore, if Israel withdraws from the Golan Heights, this would allow Iran to set up a large armed presence there.

It is impressive how Mofaz has managed to turn the threat of Iran and Syria into his, and Kadima’s, domestic policy. An attack on Iran, rejecting Assad, and delaying the tahadiyeh (truce) with Hamas are the pillars of this policy, and this way Mofaz feels he does not need to offer any real solutions. “Just say no” used to be the slogan for countering drug use in the United States. Mofaz, it appears, has adopted this slogan with fervor. Take away Ahmadinejad and Assad from Mofaz, and he has nothing. “What has Livni done? She spoke with a few foreign ministers,” said Mofaz; after all, every one knows that “most of the work here is defense-related.”

He is casting his shadow like that of a defense minister. And when confronted with major threats, not only is Livni not suitable, but Ehud Olmert, Avi Dichter and Meir Sheetrit are also not relevant. What is necessary is a general who knows how to say “no.” But is this not the same general who came to understand – albeit slowly – following a long and painful lesson, that there is no point in staying in Lebanon? That war against the Palestinians is not exactly a walk in the park? That the second intifada, in which he was chief of staff and also defense minister, did not show his methods to be particularly impressive?

It is not the military record of Mofaz that is at issue here, even though this is the background he has on offer. Whoever is willing to take Mofaz seriously cannot make do with a policy that is entirely a listing of threats, or a stance that ridicules diplomacy. How, for example, does Mofaz intend to overcome the Syrian threat, the ties between Syria and Hezbollah, the Iranian threat and the attacks from the Gaza Strip?

No, not with those empty slogans of “we need to wait” and “we need to drive out” and “we need to target.” We want details, please! Details and explanations of the type that he would offer, for example, to a committee of inquiry that would want to know why he failed to allow a peace process between Israel and Syria to advance. Why did he think that Assad is not ready for negotiations when the Syrian president has managed so successfully a maneuver that put him in remote control of Lebanese politics? What were Mofaz’ sources of information, when he failed to recognize that Assad is now carrying out a reconciliation with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which is enjoying French support, and even the United States understands it was mistaken when it sought to veto Syrian-Israeli talks?

That same committee will ask him about the practical alternatives that he is offering in place of a tahadiyeh, and the number of casualties that he anticipated as a result of his alternative. How did he think that his proposal, as transportation minister, would succeed after all the actions he undertook in the territories as chief of staff and defense minister failed?

But for Mofaz, voicing the threat, emphasizing it and presenting it in eye-catching colors, is policy. He does not need to meet with “a few foreign ministers,” and this does not stem from his belief that there can be only a military solution. The threat also has political solutions, even versus Iran. But on the narrow path to the post of prime minister, there are two generals, one from Kadima and one from Labor, and when the right is right behind them, it is not diplomatic solutions that are required, but threats. It is not understanding or political savvy that is needed, but someone who knows how to shout “booooooo.” Someone who knows how to turn even the chances for peace into a genuine threat. It is a real pleasure to see how Mofaz, Assad and Ahmadinejad go so well together. When one of them threatens, the other benefits – and Mofaz’s Kadima has a political platform.

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June 8th, 2008, 6:36 pm

 

16. Shai said:

Alex,

Fantastic! I’m glad you put it on – I read it in Hebrew, and was going to post it here in English… Mofaz is such, how should I put it politely, an idiot!? Can’t keep his mouth shut, coming up with statements he’ll later regret, like he did not too long ago, yelling to all the radio and TV people that he’s a Likudnik, and will always stay in the Likud, while at the same time arranging for his new leather seat within Kadima… Now he’s moving his house to the Golan, and suggesting Israel will have to attack Iran alone… What a “leader”…

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June 8th, 2008, 6:47 pm

 

17. Alex said:

SHai

I automatically post anything that Zvi writes. : )

He is one of the best analysts you have in Israel.. Not a hawk, not an “extreme left” type.

And I have been exchanging emails with him for the past 4 years I think.

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June 8th, 2008, 6:50 pm

 

18. Shai said:

When I read it, I was smiling from ear to ear. It’s time someone put this trigger-happy ex-COGS ex-Defense Minister, in his place. I too can probably win a seat with Likud’s next government, if I shout loud enough “I’m a Likudnik, I’ll never leave you, I’m moving to the Golan, and… let’s bomb Iran… alone!” For that matter, so can you, Alex! That is… if you’re interested… 😉

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June 8th, 2008, 6:53 pm

 

19. Observer said:

Lebanon has moved back to the old age method of back room dealings and petty positioning.

Sarkozy comes to visit as if he is the emir of Doha; well he is not and he has to go and pay his respects to Damascus which came out the winner in this round

Iran is in the cross hairs: if it derails the Status of Forces agreement in Iraq, plays the spoiler of Syria-Israel peace dealings, and continue to support Hamas and HA it will be hit. The uranium project is now in full swing; and therefore, Israel will provoke, Iran will respond, and the US will finish the kill.

The neo cons with Mr. Friedman in the first row are starting to prepare the US public opinion for the coming attack.

The next few weeks are going to look very interesting indeed.

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June 8th, 2008, 6:55 pm

 

20. Alex said:

Not me, but … perhaps AIG?

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June 8th, 2008, 6:57 pm

 

21. Shai said:

Observer,
If the U.S. is going to attack Iran, god help us all. Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination (and it’s well known aftermath) will seem like a romantic canal ride, compared with the hell that will be unleashed in our region.

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June 8th, 2008, 7:00 pm

 

22. Shai said:

AIG is already getting spot #7. But you can have #8… Should I talk to Bibi? According to recent polls, not only will he win the next election, his party Likud will get around 34 seats(!), up 22 from their current 12…

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June 8th, 2008, 7:02 pm

 

23. Alex said:

Shai,

OK, we’ll ask Naji then.

By the way .. who will Bibi ask to join him for his new coalition government?

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June 8th, 2008, 7:09 pm

 

24. Shai said:

Alex, it’s quite clear – Lieberman, Shas, the usual… And they’ll have quite a majority. But, let’s not set the date for new elections just yet. I have a funny suspicion that most MK’s in the current coalition would rather receive orders from (even) Tzipi Livni, than give up their nice leather seats, their volvos, their free-stamps, etc. And be left with… nothing. So it is very likely that a Kadima member will become our next PM. God help us all if it is to be Mofaz! I’d rather have Lieberman…

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June 8th, 2008, 7:15 pm

 

25. Naji said:

Alex, I heard that…! 😛
I’ll run for office only in United Syria… 😉

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June 8th, 2008, 7:16 pm

 

26. Shai said:

Naji, who’s talking about “running for office”?!!! Spot #8 is not good enough for you? What, suddenly your innate hunches tell you it’s got to be #1? 😉 But hey, maybe Mofaz, who was born in Iran, and is now moving to the Golan, will let you be his Defense Minister, and will even call it United Syria, just for you… 😉

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June 8th, 2008, 7:20 pm

 

27. Alex said:

Naji,

If we have United Syria, you should not run … whoever was there when United Syria happened deserves your support : )

Shai,

I nominate you or Zvi Bar’el.

But I’ll bet on Livni for now.

Actually .. I won’t even bet. What do I know!

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June 8th, 2008, 8:10 pm

 

28. Shai said:

Well, it may well be Tzipi Livni. But she won’t do much. She’s simply too inexperienced, won’t have the guts to go far, without first sensing the support of all those around her, which… won’t give it. Unfortunately in Israel, the louder you yell, the more votes you get. So perhaps even Mofaz can outdo her in upcoming Kadima primaries. Who knows… it’s all speculation, but none of it looks great.

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June 8th, 2008, 8:17 pm

 

29. Seeking the Truth said:

swerv21 said:
asef is alawi. not sure why that matters.

Isn’t it obvious? Because many don’t believe that the Syrian regime would entrust such a sensitive security position like head of military intelligence to other than an Alawite; and thereby, they underscore the sectarian nature of the state, and argue against the claim of secularism.

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June 8th, 2008, 8:18 pm

 

30. SOL said:

June 8, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
People vs. Dinosaurs
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

Tefen Industrial Park, Israel

Question: What do America’s premier investor, Warren Buffett, and Iran’s toxic president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have in common? Answer: They’ve both made a bet about Israel’s future.

Ahmadinejad declared on Monday that Israel “has reached its final phase and will soon be wiped out from the geographic scene.”

By coincidence, I heard the Iranian leader’s statement on Israel Radio just as I was leaving the headquarters of Iscar, Israel’s famous precision tool company, headquartered in the Western Galilee, near the Lebanon border. Iscar is known for many things, most of all for being the first enterprise that Buffett bought overseas for his holding company, Berkshire Hathaway.

Buffett paid $4 billion for 80 percent of Iscar and the deal just happened to close a few days before Hezbollah, a key part of Iran’s holding company, attacked Israel in July 2006, triggering a monthlong war. I asked Iscar’s chairman, Eitan Wertheimer, what was Buffett’s reaction when he found out that he had just paid $4 billion for an Israeli company and a few days later Hezbollah rockets were landing outside its parking lot.

Buffett just brushed it off with a wave, recalled Wertheimer: “He said, ‘I’m not interested in the next quarter. I’m interested in the next 20 years.’ ” Wertheimer repaid that confidence by telling half his employees to stay home during the war and using the other half to keep the factory from not missing a day of work and setting a production record for the month. It helps when many of your “employees” are robots that move around the buildings, beeping humans out of the way.

So who would you put your money on? Buffett or Ahmadinejad? I’d short Ahmadinejad and go long Warren Buffett.

Why? From outside, Israel looks as if it’s in turmoil, largely because the entire political leadership seems to be under investigation. But Israel is a weak state with a strong civil society. The economy is exploding from the bottom up. Israel’s currency, the shekel, has appreciated nearly 30 percent against the dollar since the start of 2007.

The reason? Israel is a country that is hard-wired to compete in a flat world. It has a population drawn from 100 different countries, speaking 100 different languages, with a business culture that strongly encourages individual imagination and adaptation and where being a nonconformist is the norm. While you were sleeping, Israel has gone from oranges to software, or as they say around here, from Jaffa to Java.

The day I visited the Iscar campus, one of its theaters was filled with industrialists from the Czech Republic, who were getting a lecture — in Czech — from Iscar experts. The Czechs came all the way to the Israel-Lebanon border region to learn about the latest innovations in precision tool-making. Wertheimer is famous for staying close to his customers and the latest technologies. “If you sleep on the floor,” he likes to say, “you never have to worry about falling out of bed.”

That kind of hunger explains why, in the first quarter of 2008, the top four economies after America in attracting venture capital for start-ups were: Europe $1.53 billion, China $719 million, Israel $572 million and India $99 million, according to Dow Jones VentureSource. Israel, with 7 million people, attracted almost as much as China, with 1.3 billion.

Boaz Golany, who heads engineering at the Technion, Israel’s M.I.T., told me: “In the last eight months, we have had delegations from I.B.M., General Motors, Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart visiting our campus. They are all looking to develop R & D centers in Israel.”

Ahmadinejad professes not to care about such things. He was — to put it in American baseball terms — born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. Because oil prices have gone up to nearly $140 a barrel, he feels relaxed predicting that Israel will disappear, while Iran maintains a welfare state — with more than 10 percent unemployment.

Iran has invented nothing of importance since the Islamic Revolution, which is a shame. Historically, Iranians have been a dynamic and inventive people — one only need look at the richness of Persian civilization to see that. But the Islamic regime there today does not trust its people and will not empower them as individuals.

Of course, oil wealth can buy all the software and nuclear technology you want, or can’t develop yourself. This is not an argument that we shouldn’t worry about Iran. Ahmadinejad should, though.

Iran’s economic and military clout today is largely dependent on extracting oil from the ground. Israel’s economic and military power today is entirely dependent on extracting intelligence from its people. Israel’s economic power is endlessly renewable. Iran’s is a dwindling resource based on fossil fuels made from dead dinosaurs.

So who will be here in 20 years? I’m with Buffett: I’ll bet on the people who bet on their people — not the people who bet on dead dinosaurs.

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June 8th, 2008, 10:01 pm

 

31. Qifa Nabki said:

Speaking of Livni, where’s my friend Ausamaa?

Ausamaa, habibi, we’re famous!

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June 8th, 2008, 10:40 pm

 

32. norman said:

Kuwait’s KIA in talks to invest in Syria – mediaReuters, Sunday

June 8 2008 KUWAIT, June 8 (Reuters) – Kuwait’s sovereign wealth fund, the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), is considering investing in Syria, state-owned Kuwait News Agency said.
KIA officials are holding talks in Syria to discuss “prospects for joint investment cooperation”, the news agency said, citing the KIA’s Khaled al-Hassoun, leader of the talks.
The report comes after a state visit to the Arab Gulf by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who, according to local media reports, proposed a joint venture with the KIA.
Gulf Arab investors, awash with record oil revenue, are looking overseas for business, including in Syria where the state-dominated economy is opening more to foreign private investment.
KIA had at least $213 billion of assets under management as of March 31 last year. Business

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June 9th, 2008, 3:04 am

 

33. Nur al-Cubicle said:

Ironic, isn’t it, that Bush now enjoys the status of former President Lahoud…still in office but ignored.

Karim’s post says the French (Lafarge Cement) have poked their finger in Bush’s eye by signing a big cement deal with Syria for a plant in Damascus and another in Aleppo. The amount of trade between Syria and France is rising in dollar amounts; the French will also enlarge and extend the Port of Latakia. Moreover, the French supermarket chain, Carrefour, is about to open several stores. The French cheeesemaker BONBEL (Vache Qui Rit) has a plant in Syria.

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June 9th, 2008, 3:42 pm

 

34. ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki

I am here! It is just that I have nothing to say…while watching all the suspense about the Lebanese Cabinet-in-the-making drama. What is it? Bush and the Saudies and Mini Hariri have decided that the Feb 14 defeat is too much to swallow? Or the usual Lebanese “Ghanaj”?

As to being famous, that Commentator is jumping too fast into conclusions. They had Golda Meir before, but SHE was not well regarded here at all while Rabin was sort of OK.

“I also suspect that PM Livni will be well regarded in the Arab/Muslim worlds if these observations from one of the commenters on “Syria Comment” is indicative:..”

I don’t know how “indicative” our comments were, I hope mine is more so than yours.

BTW, dont you think that Olmert’s “mannerisem” is similar to that of Siniora and even Abbas? They all calim to act as democratically ellected leaders, but they just love that chair. Even if Abbas and Siniora have their ropes pulled by someone else, Olmert, at least, has more lattitude but he is still hanging in there. The Israeli politicians seem to have finally fully adapted to the normal Arab leadership environment.

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June 9th, 2008, 5:47 pm

 

35. ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki

I am here! It is just that I have nothing to say…while watching all the suspense about the Lebanese Cabinet-in-the-making drama. What? Have Bush, the Saudies and Mini Hariri have decided that the Feb 14 defeat is too much to swallow? Or just your usual “Ghanaj”?

As to being famous, that Commentator is jumping too fast into conclusions. They had Golda Meir before, but SHE was not well regarded here at all while Rabin was sort of OK.

“I also suspect that PM Livni will be well regarded in the Arab/Muslim worlds if these observations from one of the commenters on “Syria Comment” is indicative:..”

I don’t know how “indicative” our comments were, I hope mine is more so than yours.

BTW, dont you think that Olmert’s “mannerisem” is similar to that of Siniora and even Abbas? They all calim to act as democratically ellected leaders, but they just love that chair. Even if Abbas and Siniora have their ropes pulled by someone else, Olmert, at least, has more lattitude but he is still hanging in there. The Israeli politicians seem to have finally fully adapted to the normal Arab leadership environment.

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June 9th, 2008, 5:48 pm

 

36. Qifa Nabki said:

Ausamaa

Actually I don’t think Saniora likes it very much. He always has a pained expression on his face. I think he is doing it ghasbin 3anno.

In other news, this is actually hilarious:

Sidelights: Lebanon Football Team Welcomed by Syrian National Anthem

Arab News

RIYADH, 9 June 2008 — The Saudi Vs. Lebanon match held at the King Fahd International Stadium here on Saturday had an unusual start after officials mistakenly played the wrong national anthem. Fans were left shocked and Lebanese players were visibly angry when the Syrian national anthem began blaring from the stadium’s speakers, the Arriyadiyah sports daily reported yesterday. Officials quickly realized their mistake, and eventually played the correct national anthem. However, the error, which was committed by the organizing officials of the tournament, prompted the President of the Saudi Football Federation, Prince Sultan ibn Fahd, to order an official investigation into the incident. Saudi Arabia went on to win the World Cup qualifying match 2-1.

(PS: The only thing more ironic would have been if they also played the American anthem instead of the Saudi one…)

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June 9th, 2008, 5:51 pm

 

37. ausamaa said:

Together Forever..!!

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June 9th, 2008, 6:18 pm

 

38. norman said:

QN

I think the KSA is giving Syria a hint about the fate of Lebanon , Don’t you think ?.

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June 9th, 2008, 6:34 pm

 

39. Qifa Nabki said:

Norman

Absolutely. It seems a “deal” has been struck, for the price of Saudi-Syrian rapprochement.

Next thing you know, they’ll change the name of the airport to Bashar al-Asad International Airport.

😉

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June 9th, 2008, 6:39 pm

 

40. Nour said:

QN,

That would be great :-P.

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June 9th, 2008, 11:02 pm

 

41. Qifa Nabki said:

Nour,

Don’t get too excited. 😉

Why not change the name to something uncontroversial?

Fairouz International Airport?

Haifa Wehbe International Airport?

Nancy Ajram International Airport?

or better still:

Abu l-Abd International Airport

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June 9th, 2008, 11:10 pm

 

42. norman said:

Name the airport in Lebanon after one one the people who died in 1916 for the liberation of Lebanon and Syria ,

The Syrian airport should be called , ( The Omayad International Airport ).

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June 10th, 2008, 1:57 am

 

43. bazoz said:

Our current state is no longer viable:
we must remain true to our past and to the sacrifies of our martyrs who have battled and lost their lives in defense of freedom and peace in Lebanon.
The pluralism of our society is a gift, and history proved to us that no dominant culture can impose its orientations on the others…
In order to live in peace and prosperity, we have to build a State that protects its various cultural entities, organizing harmonious relation between them:
The solution is in a new constitution formula, that combines the divergent interests of each lebanese culture, in one unique, united and powerful state!
“7allna ntawwir el nizam”…samy gemayel we are all proud of you,lebanese kataeb party will reborn again, you are the new leader of the christians in Lebanon. The real lebanese State will be established correctly…we are counting on you!!!
check http://de.youtube.com/watch?v=MBHd7fZ1XUA

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January 8th, 2009, 10:22 pm

 

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