News Round Up (12 December 2006)

Rice warns Syria and Iran over Lebanon protests, AFP 12.12.06

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Syria and Iran in an exclusive interview with AFP that the "future of Lebanon is not an issue for negotiation."

In an exclusive interview with AFP, Rice rejected mounting calls to deal directly with Damascus and Tehran as part of efforts to end the crisis in Iraq and said the two states should have no doubts about Washington's commitment to the embattled government of Lebanon.

Int'l Diplomacy

Merkel, Chirac urge Syria not to meddle in Lebanon / Reuters

‘France and Germany call for an end to all interference in the affairs of Lebanon,’ leaders say in joint statement
Full Story

"In no way is the US going to get into a situation where it is even a conceivable notion on the part of Syria or Iran that the future of Lebanon would somehow be compromised for other interests of the US," she said.

"I want to make it very clear that the future of Lebanon is not an issue for negotiation with anybody," she said.

Massive street protests organized by the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Shiite movement Hizbullah have been seeking to topple the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora for the past week.

The protracted deadlock has paralyzed the Western-backed government as opposition Shiite and Christian protesters have clogged the capital in an escalating campaign to force a new national unity administration.

"It's just extremely important that we be very clear: we understand who Lebanon's enemies are and those that are trying to bring down the Siniora government," Rice said.

"There is no way that the United States or the international community could ever countenance a reassertion of Syrian authority in Lebanon," she said

BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel

on Tuesday defended Germany's attempts to involve Syria in efforts to resolve conflict in Lebanon and argued that an end to the Iraq conflict cannot come at the expense of neighboring countries such as Iran.

She defended German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's recent visit to Damascus, which has been criticized by Israel.

Merkel told foreign journalists that she and Steinmeier "are completely of one opinion, Syria is simply there as a partner in the region, it is a country in the region, and it is important that one tells Syria what expectations one has of Syria."

At a later news conference alongside Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Merkel tempered that by emphasizing her dissatisfaction with Syria's current stance.

"The signals that we are getting from Syria are anything but ones I would rate as optimistic," she said. "I think that everyone who wants to make a contribution must accept certain principles; I don't see at the moment that those principles are accepted, and that makes the situation very difficult."

Syria weathers through 2006 as US pressure continues, People's Daily Online (A good overview of the year)
Prince Turki al-Faisal, abruptly resigned his post after 15 months on the job and left the country, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday, citing U.S. officials and foreign envoys.

Al-Faisal told his staff he was leaving to spend more time with his family, the newspaper reported, citing Arab diplomats. His predecessor, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, held the job for 22 years.

A Saudi Embassy spokesman said he could not confirm the report.

Saudi Arabia has been a key ally to the United States and is the world's top oil exporter.

Diplomats in Riyadh noted in recent days that the health of his brother, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, was not good and he appeared slow or ill in recent public appearances.

That has fueled rumors that Turki would succeed his ailing brother in the foreign minister position, The Post reported.

"Lebanon's War of Words," Time Magazine by Andrew Lee Butters: "On Scene: With Hizballah raising the level of its anti-government rhetoric and prime minister Fouad Siniora virtually under siege, any chance for compromise in Beirut looks increasingly dim"

James Baker on Syria

Talking to Syria gives us an excellent opportunity to revitalize the Arab-Israeli peace process," Baker said. "The Syrians are the transit point for arms shipments to Hezbollah, and if you can flip the Syrians, you will cure Israel's Hezbollah problem. "

Baker went on: "The Syrians will tell you, as they told us, that they do have the ability to convince Hamas to acknowledge Israel's right to exist. . . . If we accomplished that, that would give [Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert a negotiating partner on the Palestinian track."

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, perhaps the single most powerful Shiite political leader in Iraq, had this to say to Bush, according to the Wash Post's Hoagland:

Hakim's soft words on Iraq's harsh realities the most important suggestions the president heard last week. As offered by the black-turbaned cleric in a series of public appearances in Washington and as supplemented by his aides, his view goes like this:

U.S. forces and the feeble central government do too little to protect Shiites. We can do that job ourselves if your troops get out of the way. That will clear the way for U.S. withdrawals while leading to the informal division of Iraq into three distinct autonomous regions. That is the only acceptable alternative to a strong central government controlled by the Shiites, which may no longer be in reach.

The Baker-Hamilton study group ruled out partition in any form. But the report trails events on the ground, as Bush is likely to have heard in his third high-level meeting on Iraq when he hosted British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday.

In recent weeks British commanders have reported to London that Hakim's Shiite political party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, has completed a gradual takeover of Iraq's south. That leaves British forces with little ability to influence events — or reason to stay on much longer in any large numbers — the commanders add pointedly.

Nationally, Hakim has watched patiently as his Shiite rivals in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party and in Moqtada al-Sadr's organization have been chewed up in the meat grinder of Baghdad's barbaric sectarian conflicts, rampant corruption and U.S. inconsistency.

Hakim gave the impression in Washington of a man riding a wave carrying him inexorably toward where he wants to go. No one could say that about Bush during his crucible week.

Lebanon's Shiites Grapple With New Feeling of Power

– By Anthony Shadid in Washington Post
BEIRUT, Dec. 9 — As morning clouds hovered overhead Saturday, Fadil Ayyash wiped eyes that were bleary from just two hours of sleep over two days in the city-within-a-city that Hezbollah's protests in downtown Beirut have become.

The Brammertz Report will go to Kofi Annan on Tuesday, according to a diplomat at UN headquarters in New York. "Brammertz is expected to brief the UN Security Council on his report on Friday."

The deadline for Brammertz to submit his third report on the assassination is Friday. He presented two reports in 2006, while his predecessor, German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, also presented two reports on the case in 2005.

A Lebanese judicial source said Monday that this week's report, like the two before it, "will be purely technical."

"This isn't the final report and Brammertz' mission has already been extended until mid-2007, so there will be nothing flashy in this report," the source added.

Comments (21)

t_desco said:

Compare the comments by Condoleezza Rice and other State Department officials to these new poll numbers from Lebanon:

“A new survey conducted by the Beirut Center for Research and Information shows that 73.1 percent of respondents support the creation of a national unity government. But the poll highlighted a considerable division between Lebanese confessions, in general, and Muslims in particular, as 94 percent of Shiites and 50 percent of Christians said the current government has lost its constitutional legitimacy, while 83 percent of Sunnis and 90 percent of Druze said the opposite.”
The Daily Star

UN probe finds more signs Lebanon killings linked

The inquiry into the murder of a former Lebanese prime minister is turning up “significant links” between Hariri’s death and 14 other later attacks in Lebanon, the chief investigator said on Tuesday.

Serge Brammertz, who leads the U.N. investigation into the February 2005 assassination of Rafik al-Hariri, also said his probe continued to make numerous demands for interviews and evidence on Syria.

Investigators conducted six interviews and held five meetings with relevant Syrian officials in recent months, he said in his latest progress report to the Security Council.

They also sought from Damascus “information, artifacts, electronic media and documentation about certain individuals and groups,” he said.

“The level of assistance provided by Syria during the reporting period remains generally satisfactory. The commission will continue to request Syria’s full cooperation, which remains crucial to the swift and successful completion of its work,” he said.

“The commission’s work on the 14 cases continues to elicit significant links between each case and to indicate links to the Rafik Hariri case,” Brammertz said.

The findings suggest a wave of attacks targeting individuals with known and shared political leanings and aiming to “spread fear among the population” and “destabilize the security situation,” he said.

December 12th, 2006, 4:49 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

I suspect that Saud Al Feisal has prostate cancer.tall persons are prone for that.

December 12th, 2006, 5:15 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Condi Rice for President!

December 12th, 2006, 5:17 pm


Nizar Al Ahmar said:

We believed that one way to settle the current power straggle in Lebanon would be by giving to the request of the opposition in cabinet representation against an early ending of Lahoud presidency. In other term it a settlement based on trading Siniora for Lahoud. But from the international community’s reaction one can say that the trade could be Siniora against Assad.

December 12th, 2006, 5:47 pm


t_desco said:

“The latest UN report noted that “it is of critical importance that the commission has access to those political actors with whom Hariri had direct contact in the last months of his life, and to those individuals involved in the relevant political dynamics in Lebanon, the broader region and internationally.”

It said the Brammertz-led team was looking into allegations that the attack on Hariri might have been carried out “by aerial means”. (!)

It said “further collection work is being undertaken, including forensically and through the acquisition of technical data” to clarify “the likelihood of such a means being a viable attack option, prior to further investigation steps being taken.”

The panel said that since its previous report released last September 25 it had conducted seven interviews in connection with the alleged bombing team and “their use of six telephones to communicate on the day of the attack and in the days leading up to it.”

“These interviews have provided new leads that are currently being pursued and will lead to more interviews in the next reporting period,” it added

The report also sought to establish the geographic origin of the suspected bomber, an unidentified male whose “complete tooth and other biological parts found on the crime scene” are being analyzed by experts.

The first phase of analysis showed that “the individual did not spend his youth in Lebanon, but was situated there in the last two to three months before his death.

“The report discusses the type of area in which the individual lived during the last 10 years or so of his life, although at this stage no specific region can as yet be derived from the analysis,” the panel said.”

December 12th, 2006, 5:53 pm


t_desco said:

“The U.N. probe into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has gathered information on suspects and witnesses that investigators and Lebanon’s prosecutor general agree should not be disclosed to avoid prejudicing a trial, the probe’s chief investigator said Tuesday.

Brammertz said the commission is also focusing on the motives for killing Hariri, links between Hariri’s assassination and 14 other murders and attempted murders in Lebanon, and an investigation of Ahmed Abu Adass, who appeared on a video tape claiming responsibility.

As for the Hariri killing itself, he said, investigators are working on numerous motives including that Hariri was assassinated by an extremist group ” because of his links to other states in the region and in the West,” because of his success in May 2005 elections, because of his likely expose of a bank fraud, and as “a convenient cover” to propel others into the front line of accusations.

“The commission has also received other information concerning geographic origin (of the alleged bomber; t_d) which it is unable to disclose at this time,” the report said.

During the next three months, a wider analysis of hair, geochemical and other samples from relevant countries and other areas will be undertaken that may point toward the geographic origin of the man likely to have detonated the device, the report said.

At the same time, forensic analysis of the 33 human parts believed to be the remains of the bomber will continue to determine his ethnicity, Brammertz said.

Brammertz said Damascus’ cooperation with his investigators “remains timely and efficient” though he criticized 10 other countries – which he did not name – for failing to respond to the commission’s requests.

The commission is also investigating the purchase of a Mitsubishi van and its preparation with explosives, now determined to include TNT, RDX, PETN, DNT and an indication of TNP or picric acid, he said.

“The commission has received new information specifying details of the preparation of the van and establishment of the route of the van as it was brought to the St. Georges hotel area prior to the attack,” the report added.

In the last three months, Brammertz said, the commission conducted seven interviews in connection with the alleged bombing team and their use of six telephones to communicate on Feb. 14, 2005 – the day of the assassination – which provided new leads that are being pursued

“The location of the telephones when used, and the purposes for which some of the linking numbers were used have revealed the high degree of security-aware behavior exhibited by individuals under investigation,” Brammertz said.

“Some persons used multiple mobile cellular telephones during a short period of time or registered telephones using aliases,” he said. “While such compartmentalization of telephone usage makes analysis more complex, it helps to provide an understanding of the modus operandi of the perpetrators.” ”

December 12th, 2006, 8:35 pm


t_desco said:

“Ahmed Abu Adas was identified as a potential suicide bomber in the attack, despite the fact that “the results of the expert report in this first phase of analysis show that the individual did not spend his youth in Lebanon, but was situated there in the last two to three months before his death.” ”
The Daily Star

This is strange. Perhaps a misunderstanding? I thought that DNA analysis had already shown that the alleged suicide bomber wasn’t Ahmed Abu Adas.

There was a similar passage in the third Brammertz report:

“46. The Commission continues its examination in detail of every aspect of Ahmed Abu Adass’s involvement in the crime, including the validity of the claim of responsibility he delivered in the videotaped message.”

The letter accompanying the videotape stated that the “suicide operation” was “executed by the Mujahid Ahmad Abu Adass” (Mehlis I, §.79).

Perhaps this is just a technicality, like the investigation of the rather bizarre hypothesis that the attack on Hariri was “delivered via aerial means”.

December 12th, 2006, 10:04 pm


t_desco said:

“The charge consisted either of a mix of RDX and TNT, with a detonating cord of PETN, or of TNT and Semtex (a mixture of PETN and RDX; t_d), chief investigator Serge Brammertz said in a report to the U.N. Security Council.

Investigators said they believed the truck bomb was set off at the site rather than from a remote location partly due to the presence on a few bits of the bomber’s body of a plastic material that “possibly comes from electric wires” that would be associated with a triggering device.

The crown of an upper right central incisor tooth thought to have been in the bomber’s mouth showed “a distinguishing mark … rarely seen among people from Lebanon,” the report said, leading investigators to include he was born elsewhere.

Furthermore, an analysis of “the ratio between isotopes in elements found in different parts of the person’s body” showed that the man spent neither his youth nor the last 10 years or so of his life in Lebanon, the investigators said.

But he was in Lebanon “in the last two to three months before his death,” they said.

The report said the ratio between isotopes found in different parts of the body vary depending, among other things, on where an individual was living when a particular body part was formed.
For example, dense bones and tooth enamel are formed in childhood, while the portion of a hair closest to the skin is formed as recently as two weeks before a person’s death.”

December 12th, 2006, 11:00 pm


ivanka said:

Tarki is said to have resigned becuase the King(read Sultan and Bandar since the king is too old to do anything) is jumping over him and sending special envoys to talke to the Americans.

T-Desco, as usual great job covering the investigation which seems to be leading somewhere this time.

December 13th, 2006, 12:39 am


Gibran said:

The count down for the end of the axis of evil has just begun.

December 13th, 2006, 3:35 am


Dubai Jazz said:

Axis of Evil !? Man! no body uses such terms nowdays.

December 13th, 2006, 5:44 am


majedkhaldoun said:

I read what was written about the report, which mentioned incentives to murder R Hariri,anyone who reads those incentives,will not find it hard to guess who did it,even that the names were not mentioned.
what is new,is the video from vonecia hotel, they said that a minuet before the explosion someone arrived at the hotel by transport vehicle,this is very important,they may have identified the vehicle,and probably identified that person,there is a reason why they suspect him,this person was not arrested,otherwise that will make news, that means he is not in lebanon, if during the deposition he denied being there,that could be used against him.
the report mentioned someone used different mobile phones,that tells me that they have recordings of the voices,they analized them and found that they belong to the same person.
you can not have a court without someone accused, and will be tried, just like you do not have surgical operation without a patient on the surgical table,so another report from Brammertz may come sooner than june,naming someone, since the court may be approved.
I am worried that this person may commit suicide soon.

December 13th, 2006, 5:49 am


ivanka said:

No Dubai Jazz, the axis of evil, the US and Israel. We all use this word.

December 13th, 2006, 10:13 am


t_desco said:

The fourth Brammertz report.

Majedkhaldoun, I think you are reading too much into this paragraph:

“38. The Commission has resolved certain aspects of its crime scene investigations to its satisfaction at present. These include the issue of the alleged missing CCTV footage from the Phoenicia hotel, which has been identified and is being analysed; establishing the reason for the last minute arrival of a person in a rented van close to the scene of the crime some seconds before the explosion; … .”

It doesn’t say that the person who arrived in the rented van is a suspect.

December 13th, 2006, 12:15 pm


ausamaa said:

This is nice for a change:

“Brammertz said Damascus’ cooperation with his investigators “remains timely and efficient” though he criticized 10 other countries – which he did not name – for failing to respond to the commission’s requests”.

Which countries and Why…? Maybe it is only things related to the Van import details only but it could be about other more important things also. Depends which part of the water glass you are looking at, but still, “they failed to respond”.

Now we are talking!!!!

Is he going to give up soon too, Brammertz, I mean?

And the 14 Feb gang are still waiting for The Truth, or so they say!!!!!!

December 13th, 2006, 1:04 pm


t_desco said:

Ausamaa, it could be related to the van import, but it may also have something to do with “communications analysis”.

For example, see this paragraph of the previous report:

“42. The international dimension of the communications analysis continues to provide investigative leads, as the Commission develops its knowledge of the complexities of international call routing and receives responses to its requests from States where telephone call traffic has been traced. To date the Commission has engaged 17 States in this aspect of its work, and has received considerable assistance and responses from a number of them.”

Specialists in comparative dentistry please step forward:

“34. The upper right central incisor found at the crime scene in February 2005 and belonging to the unidentified male shows a distinguishing mark related to the lingual surface shape of the crown, which has the form of a spade. This feature is rarely seen among people from Lebanon.”

And this is the typlical style of dentists in which country/region? Any idea?

December 13th, 2006, 2:05 pm


ausamaa said:


Beleive me, all this is too technical for me. Actually its a time waste.

To be honest with you, since the first report back in 2005 with Fitzgerald stating something like “the political climate -due to Syrian presence he ment- has played a crucial role in the murder”, I knew that this will be a wild goose chase with the intent of not finding the truth, but for fingering Syria.

Otherwise, what did he mean with “the political climate” has made the murder possible or easier??? Do intelligence services conduct their operations in such a manner? Or was an over excited youth gang or an organized linch mob suspects of murdering Harriri? He had no evidence against Syria, but he did not feel “shy” of inserting such a statement in his report to serve as stepping stone for the following commissions to get busy directing the accusations at Syria alone.

I stopped really bothering with the deatails. If Fitzgerald, Mehlis, and now Brammertz -assisted by the CIA, MI6, the Surete, and God knows who else- did thier best for a year and a half and did not manage to “come up” with, or “discover”, concrete evidence against Syria despite the tools at their desposal. Then it is a bust. Let them look somewhere else.

If they really intend -or have ever intended- to know who did what….

December 13th, 2006, 2:28 pm


t_desco said:

Des Français entraînés par al-Qaida au Liban

Après l’Égypte, l’Irak ou la Syrie, une enquête judiciaire confirme que des islamistes français ont séjourné et se sont entraînés au nord du Liban.

ARABIE saoudite, Égypte, Syrie, Yémen : depuis le début de la guerre en Irak, les services antiterroristes français ont suivi le parcours d’islamistes ayant gagné ces pays depuis l’Hexagone pour participer au djihad irakien. Le Liban s’ajoute aujourd’hui à la liste. Depuis quelques semaines, les policiers enquêtant depuis plus d’un an sur le groupe islamiste de l’Algérien Safé Bourada, démantelé par la DST en septembre 2005, ont la confirmation que des extrémistes se sont rendus l’an dernier au Liban pour s’y entraîner, sous la houlette d’islamistes locaux et de membres d’al-Qaida, au maniement des armes et à la confection d’explosifs. Selon l’accusation, cette cellule radicale était en lien avec le Groupe salafiste pour la prédication et le combat (GSPC) algérien et avec la filiale irakienne d’al-Qaida.

La DST savait déjà qu’un des membres du groupe Bourada, désigné sous le terme d’Ansar el-Fath (« Partisans de la victoire »), s’était bien rendu au Liban. Un voyage motivé, selon l’intéressé, par des raisons d’ordre familial et touristique. De source proche de l’enquête, au moins deux autres membres du groupe devaient également aller au Liban et l’ensemble des islamistes étaient « programmés à court terme » pour le pays du Cèdre.

Pendant des mois, Paris a tenté d’en savoir plus sur cette expédition libanaise. Mais la situation tendue au Liban et en Syrie rendait la chose plutôt difficile. De nouveaux témoignages, recueillis notamment auprès d’Algériens membres du groupe Bourada, permettent d’y voir plus clair. Début 2005, un islamiste quitte son logement de Trappes (Yvelines) à destination de la région de Tripoli, au nord du Liban. La destination n’est guère étonnante : Tripoli et ses environs sont connus pour abriter des groupes islamistes radicaux palestiniens et libanais. En 2000, à Sir ed-Danniyé, une localité située à l’est de Tripoli, un groupe d’extrémistes locaux s’en étaient même pris à l’armée libanaise avec des morts et des prisonniers à la clé. La guerre en Irak, le chaos qui s’en est suivi et la proximité de la Syrie ont encore compliqué les choses.

Confection d’explosifs

Arrivé à Tripoli, le djihadiste français a été pris en charge par une cellule dirigée par un Libanais, mais animée par des instructeurs saoudiens et égyptiens liés à al-Qaida. En guise de camp d’entraînement, les cours ont été donnés dans quelques maisons discrètes des alentours. En quelques mois, l’habitant de Trappes a été initié au maniement des armes mais surtout à la confection d’explosifs et à la fabrication de systèmes de mise à feu à l’aide de téléphones portables. Les terroristes se préparaient visiblement à l’utilisation d’engins explosifs classiques et non chimiques comme l’avaient craint les enquêteurs français dans un premier temps.

Plutôt que participer au djihad irakien, la mission des djihadistes formés à Tripoli était en effet de revenir en Europe pour y perpétrer des attentats. Courant 2005, une réunion au sommet aurait rassemblé des représentants venus d’Irak, du Liban et d’Europe pour se répartir les rôles. Au centre de ce projet : la France et un autre pays européen.
Le Figaro, L’Orient-Le Jour

December 13th, 2006, 4:14 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

t_desco thank you
I still believe that this video is very important,the word alleged missing raises many questions,it was taken just before the explosion in that area,that is why it is important,how did it get missed?, who alleged?why it was discovered a year later,was this video kept secret by the investigating group?was it intended to embarrass someone?how did they find it? how did they find out that the van was rented?why did Brammertz reveal,even mentioned, these informations in the report?is it not because it was alleged missing?I think they have primary suspect now.

December 13th, 2006, 5:56 pm


Helena Cobban said:

Josh, when you describe Hakim as “perhaps the single most powerful Shiite political leader in Iraq” make that a very huge “perhaps”– or better still, more accurately describe AAH as “the person the Bush administration spinmeisters have been trying for a year to describe as the single most powerful Shiite political leader in Iraq.”

Check Reidar Visser’s and my attempts to set the record straight on this issue throughout the whole of 2006, and especially back in Jan-April.

Why do you want to perpetuate this myth?

December 14th, 2006, 5:13 pm


Joshua said:

Dear Helena, Thanks for the cold water on the Bush spinmeisters. Sadr does seem to be the power with a larger militia and more people power than Hakim. The US is trying to cut him down to the advange of Hakim, but these two men are clearly the one’s to watch. Thanks for your good work and bringing my attention to you Jan-April coverage.

December 14th, 2006, 6:01 pm


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