Wednesday, December 12, 2007

UN Security Council voices concern at repeated delays to Lebanese presidential poll

Security Council voices concern at repeated delays to Lebanese presidential poll

11 December 2007 – The Security Council today expressed its "deep concern" at the repeated postponement of the Lebanese presidential election, warning that the delays do not serve the interests of the people of the Middle Eastern country and could lead to a further deterioration of an already tense situation.

Speaking on behalf of the Council, Ambassador Marcello Spatafora of Italy read out a presidential statement in which the 15-member body reiterated its previous calls for free and fair polls to be held without delay or foreign interference and inline with Lebanese constitutional procedures.

The statement stressed that all sides to the current stand-off must exercise restraint and pursue dialogue to prevent a worsening of the political climate.

Mr. Spatafora also commended the Government and the national armed forces for agreeing to carry out their work in line with their constitutional responsibilities until elections can be held.

Last week Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also voiced concern at the repeated delays at electing a president to succeed Emile Lahoud and urged Lebanon's political leaders to fulfil their responsibility to find a solution.

Secretary-General, Security Council outraged by another Lebanese terrorist attack

Secretary-General, Security Council outraged by another Lebanese terrorist attack

12 December 2007 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Security Council members today voiced outrage at yet another terrorist attack in Lebanon – this time a car bombing in Beirut that killed a senior member of the country's armed forces and at least one of his bodyguards.

Media reports say General Francois el-Hajj and his bodyguard died after the car in which they were travelling was destroyed when a bomb detonated in the eastern suburbs of Beirut this morning.

"The Secretary-General strongly condemns this act of violence and terror on the Lebanese Armed Forces, a symbol of Lebanon's sovereignty," his spokesperson said in a statement, noting that Mr. Ban also extended his condolences to the families of those killed, the armed forces and the Government.

"He reiterates his position that this and previous attacks aimed at undermining Lebanon's sovereignty are unacceptable. It is imperative that the perpetrators of this heinous crime are brought to justice."

The bombing has taken place at a time of deep political tensions in Lebanon, where planned presidential elections have had to be postponed many times in recent months.

Today's statement from Mr. Ban's spokesperson called on the Lebanese to show "calm and restraint at this critical juncture in their history. Their political leaders must exert every possible effort to resolve differences and arrive at a solution for an immediate presidential election, without conditionality, in accordance with constitutional rules."

In its own presidential statement, read out by Ambassador Marcello Spatafora of Italy, the Security Council echoed Mr. Ban's remarks and also called for the presidential poll to be held without delay, within constitutional procedures, and free of foreign interference.

Council members condemned the bombing and what they described as "all targeted assassinations" in Lebanon, where there has been a series of deadly bombings against politicians and other prominent figures in recent years.

The presidential statement demanded "an immediate end to the use of intimidation and violence against the representatives of the Lebanese people and institutions."

It also reiterated its support for the establishment of the Special Tribunal, which is being set up to try the alleged perpetrators of the February 2005 assassination – in another massive car bombing – of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri. Another 22 people were killed in that attack.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Taymour Joumblatt criticizes his father and defends Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Aoun

I am attaching the arabic version of the interview

Selon l'Iran, Taymour Joumblatt critique violemment son père

lundi 3 décembre 2007 - 17h41, par Chawki Freïha

Logo MédiArabe.Info

Le site « » a publié, ce lundi, une dépêche diffusée par l'agence de presse iranienne « Farse » selon laquelle Taymour Joumblatt aurait violemment critiqué la politique de son père Walid Joumblatt, « devenu une marionnette aux mains des Américains ».

Selon l'agence iranienne, Taymour Joumblatt, qui vit à Paris, aurait accordé une interview à la journaliste française Germaine Graton, correspondante à Paris de l'Agence de presse de Montréal [NDLR : une interview trouvée nulle part], dans laquelle le futur héritier politique de Walid Joumblatt aurait estimé que son père « a commis des erreurs d'appréciation. Il est devenu une marionnette aux mains des Américains en vue de casser la Résistance (Hezbollah) ». « Mon père s'est trompé et doit s'excuser avant qu'il ne soit trop tard », aurait-il dit.

Selon Taymour, « l'Arabie saoudite et d'autres pays arabes ont informé Joumblatt père que le président américain George Bush était décidé à renverser le régime syrien avant début 2006. Il s'est alors lancé dans une aventure mal calculée pour protéger son pouvoir et la communauté druze, en prenant ses distances par rapport à la Syrie. Mais les Américains n'ont pas renversé le régime Assad et mon père doit s'excuser avant qu'il ne fasse les frais de sa politique hasardeuse… »

Alors qu'aucune trace de cette interview n'est encore disponible, et tant que l'authenticité de ces propos n'est pas confirmée, il est légitime de s'interroger sur les réels objectifs iraniens à travers cette manœuvre. Certains craignent en effet qu'il ne s'agisse purement et simplement d'un avertissement adressé à Walid Joumblatt. Car, en l'accusant de vouloir écraser la Résistance, l'Iran pourrait chercher à l'incriminer et à le désigner ainsi comme une « cible légitime du Hezbollah » qu'il conviendrait d'éliminer par une action préventive.

En attendant la confirmation ou le démenti des propos de Taymour, par l'intéressé, par l'agence canadienne ou par sa correspondante à Paris, Walid Joumblatt doit prendre ces informations très au sérieux pour ne pas être une nouvelle victime d'un assassinat politique. Mais dans ce cas, le signataire de l'attentat se sera dévoilé avant de passer à l'acte.

Chawki Freïha

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

United Nations Secretary General concerned about continuing delay in lebanese presidential elections

New York, 5 December 2007 - Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Lebanon

The Secretary-General is extremely concerned about the continuing delay in the election of a new president in Lebanon, which has extended well past the constitutional timeframe. Over the past few days he has spoken to key political leaders in the country to urge a solution, including Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, Speaker Nabih Berri and Majority Leader Saad Hariri. He believes it is now time for this matter to be resolved without further delay.

The Secretary-General will remain in close touch with Lebanese political leaders who bear, both to the people of Lebanon and to the future of the country, the responsibility to find a solution.

Brammertz confident of success

Head of UN probe into Hariri assassination 'more confident than ever' of success

5 December 2007 – The head of the United Nations probe into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri is "more confident and optimistic than ever that the investigation can be concluded successfully," he told the Security Council today, explaining that his team has been able to answer many key questions regarding the February 2005 attack.

Serge Brammertz – who will step down later this month as head of the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) – said he could not yet predict when the inquiry into the massive car bombing in downtown Beirut, which killed Mr. Hariri and 22 others, would be wrapped up.

"Conducting an investigation is never an exact science," he said in a briefing on the latest report of the IIIC. "The completion of the investigation will depend on the final results of several ongoing projects and on the cooperation of all States," adding that it also relied on the willingness of additional witnesses to come forward.

Mr. Brammertz, who is being succeeded as investigation chief by Daniel Bellemare of Canada, stressed that it was paramount that the IIIC continues to receive the administrative and resource support it needs to carry out its work in the months ahead.

"When I am asked whether I am satisfied with the progress made so far, my answer is absolutely yes. Important results have been achieved in many areas of the investigation despite the numerous challenges the Commission has faced. Based on the progress made in recent months, I am more confident and optimistic than ever that the investigation can be concluded successfully."

Mr. Brammertz did not reveal many details about the IIIC's findings so far, saying his Office was increasingly cautious about the release of information given that it does not want to compromise any future legal process at the planned Special Tribunal for Lebanon, being set up to deal with the Hariri killing and up to 18 other politically-related murders in the country in recent years.

But he noted that, based on hundreds of interviews and examinations, investigators have been able to answer or substantially narrow the focus on many of the key questions surrounding the bombing, including the possible motive, the identity of the suicide bomber and details about the persons who conducted active surveillance on Mr. Hariri ahead of the attack.

Ahmed Abu Addas, who appeared in a video claiming responsibility for the assassination, was not the suicide bomber, Mr. Brammertz said, but may still be connected to the attack.

He added that investigators have gathered large amounts of evidence about the video, the Mitsubishi van in which the bomb exploded, the crime scene and many other forensic issues.

Drawing on tests of DNA and teeth and other information, the IIIC "has developed one principal hypothesis" about the identity of the suicide bomber, especially the specific area of the Middle East from which the young male is thought to have originated. But more tests need to be conducted to confirm the hypothesis.

Expert findings indicate the bomber was exposed "to significant quantities of a specific type of lead, possibly through proximity to military ammunition, between the ages of 16 and 20," which could show the man was living near an area of conflict or one where weapons were regularly used, such as a military training camp.

"New expert findings have provided additional information on the possible place of birth of the unidentified male, as well as further details on the location where he may have spent his childhood."

Turning to another political assassination in Lebanon, the death of the parliamentarian Antoine Ghanem in September this year following a car bombing in eastern Beirut, Mr. Brammertz said the initial findings indicated that the perpetrators were able to conduct surveillance and mobilize a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (IED) "within a very short window of time.

"This and other preliminary results in other cases suggest that the perpetrators had – and most likely still have – operational capabilities available in Beirut."

Mr. Brammertz also said that investigations so far suggest that "some operational links exist" between the various attacks being probed by the Commission.