Saturday, 12 July 2008

The cabinet

Lebanon's Daily Star has the new cabinet line-up:

The opposition took the coveted posts of foreign minister, telecommunications minister and deputy premier, while the ruling bloc kept the Finance Ministry.

The president made three appointments, including Elias Murr, who kept the defense portfolio despite opposition reservations.

He appointed lawyer and electoral law expert Ziyad Baroud to head the Interior Ministry, which will be responsible for organizing legislative elections next year.

Finance Minister Mohammad Shatah, who was appointed by the ruling bloc, served as Siniora's senior adviser in the previous cabinet.

Free Patriotic Movement, whose party had not been represented in the previous government, took four posts including the deputy premiership.

Hizbullah was allocated three seats, but one ministry - Labour.

The two other seats were given to the movement's allies.

Berri also managed to keep two of his ministers in their posts (Health Minister Mohammad Jawad Khalifeh and Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh), while obtaining the Industry Minister for MP Ghazi Zeaiter.

The list in full:

Prime minister: Fouad Siniora

Deputy prime minister: Issam Abu Jamra

Defense minister: Elias Murr

Foreign minister: Fawzi Saloukh

Interior minister: Ziyad Baroud

Finance minister: Mohammad Shatah

Minister of state for administrative development: Ibrahim Shamseddine

Telecommunications minister: Gibran Bassil

Information minister: Tareq Mitri

Justice minister: Ibrahim Najjar

Public Works and Transport minister: Ghazi Aridi

Sports and youth minister: Talal Arslan

Education minister: Bahia Hariri

Minister of the displaced: Raymond Audi

Energy and water minister: Alain Tabourian

Labor minister: Mohammad Fneish

Agriculture minister: Elie Skaff

Health minister: Mohammad Khalifeh

Social affairs: Mario Aoun

Industry minister: Ghazi Zeaiter

Tourism minister: Elie Marouni

Culture minister: Tammam Salam

Environment minister: Antoine Karam

Economy and Trade minister: Mohammad Safadi

Minister of state: Youssef Taqla

Minister of state: Wael Bou Faour

Minister of state: Ali Qanso

Minister of state: Nassib Lahoud

Minister of state: Jean Hogassapian

Minister of state: Khaled Qabbani

Friday, 11 July 2008

National unity

Al-Jazeera reports:

Lebanon has announced a new 30-member national unity government, seven weeks after an agreement brokered by Qatar brought the country back from the brink of civil war.

Fouad Siniora, reinstated as Lebanon's prime minister, announced the new cabinet following a meeting with Michel Sleiman, the president, in Beirut on Friday.

Mohammad Chatah, a close adivser to Siniora, was named as finance minister while Mohammad Fneish, a Hezbollah official, was named labour minister.

Fawzi Salloukh, a lawyer and diplomat, was given the post of foreign minister.

The opposition was granted 11 of the cabinet's 30 seats.

Ballance of fear

Amos Harel of Haaretz on the ballance of fear between Israel and Hizbollah:

Two years on, the balance of the Second Lebanon War remains negative for Israel, yet with time it seems to become even more complicated.

Deterrence is a key question because it will determine to a large degree if, and when, the next war will break out. Immediately after the war, there were speculations that exposing the weakness of the [army], government and even Israeli society would necessarily lead to another attack on Israel.

This has not happened so far, although Israel provided Syria at least with a perfect excuse to do so, by bombing the Syrian nuclear facility last September.

Hezbollah has also refrained for the past two years from any provocation along the northern border. The quiet there was disrupted on two occasions by isolated Katyusha fire, in both cases by a radical Sunni faction.

It appears that Israel did not pay enough attention to the impact of the huge damage it caused Lebanon's Shi'ite population - from the Dahia in Beirut to south Lebanon.

The Israeli message that another round would lead to worse destruction is understood better in Beirut than in Jerusalem. Fear is one of the things restraining Hezbollah today.

The worst result [for Israel] was the near total ending of the arrangements stipulated in Resolution 1701 (that ended the war).

Arms smuggling across the Syrian border has become a flood. Although the organization's presence along the border with Israel has disappeared, Hezbollah has rehabilitated its military infrastructure in south Lebanon and is now concentrating it in the Shi'ite villages.


The China news agency reports on the latest secatarain confrontations:

The death toll in fierce clashes between government supporters and opponents in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Wednesday rose to five, with 64 others injured.

The Lebanese army is carrying a redeployment plan in the north early Thursday to separate Alawite fighters in Baal Mohsen from Sunni fighters in Bab Tabbaneh.

Sources in Tripoli said the army maintained its deployment in Bab Tabbaneh, and some of its troops have been hit by sniper fire form Baal Mohsen.

The fighting erupted on Wednesday after four grenades were fired at a street separating the districts.

Explosions and machine-gun fire raged Tripoli as Sunni supporters of the government and Alawite gunmen close to the Shiite militant group Hezbollah-led opposition battled on the outskirts of the second largest port city of Lebanon.

Meanwhile, tension is mounting overnight in the west Beirut districts of Qasqas and Tariq Jedideh, where residents set fire to tires and blocked traffic to protest against the assualt on two government partisans by opposiotn Amal supporters.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Cash cow

Israelis are intending to sue banks who they say helped fund Hezbollah by letting two of its alleged front organizations perform money transfers prior to and during Lebanon's 33-day war with Israel in 2006, reports

The front groups in question are the Yousser Company for Finance and Investment and the Martyrs Foundation, both of which have been identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as terrorist financiers.

"The bank knew these organizations were both organs of the Hezbollah… and yet continued to let them transfer millions of dollars," said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, a lawyer with Darshan-Leitner & Associates, an Israeli-based firm working for the plaintiffs.

"We deny the allegations," said Tina Al-Hattouni, LCB's main representative in Montreal. She said she wouldn't comment further because bank officials in Lebanon have not yet received notice that a class action suit has been filed. LCB has a Montreal office, but no Canadian branches or accounts.

The four plaintiffs are claiming more than $6 million collectively in damages.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Prisoner deal*2

The AFP news agency reports on the latest moves in Hizbollah-Israel prisoner deal:

Israel received a report from the Lebanese Hezbollah militia that an Israeli airman reported missing in Lebanon since 1986 has been dead for more than 10 years, the Haaretz daily reported on Friday.

Israel had demanded that the militia provide a report on the fate of navigator Ron Arad as a precondition for a prisoner swap expected to take place in about 10 days.

In the report Hezbollah describes its efforts to locate Arad, says it failed to find him but concludes he has been dead for more than a decade, the daily said.

As part of the deal Israel delivered a report on the fate of four Iranian diplomats who disappered in 1982 during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, saying that the men were dead.

It said they were killed by a Christian militia in Lebanon after being stopped at a roadblock, and that it was unclear where their remains are.

Iran's embassy in Lebanon insisted on Thursday that the four are still alive and being held in Israel.

Hezbollah is to release the remains of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev whom the Israeli authorities say died after they were captured by Hezbollah in a July 2006 cross-border raid that sparked a 34-day war in Lebanon.

In exchange Israel will free five jailed Lebanese prisoners, among them Samir Kantar, a Palestine Liberation Front militant serving a 542-year sentence for the brutal killing of two men and a four-year-old girl in a 1979 raid on northern Israel.


The agency notes that: The Israeli army was on Sunday set to exhume bodies of Hezbollah fighters ahead of a prisoner swap with the Shiite Lebanese movement in exchange for two captured Israeli soldiers, officials said.

The army declared a cemetery for enemy combatants near Amiad in northern Israel a closed military zone as representatives of the military rabbinate began preparing to exhume the remains of the Hezbollah men.