Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Northern deal

Agence France-Presse reports that:

Sunni and Shia rivals in northern Lebanon are heading towards reconciliation, in a move to curb sectarian fighting, sources close to both sides said on Monday.

High-ranking leaders of both factions who met on Sunday are scheduled to sign later on Monday a memorandum titled "The Tripoli Document", which offers, in addition to safeguarding civil peace, to hand over the city's security to the Lebanese army.

The document also calls for removing all armed presence in north Lebanon, allowing displaced people to return to their homes according to a set timetable and paying compensation for residents whose houses have been damaged during the fighting.

Tripoli has been the scene of a series of deadly clashes since May between Sunnis and rivals from the Alawite community who support Lebanon's Shia movement Hezbollah, in which 23 people were killed.

The initiative, launched by Sunni ruling-majority leader Saad Hariri, also the head of the Future Current movement, could pave the way for further reconciliations in light of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's announcement that he was open for dialogue with Hariri.

"We are open to dialogue with the Future Current movement and all Sunnis, and if a meeting with MP Saad Hariri is not possible for security reasons, nothing prevents us holding meetings between the parties' officials," Nasrallah said during a Ramadan dinner on Sunday.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Pay up

A United Nations report reiterated a call for Israel to compensate Lebanon for damage from the 2006 war.

A report published last week by the office of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, called "Oil Slick on Lebanese Shores," commended Lebanon for its cleanup efforts along the Mediterranean coastline and urged Israel to help pay for them.

"The secretary-general wishes to urge the government of Israel to take the necessary actions towards assuming responsibility for prompt and adequate compensation to the government of Lebanon,” the report says, according to U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq.

The report cites World Bank data that estimated the environmental toll from the 2006 war at a minimum of $526.9 million and a maximum of $931.1 million.

This is not the first time the secretariat has called on Israel to help pay for the war’s environmental costs.

The latest report will be made available to the UN General Assembly when it convenes in New York later this month.

Picture by Guy Smallman is of oil polution at Ramlat al-Bayda, Beirut.

Public meeting