Saturday 23 February 2008

Towards war

"Are we heading towards civil war? In some ways, we've already reached that point," said a businessman who belonged to one of the Christian militias during the war and asked not to be named. "It remains to be seen what form it takes."

The film footage shows the form it will take.

Friday 22 February 2008

Kuwaitis close shop

According to the AFP: The Kuwaiti embassy in Beirut was evacuated on Thursday after an anonymous threat of a rocket attack, the latest scare in Lebanon as foreign governments act on security amid mounting political and sectarian tensions.

"An unknown man called me and said 'I'm going to fire two rockets at the embassy and destroy it over your heads', then he hung up," embassy charge d'affaires Tareq al-Hamad told AFP. "He didn't give the motive for his threats."

Could it be the country's:
support for the US in its invasion of Iraq;
role in the murder of Hizbollah military leader;
backing for the M14 cabal that rule Lebanon;
or, all of the above?

The picture is of the Lebanese army rushing to defend the embassy in south Beirut

Gaza border still open

An Israeli website reports:

Egypt will not allow the Gaza Strip to remain sealed, Egypt's ambassador to the United States said.

"You cannot punish the people of Gaza if you happen to differ with those who control Gaza," Nabil Fahmy said Feb. 15, addressing the Palestine Center, a Washington think tank. "We in Egypt will not support the starvation of the Palestinian people."

Fahmy suggested that Egypt will continue to allow supplies to reach Gaza through the border it shares at Rafah. However, Egypt is working with Israel, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank, the European Union and the United States in efforts to fully open the Rafah border and, if possible, the crossings Gaza shares with Israel. He said Egypt favors allowing P.A. personnel to man the borders.

Thursday 21 February 2008

Iraqi Refugees

It might seem churlish not to give credit to the government's decision to ease the plight of Iraqi refugees in Lebanon—although it doesn't go far enough. According to the Financial Times:

The authorities will soon release hundreds of Iraqis who had been detained because they are in the country illegally, said the regional director of UNHCR, Stephane Jaquemet. The UNHCR and Caritas, the Catholic aid organisation, will help them, as well as tens of thousands of other illegal Iraqi refugees, to regularise their status during a three-month grace period.

But the measures stop short of giving Iraqis special residence permits. Najla Chahda, director of Caritas’ Migrant Centre in Beirut, said that the release and the grace period offered Iraqi refugees, “a chance to feel a bit more comfortable”. She said it was the best they could hope for as long as Lebanon wasn’t prepared to offer special status for refugees.

The UNHCR will give financial assistance and try to help the refugees find employers to sponsor their presence in the country. “My main concern is that many employers will not want to get involved in this,” said Mr Jaquemet. The estimated 400 detainees that are to be released will be given priority.

Lebanon hosts an estimated 50,000 Iraqi refugees, some 80 per cent of whom are thought to be in the country illegally. The number pales in comparison to neighbouring Syria, where estimates go as high as 1.5 million refugees. Most of the Iraqis in Lebanon have illegally crossed the porous border from Syria.

Wednesday 20 February 2008

Saudis in a panic

APs Hussein Dakroub writes an interesting piece, Saudi Warnings Mark Lebanon Jitters. The clue is in the last para:

Saudi Arabia is warning its citizens against traveling to Lebanon, the U.S. Embassy is urging Americans to be vigilant and French cultural centers in two major Lebanese cities have temporarily closed.

Lebanon's intractable political crisis is no longer business as usual — not after the slaying last week of a top fugitive Hezbollah commander, Imad Mughniyeh

The Saudi advisory, issued Monday, was clearly prompted by Mughniyeh's Feb. 12 killing in a car bombing in Syria and Hezbollah's subsequent retaliation threat.

"There is a real Saudi fear ... that the entire region might slide into chaos if Nasrallah carried out his threat to retaliate," said Edmond Saab, executive editor of Lebanon's leading newspaper, An-Nahar.

Although the move can be seen as "a precautionary measure to protect Saudi citizens, it is a signal that the region faces threat of chaos starting from Lebanon," Saab told The Associated Press.

The Saudi warning — which was open-ended — is especially significant because the oil-rich kingdom is a major financial supporter of Lebanon, and Saudis make up a large segment of the 1 million tourists who visit annually.

In the cities of Sidon in the south and Tripoli in the north, two French cultural centers have been closed until the end of the month. The U.S. Embassy restricted its personnel around the Feb. 14 anniversary and has been telling Americans here in recent advisories to exercise caution because of security conditions.

Saudi Arabia, the United States and France have been major backers of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora in Lebanon's 15-month crisis, which has been compounded by the failure of rival parliament factions to elect a president since November, when President Emile Lahoud's term expired.