Friday 6 June 2008


The Cairo Conference announced that Mahalla textile workers Kamal el-Fayoumi, Tarek Amin and Kareem el-Beheiri were released from detention at the weekend.

They have also been reinstated to their jobs in the Misr Spinning factory.

Thursday 5 June 2008

Half clusters cleared

The AFP news agency reports:

Almost half of the areas in southern Lebanon contaminated with cluster bombs dropped by Israel in 2006 have been cleared, a UN official said on Wednesday.

"Forty three percent of the areas affected by the cluster bombs dropped during the July 2006 war have been cleared", UN Mine Action Coordination Centre for South Lebanon spokeswoman Dalya Farran said.

She said 970 contaminated sites had been found in an area spanning 39 million square meters (420 million square feet).
Since the war's end in August 2006, cluster bombs have caused "256 civilian casualties between deaths and injuries," according to Farran.

The United Nations has repeatedly asked Israel to provide a map of the locations of cluster bombs and mines in southern Lebanon in order to facilitate clearing efforts.

The United Nations says Israel dropped about one million bombs on Lebanon between July 12 and August 14, 2006, and that 40 percent of them did not explode when they hit the ground. Most of them are located in towns and fields in southern Lebanon.

Image is of cluster bombs found in an olive grove in Southern Lebanon. Picture: Simon Conway/Landmine Action

Two states

Reuters reports that:

"Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said his country will consider opening an embassy in Lebanon for the first time once its smaller neighbour forms a government able to foster good ties with Damascus."

This move seems to finally seal the division of Lebanon from greater Syria (known as bilad al-Sham) as set out by France in the 1920s. At present their are no "official diplomatic" ties between the two countries, but Lebanese and Syrians can cross the border using ID cards.

Salafi sectarians

Pakistan's Daily Times reports on a new round of sectarian name calling by Saudi Arabia's Salafi clerics:

Sunni clerics in Saudi Arabia accused the Shia community on Sunday of destabilising Muslim countries and humiliating Sunnis, just days before a Muslim interfaith conference called by Saudi Arabia’s king.

In a statement that appeared on several websites, clerics accused Shias of abusing Sunnis under their control. “If they (Shias) have a country, they humiliate and exert control in their rule over Sunnis, such as the case in Iran and Iraq,” said the clerics. “They sow strife, corruption and destruction among Muslims and destabilise security in Muslim countries,” it said.

In the strongly worded statement, the 22 clerics criticised the Iranian-backed Shia Hezbollah in Lebanon, saying, “Many Muslim intellectuals as well as the masses have been deceived by (Shia) claims ... of enmity toward Jews and Americans, which is what happened with the claims of the so-called Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Wednesday 4 June 2008

Cabinet—who wants what

Lebanon's Daily Star has the heads-up on the negociations over the new cabinet.

Here's an edited (and revised) version of their report:

Fuad Siniora is attmepting to find a compromise over the distributing the different portfolios in the next cabinet.

Apparently Michel Aoun has presented a "huge basket of demands". The head of the Free Patriotic Movement wants the minstries of finance, health, public works, social affairs, and either industry or agriculture.

Four of these are in the are in the highly coveted service sector.

Apparently who gets what is dividing friend and foe alike.

According to the Al-Safir daily, Qatari officials stepped in to help overcome the hurdles, and will follow up with a visit if the talks stall.

Meanwhile president Michel Sleiman denied earlier reports that some "foreign parties" were pressuring him to nominate "certain people" for cabinet jobs.

Sleiman told a delegation of Arab ambassadors that, "There is no party that can pressure [the Presidential Palace in] Baabda ... We are only ready to move under the pressure of national and Arab interests."

Salafi offensive

The long feared offensive by the Salafis — a varient of Sunni Islam that considers the Shia to be appostates — has arrived.

The BBC has the story:

"A statement saying the Fatah al-Islam militant group was behind a bombing at an army post in Lebanon which killed a soldier has been sent to news agencies.

"The authenticity of the statement cannot be verified.

"It said Saturday's attack was in revenge for last year's offensive against the group by the Lebanese army. The army post struck by the blast is at Abdeh, in northern Lebanon, near the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp where the offensive was launched."

I have posted a short history of the origins of the creed on the Shemali blog, and assess their impact on the struggle in Iraq in an article for the International Socialist journal.

Raytheon 9—not guilty

Mabrouk and congratualtions to the anti-war activists, known as the Raytheon 9, for their stunning court victory in Northern Ireland.

I met some of the nine in Beirut during a tour to collect evidence for their defence, and a fine bunch they are.

According to Socialist Worker:
The defendants from Derry Anti War Coalition walked free after the judge dismissed the case for lack of evidence from the prosecution.

The nine anti-war protesters, including campaigning journalist Eamonn McCann, occupied and shut down the Derry offices of Raytheon, the fifth biggest arms manufacturer in the world, on Wednesday 9 August 2006.

The action was part of a wider protest at Raytheon’s complicity in the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Throughout the trial the Nine maintained that their actions were legitimate as an attempt to prevent war crimes.

The judge was forced to concede this when he stated that the defendants had acted to prevent destruction in Lebanon.

This is a major victory and vindication of the action of the Derry Anti War Coalition and the Raytheon Nine.

For more news and background.

McCann's speech at the Time to Go Demo 23 September 2006.

For background, this is footage of the Irish uprising against British rule in the late 1960s early 70s. McCann explains why the youth of town of Derry are throwing stones at police and soldiers.

And some context to the "troubles" in Northern Ireland.

Upbeat on debt

Reuters reports that Jihad Azou, the caretaker finance minister, is confident that the country can manange, in the short term at least, the massive $43 billion debt repayments:

"Interest rates can be progressively adjusted downwards in order to reflect an improvement in the risk profile. I see the whole yield curve being adjusted.

"It will improve the public finance situation by reducing the debt service. This is the biggest strain on the spending of the treasury. Any reduction in interest rate will immediately translate into a reduction in budget deficit."

Sunday 1 June 2008

Legal looting

According to the Pakistan's Daily Times the families of US soldiers killed in the 1983 barracks bombing are attempting to loot ancient Persian artefacts as part of their revenge against Iran.

At the time the US soldiers were part of a force attempting to occupy Lebanon following the 1982 Israeli invasion. The troops fled shortly after a militant drove a truck bomb into their barracks in south Beirut.

We could be forgiven of thinking this is part of a sick joke, but it isn't. Americans roam around the world killing, occupying and stealing (and destroying ancient Iraqi heritage sites)… why should we be surprised that their camp followers shouldn't be up for a bit of loot?

For the record there is no question of any compensations for the 30,000 Lebanese and Palestinians who were killed in the invasion.

Pictured is the prize they are after:

"Thousands of the tablets and fragments have been on loan from Iran to the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute since they were excavated nearly 80 years ago by university archaeologists. Each tablet could be worth thousands of dollars. Several hundred of the thick, candy bar-sized tablets have previously been returned to Iran."

For the full story go to the persepolis tablets blog.

Nassim Nissir freed

Al-Jazeera reports on Israel's release of Nassim Nissir, a Lebanese man jailed for spying on behalf of Hizbollah:

Nissir crossed into Lebanon after serving a six-year term. He has an Israeli Jewish mother and a Lebanese Muslim father and held Israeli citizenship at the time of his arrest.

He first joined his mother's family in Israel in 1982, during an Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Nissir's brother Mohammed said Nassim told him in a phone call a month ago that "his jailers had placed him in solitary confinement in a bid to persuade him to abandon his plans to return to Lebanon with his two daughters, who are Israeli citizens".