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Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah's defiant speech has torpedoed the French initiative aimed at bringing Lebanon's feuding leaders to agree on the election of a new president and avoid a power vacuum that could plunge the country into further chaos. The daily An Nahar, which labeled Nasrallah's speech "stormy," said Monday that his remarks not only surprised the ruling March 14 team, but also many leaders within the opposition itself, on top of them Speaker Nabih Berri. ... Lebanon's ruling March 14 coalition took aim at Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Monday, condemning the Hizbullah leader's speech a day earlier as a blow to ongoing attempts to resolve the impasse over the selection of a new president. Speaking on behalf of the Cabinet, Information Minister Ghazi Aridi called Nasrallah's speech "harsh and bitter." +++++ Canada's Daniel Bellemare is expected to be appointed as successor to Serge Brammertz to head the international commission of inquiry into the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri and others, according to a report published in London-based Al-Hayat newspaper Monday. "Bellemare, an international expert in criminal cases, will also be appointed as the prosecutor before the international tribunal which will prosecute those involved in the Lebanon assassinations," the daily said. +++++ Bei einem Unfall stirbt ein französischer UN-Soldat. +++++ Kommentar zur aktuellen Lage von C. Sydow. +++++ Abdallah Iskandar, "The one that is agreed upon ... and Nasrallah's complex": The cold gusts of air and the hot gusts of air follow one after the other in Lebanon almost daily. The needle of the compass of pessimism and optimism is almost exploding from the rise and fall. The accursed time does not stop. It is growing less and less as the minutes pass, reaching the decisive deadline. It appears that whenever we approach the appointed time for the end of the presidential term of office, the pace of change increases in a manner that almost afflicts everybody with schizophrenia. +++++ Mostafa Zein, "President of all Lebanon, Friend/Enemy of everybody": The Lebanese were waiting for the results of the American-French summit. They had pinned many hopes on an agreement between President George Bush and Nicolas Sarkozy, especially since the French president had sent Claude Ghianne, the most prominent of his assistants and an expert on Syria, to Damascus. With him was the former French ambassador to the United Sates, Jean-David Lafitte. The two men left their meeting with al-Asad spreading an atmosphere of optimism. They quickly moved to Beirut to begin the discussions about the names of candidates for president and who was the most likely to win.
Überraschun! Olmert begibt sich auf den Pfad der Tugend und hat doch eine junge, attraktive Leserin meines Blogs im Stab sitzen: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday downplayed recent speculation from Israeli security officials that Iran could have a nuclear capability by the end of 2009. Briefing the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Olmert responded to recent statements to that effect made to the committee by the head of military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin and the head of the IDF's Military Intelligence's research bureau, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz. "There are disagreements on the date Iran that Iran will become nuclear," Olmert told the MKs. "Iran could become nuclear by 2009 only if nothing gets in their way and under the optimal conditions from Iran's standpoint. My opinion is that such conditions will not arise and that the real timetable will be different. However, we still have to act as if they are on the way to [nuclear capabilities] by 2009."
Seven Palestinians were killed when Hamas-allied police opened fire on a massive Fatah-organized rally in Gaza City marking the third anniversary of the death of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on Monday, according to Palestine TV. Hundreds of thousands had attended the event, the largest Fatah rally since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in June. The number of injured is estimated to be at least 55. ++++ A forty-one-year-old Palestinian doctor named Wahid Salih died on Monday of wounds sustained two days ago in an Israeli airstrike. Bei dem Luftangriff wurde auch ein zweiter Zivilist getötet.
Rami Almeghari, "Gaza's hard place between Israeli and Palestinian violence": Since the Hamas-led government seized control of the Gaza Strip in mid-June, severe Israeli pressure has been imposed on the coastal region's 1.4-million-strong population. This pressure has been enforced through strict border closures, continuous attacks and invasions and most recently a series of Israeli punitive after the Jewish state declared the region a "hostile entity" and began to cut off crucial power and fuel supplies.
Ramsey Ben-Achour, "West-Bankers get some medical cair": After packing the ambulance with medical equipment and bags full of medicine, Dr. Jameel Mashny, Dr. Rami Habash and their nurse, Maysa Youseff, all from the Palestine Medical Relief Society (PMRS), prepare themselves for the long day ahead. If it is business as usual, it will be a day of organized chaos. Screaming children will hide behind their mothers, elderly men will complain that they do not like the taste of their medicine -- and a poor village will get desperately needed medical relief.
Amy Teibel, "Israeli settlements burdon peace push": The pounding chatter of jackhammers echoes over a wind-swept West Bank hilltop as workers lay bricks at a new apartment building rising in this sprawling Jewish settlement. The Israeli government says it's ready to make a deal that would give Palestinians their own state. But realities on the ground — outlined in a report Wednesday showing vigorous Israeli construction in the West Bank — hold important implications for the latest U.S. peace push.
Deborah Charles, "MidEast Religious Leaders say they are vital to peace": In an unusual joint appearance, senior Israeli and Palestinian religious leaders said on Wednesday they were not a roadblock to peace in the Middle East but a vital part of the process. Dressed in traditional religious garb, the chief rabbis of Israel sat alongside Muslim leaders and Christian patriarchs and said they had agreed on steps to help resolve the conflict.
Claude Salhani, "Rice's shuttle diplomacy": U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has borrowed a chapter or two from Henry Kissinger's book of applied negotiations as she headed back out to the Middle East for her eighth visit to the region in the last six months. Kissinger, of course, was secretary of state under Richard Nixon and was the one who invented the concept of shuttle diplomacy. Fully determined not to walk away without an agreement, Kissinger conducted non-stop diplomacy, flying continuously back and forth, carrying messages, proposals and counterproposals between Damascus and Jerusalem. In a single month he made more than four times the number of trips Rice has undertaken since taking over as America's top diplomat. And when he wasn't flying to Damascus and Jerusalem, Kissinger was flying to Cairo and Jerusalem.
Immanuel Wallerstein, "Last call for a two-state-solution": The prevailing worldwide view of how to resolve politically the conflict of two nationalisms in Israel/Palestine is the so-called two-state solution - the creation of two states, Israel and Palestine, within the boundaries of the onetime British Mandate of Palestine. Actually, this position is not at all new. One might argue that it was the prevailing worldwide position throughout the 20th century.
Rami Khoury, "Good news and bad news from Abizaid": I had the pleasure a few days ago of spending a morning and lunch with John P. Abizaid, when he visited Northeastern University in Boston. Now retired, General Abizaid served his country for 34 years in a long and distinguished career, culminating in his responsibility for US Central Command, when he led American forces in the Middle East and Asia during the Iraq war's early years. Just as he did when he briefed the US Congress and the American people on the progress of the war he led in Iraq, I also have good news and bad news to report on my encounter with him.
Jordan Times, "No understanding for the region": Tuesday, BBC radio ran a fascinating interview with former US undersecretary for public diplomacy Karen Hughes. Among her briefs, Hughes was in charge of “promoting American values and confronting ideological support for terrorism.” She was the first person to hold such a position.
Wfr Amr, "Israelis and Palestinians turn to US as talks hit snag": Palestinian and Israeli negotiators are turning to U.S. mediators to bridge serious gaps in drafting a common approach to peace negotiations, officials on both sides said on Thursday. A senior Palestinian negotiator told Reuters the two sides sought U.S. intervention on Tuesday after negotiators failed to resolve differences over a document they hope to present at a conference in the coming weeks in Annapolis, Maryland, that aims to set terms for relaunching peace talks.
Ein kleinerer Bericht der AP über die FES-Veranstaltung in Tel Aviv. [Auch nix rechts]
Richard Bourdreaux, "Israel flouts pledge to curb settlements": Israel is enlarging 88 of its 122 West Bank settlements despite an agreement to halt the spread of Jewish communities in Palestinian territory, the watchdog group Peace Now said Wednesday. A report by the group, which documented the construction of new homes with aerial photography and on-site visits, heated up the debate here over a key issue for the U.S.-sponsored peace summit planned by year's end. Israel wants to keep large blocks of settlements in a final peace accord, but the Palestinians demand the entire West Bank for a future state. Under a 2003 U.S.-backed plan known as the "road map," Israel agreed to stop the expansion of settlements as a first step toward negotiations on final borders.
Ali Gharib, "High stakes for Annapolis peace meet": Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas joined U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Ramallah Monday to express optimism that progress towards a Palestinian state could be made in the upcoming talks sponsored by the George W. Bush administration between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Annapolis, Maryland.