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Month: September 2005

Lebanon asked 11 states, U.N. for security help – PM

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon has asked 11 countries and the United Nations to help train its security forces after a string of bombings and assassinations that have fuelled fears of a slide into chaos, the prime minister said on Thursday. "We have knocked on the doors of all the countries that could help us," Fouad Siniora told a news conference after the cabinet’s weekly meeting. "We are not facing an ordinary criminal…But we will gather all the tools, training and expertise we can obtain to live up to the challenge," he said. The countries which have responded positively to Lebanon’s plea were the United States, France, Russia, Egypt and Qatar, Siniora said. The government has also asked for help from six other states including Britain, Canada and China. Twelve explosions have rocked Lebanon since the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, which plunged the country into its worst political and security crisis since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.

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BEIRUT – Defence Minister Elias Murr said insecurity in Lebanon was so rife that he has had to take refuge abroad, as Beirut prepares to seek US and French aid in bringing a halt to a series of bomb attacks. "I’m fed up after what happened to May Chidiac. We are all in the same boat," Murr said late Monday in a LBC television interview from Zurich. Chidiac, a leading Christian news presenter and political talk show host on LBC, was maimed when a bomb planted in her car blew up on the northern outskirts of Beirut on Sunday. Murr said he had been based in Zurich ever since a failed attempt on his life on July 12. And he has not resided full-time in Lebanon since January due to security fears, the minister revealed. He said he had had a fierce row with Syria’s military intelligence chief in Lebanon, Rustom Ghazaleh, before Syrian troops withdrew in April after a 29-year presence amid outrage over former premier Rafiq Hariri’s assassination.Ghazaleh figures among the Syrian officials on a witness list of a UN commission of inquiry into Hariri’s killing in a huge bomb blast. "I got information on threats against me personally," Murr told LBC.

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Lebanon to seek international help on security

 BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon will ask the United States and France to help train its security forces following a string of bombings and assassinations that have fueled fears the country is sliding back into chaos.  Prominent anti-Syrian news anchor May Chidiac was seriously wounded when her car exploded north of Beirut on Sunday, raising fears of more violence as Lebanon awaits the findings of a U.N. probe into the killing of a former prime minister.A close aide to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told Reuters the government would ask the Americans and French to help instruct its security services and provide logistical support."The issue has been on the government’s agenda and a list of needs has been made, but it is more urgent now after Sunday’s attack," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Siniora said on Sunday he had asked the U.S. embassy for assistance in Chidiac’s case. An embassy spokesperson said the United States would respond positively to the government’s requests for help but declined to elaborate.Twelve explosions have rocked Lebanon since a truck bomb killed former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and 20 others on February 14. Many Lebanese blame Hariri’s killing and the ensuing blasts on Syria which has repeatedly denied any involvement. The killing of Hariri plunged Lebanon into its worst crisis since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.

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Lebanese journalist seriously wounded in bomb blast

BEIRUT (AFP) – A prominent Lebanese Christian journalist May Chidiac with the television station LBC has been seriously wounded as a bomb ripped apart her car north of Beirut, the private station said.  May Chidiac, a presenter of news and a political programme for the station, was "wounded in the feet by the explosion of a bomb placed in her car" in Jounieh, it said Sunday."May’s condition is serious. She has had a hand and her left leg amputated," it said.The station said the bomb was placed under her car seat and the explosion occurred as Chidiac was driving out of a parking lot. "The car was ripped apart by the blast which was followed by a fire," it said.The explosion follows a string of bombings in the Lebanese capital in the wake of the February murder of billionaire ex-premier Rafiq Hariri and 20 other people in a huge blast.On September 17, one person was killed and 28 wounded in a bombing in a Christian section of Beirut. The blast struck just before midnight in a small side street in the Jeitawi quarter of east Beirut.It was the 12th bomb attack in Lebanon since the Hariri assassination. 

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Up to 10 Ukraine peacekeepers involved in fraud in Lebanon

 KIEV-ASTANA, September 24. KAZINFORM. – Up to 10 Ukrainian peacekeepers were involved in the fuel and money fraud in Lebanon, Acting Defence Minister Anatoly Gritsenko told journalists on Friday. According to him, the guilty will be sacked and some will stand trial. "There are grounds to believe that somebody will end up in jail," the Ukrainian acting defence minister said, Kazinform quotes Itar-Tass.
The official did not specify which violations he had in mind. Experts believe the Ukrainian military were selling the fuel they received. They pointed out the Ukrainians have the smallest salaries among foreign contingents deployed in Lebanon.
In the view of Gritsenko, the incident in Lebanon shows "how several people can tarnish very serious, responsible and risky work of hundreds of people." He said the Ukrainian contingent demined during the years of stay six million square metres of the Lebanese territory. The cost of mine clearance at one square kilometre of land is estimated at 300-900 US dollars.

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Brands Hatch: A1 Team Lebanon Practice

 A1 Team Lebanon, the first ever national racing team to represent the country in international motor racing, took to the race track at Brands Hatch today for the first day of the inaugural A1 Grand Prix race weekend. Completing two practice sessions, the team’s two drivers, Basil Shaaban and Khalil Beschir, each took a turn behind the wheel for A1 Team Lebanon. Shaaban drove the A1 race car in the first session, with dry weather providing the young Lebanese with a good opportunity to gain more experience with the car and familiarize himself with the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit. For the second session the weather changed drastically, with heavy rain at the start. Beschir took over driving duties, but the rain, and a number of red flags due to track incidents, forced him to a limited number of laps.

Shaaban started the session well, posting lap times just outside of the top ten. As the session progressed, he dropped back, with the more experienced drivers starting to show their form, finishing 18th fastest as the session concluded. He reflected on his day, saying, "It’s been a special day for me. Leaving the pitlane with the Cedar tree behind me was quite an emotional moment, although as soon as I was out on track, I was focused on gaining more experience of the car and learning the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit. The team has certainly improved the car since our last test at Paul Ricard and I feel more comfortable with the car each time I am behind the wheel. "

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Cell-phone sellers arrested in Lebanon

 ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER, BEIRUT, Lebanon — Police have arrested four men who allegedly sold cell phone chips to members of the plot to assassinate former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, court officials said Thursday.Investigating magistrate Elias Eid has accused the four traders of forgery and withholding information that could have helped the investigation into Hariri’s death, a court official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the inquiry.

A second court official said the four were accused of providing cell phone lines to those who planned and carried out Hariri’s assassination. The official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity for similar reasons, said the chips for the cell phones were later destroyed in a bid to eliminate evidence. The arrests had been requested by the chief U.N. investigator into the Hariri killing, Detlev Mehlis. French and German experts assisting the U.N. investigation have studied thousands of calls made before and after the assassination.The phone dealers – Majed al-Akhras, Mustafa Misto, Ayman Tarabay and Raed Fakhereddine – were among 10 detained for questioning this week, the officials said. The four were formally arrested Wednesday and the others were released on bond.

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Gov’t urged to combat trafficking in human beings

 BEIRUT, 22 September (IRIN) – Lebanon needs to review its domestic laws and policies to conform to international norms in order to combat widespread trafficking in human beings, especially women and children, a United Nations expert said."Lebanon’s victims of trafficking are often invisible because they suffer in places that remain hidden to the public eye such as private homes or hotel rooms," Sigmu Huda, the UN Special Rapporteur on human trafficking told reporters following a fact-finding mission that lasted from 8-15 September.

"Much remains to be done for the government to implement Lebanon’s international obligations related to human trafficking. A number of domestic laws procedures and policies have to be brought in conformity with international norms and standards," Huda, who is a human rights activist and lawyer from Bangladesh, said on Friday.She noted, however, that the Ministry of Labour had indicated they intended to present legislation on domestic migrant workers one month from September.  "One survey brought to my attention found that at least one out of every three Lebanese employers beats his or her domestic worker," Huda told reporters in the capital, Beirut, on Friday. "Some victims personally related incidents of traumatic sexual abuse to me."

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Lebanese ICT companies brace for a larger share of regional market

The Lebanese ICT industry, which records sustainable growth year after year, is positioning itself as a force to reckon with at Gitex Dubai 2005, with a group of leading Lebanese companies showcasing their products and solutions under the umbrella of the Professional Computer Association (PCA) Lebanon.

Driven by wider territorial expansion for the export of software services, the Lebanese ICT industry will use its participation in Gitex to consolidate its presence in the Gulf and the Middle East, its biggest and most important markets. The Lebanese pavilion at Gitex will be located in Sheikh Rashid Hall, E9, at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre, spread over an area of 156 square metres.
‘Information Technology continues to get top priority in the markets of the Middle East in general and the Gulf in particular, driven by governments that believe in investing in IT and a corporate sector that uses technology for higher productivity,’ Michel Nseir, Head of Lebanese Pavilion at GITEX Dubai 2005. ‘The Lebanese ICT industry is keen to reach out to the high-potential markets of the region by participating in different trade exhibitions, especially Gitex Dubai, which is undoubtedly the most powerful and dynamic platform for achieving this goal.

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New Lebanese Govt. Seeks Internationl Help

 By ANNE GEARAN, AP,  NEW YORK — Saddled with debt and seeking economic ties beyond its former patron and overlord Syria, the newly elected government of Lebanon is looking for international help while the United States keeps up diplomatic pressure on Damascus to stay out of the way. Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora set a meeting Monday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and representatives of European and Muslim nations as he charts a delicate course of political independence after 29 years effectively occupied by neighboring Syria.

After decades of civil war and political turmoil, Lebanon has one of the highest national debts in the world _ measured as 165 percent of its gross national product or about $36 billion. Saniora hopes to win international debt relief, although most of the debt is held by Lebanese creditors, and pledges to stimulate the country’s sluggish economy. The conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly comes as a U.N. investigation into a political assassination in Lebanon draws closer to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s inner circle.  Assad skipped the annual gathering of nations in New York, and Syria was the only nation among 190 attending not to address the delegates.


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Lebanese Group demand release of 1,500 nationals in Syrian prisons

  The United Nations’ probe of the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in Beirut has emboldened Lebanon’s activists to demand the release of at least 1,500 Lebanese nationals allegedly imprisoned in Syria. "This is a blatant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559," said Claude Hajjar, Beirut representative of the Guardians of the Cedars, the Lebanese political party that campaigned vigorously against the 30-year-long Syrian military presence in her native land. She came to Cyrpus  from Beirut to confer with her party’s leader, Etienne Sakr, popularly known as Abu Arz, who has been living there in exile.

Resolution 1559 also is the basis upon which a 60-member investigatory team led by Germany’s Detlev Mehlis has been trying to find out who was responsible for the 2,000-pound bomb that killed Hariri on February 14. It was detonated as he drove in a motorcade past the Lebanese capital’s posh St. George Hotel. The commission spent last Monday in Damascus and was expected to return for a longer stay early next week. Encouraged by the Mehlis commission’s probe, the Lebanese authorities have arrested four generals on suspicion of complicity in the plot to kill Hariri. They also detained Nasser Kandil, a former member of Parliament. He was released three weeks ago, but his passport was taken from him and he was ordered not to leave Lebanon.

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