An Event and a Regional Trend

A few days after concluding Annapolis conference, the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed his practical vision of the understanding through expanding settlement blocs in the 1967 occupied Palestinian lands and continuing the operations of mass killing and arrests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian president’s cry for help was answered by the US president George Bush’s determination to visit the Middle East at the beginning of next year to open a public relations festival on the Palestinian track which will not be better than Annapolis and the reality imposed by the Israelis under the US cover while the Palestinians pay the price.
Palestinian informed political sources stressed yesterday that serious steps were achieved on the road of resuming dialogue among the various Palestinian factions and many forces and sides which supported Abbas after Gaza events are convinced now that preserving the minimum of Palestinian rights require restoring the national unity and imposing an equation that puts an end to the US-supported Israeli plan. The sources anticipated that the coming days will witness communications and initiatives among the Palestinian sides which will be encouraged by some regional and Arab states which are concerned about strengthening the Palestinian stand against the Israeli aggressive policy.

An Event and a Lebanese Trend

The communications on the presidential merit faced the obstacle of the loyalists’ rejection to discuss issues related to national understanding that precede modifying the condition and electing general Suleiman as an approved president for the republic. The attempts of the French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner faced this complex yesterday when Saad Hariri insisted on rejecting the discussion of the items of general Oun’s initiative and clung to his ambition to assume the position of the prime minister. Head of the national liberal trend launched an initiative to achieve an understanding on the president through his declaration that he is ready to withdraw his nomination if the loyalists and the opposition agree on the government, its head and structure, the prime minister and the ministerial statement in order to avoid the crisis in the new term.
Loyal sources stressed rejection of any commitments and limited the discussion to the presidential election and considered that the acceptance of the loyalists is in itself a concession although the Italian foreign minister Massimo D’Alema revealed yesterday that choosing Michel Suleiman was a European decision made by the troika which visited Lebanon and informed March 14 forces about this and the forces announced this in Beirut contrary to what was suggested by some speakers in the name of the loyalists who said the decision is Lebanese and resulted from a meeting among Fouad Siniora, Walid Jumblatt and Saad Hariri.
The opposition sources said that there is no fear from instability after the consensus on the approved president and negotiations in a quiet climate to reach an understanding is better than accepting the election of the president and pushing him at the beginning of his term to the labyrinth of a crisis which will start with the formation of the government. This means that the president will receive his authorities but he will not be able to use them through the cabinet, while Al-Siniora government will keep its hand on power. The opposition rejects this because it wants the elections to announce a new stage in the life of the country not to prolong the current crisis.

Arab and International Press

Etan Happer said in an article published in the Israeli papers that the most important thing for Israel is concentrating on the Iranian nuclear project adding that the Iranian bomb should be a priority for Israel not the Palestinian state or any thing else.
Izz Addin Al-Darwish said in an article published in the Syrian daily Tichrin that Bush is coming to the area to activate peace as he said but he will not achieve any result if he is still thinking that Olmert’s government wants peace.
The Emirate paper Al-Khaleej said in its editorial that the Israeli prime minister considers normalization an Arab need wondering if there is any Arab side that can retaliate against him.
The Saudi paper Al-Watan said that Israel worked to use Annapolis conference to serve its interests.
The Israeli paper Yidiot Aharonot said the credibility of the national intelligence agency in the US submits again to test. This applies also on Bush’s administration and its use or misuse of the intelligence information.
The Israeli paper Yidiot Aharonot said the US intelligence report has some good news which says that Iran stopped its nuclear military project due to international sanctions.

Satellite Stations Interviews

Program : The Day’s Harvest
Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadinejad said that the US intelligence report which said that Iran stopped its nuclear military project is a victory for the Iranian people.

Lebanese Press

As-Safir said the crisis is still inside the closed ring but the coming hours will identify the final destination of the presidential merit.
An-Nahar said the new silent mission of the French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner and the session for electing the president move between cautious optimism and permanent pessimism but the coming hours will show the results.

Television Stations’ News in Lebanon

Al-Manar wondered if Kouchner’s new visit to Lebanon will face the same destiny like the previous ones.
The NTV said it was anticipated that Ain Attineh will result in an understanding on the merits of the post-elections stage but Kouchner left the meeting with an empty basket.
The NBN quoted the representative Hasan Khalil as saying that the electoral session may take place after tomorrow or next Sunday.
The OTV said that in the 12th day of the vacuum war the war of rumors erupted: the rumors said that the understanding between Qreitem and Damascus became enough to divide the opposition and achieve the constitutional modification without Michel Aoun.
The LBC said that the majority believes that the opposition is a front for a foreign Syrian-Iranian decision to prolong the vacuum and not open the road to elections until after receiving the political price from Washington.
The Future said March 14 forces refuse the conditions of March 8 forces which aim at reshaping power through violating the constitution.

Television Station’s Interviews

Program: Useful Summary
Former minister Albert Mansour said the problem does not lie in Michel Suleiman or nominating him but in participation, pointing out that the opposition does not want the majority to treat Michel Suleiman as they treated Emile Lahoud.
Mansour added that Syria and America have agreed on nominating Suleiman.

Tendencies is a daily political watch newsletter about the Near East, issued by New Orient News agency in Beirut, Lebanon. It is available on in Arabic, English and French languages. Also worth a read is Indicators, the daily Near East economic watch newsletter, available in Arabic and English.