Taken from Monday's L'Orient-Le Jour
, the "blotter" of events below reveal tension and subterfuge as well as genunine efforts by some to avoid conflict. In reading it, I was not particularly heartened about the immediate future. A cast of characters from the '80s--the Jumblatts, the Gemayels and the Aouns, the Karamis--looms large over the Lebanese scene. Clans and oligarchs. Meanwhile, Mr. Jumblatt, the point man for the opposition, angles for the post of future Prime Minister.
- On Saturday, the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, asked that Prime Minister-designate Omar Karami be decisive in supporting the upcoming legislative elections and in ensuring that they are held. Jumblatt added that following the elections, which we [the opposition] are going to win, we shall have a new mandate, a new President, and a new government all of which will work to strengthen the country and to form an objective alliance with Syria, in dignity and without blind conformity. Jumblatt did not neglect to bash Syria and the criminal security apparatus which is trying to sow terror, spread rumors, and increase car bombings to sabotage national unity. Dozens of citizens' delegations called on Mr. Jumblatt at his Moukhtara residence to demonstrate their support for the Independence Intifada, an to recall the assassinations of Kamal Jumblatt and Rafic Hariri. Jumblatt told his visitors that although the Syrians have left, there remains what he termed, "partisan residue" engaged in sowing discord. Jumblatt was quoted as saying, The world is changing. Freedom will spread throughout the Arab world, including Palestine.
- Walid Jumblatt also addressed a crowd of veterans of Israeli prisons and their families during the day, saying that "rancor and hatred" have blinded, destroyed and falsified history and that ...our Arab dimension, the sacrifice of Syrian troops and the matter of Palestine will not be forgotten.
- The US Ambassador to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman, returned to Beirut unexpectedly yesterday. He first went Moukhtara--where he met with Walid Joumblatt for one hour--then to pay his respects at the tomb of Rafik Hariri. Jeffrey Feltman then left for a 3-week personal leave and will be replaced in the interim by David Satterfield, Deputy Secretary of State for the Middle East.
- Egyptian President Hosni Moubarak invited Walid Jumblatt to Cairo on Sunday for talks in advance of the Arab Summit. Following the summit, Mubarek will travel to Paris for talks on Lebanon with Jacques Chirac.
- Irish Deputy Police Commissioner Peter Fitzgerald is to submit a report to Kofi Annan this week on the Hariri assassination. Fitzgerald also met for an hour with Jeffrey Feltman over the weekend. (Washington and Paris have finally understood the delicate mix of freedom-democracy-sovereignty and Arabness).
- The Christian Maronite Patriarch Sfeir does not want to see Emile Lahoud leave office until after the elections. Sfeir is about to return from the United States, where he met with President Bush and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Fordham University. Sfeir celebrated Palm Sunday mass in Brooklyn.
- Damascus hopes that the Arab Summit will throw some backing their way and to the current Lebanese government. Damascus will advance claims that popular unrest in Lebanon is the result of US pressures. Secretary General Amir Mussa has offered his services in arranging talks between Beirut and Damascus. Meanwhile, the Summit itself must struggle with internal financial and structural problems.
- Rafik Hariri's sister, MP Bahia Hariri (representing Sidon), was recently in Moscow, where she thanked President Putin for joining Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schröder and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero for their recent declaration concerning Lebanon.
- A US Congressional delegation headed by Darrel Issa arrived Sunday in Lebanon and travelled to Koraytem to present their condolences to widow of Rafik Hariri, Nazek. Bahige Tabbarah, Fouad Siniora and US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman were also present. The delegation and Mr. Feltman then went to the residence of Marwan Hamadi.
- Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah has made two gestures toward Lebanon's Sunni community in a move to avoid sectarian strife. On Saturday he made a surprise visit to Dar el-Fatwa, where he met with Mufti Mohammed Rashid Kabbani. On Sunday he dispatched the families of Hezbollah Martyrs and the al-Mehdi Islamic Boy Scouts to pray at the tomb of Rafik Hariri.
- Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk el-Shareh announced that Syria would do everything possible to withdraw its army from Lebanon.
- The Free Patriotic Movement, a Aounist group, held a conference in Zahlé which General Michel Aoun addressed by telephone. Saturday the FPM commemorated teh 40th birthday of Joseph Aoun, one of the victims of the Hariri carbombing. Also present was former Prime Minister Amin Gemayel, Nadim Bashir Gemayel and a delegation of Lebanese Army officers. [Tick, tick...time bomb there I'm afraid--Nur].
- On Sunday, there was a torchlight procession to pray for the rapid recovery of MP Bassel Fleyhane, who was seriously burned in the Hariri carbombing. Shadowed by a large police contingent, the marchers sang the Lebanese national anthem as they advanced to the site of the car bombing, which has been sealed off from the public.
Several opposition political figures--Nassib Lahoud, Michel Pharaon, Bahige Tabbarah, Akram Chehayeb, Fouad el-Saad, Bassem es-Sabeh and Fouad Siniora joined the procession and left candles and portraits of Hariri on the ground and along the sidewalks. After prayers, the crowd chanted political slogans demanding the withdrawal of Syrian troops, freedom, sovereignty, independence and national unity as they headed for Martyrs Square.
- Giant portraits of Emile Lahoud and Bashir al-Assad were marred with black ink on the coastal highway near Akkar.
- Saturday's blast in New Jdeidé was caused by 55 lbs of TNT. 70 year-old Hagop Jangolian, a resident of the Horizon apartment building in New Jdeidé, parked his Datsun at around 19h30 on Friday. At 12:30 am, a blast blew his car 60 feet away from the building as the blast shattered shopwindows and dwellings. The bomb was wired to a timing device and exploded around midnight after having been placed under Jangolian's car. The explosion wounded 11 persons who were taken to hospital: Carine, Samira, Marlène and Sabrine Sleimane, Nour Médaouar, Nohad Nehmé, Élie Hassoun, Georgette Bitar, Zaher Roustom, Sarkis Ohanessian, and Élie Nehmé. Red Cross workers treated another 34 for minor injuries at the scene.
- Suspect packages and bomb scares plagued Beirut over the weekend. Meanwhile in Haret al-Naamé, nine Muslim tombs were desecrated and some monuments were broken or covered in red paint.