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Sid El Bauchrieh 26 March 2005  

Lebanon explosion fails to incite sectarian conflict    by: Daily Star.

U.S. SLAMS BEIRUT BLAST AND CALLS FOR IMPROVED SECURITY
BEIRUT: Washington condemned Saturday’s massive bomb blast east of Beirut and called on Lebanon’s government to provide security for its people.
A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said: “We call on the Lebanese authorities to exercise their responsibility to the Lebanese people to provide for their security and to identify and bring to justice those responsible for these acts.”
The latest blast, the third to target the Christian eastern suburbs of Beirut in a week, rocked the Sad al-Boushrieh industrial zone and was heard throughout Beirut.
The bomb,which left a 2-meter wide and 1-meter deep crater, wounded five people, set six buildings ablaze and destroyed a number of shops in the area.

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Security sources said the blast was caused by 25-30 kilograms of TNT planted between a Buick car and a car repair shop. But despite the recurring blasts,which many claim are an attempt to delay Lebanon’s parliamentary elections and keep the current pro-Syrian regime in power, the U.S. insisted that Lebanon push ahead with elections due in May. The State Department spokesperson said: “The Lebanese have the right to determine their own political future in a climate free of fear and intimidation in an election planned for May.”
He added: “This cannot happen while Syrian military and intelligence forces remain in Lebanon, where they are a source of instability. Syria must withdraw completely and immediately from Lebanon, in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559.”
Leading Christian opposition member Metn MP Nassib Lahoud said polls would take place on time, but insisted that no foreign forces be involved.
Speaking Sunday from the scene of the blast, Lahoud said: “I am here to stand by these devastated people after this murderous and ugly act of terror, and to say once again these acts will not stop the Lebanese from their march toward freedom and independence.”
He added: “No foreign forces are needed in Lebanon to maintain security. The Lebanese Army and police force are fully capable of protecting the Lebanese and maintaining security in all of Lebanon. We don’t need outside help.”
He continued: “Once again, these acts and the people behind them are putting the Lebanese before a choice: security or freedom. But we tell them, we will have both because security comes as a result of freedom.”
He said: “Let us together head toward free and fair elections that will produce a government able to take responsibility and protect the Lebanese.”
Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, a long-time critic of Syria’s grip on Lebanon, also told worshippers at Easter Mass that the Lebanese must now choose between freedom and violence.
“The holiday this year does not give the faithful worldly cheer,” he said.“The incidents put people at a crossroads: either independence, sovereignty and freedom, what most Lebanese want, or turmoil and difficulties.”
The government’s envoy in the Military Court, Judge Jean Fahd, and Primary Military Investigator Judge Rashid Mezher both visited the bomb site Sunday.
They said the blast in Sad al- Boushrieh was very similar to the first two bombs used in New Jdeideh and Kaslik earlier this week.
Mezher said: “There are many similarities in all the bombs used and hopefully we can reach some kind of conclusion if we study them all together.”
Fahd added: “The area is a light industrial area, surrounded by printing houses and refineries filled with paint and thinner, which caused the flames.”
He said: “It seems that the modus operandi is the same in all three bombs, including the areas being picked. There are mostly material damages, which I believe is the aim.”
Locals blame Syria for the blast, saying it wanted to show Lebanon was slipping into chaos as they pull their troops out.
JUMBLATT REJECTS FOREIGN PROBE INVOLVING TROOPS
BEIRUT: Lebanese opposition leader Walid Jumblatt insisted any UN-led international probe into the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri should not involve the deployment of foreign troops in Lebanon.
Speaking after an unexpected late-night meeting with Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Jumblatt also insisted any international probe would be restricted to Hariri’s death and would not involve the issue of the resistance group’s arms.
He said: “We will not accept that any international investigation will be allowed to expand outside the framework of Hariri’s assassination.”
The surprise meeting took place in the Hizbullah stronghold of southern Beirut. Jumblatt said: “Nasrallah has offered to visit me in my house in Clemenceau in Beirut, but I refused. At this time of security chaos, the safety of the Sayyed is the safety of the nation.We don’t want to suffer a second loss after Hariri’s death.”

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Jumblatt also reiterated that he would not call for the resistance group to be disarmed.
He said: “The arms issue is not proposed. It is not open to discussion at this stage,” adding: “When our ambitions are met, in agreement with the resistance, over Shebaa Farms, then we will talk about arms.”
The meeting with Hizbullah, the latest in a series of talks between the two sides, underlines the shift in the resistance group’s stance toward a closer relationship with those opposed to Lebanon’s pro-Syrian government.
The Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms is a disputed strip of land on the border between Lebanon, Israel and Syria’s Israelioccupied Golan Heights.
UN Resolution 1559, which calls for a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon and is widely backed by Lebanon’s political opposition, also calls for the disarming of Hizbullah.
Jumblatt’s comments follow those of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, who insisted he would welcome an international probe into Hariri’s assassination.
In a statement from the Presidential Palace in Baabda, Lahoud stressed his commitment “to do whatever it takes to reveal the circumstances surrounding Hariri’s murder, in cooperation with the United Nations by whatever method it adopts.”
Lebanon’s government has until now been firmly opposed to any outside probe into Hariri’s murder, insisting any moves to establish an international probe amounted to a “breach of Lebanon’s sovereignty.”
Lahoud’s comments on Easter Sunday echoed an earlier statement from the outgoing Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud, who said he supported an international probe if the Security Council wanted to establish one during a meeting with the ambassadors of the five permanent UN Security Council members of the in Lebanon.
Lahoud pledged full cooperation with the UN after meeting with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir.
The announcement follows the release of UN chief Kofi Annan’s report into the circumstances surrounding Hariri’s death which sharply criticized both Syrian and Lebanese security services, insisting they bore “primary responsibility for the lack of security, protection, law and order in Lebanon” in the run up to Hariri’s death. Hariri’s parliamentary party, the Beirut Dignity bloc, held an urgent meeting in Qoreitem Saturday to discuss the report.
The meeting was also attended by Justice Minister Bahij Tabbara, former Finance Minister Fouad Siniora and former Education Minister Samir Jisr.
The bloc called on the UN Security Council to appoint an international investigative committee to carry out a full probe into Hariri’s murder.
Meanwhile, in the wake of Saturday’s bomb attack on a largely Christian suburb east of Beirut, Lahoud insisted he would ensure the country’s security situation remained stable, saying: “We will do all we can. We should all be united as this is how we can save the country.”
Key opposition leader Chouf MP Walid Jumblatt condemned the blast,and once again accused what he called “the Lebanese- Syrian intelligence apparatus” of planning the explosion, the third in a week to target predominately Christian areas.
Jumblatt said he expected more car bombs in the coming days and in the run-up to parliamentary elections scheduled to be held by May.
Sidon MP Bahia Hariri, the sister of the slain premier, also condemned the blast and called upon the Lebanese not to bow before such cowardly acts and to stand united,“as my brother always wanted us to be.”
After a meeting with Jumblatt at the MP’s mountain resort of Mukhtara southeast of Beirut, Darrell Issa, a Lebanese-American U.S. member of Congress from California, said: “People here in Lebanon are asking for their independence and no explosion is going to deter them.”
Batroun MP Butros Harb blamed the Lebanese security apparatus, insisting it was failing to do its job properly.
He also laid responsibility for the spate of explosions at the door of the resigned government, which he said had “failed and still fails as an outgoing government in watching the security and stopping the gun permits, which are distributed in a random fashion.”
Hizbullah and Amal also denounced the blast and called upon all parties to draw a line to stop what they called “foreign intervention” in Lebanese internal affairs.
Hizbullah’s Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek condemned all the recent bomb attacks, saying that “the hands behind the crimes aim at bringing international forces to Lebanon” precipitating a new “U.S. colonization.”
President of the Higher Islamic Shiite Council, Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, denounced the attacks and warned the people of Lebanon “not to fall for these lowly acts.”
He urged the Lebanese to remain united in the face of the attacks and not allow the bombers to spread disunity.
The pro-Syrian Phalange Party’s leader Karim Pakradouni accused opposition forces of seeking the instability to invite international military intervention in Lebanon.
LEBANESE DETERMINED TO RESSIT CONFESSIONAL STRIFE
BEIRUT: Nabil Hanna surveyed the smoldering buildings on Easter Sunday, gutted by the latest bomb to target Lebanon’s Christian heartland, but said those responsible would not drag the country back into civil war.
“There can’t be another sectarian or nonsectarian war in Lebanon.
No matter how stupid the Lebanese are, they have learned from the war that we had in the past,” said Hanna, a Maronite Christian whose flat was rocked by the blast on Easter eve.
Many Beirut Christians, celebrating the day they believe Jesus rose from the dead, echoed Hanna’s views, saying there could be no return to the ruinous 1975-90 civil war that pitted Christians, Muslims and Druze against each other.

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Three bomb blasts in the past week in Christian areas around Beirut have failed to shake a determination among Lebanese to stand up to those who may be out to foment communal discord in the country.
“It won’t be the action of a bunch of thugs that will cause disunity among Lebanese and spark inter-confessional conflict,” insisted Claude Sayegh, an interior decorator a day after the explosion in an industrial area north of Beirut injured six people.
“That may be the intention of I don’t know who but it’s not going to work because we have chosen to stand together in Lebanon,” he said According to shop owner Camille Baladi the days of faith-based hostilities are over.
“We don’t think any more simply in terms of religion,” he said. “
I go hunting and diving and I play poker with my Muslim friends and that is not going to change.”
Baladi noted that for the moment the perpetrators do not appear to be intent on causing massive casualties.
The blasts have caused three deaths and left about 25 injured.
They could have targeted churches on Easter eve.
Their aim is to plant fear, but whatever they do it won’t change anything because we have entered a new era.” For political analyst Ghassan Ezze,“the fact that both the opposition and the pro-Syrian camp are made up of Muslims and Christians prevents this form of (religious) fracture.”
But those opposed to Syria’s presence fear more insecurity is the price they will pay for ridding Lebanon of the influence of Syria,which many blame for the February 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and three subsequent bombings in Christian areas.
Syria denies any role. “It’s obvious who is behind it.
It’s the Syrians. It will probably stop when the Syrians leave, but it may continue because their security will stay,” said Mario Mrad, who lives in Sad al-Boushrieh, a Beirut suburb, where the bomb on Easter eve destroyed workshops and other buildings. But the 22-year-old Chaldean Christian added: “The people here have had enough. They have learned there will be no war.”
Lebanon has been steadily recovering from the 15-year conflict that almost tore the country apart, but Hariri’s death has exposed deep divides between pro- and anti- Syrian camps.
But many Maronite Christians, for example, oppose Lebanon’s pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, himself a Maronite who holds the position in line with a postwar deal to distribute Lebanon’s top jobs between the country’s main religious groups.
“We don’t want him. He represents himself only.
He doesn’t represent us. He just carries the title president,” Hayat Khoury, a 40-year-old Maronite Christian, said as she crouched in front of a bomb-damaged shop front in Sad al-Boushrieh.
“Those who did this are trying to destroy our economy,” said Elie Abdel-Nour, an Orthodox Christian,who missed a traditional late night church service because of the Saturday’s blast that wrecked some of his property.
“But if they destroy things, we will rebuild it and better than it was,” said Abdel-Nour, wearing a badge with a Hariri picture on his lapel.








 
 
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