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Bkirki shows it dominates the opposition
                Israel’s Arrow: preparing for region’s missile wars
                   Opposition rallies behind call for Syrians to quit
              Military prosecutor challenges ruling & more
              The young & the Traitor
              We knew a free, sovereign Lebanon at present does not exist. 
              Distress call or a mistake?
                   Lahoud, Assad Regimes Avert New Quarrel with Patriarch Sfeir 
                    New shameful LF members arrest in occupied Lebanon


Arrested LF member’s family call for his immediate release


Dania Shebaro

Daily Star staff

  The family of a proclaimed Lebanese Forces activist denounced on Thursday the allegedly unjustified arrest of their son and called for his “immediate release.”

“Our youth are continuously subjected to random detentions despite all efforts (both local and foreign), to put an end to such practices,” the Shamati family told The Daily Star.

  Fadi Shamati, 36, was arrested on Wednesday by police from his place of employment, where he is supervisor of a bottled water company in the northern part of the country. He is also a member of the LF and is currently being held at the Defense Ministry prison.

“Despite the efforts of Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir … our loved ones remain incarcerated,” the family said, calling on human rights groups to fight for the release of those detained.

  However, the managing director of the Foundation for Human and Humanitarian Rights, Wael Kheir, said he had no knowledge of the Shamati matter. “But based on our sources,” said Kheir, “LF activists are usually tortured by security forces, both physically and psychologically.”

  Last Friday another LF member Saoud Abi-Shibl was arraigned to the intelligence office in Sarba.

  According to LF activist Tony Jalkh, the government must acknowledge the right of opposition groups to exist as a political movement and affirmed that they will whether “licensed or not.”

  He also denied charges raised against LF activists alleging that they held contacts with Israel.

Harb’s appeal on behalf of Hindi denied

  Investigating Magistrate Abdullah Hajj rejected Thursday an appeal by Batroun MP Butros Harb to release Tawfiq Hindi.

  Hindi was the political adviser to Samir Geagea, the former head of the disbanded Lebanese Forces, who is now serving four concurrent life sentences.

  The rejection of the defense’s appeal was made at the recommendation of Chief Military Prosecutor Nasri Lahoud.

  Hindi was arrested early last month during an army crackdown on anti-Syrian activists, which led to the arrest of 200 Free Patriotic Movement and Lebanese Forces supporters. He was later charged with having made contact with an Israeli official.

  Harb, a lawyer by profession, made the appeal on Tuesday on the basis that Hindi’s confessions were “illegally” extracted.



Nasrallah Says Hizbullah Ready to Take on Israel 

Hizbullah's leader Hassan Nasrallah has said his fighters were ready to take on Israel on the battlefield if a war proves unavoidable to determine the fate of the Middle East.
If the region is on a compulsory rendez-vous with war, so be it, said Sheikh Nasrallah in a speech at a preparatory meeting to mark the first anniversary of the Palestinian Intifada. We will fight and are certain of the outcome.He said Israel did have the arsenal of advanced U.S.
weapons to wage war "but it does not have the guts of the heart to do it. The Zionists fear the consequences of war. Nasrallah made a reference to the recent Israeli buildup on
the border with Lebanon under the pretext that Hizbullah was about to stage major operations.
If tanks, missile batteries and various artillery calibers are fielded just because Hizbullah may attack, what would the case be if we do attack, Nasrallah said.
Premier Hariri also told his cabinet in Thursday's session that Israel was absolutely determined to wreck peace in the region and to keep hitting and suppressing the
Palestinians. Israel, the premier said, has gone down in history as the first state ever to tell the world without an eye-blink that it is assassinating the leaders of a country on its
own territory, the premier said.

Lahoud, Assad Regimes Avert New Quarrel with Patriarch Sfeir 

The governments in Beirut and Damascus have shied away froma new quarrel with the Maronite church although the bishops' latest fiery declaration had gone to the extent of
implying that Lebanon was better off under Ottoman colonial rule than under Syria's hegemony. The Syrian non-challenge was reported by ex-Foreign Minister Fouad Butros after his return to Beirut from a 90- minute conference with Syrian President Bashar Assad in
Damascus Thursday evening. The Lebanese stance was spelled out by Premier Hariri."We reviewed everything and there is no problem," Butros told reporters about his resurrected endeavor to improve Syria's relations with the Maronite church. "The (Bishops')
declaration is not a problem for Syria. I found President Assad ready to discuss everything that is apt to help stabilize the consensus among the Lebanese leaders and also to facilitate the dialogue operation," Butros said. "He will see what can possibly be done to
improve what can possibly be improved." Butros' remarks suggested the Syrian regime was not in a mood to enter into a confrontation with the Christian community similar to February's axe-wielding demonstrations in the streets of Beirut. It was Butros' third meeting with Assad in one year in his role as a fence-mending trouble-shooter between the Syrian regime and the Maronite church. He is expected to meet cardinal Sfeir after he returns to his seat in Bkirki from
the summer residence in Diman Sept. 14. Hariri spoke before the weekly session of his cabinet as the draft budget of 2002 was submitted for discussion Thursday evening. Let us stay away from controversies that cause stability tremors. We have an economic problem on our hands. Dealing with it requires political stability," Hariri said. The council of ministers is not going to get into a controversy with the council of bishops. We have decided to avert any quarrels that are likely to plunge Lebanon into a new wave of political combustion," the premier added.

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Two New LF Arrests By Army Intelligence Branch 

The army intelligence service was reported Friday to have arrested two more Lebanese Forces activists as a military magistrate rejected a writ to free Samir Geagea's political advisor Toufic Hindi on bail. The two new detainees were identified as Fadi Shamati and Saud Abu Shibl. Their families reported their arrest to Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir in Diman on Thursday.
Shamati, who lives in Batroun, was summoned to the intelligence center at the Kubbi military barracks in Tripoli. Abu Shibl was summoned to the intelligence center in Sarab before they were both taken to the defense ministry in Yarze Wednesday night. The intelligence bureau gave no reason for the new arrests, the first since army's crackdown on the LF and Gen. Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement Aug 7.

Sfeir launches new appeal to alter Syrian role

Mona Ziade
Special to The Daily Star

The Maronite clergy accused Damascus and its allies in Beirut on Wednesday of signaling the death of Lebanon as an independent state, issuing a fiery rant that ended a short-lived political lull and revived the divisive issue of relations with Syria.
With the country still reeling from the recent political disputes that had left it on the verge of economic collapse, the Council of Maronite Bishops dropped a new bombshell from the summer residence of the Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir in Diman.
Sfeir presided over a meeting of the council, timed to coincide with the first anniversary of the “First Appeal” for Syria’s exit from Lebanon, which had polarized the nation into pro- and anti-Syrian camps. But the bishops maintained that last year’s appeal encouraged politicians to address an issue that had remained taboo for a quarter-century, “albeit cautiously.”
This indicated that the council was after another “political shock,” capitalizing on public sympathy following the recent crackdown on anti-Syrian Christian activists. But the attempt could backfire and push the hard-line Christian religious and political hierarchy into another phase of isolation.
The statement, the toughest against Syria since the end of the civil war more than a decade ago, cast doubt over the prospects of salvaging the dialogue that was established last week between President Emile Lahoud and the Qornet Shehwan Gathering of leading politicians blessed by the Maronite church.
But it also reflected deep frustration with the Lahoud administration’s perceived inability to accommodate political rivals and sponsor genuine reconciliation. Since the first appeal, the bishops had toned down their rhetoric, but was given nothing in return, even though Sfeir had received “numerous encouraging signals” from Damascus, a source close to the council said.
The council focused its ire mainly on Syria, but Wednesday’s three-page statement spared no one.
“What we recently witnessed is the most striking proof of the degeneration of the institutions: a Parliament which swung from one extreme to another at the wave of a magical wand in the span of 10 days; a Cabinet that appeared to be oblivious to what is happening around it, when it is supposed to be in charge of the country,” the statement said.
It was alluding to amendments to the Criminal Procedures Law,which MPs approved to please Lahoud, and last month’s security sweep, mounted without the
prior consent of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri or his Cabinet.
“Some Cabinet ministers are imposed on the prime minister, who in turn is forced to cooperate with them against his will. The decision is elsewhere, outside Lebanon,” it said.
The “non-Lebanese decision makers,” it claimed, were determining the winners and losers in the local political game, referring to Syria’s support for Lahoud.
The council compared Syrian intervention with other foreign tutelage in Lebanon’s history, claiming that even during Ottoman rule the country maintained a measure of autonomy  which at present does not exist.
“Lebanon is vanishing little by little, losing its identity, its peculiarities, its constitutional institutions and even its entity,” the statement said. “There will come a day … when there will be those who would say: ‘We knew a free, sovereign Lebanon.’
“And those who claim they are protecting by keeping it under tutelage will be the cause of its disappearance,” it said, referring to those defending Syria’s military presence, spearheaded by Lahoud.
Noticeably missing from the  statement was any reference to the “special” relations with Syria, which the bishops had supported last year.
Instead, the new appeal called for “fraternal relations” that prevent interference in each other’s internal affairs.
It decried the “selective application” of the 1989 Taif Accord.
The bishops also seemed set to win an enemy on the other side of the religious divide. They complained that some factions were still armed, in violation of Taif ­ a clear swipe at Hizbullah and Amal, which have been allowed to maintain their weapons.
They asked why the South should remain a battle front when other Arab frontiers enjoyed peace, but offered sympathy for Palestinians experiencing “daily massacres.”
It maintained that it first appeal had encouraged reconciliation: “However, regrettably, (the trip) was closely followed by accusations, arrests and trials.”


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Request to release Toufic Hindi rejected 
The investigations judge of the Lebanese Martial Court Abdallah el Hage rejected the request of release of Dr Toufic Hindi today. The request has been presented by Hindi's Attorney MP Boutros Harb two days ago on the basis that Hindi was tortured and forced to sign confessions. Hindi, the former political advisor of Samir Geagea head of the disbanded Lebanese Forces is arrested since nearly one month on charges of contacting Israel, a capital crime in Lebanon. 

Al Breaking News :

 Lebanon's Council of Maronite Bishops on Wednesday blasted Syria's "tutelage" of their country, where it dominates political affairs and keeps some 20,000 troops. "Contrary to common belief, Lebanon is capable of overcoming all its problems and its peaceful people desires a national reconciliation and the lifting of the tutelage," the representatives of Lebanon's largest Christian community said in a statement. "The continued presence of the Syrian army, along with the other services exerting hegemony over political life, is preventing democratic life and thus killing freedoms," it said after its monthly meeting. The meeting was chaired by the Maronite patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, one of the leading critics of the Syrian influence. "Is there anyone who can tell if the Syrian army has redeployed in Lebanon and to which extent, and what is its current size and how long would it remain" in Lebanon, asked the Council. "The Lebanese do not know if they are really independent, as Syria asserts to them," the Council said. It was the most virulent statement by the bishops since they triggered a wave of criticism against Syria's presence in Lebanon by taking a similar stand at a meeting in September of last year. The Council's calls were backed by many Christian figures and parties as well as Muslim personalities, such as Druze overlord Walid Jumblatt who suffered a two-month ban from Syria because of his position. The pro-Syrian Lebanese authorities maintain the Syrian military presence in Lebanon is "necessary, legal and temporary."

Al Breaking News :

 Lebanon's court of cassation Wednesday over-ruled military court judgements involving 10 anti-Syrian Christian activists who were arrested last month during sweeps led by the army's intelligence service, a court source says. The decision of the court -- to which there is no right of appeal -- brings to 70 the number of people whose cases have been taken from the military to the civil courts. The move is a blow to the power of the military courts, whose growing jurisdiction over the last few years has caused controversy in Lebanon. Lebanon's cassation court ruled Monday that the military could not try some 60 anti-Syrian Christians arrested in an army crackdown last month. The court ordered that the activists be referred to civilian courts. Best Regards Al Anwar always at your service

Democratic Forum criticizes crackdown

The Democratic Forum said Wednesday that tough disciplinary measures should be taken against the perpetrators of last month’s crackdown on anti-Syrian activists, in a statement that also criticized the government for its economic policies.
In a statement it entitled: Memorandum to the Public, the forum said, “following the storm which erupted last month, we have no other option but to urge all democratic forces in the country to exert pressure on the authorities to correct its wrongdoing.”
They also called for open dialogue with the Syrians in order to achieve a troop withdrawal.
The statement expressed concern over the depreciation in the Lebanese pound, which they believe could “devastate the economy” further.

U.S. Congress May Invite Aoun to Testify on Lebanon 

The Foreign Relations Committee of the U.S. Congress is reported planning to hold a hearing on Lebanon and may Invite Gen. Aoun to testify,
The Lebanese army's crackdown on anti-Syria Christian opposition groupings will be the crux of Elliot Ingle, a New York Democrat, and Tom Lantos, a California Democrat, media reports said.
Both pro-Israel Congressmen have often criticized Syria's dominance of Lebanon. The Washington dated reports expected the Lebanese authorities to try to bloc the hearing. 

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Harb says Toufic Hindi was tortured, requesting his release

Lebanese MP and attorney Boutros Harb presented a request for the release of his client Dr Toufic El Hindi, to the investigation Judge of the Martial Court Abdallah el Hage. In his memorandum, Harb said that the intelligence services of the Lebanese Army arrested the former adviser of the head of the Lebanese Forces without telling him the reason of his capture and with no court warrant. Hindi was then put in the jail of the ministry of defense for a long period and was subjected there to the worst kinds of torture and coercion leading to his total collapse, according to Harb's memorandum. Hindi, says Harb, was also forced to sign testimonies without knowing their contents. Harb based his request on the fact that Hindi was suffering from heart disease symptoms and that the alleged confessions were not compatible with official documents such as Hindi's passport which confirms he did not travel abroad in the year 1995 prior to the Parliamentary elections.

Hobeika touted to head ‘new LF party’

Zeina Abu Rizk 
Daily Star staff 

Efforts to defuse Christian anger are expected to take a new track with the imminent resurrection of the disbanded Lebanese Forces, albeit under a leadership with a moderate policy toward pro-Syrian political authorities. 
Elie Hobeika, a former energy minister and ex-Baabda MP, is apparently being touted to lead the new group to help the political establishment’s effort to balance Christian opposition to President Emile Lahoud’s pro-Syrian regime. 
A political source familiar with the issue said that Hobeika, who was ejected from the Lebanese Forces leadership in a 1984 coup launched by Samir Geagea, has been approached by pro-Lahoud politicians on the issue. 
In recent behind-the-scenes contacts, a basic framework for the re-launch of the LF was put in place. Fouad Malek, the LF’s former chief-of-staff, would serve as Hobeika’s deputy. Malek has adopted a series of moderate stands toward local and Syrian authorities, provoking harsh criticism from LF ranks still loyal to the group’s imprisoned former commander, Geagea. 
Geagea’s wife Setrida has been the de facto patron of hardcore LF members since his imprisonment in 1994. 
Geagea, who is serving four concurrent life sentences for assassinating rivals during the civil war, asserted from jail two months ago that he was the only LF authority, indicating he had received word of some plans for the party. But his assertions have not prevented influential politicians from pushing ahead with plans for the creation of a new LF. Hobeika’s recent visits to Lahoud were also placed in this context, and has signaled the return of Hobeika to the political scene following an extended absence since his defeat in the 2000 parliamentary elections. 
According to the political source, Hobeika was initially offered the vice-presidency of the Phalange Party during its October elections, but turned down the offer. 
Originally scheduled for next April, the elections were moved forward under the pretext of forging the party’s internal reconciliation. However, it is believed that authorities encouraged early elections to facilitate the ascent of current deputy president Karim Pakradouni to the party’s presidency and reduce former President Amin Gemayel’s chances of taking over the leadership. While Pakradouni is on good terms with local authorities and Damascus, Gemayel is known for his more critical stance toward the regime. 
Having refused to serve as vice-president of the Phalange Party under Pakradouni, Hobeika agreed to dissolve his Waad Party and instead preside over a new LF. 
It is unknown when the faction’s re-launch would take place, but the authorities apparently have opted to wait to gauge Christian reaction to avoid fueling perceptions of marginalization. 
Christians are likely to perceive the creation of a pro-government LF party as yet another attempt to defuse their opposition to the regime. The move comes after security sweeps taken last month against the pro-Geagea LF and the Free Patriotic Movement as well as after the state’s alleged interference in the Phalange’s electoral process. 
The move would likely leave the Qornet Shehwan Gathering of Christian politicians as the only opposition group with which Christians can identify. 
DS 04/09/01 

No bail for Al-Hayat journalist

Meanwhile, an investigating magistrate at the Military Tribunal, Abdullah Hajj, refused to release Al-Hayat journalist Habib Younes on bail. He has also reportedly postponed the questioning of journalist Antoine Bassil, who worked for the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation, from Monday to September 13. This came as Bassil’s lawyer, Antoine Shamar, questioned whether the Military Tribunal could try his client on treason charges, suggesting instead that he be referred to a civilian court. Hajj also issued an arrest warrant, in absentia, against former Lebanese Forces security chief Ghassan Touma on charges of collaborating with Israel. However, Hajj did not issue any ruling regarding Guardians of the Cedars head Etienne Saqr, Tony Shalfoun and Joseph Tawq, who are also suspected of collaborating with Israel.

Military Tribunal has 'no jurisdiction'

The Court of Cassation ruled on Monday that the Military Tribunal did not have jurisdiction to try the 77 supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Lebanese Forces arrested in the army sweep last month. The court, whose rulings cannot be appealed, ordered that the activists be referred to civilian courts, except for those accused of “harming the reputation of the Lebanese and Syrian armies and those accused of committing violence on security agents.” The defendants, who include retired army General Nadim Lteif, coordinator of the FPM in Lebanon, will appear before the Military Tribunal on September 17.

Lahoud Serves Fresh Tranquilizers to Stop Economic Backlash 

President Lahoud has issued an emphatic denial that his regime plans to install a military government in Lebanon, vowing to keep the army as the guardian of democracy, "which is the cornerstone of our political system." 
The presidential assertion was seen as another tranquilizing injection to stop the hard-hitting backlash on the economy from the recent army crackdown on opposition factions hostile to Syria's overlordship.
Lahoud's reassurance came hard on the heels of a Central Bank Report that its hard currency reserves had fallen more than $600 million last month, about $400 million of which were sustained in the second half of the month.
"This was the cost of the recent political storm," An Nahar said on Tuesday, obviously referring to Lahoud's power clash with Premier Hariri over the army's clampdown, which was staged behind Hariri's back. 
Lahoud's remarks were made in separate meetings he held at the Baabda palace with Pharaon and the executive council of the General Workers Confederation, which groups Lebanon's 450,000-strong labor force.
"The president has assured me that the presidency and the army form the shield of democracy, which is the cornerstone of our political system," Pharaon told reporters after the meeting. 
''The president also told me that all reports and scenarios about a military government in Lebanon are absolutely untrue," Pharaon added.
During his audience he gave to the GWC, Lahoud said Lebanon's top statesmen should bury the hatch and work hand in hand to cope with the nation's economic and financial crises.
"Disputes among the top leaders cause heavy losses that surpass them as persons to hit at the homeland and the economy," Lahoud said.
An Nahar said this remark was another presidential assertion that he would support the premier's economic salvation plan that would be embodied in the 2002 state budget.
"Their relations are undergoing a period of recovery, through intensive care," said An Nahar. 
Beirut, Updated 04 Sep 01, 15:33 

Former House Speaker urges for better relations with Syria 
Former Lebanese House Speaker Kamel el Asaad urged in a news conference to rectify the Lebanese-Syrian relations in order to solve the interior crisis in Lebanon. Al Asaad was specifically referring to the crisis in the Parliament over the law of penal trials and to the arrests in front of the justice palace, which exceeded the government's prerogatives and revealed the Lebanese situation to the eye of the international public opinion. Asaad said that rectifying the relations with the Syrians was bound to end the paralysis in the democracy in Lebanon, suggesting that it was better that Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri resigned. On another hand Asaad said he would not run for the municipal elections next Sunday in the liberated southern villages because the elections were under "militia's influences" according to Asaad. 

88 FPM, LF Defendants Spared Military Trial as Aoun Blasts State 

The Penal Court of Appeals has stopped military court proceedings against 88 defendants of Gen. Aoun's Free Patrioric Front and Samir Geagea's Lebanese Forces, ruling that charges against them fell outside the jurisdiction of army tribunals.The judicial move coincided with a fresh tirade by Gen. Aoun from Paris, saying "state institutions have capitulated to (Syrian) occupation, making the Lebanese people suffer their death throes before their funeral."
All 88 defendants were bound over to civil courts to try them on minor charges of staging unlicensed demonstrations or holding secret meetings, according to the eight verdicts handed down by the Penal Court of Appeals Monday evening.
The charge of abusing the Syrian and Lebanese armies was upheld by the Appeals Court against Lteif, Deeb, Haddad and 15 other defendants to face trial before a military court, however, An Nahar said on Tuesday.
"We are living the worst era of decadence in our political life," Aoun said in his Paris statement, "The nation has lost the basic concepts required to stand upon since the state has wrecked the legal principles that should govern its relationship with the People."
Aoun attacked the Qornet Shahwan coalition of moderate Christian politicians, charging they had succumbed to alleged Lahoud coercion. "They say they are pragmatists and want me to join them. But I am not a pragmatist." 
Turning his propaganda guns against President Lahoud, Aoun said no one contests that constitution right of the president to 'above-criticism' respect. But he who holds the post should respect himself in the first place." 
Beirut, Updated 04 Sep 01, 14:47 

MP: Syrias Withdrawal Is An International Demand

MP Albert Moukhaiber considered that the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon is not anymore a Lebanese popular demand, but also an international one. The United Nations and major super powers as well as the international opinion are also demanding the withdrawal of the Syrian troops from the Lebanese territory. The people will not benefit from the new budget, unless it is preceded by the return of sovereignty to Lebanon and the Syrias withdrawal from the country, said Moukhaiber.


Jisr seeks justice for activists and decries military tribunal

Daily Star: Justice Minister Samir Jisr urged the State Prosecutor’s Office on Monday to investigate anyone suspected of involvement in the assaults on opposition activists who demonstrated outside the Justice Palace on August 9. “We call upon (the Prosecutor’s Office) to refer the information regarding this incident to competent authorities in order to start investigations and accuse anybody whose participation or instigation is revealed as a result of these investigations,” Jisr’s memorandum said. “Such acts have harmed the dignity of the Lebanese and the reputation of security agencies and the nation,” he added. The army recently arrested more than 200 activists, triggering widespread criticism, especially from Christian opposition forces who said that Lebanon was turning into a police state. Most activists have been released, some without charge, while 77 are free on bail and awaiting trial by military courts.


jesus.jpgAlleged Mass Graves; Lebanon Shares Lead on Disappeared List
On a Day for the Forcibly Disappeared, Amnesty International called for thorough investigation of kidnapping and disappearance cases to be carried in accordance with accepted international criteria. On its list of the forcibly disappeared in Arab countries, Lebanon, Irak and Algeria figured among those most prominent in kidnapping of citizens and their abduction from inside their homes to later totally disappear in mysterious conditions. The report stated that thousands of Lebanese disappeared during the war when militias were most active. Most kidnapped were killed or removed to Syria and Israel. The number of such abducted is still unknown to date. Concerned parents committees and associations filed complaints which remained unanswered when finally the Lebanese government decided to constitute its own investigating committee. It visited alleged mass graves locations. Parents of the disappeared provided the Lebanese government with a name list of kin it said had been abducted and kidnapped by Syria and Israel. This same name list was sent to both Syria and Israel through the International Committee of the Red Cross. Soon the Lebanese government declared all disappeared and kidnapped people dead. Upon discovering that some of the allegedly dead were found alive in Syrian prisons, parents formed a new committee to carry a more serious and thorough investigation. In Israel, authorities neglected investigating a mass grave, which was found dating back to 1982. In its report, Amnesty International said it supported the parents of the disappeared and called for serious investigation and for putting those responsible of such actions to trial. It also demanded financial compensation


Who's next?

Henri Sfeir, owner of ICN local television and Nidaa El
Watan newspaper, rejected today all accusations of
collaboration with Israel or meeting with Israeli advisor
Odid Zarai. Arrested journalist Antoine Bassil has
confessed that Sfeir had met with Zarai in Paris. Sfeir
denied also having been summoned for investigation. Sfeir
added that he even owns a 14 million m2 piece of land in
Naqoura and that he hasn't even visited his land before the
Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.