News from Beirut August 7  2001   ...Search

Several members of Christian opposition arrested in Lebanon

BEIRUT, Aug 7 (AFP) - The Lebanese army's intelligence services Tuesday arrested a high-ranking official of the banned Lebanese Forces (LF) Christian militia, Toufic Hindi, as well as members of another party in the country's Christian opposition, politicians said. An army officer who introduced himself as Colonel Georges Sawaya, from the army's intelligence services, came to Hindi's home with two other officers and a civilian but no warrant, Hindi's entourage said.

They did not allow him to make telephone calls and took him to an unknown destination and gave no explanation. The leader of the National Liberal Party (NLP), Dory Chamoun, confirmed to AFP that Hindi had been arrested, as well as retired general Nadim Lteif, the coordinator of the Free National Current (FNC), another party in Lebanon's Christian opposition. He called on "all parties who have a love of freedom to condemn these schemes".

The army issue a statement saying they "had arrested people who were holding unauthorised meetings", but did not elaborate on the identities of the arrestees or their number. Liberal MP Nassib Lahoud also confirmed the arrests, called for their "immediate release" and slammed what he said were "roundups aimed at people who have done nothing but express their political opinions, and which are not worthy of a state which calls itself democratic". The private television network MTV said that in addition to Hindi and Lteif, "more than 100 Christian militants opposed to the pro-Syrian power, have been arrested". MTV broadcast footage showing young people being taken away in army lorries.

The Future Television network, which belongs to Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, said some 40 members of the LF and the aounist party as well as dozens of their supporters have been arrested.

Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt told television the arrests were "a stupid and irresponsible reaction on the part of the officials from the Lebanese intelligence services." "I would like to know who runs this country, the intelligence services or the head of state and the government," said Jumblatt, one of the most vocal foes of Syria's military presence in Lebanon. He said the arrests "were in retaliation for Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir's tour in the (Druze-Christian) region of the Shouf mountains" and the calls for "reconciliation between the Lebanese".

The FNC, which supports the former Christian and anti-Syrian Lebanese prime minister General Michel Aoun, announced earlier the arrests of 19 aounist students by the intelligence services. Six aounist students were arrested Sunday and the others Tuesday, the pro-Aoun party said in a statement.

A judicial source confirmed to AFP that students had recently been arrested on charges of "handing out flyers against President Emile Lahoud and the army", but did not specify the number of arrests. The source said four of the students are to be heard by the Beirut military court on Wednesday.

The case of Ziad Elie Nader, 16, will be treated by a juvenile court. These arrests come two days after Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir wrapped up his triumphant reconciliation tour in the Druze-Christian region of  the Shouf mountains.

A professor of mathematics at the Lebanese University in Beirut, Hindi is seen as one of the main ideologists of the former Lebanese Forces (FL) Christian militia which was dissolved in 1994, and was FL leader Samir Geagea's political advisor until the latter's arrest the same year. Hindi is perceived in Lebanon's political circles as a man of dialogue. He never took part in military operations during the 1975-1990 civil war and is close to Sfeir.

Over the past few months, the aounist movement, which is fiercely opposed to Syrian presence in Lebanon, stepped up its campaign against Damascus with demonstrations and flyers accusing the authorities of being "collaborators". Aoun, who declared in 1989 a "war of liberation against the Syrian occupier", has lived in exile in Paris since he was ousted by a Syrian military offensive in 1990.

Israelis and UN agree on terms for viewing videotape

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 7 (AFP) - Israeli and UN officials agreed Tuesday on the terms for viewing two videotapes which might shed light on the kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers in south Lebanon last year, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Yehuda Lancry, said. One tape will be shown in edited form so as to obscure the faces of Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas who are thought to have been involved in the kidnappings.

"We are satisfied with this arrangement," Lancry told reporters after a 45-minute meeting with senior UN officials, held to iron out snags which had prevented a screening of the tapes scheduled earlier in the day. Under the arrangement, a delegation including three high-ranking Israeli army officers will view the tapes here on Wednesday, while families of the missing soldiers and forensic experts will see them later in Vienna.

"We will have to agree on a date" for the second screening, Lancry said, but UN sources said they expected it to be in about a week's time. Lancry acknowledged that the UN had "a concern about the balance between the humanitarian aspect and the intelligence aspect" of the tapes, made by Indian troops serving with the UN force in south Lebanon. "For intelligence purpose, they are not ready to allow Israel to have full and entire and complete viewing of the videotape where some members of the Hezbollah are there," he said.

The first tape, showing a Hezbollah attack on Israeli positions, was filmed on October 7, the day the Israeli solders were abducted. The second documented peacekeepers' efforts on October 8 to recover two abandoned cross-country vehicles carrying false UN plates which were thought to have been used in the abduction. The efforts were thwarted by Hezbollah.

"The video of October 8 will be seen in an edited way, that is to say with the obscure faces of the Hezbollah members, but as to the October 7 videotape there is no limitations," Lancry said. The UN spokesman, Fred Eckhard, dismissed reports that the meetings with the Israelis had been rancorous, and said they were "very cordial".

One Israeli newspaper said the delegation had stormed out of the meeting after demanding that the UN hand over 51 items of blood-stained clothing found in the vehicles used in the kidnappings. But Lancry told reporters that the delegation had asked to see only seven items and had been told it could inspect them on Wednesday. The delegation was headed by Brigadier General Danny Arditi, director of Foreign Affairs for the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).

It included Colonel Moshe Zarka, director of the Prisoners of War Department for the IDF and Lieutenant-Colonel Avi Mashali of the IDF's Northern Command.

Israelis raise objections to UN terms for viewing videotape

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 7 (AFP) - An Israeli delegation objected Tuesday to the UN's terms for viewing two videotapes which might shed light on the kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers in south Lebanon last year, the UN spokesman said. Spokesman Fred Eckhard said the United Nations was willing to help Israel from a humanitarian standpoint, but could not reveal information that might be used by military intelligence. "That's the fundamental issue," he said.

The Israeli delegation had "indicated their basic agreement" to the UN's terms, but "raised questions about one or two aspects" and left UN headquarters Tuesday without viewing the videotapes, Eckhard said. "We said we would meet with them later today to see if we could sort it out," he added. The videotapes were made by Indian peacekeepers serving with the UN force in south Lebanon on October 7 -- the day the Israeli solders were abducted by Hezbollah guerrillas -- and on October 8.

The first film showed a Hezbollah attack on Israeli positions. The second documented peacekeepers' efforts to recover two abandoned cross-country vehicles carrying false UN plates which were thought to have been used in the abduction. The efforts were thwarted by Hezbollah militants. In addition to the videotapes, the UN offered to let the Israeli delegation inspect items of blood-stained clothing found in the vehicles.

"We are trying to help on the humanitarian side to see if there's anything in this film or in these items taken from the car that could shed light on the condition of the three soldiers," Eckhard said. "But we also have to refrain from revealing anything that could be of an intelligence nature," he went on. "The way the film would be viewed could shift in one direction or another.

We are trying to establish modalities that would preserve the humanitarian nature of this exercise." Eckhard declined to be more specific about the Israeli objections and refused comment on claims the delegation insisted on viewing the tapes more than once. "The tapes were to have been viewed in a conference room, and the items had been laid out in an office adjacent to the room. To my knowledge they did not even enter the conference room," he said.

Homes of two "collaborators" blown up in south Lebanon

AADAYSSE, Lebanon, Aug 7 (AFP) - The homes of two "collaborators" with Israel were blown up Tuesday in a village that the Jewish state occupied for 22 years until its withdrawal from south Lebanon last year, police said. One of the homes in Aadaysse belonged to Robin Abboud, former commander of the central region of an Israeli-occupied zone for the disbanded South Lebanon Army (SLA) militia who fled with his family to Israel during the withdrawal.

The other was the home of Samir Raslan, a former security official of the militia who lost all his limbs in a letter bomb attack during the occupation and whose house was out of bounds since the withdrawal in May 2000. "It is forbidden to enter this house, at the orders of Hezbollah," the Shiite movement had warned in black ink on the door, forcing Raslan and his four children to move in with his parents in the same village.

The two targeted homes were wired up with a total of three or four kilograms (6.5 and nine pounds) of dynamite, according to a police bomb disposal expert. As in similar attacks in the past, no claim of responsibility was issued. But anonymous leaflets circulated in the village had warned against the return of "collaborators" to Aadaysee.

Only a few hundred out of around 6,000 Lebanese who fled to Israel for fear of reprisals have returned home. Since June 2000, Lebanese courts have put on trial more than 3,000 Lebanese suspected of collaborating with Israel during the occupation. Hundreds are already nearing the end of their prison terms. Hezbollah has condemned the sentences as light but denied any link to attacks on former SLA members.

Nasrallah elected to fourth term as head of Hezbollah

BEIRUT, Aug 7 (AFP) - Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah was reelected Tuesday to his fourth term as secretary general of Lebanon's radical Shiite fundamentalist group, Hezbollah, a job he has held since 1992, the organization announced. Nasrallah, 41, got the unanimous support of Hezbollah's consultative council, which also returned most other officials to their posts as well.

Sheikh Naim Kassem was re-elected deputy secretary general, Hassan Khalil as Sheikh Hassan's political counselor, Sheikh Ibrahim Amin as-Sayed as head of the political bureau and Sheikh Mohammad Yazbeck as director of religious affairs.

Hashem Saffieddin was elected as head of the executive council, while Jawad Nureddin, who joins the council for the first time, was named coordinator for resistance affairs. Hezbollah, backed both by Lebanon's effective power broker, Syria, and by Iran, spearheaded the guerrilla campaign against Israel's 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon, which ended with an Israeli pullout in May 2000. It is violently opposed to any peace with Israel. Since last autumn, it has been harrying Israeli troops in the disputed Shebaa Farms, killing three soldiers and capturing three others. Hezbollah is a significant player in Lebanese politics and has nine deputies in the country's 128-seat parliament.

Lebanese prime minister arrives in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Aug 7 (AFP) - Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri arrived here Tuesday on a two-day visit to improve economic and commercial ties between the two countries, officials said. Hariri, the first Lebanese prime minister to visit Pakistan in decades, will hold talks Wednesday with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who met him at the airport, they said.

"The objective of the visit is to cement the already good business ties between the two friendly countries," a foreign office spokesman said. Musharraf extended an invitation during his visit to Beirut in January. Pakistan's foreign office said discussions would focus on regional and international issues including Kashmir, ties between Pakistan and India, and the Middle East situation.

During Musharraf's "highly successful visit," Pakistan and Lebanon signed bilateral agreements on trade and promotion and protection of investments, it said. General Musharraf has backed Lebanon's right to recover land held by Israel and has also offered help in demining work in southern Lebanon.


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