عرض مشاركة واحدة
  #7  
قديم 30th January 2008, 07:10 AM
a_aroush a_aroush غير متواجد حالياً
مشرف سابق  
تاريخ التسجيل: Aug 2003
الدولة: united states of America
المشاركات: 886
الجنس: ذكر
a_aroush is on a distinguished road
تتمة

Anxious to attract international investment to Lebanon, the prime
minister objected to Hezbollah's resumption of cross-border hostilities with
Israel in the fall of 2000. When Hariri began expressing this position
openly early last year,1 Syrian President Bashar Assad angrily
canceled a scheduled meeting in Damascus and refused to speak with him for
over a month, while Syrian officials met publicly with his rivals.
Tensions exploded again in August 2001, when Lebanese security forces arrested
over 250 opposition activists while Hariri was abroad.

Syrian officials were reluctant to remove the prime minister, however.
Hariri, a billionaire who made his fortune in the Saudi construction
industry, not only retained considerable support from the Sunni community
in Lebanon, but was strongly favored in international financial
circles and backed by both the United States and Saudi Arabia. No other
figure in Lebanon could boast such credentials.

Syria's New Hope?

It is not entirely clear when Prince Al-Walid first came under active
consideration as a replacement, but the first indication that Hariri was
on his way out came early this year, when President Lahoud began
floating the idea that his term as president, scheduled to end in 2004, be
extended beyond the constitutional limit of six years - a proposal which
met with approval in Damascus and outright defiance from Hariri.

Al-Walid was hardly unknown in Lebanon. His divorced mother, Mona
al-Solh, is the daughter of Lebanon's first post-independence prime minister
and has continuously resided in the country for decades. A frequent
visitor to the country and sponsor of many charities, the prince earned
rave reviews in 1999 when he provided the Lebanese government with $7
million dollars to repair two power plants damaged by Israeli air
strikes. However, his previous attempts to buy political influence were
thwarted. In the mid-1990s, he attempted unsuccessfully to acquire a 50%
stake of Dar Assayad, one of Lebanon's leading publishing houses, by
registering the shares in his mother's name (Lebanese law prohibits
foreigners from investing in local media). After years of litigation, the Civil
Appeals Court ruled that Mona al-Solh's name "was only assumed as a
facade" for Al-Walid and blocked the move.

Earlier this year, however, the Lebanese press suddenly began reporting
that the prince held dual Saudi-Lebanese citizenship and was
interested in playing a political role in Lebanon. On the eve of the March 2002
Arab League summit meeting in Beirut, Al-Walid arrived in Lebanon and
held private talks with President Lahoud, who shortly afterwards awarded
him the prestigious Order of the Cedars medal in recognition of his
assistance to the Lebanese people. At a news conference after the
ceremony, the prince criticized Hariri's economic policies. Afterwards, he
visited Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and the Mufti of Lebanon's Sunni
Muslim community, Sheikh Rashid Qabbani, presenting the latter with a $2
million check to build a new mosque in Beirut. He declined to pay Hariri a
courtesy visit.

The prince's criticism and his attempt to ingratiate himself with the
top Sunni religious leader in Lebanon outraged Hariri. Shortly
thereafter, supporters of the prime minister staged large demonstrations
denouncing the prince by name outside Dar al-Fatwa, the headquarters of
Qabbani.

In the aftermath of the demonstrations, Lebanese and Arab journalists
who asked Al-Walid if he aspired to become prime minister of Lebanon
received the same reply: "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it," a
remark which appeared intended to fuel speculation that he had it in for
Hariri. According to some in the Lebanese media, President Lahoud and
the security services have also sought to fan the rumors. Mysteriously,
large numbers of posters bearing the image of the prince and the
slogan "You are our hope!" began to pop up in Sunni neighborhoods of West
Beirut. In recent interviews, some Beirut newspapers have addressed the
prince as "Your Excellency," a term normally reserved for heads of
state.

Over the next few months, the prince continued his efforts to buy
influence in the country. On May 3, his office announced that he had donated
$1 million to 22 Lebanese charities. Later that month, he purchased a
10% stake in Al-Nahar, Lebanon's leading mass-circulation daily
newspaper.2

In late May, the dispute reached new heights of absurdity. During an
economic conference in Beirut, a Saudi businessman rose and asked Hariri
a question "with the greetings of Prince Al-Walid." Soon afterwards,
the prince fired off a press release denying that he had conveyed his
greetings to the prime minister and emphasizing that he does not need an
intermediary with Lebanese officials.

On July 2, Al-Walid again sent shock waves through the Lebanese media
at the inauguration of his newly-built $140 million Movenpick hotel in
the Raouche district of Beirut. After a laser show and barrage of
fireworks that lit up the sky over the capital, he addressed an audience of
Lebanese political elites and top military brass which conspicuously
excluded Hariri. The prince began his speech by saying that he did not
"pretend to be qualified to offer advice to the government of Lebanon,"
adding that "one demonstration is enough." However, he subsequently
declared that the Lebanese government must outline a 5 or 10-year economic
plan that would "make clear to all Lebanese and all investors the broad
outlines of the economic situation" and introduce privatization of the
public sector in stages. Finance Minister Foaud Siniora, he said,
"should begin working in this direction."

"Every investor has the right to feel secure about his investments. It
is the duty of the state and the government to provide this safety," he
continued. "The investor is like a citizen, he wants to know where the
state economic (policy) is heading." The implication of these remarks
- that those in charge of economic policy in Lebanon had failed both
citizens and investors - was lost on no one. Equally telling was Lahoud's
behavior during the event. He would later be criticized in the media
for smiling contently during the speech and breaking presidential
protocol by walking behind the prince. The following day, Al-Nahar called the
prince's speech "a policy statement," as if he were a prime
ministerial candidate seeking a vote of confidence from parliament.3

Asked about Al-Walid's political ambitions by a reporter, Hariri
abruptly replied "next question!" The prime minister, who is rarely at such a
loss for words in public, later told Al-Safir, "I accept critical
statements from anyone who builds a hotel in Lebanon," when asked to
comment on the prince's speech.4 Notwithstanding the premier's feigned
nonchalance, the Lebanese media speculated that Hariri would raise the issue
in a subsequent visit to Saudi Arabia.

In July, Al-Walid took offense when Hariri's Future Television network
referred to him merely as "the owner of Beirut's Movenpick Hotel."
Later that day, his press office in Riyadh issued a statement pointing out
that while the prince "takes pride in owning Beirut's Movenpick . . .
he also sits at the helm of a business empire of 1,300 companies spaced
across five continents." The same statement later referred to the
Lebanese prime minister as the owner of Saudi-Oger, Hariri's Saudi-based
contracting company.

Having previously restricted his criticism of Hariri's policies to
broad generalities, in late July Al-Walid openly condemned Hariri's plan to
privatize the mobile telephone sector, mimicking Lahoud's argument
that the state would not be able to derive sufficient revenue from the
sale of operating licenses due to global economic conditions.

Whether Al-Walid's entrance into Lebanese politics is intended to
replace, or merely weaken, Hariri remains to be seen, but it is clear the
prime minister has met his match politically. Hariri has fended off
challenges from other Sunni politicians in Lebanon primarily by outspending
them - a familiar tactic that would be futile against a prince with
five times his own net worth. Another powerful resource employed by Hariri
at many critical junctures in his political career to prevail over
opponents - his ties to the Saudi royal family - has also been negated in
the confrontation with Al-Walid.

__________________
there is no place like home
رد مع اقتباس

Sponsored Links