Arabian Business Weekly Update May 15, 2005

The return of the exiled General is a chance for Lebanon to move forward. ON the face of it, the return of exiled General Michael Aoun to Lebanon, after 14 years in exile, has done little to enhance the country's political stability. No sooner had the 70-year-old hardliner touched down at Beirut airport than the verbal war had re-opened. Aoun has already angered Lebanon's anti-Syrian politicians by claiming that the recent Syrian withdrawal was the result of international pressure, rather than the death of Rafik Hariri.

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By  Anil Bhoyrul Published  May 15, 2005

Lebanon must rally behind Aoun|~||~||~| The return of the exiled General is a chance for Lebanon to move forward. ON the face of it, the return of exiled General Michael Aoun to Lebanon, after 14 years in exile, has done little to enhance the country's political stability. No sooner had the 70-year-old hardliner touched down at Beirut airport than the verbal war had re-opened. Aoun has already angered Lebanon's anti-Syrian politicians by claiming that the recent Syrian withdrawal was the result of international pressure, rather than the death of Rafik Hariri. Walid Jumblatt, the Druze opposition leader, explained that the Syrians had left “because of the blood of Rafik Hariri, not the returning Tsunami". Across Beirut, politicians from the entire religious spectrum have made no effort to contact Aoun. As the General himself said: “I assume silence after a certain period means rejection." What is it that Jumblatt and the rest of the Lebanese political clan fear? Could it be the fact that Aoun, unlike other politicians, wants to bring an end to political feudalism? Is it because he has vowed to defeat Lebanese sectarianism and break up the century old religious system which dictates that positions of power are granted depending upon religious persuasions? Since the death of Hariri, Lebanon has come a long way. Its citizens have shown the world the strength of people power, and against all expectations, elections are likely to take place on May 29 this year. But Lebanon now has the opportunity to go one step further: to embrace total democracy, where every vote counts in equal measure, not one where religion dictates which positions of power can be held by different individuals — as the current constitution insists. And the best man to take that step for Lebanon is Michael Aoun. ||**||Philips shows the way|~||~||~|This week we feature an interview with Gerard Kleisterlee, the head of Dutch electronics giant Philips. Since 2000, over 60,000 of its employees have been sacked. But Kleisterlee is a smart man, and has carefully carved out a new market in lifestyle products such as shavers and coffee machines. This year’s US$3.6 billion profit is the best for several years. Kleisterlee’s rivals may need to do the same: Samsung saw profits fall from US$840 million to just US$70 million in the first quarter of the year. Sanyo has announced record losses of US$1.1 billion. The consumer electronics market of televisions, computers and mobile phones is now over saturated. Without a Philips-style diversification, the future looks very bleak for the industry. ||**||Let’s act on Yemen|~||~||~|I have been both surprised and heartened by the reaction to last week's comment on the tragic case of Amina Al Abdulatif, the 21-year-old Yemeni mother awaiting execution. As I made clear last week, I believe she is an innocent woman. So do most lawyers and Western governments. But in fighting for her release, we can no longer rely on pressure purely from Western nations. It is time Arab nations also took a stand against the barbaric conduct of the Yemeni authorities. I would ask all readers to study her case — of which there is plenty of information on the internet. I will be sending all letters of support to both her lawyer Shada Nasir, and faxing them directly to Yemen's embassies across the Arab world. Yemen must know we are not just watching, but acting. ||**||

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