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24 Colonels to be Promoted Except for Wissam al-Hassan

President Michel Suleiman has signed a decree to promote 24 colonels in the Internal Security Forces to the rank of brigadier general but excluded the head of the ISF’s Information Branch, Col. Wissam al-Hassan.

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel announced Thursday that al-Hassan’s promotion will take place in accordance with a decree to be issued on January 1, 2012 after having completed six years in service.

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Berri Expresses Relief over Association of Banks’ Announcement

Speaker Nabih Berri expressed relief on Friday over the funding of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon through the Higher Relief Council.

“I have already said that the payment will not be from the state’s budget and this is what happened… there might be other hidden issues related (to the funding) that will be unveiled soon,” Berri told An Nahar.

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U.S.: Lebanese Financial Institutions Laundered Millions to Benefit Hizbullah

Federal authorities blamed Lebanese financial institutions Thursday for wiring more than $300 million into the United States in a money-laundering scheme they said used the U.S. financial system to benefit Hizbullah.

The U.S. government said in the lawsuit filed in a Manhattan federal court that it seeks nearly a half-billion dollars in money-laundering penalties from some Lebanese financial entities, 30 U.S. car buyers and a U.S. shipping company. It also said it's entitled to claim their assets as forfeitable under U.S. money-laundering laws.

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3 Men, Including Lebanese, Sentenced in Terror Plot on Australian Army Base

Three men who plotted a suicide attack against an Australian army base because they believed Islam was under threat from Western nations were sentenced Friday to more than 13 years in prison.

The men — Australian citizens originally from Somalia and Lebanon — were convicted last year of conspiring to plot a terrorist attack against Holsworthy Barracks, an army base on the outskirts of Sydney. Officials said the group planned to send a team of men with automatic rifles into the base in a bid to kill as many soldiers as possible.

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Hariri to Hizbullah: The Country is More Important than Your Weapons

Former premier Saad Hariri on Thursday stressed that Hizbullah needs to “understand the country is more important than their weapons.”

Asked by a Twitter user whether he had any short-term or long-term plans concerning the disarming of Hizbullah, Hariri said: “Very simple, they need to understand the country is more important than their weapons.”

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U.S. Puts Saudi Leader of Abdullah Azzam Brigades on Terror List

The U.S. administration on Thursday placed Saleh al-Qarawi, a senior Saudi member of the Lebanon-based Abdullah Azzam Brigades, on its blacklist of global terrorists.

The move freezes any assets held by Qarawi in the United States and bans Americans from doing business with him.

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Asarta Urges Lebanon, Israel to 'Prevent Violations of 1701'

The Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas on Thursday called on Lebanon and Israel to “prevent violations of (U.N. Security Council) Resolution 1701, including ground violations, air violations and the presence of unauthorized armed personnel in the area of (UNIFIL) operations.”

Asarta voiced his remarks after chairing a regular tripartite meeting with senior officials from the Lebanese and Israeli armies at the U.N. Position at Ras al-Naqoura crossing.

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Al-Rahi: We Look Forward to Birth of Real Arab Spring Built on Democracy

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi hoped on Thursday that the people of the Middle East, “who are currently enduring wars and conflict”, would soon witness peace and stability.

He said during his Christmas and New Year address: “We look forward with you to the birth of the real and stable Arab Spring, which is based on democracy and the diversity of its religions and cultures.”

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U.N. to Complete UNIFIL Strategy Review in January or February

A U.N. "strategy" review of its peacekeeping force in Lebanon, which has been hit by several attacks in recent months, is to be completed in coming weeks, a U.N. spokesman said Thursday.

The spokesman denied however that it was linked to the attacks -- the latest of which saw five French peacekeepers wounded and France accusing Syria of involvement.

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Paris: Syria Must Respect Lebanon Sovereignty, Territorial Integrity

France on Thursday called on Syria to “respect Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, one day after a Syrian patrol infiltrated the Lebanese town of Arsal.

“If confirmed, this incident would once again highlight the threat the Syrian regime’s oppressive policy poses to the stability of the region,” French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told reporters.

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