News from Beirut January 11  1997  .......Search

Lebanon-monitoring committe may have contained escalation in south

The international truce monitoring committee chaired presently by France held Jan 10 a meeting at the UNIFIL H.Q. at Naqoura and issued a carefully written statement, on one hand it commended Lebanese efforts to stop ceasefire violations and welcomed the Lebanese government measures already taken to ensure commitments to the April understanding.

On the other hand its statement said " by unanimity, the monitoring committee accepted as factual that on Jan 8,1997 at least one Katyusha rocket was fired into Israel from the area of Qlaileh in Lebanon and considered that a deplorable act calculated to undermine the April truce". Lebanon foreign ministry in a statement issued later said the firing of Katyusha should not overshadow the dangers Lebanese civilians face in south. Some circles in Beirut see the committee may have put south Lebanon again on the track, contained violence and brought back the south under April understanding.

Lebanese judicial authorities in Beirut rushed to announce later that two Palestinians were arrested and they are interrogated about their action and those who stand behind them. The judicial authority did not name the two persons but they are named by media here including Ghaleb Abu Kayed and Saeed Waziri and both are members of the Palestinian group PFLP lead by George Habash. The PFLP and DFLP lead by Nayef Hawatmeh both issued statements denying their involvement in Wednesday Katyusha attacks, more over the DFLP information officer Fathi Kulaib denied any member of his group was arrested while PFLP spokesman said he knew nothing about the arrests.

DFLP affirmed its adherence to April 26 truce. The news about arrests were confirmed by Lebanon judicial authority. Media here said that after arrests the Lebanese security authority will put its hand on the Katyusha arsenal that still available at Rashidiye and other camps. The news of arrests came 24 hours after P.Hrawi, prime minister Hariri and speaker Nabih Berri denounced the barrage and called for security measures to prevent  actions that provide Israel with pretext to hit Lebanon.

US travel ban may be eased not lifted

The White House wants to see the 10-year old travel ban lifted but will not "second-guess" out-going secretary of State Warren Christopher, who will make a decision on the passport restriction sometime this months, a senior Clinton administration official said yesterday.

There is a window to lift the travel restrictions in time, but it's still up in the air, " the official said.

He said that relaxing the embargo by exempting US businessmen and Americans of Lebanese descent from the ban was not under consideration.

He added that " a lifting of restrictions prohibiting Middle East Airlines from landing in US or American carries flying to Beirut is unlikely in the near future."

Lebanese officials had hoped that Washington would have announced at least an easing of the controversial ban during last month's Friends of Lebanon conference, but President Bill Clinton dashed hopes when he said his advisers felt the country was still too dangerous to allow Americans to return.

The state department in January 1987 invalidated US passports for travel to Lebanon at the hight of civil war anarchy after a spate of aircraft hijacks, and the kidnappings of a number of westerners by several Lebanese militia groups.

US officials deny claims made by Lebanese officials that the outdated ban is being used as a pressure tool to force Beirut into a peace treaty with Israel.

Hariri-Army command showdown over promotions

After situation in south brought to relative calm, the war of stars in Beirut may be settled  and resolved too. A Syrian envoy is expected in  Beirut to help bring out an exit and a solution. The envoy will meet P.Hrawi, Mr. Berri, army command and defense minister to sort out differences which might have turned into a political crisis and destabilise the government. Circles in Beirut see its not time for such crisis and it is not justified to create such confrontation between army and political authority. The point now is not promotions but its a crisis of power struggle and furthermore an error in the machinery of government. However Hariri circles say he will follow on this issue because he considers his authority and image is at stake. Some circles see that Mr Berri campaign against his two top colleagues is his awareness of a package between Hariri and Hrawi who has called recently for constitutional  amendments.

Lebanon-Syria, coordination committee meets today

Lebanon P.M Rafic Hariri left Beirut Jan 10 to Damascus to preside the Lebanese delegation to the coordination committee meeting. Other members of the Lebanese delegation will leave today. Nasri Khoury , the S.G of the higher council said Jan 10 that the balance of  trade, heavily in favour of Syria will be major topic of discussions.

Syrian exports to Lebanon totalled $ 266 m compared to Lebanese exports to Syria with only $69 m. Syria will raise the issue of Al Assi river resources and precisely the water in Yammouneh, claiming that the Lebanese are digging too much wells that increase Lebanon share or the river waters. Other topics include transports namely a long- standing complaint by Lebanese trucks drivers complaining of very high Syrian duties. Each truck entering Syria has to pay 162 to 171 $ and they want to be able to pay in Syrian pounds.

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