News from Beirut January 14  1997  .......Search

Earthquake, struck Lebanon

An earthquake, registered 5.6 on the Richter scale, struck Jan 13 at 12.20 pm (local time) Lebanon and shook building throughout Beirut. No damages and no casualties reported but increased fears that a major seismic event may occur in future. Charles Tabet, a seismologist based at Bhannes observatory said the earthquake epicenter was 272 km north west of Beirut off the coast of Cyprus Tabet said this is fifth tremor in the last six months and it ranged between 3.2 and 5.3 on the Richter scale. Previous epicenters were at Aqaba in Jordan, another off the coast of Cyprus, one in Syria and one in Lebanon. A CNN program had lately predicted that Mediterranean basin would soon be hit by a major earthquake, but geologist see such prediction has no ground and there is no known way of predicting earthquakes. The yesterday's earthquake lasted for 4.7 seconds and it registered only 3 degrees on Richter scale when it struck Lebanon. Charles Tabet refused to make a connection between the quake and the law rain average this winter. He said the tremors we have experienced lately could indicate that the faults are moving freely and reducing building up pressure consequently reducing possible destructive earthquakes. The last serious earthquake struck Lebanon in 1956 with epicenter located near Sidon, and caused 136 deaths, destroyed 6000 buildings and damaged 1700 more. In 1759 an earthquake completely destroyed Beirut and Damascus killing 40000. Yesterday's earthquake hit Lebanon, Syria Israel, Egypt and Cyprus.

Troika at an Iftar but strain unresolved.

Observers noticed that Lebanon three presidents or the ruling troika, who attended the annual Iftar at Dar El Fatwa yesterday, did not resolve their differences. P. Hrawi did not shake hands with speaker Nabih Berri, who did not exchange any word with Mr Hariri.

P.Hrawi, in his written address, did not respond to Mr Berri sharp critics last week. He said The road to an allover just peace is blocked by Israel, what is open is the road of Israeli challenges of a new M.E war . He affirmed endeavor to cooperation and coordination with Syria and that Lebanon is not looking for a new war in the region as Lebanon's stands are clear and does not need such war, unless Israel wants war for the war itself. He also cautioned that the coming stage requires high level of caution and awareness and criticised the Arabs who established economical exchanges with Israel secretly or publicly. P. Hrawi said the unilateral signatures on peace accords are in intensive care. He added that building the state is a test, and this will draw the line between patriotism and sectarianism. He also said that Israel is undermining Lebanon achievements at the Friends of Lebanon forum held last month, for that it has escalated attacks on the south hoping to scare away potential investors.

The Lebanese were left with only one option that is to consolidate national unity, he said.

Lebanon Friends forum

At a meeting of the foreign affairs committee Jan 14, Prime minister Rafic Hariri said the $ 3.2 bn pledged at the forum was completely new allocations. Lebanon legislature casted doubts over the real pledges and see a more accurate amount of new pledges was $ 1.2 bn. The meeting was attended by Mr Hariri, and ministers of economy foreign affairs, also state minister for financial affairs Fouad Sanioura. Chairman of the committee Ali El Khalil said the government had confirmed it obtained $ 3.2 billion in form of soft loans to be repaid over 15 to 20 years. The 17 member foreign affairs committee asked the government to submit the projects as a comprehensive package for parliamentary  approval, which will allow parliament to give priority financing to each project, khalil said Many members called for allocating money to projects that alleviate socio-economic problems.

According to MP ali Khalil, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the breakdown of pledges received at the December 16 Friends of Lebanon conference in washington is as follows:

-The European Community and the European Bank for investments: $ 1.5 bn

-The World Bank:$1bn  -France: $ 200m  -Canada: $ 200m  -Kuwait: $ 100m

-The Arab Fund:$ 75m  -The Abu Dhabi fund:$ 50m  -Belgium:$ 33m -USA: $ 20m

-Saudi Arabia: $ 14m -Germany: $ 7m -Germany: $ 7m -Norway: $ 5m

Hard efforts averted Israeli commando's landing in Damascus

News report in Beirut said today P.Clinton, upon persistent hard efforts by Egyptian president Mubarak, succeeded to avert an Israeli plan to carry on an operation in Damascus, including an Israeli commandos swift landing and withdrawal against a specific target. The operation was going to take place on new year.

P. Mubarak told Americans that such an action will have grave consequences that torpedo the whole peace process and that he will take a firm escalatory stand against Israel if it carry the operation.

The report said the US efforts succeeded to halt the operation and president Mubarak conveyed the news to P. Assad on the new year.

Cabinet meeting with 72 topics

Lebanese cabinet is to hold Jan 15 its weekly meeting with 72 topic on agenda,  including 27 new topic and 46 pending since last week session was cancelled because of the disagreements over army promotions. New topics include namely:

-Creation of the ministry of industry.

-Reorganising the youths and sports directorate.

-Establishing a civil planning department at the Lebanese university faculty of fine arts.

-Lending high relief committee 25 bn to pay last year April's compensations.

-Defense ministry request to appoint physicians.

-Permissions to import ammunitions and arms of certain categories.

-Attendance of conferences

-Request of installing , administering and exploiting public telephones by a private company

General Michel Aoun moves in France

General Michel Aoun tour on several towns in France and his public meetings with parliamentarians, Lebanese community members and French Public, all indicate that restrictions on his movement in France has been lifted, on condition he abides by the previous agreement with French authorities over his political activities. General Aoun was accompanied by his spouse and members of the gathering for lebanon. He refused during his meetings with the audience the image given by media over Lebanon civil war, explaining the enormous regional  influences which broke in internal stability. He assured that Lebanese moslems, same as the christians are suffering from the present situation. He added that his address is a national one and works for building state of law, with respect to people. He called all those who believe in patriotic goals to enroll in the national free gathering and its institutes.

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