The so called troika ruling system in Lebanon has come to an end, after speaker Nabih Berri quoted telling parliament bureau members yesterday " The Troika originally set up as a frame work for cooperation among persons, but time has came now to invigorate cooperation among state institutions to better serve the public interest. He added that this will not prevent good relations with the prime minister and president but not on the account of institutions. Mr Berri was scheduled to go to Damascus today but the visit was postponed.
Circles here say Damascus advice was to close down the troika file now. Political circles here were aware that strain of relations among top officials will have grave impacts on general situation, consequently obstruct several projects and delay implementing key issues such as municipal elections law, parliamentary elections law, decentralization and political parties, all such laws require cooperation and coordination of the government and parliament. Some sources think municipal elections would be first victim if strain in relations continue. Mr. Berri seems to persist on enhancing parliament role and concentrate on the principal of separation of powers, and as a translation of his attitude, he asked president to issue a decree calling parliament to convene in an extraordinary session to debate 1997 fiscal budget, and probably to vote on agreements recently signed with Syria, before it is approved by the cabinet. In the past the decision to convene an extraordinary session was taken by agreement of the Troika. Mr Berri is said to be angry with Hariri because of his intervention in the army affairs, and with president Hrawi because of his proposal to amend constitution.
The promotion of some army officers to brigadier rank, which caused rift between army command and prime minister, will not be discussed at today's cabinet meeting. The case will be resolved in quiet away from cabinet to avoid any implication.
News in Beirut said a compromise, endorsing promotion of seven colonels to brigadier rank as of Jan 1, 1997, and the 8th colonel Jamil Essayed Promotion will be as of July 1, 1997. The compromise was initiated to keep away promotion from the political stagnation and no party feels losing face.
Lebanon 24 present province "QADAA" will be transformed into governorates and governors will be given larger authority. Interior minister Michel Murr said Jan 14 after a meeting with P.Elias Hrawi.
He also said he briefed the president over the preparations underway for coming municipal elections set for June this year, expecting elections to take place earlier than schedule by perhaps two weeks after electorates lists are finished and voting cards are completed .
The decentralized system was stipulated in the Taif agreement and was one of pending unimplemented points.
Media in Lebanon highlight today news of earthquakes which is a row and a public preoccupation in Lebanon. CNN earlier end of December has predicted a major devastating earthquake hitting Lebanon and the east Mediterranean , threatening loss of thousands of lives and plunging the country into economic ruin. The CNN report coupled with recent waves of tremors in the region that caused rising alarm of possible major seismic event. The anxiety here is that 95 percent of Lebanon buildings are not resistable to quakes. Geologists and other experts say predicting earthquake is impossible and has no ground. Some people think that the unusual warm weather means we are going to have an earthquake, but experts say how we can link between weather and quakes when the epicenter usually could be as much as 750 km below surface of earth. In Lebanon there is no such obligatory specifications for constructions to resist earthquakes .
Ministry of environment is to propose today at cabinet meeting restricting mining rocks in quarries, ministry official said. The future of quarries is now under discussion in Lebanon, together with environmental issues, namely a 50 meters high rubbish dump at Burj Hammoud. An emergency waste management plan is to be laid down, including redirecting waster from Burj Hammoud dump and close the site in six to eight months. Two other plants at Amrousieh and karantina will be modernised in order to handle the waste currently at Burj Hammoud as well as new deliveries. The Armenian parliamentary bloc has warned to stage a sit in strike if no firm measures are taken to close the dump.
A daily five thousand tons of wastes are dumped at th site. Interior minister Michel Murr said yesterday there will be no long debate over quarries and stone crushing sites because already the cabinet decided its closure. There were always argument in Lebanon between environmental who advocate that quarries damage environment, and the quarries owners who say that rocks much needed for reconstruction.
Beirut MP Najah Wakim accused yesterday prime minister Rafic Hariri and high ranking officials of tailoring the new media law into their own interests and called on judicial authority to prosecute them. Wakim accused in name Hariri, speaker Berri and interior minister Michel Murr also others of using their authority to profit the media law, since they have licensed television and radio stations which are owned by them or their families,while banning dozens of other stations. He said the officials gained tens of millions of dollars and prosecutor should file charges against them.
Lebanon tourism and economy ministers at a joint press conference Jan 14 to introduce the arrangements made to boost the six weeks shopping festival next month demanded the government to extend facilities and promotion budget.
Tourism minister demanded that charges of departure, entry visa and increase of airway tickets price be suspended, while economy minister asked a special budget allocation for promotion and advertising . Touristic sector pledged to reduce price of services by fifty percent during the festival, also hotels to reduce fares by 20 percent and restaurants meal to be priced at eight to twelve dollars. According to a press release by tourism ministry there were 386842 visitors to Lebanon in 1996.
Minister of displaced affairs Walid Jumblat resumed his meetings at the ministry in Damour and received delegations from various villages to discuss repatriation. News here say Mr Hariri promised to allocate more money, including stable charges which will be imposed, to supply resources for the repatriation which will gain momentum by spring.
Foreign minister Fares Boueiz signed jan 14 a 17.5 million dollar agreement with UNICEF local representative aims at providing health, educational and social services in the coming five years. UNICEF representative said the agreement is implemented since beginning of the year and will continue until the year 2001.
Prime minister Rafic Hariri told the press syndicate Jan 14 that his information and convictions say there will be no large major Israeli aggression , but it is in the interest of Israel to maintain war atmosphere but not to reach an allover war, head of syndicate quoted him. Mr Hariri was quoted also saying Israeli premier Netanyahu plan is to gain war results without waging war. He also said that new applications of private televisions and radio stations will be refered to the national Council.
Mr Hariri is refraining to indulge himself in the row over promotions and amendments for the constitution because there are rather more important issues to deal with. He also quoted saying that Beirut airport will be finished in 1999 and at present some 2.2 million passengers are using it.
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