News from Beirut January 16  1997  .......Search

Council of Ministers meeting

President Elias Hrawi , at the official meeting of the cabinet, repelled back vigorously to remarks by House Speaker Nabih Berri who announced death of the TROIKA system. Information minister Bassem Al Sabaa quoted Hrawi saying " the latest media trading of troika word has become comic and its not adequate with customs, and the expressions over death or burying troika are becoming political joking and not relevant to the constitution or law". He was quoted also saying " the constitution same as other laws do not stipulate anything about troika". Hrawi added that the presidency has its responsibility and dignity respect and role according to the constitution, same as the parliament or council of ministers". " none of us sticks to what constitution does not stipulate but everyone should stick to his given responsibility ", He said.

The president affirmed that the country had passed in a transitional period when there were no state, budget, security forces, army nor institutions, and many groups were disregarding laws, but he, since beginning, wanted Lebanon to have institutions". He also said that its enough to trade the troika or else, and things should go in line with logic, law and order, and the three  powers executive, legislative and judicial are existing but other institutions should be under the executive power and act in compliance with Lebanese state high interests.

President Hrawi, who was silent for six days after House Speaker Nabih Berri made remarks, blasted Mr Berri without naming him saying political disputes  should not be turned into rhetoric for media consumption. President Hrawi also spoke about the latest Hebron agreement saying" the agreement not necessarily indicates that Israel retracted reviewed its negative stand toward the peace process, but on the contrary it would use agreement to put more pressures on Lebanon and Syria, recalled that Israel , prior the agreement, carried sabotage actions at Tabarja and Damascus. He called security agencies to keep eyes open and exercise all its responsibility in line with law to maintain public safety .

The cabinet discussed at its weekly meeting

1. Amending labour law but no final decision taken yet until views of some ministers are considered in a final draft

2. A draft bill aims to impose special revenues in favor of the displaced fund but it was postponed because of the absence of concerned minister Junblat

3.Structural organization of the CDR which was postponed too

4.Agree to participate in small loans conference in Washington

5.Agree to electricity ministry request charging management of Qadisha for six more months

6. Agree to divide the present oil and industry ministry into two separate portfolios by creating ministry of industry and oil will be a separate ministry

7. Studied the reorganization of sports and youths directorate

8. Agree to host international conference on high education

9. Issue of new stamp to mark poet Elias Abu Shabkeh

10. Agree to a 25 million L.L to high relief committee and

11. Postponed until next meeting an environmental plan to manage wastes submitted by minister Akram Shehayeb. New minister for industry will be appointed when the ministry is formally established. The ministry will tackle issues such as develop and promote industrial sector, promote and support national industry, licensing new industrial institutes, propose establishing new industrial areas or cities, combat dumping and cases of prohibiting exports and help production, to follow up legislations on industry and relevant international agreements, to hold fairs and join world fairs, to contribute to upgrade the technical qualifications of the labour force of the sector, to lay statistics and survey markets and investments.

House Speaker Nabih Berri declarations

On his part, Mr Berri described his divorce from ruling troika is a Druze like divorce, that is irrevocable, reiterated that dealing with other partners will be through institutions not persons, but however he kept door open as he said " for occasional marriage"", a reference to temporary interim bonds.

Lebanon media cast doubts over death of troika because it serves interests of its parties for long time and it was a central features of the post war political structure. Mr Berri told visitors that " the parliament authority as a legislature,especially article 58 of the constitution is untouchable, under any circumstance, since we are not in a presidency system". He emphasised that personal relations with other partners should be strong ".

Walid Jumblat normalize relations with Hizbullah

Minister for displaced affairs and druze chieftain Walid Jumblat, who was supposed to attend cabinet meeting yesterday, has instead held meeting with  Mr Nabih Berri. He declared he has discussed with speaker financing the repatriation of the displaced through a special tax on luxury commodities such as clubs and restaurants also on state seaside property. He justified his absence from cabinet meeting to the withdrawal of a decree aims to create stable permanent resources to his ministry. He blamed the high circles in Baabda, adding that he can"t understand why his ministry is suddenly under critics namely by the president who quoted saying no displaced has returned back to his village. Mr Jumblat wished the president to review his stand and be realistic and sign the decree at earliest. Same day, the parliament committee of housing and displaced affairs endorsed a petition to government to consider repatriation as a primary and priority issue and to restore enough financing . The committee meeting was attended by jumblat.

On other hand, Mr Jumblat visited Jan 15 the hizbullah office at Haret Hureik and held a meeting with secretary general Hassan Nasrallah. The meeting was first since the latest parliamentary elections which caused rift between two parties. Mr Jumblat, who is trying to improve relations with Hizbullah, said " we should expect worse in south, and the tactical differences with Hizbullah are over".

Hebron agreement and impacts on Lebanon

Lebanon expressed fears yesterday that Israel might use the agreement it had reached with the Palestinian leadership on Hebron as a tool for exerting pressure on both Lebanon and Syria.

Information minister Bassem Sabaa quoted president Elias Hrawi as saying during a cabinet meeting that the agreement "does not necessarily mean Israel has changed its negative stance on the peace process in the region. "Israel could use it as a means of pressure against Syria and Lebanon, " Hrawi said, according to Sabaa.

Under the agreement signed in the early hours of yesterday, Israel will hand over most of Hebron to the Palestinians, the first concrete step in the peace process since Israel's right-wing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu took power in June.

Hrawi accused Israel of having " preempted the accord by acts of sabotage like those of Tabarja and Damascus, and called on security forces to keep their eyes open... to maintain public order."

Foreign minister Fares Boueiz said his government was still waiting for details of the Hebron accord. "We hope that it is not a trap and that it will not ultimately annul the prerogatives of the Palestinian self-rule authority he said.

Recalling the wave of terror that struck Lebanon and Syria recently, Hrawi urged security agencies to "keep your eyes wide open and carry out your full responsibilities within the law in order to safeguard public security throughout the country."

Egyptian foreign minister hoped that the Hebron agreement will be implemented honestly and by that ends stalemate and delay also encourage and activate the lebanese and Syrian peace tracks.

Jordanian ambassador in Lebanon, after a visit to Patriarch Sfeir said the Hebron agreement could be a first step ahead and a push to the progress on both Lebanese and Syrian tracks.


German environment ministry of the state of Baden Wuerttemberg said in a statement Jan 15 saying it will bring back some 750 tons that was sent illegally to Beirut port in August last year. Lebanon minister for environment Akram Shehayeb welcomed the news. The 36 containers toxic wastes were tested by German experts dispatched to investigate Nov last year after local experts confirmed it is toxic wastes. The wastes were sent to Beirut in Aug but discovered in October after Lebanon was tipped by Interpol and greenpeace.

Lebanese environment minister said he hopes the Canadians and Belgiums to follow Germany and pull out shipments of wastes originates from their countries.

US travel ban-Jessee Helmes

Jessee Helmess, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee ,urged Jan 15 outgoing secretary of state Warren Christopher not to lift the travel ban on Lebanon, saying Lebanon cannot be safe for Americans so long as it is dominated by Syria, a letter by Mr Helmes to Christopher said. His letter also said that Lebanon,"once a vibrant and free nation in the M.E is now nothing more than a province of Syria". He accused Damascus of of using Lebanon as a training camp for the world"s most vicious killers.

Omar Karami assails government

Former prime minister Omar Karami said today " if foreign embassies are open for Lebanese then half of population will migrate. He also said " Lebanon is currently a farm like and ruling parties are seeking a one party formula".

"I am with a presidential system because ruling country by three heads is not possible", Karami said."What happened to media is sort of nationalization and that will lead to nationalization of parties to reach one party rule", he said.

Mr Karami did not give a rosy image for Lebanon at present , and says national unity is fragile and the policies adopted by government will make the gap wider among Lebanese consequently revive confessional atmospheres.

DFLP denies Katysuah rocketing

DFLP responsible in Lebanon Aki Faisal said Jan 15 after meeting parliament  deputy speaker Elie Firzli said his group is not responsible of the Katyusha rocketing , and it supports the April understanding because it responds to Lebanon interests. He demanded that the Palestinians in Lebanon be given freedom of movement and reconsider the entry exit visas imposed on the Palestinians since 1995.

Labour Union and Government at odds

Relations between Labour Union lead by Elias Abu Rizk and minister of labor Assaad Hardan has worsened after the union demanded an election of its representatives to the national social security fund. Another reason is remarks given by the head of Arab Labours Union Hassan Jammam Monday who said" Lebanon is headed toward dictatorship". Lebanon Labour Minister Assaad Hardan said the remarks are affront to national unity. Abu Rizk accused Jan 15 the government of attempting fragment and split the labours through amending labour law.

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