News from Beirut January 18  1997  .......Search


The war of words that raged during past days between House Speaker Nabih Berri and President Elias Hrawi seems to have eased and a truce is observed Jan 17 , however war has not been settled yet. Observers see that the war of words was so intense that it left no room for a face saving compromise, unless high level mediation steps in. News in Beirut .

Syrian V.P Abdel Halim Khaddam informed the troika parties that their war of words went far as they traded such harmful expressions, telling them that marriage between them is legal not a pleasure marriage (Mr Berri terminology) and the political situation should be posed to such turbulence, and advised them to heel their rift smoothly . Lebanese and Syrian top officials are going to hold high level meetings as of early next week in the framework of a summit . The summit may help bridge gaps and narrow differences , after Lebanese leaders exhausted themselves and their country lost some of its image.

However, Mr Berri quoted saying he ruled out any possibility to meet Hrawi before summit and threatened to bring down the government if P.Hrawi goes on insisting on constitutional amendments. At least four ministers may quit if Berri is determined , at the same time, the government cannot tolerate such polarization between pro Berri's and pro Hrawi's groups. If Hrawi draft the reforms and send it to the cabinet for approval is not yet clear.

For Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, who stood neutral since beginning of the stagnation, said Jan 17 " reasons of the differences are not substantial and the interest of the country urges unity of ranks". He said he is mediating between Hrawi and Berri, same is  done by Interior Minister Michel Murr and Walid Jumblat.

P.Hrawi told visitors Jan 17 that there should be respect to the political leadership and leaders here should learn to vent their grievances in an appropriate form not through media. He affirmed he want retreat his drive to introduce the reforms. The said reforms include a restriction of parliament time limit to study bills referred to by the executive committee, also the timelimit for ministers to study draft laws.

Mr Berri regards such amendments aim to undermine his authority. P.Hrawi is accused by rival that he is seeking to regain powers of the president restricted in Taif agreement and he is seeking to gain more influence among Christian public. According to the constitution the parliament has 40 days to approve or vote down draft bills but the countdown starts only after speaker submits the draft to a plenary session not from the time he actually receives it.


US Secretary of State Warren Christopher shattered yesterday hopes of an early lift of the travel ban when he announced that it will remain for six more months. He was quoted saying " the continuation of ban was being made because of anxieties over the safety of Americans in Lebanon. John Dinger, a spokesman for the department said " Secretary Christopher kept the passport restrictions after he reviewed the ban within the context of of ensuring safety and decided to continue the restrictions. The next review must be completed by july 31,1997.

Christopher decision was his last act before handing over to new designate Mrs Albright. Since the Friends of Lebanon forum that was held in Washington, there was widespread speculations that the ban will be eased to allow US businessmen to travel to Lebanon. Mr Dinger also said " we believe American businessmen can pursue business in Lebanon without travelling on American passports", a reference to the fact that many are dual nationals who also hold Lebanese passports.


Luxemburg  foreign minister ended his M.E tour Jan 17 and Lebanon was his last station. After one hour talk with Lebanon foreign minister he said " it is only logical that you can't solve Lebanon and Syria's problems separately because they both have territories occupied by a foreign army. We cannot imagine a partial solution but an allover one. Talks between Israel on one hand, and both Lebanon and Syria should go on equal foots and simaltanious somehow".

He also said he is conveying nothing from Mr Netanyahu as he is not his messenger, and he discussed with him only the Hebron case not south Lebanon. The minister added that " during the trip to M.E, I noticed that M.E peace process is a global process and the parties involved in , especially those surrounding Israel, insist that no agreement should be signed at the account of other". He added that there is contradiction between US and EU's peace efforts as there is only one peace which should abide by international resolutions and the efforts are complementary. Luxemburg F.M . Mr Jacques Poos remark contradict with an earlier remark by US Charge d'Affaires in Beirut who said peace talks between Lebanon, Syria and Israel should be separate. Luxemburg will chair the European community in rotation in July.


US Charge d'Affaires in Lebanon Richard Jones told Lebanon Prime Minister Rafic Hariri Jan 17 that US officials will be coming to Lebanon next month, to help embassy staff to develop new projects and to make sure that funds, decided at Washington forum of Lebanon Friends are efficiently used.

He said " he met with Mr Hariri to put flesh on the bones that were created in the forum so we can move forward quickly in the reconstruction effort". He added that he " informed Hariri he has held not less than eight meetings with officials in Washington about how to follow up on the forum's ". Mr Jones has arrived back from USA Thursday. The USA pledged $ 20 m of assistance to Lebanon in form of agriculture, training security forces and conventional military equipments.

Mr Jones has conveyed a US letter to Hariri over the latest Hebron deal. He revealed that the US administration see the deal a good chance to enhance Oslo accord and the peace between the Palestinians and Israel, in addition to its being a chance to motivate other peace talks tracks in order to reach an allover just peace in the M.E.


Lebanon 5-men highest judicial court the judicial council sentenced to death Jan 17 four men, including the well known Ahmed Abdel Karim Saadi ( Abu Mahjan) who is thought to be hiding out at Ain Helwe camp, all for murdering in 1995 Sheikh Nizar El Halabi the leader of Al Ahbashin in Beirut.

14 others were given imprisonment sentences. All the convicts are members of a militant group named Usbat al Ansar(Partisan group). None of the convicted appeared in court and Abu Mahjan was sentenced in absentia, and all are Lebanese except Abu Mahjan who is a Palestinian. President Elias Hrawi has to endorse the sentence to become effective. The trial lasted for eighteen month.

Lebanese judicial sources said Lebanon may release three Iraqi diplomats who were arrested in April 1994 amid the killing of an Iraqi opposition figure. Investigating judge here received a report from the Lebanese foreign ministry saying the three men enjoy diplomatic immunity. The opposition figure was an Iraqi dissident Shiite residing in Beirut and was described as a high ranking opposition figure of the London based council for a Free Iraq. Lebanon has severed diplomatic ties with Iraq one week after the assassination.


Ministry of Tourism in Lebanon said Jan 17 the Baalbeck festivals will resume this year after President Elias hrawi gave go ahead for this year to tourism minister Nicolas Fattouche. It is recalled that those festivals attracted the world top entertainers.

H.E Patriarch Sfair discussed Jan 17 with the consul of Brazil his coming visit to Brazil February and March this year. The consul Camille Finianos who heads Lebanon-Brazil friendship association said the visit of the Patriarch will be in the one hundred's anniversary of building the St Marie Lebanon's church in Sao Paolo.

Decree promoting eight army colonels to the rank of brigadier has been published in the official gazette Jan 17 bearing signatures of P. Elias Hrawi, Prime Minister Hariri and Defense Minister Muhsin Dalloul. Seven were promoted as of July and Jamil Essayed from end of Dec 1997.

Economy Minister Yassine Jaber says economical agreements with Damascus are on the grounds of international agreements and the Syrians gave Lebanon preferences .

Lebanon Prime Minister Rafic Hariri received Jan 17 ambassador of  Egypt who declared that his country is working on the resumption of  Lebanese and Syrian peace tracks. He also discussed the appropriate date for the meeting of the Lebanese Egyptian higher Committee, which will be held at Prime Ministers level and concerned ministers.

Emigrants Affairs Minister Talal Arsalan declared upon his arrival back  in Beirut from a visit to Ecuador that Ecuadorian President Abdallah Abu Karroum, who hails from Lebanese extraction, will visit Lebanon by the end of March this year. He also said it is necessary to register children of emigrants at Lebanese consulates to preserve their identities. He added that three members of the cabinet in Ecuador are also from Lebanese origin, two mayors, some fifteen state directors, and some 17 out of the 88 parliament.

NLP party lead by Mr Douri Chamoun said after its weekly meeting that the current row among top officials went beyond customs and damaged image of  Lebanon. It also said that their understanding has been always to serve their own personal interests.

Lebanon Association of  Travel and Tourism Agencies said it does not oppose direct airway tickets sales to public on condition no discounts are made. The national airliner MEA and others are discounting the 9 percent usually  reserved for the agencies, it said. The association said the airliners are unfairly competing with the agencies and by that driving it out of  business.

Lebanese national cargo carrier TMA responded to the government appeal to cut rates during the shopping festival and decides discounts to Lebanese exporters. The TMA announced it will resume flights to Europe, Africa and the Gulf.

Muslim clergy reiterated in the Friday prayers that Hebron deal is a start of pressures on both Lebanon and Syria. They also criticised the Troika and disagreements among its members. Some religious leaders said " we should not be silent on what is going of thefts and dirty suspicious actions of the troika men and we should stand against those corrupts and trial them".

Kataeb party Karim Pakradouni criticised government delay to open a Lebanese mission in Armenia.

Saudi airliner SAUDIA will resume flights to Beirut in Feb this year.

Minister of Environment Akram Shehayeb said at seminar Jan 17 that conflicting authorities over environment affairs and dividing it over many ministries and bodies lead to chaos and lack of control.

Greenpeace in the Mediterranean appealed to Germany Environment Ministry to finance the pull back of 560 tons of wastes now pending at Beirut seaport since August.

Custom duty on imported clothes reduced by 10 percent evoking anger and negative reactions from the industrialists here.

97 forests guards were appointed Jan 17 by Minister of Agriculture Shawki  Fakhoury who announced 4 more protectorates.

Agriculture sector in south Lebanon regretted that the government did not sign an agricultural agreement with Syria saying citrus crop needs support.

Some four thousands traffic signals will be taking place along Beirut highways and roads but in six months time perhaps it will improve traffic rules' conduct.

Young Against Drugs YAD headed by father Benois Succar declared Jan 17 that number of addicts in Lebanon has fallen from 18 thousands to only 12  in 1996 that is - 54 percent.the drop down followed by the eradication of narcotic crops in Bekaa.

12 NGO's organisations said in a release Jan 17 saying undermining human rights is a threat to the reconciliation process in Lebanon. The organisations were responding to earlier remarks by Interior Minister Michel Murr who accused it of crippling security agencies work.

Director general of the Culture and High Education Ministry visited singer Wadih Safi Jan 17 at latter's residence in Hazmieh and expressed to him admiration of his role which aimed always to make a cultural civilized artistic address, also admiration of Safi contribution to spread Lebanese song to Arabs and emigrants allover the world.

Galerie Bekhazi in Beirut honored well known artist Mansour Rahbani at a reception attended by intellectuals, artists ,poets and friends Jan 17. Speaker for the galerie said Mansour is a history of the great Lebanon, a modest and humble artist, who upgraded singing art of Lebanon, and worked for Lebanon to remain a homeland of creation . During the reception a documental tape on the Rahbani's life was played, and followed later by Rahbani's music record including parts of Summer 840, Mais Rim, Petra and excerpts of old Fairouz songs. Mansour Rahbani spoke over the play Sucrate which is awaiting rehabilitation of  theater of Casino du Liban, which is only convenient for such play. He said despite efforts exerted and contacts with P.Hrawi and manager of the Casino the rehabilitation is not yet finished. He said there will be an art work shortly with Fairouz. He also said he did not believe oneday in a party but he believed in the address of Antoine Saadeh particularly the loyalty to the country away from confessionalism.

Ramadan tents is a phenomenon this year and a place where families reunions take place every evening at the Iftar. It's a nice tradition and place where people relax and comfort enjoying entertainments and Narjileh, also where fasting people enjoy the delicious dishes of Ramadan, like the Sahlab, Jallab, dates etc... .. Joy is much more higher in Ramadan especially with dance and music fun.

The T.V games of Ramadan is still a nation wide row, as P.T.T authority asks television stations, in particular the LBCI, to review and reconsider the easy game's questions, which allow viewers easy winning of considerable money and attract millions of viewers in Lebanon and abroad, something causing phone jams and troubles the telephone network and the two cellular companies. On their side, the LBCI responded saying telephone authority should itself improve the function to comply with public needs, and to install the most recent technology instead of complaining of the popularity of such games. Some observers say the massive viewers of the games are due to the economical situation as the public expects easy possession of the few hundred dollars offered by the stations.

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