News from Beirut January 20  1997  .......Search


Lebanon Prime Minister diplomatic shuttles over the weekend, between P.Hrawi residence at Hazmieh and House Speaker residence at Ain Tineh, said to have defused an explosive chapter of the troika war of words.

House Speaker had scheduled a press conference Jan 20 which was expected to be fiery, as he was determined to go on in his open confrontation with the president, instead of squabbling through sources. Prime Minister Hariri  declared Jan 19 that " disagreements that have raged in past days are now behind us. This chapter is closed and we are running into new page".

He gave no details and said he is going to Damascus today for a meeting of the Lebanese Syrian Coordination Committee and a meeting between Berri and Hrawi could take place at a later stage. A Lebanese Syrian summit was planned for Jan 21 but P.Assad preoccupation with other engagements, notably the commemoration of his son's death in a car accident three years ago put down the plan. Syrian officials' contacts during the week contributed in enhancing Hariri mediation. Mr Hariri is to meet Syrian V.P Khaddam and discuss with him among other issues the troika disagreements. Mr Hariri and the ministerial delegation with him will return back today from Damascus.

Observers in Beirut say the early outcome of the Hariri mediation was only to cool down and put off the war of words and the slanging matches, but the approach to the issues raised such as amendments, authorities and relations between the ruling troika are still vague. It is not definite yet whether the troika system will survive anymore or institutions rule will be really a substitute.


The mandate of the UNIFIL peace keepers in South Lebanon will expire end of January. Lebanon permanent delegate to the UN Samir Mubarak in an official letter to the UN S.G. asked extension of the mandate for six more months, in view of the continued Israeli aggressions which threatens the peace process and because its presence helps to implement the 425 resolution and limit actions of violence.

Israel and Lebanon after Hebron deal

Coordinator of Israeli activities in South Lebanon Uri Lubrani, quoted saying " it is definite that no war will take place in South Lebanon and Israel has no such intention, neither there is such intentions in Lebanon nor Syria despite fiery declarations on that possibility". He emphasised that solution there will be political not military and also with the approval of Syria which will not agree to any solution that doesn't respond to its interests". Lubrani added that three of the five wars Israel fought with the Arabs was a result of the mounting terrorist waves.

The relations between Lebanon and Syria is sort of Catholic marriage with no divorce and Lebanon is closely attached to Syria, something we should deal with as natural". Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said " there is much work to do in Lebanon with Syria and Israel has common interest to ease tension''.

On other hand, Syrian media accused Israel of shutting doors of peace. For Lebanon and Syria, the aftermath of the Hebron deal is worrying and the contacts underway focus on how to confront coming stage.


Following the US renewal of its travel ban to Lebanon, an MEA official declared that resumption of flights to Montreal-Canada is likely to take place. He said a Canadian security team is coming to Beirut to check security at airport and to train airport security staff to detect false passports and visas.

The official said also that flights would be via Paris adding that Canada had chosen to take unilateral stance after Washington appeared reluctant to ease or lift the ban. On other hand, negotiations are underway between MEA management and the pilots union to reach agreement before a strike for Jan 21.

Further good news say the Saudi airlines will resume also flights to Beirut which were halted for 15 years. Saudi airlines official said the thousands of  Saudi tourists coming to Lebanon and the Lebanese pilgrims to Mecca are two factors taken into consideration.


H.E Patriarch Sfair on Sunday's sermon said " who are assuming official responsibility should not act by their self individual will but to act in compliance with the constitution and stipulations of laws, then we shall see no more stagnations over the powers or over the spheres of influence or splitting shares and portions". He also said " with such compliance to  constitution and laws, there will be no more space to trade accusations nor to refer to nothing else than constitution and law, something will preserve  the state image and officials enjoy respect and appreciation".


Minister Walid Jumblat, speaking at Chuf Jan 19, said the Taif agreement is worse than the 1943 national pact, and his parliamentary bloc will submit a draft law asking '"freedom of silence" in absence of democracy and the unrestricted security agencies.


A long-standing dispute between government and farmers in the Bekaa came to a head this week-end when 1,000 tobacco farmers turned out at a rally to denounce a finance ministry decision to buy only a quarter of this season's harvest and threatened that economic hardship may force them to replant hashish and opium.

At a meeting on Saturday in the village of  Housh Tal Safiyah near Baalbek, the farmers, backed by housing minister and western Bekaa MP Mahmoud Abu Hamdan, parliamentarians and clerics, criticised the decision last week by state minister for financial affairs Fouad Seniora stipulating that the government will buy 25 per cent of the 4,000-tonne harvest at last year's price.

The tension was increased by a call yesterday from Baalbek- Hermel MP Ibrahim Sayyed that the agriculture minister, Shawki Fakhoury, should work harder to lessen the valley's problems or resign. At an inauguration of a farmers' cooperative in Ferzul, Sayyed a member of the Hizbullah parliamentary bloc said: "He is trying to turn farmers into serfs who work for capitalists."


Lebanese officials do not expect Mrs Albright to take a different decision when the ban next comes to a review in July, and conclude that US businessmen are main losers of their administration's decision to extend its ban, foreign ministry officials said Jan 19. The officials added that US businessmen have been excluded form the lucrative reconstruction drive.

Outgoing Secretary of  State Warren Christopher renewed the ban on last week. Reactions in Beirut by various political circles said the extended ban has casted doubts over the real outcomes of the Washington Lebanon Friends forum.


Former Minister Albert Mansour said Jan 19 that "freedom of the media in Lebanon is already dead and the now the battle is over number of licensed stations. He also said " what is implemented now is the well known TRIPARTITE  not the TAIF agreement and the troika is the core of the tripartite agreement. Lebanon is a Syrian sphere of influence and affected by Syrian magnetic political field.


Jordanian national Dirar el Karmi who is in charge of Beirut Marriott hotel financial affairs is reported missing since Jan 3. Jordanian official source said his missing was not reported officially to Amman but his family in Beirut told Jordanian Foreign Ministry which asked via diplomatic channels Beirut to give clarifications on that. The man is a Jordanian of Palestinian extraction who was transferred to Beirut eighteen months ago. The American Marriott hotel chain assigned two Lebanese lawyers to follow up the case and dispatched one of its officials to Beirut for that purpose. News said the man was abducted Jan 3 by three unidentified men and his whereabouts ever since were a mystery.

A western agency said he was seized by Syrian agents for questioning in connection with the new year's eve bus explosion in Damascus. Prosecutor General Adnan Addoum says Lebanese judicial is not involved and he issued no arrest warrant.



Ghazir club came first in Lebanon volleyball championship at its 8th stage.

Homentmen and Jamhour drop to second class basketball group while Riyadi-Beirut, Beit Meri and Wardieh are classified at first degree groups.

South Lebanon schools ping pong games started Jan 19 .

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