Lebanon Prime Minister Rafic Hariri came back Jan 20 with nearly half of the cabinet members who accompanied him to Damascus talks in the framework of the Lebanese Syrian Coordination Committee. In Beirut, his efforts to heal rift and put off the feud among troika members seem to be at stand still, eventhough some relative calm prevailed in past 48 hours. He called, at an Iftar held after his return from Damascus, for thinking over and be calm in either actions or reactions, also to avoid disagreed issues whatever its importance or seriousness is.
He said the political stagnation inflicts a state of worry at this delicate regional stage and the political society should act with utmost patience and conscious. Political sources excluded any shortly coming meeting between P.Hrawi and House Speaker Nabih Berri.
Mr Berri said to have not responded to Hariri effort aims at holding a conciliatory meeting at Baabda, consequently his earlier mediation was not successful and it could barely halt media campaigning and war of sources or leaks. Observers say Mr Berri told Hariri he won't resume tripartite meetings and no reverse back to troika system from now on. Whether Mr Hariri will bridge the gap is not definite, and the feud would go on until Damascus tackle the issue and initiate a broad meeting in Damascus on high level perhaps with intervention of P.Assad himself after his recovery from latest surgery. Sources close to Damascus say such Lebanese Syrian broad meeting devoted to discuss internal problem in Lebanon is not likely to convene in near future, and perhaps its not possible before Lebanese Syrian Supreme Council meets in Feb. P.Hrawi visit to Syria has been held in order to avoid misinterpretation of Damascus stand or it is siding with party against the other.
The halt of media campaigning said to be upon a Syrian advise conveyed by ministers Mohsen Dalloul and Michel Murr. However, the political circles think that the role of mediation by Mr Hariri is not heartily welcomed by Berri, who accuse Mr Hariri of unilaterally tackling specific topics, complicity with Hrawi and ignoring him and considers both president and prime minister responsible of the latest diversion , including the constitutional amendments, army promotions, public administration reshuffle and the municipal elections. Mr Berri conveyed his grievances to Damascus which in turn showed understanding to Mr Berri stand and view saying it has respect to his role and post but blamed him for style of reaction and the way he dealt with P.Hrawi.
Observers do not lessen gravity of what happened, neither take it as political comic and say there will political impacts especially the relations between parliament and cabinet, particularly impacts on the debating of 1997 fiscal budget, and perhaps there would be squabbling inside the cabinet , however they see that the troika feud ignited a new political phase and mixed up purged previous alliance all on verge of shortly due time events such as municipal elections and presidential elections. Considering all what was said, there is still little room for conciliatory meeting , and perhaps Mr Berri visit to Damascus Jan 20 and having Iftar with Bashar Assad may produce positiveness.
Whether mediations succeed in healing the rift before Feb 4 usual Iftar hosted by P.Hrawi is to be seen.
As Ministers Talal Arsalan and Ghazi Seifeddine say the crisis is over and squabbles cooled off, former prime minister Selim Hoss called Jan 20 for a swift action by the judicial authority,and creation of a parliamentary committee to probe corruption accusations made by both Hrawi and Berri . He said the recent row had exposed " the rampant corruption plaguing the leadership at the highest levels". He added that silence toward those accusations will reflect on Lebanon image abroad.
The main agreements approved by the joint committee on 20th Jan,1997:
The committee took note of other agreements which were ratified and put into effect including ;
Other fields of cooperation include; electricity, agriculture, economic relations and petroleum.
The joint committee took note of the coordination in foreign policy and expressed deep satisfaction. The committee affirmed its continued adherence to the just allover peace and the basis and authority upon which both countries participated in the Madrid conference, based on UN resolutions 242, 338 and 425, which calls for Israeli nonconditional withdrawal from Golan back to 4th June 1967,and from south lebanon and west Bekaa. The committee reaffirmed the importance of linkage between Lebanese and Syrian tracks at the peace talks, which is not dissociating , and that unilateral and partial solutions cannot serve the peace process or contribute to its establishing on solid just allover basis.
Israeli prime Minister Netanyahu intends to propose once again "Lebanon First " in case peace talks resume with Damascus, hoping it will resume after a halt of one year, in coming weeks. He will propose an Israeli pull back from south Lebanon and Lebanese army units to deployed and disarm Hizbullah men also merge SLA militia in its ranks. He considers that negotiations with Lebanon will create atmospheres of confidence with Syria.
Three Iraqi diplomats detained in Beirut since April 1994 for murdering an Iraqi opposition figure were ordered to be released Jan 20, after Lebanese foreign ministry said they enjoy diplomatic immunity. Bails were 50 to 300 thousand L.L. Iraqi opposition groups denounced the release of what they call Iraqi agents who are murderers and will encourage Saddam Hussein's regime to carry on more assassinations and bombing.
Pilots and staff of the national airliner MEA are on strike since midnight following the failure of last minute negotiations. The strike will go for 24 hours and MEA chairman Khaled Salam said he had given up hope of brokering a deal to avoid the strike. The strike involves some 145 pilots and 4500 ground and other staff. Today's strike will lead to the cancellation of eight flights.
MEA release Jan 20 urged passengers booked on flights today to contact their travel agents to make new arrangements.
Jordanian ambassador in Lebanon said yesterday Lebanon is responsible for checking the whereabouts of of Jordanian hotel executive who, according to Lebanese judicial source,was arrested by Syrian agents in connection with anti Syrian terror attacks. Lebanese Judicial sources said the arrest of Marriott hotel executive by Syrian security was approved by the Lebanese judiciary in accordance with a 1951 bilateral security agreement.
UN S.G Kofi Anan recommended Jan 20 another six months extension of the UNIFIL mandate in south and appealed to UN members to pay millions of dollars owed to countries that provide troops. .
Lebanon Council of Ministers is to discuss at Jan 22 meeting the main topics on agenda including 23 items;
State minister Elias Hanna said Jan 20 that no need to amend municipalities law and election of new municipal councils cannot tolerate postponement. He said the said law dated back to 1977 and its modern enough, as it stipulated large powers to the head of the municipal council in various fields.
Brazil foreign minister is expected to arrive to Lebanon 3rd Feb in an official visit. He will discuss bilateral relations and peace process.
Swedish foreign minister also expected to arrive end of Jan.
Lebanese foreign ministry S.G. discussed with Mexican ambassador Jan 20 the reopening of embassy in Beirut which is closed for over fifteen years. The ambassador denied any problems with Lebanon, recalled that Lebanese in Mexique are there since three generations and estimated by over half million and have key posts in foreign economy and political fields.
Defense minister Mohsen Dalloul says the troika crippled the functions of the institutions and should have been buried since long time. he added that " army promotions was given bigger size. After Hebron deal we entered a dark tunnel. He also added affirmatively there is link between Tabarja and Damascus incidents".
Breakaway Fatah leader Munir Makdah said Jan 20 camp authorities arrested and interrogated several persons in the camp in connection with a spate of killings, now numbered 4, and that the camp authorities planning to set up a joint security committee , including representatives of all factions. He said it will cooperate with Lebanese security forces to stem the violence and check murderers. Ain Helwe,with its 70 thousand population is the largest amongst the 12 camps in Lebanon.Since beginning of this year four persons were killed . Makdah refrained to give exact number of the arrested neither their affiliations. The last victim was an ex Fatah woman. Makdah accused Israel and its agents and said the killings are a message addressed to them.
National Council for Displaced is not yet formed due to political stagnations . Director of the displaced ministry says the formation will be discussed by cabinet next month. the former head of displaced fund Antoine Andraos says the council work is futile while the director see its necessary to enhance real repatriation.
Allamah M.Fadlallah said Jan 20 that Ramadan tents are a lewd and Ramadan holy month is for prayers.
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