News from Beirut January 22  1997  .......Search

Troika Truce Holding, Hariri Anticipations

Public row over troika rule is at lowest scale thanks to mediatory efforts and truce is holding but roots of the problems which lead to the war of  words are not resolved yet. House Speaker weekly visit to Baabda today will not take place and no evidences on even phone calls between two officials.

Earlier mediation by Mr Hariri seems to be futile, because he himself is regarded by Mr Berri as a party not neutral mediator, also he is blamed of the many problems that occurred, including army promotions, constitutional amendments, municipal elections etc... The president and prime minister were taking decisions over major issues independently from the speaker, Berri sources say.

Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, at an Iftar hosting university students Jan 21, said " national unity is not as before, contrary to the situation prevailed April last year during the Israeli operation when the whole country was one hand, there are continuous attempts to fragment disintegrate the internal situation and circulate rumors every now and then". He also said " Israel is a beneficiary of the no war, no peace status quo in the M.E, which is slowing down government drive to restore Lebanon to its pre -civil strife glory as economic center of the region". He did not anticipate a war in the M.E because war option has been exercised and proved it is of high pay off ". He added that he expects pressures on Syria and Lebanon following Hebron deal and that Netanyahu used the deal as a propaganda stunt.

He vowed that both Syria and Lebanon will not yield to Israeli pressures and sign such deal, ' because it will spark divisions in the country which is far more worse that the existing one, added that resisting pressures is necessary.

Council of ministers is to convene today with 32 topic on agenda. A controversial topic which is a proposal to establish the post of director general for Beirut municipal council, will evoke reactions and resentment from Greek Orthodox ministers. The newly established post 'as proposed ' will counter the powers or authority of the head of municipality, which is allocated to Greek Orthodox, especially if the director general, proposed to be Sunni, is a pro Hariri from Beirut. Some sources say the G.Orthodox anger, expressed by Bishop Elias Awdeh during new year and X-Mas eve, was due to that intended proposal.

Washington Friends of Lebanon Forum

Lebanese government dismayed and disappointed of the renewal of travel ban by the US administration and see such move has been a set back for the government and a curving blow of the forum outcomes. Earlier to that forum, the government was hopeful the ban will be lifted or at least eased, but the developments which followed the forum damaged the image of internal stability. The American administration has given much remarks namely on Beirut airport security, particularly the plural security agencies there, the detections process, and the portraits along road to airport. From its side, the Lebanese government made positive approach and responded to the remarks, it called Hizbullah to remove posters, worked out to unite security agencies,also proposed Qulaiat airport to be used by businessmen and tourists, but all that was not persuasive to the Americans. Lebanon has always clarified that responding to US security remarks is something and disarming resistance or to breakaway from Syria in framework of peace negotiations is something else. Whether the developments that prevailed after Washington forum was main cause of renewing the ban is not certain, but what awares Lebanon is that the pledges to aid Lebanon decided at the forum to be reconsidered or shelved.

Lebanon Airliner MEA's Strike

Beirut airport was first time in years yesterday deserted, not because of security as in past days but due to a strike by MEA pilots and staff. The  MEA and five other airliners serviced by MEA were forced to cancel flights as of midnight Monday until noon Tuesday. The strike was supported by various labour unions. The pilots and staff have a range of complaints including paying fully their salaries, scale of promotions, full indemnities, paying bonuses etc. MEA Chairman Khaled Salam estimated losses by half million dollars, and described the strike illegal saying the labour ministry should have been asked to mediate between management and unions.

The MEA workers union and the management failed to reach any agreement and judging on workers statements there will be future escalatory moves if the demands not met as no solution is in sight. The Jan 21st strike involved some 200 pilot, 3500 labour and 14 aircrafts all joined the strike. It is recalled that the MEA was facing financial difficulties before the Central Bank injected some $225 million to allow MEA to repay its debts and modernize its fleet, by that the central bank owns 99 percent. Observers say perhaps politics is now involved in the airliner. Mr Hariri is favoring privatisation while Mr Berri is sought to avoid any change of ownership.

Release of Iraqi Diplomats

Diplomatic relations between Jordan and Lebanon are worsening according to observers. Following the detention of Marriott financial director who is a Jordanian of Palestinian extraction, the release of three Iraqi diplomats  ordered by Lebanese judicial authorities is another cause.

Lebanese ambassador has been summoned in Amman and handed a letter of protest against the judicial decision, which Jordan regarded a breach of Lebanon commitment to combat terrorism. The Iraqi dissident who was murdered in Beirut was a holder of Jordanian passport. The Lebanese ambassador in Amman said Lebanon recognised the diplomatic immunity of the three Iraqi diplomats, consequently they are going to be deported unless Iraqi government lifts immunity. He also said that the case is not releasing of the diplomats which could mean their innocence, but it is to deport them since Lebanese courts have no authority to deal with the case. He assured that Lebanon has endeavor to its commitments to international agreements and customs. Some news reports said an oil deal would follow the release of the diplomats and Beirut wants to buy Iraqi oil in the framework of oil-for -food agreement. In Beirut, the family of the Iraqi dissident Taleb Tamimi appealed the judicial authority release order. Lebanese judicial authorities refrain to give details of current ongoing interrogations with Marriott executive , and refused to comment on news saying the executive has connections with a network which works to destabilise security in coordination with pro Arafat Palestinian groups. Sources close to the Amman Marriott hotel said yesterday the abduction of  Beirut Marriott executive is linked to a personal dispute with Syrian soldiers , rather than anti Syrian attacks. The hotel is located in Jnah south of Beirut next to a building occupied by Syrian army.

Media freedoms

Information Minister Bassem Sabaa told a delegation of Lebanese press syndicate that there is no plan to censor information media as a part of  the censorship imposed by government on satellite broadcasts. The minister distinguished information media including television and radio stations in Lebanon and satellite broadcasting. He said what will be applied on satellite broadcasts is not applicable on local internal media. He said the press and political authority should not be identical but same time should not be conflicting and contrasting.


UNIFIL spokesman Timor Goxil said yesterday that UNIFIL size in south will remain unchanged and no plans to decrease number in view of UN present financial difficulties. He said extension of the mandate is routine and ordinary. Mr Goxil said there are no dramatic developments in south and perhaps the April understanding helped civilians to keep out of fire .

He described relations with Lebanese army as excellent also the relation with Hizbullah improved lately due to contacts on various levels.The recent extension of the UNIFIL mandate is the 41 since its arrival to south Lebanon 19 years ago.


National Labour Union chairman Elias Abu Rizk accused premier Hariri of  acting like businessman, described some of his statements as destructive. He also said  that the union is not demanding salary increases but trying to have again portions of salaries taken by inflation. He said Mr Hariri is not willing to make dialogue and he is undermining all institutions. He asked him to see social problems and poor needs, added that public debt would destruct the country. Abu Rizk said the public is not eating money, refering to stable dollar rate, but they eat commodities which its prices steadily increase. He called for reforming the Social Security Fund.

News In Brief


-Tadamoun club won over Electricity in basketball 74/65.

-High committee of the football union discussed at its meeting yesterday special arrangements to be laid down during Lebanon -Astonia match on 26th Jan, also reviewed a concept to be referred to prime minister over lebanon hosting of Asia cup in 2000.

-Marlboro Rally Lebanon announced full program of 1997. The rally will take place july 10-13.

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