News from Beirut January 24  1997  .......Search

Release of Iraqi Diplomats

Three Iraqi diplomats are going to be released and shortly after deported after Lebanese court refused an appeal by the family of the Iraqi dissident they were charged of assasinating him in Beirut, judicial sources said. The decision of Lebanon judicial authority was protested by Jordan, and the protest was handed Jan 22 to Lebanese ambassador in Amman by the Jordanian Royal Court Chief, significantly , not by the foreign minister.

The murdered Iraqi dissident was a holder of a Jordanian special passport and a close friend of King Hussein. The Jordanian protest was sharp worded and accused Lebanon of breaching its commitments to combat terrorism. Lebanon foreign ministry said Lebanon rejected the Jordanian protest and regarded the  accusations baseless. The same sources suggested that Jordan's decision was motivated by its desire to undermine improvement of relations between Lebanon and Iraq, and consequently scuttles the transit trade from Lebanon.

The diplomatic relations with Iraq has been severed after the assassination of the Iraqi dissident Suheil Tamimi. The  Iraqi diplomats were detained without trial since their arrest and Lebanese foreign ministry said they enjoy diplomatic immunity even if relations were severed. Iraq is likely to be a major importer now since it is allowed to trade food for oil in accordance to agreement with the UN.

Jordanian ambassador in Lebanon said Jan 23 he did not receive yet a respond to his inquiry on the whereabouts of a Jordanian (Palestinian extraction). The Jordanian is the Beirut Marriott hotel executive who was abducted on Jan 3.

He said he has sent two memos to Lebanese authorities but no reply given yet. He declared Jan 23 saying he has nothing to say about the matter which is the concern of Lebanese authorities. He had earlier said the man was abducted by non-Lebanese security men operating in Lebanon, a reference to Syrian security men.

Tremors Rocked Lebanon again

Some 20 aftershocks rocked Lebanon Jan 23 evening stemming from the Wednesday earthquake measuring 5.7 on Richter scale. Behannes observatory seismologist said it is simply the aftermath of the 5.7 earthquake and the remaining energy.

He also said further aftershocks would still occur in coming 24 hours. The aftershocks were too slight to be felt but yesterday at least three aftershocks were felt as buildings shook during the night.

Troika Truce still holding

Prime minister Rafic Hariri resumed his mediation with two partners in the troika in bid to consolidate truce. He visited House Speaker yesterday at latter's residence. P.Elias Hrawi quoted by visitors saying he welcomes Berri call for rapid formation of the Higher Judicial Council which will probe officials, because it is a constitutional matter which was pending.

He said the judiciary already appointed three judges and its Parliament now which has to elect seven members of the council. Mr Berri quoted saying he is not in hurry to visit Baabda palace. P.Hrawi also quoted saying he is adamant to the suggestion to hold mayoral and municipal elections on time(June), and recalled that giving date for the elections is up to interior minister.

Observers see that both officials are committed to the truce but same time stick to their stands toward the controversial issues. Mr Hariri visit to the speaker was few days before parliament convenes as of next Wednesday to discuss budget, where parliament opposition members will exhaust government. Contrary to all other news, the Armenian deputy of Beirut Jack JoKhadarian declared yesterday after a meeting with P.Hrawi that a visit by the speaker to Baabda palace is not ruled out even before Feb 4 when Hrawi will host annual Iftar.

More taxes for More spendings

Finance minister fuad Sanioura said yesterday the council of ministers would hold an extra meeting Saturday or Monday to discuss how to restore financial resources to cover the L.L 180 billion, a cost of the new scales of salaries for school-teachers already decided. He said any new spendings should be covered by new revenues, and possibly there would be increase on oil prices but not on real estates or luxury commodities in order to avoid smuggling of such commodities. He recalled that when taxes were increased on whisky there were large smuggling operations along Lebanese Israeli borders.

In the meantime, National Labour Union Executive Board called yesterday the government to recognise labours right of an accumulating 67 percent high cost of living since l992, proposed to be paid in 3 years time, starting with 20 percent increase as of Jan 1997. On other hand, the head of parliamentary finance committee Khalil Hrawi said yesterday there will be no new taxes in the 1997 fiscal budget, which will be placed over parliament next week for approval. He also said that the committee feels what burdens the citizens are facing, denied press reports on additional fees or taxes, and said that additional expenditures should be covered by budget original reserves not by raising additional revenues. In the same context, there are news about school tuitions increases and also news about raising electricity tarrif. The socio economic problems are now again under spotlights .

Lebanon-Pope Visit

P.Elias Hrawi welcomed yesterday a visit in May for one day by Pope Jean Paul II and said it will be important for Lebanon in such delicate times.

Foreign minister Fares Boueiz said his ministry is coordinating with Vatican to set the date of the visit which has not yet been set.


Head of the Lebanese industrialists association Jacques Sarraf has said yesterday he is still adamant to his resignation which he submitted to the board and he is free of that turbulence. Efforts by the minister of industry succeeded to hold mass resignation by the board of the association.

Sarraf resignation was in protest to a decision to cut duties on imported clothes. Minister Nadim Salem said he and the board will hold series of meetings with three presidents to discuss the whole issue.

US-peace Talks and Aids

Lebanon agriculture ministry was informed yesterday by US ambassador Richard Jones his administration agreed to a project aims to distribute 3 thousand dairy cows on Lebanese farmers. The ambassador discussed application of the project and timetable to carry on.

Ambassador Jones, after visit to speaker Berri, said his administration is very much pleased of the Hebron deal and will play active role to implement what was agreed upon, hoping this year will mark moving ahead the Lebanese and Syrian tracks as tendency is toward peace.

Jumblat -Politics

Minister for displaced affairs Walid Jumblat, apparently resuming his political activity after a slowdown since Summer, visited yesterday Mufti Rashid Kabbani to extend his congratulations.

Patriarch Sfair , who received  delegations representing mountain displaced, said the displaced affairs should be dissociated from the political stagnations. The delegation said they are worried on involving politics in their case, also of the financial difficulties facing the government and worried of slow repatriation, lack of  infrastructures and financing which stopped since summer.

Satellite broadcast-Censorship

Information minister Bassem Sabaa announced yesterday the formation of  the a board which will censor satellite broadcasts from Lebanon. The five members board or team is to censor political news and programmes to be broadcasted by television and radio stations which are licensed. The team is under the information ministry and has the authority to censor all political broadcasts before it is on air and can stop any article that harms state security, destabilise public stability, harms relations of Lebanon and its political interests with Arab or foreign countries or articles which harms security of those countries. The LBC international, which is one of the satellite broadcasting stations said the censorship will be in accordance to politicians' attitudes and prefered self censorship.

News in Brief


-Astonia soccer team is due to arrive Jan 25 to play with Lebanese team Sunday.

-Volleyball classifications ended yesterday with 12 teams up to first degree and 8 drop down to 2nd degree. The 12 up teams include AlRiyadi-Beirut, Wardieh, AlRiyadi-Beit Merri, Hikmeh, Mont La Salle, Ghobeiri, Tadamoun-Zouk, Nepton, Electricity-Zouk, Antranik, Ihyaa Riyada, Zouk Mickael-Hannibal, Zahle.

- Ping Pong union endorsed its calendar activities for 1997 and fixed mid  Feb for the Fitr tournament.

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