Lebanon finance minister Fouad Sanioura said yesterday "he rules out any new taxes or charges, at today's government meeting, however, its up to the government. " I am against any new charges but at the same time against any new burdens on the budget, as we should be careful over spendings, and each time we are obliged to increase spending we should look how to arrange for resources to cover it", he said. The government is due to meet today at an extra session to review 1997 fiscal budget and the increases of its figures.
Head of parliament finance committee Khalil Hrawi declared yesterday saying "curtailing budget deficit should be by squeezing spendings not by increasing revenues because growth average is not high to increase revenues". Asked about an amount of 170 billion L.L added to budget allocations this year and how to cover it, he said the amount should be taken from budget reserve. He mentioned that electricity budget faces a 40-50 percent deficit because of inability to collect its bills.
Chairman of the National Labour Union Elias Abu Rizk said the union " will reject any increase of charges namely gasoline price increase, and will struggle for a policy which halt embezzlement and corruption". He also said the union will reject increases on school fees by 35 percent, at time the union called for a high cost of living of 20 percent only.
Education minister Jean Obeid held series of meetings yesterday with private schools owners and teachers. He declared that his ministry will not accept any increase out of law stipulation, that is more than the cost of the new scales of salaries decided recently, as each school should submit a budget specifying revenues and expenditures. He added that private schools which imposed unjustified increases and defied law will be penalised. Mr Obeid also said that he will investigate reports saying some private schools of low standard education imposed up to 80 percent increases.
Prime Minister Rafic Hariri agreed yesterday, after a meeting with minister in charge of industry and the Industrialists Association, to freeze an earlier decision to cut tariffs on imported clothes until he holds further consultations with ministers of finance, economy and trade, and industry. " "We hope we can reach an agreement that will satisfy both industrialists and merchants and the decree is now freezed until we can come up with a final solution", minister in charge of industrial affairs Nadim Salem said. The decision to cut tariffs on clothes from 30 to 20 percent has sparked a row and storm of protests from industrialists who said the cut threatened one of most profitable industries in Lebanon. Head of the Industrialists Association Jacque Sarraf, who resigned in protest, did not attend yesterday's meeting.
In the backgrounds, the Merchant's Association was in favor of the decision to cut tariff, thinking that the measure will help break the recession and promote sales also to make it easy to offer discounts during shopping festival. How to satisfy both associations and how to safeguard state custom revenues is up to the government to tailor.
The parliament is going to discuss budget figures next week and debate will be televised. There is much awareness of heated debating and massing up the opposition MPs to criticise government's financial economical policy. Observers see that while troika war of words eased down it turns to be now another bickering but at the parliament this time and over socio economic financial problems.
The Council of Ministers extra meeting under P.Hrawi at Baabda palace held Jan 25 morning discussed budget amendments laid down by parliamentary finance committee. The increases proposed by the committee, amounting 233 billion L.L has been approved, out of the total some 200 billion L.L will be covered through the cancellation of subsidy of the electricity.
The remaining increase of 33 billion L.L would bring total budget deficit to only 37 percent, Information Minister said after the meeting this morning.
Electricity minister Elie Hubeika is to present suggestions to improve and increase collection of bills at coming sessions. The information minister affirmed there is no plan to increase charges or taxes, namely the electricity. P.Hrawi has called, at the opening of session, every official and statesman to be good example to other citizens and pay their taxes on time and in full, emphasising that none of the officials , whatever his rank is high , avoid tax obligations. The Council of Ministers has approved the increases laid by the finance committee. Information Minister Bassem Sabaa denied that out of the 233 billion increase there is some 80 billion L.L allocated to MPs or parliament, in form of benefits and allowances, also affirmed there is no increase of gasoline prices.
Displaced minister Walid Jumblat is to visit Bkirki on Monday and have launch with H.E Patriarch Sfair. Discussions will center on the displaced and their repatriation and cooperation to expedite closing the file.
Lebanon foreign minister, in a blunt reply to Jordan's protest against release of Iraqi diplomats, said yesterday "Lebanon rejects the Jordanian protest, it is unacceptable neither in form nor content. Who ever argue the international law should enrich their knowledge about it and realise that the law ensures immunity to diplomats who cannot be trialed for the assassination". Minister Boueiz said after meeting prime minister Hariri.
The Lebanese reply to Jordan memorandum will be handed today to Jordanian ambassador in Beirut." The three Iraqi diplomats were released yesterday from Roumieh prison and now held by General Security H.Q at Adlieh, pending completion of deportation orders", judicial sources said. The deportation will take place in few days time.
US ambassador in Lebanon Richard Jones said after meeting with foreign minister yesterday the US new officials at the state department would need some time to develop their ideas on how to resume peace talks, recalled that Mrs Albright was only sworn yesterday. He added that he has no information on a letter sent by former secretary Christopher to Netanyahu , releasing Israel of its responsibility to adhere to land for peace formula, saying he doubts such press reports.
News in Beirut said Mrs Albright , trying to modify Christopher's policy in M.E, favors separation of Syrian and Lebanese tracks and willing to instruct ambassadors in both countries to "market" the idea.
Samir Geagea, who is serving two life sentences now, is standing before the Judicial Council charged of masterminding two booby trapped cars that exploded in 1991 as the then defense minister Michel Murr's motorcade passed through Antelias.
The Council listened to four of the prosecution witnesses, and one witness told court that three L.F agents , tried in absentia, told him of their plan to murder Murr. The witness W. Wehbe said he was told that Geagea wanted to kill Murr in order to succeed him in the defense ministry.
Mr Geagea was looking gaunt and hollow cheeked. He and one other LF security agent were present while other LF security agents wanted in the case are living abroad. The Judicial Council adjourned proceedings until Wednesday. Geagea complained that he was not allowed to have private meeting with his lawyer and a paper including questions was taken from him.
The national museum will reopen in June, as part of a programme to promote national heritage, the head of the antiquities department announced yesterday. Camille Asmar, the head of the department at the ministry of culture and higher education, said at a news conference at the museum that the main hall on the ground floor would be opened to the public first. The two other floors, which are still undergoing renovation, are expected to be completed in two or three years.
Minister of economy and trade Yassin Jaber had called earlier this week for the museum to be opened in time for next month's shopping festival but officials said a considerable amount of work still remains to be done.
Catholicos Aram I Keshishian and Pope John Paul II will issue a joint statement today at the conclusion of a three-day visit to the Vatican by the Armenian delegation which includes three Lebanese ministers and deputies.
The catholicos, accompanied by ministers Shahe Barsoumian and Hagop Demerdjian, and Beirut deputy Khatchik Babikian, met yesterday with Italian president Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, where they discussed ways for Italy to participate in Lebanon's reconstruction.
Keshishian and Pope discussed the peace process and reconstruction, as well as bilateral relations .
General Michel Aoun in a press interview appeared today says "'Cartoons politicians cannot build a country . Society in Lebanon is Mafia style. We have confessional sectarian addresses, also robbery thefts and agents. They confiscated identity by naturalization and the parliament by means of elections. Religious fundamentalism is a reaction to material fundamentalism which was communism and capitalism but religious fanaticism is ugly. I wish Douri Chamoun to lead the drive and become most important popular leader in Lebanon and there is no contradictions with him. Not returning to Lebanon because there is no state law in Lebanon. Raymond Edde refuse cooperation and he has his own reasons.
Lebanon House Speaker Nabih Berri chosen "the best international parliamentarian figure" in a poll included 3.4 million Arabs conducted by "The United for Information and Marketing" in UK.
Mayoral and municipal elections, which would take place after four months, is not definite yet and its not feverish as usual because of uncertainty .
Minister of emigrants Talal Arsalan received an invitation to visit Brazil, wished that Emigrants conference to be held in Lebanon not out, and discussed with visitors the naturalization of emigrants.
NLP lead by Douri Chamoun argues Hariri concept over national unity, whether it is courtesy and kissing bears only, and see the formation of supreme council to trial officials as absorbent of the current strain.
Patriarch Sfair is to attend the Iftar hosted by P.Hrawi on Feb 4 and put aside the implications with him. Nabih Berri will attend too and have private meeting with the president.
State minister Elias Hanna says time has come for decentralized system in Lebanon and it will help the salvation of public administration reform's process.
Moslem religious leaders in their Friday prayers sermons criticised troika system, denounced the Hebron deal, called to confront corruption, urged national unity, focused on hard living conditions, also criticised the Ramadan khiam tents and call people to resist normalization with Israel.
MP Boutros Harb warned yesterday of social unrest as social crisis is looming. He said he is aware that ignorance of public's social demands will lead to a social blow up.
LBC general manager Pierre Daher told information minister that if the ministry is insisting on its prior censor of political news and programmes, the LBC will shift satellite broadcasts to outside Lebanon.
Palestinian groups in Ain Helwe camp held meeting yesterday to review plan aims at formation of a special security force , following the mysterious incidents of killings in the camp. The force will be self financed and commanded by the camp leagues and factions 'representatives.
Minister of economy and trade announced the opening of Rashid Karami fair in Tripoli.
Interior minister denied plan to transfer Burj Hammoud dump to the coastal Dbayeh-Dog River area.
Agriculture minister said he is announcing war against the deliberate marginalisation of the agriculture.
Judge Nasri Lahoud ordered the trial of two Lebanese nationals on charges of collaborating with Israel national news agency .
Director general of the information ministry Mohammed Obeid said yesterday the media use of the terminology " South Lebanon Army " is slander of the country's dignity , since the SLA commander Antoine Lahd is sentenced to death by Lebanese court for treason, consequently the SLA fighters should not be regarded an army.
The Lebanese committee defending Lebanese detainees in Israel asked the release of 18 detainees who served the Israeli courts sentences, ranging from 3 to 9 years, but Israel extends imprisonment every six months.
Beirut located Murr tower, a 34 storey concrete structure tower, will change its look and be transformed into a trade center named Beirut Commercial Centre . The renovation of the tower will take 26 months.Owner of the tower is Solidere.
- Lebanese volleyball union hosted yesterday annual Iftar.
-Ansar administrative committee under Selim Diyab reviewed scheduled activities including a honorary game for players Mohamed Sharif and Jihad Mahjoub which will take place Feb 9,1997. The committee cheered player Ali Fakih who registered an international record for keeping his net clean for over 1350 minutes.
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