Lebanon political and religious leaders condemned the bombing, President Elias Hrawi, in a "message of solidarity" to Syrian president Hafez Assad, drew a parallel between the bus explosion and the violent attacks against Syrian targets in Lebanon.
Lebanon has suffered from criminal actions, but these, however, were not able to jeopardize Lebanese unity, Hrawi said. "Undertaking violent and terrorist actions will not root out our rights and dignity."
He added: "Syria will always be the shield of Arab rights and that of the just and global peace."
Speaker Nabih Berri also said the blast was connected to the gun attack on a Syrian mini-bus in Tabarja on December 18 which killed the driver and wounded two passengers, as well as the December 24th shooting rampage by an Israeli soldier in the West Bank city of Hebron.
The criminal hand which struck our people in Syria is the same hand which strikes our people in the south , the Golan Heights and Hebron" Berri said in a message to Assad. "I denounce the ugly crime which targets the national security of Syria and the Arabs and condole with you for the loss of innocent victims from our people in Syria, affirming the joint fate Lebanon and Syria share," he said.
Prime minister Rafik Hariri offered Assad his condolences for the deaths of the martyrs.
Foreign minister Fares Boueiz said there was "no doubt that this incident planned by Israel is meant to destabilise Syria and Lebanon because it is linked to the incidents that occurred in Lebanon."
Notable condemnation was heard from Lebanon's opposition National Liberal Party, headed by Dory Chamoun. The group, which has in the past denounced Syrian hegemony over Lebanon, said that the hand that meddled in the security of Damascus is the same hand that is moving the motorcade of terror between Lebanon and Syria.
Other Lebanese officials and groups yesterday also condemned the explosion.
Hizbullah said in a statement that the Zionist crime" was a clear Israeli attempt to attack the Arab resistance which is led by president Assad."
The newly-elected Sunni mufti, sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani said; "This terrorist act is a crime against all humanity and was perpetrated by the Zionist enemy."
Sheikh Mohammad Mehdi Shamseddine said the attacks are all part of the destructive Israeli plan against the Arabs." He called for Lebanese of all faiths to open their eyes and make themselves aware of what is happening.
Sheikh Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, another prominent Shiite cleric, said that "we must observe the attacks on Syrians in Lebanon and Syrians in Damascus to gain knowledge on how the Zionist intelligence works to damage Lebanese-Syrian relations.
Minister for emigrants affairs Talal Arslan said the Israeli moves aim "To harm the regional peace process and provide an escape from implementing the international resolutions."
Lebanon P.M. Rafik Hariri arrived to Paris Jan 3 where he is scheduled to meet today P. Chirac. Lebanese official source said talks in Paris will center on the implementation of Lebanon's friends conference held in Washington and the 3.2 b.US dollars aid to Lebanon. France will extend 200m out of total to finance various infrastructure projects. The source added Mr. Hariri will also discuss in Paris the function of the cease fire supervision committee. Mr. Hariri has announced another conference will be initiated and held either in Washington or Europe to follow up on the implementation of the Washington conference.
Earlier, Mr. Hariri held a meeting in Sidon with public schools directors and urged politicians not to interfere in the reshuffle of school teachers. He said his government has decided to increase public schools teaching to 85 percent and a plan has been laid down . The plan includes reparation and building new schools to be ready by next scholastic year.
P.Elias Hrawi received Jan 3 justice minister and senior judicial officials and discussed a plan to enlarge justice palace. He also received a delegation of the NSSP (National Syria Socialist Party). The NSSP spokesman said P. Hrawi call to develop civil affairs law and adopt a civil marriage code is not shelved.
Justice minister Bahij Tabbara said some 90 thousand court decision issued during 95/96 judicial year, part of civil war accumulated cases. He said there is only delay and pending cases namely rent and penal cases. The minister said there is nothing harmful to Mr .Samir Geagea health at his detention after a medical team checked him.
Lebanon Muslim religious leaders, on Friday prayer, gave focus to Israeli bombings both in Lebanon and Syria . They also denounced Lebanese officials demand to religious men not to intervene in political affairs. They said religious men should intervene if they observe corruption, unfair and oppression.
Chuf MP Nabil Bustani on Jan 3 urged the government to increase ceiling of compensations to rebuild or repair damaged houses, from 30 to 45 Million L.L. for each unit. He urged the government to provide enough money to the displaced fund and said repatriation faced a set back in 1996. Mr. Bustani said the fund is short of money since Sept 1996. The fund deputy chairman Abdel Hamid Nasser said compensations paid by fund since its was established in 1993 including 4784 for evacuating illegal occupants. He said the fund financed removal of war wreckage from 110 village, 171 water network projects, and rebuild or repair of some 125 religious centers.
Five Israeli consecutive air raids following Jan 3 Israeli heavy shelling . Lebanon decided Jan 3 to lodge a new complaint to the cease fire supervisory committee which is due to meet on Monday.
Lebanese official source said the complaint is against Israeli air raid on Jan 3 which targeted civil areas in the South namely village of Loueize.
The committee is expected also to see to a complaint lodged earlier by Lebanon and two complaints by Israel.
Lebanon Finance minister Fouad Sanioura lecturing a Tripoli based association Jan 3, said what was accomplished was not without a pay off which was increase of deficit and accumulation of debts. He hoped to achieve a gradual decrease of deficit and public debts. He blamed the economical recession and the unexpected expenditures for not transforming budget deficit into a surplus.
Mr Sanioura said the outcome of Washington conference require modernization of both public and private administrations.
Environment minister Akram Shehayeb hoped an environment's protection situation will emerge in Lebanon in the near future. He said what has been done in past years despite loopholes is hopefully reaching positive outcomes, also the citizen and public opinion are more careful now. His ministry started to make solid forward steps to enhance its role .
Pierre Atallah, the journalist detained two weeks ago in a major security dragnet, remained in custody yesterday following a legal argument over the conditions of his release between military prosecutor Muyassar Shokr and military investigating magistrate Riad Taleeh.
Judicial sources said Taleeh ordered that Atallah be released in bail of LL 1m ($600), but Shokr rejected the order and lodged an appeal with the higher military court.
Defense minister Mohsen Dalloul will convene the tribunal, reportedly on Monday to resolve the controversy, the source said Atallah, an editor at the daily newspaper An-Nahar, was detained last month along with dozens of others suspected of involvement in the clandestine distribution of leaflets slandering government officials and denouncing Syria's influence in Lebanon.
Riada wal Adab drew 0-0 with Safa at the Tripoli stadium yesterday, which netted both teams one point in the Lebanese Super league table.
In the other games yesterday, Tadamoun Sour won over Chabiba 3-1 and Homentmen defeated Chabab by the same margin.
Al-Hikma and Salam game will take place today.
Nejmeh and Ansar will play Jan 5 at Tripoli stadium but unfortunately without audience.
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