News from Beirut October 1  1997 ...Search

Cabinet meeting in Baabda

Lebanon's cabinet four hour meeting held yesterday at Baabda palace under president Elias Hrawi was a contrast to the earlier previous stormy meeting that left back a political crisis. The cabinet drew guidelines of a financial policy that aims at a fiscal budget, acceptable locally and externally, looking into steady revenues that help decrease the budget deficit and signal that Lebanon is on the right track.

Bringing down the budget deficit was sort of consensus at the meeting since all the ministers are convinced that the hike of the deficit is not proper and will not encourage foreign countries to aid Lebanon and lend it money, recalled that reputation of Lebanon is good vis a vis payment of its due debts. Prime minister Rafic Hariri repeated that the budget should be credible and realistic also spending should be within the framework of the state revenues. Another meeting is scheduled for Thursday.

-Mr. Hariri discussions throughout Yesterday with 12 ministers ended with the concept to decrease their budget by 10 to 30 percent. The cabinet discussions centered on maintaining a deficit average of not more than 40 percent. It is recalled that 1997 expected budget deficit was 37 percent but actual deficit went beyond 53 per cent.

-Pressures in the monetary market said to have been eased down and the central bank intervened by selling $70mn to support the local currency rate. Even though the political factors that led to the monetary pressures has not changed yet, the ease came from the market itself including a firm decision taken between governor of the central bank and prime minister Hariri aimed to protect the local currency rate regardless of any considerations. Money dealers were notified of the decision and refrained to speculate against the local currency, especially after the political tension eased down. Analysts said the central bank by supplying US dollars to meet demands could in fact collect the Lebanese currency market liquidity of the two past days amounting around L.L2,531bn. The central bank sold out a total of $165mn to meet the demand at an average dollar rate of 1,534 L.L.

-The austerity budget that is under discussion now will place both the government and its opponents before a due political-financial situation. The questions raised here is what would be the impacts of such a budget on the development plan, especially on projects in rural areas where there are signals of rebellion, what impacts on the under construction projects, what impacts on the government general reconstruction plan, and what impacts on the image of the prime minister as a symbol of the reconstruction process. Another question is how the government can mediate between the accumulating pressing needs since the ministries' budgets will be decreased by 10 to 30 per cent.

News Briefs

-Foreign minister Fares Boueiz held talks in N.Y. with the UN S.G. Mr. Anan before leaving to Paris to preside the meeting of Lebanese ambassadors in Europe on Friday. He conferred with Anan on the UNIFIL mission in south Lebanon and extended invitation to him to visit Lebanon to inaugurate the new head office of ESCWA in Beirut. Mr. Boueiz gave a lecture in N.Y. foreign relations center titled Lebanon and the peace process. Responding to questions after the lecture, Boueiz said the Lebanese army size is now 70,000 and maintains a high military qualifications. He said the Lebanese army is capable to station all along the international borders with Israel immediately after the withdrawal of the Israeli occupant army, but ensuring security there is not obliging Lebanon, because the UN 425 resolution spoke on unconditional withdrawal.

On why not naming the Syrian army as occupant, Boueiz responded saying the Syrian army presence was upon a request by the government of Lebanon, it helps in restoring security and the security cooperation with Syria has led to the revive of the Lebanese institutions.

Boueiz said Israel has occupied parts of south Lebanon under the pretext of  protecting its northern borders and it is launching daily attacks against innocent civilians under the pretext of fighting the resistance, which could inflict heavy casualties among the Israelis. He said Israel did not commit itself even one time to unconditional withdrawal during the 14 rounds of talks with Lebanon.

-Islamic resistance men attacked during the past 24 hours series of Israeli and SLA targets along the security zone's line. The posts that were attacked included Tallouseh Barachit SLA post overlooking Arab Salim and Tohra. AMAL movement claimed an attack against the post of Masharoun.

-News sources said following the knock out of the $1bn plan and opposition to the increase of taxes, the government would shift into a care taker with an extreme austerity budget until a new president is elected and a new government is formed .

-Israel said to have refused to swap pieces of its soldier for Lebanese detainees and captives but accepted to swap the pieces for bodies.

-US ambassador Richard Jones, after a visit to president Elias Hrawi accompanied by the new charge d'affaires Greg Perry, said his country is concentrating on making breakthrough on the Israeli -Palestinian peace track, believing that making progress in this track is more possible than in the Israeli-Syrian track. Jones said the US policy toward Lebanon is unchanged and the visit by Mrs. Albright embodied that policy.

-Former prime minister Selim Hoss yesterday said the ongoing new trend of discussion on the economical crisis which centers on austerity should have been exercised from the beginning.

-Former member of Gen. Michel Aoun cabinet Brig. Issam abu Jamra called from Paris the Lebanese authorities to return back the money it had confiscated 7 years ago from his wife at Beirut airport. He said no judicial sentence was issued yet in this regard. Abu Jamra outlined the events since Oct. 19 1990 until his wife's return three months ago saying she was told by the governor of the central bank, where the money is deposited, that the confiscation was a political decision and returning the money is out of his authority. He said the customs administration which confiscated the money said the case is beyond its authority.

-The Lebanese Maronite community in Paris celebrated  the appointment of bishop Nabil Andari as deputy patriarch at a sermon.

-The executive director of the UNICEF Carol Belame is due to arrive to Beirut Friday.

-Deadline to present applications for the new identity cards for the family names starting with the letter A was over on Sept. 30.

-The judicial system in Lebanon ended the summer recess that started mid July. Today all courts and prosecution department resume work. The major cases that will be again before judiciary include the case of Samir Geagea, The Japanese red Army five, former MP Yahya Shamas, embezzlement of the finance ministry money, forgery of stamps and custom declarations, files against Abu Arz and other collaborators with Israel, and the GLC elections case.

-Lebanon private hospitals suspended its earlier decision to collect fees directly from patients not insurers and gave the government a deadline ending 20th Oct. to pay its due debts.

-Economical relations between Lebanon and Sweden, Russia and Rumania were reviewed between economy minister Yassine Jaber and ambassadors of the mentioned countries.

-Following the decision by judge Abdallah Bitar to close down 14 illegal telephone offices in Beirut and the arrest of its owners, the president of  the state run OJERO communication institution said the closure of illegal offices will include all Lebanon.

Sports Round Up

-Marlboro 7th Cedars Rally which is the fourth and last of Lebanon's rallies is to be held on 11th and 12th Oct. with so far 17 participants. The rally distance is 450 km. Foreign racers will be allowed to participate in Lebanon's championship -1998 if they abide by its technical and administrative rules.

-Lebanon women basketball's championship. Homentmen Beirut and Antranik will play tomorrow for the first and second rank, and Homentmen-Antelias and Shabab-Ghobeiri will play for the third and fourth rank.

-Lebanon's boxing union decided to participate in the Arab 8th Championship for youth which will be held from 9th to 13th Oct. in Damascus.

-Lebanon 26th cup tournament will mark today Ansar -Salam Zghorta match at Bourj Hammoud stadium..

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