News from Beirut October 14  1997 ...Search

Israeli war planes raid suspected bases in the Bekaa

Two Israeli planes rocketed Hizbullah targets early this afternoon in the eastern Bekaa Valley. Lebanese security forces said the planes fired four rockets into the area of Junta and destroyed the transmission antenna of a Hizbullah radio station five kilometers from the Syrian border. There was no immediate report on any casualty or damage in the attack. Hizbullah's Voice of the Oppressed said its transmission antenna in the area was completely destroyed. In Jerusalem, an Israeli army spokesman confirmed the raid. Earlier today, resistance fighters lightly wounded two Israeli soldiers in a mortar and missile attack in the zone Israel occupies in the South. Hizbullah fighters fired machine-guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at Israeli posts in Dabshe, Swaida, Shkeif, Sujud and Bir Kallab.

Monitoring Group meets on Israeli complaint

The five-nation cease-fire monitoring group today met to discuss a complaint filed by Israel over an alleged truce violation last week. The international committee convened at 11:00 this morning (0905 GMT) at the headquarters of the UN peacekeeping force in Naqoura. Israel lodged a complaint with the committee after mortar shells fired into the village of Majdel-Selem on October 8 injured a Lebanese civilian. Israel accused Hizbullah of carrying out the attack. Under the 1996 cease-fire agreement, Israel and Hizbullah are supposed to avoid targeting civilians and refrain from Launching attacks from civilian areas.

House Speaker meets parliament higher committee

During a meeting of the parliament's higher committee, House Speaker Nabih Berri explained what he called the truth about what happened during last week, referring to the different stances of Lebanese officials from a long-debated 1998 budget. Berri said the atmosphere was positive and optimistic during last night's presidential meeting at Baabda. The House Speaker added the three leaders agreed on all sticking points concerning the budget, adding no cabinet reshuffle was discussed. Deputies later quoted Berri as saying another presidential meeting will be held later tonight whereby the house speaker and the premier might reveal their agreements.

Berri-Hariri Crisis, What's Ahead

Minister of administrative reform Beshara Merhej, after a visit today to prime minister Hariri, said the government reshuffle is not under discussion and summit in Damascus can take place anytime.

So far, three meetings did not sort out differences and various possibilities are coming ahead, including a government crisis and resignation of the government with the consequent repercussions. An optimistic analysis says the crisis-storm would ease down after the parliament session on Wednesday ( reports said it was postponed until Thursday). In the meantime, Syrian mediation is on the way and perhaps will lead to a summit in Damascus next week.

House speaker Nabih Berri maintained total secrecy and refrained from giving any statement. Mr. Berri's circles quoted him saying he wants an agreement on everything and not on some specific points in order to avert repetition of disagreements. He was also quoted saying he refuses to involve himself in names and appointments in order to avert talking again on the troika. Mr. Berri is quoted saying he prefers not to transfer disagreements to Damascus.

Berri circles said issues including the municipal elections, government change or reshuffle and a summit in Damascus are titles of dialogue.

Sanyoura assures budget deficit will not exceed 37%

After meeting Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri this morning at the government palace, Acting Finance Minister Fouad Senyora said cabinet will ensure the budget deficit does not exceed the agreed-upon 37, adding cabinet is ready to debate article 9 of the budget draft bill which deals with taxation.

Sanyoura expressed surprise over the tension created in the country under the cover of state budget discussions. The finance minister stressed there is no need to worry about the Lebanese lira adding the financial situation in the country is under control.

Electricity workers strike

Electricite du Liban workers today staged an open strike to demand higher wages and better conditions, threatening to leave any damage unrepaired until their demands are met. A spokesman for the electricity workers union said about 500 public sector workers are taking part in the strike. They are pressing demands which include a new salary scale, higher education allowances and medical insurance after retirement. Some other demands include confirming jobs pending appointments as permanent staff, calculating end of service pensions in the same way as independent utilities do, and also calculating bonuses according to the latest minimum wage rates.

US Task Force visits Hrawi and Berri

The American Task Force in Lebanon (ATFL) today visited President Elias Al-Hrawi at Baabda. The 30-member team of Lebanese origin arrived at Beirut International Airport last Saturday on a week-long visit which includes meetings with Lebanese officials and businessmen. After meeting Hrawi, Chairman of the ATFL, Thomas Nassif said Hrawi enlightened the visiting team on Lebanon's position concerning the peace process and the implementation of the UN Security General Resolution 425. The team is in Lebanon to celebrate the recent lifting of the US travel ban on the country and to formulate a new policy for Lebanon while ensuring economic and military assistance to their mother country. Among the team are Selwa Choucair Roosevelt, the longest running chief of protocol in the White House during the former US president Ronald Regan's administration and American DJ, Casey Kasem whose family is originally form the Chouf mountains. Their discussions with Lebanese officials will continue until Saturday.

US rights group urges Israel to free 21 Lebanese

A US human rights organization yesterday urged Israel to release 21 Lebanese detained in Israeli jails for years without charge or trial. The New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report that the detainees were seized during Israeli commando raids carried out inside Lebanon and have been held in secret locations and denied virtually all contact with the outside world. The group said the detainees included Hizbullah officials Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid and Moustafa Dirani, stressing that they are being held as hostages tied with Israel's efforts to win the release of its mission serviceman Ron Arad. Obeid was abducted from his home in 1989 in a pre-dawn raid by Israeli commandos. Israeli troops similarly snatched Dirani from his home in 1994. Human Rights Watch said that at least several of the detainees are believed to have undergone physical abuse during interrogation, according to information collected by amnesty International and other organizations.

Lebanese trade fair opens in Baghdad

A Lebanese trade fair today opened in Baghdad with more than 200 businessmen from 83 companies seeking contracts with Iraq under the oil-for-food exemption to UN sanctions. The fair running until Saturday is expected to help re-launch cooperation between the two Arab countries. Iraq resumed limited oil exports in December to finance imports of humanitarian goods under the UN accord. Before the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the ensuing UN sanctions against Iraq, Baghdad bought 20 percent of Lebanese exports.

News Briefs :

-Patriarch Sfair received yesterday a phone call from president Hrawi following his return from the Vatican. He also received visitors and well wishers.

-Gen. Michel Aoun addressing a sermon in London on the occasion of  Oct. 13th operation said time is the enemy number one "do not let it govern you and shift you from the principal cause and face it by continuous work and a strong faith".

-The Lebanese SOLIDA organization asked the Lebanese and Syrian authority to reveal the whereabouts of two Lebanese monks who disappeared Nov. 13. 1990 from Deir el Qalaa near Beit Meri. The organization also demanded release of 20 Lebanese soldiers it said detained in one of the Syrian jails since 7 years.

-MP Najah Wakim yesterday said the amendment of Solidere Law to allow foreign shareholders was a violation to the law and he will challenge the case. Wakim said through such amendment 10 foreign shareholders, that can be in fact one, can own the downtown Beirut and control the country's economical cycle.

-State Shawra Council in a new decision abolished a decree issued July 1997 which extended term in office of the Lebanese Red Cross' central and executive committee for three years. The extension was through a government decree and not a general election as stipulated in the law and Red Cross rules. The Shawra Council's verdict said the decree violated the law, rules and freedom of associations.

-Sheikh Subhi Tufeili yesterday called the tribes of Bekaa to lubricate their weapons "because frankly saying if they do not respond to our demands we shall fight until we take it". He said the 26th Oct. is the deadline to go to the streets if demands are not met. The national news agency said supporters of sheikh Tufeili toured public schools in Hermel and told the directors they will undermine the scholastic year if the students are not exempted of the charge of registration.

-Beirut MP Hussein Yatim after a visit to Germany conveyed the demand of the Lebanese community there to the government to intervene to stop their compulsory deportation.

Sports Review

Table Tennis:

The Lebanese Union for table tennis held its final tournament for the championship of Lebanon's girls and children. Elizabeth Barikian scored over Layal Safdieh by 2-1. Alfred Najem also won over Rawad Reyashi (2-0).

In the semi-final tournament for men, winners were Joseph Chalhoub (Homentmen) and Mohammed Al-habash (Maani-Saida). They will be transferred to the final competition to be held tomorrow afternoon.


The fourth stage in the final competition for the championship of Lebanon in chess was held in the alumni club in the Beirut Arab university late yesterday. Ahmad Najjar won over Anthony Ibrahim in a very exciting game of its kind. 12 players participate in the competition's 11 stages, each consisting of seven hours.

-Mont La Salle club for Taikwando announced that its players in Sardinia-Italy won three medals including two gold and one silver.

-Director of sports and youths Zayd Khiami returned back from Paris after talks with French counterpart on cooperation between the two countries.

-Lebanon Golf open tournament continues for the 7th day.

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