Cabinet is at this hour meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda. During tonight's weekly session, 44 clauses top the agenda. Ministers are also expected to discuss the six-point agreement reached earlier this week between House Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri. The agreement stressed holding municipal and mayoral elections next April and called for enforcing administrative and financial supervision of all public institutions.
House Speaker Nabih Berri today held talks with the Canadian Ambassador to Lebanon Andrew Robinson who visited Berri along with a Canadian delegation. After the meeting, the Canadian ambassador said the purpose of his visit is to maintain dialogue with the Lebanese leadership about Canada's efforts with regard to the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Robins assured Berri Canada has no hidden agenda or secret plans adding his country's efforts with regard to the refugees are only humanitarian.
The Canadian ambassador added Canada will continue its efforts to try to bring some more relief and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian refugees adding his country is also very sympathetic and understanding of the particular situation in Lebanon.
Prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri today convened with the representative of the International Committee for the red Cross in Lebanon, Jean Jacques Fresard. During the meeting, Fresard handed the premier a letter, the contents of which were not disclosed. Fresard refused to reveal whether any progress have been made with regard to negotiations of a possible swap of the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in a commando raid in South Lebanon in return for Lebanese prisoners held in Israeli jails. Last week, Fresard said after a similar meeting with Hariri negotiations were facing problems and the issue was far from being settled.
Mothers and fathers of Lebanese prisoners held in Israeli jails today converged in front of the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Beirut. Every Thursday at 11:00, the families stage a sit-in as part of campaign organized by the follow up committee for Lebanese detainees in Israeli jails to raise awareness on the suffering of the detainees. A spokeswoman for the families today appealed to the United Nations for the release of Zainab Nasser, who was taken by Israeli troops from her home in the front-line village of Aranoun early this week. She also called on the UN to pressure Israel to allow family visits to the Khiam detention center. Israel had decided last month not to allow families to visit their children nor ICRC representatives to inspect the jails.
Israel holds an estimated 50 Lebanese prisoners inside its own borders and another 125 at Khiam prison inside the zone it occupies in the South.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri this morning held talks with Interior minister Michele Al-Murr in the government palace. Discussions centered on the preparations underway for holding municipal and mayoral elections next April. After the meeting, Murr said the government will abide by this month as a fixed date for holding the elections. Murr added an established framework for the elections will be submitted to the cabinet next week to be handed over for parliament later on.
In Al-Bustan Hotel, a two-day conference opened today in the first exclusive education event in the Middle east for building complete solutions using tools and back office. Head of Microsoft, Bill Gates, addressed the conference through a computer genie saying he was happy the conference was held in Beirut. Information Minister Bassem Al-Sabaa opened the meeting saying the conference is a proof that Lebanese will not lag behind the world in the information technology revolution. Microsoft representative in Lebanon, Sam Hamdan, said Western companies including Microsoft are aware of Beirut's importance and leading role in the region, adding the Lebanese capital can not only be the import and export hub of the Middle East but also one which delivers computer solutions to the region.
Saudi billionaire investor Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bought a 50 percent stake in a project to build a $100 million plus Moevenpick hotel and resort in Beirut. Sources close to the prince today said he is eyeing further hotel investment in Lebanon. After a meeting with Premier Hariri yesterday, the prince said he reached a deal to buy land form the Lebanese real estate company Solidere to build a Four Season Hotel in Beirut. Prince Al-Waleed earlier this month said he was expanding his international portfolio in hotels with an agreement to purchase a 30% stake in the Swiss-based Moevenpick Hotels and Resorts.
A Lebanese court has ordered the seizure of the products and assets of Christian Dior Perfumes in Lebanon until its contract dispute with a Lebanese company is resolved. The Lebanese company Amatoury, which has represented Christian Dior products in Lebanon since 1947, has filed a suit for five million dollars against the perfume company for allegedly breaching an exclusive representation contract. Amatoury said Christian Dior broke the contract to profit two other companies, INA to sell Dior's products, and Sonodis to distribute them. Judicial sources said the court ordered the seizure of all Christian Dior perfume and cosmetic products on sale, in stock, or entering Lebanon.
French foreign minister Ober Fidrine, speaking before the parliament, affirmed that his country's policy toward Lebanon is unchanged and it is centered on the UN resolution 425. He added , France is using all means to help Lebanon regain its sovereignty on all its territory. He said in the short run France is focusing on the monitoring panel, but that is insufficient and France is seeking to reach an all out peaceful settlement in all the region. The foreign minister was responding to a proposal by socialist MP Jerard Bapt, close to Gen. Michel Aoun, who suggested that France takes an international initiative in Lebanon in case of an Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon.
-China foreign minister is due to visit Beirut on Dec. 18 as part of his tour in the M.E.
-The American Task Force delegation yesterday met prime minister Hariri, deputy speaker of the house Elie Firzli, army commander Gen. Lahoud and the Parliamentary national meeting. MP Nassib Lahoud briefed the task Force on the opposition views and concepts. Thomas Nassif, who heads the delegation, said the Israeli terms on withdrawal from Lebanon are not logical. He said there are security arrangements in Lebanon that should be completed in order to lift the strong warning for Americans wishing to visit Lebanon.
-The electricity employees and labors' union open strike that started as of 14th Oct. is still going on with power outages in some areas as a mean of pressure. Both the union and the administration said dialogue on the union's demands has stopped as demands cannot be implemented.
-Lebanon Football Federation secretary general Rahif Alameh left to Kuwait to act as a supervisor of the football match between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait tomorrow as part of the world cup final. Alameh was assigned by the FIFA.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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