An explosion ripped through the capital's main bus station last evening. The blast caused minimal damage and no casualties but it sparked panic among scores of passengers and staff. It was the second explosion in the city in less than 24 hours following a dynamite attack at the American University of Beirut in the early hours of Tuesday. Police said they believed an explosive charge was contained in an abandoned suitcase in a parking lot area at the newly-opened Charles Helou bus station near the port in the eastern sector of the capital. But later security officers said the blast was caused by a hand grenade which was detonated on the station's second floor. Police tightened security measures around the bus station to prevent anyone from entering. Checkpoints were immediately set up as police investigators inspected the damage and searched the bus terminal for clues.
President of the Railway and Public Transport Authority, Bassam Abdel-Malak described the attack as an act of general sabotage, refusing to make any connection between the incident and the explosion at AUB. Abdel-Malak added the station will soon resume its regular activities but admitted that more awareness was needed.
The country's central security committee today met in response to the two recent explosions in the capital. Interior minister Michel Al-Murr chaired the meeting which grouped senior army officers, intelligence officials and police representatives, to coordinate efforts to track down those responsible for the unclaimed blasts. After the meeting, Murr announced the government will implement tightened security measures as of today to prevent further incidents. The council finally accused Israel of being behind the blasts linking them to recent statement by the Israeli Interior minister Avigdor Kahalani. The Interior minister later told reporters that the hand of Israel is visible in the attacks adding there exists in Lebanon a network of Israeli agents charged with carrying out destabilizing actions. Prosecutor General Adnan Addoum, meanwhile, warned that those behind the bombings would soon be caught and severely punished.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today visited the blast site at the American University of Beirut. The premier later held discussions with the newly-appointed president of AUB, John Waterberry, acting president Samir Makdessi, and some members of the administration and board of trustees.
After the meeting, Hariri reiterated the government's support for AUB and its new president adding Waterberry will still take up residence in Beirut as planned. Hariri also condemned the incident describing it as a cowardly act. For his part, Waterberry welcomed the premier at AUB and expressed the university's deep appreciation for his visit. He said he assured Hariri that every one at AUB does not attribute any importance to the events of the last two days. Waterberry finally said the plans of the university and his own plans will move forward without change. He will leave Beirut tomorrow as previously scheduled only to return at the beginning of the new year to take up his new position.
This morning President Elias Al-Hrawi held talks with prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri the presidential palace in Baabda. Discussions centered on the outcome of Hariri's visit to Tehran, the situation in the South and other issues. House Speaker Nabih Berri later joined the two leaders. After the meeting, Berri said the atmosphere of their discussions was positive.
Meanwhile, cabinet will meet later today at Baabda. Discussions are expected to center on the municipal and mayoral election draft law.
An Israeli allied militia security sources in south Lebanon today said there were heavy clashes between Israeli forces and the resistance in the Wadi al-Slouki area on the edge of the central sector of the zone Israeli occupies in the South. But there were conflicting reports on the results of the clashes. The Israeli allied militia in the south said two guerrillas were killed in the fighting. The Amal movement, meanwhile, reported that its guerrillas attacked Israeli troops in the area killing and wounding many soldiers and returning safe to their base without suffering any losses. In a separate statement, Amal said its guerrillas attacked an Israeli outpost in the same sector causing many casualties.
The agreement was today signed in the presence of environment minister Akram Shhayyeb and UNDP Resident Coordinator, Ross Mountain. They both signed the project of Institutional Strengthening for Montreal Protocol which calls for the protection of the Ozone layer. The role of the Ozone layer in protecting human beings from the harmful ultraviolet radiation emanating form the sun was also discussed. After the signing, Mountain said long-term exposure to UV-B will increase the risk of eye damage. It can also cause suppression of the immune system and will be the key risk factor in the development of skin cancer. Mountain added the UN-B radiation damages the early development of fish, shrimp, crab, and other water life.
At the initiative of the United Nations, the Montreal protocol on Substances that Depleted the Ozone Layer was ratified by Lebanon in September 1995. The protocol requires parties to report on production and consumption of ODS also providing the necessary technical and financial support to developing countries in order to assist them to fulfill their obligations under the protocol. At the request of the ministry of Environment, this project was transferred to UNDP to provide further administrative and managerial support. The project amounts to $179,000 for a three year period.
At Boustrous Palace today, Foreign minister Faris Boueiz met the secretary general of ESCWA Hazem Al-Biblawi. Top on the agenda of talks was the official ceremony that will be held on November 10 to celebrate ESCWA's return to Beirut. After the meeting, Biblawi thanked the Lebanese government for its efforts in allowing the move to take place as scheduled.
As to the number of staff, Biblawi said ESCWA will employ about 280 administrators and technical experts and advisors.
Lebanon's leading football team Ansar got the right of organizing the 1997 championship of Asian clubs in Beirut. The decision was taken during a meting of the Organizing committee for the tournaments of the Asian Union of Football in Malaysia yesterday. The championship will be held in Beirut on the 22, 24, and 26 of February 1998.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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