Four Israeli soldiers were killed and nine others wounded in South Lebanon today. Hizbullah claimed responsibility for the attack saying its resistance fighters showered a convoy of high-ranking Israeli officers with machinegun-fire and rocket-propelled grenades, inflicting direct hits and burning one of the four cars. Four Israeli soldiers were killed and seven others wounded on the al-Dawaweer gate on the Israeli border.
Earlier, Hizbullah released a statement saying a unit of the Islamic resistance named after martyr Hadi Nasrallah, detonated a bomb near a high-ranking Israeli officers' patrol on the road between Markaba and Odayseh in the zone Israel occupies in the South. Security sources said two Israeli soldiers were wounded in the Markaba roadside bomb. Security sources also said more than 60 shells landed around the outskirts of Wadi al-Hujeir, Touline, and Majdel Selem, setting fire to a number of woods and valleys.
President Elias Al-Hrawi, House Speaker Nabih Berri, and Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today held talks at the government palace in Baabda. The three leaders discussed the 1998 state budget. After their meeting, Prime Minister Hariri said all three leaders agreed on the 1998 budget draft bill which he said will be handed to the parliament and then for parliamentary committees for discussion. Hariri added they agreed on maintaining the government policy to cut spending and the budget deficit of 37% as listed in next year's budget. The premier stressed no money will be spent on any project unless a source is ensured.
President Elias Al-Hrawi today met head of the International Red Cross Committee in Lebanon John Jacques Fresard. Discussions centered on the obstacles facing the ICRC concerning the condition of Lebanese prisoners held in the Khiam detention center. One month ago, the ICRC was not allowed to inspect these jails anymore. The committee is now holding the necessary contacts to enable its representatives to visit these detainees who are currently holding a hunger strike. Reports say the prisoners are now unable to see their parents nor are they allowed to exchange letters with them.
Fresard also discussed with the president the economic and medical condition of those citizens living on the border line. Fresard said the ICRC has decided to increase its medical and food support to people living in these areas.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today discussed the 1998 budget draft bill with the head of the budget and finance parliamentary committee, Khalil Hrawi. Deputy Hrawi later said a comprehensive reform plan should be introduced to control government spending. The premier later met a Chinese economic delegation whose members expressed their country's will to arrange exhibitions in a bid to boost economic ties with Lebanon. Hariri also received a delegation from the American Computer Company IBM headed by the IBM Vice President for Marketing Affaris, David Wayne. After the meeting, Wayne praised the reconstruction drive in the country, hoping his company would cooperate with Lebanese firms and play the role of an active participant in the country's post-war revival. The company has already compiled a list of the different sectors in the Lebanese market which can benefit from its famous computer capabilities.
The executive committee of the General Labor Confederation today held an extraordinary session headed by Ghaneim Al-Zoghbi. Talks centered on the new taxes listed in the article 9 of the 1998 budget draft bill. Next year's draft lists significant increases over last year's tax rate. Under Article 9, the costs of passports, real estate registration, drivers' permits, and especially annual road taxes underwent substantial increases.
The GLC executive committee reaffirmed its rejection of the imposition of all indirect taxes that affect the low-income class. The GLC statement suggested new tax systems should take into consideration the respective income and the standard of living of workers and low-income earners. The committee stressed the necessity of conducting serious dialogue on the economic, social, and financial conditions in the country.
-Foreign minister Fares Boueiz launched vehement attack against the proposed draft, which was endorsed while he was in New York and said the government entire economical policy is wrong. Boueiz said administrative reform should be given priority over austerity. He said austerity measures should address the waste of resources and not the basic necessities that people's everyday lives depend on. Boueiz said the austerity measure should hit everyone with the same intensity. He blamed the waste of public resources, lack of planning and absence of tough controls on spending for exhausting the state's finance. Boueiz, in his continued counter attack against minister Walid Jumblat, said the Christian church in Lebanon had played an important role for many of Lebanon's leaders. "Without the Christians convents and the contribution of the churches here, the fathers and grandfathers of many of today's leaders would not have had the opportunity to acquire any adequate education", Boueiz said in reference to Jumblat ancestors. He also said "while the Christians have provided men who have worked hard for the progress of Arab countries, others have made money at the Arab expense and that is all that matters to them.
-Justice minister Bahij Tabbara, after a visit to house speaker, denied that the new taxes would constitute a burden on low income people. He said the council of ministers had taken this into account before deciding the increase of taxes. Tabbara said the limited budget allocated to his ministry for 1998 will not affect judges; salaries and financial benefits that members of the judicial system enjoy.
-Health minister Suleiman Franjieh said yesterday that the cost of hospitalization must be cut, hospitals debts should be met and that the health care was the responsibility of all related sectors. Franjieh said the decrease of the health care charges cannot be established with a high political decision nor at the push of a button, but it is rather a natural consequence of the amendment of the health care system in a scientific manner.
-Former prime minister Selim Hoss argued why the government slowed the implementation of projects financed by the world bank loans. Hoss said the bank extended $604mn during the period from 1993 to 1997 but none of the financed projects was accomplished. He said total of the money withdrawn from the loans until end of August 1997 amounted only $162mn that is 27 per cent.
-US ambassador Richard Jones yesterday said his country would be supplying the Lebanese army with equipment to remove land mines along with a training program which will be run by the US army personnel. Jones said most of the mines outside the occupied area were not planted by the Israelis but date back to the war years and were planted by the Lebanese to protect their villages. Jones said "we do not look at this as something related to the conflict in south but rather related in helping Lebanon recover from the war times".
-French ambassador in Lebanon Daniel Jouaneau said the French funded Financial Institute has re-trained more than 1,000 Lebanese civil servant within the administration.
-During the second day of a regional seminar on information and communication technology, a Lebanese university journalism professor told former MP August Bakhous that while he was surfing the web, he came across a site offering Lebanese songs, and was surprised to see a famous young Lebanese singer "perform naked". " I know she did not do it", said the professor Jean Karam. August Bakhous, who heads a committee working on modernizing Lebanese laws, said the Lebanese penal code is applied, but if the person is not Lebanese and the crime occurred out of Lebanon, there would be need for international treaties and cooperation. Among other issues at the seminar were the pressing issues of ethical implications, and the necessity of protecting society from the spread of child pornography, defamation, unauthorized dissemination of confidential information, and the incitement of racial and religious hatred.
-MP Bahiya Hariri yesterday said there will be no child deprived of education at the public schools and the private schools should not increase its fees this scholastic year.
-The Catholic International Press Union conference is scheduled to hold its conference in Lebanon from Nov. 23 until 30th at Dar Saydet el Jabal at Fitka.
- Lebanese Ansar offered to host the final quarter of west Asia group in the 17th championship of Asia's clubs scheduled to take place from 23 to 27 February. Ansar offered the accommodation and all other facilities.
-The Lebanese Football Federation is seeking to sign contracts with foreign trainers to train its national, Olympic and young generation teams in framework of developing the sport in Lebanon until the year 2,000 when Lebanon will host Asia's Cup-12. The Union was informed of the acceptance of German Federation to play a friendly match with the Lebanese national team Mar 1998.
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