The four hours meeting yesterday between Lebanon three top officials was not a final remedy to the accumulating strain but it was a step forward to resolve the differences. Another meeting of the same kind would be held Sunday according to house speaker Nabih Berri.
One meeting was not enough to resolve the due coming events such as the budget and else. Leaking outcome of the meeting was not available perhaps because the three officials did not want to harm the fragile situation. It is not certain yet whether the differences on the $1bn plan and the consequent reference of the draft budget to parliament were resolved. Mr. Hariri in his declaration indicated that there was agreement on austerity and to maintain the average deficit but his circles said another will be held this week to pursue talks. Hariri was assertive that the budget deficit average of 37.46 is a red line and a ceiling that is impossible to be breached.
The house speaker said the discussions will be continued and there will be another meeting on Sunday. He stressed his point saying he is insisting on austerity and decreasing the budget deficit even below 37 per cent. His visitors noticed he is still on the same stand toward the increases and charges. They also said the three top officials believe that it is necessary to make a review of the entire method of work, because it is not proper each time the differences take place the method of work remain the same as before. Mr. Berri visitors said he is not responsible of the budget deficit and neither do want to accuse anyone of that responsibility, but he is responsible to find a treatment, and for that the case needs long time and an entire review of everything. The visitors too said this entire review will place all the sensitive issues on the table of discussions, including the supervisory boards, the municipal elections, the administrative reform and administrative reshuffle.
Ministerial sources said a summit between president Assad and Hrawi is possible, since it is logical to hold such a summit following president Assad meeting with both the house speaker and the prime minister. The sources said the troika meeting is in the framework of Lebanese-Syrian consultation, and which called for maintaining internal stability under the regional accelerating developments. Damascus is said to have refused to open the file of the presidential elections as of now.
At the short council of ministers' meeting at the government house Mr.Hariri reiterated the point of sticking to the deficit average of 37.46 per cent and that no more spending will go on without adequate revenues. He said the past five years spending was justified because it was aimed to eliminate the war effects, rebuild the infrastructure and increase the social services, but now the address is to increase the revenues through good collection. He said Lebanon lacks a specialized agency such as the European IRS which include experts who propose studies on increasing the revenues, and it is time in Lebanon to establish such agency..
-House speaker Nabih Berri held four hours talks today with Mr. Bashar Assad and discussed local and regional topics.
-GLC leader Ghanim Zoghbi, after a meeting with labor minister Assaad Hardan, reiterated his union's rejection to the article No 9 in the budget.
-Iraqi economical delegation now visiting Lebanon visited Qana in south Lebanon and held talks in Sidon with the chamber of commerce.
-Head of the ICRC in Lebanon Jacques Frazer yesterday informed president Elias Hrawi of the ongoing negotiations to swap Israeli soldier pieces for Lebanese detainees. Frazer said for two years the ICRC can enter the Khiam prison and register new detainees also organize visits of the families of the detainees, but since a month the ICRC was not able to visit the prison and does not know what is going on. He said he discussed with the president the situation of the people living near the front-line and their difficult economical medical situation.
-The US state department classified some 30 international organizations, including the Lebanese Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine, as terrorist organizations, in a bid to squeeze it and prevent it to work in the US and to raise funds and contributions under the threat of going to Jail. Secretary of state Mrs. Albright said "our message to everyone coming to the US to raise funds to a terrorist organizations that you risk going to jail, and the message to every member of any terrorist group who wants to enter to the US that you are not welcome here".
-Hizbullah, in reaction to the US state department classifying it as terrorist group, said its resistance against the Israeli occupation is legitimate and that Israel exercises terrorism.
-Syrian vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam yesterday received Hizbullah secretary general sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. Khaddam hailed the pioneer role of the party and its bearing the national and pan Arab responsibility, also the credibility the party leadership enjoys in Lebanon and on Arabic level.
-Foreign minister Fares Boueiz received copies of the credentials of ambassadors of Switzerland, Spain, Jordan and UAE. He also received a survey laid down by the Maronite league on restructuring the internal security forces ISF. Head of the league Pierre Helou said the Maronites feel worry but not depressed. He said the league thinks that the Maronite community is threatened by the ISF new proposed law and it is against the interest of the country. Helou said the survey has been presented two weeks ago to president Hrawi and patriarch Sfair and will be presented to all leaders.
-Six football matches were held Wednesday in the 32nd round of Lebanon's 26th cup. Ahd team overcame Hurriya-Majdel Anjar 1-0. Homenmen overcame Fajr-Zifta 9-1. Homentmen overcame Indifaa-Hazmieh 3-1. Tadamoun-Tyre overcame Shabiba-Mazraa 3-2.
-Cars racing in the cedar's fourth rally, which is the fourth phase of Lebanon rallies-formula 2 group N, are to undergo the technical check up tomorrow. The rally will go ahead Saturday and continues until Sunday. Marlboro is the sponsor of the rally.
-Lebanon is to host New Zealand in Davis cup first round of Asia-Oceanea first group between the 13th and 15th of Feb. 1998. In case Lebanon wins it will later play with South Korea between the 3rd and 5th of April.
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