Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro today arrived in Beirut starting a Four-day official visit. Scalfaro was received at Beirut International Airport by his Lebanese counterpart Elias Al-Hrawi, First lady Mona Al-Hrawi, the Italian Ambassador to Lebanon Carlo Calia and a number of high-ranking Lebanese officials. This is the first visit of an Italian President to Lebanon. It followed however another visit by Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi. The Lebanese and Italian national anthems were played at the airport. Then the two presidents headed towards the presidential palace in Baabda. The roads to the palace were decorated with welcoming banners and Italian and Lebanese flags. Following Baabda's discussions, Scalfaro is expected to meet members of the Italian community in Lebanon at the Italian embassy. The Italian ambassador to Lebanon Carlo Calia said one of the most important stops in Scalfaro's visit will be his expected visit on Friday to the Italian troops working under UNIFIL in Naqoura, South Lebanon. Italy has often supported Lebanon and urged the implementation of UN resolution 425 which calls for the unconditional withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon. Italy which is also Lebanon's largest trading partner played an influential role in the Friends of Lebanon Conference held recently in the United States. Scalfaro's visit to Lebanon is highly important in boosting the already-excellent bilateral ties between the two countries.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri continues his official visit to Japan. Today, the premier held talks with his Japanese counterpart Ryotaro Hashimoto. After their meeting, Hariri described discussions as clear and frank. Both leaders held talks on political and economic concerns. For his part, Hashimoto voiced great concern for Lebanon and economic cooperation between the two counties. Hariri quoted Hashimoto as saying Japan is closely monitoring the situation in the region and believes the peace process must move forward despite the existing deadlock. Hashimoto also said his country is certain that the Arabs want peace. The premier also discussed possible ways through which japan can actively participate in economic and development projects in Lebanon. he said a Japanese business delegation will arrive in Lebanon before the end of this month to conduct studies and complete previously carried ones on investment opportunities in the country. Hariri said the Japanese are ready to help Lebanon through soft loans and a number of grants. The Lebanese premier who described his visit as positive is expected to meet the Japanese Emperor Akihito and his wife the empress tomorrow. Afterwards, Hariri will return to Lebanon concluding his official visit to Japan.
The United States department of Agriculture (USDA) today provided the Lebanese ministry of Agriculture with a credit guarantee of six million US dollars to finance the import of 3000 Pregnant purebred American cows. 750 cows arrived to the Beirut Port this morning. The cows are provided to help Lebanese farmers restore their dairy cows lost during the war. The imported heifers are between 4-6 month pregnant and originate from superior quality herds in the US, proven for high production quality. The health status of the imported animals was checked and certified by health officials at the American Department of Agriculture to be free form all communicable diseases. The heifers will be provided to Lebanese farmers on a credit basis with 20% initial cash contribution and the balance in credit over a three year period. The Ministry of Agriculture in Lebanon established a special project manned by a special technical staff which will receive and process the loan applications from the farmers proposed to receive the animals in accordance with the criteria specifeied by the project. The American Department of Agriculture will also send several technical experts to assist the ministry in program implementation.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing the American university of Beirut an amount of 650,000 US dollars for program support in Lebanon. AUB will be in charge of receiving the cows in the port, transporting them to the quarantine farms, providing the needed vaccinations, and managing the care of the animals throughout the quarantine period. AUB and the ministry of Agriculture will also provide further assistance to the Lebanese farmers after delivery of the cows, including extension services for veterinary care and record keeping. These extension services will ensure the future success of the project.
The five-nation cease-fire monitoring group last night called for both Israel and Hizbullah to spare civilians when targeting each other. After meeting on a complaint filed by Israel concerning a cease-fire violation, the committee strongly urged that all combatants act strictly in accordance with the provisions of the April truce understanding and take the necessary precautions in order to avoid putting civilians at risk. Under the terms of the accord, both sides must abstain from attacks to and from civilian areas. A the meeting, the Israeli delegate stated that the firing was a deliberate initiative since it impacted away from the positions of the Israeli forces and Israeli allied militia forces in the area of Rihan. The delegate said therefore the attack was not legitimate and constituted a breach of h understanding. However, the Lebanese delegate said the firing was legitimate and could not be considered a breach of he understanding since it was aimed at the positions of the Israeli forces and allied militia outposts in Ksaret al-Aroush and Rihan. The panel met yesterday at the headquarters of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon in the Southern town of Naqoura.
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