Two Israeli allied militiamen were wounded in a roadside bomb in South Lebanon today. An allied militia source in the South said the explosion was on the Kfarhouneh road in Jezzine which is outside the zone Israel occupies in the South. In Beirut, Hizbullah claimed responsibility for the attack which raised to 52 the number of allied militiamen wounded in the South during the year 1997. Later, Israel and its allied militia shelled suspected Hizbullah positions in the Iqlim al-Touffah hills just north of the zone.
Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro continues his official visit to Lebanon. Scalfaro today held talks in parliament. He issued a statement afterwards along with House speaker Nabih Berri. The Italian president told the parliament he backed the country's full independence. He also voiced Italy's support for Lebanon's demand for an immediate and unconditional Israeli withdrawal from the South as ordered by the UN Security Council Resolution 425, adding the resolution must be respected. In reply to Scalfaro's statement, House Speaker Nabih Berri said the Italian President's visit to the Lebanese parliament and to the South will spread European dynamism in the framework of the European support for ensuring peace for Lebanon through ending the occupation and Israeli threats.
Scalfaro later headed to the coastal town of Naqoura in the South to inspect the Italian troops that serve under a UN peacekeeping force in South Lebanon. On the third day of his official visit to Lebanon, Scalfaro unveiled a memorial to four Italian airmen and an Irish soldier who died last August in a helicopter crash in the South. He also laid a wreath on a cenotaph honoring 216 UN peacekeepers killed since 1978, when the UN Interim Force in Lebanon began its mission following the Israeli invasion.
Former French Foreign Minister Herve De Charette arrived last in Beirut to present a book he published. Today, De Charette met President Elias Al-Hrawi at the presidential palace in Baabda. After the meeting, the French diplomat stressed that Israel's intransigence has deadlocked the Mideast peace process. He also added the peace process will witness no progress until after Israeli legislative elections. De Charette promised his country will not change its friendly policies towards Arab States. During his visit which last until Monday, the French official is expected to meet prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and House Speaker Nabih Berri. He will also head to the Qana memorial site in South Lebanon.
The executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for West Asia said negotiations are still underway on whether the UN secretary general Kofi Annan will attend the official opening of the new Beirut headquarters for ESCWA next January. Biblawi was speaking to reporters during a press conference at the ESCWA building in Riyad al-Solh Street in downtown Beirut. The 14-story building will house other UN organizations which would offer a chance for all organizations to offer common services.
Biblawi said the building will be completed within the next few months, however its present status is sufficient for the organizations to function. ESCWA has around 270 employees of whom 110 are technicians and 160 in the administration and services area.
Deputy Pierre Dakkash last night said the health care system in Lebanon could be branded chaotic. Speaking at a press conference aimed at addressing recent health problems in the country, Dakkash criticized the lack of a serious and dependable health care policy. He added a person's right to proper health care was fundamental and holy. For his part, the Baabda MP and surgeon listed a set of principles he hoped could serve as a guide to solving existing problems in the sector. He stressed the necessity of cooperation between the hospitals association and the medical association in order to come up with a new health-care program that can be afforded by low-income patients and that also secures a fair income for doctors.
The Canadian ambassador to Lebanon Daniel Marchand said his country was donating textbooks to a public high-school on the South and pledged similar grants to other educational institutions in the area. Speaking at a ceremony at the school in Ghazieh, south of Sidon, Marchand expressed hope that this program will enhance cooperation between Canada and Lebanon in the education sector. Some 3,000 school books will be given to 311 students at the school and similar initiatives are expected to be taken for the rest of the Southern public schools.
Lebanon's Bank of Beirut is in the final stages of a deal to sell some of its shares, a move that will raise its capital by some 20 million US dollars. A banking source today said the bank will sell A, B, and C shares without resorting to mass marketing adding that capital will be raised by $20 million to $22 million through a private placement. The bank will sell shares to three parties. It will alter make an announcement as to the identity of the parties. The bank's shares on the Beirut Stock Exchange have been bolstered by expectations that it would raise its capital.
Brokers said the bank is moving in the right direction by making such moves. Bank of Beirut ranks 17th among Lebanon's 82 commercial banks in terms of customer deposits and 15th in terms of assets.
As part of the competition for getting Lebanon's football championship, Football games continue for a Seventh week in Lebanon. Today, Al-Safaa played against Arriyada wal adab on the Bourj Hammoud field. Results turned out to be in Safaa's favor.
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