A member of the Israeli allied militia in South Lebanon was killed this morning. In a statement, Hizbullah said fighters from the its armed wing Islamic Resistance set off a bomb early today as an allied militia patrol was passing near the Kfar Falous crossing point between the zone Israel occupies in the South and the rest of the country causing deaths and injuries. The militia also confirmed the explosion and said one of its men was killed.
The Kfar Falous border crossing will reopen tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. Lebanese army units today continued preparations for the planned reopening. The army almost completed the process of demining the approaches to the crossing leading to the occupied area of Jezzine. The gate to the crossing was moved further to the East in the reopening. The army today was also working on the maintenance of the roads besides demining. Tomorrows move will allow residents of the occupied area to reach the coast in just 20 minutes instead of using the Bater exit which takes almost one hour to cross. This is also expected to enhance the lives of Lebanese citizens living in the occupied area.
Parliament today continued discussions on the agenda of its legislative session. The session was headed by House Speaker Nabih Berri and attended by prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri and a number of ministers and deputies.
Parliament ratified the law which grants a general forgiveness for crimes related to drugs committed before the end of the year 1995. But parliament doubled sanctions on those who repeat their crimes. The house also discussed the draft law enabling the government to sign a loan agreement of 120 million dollars with the Japanese government. Underway are also discussions concerning the draft municipal and mayoral election law. The national decision bloc in parliament headed by prime minister Hariri reiterated its refusal for appointment and pushed forward the necessity of holding elections in all the Lebanese territories except for the occupies areas. Deputy Khatshik Babikian read the blocs report in todays session.
Prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri today inaugurated the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Venicia Inter-continental hotel in the downtown area of Beirut. During the ceremony, Hariri stressed the important role of luxurious hotels in the Tourism sector and eventually the importance of this sector in the growth of the Lebanese economy. The rehabilitation process is expected to cost over 100 million US dollars. The first phase will be completed in the year 1999 and the second phase the following year.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by a great number of ministers, deputies, businessmen and officials from Lebanons different economic sectors. In his speech, the premier stressed the government will carry on with its reconstruction drive adding all rehabilitation and development plans will contribute to the betterment of the countrys future.
Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen today departed on a 10-day tour of the Middle East to include stops in Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinian territories. During the string of visits, Qian is due to explore ways of prompting the stalled Middle East peace process. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tang Guoqiang said his country is concerned about the current stalemate in the process. During a media briefing, Tang said china called for greater international efforts to help re-start peace talks in the region. The final leg of the journey, from December 28 to January 1, will take Qian to South Africa where he is expected to sign a joint communiqué establishing diplomatic relations between Beijing and Pretoria.
Accompanying Qian on the trip are his wife and Assistant Foreign Minister.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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