News from Beirut December 22  1997 ...Search

Israel hits the South

At 7:00 this morning, Israel shelled a civilian neighborhood in the village of Majdel Zoun. The houses of Hasan, Ibrahim, and Habib Rashid were hit in the attack. Israeli artillery also hit areas around the villages of Yater, Azzieh and Mansouri. The resistance in South Lebanon meanwhile rocketed two Israeli posts in the Tayr Harfa and Blat. The resistance also attacked an Israeli patrol near a road leading the Blat post. A resistance report said direct hits were scored among Israeli soldiers.

Parliament meets tonight

The Lebanese parliament will hold a legislative session tonight. Deputies are expected to vote on the draft municipal and mayoral election law. Sources close to parliament say deputies have three choices, whither to vote for appointment, for comprehensive elections, or for the repetition of the 1993 election results. At Baabda palace today, visitors of president Elias Al-Hrawi quoted him as reiterating his stance which backs appointment.

Deputy Shaker Abu-Sleiman quoted Hrawi as saying he deputies were free to chose among the several options adding parliament will be held responsible for these decisions. Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri had held a meeting with the Decision bloc in parliament which stressed the necessity of holding free elections. Sources close to Hariri said the premier agreed with President Elias Al-Hrawi and House Speaker Nabih Berri on the necessity of finalizing the issue during tonight?s parliamentary session.

Finance committee continues studies

The parliamentary Budget and Finance committee today continued studying the draft 1998 state budget. Today, the committee studied the budget of the ministry of the displaced and it decided to cut it down by 10%. But the committee headed by deputy Khalil Al-Hrawi delayed its decision concerning the budget of the ministry of higher education and cultural affairs due to undecidedness on the budget of the Lebanese university. The Health committee, meanwhile, ratified a law which calls for the presence of two syndicates for doctors in the country.

MEA wins new terms for Singapore deal

Lebanon's Middle East Airlines has secured better terms for a $39 million contract with Singapore Airlines. A central bank statement yesterday said MEA had won better terms for the deal under which it leased three Singapore Airbus Airlines for five years during negotiations in London. Acting head of MEA's board of directors today held a press conference outlining the details of the new agreement, under which the value of the deal will be reduced by $5 million over the five years, thus enabling the company to save a sum of $13 million dollars annually. Khattar Hadathi told the press conference any possible deal to buy the planes will incorporate the cost of  the leasing. Most of the a maintenance contract worth more than $40 million was also canceled and MEA will have the right to choose another company to maintain its planes. MEA signed the original deal last June as part of efforts to expand and modernize. Under the contract, the signatories should seek arbitration in the London courts in case of dispute. Central bank governor Riad Salameh yesterday described the new deal as acceptable and said it would abandon its judicial inquiries into Singapore airlines and two other companies involved in the previous contract. Lebanon's judicial authorities are still looking into the previous lease contract singed by MEA chairman Khaled Salam and allegations that an illegal commission was paid on the five-year lease.

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