News from Beirut December 3 1997 ...Search

Hizbullah guerrilla killed in the South

A Hizbullah guerrilla was killed yesterday in South Lebanon. Hizbullah today issued a statement saying Adib Bahsun, 24, was killed while carrying out his duty against Israeli targets. The statement was released without further elaboration.

Lahd says Israel now willing to withdraw from Lebanon without peace treaty

Leader of the Israeli allied militia in South Lebanon Antoine Lahd today said the Israeli government is now willing to pull its troops out of South Lebanon without a formal peace treaty. He added he had convinced the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government accept that security guarantees for northern Israel were the best it could hope for from the Lebanese government concerning any withdrawal. He said the Israeli government now accepted that Syria would not allow Lebanon to sign a formal peace treaty with Israel until it secured the return of the Golan Heights, which Israel has occupied since 1967. Lahd's comments came a day after the unveiling of a similar pullout plan by prominent Israeli opposition leader Yossi Beilin. Lahd said that under his plan Israel would announce its intention to implement UN resolution 425 which demands unconditional Israeli withdrawal form Lebanon, and would hold Beirut responsible for the security of the international border following the deployment of the Lebanese army throughout Lebanon. Lahd added the verbal guarantees of Lebanese President Elias Al-Hrawi that not one bullet will be fired on northern Israel in the event of a complete withdrawal were not enough.

Cabinet meets tonight

Cabinet is at this hour meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda. Government sources traced a will for discussion among cabinet members. The sources expect the meeting to be held in a calm atmosphere. Top on the agenda of talks is the Baabda agreement reached between the country's three top leaders concerning a suggested economic revival plan. Sources in the government expected cabinet to ratify some chapters of the plan and introduce amendments on others during today's session.

Hrawi holds talks with Berri at Baabda

President Elias Al-Hrawi this morning received House Speaker Nabih Berri at the presidential palace in Baabda. After the meeting, Berri told reporters at the palace there was an understanding between the country's three top leaders on the necessity of discussing development projects related to the Baalbeck-Hermel area in today's cabinet session. Berri also said these projects will start being executed before the end of this year. The House Speaker added the political atmosphere in the country was positive. He hoped over-expenditure in the government's budget would stop and reiterated his support for indirect taxation which he said were beneficial to the treasury. Discussions between the two leaders also centered on the mayoral and municipal elections due to be held in April.

Berri receives deputies on parliamentary Wednesday

House Speaker Nabih Berri today received a number of deputies in parliament . He was later quoted by his visitor as saying the MEA corruption scandal was blown out of proportion in Lebanese media reports. He reportedly said investigations should continue into the case adding it was necessary to give full faith in the judicial body of the country. Berri was also quoted by his visitors as saying a ministerial committee will be formed to study suggestions and ideas in the Baabda agreement adding the committee will give these idea a legal form to be studied by cabinet as draft laws and later referred to parliament for further discussions. Concerning development plans in the Baalbeck-Hermel area, the house speaker reportedly said the government should ratify these projects. Meanwhile, the budget and finance committee in parliament today held a session during which it started studying the draft law of the 1998 state budget. The parliamentary committee headed by Khalil Al-Hrawi decided to reduce allocations to the presidency and the ministries of housing and justice between 15 and 25%.

Hariri holds talks on economic and development issues

Prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri today held discussions with a visiting Kuwaiti economic delegation. The meeting which was attended by the Kuwaiti ambassador to Lebanon focused on bilateral ties and investment opportunities in Lebanon. Hariri also met Deputy Talal Al-Mereibi who later said he demanded more development plans to be implemented in the Akkar area. The prime minister later met the head of the international red cross delegation Jean Jacques Fresard who refused to comment to reporters on the issue of a possible swap of the remains of an Israeli soldier who during the failed Ansariyeh operation with Lebanese detainees in Israeli prisons. Fresard only said he handed the premier a letter, the contents of which would remain secret.

Lebanese teachers stage a strike

More than 60,000 Lebanese teachers and professors today held a one-day strike demanding better condition. Lebanese University professors also participated in the strike protesting a government decision to cut down on its budget. The teachers also demand the government ratify the new public sector pay scales draft law and consider previous decisions related to retirement pensions. Head of the teachers union George Chakib said the strikers wanted implementation of a new pay structure which the government had previously agreed to, but had postponed because of alleged budgetary constraints. He said teachers also wanted the whole of their salaries taken into account on calculating pensions entitlements. The strike kept a total of about 900,000 students from attending classes. Today's strike is the second warning strike since the beginning of the 1997-1998 school year in October. The General Labor Confederation had called for a strike two weeks ago demanding higher wages. Only a few educational institutions responded to their call then. Today, Education minister John Obeid held a press conference reiterating his support for the teachers' demands. Obeid; however, rejected the strike as a way for the teachers to voice their requests.

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