At the presidential palace in Baabda, president Elias Al-Hrawi today held talks with House Speaker Nabih Berri on the expected municipal and mayoral elections. After the meeting, Berri told reporters he local elections will be held on time. The House Speaker said he agreed with the president on his suggested amendments to the law but that he disagreed with him on their format. Berri added the elections will constitute an axis of agreement between all the Lebanese whether in or outside Lebanon and whether pro or against their government. The house speaker also stressed the necessity of activating the role of the judicial body in the country.
President Hrawi later held talks with deputy Tammam Salam. Discussions centered on the municipal and mayoral elections and on the 600-million-dollar Saudi deposit in the central bank. On the issue of local elections, Salam called on greater agreement and solidarity between the Lebanese. Salam also praised the Saudi deposit stressing the role of prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri in insuring it. Deputy Salam reiterated the importance of such a deposit in maintaining stability in country's financial sector. Salam also thanked Saudi Arabia and its leaders for such an aide which shows trust in Lebanon and its reconstruction drive.
Prime Minister Rafik AL-Hariri today held talks with Interior Minister Michel Al-Murr concerning his ministry's preparations for municipal and mayoral elections due to be held towards the end of May. After the meeting, Murr told reporters at the government palace the ministry is now working on the voters' lists.
The prime minister also received all the reporters and journalists of the government palace on the occasion of the new year. He discussed with them the most important events of the year 1997 in Lebanon, the region, and the world. During the meeting, Hariri highlighted Lebanon's most important achievements during the year 1997. He said great strides were accomplished on all levels. Hariri also stressed security in Lebanon is much more guaranteed than in other parts of the region despite the Israeli occupation of the South and the Western Bekaa. He reiterated his belief in the Lebanese and their deep trust in a better future for their country.
A delegation from the village of Shibaa today visited prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri at the government palace. The delegation explained to the premier the suffering of their families in Shibaa, still under Israeli siege since last Tuesday. The premier promised to pay special attention to their cause calling on the United Nations to send a special committee to the village to be able to formulate a better knowledge of the nature of the siege. Hariri added the siege was unjustified and it only proves the strong will of the people of Shibaa to resist the Israeli occupation on their village.
A solidarity meeting was held afterwards at the press syndicate attended by Minister of Administrative Reform Bshara Merhej and a number of deputies and officials. The meeting recommended a complaint to be filed against Israel to the UN Security Council and the five-nation cease-fire monitoring group calling for an immediate lifting of the siege. Other recommendations included a call for the UN Interim forces in Lebanon to prevent Israeli forces from breaking in the houses of civilian s and detaining their sons, husbands, and even wives. The solidarity meeting also suggested launching a campaign on an international level portraying the suffering of the people of Shibaa and the continuous threat of detention by Israeli intelligence forces.
At Boustrous palace today, the foreign ministry's secretary general Zafer Al-Hassan held talks with the American charge d'affairs in Lebanon Greg Perry and the British ambassador David Ross Maclenin on the current Israeli siege on the village of Shibaa. Al-Hassan called on Maclenin to persuade his country which will preside over the European Union during the year 1998 to pressure Israel to free all detainees from the village and to work on lifting the siege. The British ambassador promised to inform his country of the latest in this regard. Al-Hassan also met the head of the international Red Cross Committee in Lebanon Jean Jacques Fresard. After the meeting, Fresard only said discussions centered on the Shibaa siege and the situation of Lebanese detainees in the Khiam detention center. He refused to comment further.
French Defense Minister Alain Richard is expected in Beirut tomorrow morning. Richard will pay a New Year's Day visit to French troops serving in the UN peacekeeping force in South Lebanon. Richard will fly by helicopter to the Naqoura headquarters of the UN Interim Force (UNIFIL) where he is expected to hold talks with the peacekeepers' commander, Fijian General Konorote and visit the French troops. The 225-man French contingent guards the headquarters and provides logistic support. Later, the French Defense Minister is scheduled to hold talks with his Lebanese counterpart Mohsen Dalloul and meet Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri before leaving for Paris on the same day.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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